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5 Complaints About Modern Life (That Are Statistically B.S.)

"Crime Is Out of Control."

The Complaint:

"A member of Congress gets gunned down in yet another mass shooting. You can't turn on the news for five seconds without hearing of a child being abducted and mutilated, or a massive gang war along the Mexican border. Every city in America has one section that you wouldn't dare drive through at night. Now compare that to the 1950s, when nobody even locked their doors at night. What changed?"

More brigands?

The Reality:

There absolutely was a huge crime wave in the 1980s, thanks to the crack epidemic (this graph shows the spike in murders in L.A., for instance). But the numbers do not lie: Crime, property crime, theft and burglary have actually been dropping since about 1993. Dropping and dropping, below even where we were before drug violence skewed the stats upward.

If you look at the homicide rate per 100,000 people, which is one of the only crime stats reliably tracked through the 1900s and into today, you can see that not only is it the lowest since the 1950s, but that it's quite a lot lower than it was in the 1970s and even the 1930s. (And it's a scaling formula, meaning it isn't skewed by population.) Now why would the crime rate be so high in the 1930s?

Because Batman hadn't been invented yet, obviously.

When the economy is bad, people get desperate, and desperate people will do whatever they can to survive, right? And here we sit, 80 years later, with the worst economy since the Great Depression. How's the crime rate faring now? It's lower than it was before the recession. A few days ago, the FBI published its statistics for the first half of 2010, which show that crime has dropped further still.

What has not dropped is the number of TV shows and news features about crime, and newspapers' need to report on violence whenever it occurs. Therefore, the only thing about crime that seems to be going up is the perception of how bad it really is.

So, by the sheer numbers, you would be just as safe keeping your doors unlocked at night as your grandparents were back in "the good old days."

In other words, it's time to box up your mantraps.

"Today's Music Is All Derivative Trash."

The Complaint:

"Two words: 'Justin Bieber.' Turn on a classic rock station and you can listen for hours without hearing one bad song. Now turn on a Top 40 station and try not to gouge out your ears. Today's music is just a bland product mass-produced by corporations. Don't take my word for it -- ask any music critic. They'll tell you the stuff that sells today is generic garbage. Not the music back in the day, like Zeppelin, Elvis, The Beatles, Pink Floyd ... bands like that would never top the charts today."

The Reality:

There are two things that skew our cultural memory on things like music.

OK, three.

First of all, you have the fact that the crap from previous eras gets forgotten, leaving only the great stuff behind. Those songs on classic rock stations are obviously cherry-picked as the best and most indicative of an entire era; it's not a random sampling of all the music available at the time. Modern rock or pop stations, on the other hand, have to play whatever's come out in the past six months or so.

So there is a filter applied to the old stuff. Even most of the music in Mozart's day was bullshit. And because it was bullshit, nobody felt the need to keep copies. And what was preserved isn't played today. Because it's bullshit. So it's easy to look back at Mozart's era (or the 1960s, or whatever) and assume that because only the classics survive in our memory, everything made back then was a classic.

The other problem is we assume that what gets remembered over time is whatever was the most popular. Not true.

One day she will fade from history, and then man will finally know freedom.

For instance, what survives from the Vietnam era (thanks mostly to Vietnam movies) are songs like the badass protest song "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones. Both were released in 1969, after the war started going bad.

Now look at the Billboard year-end singles charts from 1946 to today. The top song in 1969? "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies. Let us quote the entire lyrics of that song:

Sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
Honey, ah sugar sugar
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you
(I just can't believe it's true)
I just can't believe the one to love this feeling to.
(I just can't believe it's true)
Ah sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
Ah honey, ah sugar sugar
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
When I kissed you, girl, I knew how sweet a kiss could be
(I know how sweet a kiss can be)
Like the summer sunshine pour your sweetness over me
(Pour your sweetness over me)
Sugar, pour a little sugar on it honey,
Pour a little sugar on it baby
I'm gonna make your life so sweet, yeah yeah yeah
Pour a little sugar on it oh yeah
Pour a little sugar on it honey,
Pour a little sugar on it baby
I'm gonna make your life so sweet, yeah yeah yeah
Pour a little sugar on it honey,
Ah sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
Oh honey, honey, sugar sugar ..
You are my candy girl

At least Britney Spears is most of a real person.

"Fortunate Son" got no higher than No. 14 on the charts. "Gimme Shelter"? It was never released as a single at all.

Go ahead, look down the list. There is some great music on there, but it's mixed in with a lot of stuff you've probably never even heard of. And do you know what you don't see on there? Queen, Led Zeppelin and a lot of other great musicians. Groups that are well-remembered now, when classic rock radio stations wouldn't be caught dead playing some of the shit that outsold them. Even Elvis and The Beatles are only on there twice, tying for the most No. 1 year-end singles with none other than George Michael.

And that's not even considering that, thanks to the Internet, we have far more access to all kinds of niche music genres and independent artists that we'd have never heard in the past.

And as for the critics, you have to keep in mind that there will always, always be critics who hate whatever the latest trend is. Rock music as a whole was blasted pretty harshly when it first got popular. Melody Maker called it "one of the most terrifying things to have ever happened to popular music." The Daily Mail decided to up the ante by mixing in some good old-fashioned racism: "[Rock music] is deplorable. It is tribal. And it is from America. It follows ragtime, blues, jazz, hot cha-cha and the boogie-woogie, which surely originated in the jungle. We sometimes wonder whether this is the negro's revenge."

Hell, even The Beatles weren't safe. The Daily Telegraph said that they were "something Hitler might find useful."

Holy shit, music critics of the 50s and 60s sound oddly like the Glenn Beck of today.

Why? Because it's easier to be negative. That part will never change.

When not writing comedy, Mark M dispenses bad philosophy and bad relationship advice. To read more of Ashe's work, check out

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