Beware the Outrage Industry
As we continue our tragic descent through the mud of the ugliest presidential campaign in modern memory, one thing stands out to me: we’ve arrived in an age of constant outrage. Our little outrage buttons are just primed to be pushed by whatever is in the news on a given day.
And by the news, I mean Facebook. Because it is no longer news unless people are talking about it on Facebook. Or tweeting it. (I’m looking at you, New York Times.) Behold the source of our national conversation.
My parents’ generation is especially vulnerable to this. The day after pussy-gate broke, my dad was still just steaming that our mayor did not immediately refer to the recent bomb that went off on 23rd Street as a “terrorism.” He was “embarrassed!” He was “horrified!” He was “shocked!” Fox News, no doubt, was pushing his button.
Here’s the thing: Was it pretty clear that someone setting off a bomb in Chelsea could safely be described as “terrorism”? Yes. Am I going to spend one single anger calorie on this? No. If you want to get my gander up, talk to me about human suffering. End of story. Sorry, boomers.
Outrage… it makes our economy go round.
We do ourselves a great injustice allowing outrage to become a cheap and quickly consumed commodity. Outrage is precious. Like love, it is an essential, yet limited, resource. Most of us, naturally, are not capable of loving everyone with the intensity that we love our own family. Outrage is similar. We cannot have outrage for everything. Otherwise we would not be able to get through the day or accomplish anything at all.
Try to concentrate on work while pondering the horror and sheer gore of the children being slaughtered in Aleppo. Or keeping that positive outlook while constantly imagining what it feels like to be the mentally ill homeless people you walk past on the way to work. Think of the cozy little cocoon of love, happiness and opportunity you’ve created for your child and then try not to get depressed about what it must feel like for the children with no cocoon. Try to stay focused while envisioning the coastline being re-drawn, forcing your grandchildren to migrate to other towns, as grand monuments of human civilization fall to the sea.
We cannot live with all of these thoughts every day. If we did, we simply could not function.
We need to allocate our outrage where it is most needed.
But of course, as a nation, we suck at this. We focus on whatever lazy anger-provoking nonsense is being served up for clicks. My husband recently googled the word “outrage.” Try it – it’s a sad exercise. You’ll see what I mean when you see the results that come up.
In ye olden days, the news was a public service, telling us the information that we needed to know, however complicated or unexciting it may have been. Today, the news is now part of the entertainment industry. As it makes the painful departure from its historic print and broadcast profit model to cable and online, the product it offers is transformed. Like all things that are 100% driven by profit for shareholders, the “news” no longer exists for our benefit, or to be of much help. Yet it is all we have to guide us.
So instead of concentrating on the problems where humanity is literally laid bare, or where the threat to our health, safety, happiness and well-being actually resides, we fret about lady number ten and the Clinton Foundation. Outrage. Click. I didn’t need lady number one to make my judgement. The brain cells that she has infiltrated, I will never get back.
And even if the worst of what people imagine about the Clinton Foundation is true – it’s worth taking a moment to reflect that *money for influence* is quite specifically how our Entire Government Works. By design. Did I blow your mind? Of course not – we all know this!
Perhaps we might summon the outrage to inspire some demands for reform on that point. Remember campaign finance reform? Citizens United? lol.
Outrage, most misplaced, endlessly unproductive…
We’re all so affronted that Donald Trump is abhorrent, that Hillary Clinton plays by her own rules. What we should be outraged about is our seeming utter lack of power to change the institutions that allow and encourage all of this and more. We delve into the deepest depraved depths of our flawed candidates, instead of contemplating why they exist: a system that allows a very small number of ill-informed (thanks to the outrage industry) people in a small number of states to determine the outcome of our entire country’s fate.
We have purposely designed a system that can, in fact has, allowed the leader of the free world to be elected without actually winning more votes. Where is the collective WTF?
That would be well placed, productive outrage.
It goes hand in hand with our distorted sense of risk. I am petrified to fly, but what I really need to fear is moron drivers texting on the highway. Maybe not the best example because I am actually terrified of them too. Point is, some dangers are bigger than others. And some evils, darker. We need to stop taking the bait and paying attention to stories that are designed for nothing more then selling ads to people in need of distraction.
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