October 23 2016
Sanity

Beware the Outrage Industry

outrage industryAs 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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  • Excellent! How eloquently put, Linda! You are spot on here, in my opinion.

    I think I mentioned this before on your media diet post, but I stopped watching and reading the news a few years ago (when I was removing the clutter from my home and my life). This doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on in the world – I just choose what I read about, as well as how much and what source I get it from. Anyway, I don’t get outraged about much of anything, even the election. But I am very frustrated with the way it’s playing out. Though I have already cast my vote, the feeling of powerlessness remains. You’re right, the system seems flawed, to say the least.

    • Thank you Amanda! Electoral reform and campaign finance reform – without those two things, the rest is very difficult. It is hard not to be frustrated. Nice job on voting early… Bravo! -Linda

  • It’s one of the main reason I don’t watch the news much anymore. I’ll check in for the weather or get some local headlines, but can very easily do this online and pick and choose what/when I do it and not have to be spoon feed the crap the serve up each night.

  • I completely agree with what you wrote. It sad how the news and the media can divert and direct our minds to focus on certain things. This is why i always curate my own news and only focus on what really matters and ignore the rest

  • This is true and it’s especially sad when the things causing outrage are so insignificant. I’m not sure how many of the Brexit=Armageddon messages you’re getting in the US, but the latest (and completely ridiculous) cause of outrage is a supermarket that has stopped selling marmite because of brexit. The challenge for those of us not outraged by the lack of condiments is being outraged by those who are- it’s a vicious circle.

  • Really interesting post. We definitely need to get better at directing our outrage to places where it is deserved. I also have a problem with people expressing outrage and then moving on. If it is something that actually warrants outrage, then it is something worth doing something about! Even if it is just donating to a particular cause or signing a particular petition, people who complain without doing something about it don’t have much ground to stand on.

  • Great post! I completely agree to what you say but I think that things are even worse. There seem to be an unending competition amongst people to be the most “caring”, the most “sensitive”. I think that the amount of outrage we see is a way of saying: “look at me! I care soooo much! I am SUCH a good person”. I see the same thing on comments and, as you said, on social media. When there is a story where, in the past, people would have said that it was sad or wrong, nowadays you read “I am crying”. My first reaction is that you may be crying but still on facebook! That really annoys me. Stop saying you’re outraged, stop sobbing at the teeniest thing and actually DO something.

  • Well said Linda!

    I’ve fallen prey to the drama of this election any my only coping mechanism at this point is to laugh as if the situation is funny, which it really isn’t.

    I took an Uber the other day and my driver was from Ghana. He was listening to NPR and told me that he was trying to learn about American politics.

    I was embarrassed and told him that this is a terrible time to learn because this isn’t what American politics really are. But then I corrected myself – this isnt what American politics *should* be, but it is what American politics is.

    We’ve gotten what our system encourages. We can’t just wish for better candidates – we have to change the system.

  • I like how you broke down the critical circumstances of our day and age. It is painful as an intelligent human being with conscious watch whats going on around us. In the end we have our coping mechanisms that allow us to deal. I work in a grocery chain and I’ve seen people flip out becouse we were out of lemon meringue pie or get mad becouse they think I’m smiling too much. Whereas my smile is actually part of my uniform. I’ve seen a mom yell and scream at her kid becouse the color he picked for his birthday cake was offensive to her. Ridiculous hugh?This is how I cope I think of this scripture Philippians4:6. I will not read it to you though becouse I personally don’t care for scripture to be forced on anyone. And remember for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So if you stand back and ? you can see who is pulling the puppet strings and why.

    1. […] in the fall, I wrote about how I worried that we were living in an age of outrage.  Oh how I look back on those halcyon days of October and think to myself, how is it possible that […]

    2. Sonya 07:22am 05 December - 2016 - Reply

      I like how you broke down the critical circumstances of our day and age. It is painful as an intelligent human being with conscious watch whats going on around us. In the end we have our coping mechanisms that allow us to deal. I work in a grocery chain and I’ve seen people flip out becouse we were out of lemon meringue pie or get mad becouse they think I’m smiling too much. Whereas my smile is actually part of my uniform. I’ve seen a mom yell and scream at her kid becouse the color he picked for his birthday cake was offensive to her. Ridiculous hugh?This is how I cope I think of this scripture Philippians4:6. I will not read it to you though becouse I personally don’t care for scripture to be forced on anyone. And remember for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So if you stand back and ? you can see who is pulling the puppet strings and why.

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:00am 05 December - 2016 - Reply

        It is very frustrating to see people getting upset over the wrong things and it is not helping us as a country. Thank you so much for reading, and commenting Sonya. -Linda

    3. […] Beware the Outrage industry by Linda @ Brooklyn Bread […]

    4. Chris @ KeepThrifty 05:54pm 25 October - 2016 - Reply

      Well said Linda!

      I’ve fallen prey to the drama of this election any my only coping mechanism at this point is to laugh as if the situation is funny, which it really isn’t.

      I took an Uber the other day and my driver was from Ghana. He was listening to NPR and told me that he was trying to learn about American politics.

      I was embarrassed and told him that this is a terrible time to learn because this isn’t what American politics really are. But then I corrected myself – this isnt what American politics *should* be, but it is what American politics is.

      We’ve gotten what our system encourages. We can’t just wish for better candidates – we have to change the system.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:29pm 25 October - 2016 - Reply

        I know, it’s a bummer. Fretting is easier than fixing.

    5. Penny 04:21pm 24 October - 2016 - Reply

      Great post! I completely agree to what you say but I think that things are even worse. There seem to be an unending competition amongst people to be the most “caring”, the most “sensitive”. I think that the amount of outrage we see is a way of saying: “look at me! I care soooo much! I am SUCH a good person”. I see the same thing on comments and, as you said, on social media. When there is a story where, in the past, people would have said that it was sad or wrong, nowadays you read “I am crying”. My first reaction is that you may be crying but still on facebook! That really annoys me. Stop saying you’re outraged, stop sobbing at the teeniest thing and actually DO something.

      • Brooklyn Bread 12:24pm 25 October - 2016 - Reply

        It is true. So much is for show. Who has time for this?? -Linda

    6. Matt @ Optimize Your Life 03:41pm 24 October - 2016 - Reply

      Really interesting post. We definitely need to get better at directing our outrage to places where it is deserved. I also have a problem with people expressing outrage and then moving on. If it is something that actually warrants outrage, then it is something worth doing something about! Even if it is just donating to a particular cause or signing a particular petition, people who complain without doing something about it don’t have much ground to stand on.

    7. Sarah @tortoisehappy.com 01:19pm 24 October - 2016 - Reply

      This is true and it’s especially sad when the things causing outrage are so insignificant. I’m not sure how many of the Brexit=Armageddon messages you’re getting in the US, but the latest (and completely ridiculous) cause of outrage is a supermarket that has stopped selling marmite because of brexit. The challenge for those of us not outraged by the lack of condiments is being outraged by those who are- it’s a vicious circle.

    8. Fatima 11:45am 24 October - 2016 - Reply

      I completely agree with what you wrote. It sad how the news and the media can divert and direct our minds to focus on certain things. This is why i always curate my own news and only focus on what really matters and ignore the rest

    9. Brian @ Debt Discipline 08:14am 24 October - 2016 - Reply

      It’s one of the main reason I don’t watch the news much anymore. I’ll check in for the weather or get some local headlines, but can very easily do this online and pick and choose what/when I do it and not have to be spoon feed the crap the serve up each night.

    10. Amanda @ centsiblyrich 09:45pm 23 October - 2016 - Reply

      Excellent! How eloquently put, Linda! You are spot on here, in my opinion.

      I think I mentioned this before on your media diet post, but I stopped watching and reading the news a few years ago (when I was removing the clutter from my home and my life). This doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on in the world – I just choose what I read about, as well as how much and what source I get it from. Anyway, I don’t get outraged about much of anything, even the election. But I am very frustrated with the way it’s playing out. Though I have already cast my vote, the feeling of powerlessness remains. You’re right, the system seems flawed, to say the least.

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:55am 24 October - 2016 - Reply

        Thank you Amanda! Electoral reform and campaign finance reform – without those two things, the rest is very difficult. It is hard not to be frustrated. Nice job on voting early… Bravo! -Linda

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