Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Culture of Outrage

We live in a society where the only currency seems to be outrage. Every slight, every misstep, every word out of place is met by a cacophony of voices screaming at the top of their lungs about how they feel wronged. The biggest problem in this new culture is that if everything is outrageous, then nothing is.

Public outrage used to be reserved for things that really mattered. Let's take our current natural disaster as an example. When Katrina hit and lives where being lost and the response from the White House was tepid at best, there was real cause for outrage. When Harvey hit and the the first lady wore stilettos to visit Texas, the response was immediate outrage from the press and from social media. This is the state that we've devolved to. Our righteous energy is no longer reserved for the things that matter. It is now unleashed on every perceived wrongdoing from every living human being.

Did somebody famous short a server on a tip? let's persecute them on social media. Did someone wear the wrong color to a funeral? Let's persecute them on social media. Did someone use an inappropriate term when referring to native Americans, or African Americans or Italian Americans or whatever Americans? Let's persecute them on social media. The point is that we have lost the ability to be outraged. What really deserves our energy? The fact that there are statues to dead civil war generals, or the the fact that minorities are being killed in the streets by the people who are supposed to protect them? There is no difference in today's media landscape. It really is all about the next big thing.

Outrage sells, just like sex does. Everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs and the media just jumps to the person or story that seems like it has the most volume. Chris Rock used to tell a joke about gun ownership, where everyone has the right to own a gun, but it cost thousands of dollars to buy a bullet. Our outrage used to cost something. There were limited outlets to express outrage on a large scale. Now it costs nothing.

There's really not a whole lot to say about this. I wish I had some grand scheme to fix to the problem, but the cat is already out of the bag and frankly, it's only going to get worse. We, as a society have lost the ability to focus on the big picture. We are now focused on a micro level, looking for our own personal outrage. Sorry, that's not entirely true, we can focus on a real issue, but only for as long as it takes for the next Game of Thrones episode to appear. I bring up Game of Thrones, because there is the potential for an HBO show, from the makers of Game of Thrones, about the history of America if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. The backlash from an outraged citizenry has been swift and deafening.

Frankly, I'm OUTRAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Beach Bum said...

There is a really great line by the character Bane from "The Dark Knight Returns" movie that I can never really shake.

Bane says, "Victory has defeated you" to Batman as they fight and I think there is a facet of truth in that for the United States. After WW2 our purpose as a nation was defined in our opposition to the Soviet Union. When it fell apart for several years we basked in the glory of our victory but with no enemy to unite against we turned on ourselves.

Even worse, the various elements of the right-wing became enamored with authoritarianism. But then again the only real reason they hated the commies was because it was atheistic and talked about overthrowing the rich. That scared millionaire trust fund babies. Putin's old style blame the homo loving liberals for the problems of the world really gets them off.

The left fell apart trying to placate the semi-self aware middle class who only really care they have cable television and that their credits cards work. I could write more but you get the idea.

Truthfully, there is a small chance Trump might be a bizarre blessing in disguise. The Republicans are slowly being forced to pay for decades of race baiting politics while there are a few small signs that the Democrats might be coming out of their political coma.

Then again, no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the average American.

SJ said...

@Beach Bum. Shit you pretty much broke it down. This (our media, culture, society) is at times like watching a stomach consume itself.
—I also agree with you about a certain inevitability of this Trump presidency. This is where we were headed, and this is what we get when we don't put education first. The average American is either an un-informed idiot, or a self-misinformed-patriot-in-name-only choosing their preferred reality. I am convinced we are fucked for the time being. Mostly because of a reflex MyCue23 neatly deconstructs here.—Outrage for outrage's sake; or worse disingenuous outrage to score points against a political adversary has gotten us down to a place that only benefits those in power.
Today- One can dismiss a president's failures or refusals to denounce and separate himself from fascist elements in his support groups with the same nonchalance as dismissing disgust with the first lady's tact, naked pictures, choice of shoes etc.
---It's all more aspects of the era of false equivalencies brought on by the forces that created things like FNC.
In the end, social media, like the internet is just a hallway, because all speech is raised to 11 on the dial so to speak. So as MyCue23 is saying, nothing means much of anything.