Friday, March 14, 2014

"Why We're Addicted To Online Outrage": Agree or Disagree?

As a result, when a politician utters a barely outdated cliché, or the slightest impolitic word, we no longer hear it as a faux pas or mere insensitivity. Instead it becomes the latest menacing incarnation of the evil we oppose. Micro-aggression is no longer “micro” at all, but the very real appearance of Patriarchy, or Anti-clericalism, or whatever evil you most fear. If your ideological hearing aids are tuned correctly, a gaffe becomes a threat, returning you to witch-trial-era Salem or the Vendée before the massacre.
Worse, this kind of hypermoralized politics has some serious implications for how we look at governance and power. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” In other words, if we are simply doing good in the world, and our enemies evil, then there’s no limit to the power we ought to acquire. What a charming fantasy that can be.
Holiday is right to be concerned that our capacity for real outrage is dulled by the sort of “outrage” that we perform, or fake, or convince ourselves to feel in our self-regard. But we should consider the possibility that fake-outrage is popular precisely because it is an indulgence that requires so little from us. Fake outrage allows us to hide within the mob, to feel righteous without doing much of anything, to suffer like martyrs from words not spoken to us. If we subtracted all the outrage porn tomorrow, most of us would continue to do what we already are doing about the Syrian refugee crisis, or faraway famine, or unjust war: nothing.
Go check out the whole piece. I'd love to know your thoughts about this piece, particularly if you disagree.

(Not to be coy, but I really don't know my feelings about the piece. I think, in the past, I would've agreed heartily with it, but now I'm not so sure.)

1 comment:

  1. Well I just kinda skimmed through it, but I think I agree with him about the difference between online rage and in-person behavior.

    I kinda felt like he was implying, though, that all this online rage is somehow hamstringing the general ability to actually respond to outrageous events in real life, and I don't think that's true at all.

    For one, the population that he seemed (I skimmed!) to be focusing on: middle class white collar workers I think would be less likely to engage in direct action anyways. For two, I think there's been a lot of popular uprisings and protests and stuff recently and throughout the internet age.

    Here's some fun links on the topic (I think)...

    An artists response to internet rage:

    An obscenity fueled indie news reel about global civic unrest: