The Misuse of Outrage

Beware of outrage.
Beware of click-bait titles.

I like to make sure that what I post is reasonably accurate. I am unabashedly a progressive liberal, and that colors my reactions to news. But I also believe that “the other side” is doing what they believe is right. We have a difference of opinion of what that may be, and different projections on the effect of various policies. They are not bad people, and believe it or not, we often have the same end goals; we disagree on how to get there.

HOWEVER, my indulgence does not extend to those who create false information to spark outrage. Especially since the motive in most cases seems to be to monetize that outrage.

Outrage is a useful emotion. It can be a tool to mobilize us to get up off our asses and act for what we believe. But it can also be a con-job. This used to be the province of right-wing radio commentators or religious demagogues, who threatened dire consequences of liberal policies.

But more and more, I see click-bait and outrage fostered by those on the liberal side. Now, I am outraged by a lot of what is going on – but I do not need fake news for that.

I don’t need someone extrapolating what someone DID say into something truly repulsive that he DIDN’T say. Yes, there is a part of me that WANTED him to have said it, so that my poor opinion of him would be even more justified – but he didn’t say it. And I was almost fooled into sharing that particular story.

We don’t need that. We need accurate information on which to inform our opinions and our actions, and especially our votes. At the core of the concept of democracy is the idea that we have an informed populace. Fake news – especially news designed to monetize outrage – undermines that.

We need to realize that we are all in this together. We have some pretty severe differences – hence the talk of “sides” – but this is not a game, with “winners” and “losers”. We don’t need cheerleaders whose goal is to foment outrage and “team spirit” against the “competition”.

We are more like a band. We can have a rivalry between the different instruments, and we can disagree on matters of tempo and phrasing, on improvisation, even on the basic type of music we want to play. But we all need to play together.