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.

An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

You ran on a platform of “drain the swamp”. You ran as an outsider, too rich to be influenced by donors, and beholden to no one.

I think you will soon find, if you have not already, that the Republican party sees it differently. Now that you have won, they are all at your side, loudly proclaiming that they have a mandate to rule. They pretend that the frustration with government was all directed at the Democrats. They forget that they are some of the largest alligators in the swamp. And they see you as a puppet who will do as they say, sign whatever legislation they put in front of you.

Prove them wrong. Show us that your supporters, who said that you didn’t mean the hateful things you said, were right. Show us that you DID mean what you said in your acceptance speech:  “Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division… it is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans”

There are protests all over America, a reminder that, far from a mandate, the vote was a dead heat. Yes, you won, but barely. If you want to bring the country together, instead of to heel, you need to listen to those who did not vote for you. Right now, they are terrified. They are afraid of the hatred and threats of violence they see in people who enthusiastically supported you. Your supporters may feel they have found a voice and a champion in you, but the other half of the country has fought long and hard to have any voice at all, and now they fear that voice will be taken away, and they will be subjected to violence. These are Americans, and you have pledged to be their President, too.

Your job now is to heal that divide, and to calm those fears. And one way you can do that – a way you are in a unique position to do – is to start the long process of reducing the role of political parties in the government process. Political parties are not part of the system of government outlined in the Constitution. Why does one party or another determine who sits on what committee, what issues are voted on, or who gets to speak? In business terms, we have two competing unions, and they are dictating to the company how it should be run. Instead of focusing on the goals of the company, the focus is all on which internal faction “wins”. The company itself loses. The entire situation is ripe for corruption – and that’s the swamp you have pledged to drain. If you have any mandate at all, it is that – to reduce corruption and influence-peddling.

Your Republican handlers will not like that. They want you to just fall in line and support their legislation. But I urge you to consider how their policies and your actions will affect every American. Listen to everyone, not just the glib party insiders. Be a President who champions the well-being and interests of all Americans.