Feeding the Outrage Machine

Outrage can be an addictive drug. It seems to inflict people of all political persuasions. Social media seems to have brought this on, but it started before that. CNN was the first to use 24 hour news. Then came Fox and MSNBC. There are countless others now that we have stream our entertainment and news. All of these things put together have created a monster.

The root question usually starts off with “how can you possible support _____ when _____” It’s like political/social/religious Mad Libs. Of course, I’m dating myself with that reference. Those of us of a certain age remember coming up with random nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to create a hilarious story. In this case we can usually insert political party A into the first blank with whatever outrageous thing we want to throw into the second blank.

So, before we move on let’s ask ourselves some important questions. What purpose is the outrage serving? Who is it serving? Does it help get us anywhere we actually want to go? Usually, this is when someone correctly points out that we should follow the money. Who is profiting from the outrage? It certainly isn’t you or me.

There are 350 million Americans. So, if you write a book that one percent get excited about, you just sold 3.5 million copies. I haven’t sold one percent of that total with a combined five books. Why? Is it because I’m a horrible writer. Perhaps that’s true, but I tend to believe it’s because I’ve never said anything outrageous. Just looking behind the scenes at my statistics for this blog is very revealing. The most popular articles seem to be the most controversial. The most popular one is the one that included the most personal information in it. I’m not the final arbiter on what my best work is. You put stuff out on the public sphere so the public gets to decide what’s good and what’s crap. That’s the way the world works.

So, if i say something outrageous, I actually get rewarded. It doesn’t matter if 99 percent of the world thinks it’s crazy, stupid, or inane. If the one percent is excited enough then you become a millionaire. So, it isn’t hard to see why people throw bombs from their extreme perch on the left or right. Extremism sells.

The social media and internet revolution have given rise to the troll. The troll is the guy (usually guys but girls can be trolls too) that doesn’t contribute anything constructive to the conversation. They just say something outlandish and take a step back. If they are really successful then they cause a fight between two groups of people that were originally all united behind how stupid the troll is. The cardinals rule of trolls is to not feed the troll. Outrage only makes them stronger.

In that vain, the president might be the most successful troll in history. People have their reasons for supporting him. We’ve talked about it before. This isn’t about that. This is about what he gains when we feed the outrage machine. Numerous pundits have noted that the national numbers really haven’t changed all that much since June. Sure, there were a few points up and few points down after each convention. The net result is zero.

What does this mean? It’s pretty simple. Making this race about him really doesn’t move the needle. A large part of him probably enjoys the negative attention. He called veterans suckers and losers. People were outraged. He lied about COVID. People were outraged. Yet, it’s the same thing every time. It’s the same people every time.

They then flip the script. They get their own folks to be outraged about something. So, everyone becomes more and more outraged. No one really changes their mind and we never end up discussing stuff that actually matters. We revert back to the “I don’t understand how you can support _____ when _____.” The end result is that we politicize everything.

On a day to day basis, government isn’t about the big stuff. It’s about the small stuff. It;s about the stuff we’ve either never heard of or really don’t have any disagreements about. The small stuff ends up becoming big stuff to those impacted. It is about helping clean up and rebuild following a major storm. It’s about putting out a fire before it damages more homes and lives. It’s about sniffing out a terrorist plot before it happens. It’s about building safe roads, teaching our children, delivering the mail, and providing dozens of other everyday services every day. Who are the people that will do those jobs best? Those are the questions we usually ask ourselves every other November. It’s time to ask them again.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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