movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Wed Jan 13 2016, 08:35pm | 3 comments
I think I’m on board with the general premise, but I also think there might be some nuances and complications the article misses. For one thing, the people who successfully thrive on others’ outrage are still relatively few; as the author admits, the assholes “know… that if they can just ride [the outrage] out they’ll emerge intact, ever the more famous for it, since so few have.” So few have, while plenty have been destroyed (rightly or not) by the scorn of the public: see for instance the recent article on the very real consequences of internet shaming on people’s lives. And it’s hard to see Bill Cosby climbing back into the public’s good graces, or somehow using his travails to be MORE successful than he once was.
For another thing, “outrage” is one of those ideas, like “freedom” or “courage” or “compromise,” that can be applied to both sides of an argument. We can rail against the “outrage culture” of idiocy, but others can just as easily say that we “SJW’s” are poisoning the atmosphere with “outrage culture” of our own. I’m sure the Gamergate people are arguing that Anita Sarkeesian has stirred up gamer outrage over her own outrage over video games, and has only gotten richer and more famous for it.
There’s plenty to be outraged about, and I’m not sure the solution is to stop being outraged. ISIS still deserves contempt, even if they thrive on it. Donald Trump’s proposals need to be called out and ridiculed, even if he feeds on the attention. It’s possible that, in his case, the solution is for all the Americans who are sick of him to turn up on Election Day and vote against him. Outrage may not kill his candidacy, but a lack of sufficient votes will.
I’m also not sure that our fondness for outrage today is any worse (and indeed it might be a little better) than what we’ve had in the past. Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton traded vicious insults that would make today’s politicians blush. Folks in Congress and in state legislatures used to beat each other with canes and stab each other. And if Hamilton and Burr time-traveled to today, they’d be astounded that, after everything the Republican candidates have said about and to each other, not a single one of them has challenged anyone else to a duel.
Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this.
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