There is so much to be upset about, isn’t there? It never ends . . . the endless voices calling for your attention, the rising anger and boiling tension.
It can be exhausting, too. Every time somebody is called a racist this or a communist that, the effect of the word has just a little less impact, the power of the accusation chipping away each time so that even a boring, bland, milquetoast public figure who has likely never even so much as farted in public is called a bigot, a hater, a murderer, and so on.
The end result is: Nobody listens.
The process takes years, decades, but I think we are finally here. “Wolf” has been cried so many times that nobody believes those playing the part of the little boy anymore.
This is not a political blog. When I do talk politics, I enjoy talking about the macro issues, not the minutiae. And this seems like a macro issue because the perpetual outrage machine affects our moods and our well-being. I contend that the perpetual outrage machine that is the American media in all of its various forms–news, pop culture, sports, and so on–is designed to elicit strong emotional responses not only to get clicks and eyeballs, which equal money, but also to desensitize us to actual bad stuff perpetrated by people who want to pull a fast one on us.
What do I mean? Well, when the Overton Window is shifted so far in one direction, positions and ideas that were beyond the pale moments ago all of a sudden seem reasonable.
This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes the Overton Window needs to be wrenched in one direction in order to start a conversation on things that we desperately need to have conversations about. But other times it can be used to overwhelm our emotional and intellectual bandwith to the point that someone or something truly despicable seems sane by comparison.
I’ve written about this before a while ago in the context of manufactured racial division:
The insidious thing is that black America’s problems are normalized, celebrated, and encouraged by forces that want to keep them poor and angry, as long as they pull the lever for the right candidates.
Here’s another thing that pisses me off: Seeing blacks and whites at each other’s throats.
Time for me to put on the tinfoil hat yet again, but this is also being done on purpose. Why else are black and white, man and woman, religious and atheist, Republican and Democrat, being pitted against each other at every turn?
Sickening, isn’t it? And things only seem to be getting worse.
Or are they?
The amazing thing about the world is that, when you go off-line, things aren’t nearly as dire as they seem. If you walk around most of America you’ll find that it hardly resembles the dire war-zone our lovely outrage culture makes it sound like. People do manage to get along pretty well.
Are there problems? Of course. Will they get worse if we don’t do anything about them? Of course. But the perpetual outrage machine, which focuses our attention on insignificant things, makes it difficult to do anything about what really matters.
There is good news: It’s relatively simple to alleviate some of this heightened emotional tension. Just log off. Just go. Start small: Take an hour-long break. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Social media can be fun. It can even be useful. And it is important to be informed.
But be aware that many of these stories are emotional weapons designed to elicit certain responses in you.
You are supposed to hate this group, fear these people, never take anything those guys say seriously.
You are encouraged to be incurious and accept what is given to you in pre-digested chunks.
This is no great revelation. However, even stuff you’re predisposed to agree with has the same purpose and needs to be passed through the same filter. Continue reading “Perpetual Outrage Machine”