Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Outrage Junkies

Maybe I've just read too many left-of-center blogs, self-named feminist or otherwise, but I'm sensing a pattern. There seem to be certain individuals that appear to actually get off on being outraged. It is like nothing makes them happier than having something they can scream and raile about swear about, and then they can further the fun by screaming and yelling and swearing at those who comment about it who don't 100% toe their narrow party line on the issue. And if those comments are polite and reasonable, they just change them by paraphrasing something like "I disagree with your position, I don't think this particular instance of X represents racism or sexism or whatever" to read in their "quoting" of it back to the commenter as "shut up stupid bitches, get to the back of the bus like the whore you are." And then they can again be outraged that such horrible things were "said" to them.

I don't mean to imply that most of the sites I read do this, or that they do it all the time, or that those that do it have a majority of commenters or blog posters who do that sort of thing. It really varies. A blog like IBTP would be one extreme - there all the posts are pretty much like that, as are the majority of the commentators. Other sites have a few posts like that and a few commenters like that. And I'm sure there's plenty of spectrum in between.

This is also not to say that there aren't things to get legitimately upset about or even outraged about. But when the instances start to get more trivial (like one long outraged post I saw about a woman athelete who DARED to be seen in her sports clothes, ready to start running a race, because well, that also meant she was bent over, and everyone knows that a woman only bends over for sex (which I found rather ironic - the self-professed feminists were the ones sexualizing her and shaming her for doing it - me, I just saw an athlete ready to run a race.)) - when they start to get more trivial, you have to wonder if there isn't just a grasping for straws to be outraged - to get an "outrage hit" to start the day off right.

As part and parcel of this is the claim of the mantle of victimhood. "Oh, look at me, I'm a victim, because some athlete had her picture taken." And woe to anyone who questions that victimhood or, even worse, points out that there are others who are far worse off. This usually results in several things happening. First, the original outrage junkie will claim that they are the worst victim, even as they give lip service to other "victimhoods" such as racism (if the original outrage was sexism). And if the comparison is to someone not on the left-wing approved list of victims, then they will pull out the "well, everything else being equal, I'm still a victim" - so if you, for instance, point out that someone with no arms and no legs is worse off than an able-bodied woman, they'll say that well, a man with no arms and no legs is better off than a woman with no arms and no legs, so they "win" and are still the bigger victim for being a woman. (Never quite explaining how an alleged gender disadvantage is even on the same planet as losing all your limbs). And lastly, come the insults - particularly if you are not in the demographics of the victim-group of the post - obviously, if you are a man, you can't comment or your opinion doesn't matter if the discussion is about women as victims (though apparently when men claim any sort of victimhood, women are not only fully qualified to comment, but their comments trump that of any men because well, they're women). (And all of this works just as well with race as the victimhood).

This has now been taken into the political arena as the Democratic nomination heats up and you see various supporters of Clinton and Obama now each fighting to get the victimhood status - with supporters of Clinton claiming they can never vote for Obama because he's "victimised" HRC with sexism (based on some vague statements), of course ignoring all of the racism from the Clinton campaign (including one rather outrageous commercial where they darkened Obama's face and widened it - funny how this never got mentioned on certain feminist cites I read). And so the quest for victimhood has gone presidential. The thing is, compared to myself and everyone I know, HRC and BHO do NOT look like victims to me.

I see two rich, powerful people, either one of whom has a shot at getting the most powerful political office in the entire world, and who already hold one of the most powerful political positions in the entire world - that in the Senate of the United States. They have lived the lives of rich and powerful people. I will never have one-one millionth the power that either of them will have. So forgive me if I don't start weeping at how they are hurt by some sexist statement or some racist statement. I want one of them to win. I'd prefer it be Obama. But Clinton works, too. But neither of them are victims. Whichever one loses will still be in the Senate, will still be rich, and will still leave a huge inheritence to his or her children, who will also grow up privileged, rich, and powerful. Which just goes to show that class trumps race and gender. "All other things being equal" is a load of crap when you leave out the relative weight of things.

If you want to know how privileged someone is, tell me their social class and wealth first, not their gender or their race. If you tell me someone is a woman or an african american (or both), that does not tell me anything about how privileged they are - they could be rich, they could be dirt poor. They could be a few months away from the white house, they could be a few days away from eviction into the street. But tell me they have a million dollars in the bank and they went to Harvard or Yale, and I can tell you that they are privileged without knowing another thing about them. (Though even there one has to be careful - they could still be missing all their arms and legs... and I hesitate to ever call anyone in that situation privileged, no matter how rich they are).

As usual, my thoughts have wandered far. To get back to my original theme - I think some people really do get off on being outraged and on claiming the victimhood mantle. And I think this cheapens those things that really are outrage worthy and it also cheapens the discussions of such legitimate things. It may feel very satisfying to hurl profanities and put down someone who you imagine to be in the class of those who "oppress" you, but it really doesn't accomplish much, particularly where the person you are directing that anger with never personally did anything to you and might even be willing to listen to you if you were more reasonable.

(And now you can queue another outrage junkie response - that this is just saying that all women who complain are "shrill" and blah blah blah - to which all I can say is, bullshit. Tone matters. Hurling vile insults at the drop of a hat proves only one thing - that you are an asshole not worth having a conversation with. Sure, if someone is nasty to you, they might deserve a nasty response back. But if all they do is politely disagree, hurling insults, questioning what they say based on stereotypes (for instance, that they are a white male), and patting others on the back for doing the same just proves to me that you are an outrage junkie, not someone actually interested in a conversation or solving anything.)

Another class of "victims" I want to bring up, just to show that there are also right-wing versions of this, are the Christians who cry "persecution" - woe is them, they only control every elected branch of every government in the entire nation, Federal, State, and local - oh, how persecuted that must make them feel. They like to play the victim card as well, even as they try to shove all of our culture into their own tiny box. They also like to get outraged, though for them, a woman athlete's picture isn't the illustration they use, it is fart jokes, or their church not getting preferential status by the government. Or a movie that they didn't get to censor.

I may add more to this later... suffice it to say that I'm not particularly impressed by outrage junkies, and my inclination has been more and more to simply ignore them. There are people with something legitimate to say - I'd rather give my attention to them.

Updated: Lastly, I want to add that I think what is partly behind the "high" that outrage junkies get from being outraged is a sense of moral superiority - their expression of outrage also allows them to be on a high horse, looking down upon the culture and the unwashed masses that are in it as beneath them, beneath contempt. They are obviously superior - their outrage proves it!


Robert said...

How true, how true. BTW sorry I'm about 2 years late here. There's a huge industry of being "offended." Where did this come from? When did it take hold? It's "offensive" that some artist incorporates a religious symbol ironically, or shows a body part not on someone's "approved" list. The best comment I saw once in response was "I am offended by inoffensive art."

ethanspapa said...

I thank God my brother is a cop. I am not a crook "excuse the pun". I've been stopped for speeding a few times in my day. Thank god I had nothing to hide.
It pays to be that gentleman even when they run over your bill of rights.

ethanspapa said...

BTW: Thanks for letting us vent our frustrations. Ever since they passed the Patriot and Homeland security acts. It has become a minefield for America's citizenry on what your rights actually are anymore.
I would of fought this 45 years ago.
I did NOT waste my vote on Ron Paul no matter what anyone says.