Politics

How Outrage Porn is Crippling Common Sense.

So you want to protest an injustice huh? The past few years have seen some major protests spring up, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and now another protest. A militia is occupying an empty federal building in Oregon.

The press has predictably swarmed it and the liberal blogosphere as jumped all over it, calling it lawless, etc. I will be honest, I don’t really care. Normally an anti-government militia seizing a federal building would make me worried but I am only going to pay attention if it conforms to my preexisting notions of them to begin with. If they don’t then I will pretend they don’t exist. That is what I’m supposed to do right?

Blogging and online media are literally filled with what I call “outrage porn.” That is, things that really piss off a segment of the population but are in fact pretty small and not going to make a huge difference in the overwhelming majority of people’s lives. A website with some vaguely official name pointing out things that are sure to piss people off and then almost savoring it. Here is the thing though, every group and the entire blogging culture (as it is now) is destructive. I mean, every time the federal government launches a fresh outrage, or Wall Street dodges another tax, or a black person is the victim of injustice, an entire universe of websites will be there to produce and capitalize on this outrage. Look! Click on me! That group you hate just did something that will really piss you off!

I am not saying these things aren’t important, only to take a step back from the constant warfare that seems to have taken over the internet. I can’t go to a single website anymore without seeing Donald Trump or Barack Obama and the latest ‘atrocity’ they have committed. How healthy is it to have an entire class of people devoted to just pumping out garbage that keeps us angry? That makes it impossible to empathize with those who disagree with us. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a debate and heard someone say something that sounded nearly alien to me. Its because they have been living in a different corner of the internet. You see in some corners Obama is the anti-christ, while in others a great president. In some corners Ted Cruz is the Devil, and in others he is the great hope of America. It is literally endless the divides that exists in this country.

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Watching the two debates, they might as well have been in two different countries. Both parties focused on entirely different things and the members of both parties were generally happy with the topics, minus one of the GOP debates. We don’t live in one country, but several, and those two countries are fairly certain the other is trying to destroy us all, without really understanding their motivations. Take for example the Oregon case. A militia has taken over an empty federal building on a wildlife refuge to protest the arrest of two men convicted of Arson. People couldn’t wait to rush at it and claim … well a lot of things

 

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The article by Vox is by far the best, basically saying that the stand off is being provoked by outside actors and that the case itself has now been more or less lost. The case itself is pretty messed up. Both men set a fire to clear some property on their land, and that was perfectly legal. The fire then spread to federal lands and now both men are going to jail for four and five years.

If that sounds a bit extreme to you, a federal judge thought so too, and commuted the sentence, but that was reversed on appeal. All of this highlights grave problems in the Federal government’s use of lands out west, but now none of that matters. It is about the federal government being evil, or a bunch of rightwing militiamen taking the law into their own hands. When we as a nation adopt a tribal mentality about these things, an us versus them mentality, the first casualty is the truth. Don’t look at the reasons behind an event, just at the event itself.

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The Ferguson protests are another perfect example. The black community their was furious and Micheal Brown was only the straw that broke the camel’s back. You see among other things the city Judge would not listen to testimony and would in fact always fine citizens whenever he could. The city council refused to remove him because they saw it as a huge source of revenue. Here  is an example of what that looked like

In 2013 alone, the court issued over 9,000 warrants on cases stemming in large part from minor violations such as parking infractions, traffic tickets, or housing code violations. Jail time would be considered far too harsh a penalty for the great majority of these code violations, yet Ferguson’s municipal court routinely issues warrants for people to be arrested and incarcerated for failing to timely pay related fines and fees. Under state law, a failure to appear in municipal court on a traffic charge involving a moving violation results in a license suspension. Ferguson has made this penalty more onerous by only allowing the suspension to be lifted after payment of an owed fine is made in full.  

Here is the full article if you want to read it. If that sounds insane it should, but people only focused on the riots, or Micheal Brown, not the real causes of the entire affair. THIS is the problem with the media, both on TV and online. It is built around confirming pre-conceived notions, not around truth.

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Or how about another ‘gaffe’ made by a politician, Jeb Bush and his Anchor babies. He was attempting to talk about something called ‘maternal tourism.” Its a real problem and it is where a woman comes to the U.S. to have her baby, that will then be  a U.S. citizen, and so later in life that child can get access to benefits easily in the U.S. People became so focused on the offensive term no one bothered to care about what he was trying to say. So he was accused of racism for using the word, even if the issue is valid. Here is a good summery of it here.

If that sounded familiar to you it should. Many times Republicans will bring up valid immigration issues but they use offensive terms in the process so they are dismissed as racist and no one focuses on what they are trying to say. It has been a huge boon to Donald Trump who, now just says outrageous things that sound good to Americans, and because those same people are used to their concerns being dismissed as racist, they don’t care when someone is actually being a racist.

Its why almost every article I see online makes me want to shake my head in disgust. Is this all we are now? I am begging you, always look deeper into an article, don’t just absorb what you want from it. Try to look for the deeper reasons behind peoples actions instead of just accepting them as you see it. Because if you can’t do that, if you can’t at least try to empathize, how can you expect anyone else to?

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