Outrage Porn

I was gonna call this blog post ‘Why We Direct Our Anger at the Wrong Stuff’ but that might sound a little biased of me huh.

My god though, people can be the worst. I know the protests against the lockdowns are only happening in a few states in the US, and aren’t even that big, but it’s the staggering ignorance of them that makes them hard to ignore. Part of me wants to look elsewhere and hope they go away, but a larger part of me can’t help but gorge myself at the buffet of stupidity. It’s so goddamn FUNNY, and I need something to laugh at right now.

To that end, I must have watched this clip dozens of times.

(Yes the last guy is comedian Tim Robinson, who in my opinion NAILS it).

Surely the prevention of spreading a deadly virus is one thing we can agree on across party lines? No?

No. Nope, not in this country. As they say, everything is political. A study just released shows that businesses in states which voted for Trump may have received more bailout money. That is some dark, dark stuff. Can you see why I might want to be distracted at this time?!

Look how funny this is!

@rebabeba

My math could be off because I actually used the average bass player’s pointer finger 🤷🏻‍♀️ #covid19 #quarantine #michigan #coronavirus #stayhome

♬ original sound – rebabeba

More than anything, the lockdown protesters remind me of this guy in this clip from 10 years ago that I still chuckle about at least once a week.  He is just SO FUCKING MAD that the mall is closed.

“WHY ARE YOU PUTTING US THROUGH THIS?!”

 

So it’s funny, but I also recognise it’s sad. The man who just wants the mall to be open in Toronto… he’s not ok. This is someone who is just undeniably not ok, because otherwise he wouldn’t be so upset about something so minor, right?

In a similar way, I do feel empathy for the lockdown protesters. They are hurting. Their way of life has been ripped out from under them and they want a quick fix. In one of my favourite Tool songs, Ænema, a picture is painted of Los Angeles being washed away off the face of the earth. The entire song is topical right now but especially this section;

Some say a comet will fall from the sky
Followed by meteor showers and tidal waves
Followed by fault lines that cannot sit still
Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits
And some say the end is near
Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon
I certainly hope we will
I sure could use a vacation from this
Stupid shit, silly shit, stupid shit
One great big festering neon distraction,
I’ve a suggestion to keep you all occupied
Learn to swim, learn to swim, learn to swim
Mom’s gonna fix it all soon
Mom’s comin’ ’round to put it back the way it ought to be

 

The lockdown protesters are just the dumbfounded dipshits, desperate for Mom to come and put it back the way it ought to be. The fact that she can’t is just too big to face, so instead they focus on a smaller fact: the fact that they can’t buy lawn fertiliser. That man in Toronto, he’s not really yelling “Why, why, whyyyyy” at a closed mall, he’s just releasing a deep existential howl.

In the same way that lockdown protesters are getting mad at the wrong things, like the proverbial old man yelling at the cloud, it’s in turn silly to waste too much energy getting mad at them. As states like Georgia plan to reopen next week, perhaps this is a time to come up with clearheaded solutions about how to keep as many people safe as possible, not to throw vitriol and hatred around. As incredibly tempting as it is.

I just saw a clip of some really gross white mums in a playground who staged such a laboured (and filmed) ‘protest’ against policemen about not being able to use facilities they “paid their taxes” for, that one of them ends up getting arrested. It’s vile, it’s tone deaf, it’s peak privilege and it’s also a waste of waste of the emotion of anger. And yet, and yet. This is media sensationalism, textbook, and now everyone with an iPhone knows how to play into it.

Even speaking to friends and family is a potential outrage minefield lately. Everyone thinks they are the exception, that they are going to see ‘just one friend‘, that it won’t cause any harm. Everyone thinks they are sooooo fucking special. I bite my tongue. Something tells me it’s not going to be shaming or guilting people that makes them behave better. It’s like eating animals – almost everyone is horrified to see how meat is made, and very few people could kill an animal themselves, but most are able to compartmentalise enough to eat a burger. No one loves coronavirus and wants it to spread, but the taste of juicy freedom is just too good to resist. And it’s ok because we are all human, and we are doing the best we can.

The reason I started thinking about this today is that a friend of mine was texting me about a horrible accident that happened in Australia, in my “home” state, this week. To summarise: two officers pulled over a speeding car on a highway. The driver was tested positive for drugs and his car was to be impounded, two more officers arrived at the scene. Then a large truck ran into all four officers, killing them instantly.

Just unimaginably awful. To make things worse, however, the man who was driving the speeding car not only fled the scene of the accident, but before he did so he also took photos and videos of the scene, which he uploaded to social media. The man has since turned himself in.

My friend who was texting me was incandescent with anger, and sent me links and videos that have since surfaced of past instances of this man being verbally abusive and being a horrible human being. Tell your friends in Melbourne, he said, spread the word so that the community outreach is such that he is put away for life. Waste of oxygen, he said, If I had a gun I would shoot him, he said.

I was sickened by this profoundly immoral act that this man committed, not to mention overwhelmed by the sadness of the accident, but I was also struck by my friend’s misplaced anger. The accident which killed the officers was a freak, after all, and was not directly caused by the man driving the speeding car.

So where was the outrage coming from?

  • What the man represented? Much has been made in the Australian media of this man’s love of Porsche’s and drugs, neither very endearing traits.
  • Not only did he flee the scene, but he first took pictures and uploaded them to social media. Moral crimes.

It has long fascinated me the ways in which the internet has allowed us to be evil in a new format. This is something that legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog explored in his documentary Lo and Behold. I will never ever forget the section about Catsouras family, whose daughter Nikki had died in a horrific traffic accident in 2006. Photographs of the scene of the accident were leaked by members of the California Highway Patrol, and inevitably eventually made their way online. This resulted in the parents of the Catsouras family seeing photographs of their own daughters disfigured body online, and in some cases they were even directly emailed the photographs.

I’ve never seen such haunted human beings in my life. What these people went through, that is what hell is. Ultimately, no one was punished for the moral crime of sharing the photographs. The family went through 6 years of court proceedings with the patrol officers and eventually reached a settlement.

What it does is highlight for me is that the internet is the Wild West. That we are woeful underprepared, as a society, to deal with crimes such as these.

The man who was driving the speeding Porsche in Victoria has been charged with several counts, including driving dangerously and fleeing the scene, but none of them involved filming and sharing scenes from the accident. The deputy Police Commissioner said, “We’re still exploring whether there are offences committed under the Telecommunications Act”.

Shooting this man, or putting him in jail for life, will not change anything about what my friend is actually angry about. We need to come up with ways to make the internet better. But can we make people better? One of the things that really struck me when I did the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) course a few years ago was how incredibly out of date our media laws are. For example: the laws dictating what you are allowed to report from Court proceedings vary wildly between countries, as do laws around defamation, but when the internet happened those laws became instantly blurry. It’s just one big grey area now.

Back to misdirected outrage. People who are angry about genderless bathrooms instead of being angry that 90% of trans people have experienced harassment in their workplace. People who are get all riled up about affirmative action instead of being furious at entrenched systems that have discriminated against women and racial minorities for decades. People who are protesting their right to dye their roots instead of being incensed that black people are dying from coronavirus in their own country at an overwhelmingly higher rate.

I know that you can care about two things at the same time. In fact this time last year, everyone was sad that the Notre-Dame was in flames at the same time that they were worried about…. hold on actually, no, that was all people cared about.

My point is, outrage porn is a real thing and like all porn it is best indulged in controlled portions. Too much is a problem. I will end this with an analogy that someone much smarter than me came up with that has always stuck. I was going through a bad break up, and she told me, “allow yourself to indulge your sadness, but make sure you’re not eating too much raw cookie dough”. Huh? Basically, she said, raw cookie dough is delicious in a kind of sickly way, but it’s also pretty gross, not to mention it has raw egg in it. If you eat more than a little you’re going to feel sick. It’s important to experience your sadness and grief, but be mindful of not getting too attached to it. So before you get carried away with, ‘Mmm, cookie dough, kinda gross but kinda great’, and you look down and you’ve eaten the whole bowl, have a think about whether it’s worth feeling awful for.

She didn’t mention this part but I’ll take the analogy to it’s logical conclusion. Take those awful feelings, or that cookie dough, and maybe do something positive with it instead? Figure out what small changes can be made to make your life and the lives around you a little better maybe? Bake the fucking cookie.

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