Friday, August 7, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 130


Following up on my last book review, here are a couple more recent articles about "Internet Outrage" I found enlightening:

"Jennifer Beals is the latest victim of outrage overkill"

Jennifer Beals was confronted (and videotaped) by an outraged passerby because she left her dog in the car. Now, I'm well aware of the tragedy that can occur when animals or children are left in a hot car for even a few minutes, but read her version of the situation:
The morning was a cool 73 degrees. I and others were wearing jackets. I rolled all four windows down and left the car for five minutes to pick up laundry, my car visible to me the entire time...While I appreciate their vigilance and what must have felt like courage on their part, they were barking up the wrong tree.
The article goes on:
...there must also be room in any situation for a reasonable assessment of what’s really going on. Not every perceived problem is a cause for a public shaming and berating and posting on YouTube...When everything’s outrageous nothing’s outrageous. And how can we change things that really do need to be changed when it’s so exhausting — for all of us — if we live in a world in which everybody’s rage gun is permanently locked and loaded?
When everything's outrageous nothing's outrageous.

Once we've raised our "baseline" to "always outraged," it gets harder to maintain that constant output of anger and indignation. And when we're spending all our energy on that, where do we can the energy to actually do something positive to change the world.

Again, a plea for reasonable, proportional reactions after all the pertinent facts have been gathered, context understood, and proper perspective realized.


Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park (4516560206).jpg
Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park in 2010 (Photo credit)
"My Outrage Is Better Than Your Outrage"

In response to the outrage over the killing of Cecil the lion:
This week, the Internet has served as a bastion of judgment and vigilante justice—just like usual, except that this was a perfect storm directed at a single person. It might be called an outrage singularity... 
The Internet has served to facilitate outrage, as the Internet does: the hotter the better. And because the case is so visceral and bipartisan in its opposition to Palmer’s act, few people stepped in to suggest that the fury, the people tweeting his home address, might be too much. That argument wins no outrage points.
But then this:
Instead, the people who hadn't jumped on the Cecil-outrage bandwagon jumped on the superiority-outrage bandwagon. It’s a bandwagon of outrage one-upmanship, and it’s just as rewarding as the original outrage bandwagon...
The Internet launders outrage and returns it to us as validation, in the form of likes and stars and hearts. The greatest return comes from a strong and superior point of view, on high moral ground. And there is, fortunately and unfortunately, always higher moral ground.
And then the author's cynicism really comes out:
Don’t worry about that feeling a little too on-the-nose, because it doesn’t matter, because no one will remember it. Next month the armchair lions-rights activists won’t care about lions anymore, because lions-rights outrage will not be trending. They will be on to some new outrage. Many people are drawn to defend nature and underdogs (even when they are apex predators) and to hate wealthy, lying, violent dentists. But even more than that they are drawn to feeling superior and appearing wise, and being validated accordingly.
My reading is that rather than decrying the outrage toward truly despicable events - of which there are plenty in this world - the author is denouncing the "armchair activists" for whom outrage is simply a means of feeling superior to another person. Are you committed to a cause, or do you move on quickly from one outrage to the next without doing anything to affect real change?

And then some needed perspective:

"In Zimbabwe, We Don't Cry for Lions"

Goodwell Nzou was studying the biochemistry of gene editing (he's a doctoral student at Wake Forest University) when he started getting condolence messages from friends about Cecil. The native Zimbabwean admits that "the village boy inside me instinctively cheered: One fewer lion to menace families like mine." He shares a story from his youth of when a lion terrorized his village and the joy of the villagers when it was finally killed and they were again safe.

He laments:
The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus... 
We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.
Don’t tell us what to do with our animals when you allowed your own mountain lions to be hunted to near extinction in the eastern United States. Don’t bemoan the clear-cutting of our forests when you turned yours into concrete jungles.
And please, don’t offer me condolences about Cecil unless you’re also willing to offer me condolences for villagers killed or left hungry by his brethren, by political violence, or by hunger.
At first glance, this may seem to be more of the "outrage one-upmanship" mentioned in the article just above this one, but I submit that the context makes this very different. Nzou is pointedly taking down the blissful ignorance of so many Americans regarding what life is like elsewhere, our tendency to "romanticize animals" while ignoring the reality, our hypocrisy in getting outraged over actions that we are just as guilty of not so long ago, and the shocking callousness and lack of awareness toward decades of human tragedy in Africa.

He's got a point.


But before we leave, lemme show y'all a little something...


  1. I thought this article about internet shaming also had some interesting points:

  2. Yes! I remember reading that a couple of months back. It's astounding how disproportionate consequences for one stupid decision can be nowadays...