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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: All the outrage is exhausting me

It's so easy to vent your outrage online, but it actually accomplishes very little, Russell Wangersky argues. —
It's so easy to vent your outrage online, but it actually accomplishes very little, Russell Wangersky argues. — 123RF Stock Photo

Put your hand up if you’re tired.

I know I am.

I’m tired of the useless cycle of outrage we now live in, a cycle that fixes nothing and changes its goals every few seconds — meaning that, as it flitters off endlessly in new directions, nothing, however heinous, will really change.

I started this column on Thursday when a razor commercial and the reaction to it was the latest hot-button issue. By Saturday, I’ll be expected to be outraged at something new. By lunchtime, even.

Luckily, the only action I’ll be expected to take about the latest astounding outrage is to give someone the equivalent of a thumbs up on Twitter and move on to the next act of life’s Kabuki theatre rage play.

There used to be a purpose to outrage: it was used to push people to action. Real action.

To do something — to fix something.

Heated atoms vibrate. Liquids expand. The laws of physics apply. But they don’t actually do anything unless they are contained and directed.

Steam should not be confused with a steam engine. They are not the same thing.

And outrage should not be confused with working towards a solution; it’s just blowing off steam that can’t even be bothered to do the simple act of pushing a piston or getting up from the computer.

I’m not talking about actual protests where people actually rise up and do something. There are few things that I have found as breathtaking as the post-Trump-inauguration Women’s Marches — thousands of women taking the time and expense to push for the protection of their rights and freedoms. I’m talking about the doxing, insulting, blackmailing, libelling and threats that now serve as an alternative to actually standing up for what you believe in. (Hint — if the greatest action you’re willing to take is sitting down in front of a screen, you’re probably not standing up for anything.)

There’s no doing, solving or fixing in internet outrage.

In fact, more often than not, it’s the furthest thing from building — it has more akin to tearing down. And sure, it’s fun, a nice little diversion where you can score a few points with your like-minded friends by showing how smart you are.

But it’s something else as well, on all ends of the political spectrum.

What’s a circle of people taking turns taunting and insulting an individual? Hint: I don’t think it’s “heroic activists.”

It is often exactly what traditional bullying always was: kicking some other kid who’s lying on the pavement to the delight and approval of your friends.

Deliver a pithy internet attack on someone and watch the like-minded rush in to cheer you on: “He didn’t even see it coming, the moron.” “You sure taught him a lesson!”

What’s a circle of people taking turns taunting and insulting an individual? Hint: I don’t think it’s “heroic activists.”

What is it when people actively discuss ways to gang up on someone and conspire to strip them of their existing jobs or future opportunities based on your limited (often very limited) understanding of the facts at issue? It’s not “principled opposition.”

What amazes me is that people who would otherwise go out of their way to condemn bullying don’t actually see the same trait in their own behaviour.

This is not a cohesive way to work towards change: this is a recipe for divisiveness and hatred — and it’s a divisiveness and hatred where different sides create their own momentum, their own “trusted” sources and their own “truth.”

I know, for many, this may be old and even obvious news, and I should move on to the next tempesting teapot. (Get with the program, Russell.) But ignoring the endless and solutionless vibration of outrage fixes nothing — and I think that can’t be said often enough.

It’s popular to say that people should check their privilege. We should all be checking our behaviour, too. Bullying is bullying, regardless of how much you feel the end justifies the means.

But we won’t check our behaviour, because being the bully, standing up there delivering the latest kick, is too much fun.

Admit it.

Oh, sorry — I didn’t realize you’d already moved on to the new trendy thing to be enraged about.

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Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.

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