The Death of Outrage… or of Subtlety?

You’ve probably heard of the death of outrage. It’s what happens when people are apathetic concerning important things. Abortion kills three thousand unborn babies a day just in the United States? Oh well. We’re sixteen trillion dollars in debt and the budget shortfall this year is over a trillion dollars? Oh well.

It doesn’t mean people don’t get extremely bothered about certain things. Just read some of the comments on this site. You can usually spot the ones I’m thinking of pretty easily: typed in all caps; emancipated from the strictures of grammar, punctuation, and spelling; and usually fixated on the most trivial contention of a topic only tangentially, if at all, related to the article.

So I think the more important death than the death of outrage is the death of subtlety. We are a sound bite culture. We form opinions on the basis of little information and we have very little capacity to listen for any length of time or comprehend nuanced arguments. Because of this, politicians and power-brokers have learned not to present us with nuanced arguments. Instead, they use buzzwords and abstractions. But even when they choose to try to present the truth (which is rare anyway), they simplify it to such an extent that it regularly ceases to be true. We’ve forced them into this in many ways.

Consider how these statements could be, and are, misconstrued:

  • Obama probably wouldn’t have been elected if he were white. (Racist.)
  • Big corporations are in bed with corrupt government agencies. (Communist.)
  • Neither Republicans nor Democrats listen to their constituency. (Anarchist. Obama-supporter.)
  • We shouldn’t be more harsh with homosexuals than we are with adulterers. (Gay.)
  • Not every accusation of rape is legitimate. (Mysoginist.)
  • The official explanation for 9/11 was not very thorough. (Conspiracy theorist. Quack.)

The list could go on. We live in a world inundated with information, so it is difficult to cut through all the noise to get at “what’s really important.” Because of this, we generalize (generally speaking). Our generalizations, whatever use they may have, often inadvertantly eschew important pieces of information, precisely because we don’t really know what’s important. There’s nothing we can do about this. Not only do we have blind spots… we’re usually unaware of where and what they are.

Further, government education and mass media have really diminished our capacity to think in a straight line. The information we get online, on the TV, and in most schools is broken up into bite-sized factoid packets—little disconnected particles of information as easy to digest as they are to forget, and almost impossible to piece together into a cohesive view of the world. It’s important that we get back to looking at things in depth. I’d rather have good information on something than bad information on everything. Sure, this may mean we’ll have to be silent and listen on very many topics we haven’t studied, but at least when we do feel compelled to speak, our discourse will be a little better-informed. And maybe we won’t be so easily duped by “big-picture” deceptions. And just maybe… we’ll know what we really need to get angry about.


  • Mary Ogee

    No comments yet? I see what you mean by an apathetic society.

  • ARMYOF69

    You can see it on the faces of our corrupt politicians when on TV. They refer to each other as learned associates and such, and smile a lot., They don't give a damn about what is happening to our country or to any of us. Why should they? They are well paid well looked after with their SPECIAL CADILLAC health care plans, and fancy lifelong pensions, not to mention what millions they make on the side because of their position.

    • Victor Magilke

      Many of our politicians have become corrupt and have no concerns for our country only their own desires. We need a good house cleaning on both sides of the aisle.

    • NM Leon

      Too many are corrupt, but they get the same (very good) benefits as all other federal employees.
      http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congresspay.htm

    • wyatt48

      All govt employees, from the pres. on down, need to be taken off that golden pension funded by the taxpayer. Take all that money and put it into Social Security and put them all on the same pension as us. How much will they steal from SS then.
      The (job?) they do is full of chances to be corrupt and most of them don't have enough character to refuse to be a part of it.

  • kdb

    Really though - who has the TIME to be completely well informed about even ONE subject. Let's take Medicare for example. Has ANYONE really had the time and the inclination to read the thousands of pages of the bill? Has anyone objectively and without party bias looked at the ramifications of Obama Care on Medicare?

    What we get instead are sound bites that are biased right along party lines, and there is no one left to sort through all the legalities of the bill, and the rhetoric of those analyzing the bill to form any sort of conclusion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.minkoff.14 Michael Minkoff

      Right on. And I can guarantee that the writers of such monstrous bills recognize exactly what you're talking about. They know that the more jargonated legalese they can cram into their legislation, the less likely it is that anyone is going to invest the sweat equity into finding out what is really at stake. Nancy Pelosi even said of ObamaCare, "We need to pass it to find out what's in it..." Wait. Run that by me again? Anyway, we need some intelligent, dedicated hard-working volunteers with education in these specialized areas to step forward and educate the rest of us who really have no idea what these bills contain. Thanks for commenting!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Marshall/100001163952013 Bob Marshall

      I posted on another site what Judge Kithil of Marble Falls highlighted as the most egregious pages of HB3200. See if you think Sarah Palin was right when she called page 425, line 12 as a"Death Panel." This is on Page 425, line 4-12 The government mandates advance -care planning consultations . Those on Social Security will be required to attend an"end-of-life planning " seminar every five years. Page 429, line 13-25: the government will specify which doctors can write and end-of -life order. you can find this bill in pdf on the internet but it would take hours to read.I wish i knew how to post all this information he presented on facebook.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-C-Dines/1547798249 Linda C. Dines

      My major protest is that when the Bills in Congress are proposed and "massaged" into something which will pass, it should be read and understood by all members of Congress, not just told "you will find out what is in it when it passes"(abuse of Congress by the leading Damnocrat at the time) and argued into something we can live with rather than something we don't want and causes the anger we now have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.rankin.731 Chris Rankin

    Oh well...

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.minkoff.14 Michael Minkoff

      Classic. :)

  • Chuck

    Let me see do I care about how much taxes Romney pays [no] do I care about how much of my taxes is spent by the government and on what [yes]
    Do I care if a 30+ year old college student wants to have sex all the time [no]
    Do I care if she wants the taxpayer to spring for here birth control methods [yes] that is what getting a job is all about and learn to live on your own.
    More worried about about ..................... etc

    • Victor Magilke

      Excellent points Chuck. You are right on and I am in complete agreement with your comment. This is what our concerns should be, not Romney's religion.

  • Raymond

    Obama was in the Oval Office when his telephone rang.

    "Hello, Obama” a heavily accented southern voice said.
    "This is Jimmy Boy, down here at Bump's Catfish Shack
    in Vicksburg, and I am callin' to tell y’all that we are officially
    declaring war on y'all!"

    "Well Jimmy Boy," Barack replied, "This is indeed important
    news! How big is your army?"

    "Right now," said Jimmy Boy, after a moments calculation
    "there is myself, my cousin Tom, my next-door-neighbor
    and brother Gerald, and the whole dart team from JD's Bait Shop.
    That makes eight or maybe nine depending if Bump can close the store.”

    Barack paused. "I must tell you Jimmy Boy that I have one million men
    in my army waiting to move on my command." "Wow," said Jimmy Boy.
    "I'll have to call ya back!" Sure enough, the next day, Jimmy Boy called again.
    “Mr. Obama, the war is still on! We’ve managed to acquire some infantry equipment!"

    "And what equipment would that be Jimmy Boy?" Barack asked.

    "Well sir, we have two combines, a bulldozer, and my brother Mike’s farm tractor."

    Obama sighed. "I must tell you Jimmy Boy, that I have 16,000 tanks and 14,000
    armored personnel carriers. Also I've increased my army to one and a half million
    since we last spoke."

    "Lord above", said Jimmy Boy, "I'll be getting back to ya."

    Sure enough, Jimmy Boy called again the next day. “Obama! I’m sorry to have
    to tell you that we’ve had to call off this here war."

    "I'm sorry to hear that" said Barack. "Why the sudden change of heart?"

    “Well, sir," said Jimmy Boy, "we've all sat ourselves down and had a long
    chat over sweet tea, catfish, collard greens, pie, and come to realize that
    there's just no way we can feed that many P.O.W's"

    SOUTHERN CONFIDENCE CANNOT BE SHAKEN!

    • victorbarney

      THAT WAS THE BEST YET "JIMMY BOY!"

  • afanaglenn

    I am not an anarchist when I say that the most critical thing we have today is the national debt. If interest rates increase any great measure, there will not be enough federal income to pay the interest on the debt, let alone monies for defense, social security, aid to dependent families, etc. That or the government will be printing money so fast that it will take a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy a loaf of bread.
    And still no one knows what is in the obamacare deal, other than a whole bunch of new government employees, including thousands of IRS agents looking over everyone's shoulders, coupled with federal agencies purchasing millions of rounds of ammunition where they have no business making such purchases. What in the sam hill is going on?
    The only thing I know to do about this is to get Obama out of office ASAP.

    • victorbarney

      Our BROTHER ENGLAND was in the same shape from their venture into MARXISM & GAVE U.S. THE MONEY-MAKING GOVERNMENT in the 1900's(I forgot the exact date, but I think relatively like it was 1943 perhaps?) that England once had BEFORE they HAD become MARXIST is their IDEOLOGY & THEIR GOVERNMENT COLLAPSED AS WE'RE NOW IN THE PROCESS OF DOING OURSELVES! Just talking a little history...P.S. THE MSM WROTE THAT "WOMEN ALONE" VOTED FOR THIS PROMISED "FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION OF GOVERNMENT" INTO "MARXISM" PROMISED TO THEM BY OBAMA, THE "ONLY" LEADER EVER TO RULE OVER AN ANGLO-SAXON NATION IN HISTORY OF THEIR OWN ACCORD(READ DEUTERONOMY 17:15)! THAT'S 6,000 YEARS FOLKS! Again: "TURN OUT THE LIGHTS BECAUSE THE PARTY IS OVER$$$$$$$"!

      • afanaglenn

        Wish that everyone could read your missive.

        • victorbarney

          I ONLY wish people would believe the Hebrew Scriptures & just WHO Obama REALLY is! Do you realize that when the two-witnesses of chapter 11, Revelation come to punish u.s. they will leave only 144,000 of u.s. alive in addition to the 144,000 spritual assemby members & after that, as soon as, possible(i.e., 3 1/2 years after they begin the "we the people" PUNISHMENT the "we the people" still left will be allowed to have obama kill these two-witnesses, but these two-witnesses get to RISE-UP ALIVE AGAIN 3 1/2 DAYS LATER & WILL THEN PUNISH "ANTI-CHRIST" OBAMA WITH DEATH "FOREVER" & ALL OTHER GENTILES WILL ALSO COME TO JUDGEMENT AT THAT TIME & "MORE" GENTILES WILL BE LEFT ALIVE THAN ISRAELITES! Again, just saying what's written & SOON TO OCCUR!~P.S. YOU HAVE READ MY MESSAGE, SO DON'T WORRY! WATCH!

        • REVEILLE

          Man, that was so confusing. Is it written that way in the SCRIPTURES, really?

        • NM Leon

          I skip posts written in all caps.

  • "Thinking About It All"

    Thanks for the thoughtful article!!! I surely am listening to more than the sound bytes that are over-taking "thought processes that have depth!!. Currently, for my knowledge and as I do not believe the liberal press, I am reading two 600 page books to get informed and to GET away from the silly, senseless sound-byte world! The books are "America Disarmed Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy The Second Amendment" by Wayne LaPiere and "A Queer Thing Happened to America.... and what a long, strange trip it's been" by Michael L. Brown published by Equal Time Books Concord, North Carolina...Please know that some of us are still thinking; listening with depth; and have a long love of the American WAY OF LIFE WITH Freedom, Western Culture, God and America...God Bless The Families and Friends of All Who Lost Loved Ones on this day of September 11th..I am humbled by your loss!

  • Victor Magilke

    The author is right on. There are people posting on here that say they are republicans but they really don't support Romney because he is a Mormon and they don't consider Mormons or Catholics Christians. Our nation is hemorrhaging from Obama's inept government. I would support the Romney/Ryan ticket if they practiced Hinduism , Buddhism or any other religion. Obama and the DNC took God out of their convention. Under pressure from a minority of white democrats they later decided they needed to restore God's name. Do we want more of the same? The republicans need to put aside their trivial differences and unite under one banner whether you approve of the Mormon religion or not. A presidential candidates religious persuasion does not determine if he is qualified or inept to be president. This could be the most important election in our history. It is crucial for all patriots, regardless of their religious beliefs, to come together for our country to defeat Obama and the communist democrats that are destroying our nation.

    • PT

      I wholeheartedly agree!!! Mormonism is the least of our worries. Sharia law under Obama will destroy this country.

      • LeSellers

        Your post raises the question, What,/b>, exactly, is there to fear about "Mormonism"?

        Mr. O'bama, where are the Jobs?

      • Victor Magilke

        We are on the same page PT. You have people on here like Raymond discouraging people from voting because he says Mormons are evil and not Christians. I guess Raymond is happy with his Muslim leader.

  • ves

    Michael stuff it ... the worrying about someone using all caps or their misspellings or poor grammer instead of the content of their statement is the problem ... petty picky twits!!
    The majority of us that address the issues are tired and have been beaten down!
    We have contacted elected officials through countless efforts and been lied to repeatedly by the elected officials!
    Kay Hutchinson Bailey ... Marco Rubio for example both said they were against Amnesty and the Dream Act and both have pushed the racist agenda and Voted for it!!
    This a major issue that affects all Legal US Citizens ... the drain on US Tax Dollars and the theft of US JOBS and College Slots/Funds!!!!
    Perhaps the Real Issues should be actually addressed and the diversions that YOU and others keep Presenting should cease!!!

  • Clay

    You have no idea how accurate this article is if you ever try to talk about something other than popular culture. I had seemingly intelligent people tell me today, and try to convince me that a real zombie apocalypse is possible. Their main argument was a fictional movie, and these people were deadly serious. I don't think the population of the US has ever been more ignorant. Obama has never tried to express an idea to the public. The democrats knew dumbing down society was necessary for their need to institute a nanny state. These same people will agree with all kinds of conservative ideas; abiding by the Constitution, freedom, property rights, and in the next breath demand more goodies from the government. I believe there is no turning back from such ignorance without a total collapse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zimmerman.77 Joe Zimmerman

    I detest ODUMBA and all of his stinking thugs 90% of all dumbograts are socialist/communist/liberals who hate America and want to have a black socialist country , lock up all white people and make ODUMBA "KING" for life ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • NC

    Thanks for a great article. In the 80's I watched a niece watching MTV. I got dizzy from the ever changing images. We now have a whole generation raised on that type of entertainment. As far as that goes, news is more about entertainment than it is about information. The goal of the broadcaster is to get you interested enough that you sit transfixed when the ads come on.

    We live in a sound-byte culture where many people are incapable of
    comprehending an idea that cannot be summarized in a 30 second
    sound-byte max. We have stopped teaching reading a writing, let alone
    logic and a dumbed down electorate is what we have. When I try to
    explain something that requires more than two sentences, people's eyes
    glaze over.

    A Prime example on lack of subtlety: Repeal Obamacare. Then what? A few days ago Romney commented on some aspects of health-care reform he thinks are needed. Immediately everyone jumped all over him, claiming he does not want to repeal Obamacare. Actually, he can't. That's Congress's job. (Another lack of subtlety: the President does everything.) I'm sure he will encourage Congress to do it's job (rather than obstruct and do executive order end-runs.)

    As far as writing bills in concerned, which several people commented on, my guess is that sections of bills are farmed out to the highest bidders, who write that section so their business profits an the expense of someone else. this has been done by both parties and we do need the input of the industries involved when writing legislation, but the highest bidder stuff has got to go. We know, for example, that AARP got them to write the bill in favor of the kind of plan AARP provides, at the expense of the Medicare advantage plans.

    I would like to see Congress make some kind of rules limiting the length of bills, requiring them to list the authors and collaborators, and providing adequate time for reading and public comment (one day per 100 pages would probably help them voluntarily reduce the length!) Even these rules would require some subtlety--do we disqualify a bill that is one page over the length if the length is needed to adequately specify something? Do we split a bill into two related ones which could cause problems if one part passed without the other? A balance needs to be found between legal language, which is necessary to be specific, and obfuscatory language which is frequently employed to hide the special interest stuff.

  • paleocon44

    "I see what you mean by an apathetic society."

    Oh well.........