“Outrage du jour” posts serve a definite purpose – whether or not this purpose is beneficial or harmful depends on the topic addressed and the manner in which the writer has approached it. As with most things in life, outrage posts have their pros and cons.
On the pro side, outrage posts draw attention to abuses and evildoing. Posts of this kind can be quite informative. Depending on a writer’s perspective, they can also be rather entertaining, perhaps even humorous. On the con side, outrage posts can breed smoldering anger, paranoia, and resentment.
A cursory inspection of most “outrage du jour” posts, my own included, reveals they are reactions against mass media generated stories. This fact should make one pause and reflect for a moment. In most instances, mass media promulgated controversies are obviously manipulative. The outrage story often provides the spark while the reaction piece fuels the fire and fans the flames.
Once again, I am not claiming that writing in reaction to some issue is necessarily a bad thing, but most outrage pieces I have read or written myself were based on issues and stories that were likely printed solely to get a rise. This immediately makes one wonder what the underlying purposes behind these intentional anger generators might truly be. Bruce Charlton has referred them as “baited traps.” I believe he is on to something there.
Sometimes outrage du jour posts have a palpable (and positive) effect in the world; this can be a good thing. More often than not, reactions against the latest shock or indignation amount to nothing more than venting. Venting can be therapeutic, for both the writer and the reader, but venting aside, little more is accomplished.
As mentioned previously, outrage posts risk breeding resentment, and this very well could be the primary goal of the mass media’s outrage generation in the first place. Stories sparking disapproval can also serve as distractions, taking our attention away from more meaningful and primary matters.
In the end, many outrage posts against mass media generated controversy are little more than shaking your fist at a stormy sky. When I re-read my own outrage pieces, they often strike me as tales “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
This brings me to my larger point. I have been blogging consistently for nearly six months without giving much thought to matters such as purpose, motivation, or audience. When I began this blog in 2012, I treated it as a medium through which I could promote my fiction. That motivation proved short-lived. Up until a half-a-year ago, I inconsistently dabbled into the blog here and there without any clear sense of what I was doing or why I was doing it.
Last December, I felt inspired to begin blogging on a daily basis. I had no clear motivation or purpose and wrote about whatever interested me or happened to spring to mind, but over the past month or so, I have been thinking quite a bit about this blog, and I have been trying to discover my underlying motivations for writing it.
This reflection has led me to the conclusion that I should remove “outrage du jour” posts as menu items from this blog. I provide some reasons below:
- Motivated by my own intuition, fortified by this post, and supported by this book, I have made a commitment to wean myself off mass media. I currently consume about 50% less mass media than I previously did, but I would like that number to fall to 80- 90% less in the near future. I won’t accomplish this goal if I push myself to write outrage pieces.
- There are already too many bloggers in the outrage department. Most produce exceptional work. My voice would add nothing new or interesting to the genre.
- My outrage posts tend to originate from a negative place; I do not want to feed this negativity unnecessarily.
- Unfamiliar blogs have shared some of my outrage posts. These caused significant temporary spikes in my readership, but in some cases, these shares also attracted readers and commenters I would be happy to do without.
- I will continue to criticize if I deem it necessary or prudent, but this will not emanate from a kneejerk reaction against a media piece.
- Writing outrage posts has occasionally distracted me from my real interests, chiefly Christianity, metaphysics, literature, writing, art, and reflection. This is where my focus should lie.
As I mentioned above, I am trying to discover my underlying motivations for writing this blog. In all honesty, I do not know how to articulate these yet. Nevertheless, I am gaining a clearer perspective of what I would like my writing to accomplish here. I will return to the storm analogy for a moment to help explain (albeit, sloppily) what I mean.
We live in an era of seemingly perpetual foul weather. I write this blog not to deny the reality of the storms, but to remind myself and others of the reality above the clouds, where the sun still shines above it all.* In the meantime, I hope my writing here might serve as a raincoat or an umbrella – a small, but perhaps meaningful contribution that could help some ride out the storm.
Even if my work here does not help others, it certainly helps me. And that’s something. In fact, it may just be enough.
* I stole this wonderful image/analogy from a comment William Wildblood made in his post "Spirituality and the World."