Collective Outrage

Dean Obeidallah:

But here’s the thing: Why not also unleash our collective fury over issues more meaningful than just a comedian’s joke or a celebrity’s tweet? I’m not suggesting we ignore those — because even if I did, no one would listen. But in addition to those, take a moment to express your powerful outrage over issues that might tangibly benefit your life and the lives of others.

Let’s get collectively angry that every nine seconds, a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten. And let’s get even angrier that three women a day in the United States are killed by domestic violence attacks.

Let’s get really pissed that 22% of American children are living in poverty. And please save some (actually a lot) of outrage for Congress, which has become the political equivalent of Lindsay Lohan: We only see it in media coverage doing bad things.

Sure, go ahead and be outraged over Joan Rivers’ and Seth MacFarlane’s jokes if you must, but let’s show some anger about the fact that almost 10,000 Americans died in gun violence last year and still Congress hasn’t passed a universal background check to ensure that criminals and mentally ill people can’t legally buy guns.

So let’s collectively tweet away about the issues that outrage us, be they stupid comments or Syria, comedians’ jokes or the growing income inequality in America. But please don’t just reserve all your outrage for celebrities. They simply aren’t worthy of it.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • orton1227

    Right on. Polls have shown that those in opposition of overturning Roe v Wade has risen to just over 7 out of 10 people. The number is rising! The Church (the true Israel) is not doing it’s duty. We need to protect orphans, widows, the unborn. We’ve become lazy and comfortable and bought into the things of the world.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    We also need to be careful about statistics. I doubt 7 out of 10 people don’t even know what Roe v Wade is. The study you are citing showed 44 % said abortion should be illegal (although with some exceptions.) Another 2 percent said they don’t know. Another 23 percent thought that abortion should be illegal, but regulated.

    There was some spin on the study by both sides, but it did not say that 70% of Amercans opposed the overturning of Roe.

    More info http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323301104578255831504582200.html

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    I mistyped… Should be “Another 23 percent thought that abortion should be legal, but regulated.”

  • Jag

    Outrage is pointless. We’re ruled by corporations, and the goal of every corporation, by law and charter, is maximization of profit. It’s why we have a health care system that leads the world in profit but is second-rate (at best) in health.

    There’s no profit in ending child hunger, in limiting domestic violence, in reducing gun deaths; on the contrary, the profit is on the other side of the equation. Every poor child fed, every woman protected, every assault rifle not sold, takes a dollar out of someone’s pocket. And that someone very likely makes far larger campaign contributions than Jesus.

  • MatthewS

    I think there is a bandwagon effect with some of these things. And sometimes the fires are stoked by how the story is framed and reported.

  • Bill

    I love it, Jag. “Outrage is pointless” but let’s get torqued about those big evil corporations. Wow.

  • orton1227

    @5 Matt,

    You’re definitely right. I personally watched my wife’s father in law turn into a raging maniac when he got cable and started watching FoxNews 24 hours a day. They report and frame the stories in a way that’s designed to get you outraged. My wife’s mom divorced him over it. He completely lost touch with reality. Guess that’s part of the fear that lead to Canada banning the station.

  • MatthewS

    orton1227, that would be very painful to see happen. I hope he rediscovers his family away from the tube.

    I don’t watch Fox news but let’s be honest that it goes both ways. For example, if any conservative politician had uttered what Whoopi said about a grown man taking advantage of a young girl not being “rape-rape”, it would have ended their political career.

  • P.

    Orton is right about Fox News with its manufactured outrage. Look at the stories on its website and just watch its programs. It’s all about getting viewers so they can get money from advertisers. Actually, that’s pretty much the media in general in order to gain viewers or clicks on websites. All in all, I think Dean Obeidallah is right: it’s desensitizing people to what really matters, and in the grand scheme of things, what happens on the Oscars doesn’t matter.

  • Mike M

    Apparently we choose the issues of outrage. No where have I seen anger turned against a legal system that relegates fathers to mere sperm donors and financiers of mom’s unlimited spending nor against a “judicial” system that enriches lawyers and empowers judges way beyond being neutral adjudicators of justice. Sure, child and women abuse are easy issues to defend but what about father abuse and criminalization of innocent males because of gender profiling?

  • Amanda B.

    I agree that getting *outraged* over celebrity words and behavior is not generally beneficial. But I’d say there’s still value to saying something about it. As much as celebrities are a product of our culture–and any brokenness therein–they also help shape it.

    If a celebrity can get on the national stage and unleash a whole string of misogynistic jokes, or take a crass jab at a nine-year-old girl, or cruelly mock someone for their weight, or make irresponsible comments about rape, etc., etc., it says something about our culture. If nobody speaks up against that, it sends a message: “This sort of behavior is not so bad. It’s not a real issue. We don’t care. We won’t stop you.”

    It empowers that sort of “humor” in the public sphere (“If Seth MacFarlane got away with it, so can I”). It silences people who are being hurt by it (“Geez, lighten up already, it’s just a joke”). If our culture thinks that abusive joking is, at best, not worth confronting, and at worst, actually funny and cool, it hurts all of us. But when people take to blogs, opinion articles, and television to rebuke the celebrities who have made such statements, it demonstrates: “Actually, this is NOT okay, and we’re not going to think you’re an awesome, funny, subversive genius for treating other people badly.”

    Now, I will agree that if we are vastly more outraged over a celebrity than over injustice our government, that demonstrates some misplaced priorities. But despite the qualifiers, Obeidallah’s article seems to suggest that things like MacFarlane’s display are not a “meaningful issue”. I would contend that they are.

    A comedian who can sell out an auditorium with openly, unabashedly misogynistic humor is part of the problem in a society that is filled with spousal abuse. A famous figure who can garner uproarious laughter by denigrating a talented, successful person for their weight is part of the problem in a society that is plagued with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, shame, and cruelty towards people who are not traditionally “beautiful”. A songwriter who packs their lyrics full of hateful bile and violence is part of the problem in a society that is rife with homicides.

    Sure, a single celebrity with a screwed-up worldview is probably not worth the bother. But the ideas that they put forth–toxic ideas which the public might applaud, laugh at, or silently condone–are sometimes quite serious, and therefore very much worth opposing.

  • Brian

    We are often outraged by “things that we would never say or do”, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. “Look that guy is bad, but I don’t do that so I am good.”

    We don’t get outraged about the real issues of abuse, hunger, etc. because we aren’t doing anything about them either.


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