The media is becoming one giant, seething outrage machine. It’s devouring our souls and turning our hearts away from the One who can really make the world a better place.
Worst of all, it’s making us unable to be truly thankful for all we’ve been given.
The outrage machine is in overdrive this week, feeding off the controversy in Ferguson, MO. As this tragic tale has unfolded, the left and right have gone to their corners. Lefties take to Facebook, Twitter, MSNBC and blogs to demand justice. Meanwhile, Righties take to these same channels (plus Fox News Channel) to defend order. The two sides lob rhetorical grenades, absolutely sure that they are right.
Does all this fury move us forward? Not really. But it generates a lot of clicks, views and shares, which makes media companies happy. Controversy sells.
But what about slow news days? The outrage machine is always at work, seeking out articles that will rile the masses.
Take the online magazine Slate, which is famous for unearthing obscure leftists to write outrageous columns like this one that claims it’s abusive to use the terms girl or boy to refer to an infant. Articles like these are an example of “click-bait” – puff pieces designed to go viral in the right-wing blogosphere.
The Blaze, Breitbart and other conservative sites play the same game from the opposite bench. They churn out articles by the hour whose primary purpose is not to enlighten their readers, but to outrage them. These articles are quickly skewered in the left-wing blogosphere. And the beat goes on.
Readers get their chance to play the game in the comments section. Here we find an all-out war between left and right – complete with put downs, threats and innuendos. The media companies are moving to Facebook-based comments because they want your opinions (and their articles) to be shared on your social networks. More shares = more money.
I have certain Facebook friends (you know who you are) who I call my “outrage messengers.” Their feeds are a fountain of crazy stories harvested from sites you’ve never heard of (here’s one about a student who was mugged, but blames himself and his white privilege).
Confession time: I find myself easily drawn into this melee. I like the feeling of “being right” when I read the Matt Walsh Blog. I feel so smart when I read about some kook who claims the President was born in Kenya or that vaccines are worse than disease.
I’m not opposed to healthy debate. But the tone has degenerated in the past 20 years. In the era of mass media, the dialogue was restrained, moderated by professional editors and publishers. But in today’s oversaturated media market only the shrill survive.
Here’s my first point: the media companies that control the Internet are using you. It’s like Monsters, Inc. — they have found a way to bottle your fear and sell at a profit. They are further dividing the country for money.
Here’s my second point: when we’re outraged, we can’t be thankful.
Despite the many challenges we face in the USA (and around the world) we have more than ever to be thankful for. But we can’t see all the blessings that surround us because we are focused on what’s wrong.
We live in an era of unprecedented prosperity. Never in human history have so many people enjoyed such a comfortable lifestyle. Even the poorest Americans enjoy conveniences King Henry VIII could not even imagine. Poverty is in retreat around the globe. Lifespans have nearly doubled in the past century. The arts are flourishing. Heck, even TV shows are getting better.
Our ancestors frequently starved to death – but no one dies of hunger in the West any more. The world is more peaceful than ever. Violent crime declined sharply over the past 20 years in the USA. Many deadly diseases have been conquered.
But the outrage machine keeps our eyes off our blessings. It focuses our attention on what’s wrong. It stokes our fears and keeps us in a heightened state of anxiety.
The Bible describes the Evil One as a divider. In fact, the Greek word for devil is “diabolos” which is derived from the words dia-ballo, to divide or separate. His very name means “accuser” — a perfect word to describe today’s Internet culture.
I confess that I have sometimes stoked fears on this blog. It generates traffic. As I wrote this post I realized where I should keep my focus – on Jesus and his great love for his sons.
This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to step away from the outrage machine and be truly thankful for all you’ve been given. Take 24 hours to stop worrying that the world may be going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, and thank God for his abundant provision. After all, that’s why it’s called Thanks-giving.
David Murrow is the author of the bestselling book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. David’s books have sold more than 175,000 copies in 12 languages. He speaks to groups around the world about Christianity’s persistent gender gap. He lives in Alaska with his wife of 30 years, professional silk artist Gina Murrow. Learn more about David at his Web site, www.churchformen.com, or join the conversation on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/churchformen. Don’t forget to share this page by clicking on the links below, or scroll down and leave a comment (right below those annoying ads that pay for this blog).