Outrage porn: How the need for "perpetual indignation" manufactures phony offense

There are many things to be outraged about in this world. What portion of the real outrage needed to motivate people to solve some of our biggest issues is subsumed in the pseudo-outrage drudged up everyday by our biggest outrage porn producers? If we blow off steam by forwarding a story about a stupid racist comment, have we compromised our ability to mobilize assistance for the 2 million displaced Syrians or a struggling democracy movement in Iran? A little? A lot? I don’t know, except that it takes a toll.

Alex Tabarook of Marginal Revolution recently noted, people don’t go to the barricades for minor causes or slight improvements. But I would argue they are less likely to go to the barricades for important causes if they exist in a constant high-strung state of pseudo-outrage. It makes it too hard to separate the real from the fake.

What is real is the toll that fake outrage takes. Psychologists call it the “narcotizing dysfunction,” essentially that thinking and chattering about something eventually gets confused and equated with doing something about it. Of course it doesn’t—but after enough blog posts we delude ourselves into believing we’ve made a difference.