Much of what we call “news” is simply outrage politics, and outrage politics falls into two broad camps.
The first is stories of local concern blown up to be a national problem, when in fact there is no reason why people all across the country should be involved or should even care, unless you have an interest in that particular thing. Consider the endless stories of school principles doing dumb things, or city governments doing dumb things. Aren’t these problems the responsibility of the people that live there? Why must I care? This is not arguing the rightness or the wrongness of whatever these local idiots do, but it’s not really any of my business. Why should I be jolted into anger like a yo-yo?
Another form of outrage politics is fearmongering. This is when news or blogs report a single incident and try to suggest that it is a statewide or a nationwide trend on the basis of air. This is extremely annoying because it is wholly illogical. If one person is a sexist, does that mean that an entire state is? If one person is a bigot, does that mean the whole nation is? Yet these stories keep popping up to keep people in fear of the “other” and of course, following their blogs or watching their shows to discover the latest outrage.
Questions we must begin asking are these:
- Is this actually a pattern? A single occurrence is just that. Something that happens twice is worth watching. Only a pattern happens more often than that.
- How widespread is this? If it is happening everywhere, you will see many, many incidents, not just a handful.
To talk accurately about reality, you need to have data, and the data has to correspond to what you’re discussing. Until you actually have documented incidents, and enough of them to support your headlines, you have nothing. Worse than having nothing, you are making people believe what is not true.
And for those who don’t test what you read, you are choosing to live in fear, and that will wreck your health, fracture your relationships, and destroy your life.