This Article Will Make You Mad

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The vast majority of media you consume is tailor-made to upset you. This is not a new concept; a YouTuber by the name of CGP Grey discussed the topic in depth in video format three years ago. Given the goldfish-like nature of the collective memory of the internet at large, I feel it is as appropriate as ever to remind people of the very nature of the news media, and why things are the way they are in current day. I aim to do so by explaining just how exactly outrage culture has affected the recent news cycle, and likewise how the nature of it permeates modern dialogue and is part of what is driving such a disparate political split.

Angry media drives attention. People grab onto things that make them upset, and share it vociferously. This is because, to paraphrase CGP Grey, people are programmed to like being angry, or rather, people enjoy the feeling of righteous indignation at a perceived evil. It allows them to feel better about themselves by saying “At least I’m not that person”, while having to do nothing more than proclaim how much more virtue they have than any given slime-ball picked by the media to be the day’s target of choice. It’s cathartic to be able to hold your head up high and cast away your own failures, embracing what a certain popular politician most recently proclaimed to be “Moral correctness”. However, much like in that case, all sense of moral fortitude can just as easily be thrown out of the window when the morality in question finds itself at odds with facts.

Take the example of the Covington High School students. Twitter and the media alike were ablaze with the roar of blue check-marks demanding that something be done about the awful privileged white teenagers who dared to smirk in the face of a man beating a drum in their face, and another telling them to go back to Europe. The storm mostly abated within a day’s time, however, when further review of the footage showed that the mainstream narrative, that the boys had surrounded the native man and were trying to intimidate him, was patently false.

Even so, there were some people so dogmatically caught up in being “morally right” about how these young students must automatically be oppressors, that they dug through any and every detail about them, their school, anything at all to try to shame them for things as innocuous as holding up an OK hand-sign after scoring 3-points at a basketball game, or having multiple students painted in full black paint for a blackout game of basketball. The frenzy that people whipped up in their cognitive dissonance was so thick that they couldn’t possibly comprehend their own failings in allowing for others to demand for those children to be doxxed, to be beaten, attacked, shot and killed without saying anything about it.

Take also the recent example of voice actor Vic Mignogna. Accused on Twitter of sexual assault and pedophilia, he was fired from his job with popular gaming and animation start-up RoosterTeeth, as well as terminated from working at popular anime dubbing company Funimation, whom he maintained a long and storied career working with. A week after the hashtag #KickVic started, we have since come to find that none of the allegations of assault made against Mr. Mignogna have been corroborated, and that the vast majority amount to nothing more than petty rumors.

If I can be frank and speak to my own experience, I watched a great deal of anime growing up in the early 2000’s, but I was never a great fan of Mr. Mignogna. I found him to be quite over-the-top in his performances and a bit of a blowhard, with a very outwardly Christian persona that irked me in my younger years as an avowed atheist. However, with my personal dislike of the man’s career and even of his personal conduct aside, I have seen no evidence to suggest he has ever done anything sexually untoward with anyone. I have, however, seen plenty of evidence suggesting that there are groups of people who endeavored to conspire to create a campaign against Mr. Mignogna to ruin his career by spreading lies, and potentially even discussing the possibility of falsifying evidence against him as ‘proof’ of his alleged misdeeds.

Even as I type this, in a sick way, I can’t help but acknowledge the twisted effectiveness of this sort of media. It doesn’t even matter if the story printed is true, people will read it just to be upset or angry about a child-hood hero either being some perverse and disgusting monster, or else having their name dragged through the mud unjustly. Those who ride the hash-tag will collect their followers, collect their karma, collect their self-given back-pats for how brave and stunning they are, and then in a week they’ll be getting upset about something else.

I don’t pretend like there aren’t right-wing versions of the same thing, by the way. Despite the comedic nature of some of his content, Alex Jones operates in much the same fashion. Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Loomer and others have also operated under this presumptive manner of riling people up rather than simply giving them the facts. Part of that is arguably showmanship; no one wants to watch the 7 o’clock news with host Ben Stein. Still the desire of people to be angry and feed that anger and share it with others creates a negative feedback loop that just keeps spiraling the more that it goes.

I’m sure there are those that wonder what exactly can be done about the problem. Frankly, I can’t be certain of any such solution, but I think a good start is for everyone to recognize when exactly the media is doing this; that it is in their interest to make you mad, and that you should always question any call to action or outrage on their behalf. Only you can trust yourself to do the job of filtering through the news you consume, finding the nuggets of truth interspersed among the bullshit, and draw your own conclusions.