Memes, Likes, Tweets, Shares, Gifs, Emojis, Upvotes, Clickbait…Let’s face it, we live in a reaction-based society. Reaction has become our economy, and this is clearly seen with the success of YouTube and Twitch streaming, where you pay money every month to watch people react to things. People can’t get enough of this content. But what are the broader philosophical implications of what this means and why this is?
In this digitally disembodied age of the internet, where we all paradoxically grow more distant the closer we are connected to one another, we long for kinship and affirmation. We often come to the internet because we long to be heard and valued, and sometimes when we see others stand up for something we find noble, it validates us and our feelings. In reality, indulging in the reaction of others is satisfying precisely because those reactions reflect who we are back to ourselves. Our consumerist society has brought us to a place where we consume the other for our own self-gratification. Add to this the benefit of dopamine hits through the medium of likes, retweets, reshares, and follows, and all of a sudden we create a culture of self-addicts. We become addicted to ourselves through the intoxicating affirmation of other like-minded people (I use the term intoxicating precisely because the cognitive effect is no different from being surrounded by drunk friends at a party. Cognitive dissonance says “I cannot allow myself to be emotionally tossed aside by the tribe, so I must submit to them to remain valued”).
This is how echo chambers are born, and largely why we remain in them. People who criticize something we say are viewed as buzzkills, especially when we surround ourselves with an entire entourage of agreement. “Are they stupid or something? Obviously I’m correct, all my friends like and retweet me,” we say to ourselves. This creates a double-down effect, where we become more entrenched in our beliefs, more emboldened to declare them, and more addicted to tribe validation. With any addiction, there eventually comes the tolerance and withdrawal. It becomes a Capitalistic race for affirmation. It becomes who gets noticed by their tribe fastest; Who can shout the loudest; Who can appear to be the most righteously indignant, etc. This leads to outrage culture.
Few things are truer about online outrage culture than the NPC meme. For those who don’t know, NPC (Non-Player Character) is a gaming term that refers to the characters you would typically encounter in a story-driven role playing game. Characters that are programmed by the game developer to say a few lines over and over if you happen to talk to them with your character (Click here for an example). Basically, they are programmed characters and are not real people playing the game with you. Republican and Democratic zealots, having no internal monologue, mindlessly and furiously repeat what they’ve been programmed to say when triggered. There is no critical thinking involved, there is only an explosion of emotions. The angry mob may be synchronized to move and shout in unison, but it has nonetheless always been an incredibly stupid creature (I highly recommend this amusing video).
Outrage culture could be described as a tribe of ideological and religious zealots searching to and fro throughout the whole Twitterverse seeking a foreign heretic to crucify; a witch to burn; a bully to bully. However, the bullied can easily become the bully, and with enough vengeful zeal, one can become a simplistic self-righteous fascist fighting fascism. However, the problem is when the Liberals hear me say this, they think I’m talking about Conservatives (forgive my usage of these two problematic generalizing words, I use them because I have to, not because I want to). And when the Conservatives hear me say this, they think I’m talking about Liberals. The reality is, this is true of both sides, and both sides need to acknowledge their wrongdoing. It is time for the independents and moderates to take back the discussion from the loud and ignorant fringes. I will talk primarily about the issues on the Liberal side, because that is the side with the majority of the power in the media and in universities.
We have all heard the often repeated accusatory words over and over. Racist, Misogynist, Homophobic, Transphobic, with some people it is like pressing the select button on an NPC over and over. It grows more likely with each passing day that every man will be accused of being one of these at least once in his lifetime. What’s worse is the rate at which Tech companies, such as Facebook, are jumping on the blue outrage train. I had a 24 hour suspension from Facebook fairly recently, simply for posting the following sentence that was deemed hate speech:
At first my post was flagged by a bot, and I thought there was no way that was not a mistake, so I requested a human being look at my post. To my dismay, the human had the same level of reasoning skills as the bot that flagged my post. They too thought my sentence (which is clearly metaphorical criticism, having biblical allusions of blindness and shepherding, about the lack of critical thinking in this country) was hate speech. I found it ironic, because their actions proved my point. Facebook, following this new heretical standard of virtue taught in colleges today, is being led astray by precisely the things I mentioned. “Are universities really that bad right now?” one might ask. Most people know the clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, whose entire public career was launched because he refused to be bullied by what would eventually be Canadian law regarding transgender pronouns. However, to such a questioner, I recommend the following video:
Weinstein: “Would you like to hear the answer or not?”
Mob mentality is not rational. You can’t reason with an angry mob, because they do not want answers, they want “justice” to be served without trial. Watch any interview with Brett Weinstein on YouTube and it is unquestionable that he is a Progressive (Watch an interview he had after these events here). And yet, he was condemned by Progressive SJW activists. Weinstein became the witch of his own camp because he, being a reasonable person, rebelled against mentally handicapped groupthink. He listens to reason, and the tribe did not like that, so they demanded his resignation (which is an utterly ridiculous response to Weinstein’s position, and it is very telling that The Young Turks still have not commented on this event at Evergreen State College). The insane mob will always devour whoever is not as angry as they are, even if that person happens to be standing with them. Which is why SJW-type Progressives often rant about the most idiotic things with the most manufactured rage in order to signal to their tribe that they’re still worthy of being loved. If a woman were to do exactly this kind of thing in order to be loved by her husband, the SJW would ironically be the first to notice the fear culture and abuse within the marriage. Yet when this is clearly displayed on a macro level, they suddenly lose their eyesight, because they are the abusers.
Another story along these same lines involves three liberal academics James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose, who exposed the almost nonexistent standards of a poisonous liberal scholarship within what they call grievance studies (this seems to be a blanket term they created which includes gender studies, feminist studies, queer studies, and fat studies). This is yet another example of real intellectuals making an effort to take back academia from the clutches of madness:
The presence or absence of truth and decency in a person could be determined simply by how they respond to what these people did. Simply put: rational people will love them, indoctrinated people will hate them.
Blue outrage culture is also completely ruining the creative freedom of all forms of entertainment with online threats and cringey virtue signaling. Content creators are now being pressured to create using a single Progressive formula that revolves around minority representation. And yet, ironically, when there is minority representation, there is outrage about that too. Most recently in the gaming world, there was a Twitter crusade against the character “Mr. Game and Watch” in the upcoming videogame Super Smash Bros: Ultimate. In the Early 80s, A Nintendo Game and Watch title called ‘Fire Attack‘ depicted Native Americans versus cowboys. To pay homage to that game, Nintendo included the Native American frames of animation with their character. However, this “offended” many white Progressive people in the gaming community and they demanded that the character animations be changed, calling it “racist.” And yet, here are some examples of Native American YouTube commenters after Nintendo released a statement that they will bow to the outrage and propitiate online wrath by changing the character:
Another example of nonsensical outrage in the gaming industry has to do with the recently released Red Dead Redemption 2, where Sally Kohn rants about there not being enough minority representation in a game trailer (Click here to see it). She makes the quickest of judgments about a game she knows nothing about, having seen next to nothing, merely using the game as a personal soapbox to complain about an unrelated topic. She specifically says “Where are the black people?” most likely to score virtue signaling points with her fellow Progressive black friend sitting next to her. This problem of outrage culture dictating entertainment has also bled over into Marvel and the comic industry (Click here for an example).
Here’s the main problem with outrage culture in the entertainment industry: content creators cannot win, they are the casualties in the war between red and blue. If someone wants to create a videogame, movie, tv show, or comic using a straight white male as the main character, there will be a blue backlash simply because the main character is straight and not queer, white and not black, male and not female. If they want to create a black female main character, there will be a red backlash simply because the main character is black and female, immediately assuming the creator to be pandering to SJWs even when they are not. Outrage culture is assumption culture. It is the death of creativity, the death of comedy (Click here to see Sarah Silverman’s cringey politicized comedy), and the death of nuanced thinking. This is why conservatives are outraged, and I can sympathize with that. However, outrage does not solve the problem, it creates a mirror image of it.
Blue outrage has even entered the theology scene. I recently saw comments from within academia trying to virtue signal a simplistically drawn image of what seems to be Jesus talking to Pharisees. The crusader who went after the creator of this image said it represented “casual antisemitism in Christianity,” and how people are not noticing the “anti-semitic implications.” Why? This is what she had to say:
Look how differently Jesus is dressed from his interlocutors and how different his face and hair are. Jesus looks like an average white guy, just in a robe. The Jews he is talking too are obviously drawn as foreign and different, and are presented as a monolithic block instead of distinct individuals. Why is the Jewish Jesus so different in appearance from the fellow Jews he is talking to? Why are the primary targets of this cartoon Jewish people at all?
Firstly, I will not comment on the actual content of the image and what the creator is actually trying to say, because the arguments are not primarily about the message, but about the aesthetic. I also do not want to state who it was who said this in order to prevent red backlash towards the person, but I do think this highlights a problem not of implicit racism, but of zealous blue groupthink. Another thing I want to preface is that I agree with the underlying concern about generalizing Jews and Pharisees (there were good Pharisees too, I get it). However, we do not need to fabricate outrage over images like this in order to use them as our soapbox to articulate something we learned in college in order to get back at people who believe what we used to believe. Let’s explore the reasons given and why the arguments are not good ones.
- She wants us to see how differently the “Jews” that Jesus is speaking to are dressed. Two things: 1) why is she assuming the person on the right is Jesus? Why is she assuming the people on the left are Jews? Is it not precisely because of the visual markers she complains about? Perhaps it is she who is the “implicit racist!” 2) From an artistic standpoint, the two are actually dressed identically except for one detail: the clothing draped diagonally over Christ’s left shoulder. How dare the artist draw such a racist article of clothing!
- She wants to draw our attention to the face and hair. The humorous nature of complaining about the racist details of near stick-figure artwork aside, how on earth does Jesus look like “an average white guy,” and how do the others look “foreign and different?” It can’t be because of skin color because the image has no color, so it must be because of beard length, hair shading, and the fact that Jesus isn’t wearing headgear. Firstly, the reason why Jesus’ hair is colored in black and has a shorter beard is to signify his age. The lack of shading on the others means they have white beards (meaning, they’re older men). However, if you were to go to any Orthodox Christian monastery in America, you will see men who look exactly like that, and they are white men. This means the entire argument is about who is wearing headgear, which of course is a ridiculous argument since the conclusion doesn’t follow the premise.
- She complains about the Jews being represented as a monolithic block instead of distinct individuals. Really? How do you visually represent the different Jewish sects? Their differences are in their beliefs, not in what they wear. Also, why can’t that group of five individuals be monolithic? Is that really so scandalous? One might reply, “But it isn’t just five individuals, they are there as a symbolic statement about all Pharisees!” No, they are there as a symbolic statement about all Pharisees who happened to be antagonistic towards Christ. The message can still be qualified even if it is a generalization. Though nuance might be necessary to give someone like this artist the benefit of the doubt, when you’re on a witch hunt, it isn’t necessary to make your accusation.
It is no coincidence that the attacks against this image happened immediately after the anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh. I sympathize with the emotion, but this manufactured anger and stretched arguments are too much and need to stop. There are valid reasons why people on the more liberal side of things are frustrated with their conservative counterparts. For example, conservatives are far more individualistic than liberals, have many racists in their camp, and do not understand nor care about social issues which do not directly effect them. The ignorant manner in which conservatives dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement, showing no real understanding of what it represents, is a good example. “All lives matter,” they’ll say. And then they’ll buy a “Blue lives matter” T-Shirt after someone kills a cop without noticing the irony of their position. Conservatives call liberals “snowflakes,” and then angrily refuse to watch the NFL because one man decided to kneel during a national anthem. Conservatives vigorously rebelled against Bill Clinton when he was president solely on moral grounds, and yet a few decades later, those same conservatives vote in the most morally compromised president to ever sit in the white house. This hypocrisy is at the heart of why there is Democrat outrage (and why most Millennials lean Democrat), and in spite of the major problems with how this anger manifests, they are correct about Republican hypocrisy.
With all these issues on the blue side with regards to using their massive reach (in both media and schools) to bullying conservatives into subservience to their liberal paradigm, it is no wonder why Donald Trump won in 2016 (which I predicted, by the way), and why the term “political correctness” was on the lips of the average Republican supporter. Red outrage is the same as blue outrage, except it is flavored a bit differently. This anger is also rooted in self-righteous indignation for the opposing tribe. And for the religious red, it very much is believed that they are fighting a war for God against the blue forces of Satan (completely ignoring how Satan influences their own party). However, all of us should remember that “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20), no matter how justified you feel.
In other words, Republicans are not good simply because Democrats have bad; Conservatives are not good simply because Liberals have bad (and vice versa). Both sides have both good and bad. This should be an exercise of basic logic, but most Americans do not understand this. In a political binary, both sides tell half-truths and actively hide their own sins, or spin them into virtues (such as spinning the killing of unborn children into “women’s rights,” spinning idol worship into “patriotism,” or spinning the massacring of foreign countries and always creating a boogieman into “freedom”). When this is the political climate, it creates a vacuum for conspiratorial cynicism to swoop in and become the new dictator. This is why Alex Jones became so popular, despite the fact he is consistently spreading wildly false grand narratives based on a few breadcrumbs of information.
Ben Shapiro is one example of saying the right things in the wrong way, and this social callousness is honestly something that plagues many Conservatives. It represents an inability to empathize with the reasons why bad arguments exist to begin with. Bad arguments are born out of pain and suffering, and saying “facts don’t care about your feelings” does nothing to bridge a connection between two people. Sure, one might win a debate, but winning the person and allowing them to heal on their terms should be more important. People are more than the words they speak, and thus require much more care than a firm antagonistic refutation of a particular argument.
Red outrage is not quite the same as Blue outrage, and this is mainly because they are more individualistic. Conservative Republicans are over-represented in rural areas, and Liberal Democrats are over-represented in metropolitan areas. It is only natural that the former is more individualistic, and the latter is more group oriented. This creates a cultural binary where Conservatives are hyper-focused on what policies will directly effect them, and Liberals are hyper-focused on what will effect someone they know. This is partly what shapes voting patters and how people prioritize certain political issues. This geographical distance from others creates an ignorance of others, and this is true going both ways. Rural Republicans know nothing about the culture of Urban Democrats, and Urban Democrats equally do not understand Rural Republicans. The way of life is just so different between the two. I believe this lack of communication is the cause of nearly every divide in the country, especially religious divides. Peter Boghossian (in the above video) is an atheist who seems to believe that religious people of faith, such as myself, suffer from mental illness. Many would expect a Christian to become outraged by this, but I fully support Peter in his academic endeavors and admire his courage to stand for truth. We need more people like him. If him and I sat down together, perhaps he would have a very different opinion of what it means to be a Christian. There is a man with experiences behind the quote, and one must affirm that ontological fact with civility and charity. This is the heart of true discourse.
Another problem I need to address concerning outrage culture is the epidemic of what I call Political Binary Vision (PBV), and I alluded to this earlier, and have been knowingly employing it throughout this post because of necessity rather than desire or ignorance. This is a multilayered colorblindness problem with political labeling based on one particular issue. It’s a flawed assumption of the American psyche that presupposes 1) certain issues are representative of only one party and not the other (such as pro-abortion being blue, and limited government being red), and 2) Certain issues are prioritized and seen as more representative of a political party than other issues (such as big government being less blue than being pro-abortion). Suppose there are three “Liberals.” #1 is pro-abortion but anti-socialism and anti-trans, #2 is pro-socialism, anti-abortion, and pro-trans, and #3 is pro-gun, pro-abortion, and pro-trans. Which one is most representative of “liberal?” Where do we draw the line and say “You cannot believe this and still be a liberal?” PBV is very problematic, because every person is viewing every other person according to their own orders in which they prioritize the issues. This is a problem on all sides, and serves only to make a plethora of negative assumptions about another person based entirely on hearing their opinion on one subject. One should never assume what someone will believe about everything simply because you heard what they believed about one thing, and I have started to train myself to use this mental discipline in my interactions with people.
How can we create a space for rational thought to be supreme, and where comedic satire can be punchy, or where a main character can be white, male, or female without people taking offense to it? Liberty University, despite its many shortcomings (and as a graduate, I know first hand that there are many), invited Bernie Sanders to speak without protesting him. Messiah College recently had a panel discussion of gender without protests. Churches, Christian universities and classical schools should, in my opinion, capitalize on this problem and become the publicly recognized “safe spaces” for reason and discourse. Anger is infectious. It only takes the outrage of one person to arm a group of people with torches and pitchforks. The only solution from here is to be cynical of cynicism, to be angry at anger, and to actively fight against the natural tendency to get swept up into conspiratorial grand narratives that do not have any real basis in the details of the life lived together with one another. They serve only to reaffirm our own biases (whether they be from Postmodern philosophers or Alex Jones). If we do not take a stand for rational discourse, we all run the risk of creating a world where nobody is a playable character.