The Culture of Outrage

Written by Cory Wyatt

I’ll admit, this past year in current events has been incredibly eventful and volatile. With all the explosive story lines coming out: including all the rapists in Hollywood, the pedophile who ran for office on the platform of “family values,” the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl, and the President of the United States colluding with Russia to make memes real, it feels like we may have entered an alternate timeline.

Every person I know is more plugged into every happening that happens every day. Even my mom, who for as long as I can remember has had a “Fuck em all, I don’t want to hear about it” attitude towards current events, seems to have some news story to discuss every day. It’s exhausting to have to hear of some new atrocity, whether real or perceived, every single day. Gone are the days where I could sit in my room, watch Family Guy, and jerk off without constantly being reminded of the fucking culture war being waged.

Perhaps that’s the definition of privilege, that I wasn’t forced to think about geopolitics every minute of every day until it was suddenly pervasive among all forms of media and interpersonal communication that I encounter. I understand that these are potentially trying times with unprecedented incidents happening every day, and I understand that the 24-hour news cycle has further complicated already complex situations while also fueling a harsh dichotomy of “us vs them” that plagues both sides of every subject. It’s just that when every new moment requires not only your full attention, but also to pick a side and react as much as humanly possible, it makes every one of these moments feel meaningless.

It is understandable to want to live your life on the extreme fringes. People want to remember the times they live in as the greatest and worst times in history. It is as prevalent in politics as it is in sports media. Each generation has their greatest and worst moments, and no amount of pleading or objective fact will change their minds. For an entire generation of people, Watergate will forever be the most atrocious political scandal because it was the defining moment of their time. Every scandal since then, including Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and the ongoing Trump/Russia investigations will pale in comparison to Watergate for them, despite each of these scandals being regarded as atrocious by the people who lived through them.

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It is the same way that Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson/Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and now LeBron James are all in the greatest basketball player of all time conversation depending on the age of the person you’ve asked. For some, these types of extremes serve the purpose of giving life meaning. Living during the biggest political scandal or the greatest to ever play allows you to fall back on telling those stories as they relate to you.

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Nobody wants to live in a time without a defining moment, but it’s not worth it to try to force the narrative. While each of these scandals and athletes are significant, attempting to delve deep into every aspect of each of their stories would reveal hundreds if not thousands of nearly as relevant stories that have fallen by the wayside. Imagine if every one of these stories was blown up to the point of outrage at the time they happened.

How would the Chappaquiddick Island incident be remembered if it happened in the age of social media? Would Ben Wallace or Chauncey Billups be prematurely thrust into the greatest of all time conversation for leading their Pistons past the stacked Lakers if the internet was as prevalent in 2004 as it is now? This is what I witness from every person every day. If every basketball player is Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan becomes insignificant. If every breaking news story is Watergate, Watergate means nothing. Let time decide what is worthy of outrage. Jerk reactions to every minute detail of every aspect of life will spoil the things that deserve these reactions. In the immortal words of Chuck D, “Don’t believe the hype.”

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