I read Reclusive Leftist for the first time in a while and found a new post, the first since September 30 and the first substantive one since September 7. Entitled “I hate the world”, it begins:
When you’re off in a vortex of writing, totally disconnected from the real world, it’s easy to forget just how godawful the world really is. God, it just sucks.
Then I read a post by Megan McArdle entitled “Explaining The Anger That Consumes Debate on the Web”. McArdle cites the recent Scientific American article on sacred values versus secular values and says:
For me, this resonates with my growing disgust at the level of anger in the blogosphere. I don't mean irritation, pointed jibes, or even spirited discussion; I mean an aggressive revelling in rage.
According to McArdle, it’s the Hell’s brew of sacred values and money that explains weblogs wallowing in wrath:
we're fighting over a lot of taboo trade-offs, in a context where we can't help but bring money into it. The result is the rage of people who cannot bear to see their sacred ideals profaned--and worse, to see the profaners walking around apparently happy. Only a primal scream of outrage will do.
I disagree with McArdle. (End of world to follow soon.) I think people just like being angry. Not justifiably angry - that’s tiresome and burdensome and requires, like, you know, morality and thought and maybe even - gasp - action. No, justifiably angry is a drag. Self-righteously angry on the other hand? That’s a blast. Self-righteous anger feeds and is fed by so many other delightful demons: arrogance; moral superiority; selective blindness; bonding with the group against The Other; intellectual snobbery; dehumanization, even demonization, of the “enemy”; a little data drop out; a lot of data drop out; that nasty little tickle in the gut when a point - however cheap, however cruel, however dishonest - is scored and that even nastier little glow when a cheap, cruel, dishonest point is applauded and linked!
Self-righteous anger is fun, it’s invigorating, it gets people out of bed in the morning. Self-righteous anger drives blog hits, sells cable shows, makes sweeping claims without the trouble of investigating those claims or backing up those claims and - even better - without the need for context or introspection or, Heaven forfend, balance. It constantly ups the ante: everyone who lives on and for self-righteous anger has to be angrier than he or she was yesterday and angrier than anyone else who is self-righteously angry: This sucks, that sucks, the whole world sucks.
And it’s all your, his, hers, their fault.
Sacred values? To someone who lives on and for self-righteous anger, the only sacred value is whatever he or she is angry about today.