Monday, October 25, 2010

Raindrops on roses

[Just for the record: I object strongly to using the word “suck” as an epithet. But you play the hand you’re dealt.]

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.


Cass said...

In case you're wondering, that sound you hear is me, applauding.

Grim said...

This discussion is an oddity, because I find myself in agreement with Ezra Klein. I wasn't aware that was possible before now.