Not really. I’m in the middle of watching Devil’s Advocate at the moment, so I’m not even particularly paying attention to what I’m writing.
No, the title is a reference to the idea of “outrage culture”. The idea that everyone is always angry about something; that they’re not satisfied or happy with anything. That they hunt for things to be angry about all the time. I’m sure there may be some people like that occasionally, but most of the time, people are angry about things that are important to them. The problem with the idea of “outrage culture” is it’s built on faulty premises. Let’s explore them.
The core of this is rooted in a few ideas. The first is the what you see online is the sum totality of a person. As I said, I’m writing that things about outrage, but I’m watching Devil’s Advocate, intermittently surfing NeoGAF, and pre-ordering the latest Sanderson. When I wrote this article, I didn’t stew in my hate of Battlefield: Hardline before and after writing it. I wrote it, I did an edit pass, and then I went on a run. Probably read something on the internet or played a game. I don’t even hate Battlefield: Hardline, it’s just a bit of culture I had thoughts about and have no desire to consume. (It’s like people don’t even know about multi-tasking.)
This is probably true of a number of people. They write, tweet, post, and make videos about something that’s important to them, things that make them happy or angry. Things that excite and disappoint them. And then they go about their lives. They make dinner, they exercise, they watch TV. Those missives on the internet aren’t the sum totality of their lives. “Why are they always so angry?” misses their lives. It misses the rest of them, because of course, it doesn’t matter to the person saying that. Maybe they are angry outside of those tweets. Maybe they have a good reason. You don’t know.
Then there’s the idea that the same people, the same core group is angry at the same things. The people angry at sexism in games? They’re always angry at sexism in every game. Racism? They hop from game to game being angry, even if they don’t play it! Microtransactions? DRM? Anti-consumer business practices? Your anger and disappointment is the same in every single occasion you fool, regardless of content! You can’t dislike sexism in games, but like Dragon’s Crown! You can’t dislike racist depictions, but love James Bond’s adventures in Live and Let Die! I can’t play the shooting mans games and then somehow have a problem with Battlefield: Hardline! You can’t be this and that, it’s impossible!
Taking anger of millions on various subjects and spreading that anger to encompass that entire number is fallacious at best. If 100,000 people in those millions dislike that Ubisoft didn’t put a female player model in Assassin’s Creed, it’s damn near foolish to assume the same 100,000 – person for person – is also unhappy with Quiet’s design in Metal Gear Solid V. It’s not a monolithic group that moves from topic-to-topic. They’re various people with various grievances.
People are bigger than that sentence on your screen. We draw lines, we have tolerances. What affects me emotionally, may not affect you. I may disagree with you. I may not care. We may see eye-to-eye on Dead or Alive, but disagree on Bayonetta. The best I can do is try to understand where you’re coming from. At others, I simply walk away.
So why is everyone so sure that this is all-new? I mean, if you lament “outrage culture” than obviously, people weren’t angry before, right?
Of course they were. People have been outraged forever. Third Estate pamphlets in the early French revolution? Outrage. The beginnings of the Protestant Reformation? Outrage. Once we could print things, everyone got to hear about it. Ben Franklin was a muckraker when he printed his Pennsylvania Gazette or wrote his Silence Dogood letters; people didn’t always like it. Edgar Allen Poe hated the city of Boston and many Bostonians hated him. You just didn’t have to read about it.
Enter the internet.
The internet connects you directly to the people you want to talk to. The people who make you smile or frown. It connects you to like-minded people, so you know that you’re not alone in your happiness or disappointment. It also means that when someone dislikes something, you’re going to hear about it.
That sucks sometimes. I get that. Trust me, I get that. Not every argument and comment is good or even in good faith. They’re not even always intelligible. That’s the double edged sword of the internet; communication works both ways many times. Everyone has a voice. It’s why we rely on tools to prevent us from having to deal with certain voices, though those tools on Twitter and Facebook are notably lax in some respects.
Outrage and anger are a part of public discourse. (Newsflash: despite the “I Have a Dream” speech, MLK was angry and could spit some hot fire when he needed to.) These emotions can and should lead to action. They can lead to change. Your negative opinion matters as much as your positive opinion, especially when there’s action behind it. And action without emotional statement is equally wasted; it’s not enough for you to not buy a work because you dislike something within, it’s imperative that creators know why you’ve done so as well. They don’t have to listen, but feedback is a part of the process, folks. That’s how things change. Wanting things to change doesn’t make you wrong.
What people tend to mean when they say they’re tired of the “outrage culture” is they’re tired of hearing people get angry about things they don’t care about. There’s that superior smugness, sitting in your ivory tower. “Look at all those little people being angry or unhappy over nothing! I’m completely different.” People are certainly ready to get in line, be angry, and demand change when the feel it affects them. There’s no one I’ve followed or read who speaks about only being positive, who hasn’t been angry, tired, dismissive, or disappointed with something. It’s merely a matter of time because we’re people. Things will affect you in positive and negative ways. The things that can affect you positively can also do the opposite. (“You can’t judge a work by its trailer!” That’s the point of a trailer. If it can entice, it can also turn away.)
So if you’re angry, rock out. Do things in a constructive manner, but you can let it out. Let the positive out too. Let all the feelings out. That’s part of being a person. Someone is doing a good job or a poor one? Let them know in a civil way. Be outraged. Be disappointed. Be the change you want to be.
(The photo is from Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage, if you’re wondering.)
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