Someone interviewing Bill O’Reilly asked him about his journalism style of “mining outrage”. O’Reilly’s answer was not memorable, but the term was.
It’s evident that outrage is contagious. Somebody says something using the language of outrage on a blog, or on a news and opinion site, and people get outraged. People get on some forum, paste the article and demand, like a litmus test, that everyone else become outraged. And then they become outraged that everyone is not equally outraged.
I saw that “you’re still retarded” campaign poster spread to hundreds of web sites in just a matter of hours, all dripping with outrage so strong you might think that if Fitzhugh showed his face in public he’d be lynched.
Outrage is powerful motivator (particularly if you want someone to put it on your web site, tell a friend, or send some money). The problem with outrage is that it’s an emotional response, and when you’re outraged you don’t think rationally, and outrage is easily manipulated. Outrage enforces stereotypes, it blows things out or proportion, and it dulls the attention from problems that really need attention.
There are things worthy of outrage (like the genocide in Darfur), but most of the drivel I see people get outraged about are not.