So Glad Our Outrage Hasn’t Diminished/Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist | November 14, 2007

This great column was forwarded to me this am by my friend Maddi, whose own sense of outrage continues to burn brightly. A most worthy read…


Wednesday, November 14, 2007 (SF Gate)
Outrage fatigue? Get over it/Are you sick of being sick? Suffering way too much Bush-induced nausea? Well, tough
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

I know how it is. You’ve had it up to here. There are only so many stories
about blood and death and pain you can take, only so many times you can
hear about random shootings and corporate malfeasance and how BushCo’s
squad of scabrous flying monkeys have, say, supported torture or endorsed
wiretapping or gouged the nation for another $200 billion to pay for a
failed war. Your nerves are raw and your heart is tired and the media will
just not shut the hell up already about the sadness and the war and the
mayhem and the Cheney and the doom doom doom.

It is outrage fatigue, and it is epidemic. It’s that feeling that we are
being hammered unlike any time in recent history with so many appalling
and disgusting and violently un-American incidents and scandals and
manipulations that our b.s.-detectors are smoking like an old V-8 engine
on a hot summer’s day and it’s all we can do to get up every day without

What’s more, it’s not the mere quantity of moral insults, either. It’s the
bizarre absurdity of the subject matter, the things we are being forced to
consider, or reconsider, that seem to make it all so horrific.

Torture? Are you kidding? Allegedly the most civilized, the most morally
aware nation on the planet and we are still debating, in the highest
courts and government offices in the land, about whether the United States
should strap human beings to gnarled metal benches in rancid foreign
bunkers and inflict such inexplicable terror and fear upon them that they
confess to things they didn’t even do just to get us to stop? Is this the
Middle Ages? Are we regressing back to the goddamn cave?

Oh my, yes, plethoric are the reasons you should be outraged indeed, and
torture just might be one of the most incendiary reasons in the past few
years. If nothing else, its disgusting return to U.S. political dialogue
certainly means it’s no time to be laying down arms in exhaustion, no
matter how tempting it might be.

Take this fine example: Keith Olbermann, as is his wont, executed another
pitch-perfect bout of outrage recently on his excellent MSNBC show, taking
BushCo to task on the issue of waterboarding like you never hear in major
on-air media anymore.

Olbermann only barely held on to his trademark fierce hyper-articulation
against the sheer disgust he/we have to endure at the idea that a sitting
American president obviously thinks medieval torture is a gul-dang swell
idea, no matter what psychologists, military experts, ethicists, the
United Nations, the Geneva Convention and Jesus himself all say.

It was wonderful, powerful stuff, a razor-sharp, highly informed media
pundit who dares to presume an unusually high level of intelligence among
his viewers, speaking truth to power in a way most liberal media-haters
complain never really happens anymore. And of course, his subject was one
of the most deserving of our moral outrage in recent history.

But then I read some of the reaction to Olbermann’s diatribe on various
political blogs and on some news-aggregate sites, with many saying, gosh
Keith, lighten up already, who cares, enough with all the outrage and the
spittle, wow I’m so sick of all this ranting and raving and gosh I’m tired
of these smarty media people telling me how to think and hey maybe torture
is good let’s kill us some more, haw haw haw snort.

On the one hand, it is, you can argue, generally the way of the
meaner-than-thou blogosphere, with all but the most professional and
intelligent and positive-minded of outposts seeming to suffer an undue
percentage of reactionary chyme in their comment areas, hordes of
Net-drunk twentysomethings and extremists and shut-ins who have way too
much free time and merely chime in to see their sneers “published” and to
prove how much more jaded and apathetic they are than the next person,
while adding zero to the conversation.

But maybe it’s worse than that. Because this is where it can happen, where
you can get sucked into the vortex of whining and bitterness and where you
might feel part of yourself wanting to wallow too, desiring to avoid doing
the actual moral and spiritual work of dissecting and researching and
analysing something as politically messy and morally ugly as torture for
yourself, opting instead for the easy path, for closing your eyes and
sticking your fingers in your ears and going, nyah nyah nyah shut up shut
up SHUT UP! Hey, it sure beats thinking.

Or maybe we can flip it around. Maybe, with the right intent, the exact
reverse can happen, and you see this ocean of nasty ennui, this pile of
oft-misspelled, poorly punctuated reactionary effluvia as, in and of
itself, something to be a bit livid about.

Maybe, in other words, you can enjoy, as one blogger put it, a big dose of
“fatigue outrage,” the feeling of disgust you get when faced with all
those people who think mental lethargy and laziness is, like, way funny,

In other words, enough with the childish, frat-boy-grade complaints about
media overload and too many rants and outrage fatigue. You have to earn
that sort of thing. If you never give a crap about engaging the world, if
you never want to think deeply about complex issues and care about
ramifications and see what truly resonates with your own informed spirit
and then stand up for what you believe, this pretty much eliminates your
right to sneer at others who do.

It is, for me, all about modulation. It is about remembering that outrage
does not necessarily equal misery. Outrage does not mean you must wallow
in fear and fatalism and yank out your hair and wake up every morning
hating the world and hating yourself and hating humanity for being so
stupid/numb/blind and wondering how the hell you can escape it all.

Outrage is rich with humanistic understanding. It is not some evangelical
Christian parent “outraged” that her kid saw a woman’s nipple on TV. It is
not some right-wing Family Council “outraged” that someone put S&M outfits
on Barbie, or that some art gallery is displaying Jesus as a woman, or
that scientists dared to say that stem cell research does not equal
abortion, or that the mayor isn’t taking care of all the potholes and
stray kitties. That’s not outrage, that’s reactionary whining.

True outrage, like Olbermann’s, like (occasionally, hopefully) this
column’s, like what you should ideally be experiencing on a daily basis
while Bush is in office, is honed and sharp and poignant. It contains a
powerful sense of deeply informed decency, and therefore has a true feel
for when that sense has been violated. Outrage has meat and substance and
intellectual nourishment. It is actually healthy.

Smart, informed outrage engages you and fires your heart, your mind. It is
fuel. It is the reason you claim you enjoy being an American, to question
malevolent government actions and take a stand and demand accountability
where there has, for the past seven years, been none. Bottom line: We
simply cannot let them convince us, by way of an all-out assault on
science, sex, love, et al, that the good fight just ain’t worth fighting.

After all, the flying monkeys are far from done raiding the closet and
stealing your babies and making a mockery of everything wise and calm and
open-hearted people hold dear. And baby, if you ain’t outraged about that,
something is very wrong indeed.

Mark Morford’s Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on
SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:

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