Outrage Culture is Undermining the Foundations of Journalism

How Our Journalists & Academics Have Become the Contractors of Hysteria

This year is only 3 months old and already it has bestowed us with a fresh lineup of outrage worthy events that have plastered themselves across every social media platform available to us.

I’m talking about the two internet sensations that have become impossible not to see for anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection.

The first major incident that really generated some outrage thus far has been the infamous Gillette Ad, which has had the internet awash for days with the relentless, scathing opinions of social media pundits both decrying and supporting Gillette’s position on toxic masculinity. Whilst this was a one minute and forty-nine-second video clip that managed to cleave the internet into a multitude of warring, vicious and cannibalistic camps; the real protagonist of this year’s outrage belongs to a slightly more recent event.

This being the interaction between a group of Covington Catholic Schoolboys, a Native American Elder, and a group of radical Black Israelites in Washington Square. If that synopsis doesn’t immediately ring bells then the following picture definitely will:

The original video that made this image so infamous is actually a very small excerpt from a wider situation. This excerpt; which is exactly 1 minute and 36 seconds long was sprayed across the internet, depicting a group of boys wearing Make America Great Again hats mobbing, sneering and smirking at a Native American Indian Elder who seems to be engaged in a form of sacred ritual. In a vacuum, the image looks disgusting. It looks like an arrogant, smug teenage boy displaying the most abhorrent chauvinism and disrespect possible. It looks like a bunch of privileged white kids spitting on indigenous culture. But things are not always as they seem.

Consult the video below:

In the video, before the infamous scene of the excerpt we can see a group of radical Black Israelites harassing the boys in a way that certainly quantifies provocation. However, it is entirely up to you to decide the moral pervasiveness of the actions displayed in the video.

If you run a quick search on google regarding the event, the sheer number of different stories surrounding the events that transpired in the square have been shocking, to say the least. But almost every article that has been published in the wake of the relatively minor occurrence seems to have one terrifying thing in common:

Journalists are no longer trying to find out objective truths. Social media platforms and the desire to direct traffic, attention and ultimately; money to certain news outlets have transmuted “journalists” into ideological contractors that are paid to dissect information into an easily digestible narrative that can be neatly placed into a political category.

They are all possessed by an ideological goal: and they are willing to do anything to make the “facts” fit into the story that they so desperately need to tell.

In the hours following the release of the video of the internet many news outlets including The New York Times and Washington Post were quick to lash out with accusatory statements attacking and defaming the boys from Covington Catholic School. Whilst it is of critical importance to criticise the ugly heads of bigotry, racism, and intolerance wherever they may appear, it’s slightly more important to make sure that the findings are correct in the first place. And in this case, as in so many others; that never happened. As aforementioned, journalists from what used to be the pinnacle of journalistic integrity: The New York Times, didn’t even bother to spend 20 minutes looking for context before publishing an op-ed defaming the young man, now known as Nick Sandmann, as the “embodiment of white patriarchy”.

But it doesn’t just stop there. Numerous high profile academics and authors have called for the public shaming and doxing of a 16-year-old boy. Including renowned author Reza Aslan taking to Twitter to ask his followers whether they have seen a “more punchable face”.

The following VOX even managed to consult an Education Professor to create a story that works neatly into the narrative that they sought to portray. Once again, regardless of the larger context.

How is it that academics, intellectuals, and journalists whose official role in society is to scrutinise, doubt and double check the narratives we take for granted, have been able to fall victim such childish and vile misbehavior. Reza Aslan and other prominent media figures such as Kathy Griffin (below) have not only called for the shaming and defamation of school children, they have also called for actions of violence.

Whilst these seemingly malicious incidents continue to appear in news media and will continue to be permeated into our lives in a way that calls for our so easily obtained outrage, it is unfortunately now up to the news reader to run a sceptical eye over anything that seems immediately emotionally volatile. The fact that intellectuals, journalists and academics, the very people who are supposed to protect us from misinformation, are so easily manipulated into acts of outrage, demonstrates that something is deeply rotten in the state of media. In a vacuum, the things that we engage with on our news feeds are so good at creating an emotional response, it begs to question, is that their very purpose?

These events are not a sign of the times. Our reaction to them is.

Accusations of intolerance, sexism, and endless other -isms have become the new currency for social media in the world of digital speech, as journalists have allowed themselves to become the contractors of outrage.

It is the feeling of simultaneous outrage and confusion that keeps us so fervently engaged with our devices. And so, as stated by Colin Horgan:

“Confusion is what keeps us coming back, what keeps us addicted, and what keeps us asking for more.”

However, I think that whilst confusion is an essential component to our current addiction; it is a fundamentally baser drive that compels us to continually engage with social media. It is our ability to be outraged that keeps us so closely connected to our devices because devices are no longer merely inanimate objects that we use to browse the internet, they are keepers of our beliefs and the broadcasters of our identity in the ever-expanding digital world.

Thomas Mitchelhill
|Philosopher
|Political Analyst
|Existence Enthusiast

Writer | Business Builder | Endurance Athlete | Existence Enthusiast

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