The rise of misguided outrage

In the world of political banter, no name is currently more synonymous with the word outrage than Tomi Lahren. The 25-year-old conservative commentator is known for being outraged or sparking outrage with her comments. Ms. Lahren believes Black Lives Matter is the new KKK, Hillary Clinton should be tried for War Crimes, and Obamacare was the worst piece of legislation in US history.

Supporters love her for professed outrage and opponents despise her for it.

But is her outrage authentic?

P.M. Forni, founder of the Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, believes individuals, like Ms. Lahren, often evoke hyperbolic rhetoric and unsubstantiated frustrations because of the ego-centric desire of persuading packs of like-minded individuals to band together to passionately rally behind her. He explains this phenomenon as ‘tribalistic misplaced outrage’.

Fornia explains this theory with another person who garners a different kind of outrage — Anne Hathaway. “The sensation that of belonging to a group of like minded people activates the pleasure center around the brain. At a certain point, something like what has happened to Ms. Hathaway acquired momentum, and people were eager to be part of that momentum. So these people don’t know Anne Hathaway and probably don’t hate her.”

Peruse through your social media feeds, listen to A.M. radio stations, and scan through comment sections and you’ll see tribal misplaced outrage is on the rise.

This intoxicating desire of tribalism has become toxic. Unauthentic group anger is crucifying our ability to think, impeding or sense of empathy, and handcuffing our ability to address issues that warrant mass outrage.

Today’s access to multiple digital mediums allow avenues of outrage to be magnified, metastasized, and quickly gathers so much momentum that it often stops those with strong group affiliations from forming their own sober assessment of the situation. When the masses of likeminded individuals quickly circle around a train of thought fellow ideological travelers develop the notion they’ve done their homework or that they don’t need to. Jack Goncalo, Organizational Behavior Professor at Cornell University explains, “If the majority has done my thinking for me, I can move onto something else… People don’t have to think.”

And when people don’t have to think, it’s easy to see how we have a political climate like today — where the masses have targeted other groups as the source of their problems when there is scant evidence to justify such frustration.

This outrage that festers only leads to perpetual a normalization of hate. We can now disown someone or something with such vengeance without even having any relationship to that individual or group. As seen with Ms. Hathaway, the act of bashing a human being without any provocation becomes fun and mindless. Five years ago Buzzfeed published an article titled, “Why Do People Hate Anne Hathaway” citing a long list that included her face, her mouth, her teeth, her role in Batman, but concluded there no’s real reason. Almost three years later, the same publication dropped a piece called, “Why Anne Hathaway can’t win” lambasting all the hate hit pieces on the Les Miserables star….except their own.

Granted, in a world where our empathy capital is limited it’s hard to feel sorry for an Oscar winning actress living out her childhood dream (Anne Hathaway has confessed the massive amount of hate causes her regular anxiety). There are, however, countless other examples of less famous patrons on the receiving end of unjustified tribal outrage.

Two years ago, Ellen highlighted a young bashful gentleman from Target. Immediately, the 16 year old kid was on the receiving end of countless death threats. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a vocal opponent against those besmirching the good faith of Islam has been criticized for… moderate Islamic groups. Malcolm Nance, a 35 year CIA spy, has been lambasted by multiple right-wing outlets for being unpatriotic.

There is even a group open openly sending threatening messages and death threats to Game of Throne author George R.R. Martin. Have these people not stopped and realized that the author of the epic fantasy series can’t finish the final two books if he’s dead?

Let’s be clear. Society needs divisions and individuals to be thoughtfully outraged. A successful society hinges on individuals considerately despising a policy, a program, or a paradigm. Prosperous civilizations grow from a healthy debate on important topics. Further, numerous studies show that groups with diverse set of voices fosters better outcomes.

If we, however, crowd out rational frustration with knee jerk tribal bullying we create a “boy who called wolf” society where necessary causes gain very little attention or are deemed to be fabricated frustrations. And certain movements protecting the marginalized (i.e. LGBT individuals, people of color, immigrants, those in poverty) fail to get the proper consideration their livelihood desperately hinges on.

And this isn’t healthy for two reasons. First, science shows that when we live in an ongoing state of outrage, anxiety, fear and stress, it wreaks an awful toll on our physical and mental health. It’s not sustainable. Second, if we live in perpetual cycle of tribal outrage society never tackles pressing issues and we all know now is not the time to be lackadaisical about the prescient topics facing us.

Five months ago, Tomi Lahren went on ABC’s ‘The View’ and confessed she wasn’t that conservative when it came to the issue of abortion. In fact, she vocalized her support of a pro-choice society. Two days later, her employer fired her. Last week, in a discussion with comedian Chelsea Handler the outspoken conservative admitted she was on Obamacare.

Surprisingly, the openly conservative crowd began booing Ms. Lahren for her befuddling association with a program she became famous for bashing.

As the large swaths of conservatives exited the discussion between Ms. Lahren and Ms. Handler, many questions came to mind. Is Tomi Lahren really a conservative? Was she just trying to get us upset so we would watch her show? Did she really know what she was talking about?

And in the end — what should we, her ardent followers who we took our political talking points from, really be outraged about?

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