Anger Porn

The summer of 1969 is now remembered as the Summer of Love, when the Beatles sang that love was all you needed, and wearing flowers in your hair was San Francisco’s haute couture.

By comparison, we may look back on these times as the summer (and fall, and winter, and spring) of anger.

The raging and ragged presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave us all an excuse to get really worked up and become really, really angry at everyone and everything around us.

And now that the election is in our rear view mirror, not a great deal has changed.  We shout, we defame, we insult, and we feel justified in our actions because it is the other side that is provoking us.   They are at fault through their own stupidity, or their desire to cheat, steal, lie, or undermine our way of life.

Depending on your point of view the opposition may be libtards or conserviturds.   Regardless, when we feel our stomach tightening or our blood pressure climbing at the latest news item, the truth is that on a subconscious level we feel excited, we feel part of a larger whole.   Anger is primal.  When we are angry we know we’re fully alive.

Nationwide, millions of people listen daily to radio talk shows, along with a few cable TV counterparts, from both the left and right whose stated purpose is to provide news analysis and commentary, but whose ultimate goal is to make us angry.  This is not widely understood.   If talk radio hosts spent their airtime looking for good in the world and encouraging collegial compromise among both political parties, the audience would vanish, and another program would bite the ratings dust.

This—from a broadcaster’s perspective—would be bad.  The show hosts get this.  If you don’t say stuff lots of people want to hear you’ll soon be making burritos at Chipotle’s.  But the more people you can get to tune in to hear what incendiary new thing you’ll say today, the more you can charge advertisers to be part of the circus.

So the announcers fume.  They rage.  They are indignant.  They shout.  They reveal the depths of depravity of those you are tuning in to hear them defame.   This kind of talk is good for business.  Ratings soar.  Book deals are signed.  A great deal of money is made.

And you are a willing consumer of what I call anger porn.

When we talk about porn, we usually refer to sexually oriented content.   But pornography can involve more than sexuality.  By definition, porn is designed to trigger a deep response from the core emotions that drive all humans. The sexual urge, anger, survival, the need for love—when these  bedrock emotions are manipulated and inflamed we can have a difficult time controlling the odd sense of elation they generate.

I have known many people who avoid sexual pornography like a plague but revel in anger towards abstract others—they positively swim in it.  And just as sexual pornography can distort the user’s view of intimacy and loving vulnerability, anger porn can distort the user’s view of our common humanity.

Anger is not a foundation on which reason can build.  Anger gives its possessor license to substitute emotion for rationality.  It justifies stereotypes in the place of individuality.  Anger provides a sense of moral superiority, as we suddenly, but incorrectly, perceive that the most complex problems can be solved with simplistic tweets and soundbites containing all the substance of soap bubbles.  Anger also gives us a heady feel of moral freedom to treat others as we would never want to be treated.  In the end, anger elevates that which is most base in us all.

Those who beat their daily drums inside the echo-chamber of media that offers opinion mingled with facts will shout that you must listen every day or you will be ignorant of truth.  They lure you with your desire to be informed.  Just once won’t hurt.  But anger can become addictive, and many good people have become that mind-altering drug’s victims, to the diminishment of society, and to the swelling profit lines of its pushers.

 

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