In Defense Of Selective Outrage

Whenever there’s a big news story that makes people feel ALL OF THE ANGER! there are always people dismissing this type of tidal wave of social media outrage. And then those dismissive people wonder why that news story made you feel anger and not this one. I’ve done this myself and I see it a lot on Facebook because I have a selection of friends and family ranging all across political spectrums. I actually saw that argument used several times this week in the following forms:

How can you be outraged by Cecil’s murder but…

  • …not be outraged by Samuel Dubose’s murder?
  • …not be angry at the factory farming that tortures animals for their entire lives before killing them for our consumption? (This was my stance, and thinking about that is what motivated this post.)
  • …not be worried about the Veterans Accountability Act? (SIDENOTE: This is one of the examples of times this liberal does not side with Obama. I don’t think this bill is perfect, but it’s a start and if we wait for “perfect” we will never improve anything associated with the VA.) (SIDENOTE #2 – I have said time and time again, if you can not think of something you disagree with on your side of politics, or something you agree with on the other side, then you might be watching too much biased media. All officials from all sides of our government sometimes do stuff we like or dislike because they are all funded by lobbying and big corporations, and if you don’t see that, then you’re not getting your news from a wide enough variety of sources, in my humble opinion. You need to sometimes be angry with politicians on your side of the aisle or your being shielded too much by your selection of news sources.) (Sorry for all the parentheticals.)

And I get that…I do. Like I said, I was shocked at how many people were angry about it and really wanted just as many people to be angry about how our factory farmed animals are treated. BUT! I also know we all have our causes that are important to us and when we see people using their voices and their emotions to promote ideas that we don’t think are important, then it’s frustrating. I think about it all the time during Football Season here in the South. People have SO MUCH PASSION for football and since I don’t (I did in a previous life) I often wonder how the world would be different if that passion and money was directed elsewhere. Just like I’m sure people wonder how different life would be if those of us obsessed with Harry Potter would donate that $2,500 to charity instead of tickets and lodging to Harry Potter World.

But here’s the thing…these bursts of what people call “Selective Outrage” are usually not fruitless. People are usually driven to some sort of action. Maybe they stop eating at restaurants where CEOs frequently take their own Trophy/Canned Hunting safari trips. Maybe they donate to the Oxford program that was responsible for monitoring Cecil the Lion. Maybe they start thinking about how the animals they eat on their plates don’t even get the 13 years of free living that Cecil got before he was tortured and killed and they rethink their next egg sandwich? Usually that outrage eats at us until we do SOMETHING and to me, as long as it produces some kind of action towards a greater good then I’m not going to fret about it.

You also see this same kind of frustration from people every October when Susan B Komen colors everything pink. There will be articles and pleas all over the place from people to spread their money and their activism to other fund raisers and DUDE…I GET IT. No one has heard of the cancer that killed me Dad. (Until Tom Brokaw got it, I think more people know of it now.) And yes, Susan B Komen has had some issues lately with accusations of mismanaging funds etc but let’s look at the trend, if your passion or your anger pushes you to make changes or donations or promote causes or learn more about issues that trends us as humans towards better? Then I’m okay.

What I don’t like is when people get REALLY outraged but then do nothing. If someone posts angry Facebook posts but then reads nothing about canned hunting and how a lot of Americans hunt lions, or if they don’t make donations or changes in their own lifestyles, if the outrage doesn’t pan out to educating ourselves or changing habits or donating to causes…then I don’t like it. Then it’s just a piece of flair on our vest at TGiFridays.

But I think most of us read about horrible things…Sam Dubose, Cecil the Lion, Veteran wait lists, and we do something. Maybe we learn more about the popularity of exotic game hunting and make sure everyone in our circle of influences knows we hate it – even if it’s not a protected Lion. (Some hunt GIRAFFES…SLOW HERBIVORES…WHAT IS THE POINT?) Maybe we read about the Veterans Accountability Act and find our stance for or against, maybe we decide to pick up a book we wouldn’t normally read.

Hearing about something awful and then educating ourselves, is never a bad thing. Especially if it leads to action – whether it’s a call to a congressman, or a donation to a charitable organization – then the outrage is not wasted.

But…if you just share an article on Facebook and are just angry with no action, then it’s pointless. Read about how we actually allow the shipping of lions back home after trophy hunting adventures and learn about how listing the lion as an endangered species could help ban the imports after these hunts. Social media anger is a great thing and drives a lot of people to action and/or education, I refuse to dismiss it or roll my eyes at it. I love seeing people fired up about SOMETHING, I love when I am motivated to read up about an issue, that’s how I became an herbivore in the first place. Learning about issues and getting angry about them is never bad if it promotes education or change in any way.

6 thoughts on “In Defense Of Selective Outrage”



    But I didn’t post that, because it seemed too pessimistic. Anyway, once again you have taken the time to put into words thoughts that have been swirling around in my head. Thank you.

  2. Yes all along I read the story and thought seriously you are upset about this lion because he had a name. Do you have any idea how many guided hunts in Africa lead to killing large game? Where’s the outrage that he was even able to obtain permits to do so? I wonder if the dentist even knew what his guides were doing (ie luring animals out of protected area). His whole livelihood may hinge on him doing something he had thought was all on the up and up. Don’t get me wrong I hate this ‘hobby’, i wish it weren’t legal but sometimes you wanna scream PRIORITIES!! The folks in Zimbabwe would probably rather we care about their economic situation or the lack of water than Cecil, much less all the other horrors in the world.

  3. Thank you for posting this today. I am going to have to share it on FB because I have just gotten so tired of people trying to police what other people get fired up about…and I just wanted to scream!

  4. So well said and exactly what I was thinking but could not put into words.

  5. Ugh. This. I write fairly regularly about the wage gap in my industry, and the most common response to my columns or links is “You’re upset about college-educated middle-class women making less money than men, when there’s also STARVATION / EARTHQUAKES / RAPE / (insert really really awful things here)? What’s wrong with you?!?!?” and I feel strange because I don’t think caring about one thing doesn’t mean you don’t care about other things. It’s not like you can only tick one box to care about!

    I think the lion-hunter highlights wider issues about Americans and privilege and entitlement and how we behave when we’re abroad, and I hope that is addressed in the wider conversation, but I don’t think “You care about a dead lion when OTHER THINGS ARE ALSO WRONG IN THE WORLD?!?!?” is really conductive for that conversation to happen.

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