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On Fear, Anger, Outrage…and the People Who Profit From It All.

After the 2012 election all of my conservative friends and family (because I’m a small blue speck in my big red family and state) were posting about being worried for our country and so I wrote this to try to give them ways to be productive with their Fear or Anger or Outrage. I’ve heard this Fear and Anger and Outrage continue for years with conservative pundits at every turn of the Obama administration. It always makes me giggle a little when it was used in response to his legislative efforts because I tended to be frustrated the Obama administration wasn’t pushing more liberal legislation so I would often think, “How is it you’re scared of how liberal this legislation is and I’m pissed off it’s not liberal enough?”

But then I started hearing my side express Fear and Anger and Outrage all the time in response to Donald Trump. And I started kinda understanding the, “I’m so scared for our future!” attitude. A little. But, because I’ve seen it on the other side, I forced myself to have perspective. What did I always tell my conservative friends and family? “There are three branches to government. Obama is just one piece, he doesn’t have as much power as you think he has. One person can’t destroy the country as easily as you’re implying.” I started reminding myself all of the things I told everyone who hated Obama. And I became more at peace with it. I wish I loved Clinton enough to push her platform, which I do support. But, I have a complicated relationship with Hilary Clinton, so it’s hard. I adored Obama so I could easily be proactive and push the things about him I liked. It’s harder with Clinton because she has so much baggage. So, as much as I support her platform and have been impressed with a lot of her political career, it’s hard for me to be proactive against Trump without just being ANTI-Trump.

So I don’t do anything. But I definitely I don’t talk about being Scared or Angry or Outraged because that’s completely unproductive and I feel like it actually increases the divide in our country.

Here’s the crux of it all and what REALLY deserves our Anger and Fear and Outrage. Inflammatory media profits from our Fear and Anger and Outrage. Conservative media has been making money of people’s fear of Obama for years and I just ignored it as I didn’t consume that type of media on a regular basis. But now media on MY side is doing the SAME THING with Trump. Now – of course I believe it’s more warranted because I don’t like Trump – but I still stand by that fact that fear-mongering is a COMPLETE WASTE OF ENERGY. And those who post FB statuses or Tweet about being “scared” of our possible future with Trump – WITHOUT OPENING RESPECTFUL DIALOG OR PROMOTING ANOTHER OPTION – are adding to the fire and lining the pockets of these media companies with more cash.

Here’s the tough truth of it all and the point of me writing that entry after the 2012 election. If you are HONESTLY scared, then your time is better spent proactively pushing your candidate or even constructively educating those around you about the things you dislike about Trump. Instead, if you post something like, “If Trump is elected, our world is over…” then you are only FURTHERING the divide from Trump supporters and people who are maybe considering him bristle against your words because they feel like you made it personal and now they’re not going to listen to anything you say. Maybe find reasons people are voting for Trump and counter those instead?

If you are HONESTLY scared, then talking about your Fear and Anger and Outrage is pointless and makes Trump supporters more dedicated and pushes on-the-fence voters away. I get expressing these feelings that wake you up at night, but understand that you might be making the problem worse.

And you’re totally stoking the fire inflammatory media profits from.

After all of the tragic police shootings lately I’m seeing a lot of people talk about their fear in more of a non-political light. So I won’t be as snarky and I won’t roll my eyes as much as I would with people who are like, “IF THE OTHER GUY WINS THE WORLD WILL END!” Because fear of an increase in violence is a much more concrete fear than fear of an elected official in a democratic system with a decent checks and balances.

But it is still pointless.

I encourage everyone to openly talk about their fears. It’s healthy. But there’s a difference between, “Hey guys – I’m getting scared about this increase in violence, anyone else?” and “Here we go again. Another shooting. I’m scared for our country.” One is a vulnerable admission that encourages dialog, the other is just snarky outrage that stokes the fire – again – that inflammatory media profits from.

Because, truthfully? Violence is actually REALLY on the decline. But our media companies are profiting from our outrage anyway. I come back to this video a lot.

This is my favorite line:

“Anger combined with sustained effort can lead to real change.”

And that is my point of all of this. Anger and Fear and Outrage are all reasonable feelings that can inspire real action. Even if the action is simply starting a respectful conversation with people from the “other side.” But with the rise of social media and the microphone it gives all of us, I feel like I’m seeing more Anger and Fear and Outrage and not as much productive conversation or real action. And this makes me frustrated because that means that these inflammatory media companies are profiting off of our stress and THAT IS THE ONLY CONCRETE RESULT OF SAID STRESS.

Be scared. Be outraged. Be angry. But first:

1) Participate in dialogs and be open to the idea that you might not have reason to be AS scared or AS outraged or AS angry as your internet tells you to be and

I have a friend from high school that started being really active in a gun control lobbying group in Tennessee after Sandy Hook. THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. Whenever there’s a shooting I’m certain it triggers her Fear and Anger and Outrage so she writes another letter or knocks on another Congressman’s door or attends another fundraising event.

She’s putting her energy towards enacting change and not allowing her words to turn into dollars for media companies profiting off of our Fear and Anger and Outrage. She does research. She has conversations.

I’m not saying there’s no place for straight up profession of Outrage. Lord knows I do it often enough. I’m just saying that the status quo lately is ONLY THAT. We are sharing out links that stoke our Fear and Anger and Outrage instead of trying to solve the problem. Does Donald Trump really scare you? Have you talked to anyone considering voting for him? Because you’re not going to change minds if you won’t even open a dialog with the other side.

The funny/sad thing is I have found that the Fear and Anger and Outrage stoked by conservative media for the last 4 years is what built the foundation for a lot of people to want something radically different in Trump. And now the other side of the media is profiting on that Fear and Anger and Outrage and the conservative media is struggling to find something to profit from.

They’re taking turns profiting off what is keeping us up at night. And every time we click an inflammatory link we are making them richer and ourselves more upset.

Instead. Let’s quit clicking inflammatory links. Let’s have actual conversations, make actual effort to promote change, find real ways to subdue the thing that scares us. But most importantly? Let’s avoid the Us v/s Them divide that ALL media profits from. Let’s not let these companies or these politicians make money off our Fear or Anger or Outrage. Instead, lets find ways to use it to make change. See if you can get people to understand your concerns instead of making them feel ignorant or stupid for voting for the person who scares you. I spent all of the 2012 election cycle shrinking under the attacks of my conservative friends and family, I refuse to retaliate in the same manner.

4 thoughts on “On Fear, Anger, Outrage…and the People Who Profit From It All.”

  1. Thank you for the reminder of that great video. I also like the video Hank put up on his channel after releasing the BLM explainer video on Vlogbrothers. He talked about the state of discourse and how we might course correct viewing of inflammatory comments on YouTube. YouTube, like any other media company, profits from drama, so their algorithm features the most inflammatory comments at the top. Hank suggested to game the system by commenting ‘+’ to well reasoned comments to help them move to the top. Worth a watch:

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