The Outrage Industry

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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82 Responses

  1. Saul DeGraw says:

    I don’t really disagree with your overriding thesis of ideology is the enemy. Ideology can indeed blind people to the fact that their policies and ideals are not popular and/or not good.

    The overall problem is that the idea of ideology is the enemy implies that there is always a right policy answer to every problem and I think our various wonks are just as capable of confirmation bias. We have a whole series of wonks like Ezra Klein and Matt Y or hold themselves out to be above the fray and data driven guys who are looking for the best policy. The best policy might just end up being confirmation bias for what they want the policy to be. There is a problem with population and commutes because of suburban and exurban sprawl but that doesn’t necessarily mean people should be forced or unconsciously incentivized to live in dense cities if they don’t want to. I think there is something pernicious and even wicked about the Ezra Klein and Matt Y set of wonkiness that assumes people are problems to be tinkered with until perfection. It cuts off autonomy, desire, and is anti-democratic and anti-liberty.

    For all we know right policy can be generational. “Everything old is new again.” Maybe my generation is heading back to the cities after two decades of suburbia. Maybe our children will remain in the cities. But perhaps our grandchildren will be all about “neo-surbanism.” And then come up with all sorts of reasons and evidence about why neo-suburbanism is the best policy.

    There is also the issue of how do you come with the best policy for political issues that can’t be quantified and are non-economic in nature. We don’t all start with the same set of tautologies or axioms and we probably never will.

    I’ve noted before that I have an innate reaction to wince at hyperbole and inflamed rhetoric but this is the language that people use when they are outraged and there is plenty in the world to be angry and outraged about and it is not my job or right to tell when they should or should not be outraged even if I disagree with them about the outrage.

    I’ve known economists like to defend concepts that most people hate like sweatshop labor and price-gouging as being economically good for everyone. Maybe on a very technical level they are being correct but on a very human, ethical, moral, emotional, and social level they are are also completely missing the point. I do need to concede that the factories in Bangladesh raise wealth for the country including the women employed in the factories. This does not mean I think they should work back breaking days in unsafe conditions and with factories that can collapse as Matt Y famously once did and never quite apologized for.

    Price gouging might make economic sense but it completely goes against intuitive ethical and moral sense but how people should treat on another during a disaster. Hillel once said “Don’t to others, what is painful to you.” I highly doubt that most economists would say price gouge me if they were in an actual disaster zone or center. They say it from the comfort of the Ivory Tower and also from the economic comfort of generally being well off and able to take the price gouging hit.

    Biased media might not produce better journalism but it would produce more honest journalism if the media outfit wore partisanship on the sleeve.Report

    • James K in reply to Saul DeGraw says:


      Price gouging might make economic sense but it completely goes against intuitive ethical and moral sense but how people should treat on another during a disaster.

      The problem I have with this train of reasoning is that people’s “intuitive ethical and moral sense” is crap. I mean that, given the end goals people profess the have (i.e. that human suffering is bad, and people becoming more prosperous and healthy is good) the average person is just wrong about the best way to achieve it. That people have been wrong about something for a long time doesn’t make them any less wrong. I could furnish a list of examples where human moral sentiments have condoned utter barbarity, but I’m sure you can think of plenty. Every mode of thinking has it’s failure modes and that includes compassion.

      Compassion’s flaw is that it only reacts to problems that are easy to see – you don’t feel bad about a problem you aren’t aware of or that lacks the appearance of a simple solution. Practices like “sweatshop labour” or “price gouging” are the visible symptoms of an underlying problem – low productivity and shortages respectively. Making those symptoms go away doesn’t make people better off (in fact, as you note, it can make things worse for them), it just makes the problem easier for you to ignore. You end up feeling better about yourself even though nothing has been done to help people.

      That is the danger of ideology – not that it gives you a vision of the good, we all need a vision of the good, but that it blinds you to facts your ideology doesn’t want to deal with. Your unwillingness to deal with the realities of low productivity and demand pressures is like the unwillingness of many libertarians to acknowledge the reality of Climate Change – it’s easier to pretend the problem doesn’t exist than alter one’s ideology to fit reality.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to James K says:


        My issue is not that factories exist in Bangladesh. My issue is I think we have learned enough from history to allow now industrializing nations to skip the Triangle Fire/Dark Satanic Mills stage and let them industrialize while being economically competitive but safe. My comment against sweatshops is not so much about hours worked (though I think 8-10 should be a max) or wages paid (which are higher than they have ever gotten) but about collapsing factories and poor safety standards.

        There is no economic or moral justification for a factory to completely collapse like the one in Bangaldesh a year ago.

        And I still think credence needs to be given to innate sense and feelings of people because in the end most of us will still be primarily emotional and social creatures first and I skeptical of economics as a cure-all for all human problems.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to James K says:

        There are probably a lot of economic arguments you can make about why the world is getting wealthier but that is not going to make someone whose job was off-shored feel less stressed or better.Report

      • James K in reply to James K says:


        I’ll grant that safety (especially safety in a “factory burns down with the workers inside” sense) as a specific concern is a far more reasonable thing to worry about than the other issues – it it more likely that it could be solved without disrupting the engine that is slowly improving the lives of those in poor countries. What I’d be very keen to see, is research into why this issue occurs – just how much would it cost to prevent events like that and try and figure out what set of incentives is making it happen.

        And I am aware economics can’t solve everything- but when it comes to questions of poverty, production and consumption, its economists you want to talk to.Report

      • LWA in reply to James K says:

        “when it comes to questions of poverty, production and consumption, its economists you want to talk to.”

        Economists alone? No, you didn’t say that.

        Your points about the blindness of compassion are well made and valid- yet it would be an error to sweep away morality as a basis for how best to address societal problems.
        Otherwise we are left with a lack of purpose- what goal do we want to set for our laws and societal structures?

        This is like the old battle between science and religion- which has been resolved, for most theologians and scientists as agreeing that science can describe how things work, but religion can provide a reason why they should do so.

        Economists can describe for us how people behave, but we need something else to tell us whether or not this is something we should aspire to.Report

      • James K in reply to James K says:


        Economists alone? No, you didn’t say that.

        Indeed, I did not say that. Poverty in particular has some non-economic aspects, but nonetheless economist need to be front-and centre when discussing these issues. And by that I mean before decisions are made, not merely recruited after the fact to increase the status of whichever solution came out of the political sausage factory.

        Economists can describe for us how people behave, but we need something else to tell us whether or not this is something we should aspire to.

        This matches my belief in how experts and no-experts should interact on policy questions. Everyone should have a say in which values drive our policy, and then the experts should figure out how best to get there.Report

    • @saul-degraw

      I think there is something pernicious and even wicked about the Ezra Klein and Matt Y set of wonkiness that assumes people are problems to be tinkered with until perfection. It cuts off autonomy, desire, and is anti-democratic and anti-liberty.

      That’s one of the arguments against the New Deal, at least in its early stages. A large group of experts go to D.C. thinking they can command, coordinate, and change the world, and they end up giving us something like the NRA or AAA.

      About price gouging….do economists really justify it? It seems to me they are much more likely not to justify it, but to contest many people’s definitions of it. What price is “too high” or “unconscionably high”? When is something a necessity and when is it a luxury? I should say I’ve read almost no economists, so I don’t honestly know what’s being said by them.

      As for your point about factories in developing countries, etc. I probably fall along the lines that some development is usually better than none, a position you seem to share. I do agree that there’s something not quite right about the fact that people are compelled to assume dangerous jobs in very challenging conditions. And it can be glib to come down from my heights of privilege and tell them how much better off they are now. But like @james-k above, I think the question might be what policy solutions could offer incentives for people to do the right thing. Or sometimes it really might be an issue of adopting strong regulations and enforcing them. But even here, outrage can cloud the issue. Not always, but at least sometimes.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “Price gouging” is not an economic term, of course. So in that sense economists do not condone it. But economists do condone rationing of needed goods during disasters, so that they are better distributed to those who need them.

        One way to do this is to increase the price. A classic example is the demand for plywood when hurricanes hit. If there is insufficient warning to allow retailers to increase supply to meet the demand, the low price will allow people to overdemand–as a homeowner I have less incentive to consider my actual needs carefully, and may buy more than I need. Multiply that by thousands of purchasers, and suddenly you have a plywood shortage, with some people unable to get any. We avoided price gouging, but didn’t accomplish the goal of caring for people in need.

        As well, knowing there’s likely to be a price shortage, I might go to Home Depot and get enough plywood to fill my truck and trailer, then wait for the shortage to become acute, and sell at a profit. I.e., if Home Depot won’t price gouge, some low-level entrepreneur might.

        I suspect a Home Depot is cautious about raising prices, because the public’s lack of understanding of how that helps better distribute the plywood leads to bad PR that they don’t want.

        Another method is for the store itself to ration the needed items–only X pieces of plywood per customer. The grocery store where my wife worked did this after an earthquake. They understood that panicky people would buy more than they actually needed, because they didn’t understand as well as the store manager when the store would be restocked. So they had maximum quantities on such things as baby formula and diapers. That may not be as efficient as raising prices, because the person with 3 kids still in diapers needs more than the person with just 1 kid in diapers, but my hunch is that the PR is better because the store’s not taking extra profit off the sales.

        After the San Francisco earthquake in ’89, my friend ran down the street to the corner store and got a 6 pack and a bag of chips for $15. Is that acceptable? Do those things also need to be rationed? Maybe not, but is there any doubt that demand for chips and beer went up right after the quake? And why should my friend have gotten even more, leaving someone else with none at all?Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        Ah to be in your 20s when the most important thing is a 6-pack and a bag of chips even after a major disaster 🙂Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Actually, Jake was in his early 40s at the time!Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I suspect a Home Depot is cautious about raising prices, because the public’s lack of understanding of how that helps better distribute the plywood leads to bad PR that they don’t want.

        Gotta help me out here James, since I’m not seeing it. I don’t see any difference between Home Depot raising prices during a disaster and some non-HD person accumulating plywood to sell at “fair market value” after buying it a lower price. In both cases, the plywood is distributed, no? The only downside is that HD is losing money to the savvy or lucky. But the consumer doesn’t suffer at all.Report

      • I think he’s saying that the difference is that HD doesn’t take the PR hit, which is worth the potential lost revenue. The difference lies in perceptions and profits more than actual distribution.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


        Right, for the actual purchaser of the plywood, it wouldn’t really matter whether they were paying the premium to HD or to me, driving around the neighborhood with a truck load of plywood.

        But HD might not want to be the ones who take that premium, just to avoid the bad PR, which potentially could cost it more than it gained through charging a premium. That is to say, if they don’t “price gouge” it’s out of self-interest, not concern for plywood users.

        Or, what Will said.Report

    • Damon in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Saul, you’ve made some good points here. While I disagree alone the lines of what James K said, that excluded, nice. It generally conforms to my opinions as well.Report

  2. greginak says:

    This doesn’t seem surprising at all. Provoking intense emotions is a pretty basic media tool. That it has been done in the political realm for years isn’t new either. I remember Morton Downey Jr, who was a more excitable, less coherent Rush before Rush got even more excitable and less coherent.

    In terms of teh actual content analysis it seems like a real hard project to do without a lot of biases creeping in regarding what meets all the different categories. There has a been a growth of “fact checking” websites that seem like a good idea but inevitable make some decisions that seem like there were a few thumbs on the scale.

    Reading through the discussion on Tim’s recent post it seems like there are a handful of themes that keep coming up here. Almost everybody says Conservatives have been on hyperbole overload of many years. Liberals do some of the same things with differences over how close they are to conservatives. The pro-bsdi camp wants to see both sides as sharing the same faults. However most of the pro-bsdi argument is misguided since it suggests there are only two sides. Heck each of the two main parties has at least 3 large camps. But libertarians and other small groups are a side too. Yeah they are effectively powerless but the tendency of those non-aligned with one the two big sides to look down at both groups as the same is just as much a bias as any.

    There seems to a be a strong tendency to suggest no matter how often the liberals in the space argue and disagree with each other or offer various criticisms of D’s and liberals that somehow it never quite reaches the correct level. Obviously i’m biased, or at least i will be told i am, but it seems like a thing.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to greginak says:

      And before Morton Downey, there were probably plenty of other people who did the same.

      There is a famous tattoo artist named Sailor Jerry. He used to have a radio show where he voiced views that were not unfamiliar to those voiced by Glenn Beck and in the same manner.Report

    • @greginak

      the tendency of those non-aligned with one the two big sides to look down at both groups as the same is just as much a bias as any.

      That’s true, and in my Nader voting years, I was guilty of that.Report

  3. Nob Akimoto says:

    …I feel like this post is a hint toward something.Report

  4. zic says:

    Best think I ever did was quit watching cable news.

    It’s very, very bad for one’s blood pressure and stress levels.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to zic says:

      My biggest problems with cable news are:

      1) It is repetitive

      2) Because they need to fill 24 hours a day, they air shows that aren’t news per se.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto says:

    More generally:
    I’m curious more on methodology than anything else. What are their proxy variables? How do they measure profitability? Audience size? What are the error terms, interaction terms, etc.

    Found something like an academic version of the same:

    I have to admit, I’m not terribly impressed with the proxy variables they’re using.

    I’m not sure about the book, but the variables being used in this paper tell me very little except what THEIR beliefs are and that they’re working from a cross-sectional sample which may or may not be useful. Moreover there’s NOTHING in their methodology that actually accounts for profitability or even viewer/traffic ratings.

    Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but I feel like this data actually doesn’t SAY anything but allows people to INFER what they want from it.

    That is to say, it’s a very Beysian dataset and paper….Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I’m curious about how they made all those distinctions among types of “outrage related” characteristics. Intuitively, it looks like a lot of overlap to me. And while it’s not impossible they have carefully defined each, and identified them using multiple independent coders, I would guess that a great number of fragments of speech are going to either fit or contain elements of multiple characteristics.Report

      • Their methodology section suggests they had slave…I mean graduate assistants do coding based on a codebook they created with specific criterion:

        The operational definitions of the 13 content variables required many rounds of pretesting to construct and are not self-explanatory. Capsule summaries of each are contained in the Appendix, and as we move through our analysis detailed descriptions of several will be offered. The full operational definitions and illustrative examples are contained in a length codebook available from the authors.


        Despite the challenges of coding complex variables characterized by a variety of nuanced usages embedded in rich texts, the level of speci?city of the operational de?nitions in the codebook yielded quite impressive intercoder reliability ratings. Over the course of 10 weeks, 15 cases were randomly selected for intercoder reliability tests in which two of the four coders evaluated the same case independently. The results ranged from a low of 80.43% to a high of 98.6%, with a mean of 91.4%.

        This gives me absolutely ZERO confidence in the long term usefulness of this data.Report

      • To answer your question more specifically:

        Although the four formats differ considerably, we created a research instrument that could be used to analyze all four forms. Each television episode, radio program, blog post, and newspaper column was analyzed using the same content analysis instrument. Coders recorded the use of each of these particular types of speech and behavior. Up to six uses of each variable were counted, with the appropriate unit of analysis for most being the “turn” or “chunk.” Following Perrin (2005), a “turn” is de?ned as a contiguous block of speech by a single participant. When there is a back and forth conversation, each speaker’s turn is the appropriate unit. If a monologue was prolonged, judgment was made as to appropriate boundaries of a single turn, such as changes in topic, pauses in thought, and disruptions for station information, teasers, or advertisements. For written content, “chunks” are also a contiguous but clearly demarcated block of print, typically a paragraph or section. For more concrete variables (e.g., obscene language), each discrete use was counted rather than the number of uses per turn or chunk.

        …again this is starting to lower my confidence in this study period.

        I’m also struck by how they make no efforts to normalize based on things like audience size or traffic or to quantify any of the ideas of things like profitability.Report

      • Admittedly, this is Nob the Constructivist Policy Analyst speaking, and anything that’s as subjective reasoning based as this is going to make my Critic Sense tingle.Report

      • zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        I also wonder about how this functions on dimensions of original reporting vs. re-reporting. How often were the outrage indicators in the original reports? How often were they in response? Once they were introduced, how did the propagate through the media?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Thanks, Nob. To be fair to them, content analysis is really difficult to do well. At least they had decent intercoder reliability.

        Still, content analysis is really difficult to do well. That is, it’s not my favorite research method.Report

  6. Nob Akimoto says:

    Also, it’s worth noting that of their “Top 3” TV shows for example, 2 are no longer on air. Finally, have you noticed how incredibly white their cadre of media personalities is?Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    I’d be curious to compare the rhetoric on the left in the 60s to contemporary times. It seems to me there’s just no way today’s liberals could be more hyperbolic, more outraged, more prone to rhetorical (and other) excess now than back then.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater says:

      I think it’s worth noting there really wasn’t a media market for people who would be speaking on the street corners.Report

    • @stillwater

      I’d think part of the issue, when we’re talking about the ’60s, is that the distinction between “left” and “liberal” was sharper then, with leftists being very much opposed to LBJ-style liberalism and being very vocal about that opposition. Not that the good ole’ liberals didn’t engage in that type of outrage rhetoric. But it’s much easier to take the genteel view when you’re the one in power.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I think the distinction is still pretty sharp except to the right-wing and the lazy. The issue with the left is that they are rather smaller in numbers or as has been said a million times before, they act outside of the mainstream political arena and go on their own.

        Any major city probably has a fair share of anarchist and communist collectives that are largely invisible to most people even in many political types. Their activism and actiom is more direct like helping street kids or fighting to keep a community clinic open. They are not running for a position on city council. Every city has a small anarchist collective bookstore or similar business. There was a story a few years ago about an anarchist vegan cafe in Portland asking a cop to leave because his presence made the rest of the customers unhappy.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I’m wondering if asking a cop to leave an anarchist vegetarian cafe should be permissible? My inclination is that it shouldn’t be allowed. Your supposed to serve anybody who can pay unless they are being deliberately disruptive for the most part. If its wrong for Hasidic shop-owners in Williamsburg to kick out women they consider immodestly dressed than it should also be wrong for anarchist cafes to kick out cops in Portland.

        I’m still really not sure why anarchists think that humans are going to be better behaved once the state goes away. Its a very religious political ideology.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I’m wondering if asking a cop to leave an anarchist vegetarian cafe should be permissible?
        Asking is certainly permissible. Requiring is another matter. 🙂Report

      • @leeesq

        Your supposed to serve anybody who can pay unless they are being deliberately disruptive for the most part. If its wrong for Hasidic shop-owners in Williamsburg to kick out women they consider immodestly dressed than it should also be wrong for anarchist cafes to kick out cops in Portland.

        I had thought the law was you could refuse service to anyone for any reason, except for reasons prohibited by law. Unless you’re arguing more than just the law (and ianal, of course) and are talking about ought’s.Report

  8. dhex says:

    when did “hippie punching” become a term of common use?

    i don’t claim to grasp the nuance or context it invokes.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to dhex says:

      Too bad we don’t have a William Safire to do the research.

      I don’t see it too often and I mainly see it be used on left-leaning blogs for those who defend status quo thinking or telling people to embrace more realism. Ezra Klein was attacked on LGM because of his support for the Iraq War as a hippie-puncher because he thought Bush and Blair were more respectable in their suits than an old guy with long white hair, sandals, and a dead t-shirt or something like that.

      Interestingly I consider myself a member of the not-hippie left. I prefer Walter Reuther, Clement Attlee, Hubert Humphrey, Francis Perkins, Harold Wilson, Tommy Doulgas, etc to Abbie Hoffman.Report

    • dand in reply to dhex says:

      when did “hippie punching” become a term of common use?

      It doesn’t show up in an Ngram search, so since 2000.Report

    • greginak in reply to dhex says:

      Hippie punching is a leftie term of art. It usually means attacking left wingers who have little or no voice in the D party as a way of looking balanced or using them as a strawman to label liberal types. Its sort of vague term that gets a bit overused. I guess its also used by centrist types to show how reasonable they are by slamming lefties even though lefites have little influence.Report

      • morat20 in reply to greginak says:

        When I hear the term, I think back to the anti-war protests when we were ramping up to invade Iraq, and the fact that everyone protested was labeled a pacifist. (Despite the fact that, well, quite a few of them were quite specifically “anti-this-particular-war”).

        Because it was simple. Because if you labeled them a pacifist, you could smack down a weak argument practically no one was making, and basically you were….punching 60’s pacifists. Hippies, you know, instead of engaging the people right there or the arguments they were making.

        Hippy punching, as a term, has always meant to me a a mix of straw man and weak man (thanks for whomever used the term earlier this week, never heard of the term but knew the tactic) — you either invent a liberal ‘idea’ or grab a highly marginalized or weak one, and then beat the snot out of it.

        Why you punch a hippy differs — although the most egregious were those who basically attacked some marginalized or made up leftish ‘objection’ entirely to show how serious they were.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        I think of that too, probably because there was a conservative pundit (I can’t remember which one) who eventually confessed both that GWII was a disaster, and that he’d realized it some time ago but hadn’t wanted to admit publicly that the “dirty fucking hippies” had been right.Report

      • morat20 in reply to greginak says:

        The “DFH” thing is related to hippy punching.

        It’s basically “They’re hippies, they’re all stoned and stupid and naive and thus always wrong about everything ever.” So if your opponent is a DFH then he is wrong, by default, to everyone.

        So you can punch him and get praised, because it’s DFH and you’re right by default because they’re wrong by default.

        Strangely, the hippies — for all the naivety and idealism — well, they were right about Vietnam, weren’t they? And the anti-Iraq war folks — right then too. They’ve got a better track record then Kristol or Cheney, at least. 🙂Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        They’ve got a better track record then Kristol or Cheney, at least. 🙂

        Faint praise indeed.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to greginak says:


        Agreed. I think that Klein and other young wonks did support the Iraq War because only DFH opposed it. Klein admitted as much in his mea culpa.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to dhex says:

      when did “hippie punching” become a term of common use?


    • zic in reply to dhex says:

      It was a contact sport in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    The idea that people are more outraged today than we were in the past is debatable. People were plenty outraged in the past. The difference between than and now is that there were plenty of filters that made this outrage much more difficult to notice in the past. Restricted access to traditional media made more difficult for angry or outraged people to make their views known. Thanks to the internet many more people can express an opinion by writing a blog, setting up a tumblr, posting on Face Book or Twitter, or writing a comment on a blog. The only way that the Internet might makes us more angry is by giving us better access to thinks that will stroke our anger.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:


      That’s an excellent comment.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to LeeEsq says:

      @leeesq — But now we have more feedback mechanisms to fuel this stuff. For example, you should see my Facebook feed since that shitty Kevin Williamson’s article came out. Folks are pissed. And everyone it talking about it. And everyone is listening to everyone else talking about it. On and on.

      Back in the day most of these folks wouldn’t even notice what was said in some shitty right-wing rag, and those who did would publish a newsletter no one else read.

      So, yeah, this is different.

      On the other hand, the article was completely disgusting. So, there.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        The feedback systems seem more prone towards causing destructive rather than constructive. Sometimes it’s a good idea not to read things that will piss you off.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        Right. I mean, I scanned the article to see what the scuttlebutt was about, but I got the message quickly and backed away. Anyway, the article was worth noticing, a data point in the culture war. Thing is, I think we’re winning big, and the things that should anger and energize us are things like this: , and not some right-wing bully making noise.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to veronica dire says:

        I don’t think Lee’s observation meant he implied that the outrage was not justified at times or often. Though justified outrage is often in the eye of the beholder.

        When you had limited space like letters to the editor, the editors were able to select the more articulate sounding letters over the “I don’t even…” letters.

        Now everyone has a Hyde Park soap box and megaphone whether we agree with them or not.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

        What Saul said. Before the Internet. old media permored gate keeper function. The more out there and inarticulate responses to a particular issue would probably not get published as a letter to the editors. The Internet allows people to respond to anything as long as they have access to it and some knowledge of computers.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Couriously, while the number of outlets to comment has increased, am I mistaken that conventional news outlets are closing down comments on their on line articles?Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Damon says:

        Not that I’ve noticed.

        The NY Times allows for comments on selected articles. TNC moderates heavily. James Fallows does not allow for comments at all. The Washington Post and SF Chronicle are a free for all. The rest of the Atlantic seems rather unmoderated but generally civil.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I wonder to what extent the ability to express outrage through increasingly accessible publication is defusing the expression of outrage through violence. If we have a lot more 140-ASCII-byte expressions of ire, and it means even a little less arson and midnight stabbings, I’ll take that as progress…Report

  10. Damon says:

    So the TL/DR summation is: BSDI but the right more so, and the left increasingly?Report

  11. clawback says:

    I get why Misrepresentative Exaggeration is considered bad, but does the book go into why it frowns upon the rest of the italicized, capitalized categories?

    When the right stops spreading bullshit, I promise I’ll stop ridiculing it.Report

  12. OP: “Though they score far higher in the Mockery, Belittling, and Conflagration categories, blogs actually have the lowest instances of Misrepresentative Exaggeration, making them more accurate than cable news, news radio, or newspaper columnists.”

    If nothing else, blogs have a healthy tradition of direct quotation, including extensive block quotations. A 900-word newspaper column has to conserve on space and generally will not give over room to a 100-word direct quote from an opposing source. The temptation to paraphrase and summarize, rather than quote, must be very strong for a columnist. A blog post does not have to observe such artificial constraints and has different incentives.

    Cable news and news radio are also probably not great formats for critical engagement with the text of someone on the other side of the aisle. (Even NPR, I find, often mangles stories like Supreme Court decisions, where all of the nuance and detailed argument of the justices’ opinions is burned away, and the story reduced to sound-bites and a scoreboard.)

    (I could be off base here, and I don’t know how much weight to put on this particular feature.)Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    The two exceptions are Belittling and Verbal Sparring.

    Stupidest damn thing I’ve ever seen. Why do you repeat this crap?Report

  14. Shelley says:

    False equivalency, false equivalency, false equivalency. Rachel Maddow is not the mirror image of Rush Limbaugh.

    They both have opinions; Rachel’s are based, and carefully explained and backgrounded on the basis of, fact.Report

    • j r in reply to Shelley says:

      Screaming false equivalency has really become a epistemological defense mechanism that allows people from meaningfully engaging the shortcomings in their own point of view.

      As someone who is a fan if neither Maddow or Limbaugh, I can tell you that there are differences between, but not necessarily the differences that you think. I know that many progressives like to believe that all of their beliefs are based on nothing but fact and sound reasoning and that they are devoid of the sort of category errors that conservatives routinely make, but, as human beings are human beings and not computer, that is not particularly likely.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

        As someone who is a fan if neither Maddow or Limbaugh, I can tell you that there are differences between, but not necessarily the differences that you think.

        I think Maddow doesn’t call people she disagrees with sluts, whores, and conservanazis. I think that a congressman who called Maddow “just an entertainer” wouldn’t feel compelled to apologize for it. I think that Maddow doesn’t go on about the sanctity of marriage while being divorced four times.

        What do you think?Report

      • morat20 in reply to j r says:

        Offhand, I suspect Maddow also know how the Pill actually functions, but then again Limbaugh’s a man so perhaps it’s not fair to laugh at him for thinking women take it right before sex, every time they have sex.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to j r says:

        Query as to use of “epistemological.” I’m not sure how epistemology applies to a defense of “false equivalency!”Report

      • morat20 in reply to j r says:

        I think he means it in the sense of “philosophical” specifically in the “debate/argument” sense.

        I read his sentence as “Claiming false equivalence has become nothing more than fancy words to derail an entire argument, claiming it a fallacy without actual check to see if it truly meets the requirements to be fallacious”.

        Which, boiled down, would be “People say false equivalence because then they can go “Nyah, you’re wrong” and never actually show how the equivalence is false”Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Shelley says:

      “False equivalency, false equivalency, false equivalency. Rachel Maddow is not the mirror image of Rush Limbaugh.”

      Knowing I’m going to regret even asking this, can you point me to the place you believe I made such an argument?Report

  15. Burt Likko says:

    What were the various categories of outrage detracting from accuracy? From the OP, I can glean Mockery, Belittling, Conflagration* Misrepresentative Exaggeration, and Verbal Sparring. Are there any other techniques deployed in the service of generating Dark Fire? **

    * What does this mean? I can take good guesses at the rest.

    ** Dark Fire generates heat, but not light. Concept borrowed from an interesting science fiction novel, later a series, called Dream Park.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko As to exactly why A leads to B in this instance, that’s a bit outside the parameters of what Berry and Sobieraj delve into. I could make a guess or two, but those would be based on what I brought into the book, not what the book presents.

      But as to your other question, I quote from the book’s method appendix:

      Conflagration: This variable is intended to capture attempts to escalate non-scandals into scandals. The key trait is speech that overstates or dramatizes the importance or implications of minor gaffes, oversights, or improprieties. By non-scandal we refer to an episode, event, or trend that a learned, dispassionate observer would not consider significant or scandalous.

      The given example of conflagration in the book was Michelle Bachmann’s gaffe in 2012 when she erroneously noted in comments to people in Waterloo, Iowa that their town was the home of John Wayne. It was not; Bachmann was confusing Wayne with John Wayne Gacey. As Berry and Sobieraj note, this gaffe was the most covered primary story by left-leaning media outlets for that entire week, and further that it replaced discussions in the news about policy positions of either Bachmann or her rivals.Report