On Outrage Culture and Federalism: Or Why We Can’t Get Along
Linky Friday #118 was largely dedicated to discussions of outrage culture and the general topic of whether LGBT rights should be done at a federal or the state by state level. Interestingly, I think these topics are related and intertwined.
OTer Erik Kain had a story in Forbes lamenting the Outrage Culture of the Internet. I largely agree with his conclusion but found the article overwhelming.
Outrage Culture exhausts me as much as the next person. I wrote this in OT but there are 320 million people in the United States and 7 billion people in the world. The idea that there will ever be a world where we all agree on everything is laughable. I find it kind of tiring to see my more combative friends talk about how they “Just can’t even” about some disagreement on social media or the Internet. This is especially so when I question whether the disagreement is with someone that they don’t know in real life. Will there be a study showing an increase in hypertension due to Internet related arguments?
But we all have worldviews. Those wordlviews are damn important for us. They can correspond to be treating with dignity, respect, and like a human being. In the case of other people, they think we are risking the wrath of God by granting LGBT rights. I don’t agree with the Christian evangelical/fundamentialist view on LGBT rights but I am just a largely, secular Jewish guy from New York. Why should a Christian listen to someone like me who completely rejects their entire theology especially the idea that Jesus was the Messiah?
This is why outrage culture risks. Not because people are moral busybodies because many people (maybe even all of us) have deeply held and very sincere beliefs for how the world should be. I am attracted to liberalism because it acknowledges that there is no such thing as a Good Life. There are multiple versions of the good life and multiple ways to live a good life.
Ideally federalism would make this much easier. You can have liberal places like Oregon and California and conservative places like Alabama and Nebraska. This does not quite work out in reality though. There are minorities and LGBT people everywhere. There are also conservatives everywhere. Around 10 to 15 percent of San Franciscans voted for Mitt Romney and I wonder how they feel about being surrounded in the most liberal city in the United States and why they stay. But there are plenty of LGBT people who stay in deeply red areas for a variety of reasons. Maybe some of them are stubborn and don’t want to move. Maybe some of them can’t afford to move or can’t move because of commitments and responsibilities to their families. I don’t think anyone should suffer from social and economic persecution because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender non-conformity, or sexuality. It is silly to dismiss LGBT rights fights as only being about bakers and jewelers. The real fight is about the right of full dignity and full participation in American Civil and Economic Life. The two major cases involving the Constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were about hotels and a small mom and pop BBQ restaurant.
The Supreme Court unanimously voted against the segregationists in both cases. They noted that Ollie’s had virtually no connection to interstate commerce but that restaurants held significant impact on interstate commerce and that Congress had a right to regulate them. I find that the same logic applies to making sure that bakeries and jewelers are forced to serve LGBT people. Shopping without being told to go away represents full participation in American life. It is one thing not to be able to afford the bill but another to be told we don’t want your cash especially in a country as loving of free-market capitalism as the United States.
So, the struggle carries on. The stakes are high for both sides and both sides are likely to downplay the world view of the other and often as glibly as possible. We argue strongly on the Internet because it is seemingly one of the few things we can do in a world where most problems seem beyond our control. We argue because we don’t want someone to think our opponents exist without dissent or challenge. There are unfortunately a lot of innocent victims to the outrage and backlash wars. At least there are people who are getting punished far more harshly than their alleged sins and crimes. But the mainly victimless are usually proxy targets for those who get away. I am not sure if there was ever a time when this was not true. I wish it was not true but the best I can do and anyone less can do is try and think before participating in an internet pile-on. I am not sure if there is anyway to convince people that their sincerely held worldview is wrong or that things might not be as bad or as serious as they imagine.