Are You Tired of the Social Justice Outrage Machine?
Are You Tired of the Social Justice Outrage Machine?
By R.L. Stephens II / orchestratedpulse.com

I’m exhausted. I can’t keep up with the latest social justice outrage.

In any given week, the internet will be in an uproar over the latest sensational headline. Ani DiFranco’s racism. Beyonce’s feminism. Duck Dynasty’s bigotry. It doesn’t stop.

We condemn or defend the person, and in about a week we move to the next controversy. Justine Sacco who?

Media outlets have got this viral internet craze thing down to a science, literally. It’s not really about creating quality content; the internet game is all about getting as many readers to view and share the story as possible.

In this context of shareability and hair-trigger publishing, outrage is one of the most reliable ways to draw attention to a story. In social justice circles, like many other places on the web, the outrage machine often operates at a fever pitch.

In a way, it makes sense that a lot of our political energy is wrapped up in these outbursts of outrage. Mainstream culture is very powerful, and how your identity/ideology is represented within it can have a tremendous impact on your political success.

Though cultural representation certainly matters, I can’t escape the feeling that we’re simply posturing, moving from outrage to outrage without ever building any committed practices to intervene and dismantle the systems that we claim to oppose. Outrage within social justice circles grabs attention, but is outrage enough?

Is The Outrage Machine Working?

I first began to question the social justice outrage machine during the Rick Ross fiasco in spring 2012. Rick Ross’ lyrics were certainly evangelizing for rape culture, and it was more than right to oppose his efforts.

Yet, the majority of the outrage essentially asked Reebok to discipline Rick Ross over rape culture, with almost no one noticing that rape culture is something that Reebok itself also perpetuates.  Reebok uses sweatshop labor. Sweatshop labor is disproportionately made up of young women (and girls) who are often beaten and sexually assaulted on the job. Here is a video of women in Thailand standing up against Reebok’s exploitation:

By firing Rick Ross, Reebok got to appease 1st world activists while continuing to abuse 3rd world women. They came out as the “good guy”, a real PR coup. Something is deeply wrong with this picture, and I don’t think it’s just a failure of “intersectionality”. Oh well, within a week, we had already moved to the “accidental racist” controversy.

More recently, we have the Ani DiFranco drama. Yes, public outrage shut down her ridiculous retreat at a slave plantation. Yet Nottoway Plantation remains open, emerging from the PR wreckage largely unscathed. The plantation was even able to continue portraying itself as a benign educational site, despite the fact that it’s nothing more than a racist shrine to the “good old days”. For Nottoway Plantation, a successfully managed scandal is just free publicity.

I don’t want people to stop talking about these issues, they are important. However, are these discussions providing us with real analysis of oppression, or is it just shallow posturing? I’m not entirely sure.

Reacting Without A Purpose?

Outrage isn’t bad. Outrage is a weapon. When I went to Occupy Wall Street in September 2011, I was plenty outraged. For years, social justice organizers mobilized our outrage and channeled it into political movements. Yet, it seems that many social justice circles have traded mass movements for massive traffic.

Media outlets are manipulating our good intentions in order to boost their web traffic, and the aimless outrage has many social justice circles spinning their wheels and going nowhere. We can’t build transformative change that way.

Cultural critiques are important (I enjoy them), and I support people standing against injustice wherever they find it. However, a knee-jerk reaction is not the same as a thoughtful criticism, and outrage without understanding is futile. Don’t forget, “there are levels to this shit“.

I want to find ways to accurately describe and dismantle oppression, and that doesn’t happen if we’re constantly reacting to shenanigans. In my opinion, we’re looking for politics in the wrong places.


R.L. Stephens II - I'm a graduate of Carleton College, almost finished with law school, and a soon-to-be teacher. I like talking about race, culture, and radicalism.

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins · 8,798 views today · When Belinda Hankins got a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, who was shopping for period products, it started an exchange that will resonate with women everywhere. Enjoy.
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 8,375 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 4,604 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 3,389 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 2,765 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
What You Might Notice If You Forgot Your Phone For a Day
2 min · 2,488 views today · There is a moment happening right in front of you, right this second, and you just might be missing it
Ikigai - Finding Your Reason for Being
Chip Richards · 1,944 views today · What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 1,845 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,646 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 1,495 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,199 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 1,170 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,105 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 986 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 646 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Forest Man
16 min · 610 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 604 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 527 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 492 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 476 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Are You Tired of the Social Justice Outrage Machine?