There’s a reason I impose a news semi-blackout for myself on weekends: outrage fatigue.
I do scan alerts sent to my home email or phone, so it’s not a complete blackout, and I still have some idea of what’s going on. I also avoid the president’s Twitter account and others that just make my eyes roll. I’m running out of tape to keep those suckers in my head.
With a drama a day (sometimes an hour) coming out of D.C., and violence and other outrages in a never-ending cycle, I have to pace myself so that I don’t get too exhausted by the issues that can make me spitting mad.
I’ll always be affected by shootings because, in addition to having had friends wounded in crossfire, I had both a childhood friend and a college lab partner die because of them—Lori in an accidental shooting when another friend was showing her a family rifle, and Shannon in the Westside Middle School shooting 20 years ago.
When Lori died, I was a year younger than her and terrified all of a sudden of turning her age. When Shannon was killed, such mass shootings seemed somewhat isolated, so it would still have been shocking even had I not known any of the dead.
In both of these cases, access is what I have the biggest issue with, not the guns themselves (though there are some that civilians clearly don’t need … want is not the same as need). I was raised around guns and I know that the person handling them is responsible for what is done with them, just as many gun-control supporters are aware. Mental illness is not always the cause. All rights come with responsibilities, and the Second Amendment is no different.
The #NeverAgain movement begun by Parkland, Fla., students after the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School has managed so far to escape outrage fatigue (as has the Women’s March, for the most part), which is unusual. The anger over a specific mass shooting tends to peter out after two or three weeks, but the social media-savvy survivors have used each new shooting to move their cause forward (which, despite what naysayers claim, focuses on common-sense reform measures such as universal background checks supported by a majority in the U.S.). They also use their platform to shine a light on heroes like James Shaw, who disarmed the Antioch, Tenn., Waffle House gunman last month then started a GoFundMe account to raise money for the victims and their families, which is now over $200,000.
Outrage fatigue is nothing new (I found articles on it dating at least back to the Clinton administration), but with countless social media platforms and 24/7 news, it’s now nearly impossible to escape unless you cut yourself off completely from the world. Pushed relentlessly by mostly hyperpartisan media, there’s always another scandal (real or contrived), violent attack, or shocking statement to get upset about, and the sheer volume can make you exhausted and feeling cynical and helpless. Plus, as David J. Ley wrote for Psychology Today: “There’s also the problem of the ‘ceiling effect.’ When we’ve reached what feels like our maximum level of outrage at one issue, and then another one comes along which feels even worse, how do we go past the 10 on the outrage dial? (There’s no 11 …)”
Excellent Spinal Tap reference, doc!
Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer contended in a January column that future historians may find Jan. 12, the day the Wall Street Journal reported the alleged Stormy Daniels payment, as the moment it should have been “clear that something was fundamentally broken and no one knew how to fix it.”
Said Bunch of those revelations:
“It seemed too ironic that this all happened as the world’s journalists (but few others) marked the 20th anniversary of the Mother of All White House Sex Scandals, Bill Clinton’s hook-up with then-intern Monica Lewinsky. What a different time! I still have vivid memories of Jan. 20, 1998, when I hopped off an exercise bike at a health club the split second I saw a CNN bulletin about presidential infidelity, racing back to the newsroom to write a Daily News cover story with the highly prescient (given Clinton’s subsequent impeachment and the blow to his authority) giant headline, ‘Can He Survive?’ But in 2018, the public reaction to Trump’s dalliance and more specifically the $130,000 — which looks a lot like the mistress payoff by former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards that led to his indictment (and a hung jury) — can best be summed up by that popular internet meme, the Whatever Guy.”
Yeah, I’m with Bunch on the irony. But Lord, how did we get here? Perhaps that’s the plan: Just wear us down until we’re so tired we won’t notice that snake swallowing us little by little.
“Trump Fatigue is setting in,” Bunch wrote, “a kind of political fibromyalgia marked by the realization that we have an irrational president and yet there is seemingly no rational action that can alter Trump, or the goofy yet destructive Trumpian momentum inertia that was launched on Jan. 20, 2017, or that can change one mind among the millions of CNN haters who back Trump or the millions of Trump haters who still watch CNN, flabbergasted. It’s a debilitating condition that makes you want to stay in bed all day, maybe all winter.”
Frankly, I’m tired of being exhausted by all the outrage going on. I, like the @pervocracy Twitter posting in October 2012, am waiting for an issue that won’t exhaust me: “I hope the next big national controversy is about hugging, or petting small furry animals, or maybe drinking hot cocoa. #outragefatigue.”
Puppies, kittens, bunnies and cocoa; yep, sign me up.
I had intended today to print the first Letter of the Month on the Voices page, but alas, an illness Monday (stomach bug, no fun) and the fact that I left the handwritten list of contenders on my desk at work (note to self: try using the phone memo function next time) left me unable to poll my opinion-section co-workers. That letter will appear later this week, though.
And, readers of the Voices page may have noticed Tuesday, we’re also introducing another feature. Each week or so, the Voices page will ask for your input on something in the news, in the hopes of starting polite discussion and hopefully combating the outrage fatigue that seems to have stricken some letter-writers (fairly sure that’s at least part of the reason we’ve had fewer letters coming in lately … or it’s me … I hope it’s not me 😩).
This week the question is whether the White House Correspondents Dinner should stay on the sometimes controversial path it’s on, or get back to its stated purpose of defending the First Amendment and honoring journalists and students, or even just hang it up altogether. Arkansas readers who haven’t had a letter published in the past 30 days can tell me about it in 300 words or fewer, sent either to email@example.com, or through our form.
Comedian Michelle Wolf stirred up a ruckus this weekend at the dinner on both sides of the aisle, and several members of the Trump administration who were present walked out, according to Politico. (It’s a roast, people; you knew that going in.) The president, for the second straight year, chose to skip it and hold a rally instead.
Gosh, you’d think someone who speaks insult as a second language (or maybe it was his first) could handle the same being handed to him.