Monday, December 22, 2014

Why I Write

I am starting to get used to the fact that on so many occasions - when I'm feeling alienated from the crowd and out on a limb about something - Al Giordano comes along to reinforce that  I'm exactly where I need to be.

It all started back when he noticed that there was something very different about this guy Barack Obama. Even though Giordano's politics were WAY left of this presidential candidate, he recognized a fellow community organizer and saw the possibilities so few people were able to envision.

Of course there was also the time he accurately predicted the split between progressive activists and organizers long before it actually happened. He is the one who invented the term "poutragers" for the former and also took to calling them "chicken littles."

So it comes as no surprise that today Al very eloquently articulated exactly why it is that I write about culture and politics. He was reacting to this article in Slate on The Year of Outrage 2014.

First of all, Al takes a deep psychological dive into why it is that we - as readers - are so attracted to outrage.
What is it that has turned the rest of us from readers into salivating Pavlovian pets, so easily (and eagerly) manipulated and pulled by the nose ring from crisis to crisis? I've concluded that our participation in these daily outrage/poutrage cycles comes from a place of deep frustration over our own individual impotence. We feel powerless (or too lazy, or fearful) to change the big and important things and so we seize upon the latest Poutrage-du-jour in the futile hope that just by being part of something that "went viral" we have somehow done our part or at least hitched our wagon to its star. Many non-media workers also look for hit counts (or "likes" or "retweets") not for money but as illusory compensation for the absolute alienation all this "interconnectedness" has given us.
But then, rather that getting all poutraged about that, he turns the tables and suggests that it provides an opportunity for writers.
I've come to look at the failings of other media as opportunities for my own writing. I do believe fervently in constructing a counter-culture of noncooperation with the daily poutrage cycle, and so whatever the next big outrage that comes to surprise us today or tomorrow brings, the first task is to step back, examine what is driving this particular poutrage convention, and not say anything unless and until one has something real to add to it. That's how all truly meaningful change ever began: a few people stepping back from what everybody else was saying and thinking while they were driven by the dominant media of their eras, refusing to get swept up in it because there was something more worthwhile, outside of those limitations prescribed from above, yet to do...
That sounds like exactly what I was trying to say yesterday in my intro to this piece.

Its true that I occasionally decide to engage in a rant - and when I do, I get a lot more hits. But overall I recognize that a constant state of poutrage leads to cynicism and eventually inertia.

Perhaps it is my own "shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity" that assumes there are those who are ready to exit the poutrage game and hunger for something else. But regardless of whether or not that's true - its where my authentic self wants to be. So I plan on staying put.


  1. I used to mainline the outrage back in the 96-2004 timeframe (Lewinsky, Bush v. Gore, Iraq, ... plenty to be outraged about). But I just grew tired of it after a while.

    But, instead of letting that tiredness drive me away from the fight I have decided instead to repurpose might energies to more productive outlets.

    In other words, don't let the bastards (of all stripes) get you down.

  2. Poutrage coming from the geniuses at The Today Show...

  3. Please keep writing. I value your voice. Now that I know we're neighbors, what do you think of the MOA takeover and police response?

    Tyren M.

  4. I think people get an endorphin high from righteous scolding