Today's moral outrage.

There is a pattern of Pit threads that I want to talk about. I am posting in the Pit because I anticipate that the potential exists for some of the responses to get heated, and also because this is where most of the threads that I want to talk about begin their careers. I want to make clear from the start that I am 100% sincere in my questions, and not trying to stir up shit.

I am talking about the threads where someone comes across the local interest terrible story and then “Pits” it. You know the “Child mauled by Pit Bull in meth lab that explodes” stories.

What I see is that these threads seem to have some sort of a ritualistic, almost formulaic pattern to them. You get the OP, then several pretty graphic cathartic posts surrounding what is wished on the “evil doer”. These are sprinkled with generic “oh how sad” posts, as well as the despairing weeping for humanity and the like. Sooner or later, someone will come along and try to be the voice of reason for the rule of law, or rising above the behavior of the evildoer. Then we get the “me to” posts with a few “fuck you” posts. And then we do it all over again next week.

So, I am essentially wondering why? Given the horrors that are happening all around the world, how is it that one particular story catches your imagination enough to post about it? Are we just starved for feeling, that we need this sort of catharsis now and then? What, in short, is the reason behind this?

It is almost as if being outraged is somehow pleasurable.

Almost? People love shared outrage. Personally, I find these threads boring in the extreme. But like I said, people like that sorta self-righteous anger. I don’t see the point in doing it here, since it’s not the sort of thing that leads to interesting discussions (“Point/counterpoint: Chopping up children with an axe is bad.”) But whatever . . .

Well this should be interesting. :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree with you. Heartily. But you realize that when people take joy in moral outrage over some human or animal interest story, they’re usually not at home to Mr. Reasonable, and they have no sense of humor whatsoever.

Pointing out that yes, it’s horribly sad what happened, but really, have we not done this to death? Causes people to think you’re attacking their beliefs rather than pointing out the obvious.

Well, I did what I could to ask the question in a respectful way without throwing rocks at sacred cows. We shall see, I guess.

It is pleasurable, if only because it’s comforting to have a clear case of evil doer vs innocent victim. You also feel safe in getting angry because (most of the time) nobody will come along and try to get you to see the other side.

Moral ambiguity can be unsatisfying, somehow.

You said it yourself: catharsis.

There are also a lot of people posting here who see this as shooting the breeze in the lunchroom, and they’re having conversations with people in something approaching realtime. Other people see it as a lot more distanced than that… more like people communicating via snail mail. The two groups have posting styles that tend to be somewhat exclusive–if you’re a day late into the cathartic thread, it seems a little weird because the first dozen replies were all chock-full of emotion, but today, everybody’s cooled down. Likewise, if there’s a thread that’s been going on for a few days and somebody with a fresh bee in his bonnet jumps in and starts getting all cathartic on people, it looks strange.

It’s so that they can be seen to be outraged and offended because it’s the “right thing to do”. Like with animals, for instance. I have no doubt that some people love their animals, but that porcupine thing the other day was a head shaker. Most people would say “yeah, shit happens”. A good number of people would find that funny, especially knowing that the dog was fine. Yet that thread turned into a trainwreck, and why?

Because this board has a whole boatload of animal fans, and it pays to be seen on the “right” side of things. I admit that I thought it was funny, in the same way that I look back on some of the really painful things that I or other people have done out of sheer stupidity. It’s a chuckle, a head shake, and a “I betcha the dog learned his lesson from that one” sort of reaction. Had I said that there I would have been beaten to death, because I’m not on the side of the righteous, the poor dog side. Of course, I’m already branded that way even though I like animals because again, some people didn’t like something I did or the steps I took to remedy my mistake. I was on the wrong side of things.

It happens a lot here. This place is more polarized than a magnet, with little reasonableness to be had anywhere. Once you know that you know why these threads continue to appear. For my part, I’ve posted threads that play on outrage so I’m as guilty as everything else. Like my last thread. It can be seen as one of those types, but it was more a PSA than anything else even though it devolved into a moral outrage thread. Whattayagonnado?

So are you fer it, or are you agin’ it?

I must know!

People coming together and expressing outrage is how society keeps people on the same page as to what deserves outrage and what does not.

Would you accept an “I don’t know?”

The black-and-white nature of these threads and the pile-ons that happen give posters “permission” to say things that cross all sorts of lines, and usually kill any chance at a useful discussion.

OTOH, that hasn’t stopped me from opening every single MO thread since I signed up, and occasionally participating in them.

What does that make me?

I think that in the future we should just have a “Moral Outrage” sticky thread. The OP could look something like this.

Original Post:

According to news source, a innocent creature was mean action in the body part with a thing by entity. I’m so emotion by this! smiley smiley smiley.

Your Followup:

That makes me emotion! That poor innocent creature! I hope entity gets mean action in the body part in prison!!!
Please choose one word or phrase for each category:

news source: Associated Press; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; Fox News Online; e-mail glurge

innocent creature: boy; girl; toddler; baby; puppy; dog; baby duck; filly; bunny rabbit; goose; veal calf

mean action: hit; struck; raped; smothered; beaten; stapled; pounded; touched

body part: head; chest; pelvis; hoo-hoo; bum; love cavern; nose; eye socket

thing: two by four; toilet plunger; can of cheeze-whiz; propane torch; barium enema; fire coral; herd of goats

entity: mother; father; shepherd; teacher; family pet; scoutmaster; pastor; dentist

emotion: disgusted; outraged; indignified; saddened; pissed off;

smiley: :confused: :mad: :eek: :o :rolleyes:

Then, everytime someone wanted a dose of moral outrage, they could just make their own set of posts according to the OP! For example:

Original Post:

According to Associated Press, a toddler was beaten in the pelvis with a can of cheeze which by a shepherd. I’m so indignified by this! :mad: :mad: :mad:

My Followup:

That makes me pissed off! That poor toddler! I hope the shepherd gets pounded in the hoo-hoo in prison!!!

With this solution, everyone can feed their moral outrage at anytime!

Which is good, otherwise we might forget that throwing a baby out the window of a moving vehicle is a bad thing.

See now this is reasoning that makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder if this is some sort of an instinctive behavior and, assuming that it is, what that says about folks that not simply partaking in the ritual.

Metacom, Ha! It’s like one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure™ books. I love it!

You look for interesting discussion in The Pit???

Actually, I find the pit is where some of the best discussions take place. Some of the nastiest are mixed in with them, of course. :slight_smile:

It only seems obvious to you because you read that thread. Yesterday, you’d have been like “Someone chucked a kid onto the interstate? Meh…”

There’s other ways people learn the mores of their society too, of course.

We know that:

Politicians do greasy, sleazy things in their own interest.
Cell phone users are annoying.
Other drivers piss people off.
Misbehaving children in public are unpleasant.
Package delivery companies do not perform as expected.
People are rude to customer service representatives
Customers service representatives are nasty to customers.
Someone wrongly left negative feedback on Ebay.
Conservatives are greedy, self-absorbed toads.
Liberals hate America.
Relationships are screwed up.
Sports heroes and team owners suck.

So what are we getting out of repeatedly posting on these themes? Is it something pleasurable??? :dubious:

Damn straight. Imagine, throwing away perfectly good food like that.

Seriously, though, the ‘outrage of the’ day threads ARE pretty formulaic. I figure the only real reason they show up is because the OP wants to see a thread they authored on the board that they know will get a bunch of sympathetic responses, but they don’t have much to talk about otherwise.

I’m mostly amused by the threads where posters ritually shake their fists at terrorists, as if any particular terrorist is ever gonna visit this board in the first place, or, if he or she does, reads such posts and say “Oh,dear, these people are very angry with me. I must rethink what I am doing.”

The ones that really skeeve me out, however, are the posts where someone decries some inhumane act carried out by one person or another, then writes a lengthy, detailed explanation of the sorts of inhumanities they would like to carry out on the perpretrator themselves. Given that I just moments ago made a joke about eating babies, that even I am freaked out by this behavior oughta carry some weight.

Maybe it’s the message board equivalent of stereotypy? :dubious: