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The Cult of Outrage: A High Horse is Better Than the High Road

In a recent appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, CNN anchor Don Lemon discussed both Michael Sam’s drafting and those condemning Donald Sterling. Even more surprising than the fact that the Tom Joyner Morning Show is still on-the-air, Lemon actually made an interesting point.

Lemon asked why the level of support from outspoken sports and public figures doesn’t match the level of condemnation against Donald Sterling. “So here’s the real question,” he said, “the same voices, the big named players, leaders, and influencers who so vehemently denounced Donald Sterling by sending out statements and tweets and giving press conferences, where are they in support of Michael Sam?”

Lemon suggested that people now “compartmentalize bigotry” and cherry-pick the safe things to rail against. Racism is universally despised in public society—even by racists themselves—while disgust with homosexuality, specifically because of the religious angle, is more popular than it seems on television.

While all of this might be true, what Lemon doesn’t mention—perhaps because he is a part of it—is the Cult of Outrage. The reason that the level of support for Michael Sam doesn’t match the outrage at Sterling is because support is boring. There is something much more personally fulfilling, it seems, to condemn someone that it is to support them. In choosing which news stories to read, ask yourself which are you more likely to choose: the article that says something positive about something you believe in or the article that promises someone you don’t like said something outrageous?

Is this indicative of a larger societal problem or just confirmation that anger is a far more motivating emotion than pleasure or contentment? Maybe it’s the idea that public condemnation is often seen as “taking a stand,” while public statements of support can be interpreted as a person “trying to get his/her name in the story?” There’s no way to know, but Don Lemon is certainly right when he suggests we could all stand to be a little nicer to one another. Sorry about that first paragraph, Don.

By Neon Tommy [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.