The Art of Outrage – How to Be Appropriately Offended By Everything

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Coffee cups. Politics. Refugees. Religion.

Let’s all just take a few minutes to scream at one another to get it out of our systems.

I’ll wait…

Loud Noises

Feel better? Be sure to check your social media feeds at this point because it is very likely you have missed one of your sorta-kinda friends saying something that would really upset another one of your somewhat closer but not that close friends and give you reason to think he or she is a flaming Liberal or perhaps even an [gasp] Evangelical Conservative.

I suppose this type of thing has been happening for a long time (we are all human after all), but it seems our access to the internet and the ability to communicate broadly with people we hardly know or care about has brought about a new interesting phenomenon. We have turned outrage into an art form. We rail against everything. Every political, religious, or social issue turns into an online joust, and we grow our lance by being louder, by being the most polarizing, by insulting anyone and everyone who does not hold the same views as ignorant, backward, or worse.

The best part…we all think we’re more right than everyone else.

If we’re going to insist, then, on honing our ability to be offended by posting insulting memes, oversimplified video campaigns, and extended diatribes by [insert favorite public figure here], we should discuss a few important steps to make our work at least worthy of the local art fair.

Step 1 – Lay down a thick layer of self-righteousness.
This is the base coat. It’s the required backdrop for any good piece of indignation art. Be sure to include shades of I’m Never Wrong and a strong hue of How Can You Be So Delusional. It’s this step that creates the foundation for supreme outrage because it is difficult to be appropriately stirred up without feeling like your opinion is the only acceptable response. This process allows us to forget that there are other good people who may hold a different view than we do and causes us to dehumanize them to the point that our perception of another person is based solely on his/her position on whatever the latest polarizing issue happens to be.

Step 2 – Be sure to use contrasting colors.
Hyperbole wins the day. It might not be beautiful, but it’s dynamic, and that’s what we’re going for. Pick a color on the color wheel and make a beeline with your brush to the opposite end of the spectrum. You see, the second part of appropriate outrage is to be entrenched in a position to the far left or the far right. There is no room for nuance. No place for gray. As a matter of fact, if you’re so inclined, this would be a great time to leave out all the other colors and opt strictly for black and white. Retreating to our corners allows us to gather all the pent-up vitriol, loads of questionable “data,” and galvanizing support from our comrades-in-arms to come out guns blazing. As an added bonus, it also aids in gathering enough speed so as to create a satisfyingly violent collision as we meet those people from the other side in the middle of the ring. Ahh, yes. Speaking of the ring. Now it’s time to find an appropriate venue to display our beautiful work of art.

Step 3 – Display very publicly.
Obviously, we want to create art worth appreciating, so be sure to find the most public place available to display your masterpiece. It’s better if there aren’t actually people physically there, though, because it would be too easy to fall prey to a rational conversation or even respect for the other people there. This is unacceptable and leaves us in a bit of a predicament. At this point, we must decide whether we will keep our precious art to ourselves or find a very public, but very impersonal place to display it. Wait. I’ve got just the thing: the INTERNET! Of course. It’s brilliant! Where else can you find a wide audience with varying backgrounds, vocabularies, education, experiences, etc. to enjoy your work behind the safety of their keyboards and without the pressure of normative practices for social interaction? What could go wrong?

Step 4 – Accuse everyone who doesn’t “get it” of being ignorant.
Alright, we’ve come to perhaps the most important point for budding outrage artists like us. When all else fails, claim intellectual superiority. All the greatest artists were misunderstood, so why should we be any different? Those who don’t agree with our opinionated and divisive work are obviously not as refined as we are, so we should be sure to tell them as much. If it’s so obvious to us, those who oppose us must simply be inferior. So when someone makes a relatively decent point that threatens our entrenched views, be sure to point out a different part of the painting they obviously aren’t considering. Also be aware of those who compliment a part of your work but then make a slight, but seemingly rational, critique. They are the most dangerous. Don’t fall for their flattery. Immediately discount their taste as unrefined and block them from your news feed. We can’t have anyone persuaded by their base and offensive views.

I hope this has been a helpful tutorial for anyone looking to join in the modern social phenomena that is social media outrage. Just don’t forget that it takes practice to become an expert, but don’t let that keep you from trying. It definitely hasn’t stopped the people I apparently know on the internet.

Happy painting!

P.S. In case any of you are wondering, I do believe in some very objective truths, and I believe we can have some really important conversations about many of the issues facing us in a modern world. I have my doubts as to whether those conversations can happen on social media, but perhaps that’s for another post. The intent of this article is simply to help us think a little more deeply about the way we respond. There are definitely times when responses are necessary, but I fear we’ve lost a lot of the nuance, the personal respect, and the ability to calmly reason with one another in our pursuit of being appropriately outraged. But then again, that’s just my opinion. 🙂


“People might look at you a bit funny, but it’s okay. Artists are allowed to be a bit different.”
– Bob Ross

Brandon is the founder of A Life to Lead. He is also the husband of Beth, father to Ethan and Kate, and the coordinator of the D6 Conference.

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