We’re all pissed off about something, aren’t we? Well, maybe not outraged or pissed, but certainly bothered about something.
We were talking about swearing before the show (“The Speakeasy;” have I mentioned it?) the other night, and I remarked about how, when I was a kid and just launching my career in profanity, it took extreme stimuli to get me to cuss. Now, though, it’s like “Shit! My fucking shoelace is untied.” It took a while, but my baseline for outrage has lowered over the decades. It’s not that I’m actually distraught over my shoelace being untied; it’s that the impetus for inspiring my swearing has become almost non-existent. (Fun fact: the word I save for my most angsty moments? “Phooey.” Go figure …) Twentysome years ago, I was in production of “Anything Goes,” and one of the actors – an older actor – just could not remember his lines (I have great sympathy for him these days …), but rather than calling for line or ad libbing, he’s swear. So instead of a line like, “Billy, where’s my passport?,” it’d come out as “Goddammit, Billy, where’s my fucking passport? Son of a bitch!” (I haven’t yet reached that point of forgetting my lines, but it’s probably right around the corner.)
But I don’t think I’m alone in finding swearing easy to inspire, but in being outraged over … something. (There’s a reason I love Keith Olbermann, though even he went too far for me, occasionally; he just went to the “Special Comments” well too often.) I’ve gotten a little better since the election. Anyone who was on my Facebook feed in those days knows that, at the least provocation or overreaction by the Republicans (or underreaction by Obama), and I’d post the offending story on my wall in a matter of moments. And while I’m still outraged by plenty – the NSA, fracking, Wall Street, the chemical spill in West Virginia, Sochi, etc., etc., etc. – I no longer post on most of it. I’m just kind of burned out.
The impetus for writing this is that I’m noticing the way that Slate and Salon, which were formerly two of my favorite go-to sites, have really started to turn into a forum for a few writers to express their personal ire over, well, pretty much anything. They might as well both be called “How Dare They!?”
For example, Salon right now has their 473rd (by my estimate) article castigating Woody Allen; an outraged article about a remark Lindsey Vonn made about celebrities being too thin (how dare she!); an outraged article asking whether a Russian figure skater performing to music from “Schindler’s List” cheapened the movie (like it was possible to make that movie less relevant or more tastelessly kitschy); an outraged article mentioning how awful it is that former SNLer Victoria Jackson wants to run for a county commission in Tennessee (how dare an ill-informed winger run for office when no other public official is stupid!); an outraged article castigating a New Yorker article that blamed Jeff Bezos and Amazon for ruining American literacy (or something); an outraged article saying how bad Harvey Weinstein is for running a “misleading “ ad campaign for “Philamena” (imagine someone in Hollywood doing something underhanded); and an outraged article about the Copenhagen zoo killing that giraffe. So much outrage! And that’s just a snapshot from one evening. It goes on like that all day, every day until I’m suffering from outrage exhaustion. I mean, I am outraged about this giraffe thing, but who can see the legit stuff amid all the other bile?
And, turning to Slate, I find an outraged article about Arthur Chu, the man who’s using game theory to clean up on Jeopardy; an outraged article claiming (and I have to quote this) “Bars Are Too Loud and Cafes Are Too Quiet. It’s Ruining American Democracy” (words fail me); an outraged article assuring us that the female head of GM is making as much as her male predecessors (why this should be outrageous baffles me); an outraged article calling for all good people to shun one of Woody Allen’s friends for defending him (Slate, like Salon, is all over this one); and a series of outraged articles saying liberals have hampered the progress of the poor and minority groups through such policies as affirmative action.
I don’t know how these people sleep. I mean, I’ll admit my own outrages are legion, but I don’t write long articles about them (and this is a blog post, dammit – and I’m not outraged, I’m just observing, so shut up) and can let them go. But these folks remind me of David Lynch’s “Angriest Dog in the World:” “The dog who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. …Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.” I mean, really, how do these people sleep? How can these people sleep? These outrages don’t sleep; they continue 24 hours a day, termiting their way into our society and our lives, weakening our moral character.
It’s outrageous, I tell you.