George Will: “Anger Is All The Rage”

Back in March we discussed the bile and vitriol on offer at MoPornNorthampton, and the consequences for the quality of public debate. Peter Brooks of TalkBackNorthampton considered the matter, then issued a defense of “trash talk”. George Will discusses this phenomenon in “Anger Is All The Rage”, published March 25 by The Washington Post:

…today’s theatrical anger is not without precedent. But now there is a new style in anger–fury as a fashion accessory, indignation as evidence of good character…

No wonder Americans are infatuated with anger: It is democratic. Anyone can express it… So in this age that is proud of having achieved “the repeal of reticence,” anger exhibitionism is pandemic.
There are the tantrums–sometimes both theatrical and perfunctory–of talking heads on television or commentators writing in vitriol… The blogosphere often is, as one blogger joyfully says, “an electronic primal scream…”

Many people who loathe George W. Bush have adopted what Peter Wood describes as “ecstatic anger as a mode of political action.” Anger often is, Wood says, “a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted.”

Wood, an anthropologist and author of “A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now,” says the new anger “often has the look-at-me character of performance art…” It has achieved prestige and become “a credential for group membership.” As a result, “Americans have been flattening their emotional range into an angry monotone…”

Today’s anger is a coping device for everyday life. It also is the defining attribute of an increasingly common personality type: the person who “unless he is angry, feels he is nothing at all…”

Wood argues, however, that as anger becomes a gas polluting the social atmosphere, it becomes not a sign of personal uniqueness but of a herd impulse.

Once upon a time, Americans admired models of self-control, people such as George Washington and Jackie Robinson, who mastered their anger rather than relishing being mastered by it… Today, however, proclaimed anger–the more vituperative the better–is regarded as a sign of good character and emotional vitality…

Today, many people preen about their anger as a badge of authenticity: I snarl, therefore I am.

See also:

New York Times: “Whatever Happened to Online Etiquette?”
The real shame, though, is that the kneejerk “everyone else is an idiot” tenor is poisoning the potential the Internet once had…

[I]nstead of finding common ground, we’re finding new ways to spit on the other guy, to push them away…

The Virtue of Civility: Bringing depth, respectfulness and integrity back to our national discourse
Patricia Schroeder: Having participated in the political arena for a very long time, I find the meanness is way over the top. One of things we track is the number of women going into politics, and in the last four years the number has been going down instead of up. When you ask women who are more than qualified why they won’t get into politics, they look at you as if to say, “What, do you think I’m nuts?”

Andrew Shelffo Denies Being Paid by Capital Video
It would be a shame if people refrained from questioning or criticizing those who write on MassLive for fear of receiving a torrent of bluster, evasions, demands for apologies, accusations of ethnic insensitivity and counterquestions.

2 thoughts on “George Will: “Anger Is All The Rage”

  1. I know you won’t post this comment, but I just have to say–how can you live with yourself? Are you seriously complaining about “bile and vitriole” when everyone knows YOU TRY TO GET PEOPLE FIRED simply because they hurt your feelings? Unless you’re going to take your own advice, maybe you should stop complaining about this stuff.

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