A few months ago I wrote a post pointing out a similarity between Phil Robertson’s philosophy of life and Aristotle’s ethics: both are based on the notion that human beings are meant to be happy. Unabashed happiness is, I think, the reason for the success of Duck Dynasty.
Now Mr Robertson, an Evangelical Christian (really something of a fundamentalist), has gotten himself into a world of trouble by calling homosexual behavior sinful, a designation it shares in his mind with bestiality and heterosexual fornication. He thinks sex is for a man and wife, and no one else.
Of course, the professionally aggrieved have decided that mentioning homosexual acts and bestiality in the same paragraph IS AN OUTRAGE, his equal condemnation of heterosexual fornication notwithstanding, and got Mr. Robertson suspended from his own TV show.
A few thoughts on outrage:
1) What we call “outrage” is almost never genuine or spontaneous, but a theatrical posture, a prepared response waiting for the right moment, and the right victim.
2) The “outrage” of the perpetual grievance societies is never directed against acts, but against opinions. Opinions are rational (or semi-rational) things that ought to be argued with on a rational level, but “outrage” is anything but rational.
3) “Outrage” is not an intellectual response, because the peddlers of outrage do not believe in reason. Casting yourself as a victim who has been mortally offended is a way to win an argument without having to give reasons. In the end, I think the outrage machines are about power, and nothing else.
More thoughts on outrage here.
Look, I am glad to live in a country where someone can be openly gay (or Jewish, or Evangelical, for that matter) and have a reasonable expectation of not being subjected to physical violence or workplace discrimination because of it. But in a free, cosmopolitan society, no one has a reasonable expectation of having his every lifestyle choice celebrated, or of never being offended, or of never having to rationally justify a position, or of never running into a jerk who simply does not like you.
And using faux outrage against people with different opinions is, in fact, antithetical to the notion of a free society.
Update: It just occurred to me that lately we have been seeing “Outrage Wars”. Alec Baldwin was fired from MSNBC for calling an intrusive paparazzo a c**ksucker, largely because right-wingers (who don’t really care at all about gay rights, Alec Baldwin, paparazzi or MSNBC) made a big deal out of the case. What they were doing was employing the left-wing Alinsky tactic of “making the opposition live by its own rules.” Now, I do not blame the right for cynically pushing back against the left’s Outrage Machine (itself a cynical creation), but it is sad to note just how far public discourse can sink.
After all, if someone was outside your house taking pictures of your family, wouldn’t you have some choice words for him?