Thursday, June 11, 2009

The mountain and the molehill

I can't believe I'm saying this, but The Globe & Mail's Christine Blatchford is correct when she says there's nothing sexy in the leaked tapes of Lisa Raitt that I blogged about this week.

Yes, everyone has made a mountain of a relative molehill. But she's deliberately ignoring a plain and simple fact of human nature: we love to be outraged. We want to get on our moral high horses and condemn those who lack in what we consider to be decency, common sense, or what have you. So we welcome opportunities from politicos, the media, etc., to get riled up. And politicos and the media take advantage of our predilection for outrage to gain votes or get clicks. One big circle of misery that feeds itself.

Which leads me to the other thing that is human nature. Typically, we want people to share our outrage. Whether it is politicians eager to take down an opponent, media commentators like Blatchford, who invites us to share her outrage at our outrage, etc. There's safety in numbers.

That's why Lisa Raitt's comments have stirred attacks from Canada's opposition politicians, from talking heads, and from those individuals ever ready to write a letter of shock and outrage to their newspaper editor. We see a pulpit where we can make our holier-than-thou-how-dare-you proclamations, we step up and vent our spleen. It makes us feel good about ourselves to decry what we perceive to be someone else's stupidity, moral turpitude, insensitivity or failings.

Of course, in doing so, we conveniently ignore our own instances of gallows humor, backbiting or loose talk. And we become hypocrites, like Blatchford, who relies on our outrage as fodder for columns like the one I linked to, or me for calling us all on this.

What this controversy reveals, and this is not news, is how easy it is to stir up people's passions over even the most trivial or mundane items. So I'll repeat myself by saying that the more strategically you speak in any situation, private or public, the lest grist you give them. Which means people have to find some other nit to pick to satisfy their Jones for insult and offense.

No comments:

Post a Comment