The Outrage Industry

It’s been called by other names, Outrage Machine, Chaos Machine, the Attention Economy, often referring particularly to social media and algorithmic feeds.

We use the term Outrage Industry in a broader sense to encompass many purveyors of Outrage Porn and angertianment, including cable and online news, social media, and political campaigns.

  • Cable and online “breaking news” like MSNBC, Fox News, CNN
  • Social media and their algorithmic feeds, like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Nextdoor
  • Political campaigns, email and text blasts

All these platforms vie for our attention, our vote, our money. One way or another, they profit from our fear and outrage.

It’s a battle for our attention. And it’s a fierce competition, where aggressors try to outdo each other with the next bigger and more morally egregious outrage.

They use Outrage Porn to trigger emotions in the deepest and most ancient parts of our brain, producing imperceptible jolts of powerful neurotransmitters like dopamine and cortisol. We literally get withdrawals if we don’t get enough.

The Outrage Industry has been telling us to hate the other side, that they are literally “evil,” for so long, we now believe it. We have become morally indignant. We know we are right and they are wrong.

Because of all this, whichever side we’re on, studies show our perception of how much the other side hates us is exaggerated several fold – they hate us, yes, but not as much as we think they do. This only makes us more indignant (the good news is, this means we have more in common than we think, which is key to making progress).

And it goes beyond politics. Sites like Nextdoor feed off our fears and outrage too.