There seems to be no end to this pandemic. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. From its beginning in the early 2000’s, it has grown more destructive every year and the infection has spread to more and more people. No, I’m not talking about COVID. I’m referring to ‘outragism’ – the almost pathological drive to express outrage at the world around you.
Once infected with outragism, the newly emerged outragist becomes addicted to outrage and develops an insatiable urge to find something new about which to be outraged every day. Similar to hunting, outragists scour the wilderness of social media to track down lame policies or weak opinions which they believe they can easily skewer on the barb of their tongue. And just like the physical hunter, the outragist is prepared to spend many hours each day searching the interwoven paths of the digital forest until they find what they consider to be a sufficiently weak prey which they can rip to shreds.
Outragism is also strongly geared toward pack-hunting. The freshly eviscerated carcass of an opinion or idea that has been hunted down and wounded by a single outragist soon attracts a crowd of braying, salivating others who join in for the kill. Indeed, outragists exhibit a kind of collective savage joy as they rip apart prey that they have declared to be dangerous or misguided or distasteful to their narrow palates. This pack hunting aspect of outragism is commonly referred to as ‘cancel culture.’ It is a kind of communal blood-lust that seeks to completely dismember a perceived prey and remove all signs of its previous existence.
One of the puzzling symptoms of outragism is the strangely altered self-perception that almost always accompanies it. People who have never studied economics and can barely balance their own personal budgets, once infected, suddenly believe themselves to be experts at analysing economic policy who can rip to shreds the complex national economic policies of whatever government happens to be in power. Similarly, people who can barely spell epidemiology and have never even examined a virus under a microscope become overnight experts in pandemic management and virology. People who left school at 15 or 16 are suddenly able to perceive things more clearly than experts who have studied those issues at university. People whose IQs more closely resemble a soccer score than a basketball score become, almost overnight, convinced of their newly enhanced cognitive acumen and feel competent to debate complex issues with intelligent people who have spent a lifetime studying them. Yes, rampant hubris is one of the most easily identifiable symptoms for diagnosing outragism.
Outragists also develop an insatiable desire to broadcast their overconfident opinions to the world. In their minds, they become a star in their own media empire and are convinced that the rest of the world needs – in fact, is clamouring – to hear their clever opinions. In the past, prior to the advent of the digital world, ordinary people would simply mutter at their TVs or shake their heads as they read the morning newspaper if they came across something with which they disagreed. Now, however, those infected with outragism have their own world-wide multimedia stage from which they can broadcast their ill-informed opinions and pent-up outrage to a world which they believe is dying to hear their opinion. “I have an opinion and the rest of the world needs to hear it” is the underlying mantra.
Another common symptom of outragism is a growing love of anarchy. In the case of some outragists, the visceral thrill of ripping apart ideas and people they don’t like becomes so addictive that it develops into a pathological need to destroy everything and everyone. They become addicted to the bloodlust of tearing down the values and conventions that have upheld society for thousands of years. They become ravenous in their determination to destroy everything around them as they give vent to their mindless outrage. Recently, a bunch of outragists who were protesting the treatment of tennis star Novac Djokovic in Australia, attacked the car that Djokovic was in when he was finally released from his isolation hotel. They were supposedly there to support him, but they ended up attacking the car carrying him and his support team! This is a classic example of how outragist bloodlust can take over and carry people towards mindless anarchy.
I suspect that many of you reading this post, ordinary ‘uninfected’ people going about your life quietly and respectfully, have been the occasional victim of a marauding outragist. You may have posted a personal thought or opinion on your own social media page, to be read by your friends and family, only to have it hunted down and lampooned by an outragist – a total stranger who ambushes your social media page and launches a vitriolic attack upon you for daring to have a different opinion to him or her.
Ordinary, respectful people when they read a social media post that they disagree with, simply move on and let it be. They shrug it off. They are secure enough to accept that there are opinions in the world that differ from their own and they don’t feel the need to dismantle or belittle them in order to bolster their own opinions. Outragists, on the other hand, feel an irrepressible need to utterly destroy anything that contradicts their own narrow views. They cannot tolerate the existence of contradictory viewpoints and they seek to bludgeon those who hold them.
I have spoken of outragism as a kind of disease that has infected large swathes of humanity. But, of course, there is no virus that underlies this widespread societal issue. Its cause is not a microbe in the air but a deficiency in the soul. It arises from a toxic blend of narcissism and intolerance that is now rampant in our self-focused society. The inevitable consequence of turning away from God and proclaiming ourselves as the supreme rulers is that each person is now free to enthrone themselves as the ultimate authority in all matters. The outragist seeks to tear down the world around them, simply because that world dares to exist contrary to his or her own sovereign decrees. The outragist is effectively saying, “I am King, I am the ultimate wise counsellor, only my opinion matters, and if you don’t agree with me, I will rip you to shreds.”
I wonder what God thinks of all this. He must be outraged.
I also wonder how many outragists will be outraged at my comments.
Kevin Simington (B.Th. Dip. Min.) is a theologian, social commentator and Anglican minister. He is the author of 16 books, and his latest non-fiction book, “Reconnecting with God”, is available world-wide. Connect with Kevin on Facebook or his website, SmartFaith.net. You can also check out his highly acclaimed fiction books at kevinsimington.com.