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April 15, 2006

How Angry Are We?

By Ezra

To follow-up on Shakes' terrific comments below, the Washington Post on the white-hot fury of contemporary liberals article suffers from a surprising aimlessness, given the number of directions you could take that story. I'm all for an impressionistic article on My Left Wing's Maryscott O'Connor, but this one dots the canvas without ever coalescing into a picture. Is the anger good? Is it truly new, or merely the inevitable result of easily accessible forums in which impassioned citizens can publicly vent? O'Connor mentions how connected she feels -- isn't that worth exploring?

Sigh. I'm not an angry guy; it's a temperament thing. EJ Dionne once wrote that he had the views of liberal and the personality of a moderate, and I think that's pretty apt on my end too. But I'm a social guy and I know a lot of people. Always have. Quite a few of them are angry. But it wasn't until recently that such souls could shout into blogs. So what's really changed here? The medium, the message, or both? And is the left really any angrier than the outrage-o-matic that is Michelle Malkin, or the bubbling pit of venom and bile that is Little Green Footballs? Those are the interesting questions, but this article didn't answer, or even address, them.

April 15, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Some might say it's not just the anger, but what you do with it. How and where ideas are presented rightfully or wrongfully gives them legitimacy, deserved or not.

Malkin? Brilliant in a condescending way. Or the other way around? If you agree with her, she is invariably brilliant.

But how does one explain Coulter? And why won't these same people who now deride O'Connor say even a peep about a woman who regularly goes beyond the pale, but from the right side? Oy.

Posted by: The Heretik | Apr 15, 2006 6:50:13 PM

I think the word "angry" is a misnomer. Of course the Left is angry. That's pretty much the nature of a democratic country -- when you don't get your way, when you think things are going all to hell...you tend to get angry about it. The Right does the same thing.

Not only is it natural, I think it's pretty good. If we didn't generate a little moral outrage, we'd be an odd collection of humans. Passions are part of the human experience. Consider MLK's letter from the Birmingham Jail. He was quite angry, and righteously so.

The difference between his anger and that of some others is that he didn't allow his anger to cloud his temperment. He made good, solid, respectful arguments. I find the US drift away from economic freedom and towards socialism morally objectionable. But anger about that does not require screaming at my ideological opponents and questioning their integrity, morality and decency.

The problem is not "anger". The problem is a lack of decorum, decency and respect.

Posted by: Jon Henke | Apr 15, 2006 7:10:47 PM

Ezra,

Never thought of you as angry at all. Passionate, sometimes, never angry. Passionate is, in my opinion, a prerequisite to good opinion journalism.

Posted by: Captain Ed | Apr 15, 2006 8:13:31 PM

You can't really have polarizing times and then act surprised when things are polarized - I actually like Malkin on some things, but this is where her anger meter is doubtless skewed; she offers highly polemical arguments with words and opinions that are bound to push buttons, then offers up an ingenue-ish "my goodness they're angry" when people complain. It's fine as a tactic, but really, if you don't likie controversy, there's plenty of ways to avoid it.

Yes, people are angry. My mother is generally angrier at politica these days than really I've ever seen, and she gets set off just watching Bush for a matter of minutes. I find myself getting calmer and calmer, but I'm perverse that way. I passed angry a long time ago and now I just shake my head in amazement and wait for our return to power.

So yes I think there's two reasonable things to say (and I've said them before): a) you're damn right we're angry; and b) frankly y'all on the right have a deep well of anger and cyncism of your own to deal with, and what's up with that, anyway? I think we've probably gone overboard, socially, in flagging all anger as bad and inappropriate. Some anger, healthily expressed, is perfectly natural. And Bush wouldn't be through the floor in his approval ratings if he'd let some of the anger in the zeitgeist play itself out sooner rather than fester in quiet corners. Acting as if "anger" is a surprising thing at this late date seems naive.

Posted by: weboy | Apr 15, 2006 8:32:25 PM

Basketball players shake hands as they walk off the court, cause well, heck everybody is getting their $5 million anyway. Politics can be viewed and played as a zero-sum competition or as an fair apportionment. (Insert Rawls here). When one guy gets a tax cut and another loses his job or program...or to notice the Freds, when one gets a tax increase to pay for somebody else's government subsidy; or when Halliburton get bonuses while kids loses eyes and arms...there is going to be anger.

This kind of stuff is always going to happen, I suspect the anger gets intense when someone feels their interests are unrepresented even if they lose (Insert Rawls here). The left feels terribly unrepresented, if we had 45 Finegolds would we feel better? Or worse?

Myself, I first got angry during Watergate, and then the combination of Reagonomics and quitting dope in the early 80s has left me in a babbling rage. One good question:why do I seek it out? I could stop reading about politics, economics, foreign affairs. My partner is news-free, and directs her rage at her bosses and co-workers and people who cut her off at exit ramps. The normal healthy stuff.

Oh. And the weather. Dallas has been 25 degrees above normal for months, which was nice in January, but we are approaching 100 in April. I expect to be banned from the blogosphere by the start of summer.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Apr 15, 2006 9:20:38 PM

You forgot to mention the caffeine-overdosed rantings of Ann Coulter. But, seriously, I think the format of combative news media promotes some of the ANGER. Fox news talk shows like "Hannity and Colmes" or "O'Reilly Factor" are truly bottom dwelling enterprises, but they seem popular enough. Who watches this garbage of the mind? Angry people.

Posted by: John Furie Zacharias | Apr 16, 2006 12:18:44 PM

I'm sorry, but among all this outrage over the post article, and it's rather transparant intentions, there is something I haven't seen many in left blogistan acknowledge. Whatever the merits of other representatives of Left Blogistan, Maryscott O'Connor is a cartoon, albeit a very self promotional one. When I read down to the point where she was booming Howard Beale's "I'm Mad as hell" through her Ipod I honestly felt I was in a another universe. I genuinely felt embarassed for her.

We need to stop pretending that any & every one with a blogger account, & the will to type variations of "Your face! My Ass Repukelicanazi!" Has something worthwile to say.

We can be angry without embracing MSOC self parody, that doesen't serve left blogistan well at all.

Posted by: Dustin | Apr 16, 2006 4:24:48 PM

When I read the WaPo piece, I just thought the author was trying his hand at creative nonfiction. It wasn't about Maryscott O'Connor. This is just a piece that's going in his portfolio as a "fresh take" on the "personality profile." Maybe he's working his way toward a Vanity Fair gig.

Posted by: Pepper | Apr 16, 2006 6:02:01 PM

Perhaps it is projection, we all want others to be like us unless we're trying to be special, but I have a feeling many like myself do fall into a third category of periodic anger, but we just can't sustain it. Anger and rage fairly quickly simmer down into grim resolve or grim resignation, depending on my energy level for the day.

So anger is important, it is healthy in that it ennervates us to action, but I myself cannot sustain it for long periods of time. Those who can, are made of sterner stuff. Also, life's too short to be always boiling. A nice, steady simmer is about right for me.

Plane

Posted by: Plane Crazy | Apr 18, 2006 2:27:54 PM

Sometimes you have to get angry and fight for what is right. There is a great web site that is fighting for our national existence: www.saneworks.us. You should check out their site.

Posted by: DanWinters | Jun 26, 2006 8:13:52 PM

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