Maybe it was the phase of the Moon yesterday, but two different people were unhappy with discussions here and launched personal attacks. Google says I’m not the first to coin the term recreational outrage, but it’s certainly a perfect description.
If you read my every word — and I know you do, Gentle Reader — you’ll remember that my compulsory 9/11 post from 2006 mentioned “recreational grief”, a term I picked up from Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying:
The degree of public mourning following the deaths of Lady Diana and John F Kennedy Jr led social observers to wonder if grief is an ever-present latent feeling just waiting to be exploited by the political elite, if peopleâ€™s lives are so empty that they engage in recreational grief… Perhaps individuals are emotive puppets manipulated by the mass media and/or political elite, and people cry because they are shown other people crying for a celebrity.
Perhaps outrage is also an ever-present latent feeling. If people’s lives are so comfortable that there’s nothing serious to get angry about, they’ll find somewhere to vent their outrage — going to considerable effort to find it.
Yesterday’s incidents could well illustrate this.
Gavin decided to call me an “asshole” for running the Heath Ledger jokes page.
Did any of you brain dead assholes stop to think Heathâ€™s family have access to the world wide web, and could read this shit?
I hope that when you pass on, some asshole posts jokes about you!
But then again, that ainâ€™t gonna happenâ€¦â€¦.
â€¦â€¦.Because your not rich, famous or good looking, hey?
To which I replied:
Youâ€™re right. Iâ€™ve never realised it before. The Internet might be read by someone! Weâ€™d better not put anything there which could possibly upset any of the 1+ billion Internet users. When you get a moment, could you drop me a quick list of everything that has the potential to be upsetting? Iâ€™ll make sure that itâ€™s never mentioned again.
I emailed Gavin privately, asking him if he’d answer, non-abusively, the question I’d actually posed on that page: If youâ€™re going to whinge that â€œItâ€™s too soon to make jokes,â€ then at least suggest how long someone has to be dead before theyâ€™re not sacred any more.
His even more abusive answer, which I didn’t publish, contains the most delicious irony:
I was talking about respect asshole, something which obviously you don’t have, and never will.
Respect. Asshole. That’s a keeper.
What’s interesting is that Gavin was searching for the name of the music a TV station played under their report of Ledger’s death. He saw Google’s link to Heath Ledger jokes — but that delivered him to the Arts category index. He had to click again on “Looking for the Heath Ledger death jokes? Try here.” He presumably read some jokes to generate some outrage, and then scrolled all the way past 160-odd comments to the form where he could finally express his outrage.
That’s quite an effort.
And yet he didn’t bother exploring any other page on the site before doing that. He had no idea of the context in which he was calling people “brain dead assholes”. He only read About Stilgherrian after he’d posted his second piece of abuse.
Similarly, carra was searching the blogosphere for “anthony callea” and found our current poll, Who’s the ultimate pop princess? Not finding any information to fuel what I assume is a fan’s appetite for news — and maybe upset that I described Callea as “fading fast”, certainly an accurate description of his music sales — he or she posted an insult.
The only amusing thing about this is that 10 people have wasted their time visiting your pathetic blog with an F grade attempt at humour.
After looking at just one post out of 900+ carra’s considered judgement is “pathetic”. I am, of course, shattered.
At least carra took the time to vote for Kylie Minogue before venting.
So, is there “latent outrage” in all of us, waiting to express itself recreationally? Or am I way off the mark?