“Recreational outrage” is annoying

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 people’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.

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