Inciting Anger Is Not Enough
January 3, 2007
Over the past decade, people who care about what is happening in the world and who feel compelled to tell the truth about it have had a tremendous realization: we have the means of production to make media. This realization has spurred a media revolution in which the traditional model of passively consuming the news through a corporate filter has given way to a new model of active citizenship and aggressive truth-telling.
With at least 60 million blogs in existence, according to Technorati.com, there are many voices vying for our attention. Though citizen journalists and alternative media-makers often struggle to find distribution and reach a substantial audience, their presence has dramatically and positively altered the media-political complex during this era of columnists bribed by administration officials, news stories created by federal government, increasingly concentrated ownership over the media, risk-averse careerism, and censorship.
It is a clear sign of the democratization of the media when the Internet, once the headquarters of only the political fringe, provides such a strong progressive community that the "Net-Roots" can influence an election on any scale.
Anyone who learns the truth about the Bush administration--whether it is in the context of the war in Iraq, the dismantling of our civil liberties, or anything else on the endless list of injustices and incompetence--should be overwhelmed by outrage. It is largely because of the outrage that the alternative and independent media helped produce that, on Nov. 7, the American voters united to take back their government and reject the pattern of lies, abuses, and assaults on democracy that have been the hallmark of the last six years.
But the problem is, we're still angry. Elections are part of a continuous democratic process; they are not catharses that cleanse our national conscience, allowing us to idly wait for the anger to build up in time for 2008. The alternative and independent media, and the Left in general, have succeeded in inciting outrage where there should be outrage--now, we must incite hope and true progressive change.
Political and moral outrage cannot sustain itself and effect change unless it is properly channeled and fused with collaboration, activism, and a plan for progress. Too often, the young outraged political commentator becomes the jaded pessimist, slowly beaten down under the weight of his or her own condemnations. As a college student, I have witnessed the anticlimactic disappointment of unfocused outrage, of angry protest without a real plan to make the world better. I helped to create Incite Magazine--which connects news articles with information on social action--because I want to see outrage over the status quo channeled into the energy needed to get involved and fight for specific change.
By linking outrage with information on events like demonstrations and boycotts, educational opportunities like films and teach-ins, contact information so readers can voice their complaints and demand change, Incite Magazine takes opinions and discussions and turns them into pragmatic calls for a better world. Models like this are necessary because every time someone reads a piece that elicits fury over injustice without a guide for concrete action, an opportunity for actual change is missed.
The Christian Right has been especially successful in arousing anger and then mobilizing constituents to take action. Organizations and media outlets such as the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, the American Decency Association, and others have generated tremendous campaigns to protest and boycott what they call "attacks on family values" (the American Family Association credits its campaigns for helping to get the show "Ellen" off the air, causing two-thirds of Howard Stern advertisers to cancel sponsorship, and fighting against "abuses of tax dollars" spent on the National Endowment for the Arts, among other "family-friendly" causes).
The Left, already at a disadvantage by not having Jesus on its side, has had more difficulty in organizing the masses. Certainly, there are many progressive publications that call for action and provide valuable resources to varying degrees, such as the "Act Now" sections of the Nation, "Informed Dissent" from Mother Jones, and the "Activism" section of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, to name a few. These efforts should be emulated by all progressive media, especially when calls to action and access to resources can be included directly within an article. There are, of course, obstacles, such as funding, manpower and the budgetary stipulations on nonprofit organizations regarding lobbying and advocacy--obstacles that can be overcome, perhaps, through increased collaboration and the pooling of resources.
Movements need more than outrage to galvanize. They need organization, resources, and unity. They need people who are encouraged to take action and presented with the tools to do so. Now that the means of producing media are in our hands, it is imperative that we collaborate to build an audience and organize to build a movement. Once the people of America found out the truth, they fired dozens of their elected leaders and demanded better from the government.
The truth must continue to be told, and anyone with the means and ability to do so has the obligation. But once the truth is told, people need to know what they can do about it. Because once the people find out, we will realize the power we truly have and will demand progress with a voice too loud, organized and outraged to ever be ignored.