When James Damore wrote his ten-page memo criticizing Google’s “ideological echo chamber,” he didn’t argue that every woman’s uterus makes her incapable of chairing board of directors meetings or writing code. He argued that, in general, women prefer to avoid high-stress jobs and solitary positions. In other words, he argued that the reason Google doesn’t have an even male-female split in leadership and tech jobs is because, by and large, women don’t want those jobs.
After Gizmodo leaked Damore’s memo, numerous voices in the media began twisting his words. “He said women may be genetically unsuited for tech jobs,” barked the Washington Post. “That guy didn’t want any women near a computer,” proclaimed CNN. When Google CEO Sundar Pichai finally addressed the controversy, he stated, “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not okay.” Quite simply, Google fired Damore not for what he said, but for what the media claimed he said.
The distinction between “all women are incapable of holding these jobs” and “most women aren’t interested in these jobs” is not a difficult one to grasp. Why, then, were the media and Google so quick to dice Damore into Soylent Green and can him? The answer is quite simple. We are now a bunch of outrage addicts so desperate for our daily anger fix that we’ve turned ourselves imbecilic trying to get it.
Internet Outrage Is an Addiction
Just like gambling or sex, outrage can become a process addiction—a form of behavior that our bodies come to rely on to feel good. The mechanics of anger addiction are simple. When we erupt in anger, our brains get a hit of dopamine, which yields a sense of euphoria. Just as drug users will quickly become dependent on their substance of choice to get that euphoria, those who overindulge in outrage will often end up relying on that behavior to release the desired dopamine.
It’s easy to see how this addiction plays out online, Twitter perhaps being the best example. Man A wakes up in the morning, immediately reaches for his smartphone and finds, via those he follows for this sort of stuff, an article about Today’s Sinner, the one who must be shamed and ridiculed for being a woman hater or minority hater or cop hater or animal hater. Man A then begins spewing insults and vitriol at this person, then repeats the cycle the next day.
In other words, Man A wakes up in the morning, feeling miserable and wanting a dopamine release. So he goes to his dealer, who offers him something to be angry about—the newer and better fix-du-jour. Man A then explodes in anger at someone he very well may never have heard of before and will likely forget all about in a few days. He enjoys the dopamine hit for a moment, then finds a new target and repeats the cycle as soon as the high wears off.
Furthermore, like those who are hooked on other substances or processes, outrage addicts often serve their addiction above all else. In their sober moments, they may pursue knowledge and truth. But amidst the throes of addiction, the only thing they seek is anger. They don’t want to be informed. They want to be mad.
This is why, probably more often than not, those vomiting venom at someone on social media haven’t even read the article they’re sharing. Why risk discovering some detail in the source material that might change your mind or take your “I Can’t Even” meter from an eleven to a three? To extract as much outrage from the hide of Today’s Sinner, the outrage addict embraces brain rot and remains in deliberate ignorance.
You Never Said That? We Don’t Care
Likewise, when outrage addicts do manage to read the article, their desire to get stoned on anger often renders them either unwilling or unable to understand very important but very simple distinctions. For example, back in June, Inez Feltscher wrote an article for The Federalist suggesting that, because men are more visual creatures than women, staying fit is a nice gift a woman can give her husband. Many responded to her like this:
“Women should try to make their husbands happy” and “women should be their husbands’ sex slaves” are not identical statements, and any person of reasonable intelligence should be able to tell the difference between them. But anger addicts don’t want to be fair. They want to be furious, and they will gladly slaughter their ability to employ both reason and reading comprehension skills to extract anger from their target by accusing her of saying something she never said. To feed their addiction, outrage addicts have embraced the following idiotic syllogism: “I am mad at people who say X. I am mad at you. Therefore you said X.”
From this perspective, the reaction from both the media and Google itself over Damore’s memo makes much more sense. Damore articulated ten methods for improving Google’s approach to the diversity “problem,” so it’s stupid to describe his memo as “anti-diversity,” yet that’s exactly what journalists from The Sun and Time did. Damore never argued that women were, by virtue of their biology, slaves to neurosis and hysteria, so it’s idiotic to castigate him as a misogynistic future alt-right poster boy, yet that’s precisely what Owen Jones of The Guardian did.
When a man’s words are right in front of you, it would be idiotic to fire him for what people accused him of saying instead of what he actually said, but that’s precisely what Google did. It takes some measure of intelligence to write an article or run a corporation. These are not stupid people. Why, then, have they approached this issue in such a foolish fashion? There are two options. Either they desire to feed their own outrage addiction or they want to profit off others’ addiction. Either way, everyone involved gets dumber.
The Truth Is, We Want to Be Angry
Outrage addiction, of course, knows no political boundaries. It’s not just progressives who have suppressed their critical thinking skills in an attempt to release dopamine through their anger. During President Trump’s campaign, many conservatives rejoiced to hear him rail against Mexico and China for causing job losses in the manufacturing sector while failing to recognize the primary cause. Why didn’t they know that automation was killing more of those jobs than “bad” trade deals? For many, the answer is that they just wanted someone to be mad at, so they quit researching the issue once they found an anger source in foreigners.
Likewise, many conservatives, including me, excoriated Rev. Jeremiah Wright over his two-second “God damn America” soundbite that Fox News ran on a loop in March 2008. However, as the full context of his statement shows, Wright wasn’t saying “We should hate this country.” He was saying that, when earthly governments defy God’s law, in this case by dehumanizing black citizens, God will bring those nations to an end.
There was plenty to criticize in the statements Wright made leading up to his point, but with regard to the point itself, this is the same theological principle that conservative Christian hero Franklin Graham referenced when he said that God will judge America for defying the Bible’s teachings concerning abortion and same-sex marriage. It shouldn’t have been hard for moderately intelligent conservatives to see this, but we didn’t want to analyze theological statements. We just wanted to be angry—more so at Barack Obama than at his pastor—so why should we have used our brains to understand what Wright was actually saying when “God damn America,” isolated from its context, had already yielded the outrage we wanted?
The solution to the problem of outrage addiction, therefore, is not for us to change our politics but for God to change our hearts. Few of us would admit that we believe a man is only worthy of respect and fairness if he shares our politics. But that’s precisely the diseased doctrine that drives our actions when we curse a man for his words before reading them, when we condemn him for something he never said, and when we ensure that his reputation is bound to our toxic spin on his statements.
It’s Time for Some Humility
What we ought to believe, then, is what God proclaims in the scriptures—that a man is owed our honor and love not because he’s earned it from us, but because Christ earned it for him when he laid down his life for all mankind at Calvary. As Saint John put it, “in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Likewise, with regard to anger, Saint James gives us these words: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In other words, you can’t make yourself holy by hating your neighbor, but Christ has made you both holy by being hated in your place, so treat your fellow man the way Jesus does.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we must praise those who disagree with us or even refrain from criticizing them when necessary. But it does mean that our criticisms should only come after we’ve given someone a fair hearing, something that we’re rather unlikely to do when our primary goal is huffing anger rather than pursuing truth.
I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else here: Like all other sins, the cure for being hooked on anger is repentance and forgiveness. So the next time we find ourselves furiously retweeting an article before reading it or eviscerating someone for supposedly speaking the words we shoved in his mouth, we ought to remember that this is not the behavior of the righteously indignant but of the outrage addicts.
Then immediately after recognizing that we have a problem, we ought to put down our smartphones, walk into a sanctuary, and pray that God would have mercy on us, forgive us, and teach us to know the love of Christ so that we can truly love one another. This will do wonders for our souls.
It’ll also make us all a little less stupid.