We live in an emotional age. While some of the same people who extol emotional sentimentality as the highest virtue in life equally claim that “facts matter,” those facts often “trigger” the sentiments of people who then exclaim — often in all caps on social media — their rage at the facts presented. One’s response to facts tells all.
David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher, wrote more than 250 years ago that we would be entering the emotional age we’re currently in. He maintained that the arguments put forth by most people, even in his day, were not rational but emotional outbursts. Their speech and mannerisms reflected their own sentimental convictions rather than any deeply thought out or patiently and accurately observed thoughts.
Hume was famous for saying that reason was the slave to the passions and that man was an emotional creature—a creature of the passions—first and foremost. He was not unique in identifying either of those features of humanity. His insightfulness, however, comes from his observations that facts trigger emotional sentiment. People don’t care about facts, what moves them is their emotions. As such, the prominence of facts—cold, neutral, objectivity reality—would wither away from society and we would be left in a place where emotions dominate.
Hume seems to have been proven right, and how tragic the outcome has become. Moral outrage combined with weaponized sentimentality—which goes by the name of political correctness—is all that people have left. The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight, Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, even basic debates over economic and political policy, all highlight this. If you fall on the “wrong side” of history, or simply the wrong side of polite society, you are emotionally shamed, assailed, and assaulted. You are shamed by sentiment, which is meant to make you feel bad and repent for your sins.
Incapable of logical argumentation, or simply following arguments from their premise to conclusion, let alone offering substantial rebuttal, our modern world simply flies into a fit of rage to destroy or tarnish the other side. Following Hume, our catchphrases from “love trumps hate” to declaring the Republican Party the “rape party” or stating women supporting Trump and the Republicans are “gender traitors” only reflect our emotional sentimentality. No arguments of substance can be offered. Moreover, there is no ingenuity or creativeness on the part of the morally outraged mob who repeat the same lines of emotional indignation over and over ad nauseum.
Scott Kelly, in quoting Sir Winston Churchill, felt the force of the emotional mob first hand. Outrage overcame the digital mob which, playing the role of virtuous hero, took to Twitter and excoriated a man for a simple quote. Kelly apologized — then was excoriated by defenders of Churchill. Kelly’s predicament is the face of the new reality we live in.
The sin of Kelly was that he quoted from a man now considered off-limits by the internet mob. But I wonder if these same people who patrol the digital airwaves would show the same outrage for quoting Marx, Engels, Castro, or Che, all of whom said or wrote what would be described as racist and sexist, or engaged in political brutality and savagery equal to, or worse, than anything Churchill did. But if you’re an idol of the political left then you’re safe.
To illustrate how facts no longer matter, defenders of Churchill brought up certain facts, but they were immediately dismissed by the emotional mob. Facts don’t matter to these people. Only their response, emotions, to facts matter. Emotion rules the world. That is what Hume observed back in the mid-1700s.
Insofar as emotion rules the world it is important to understand the consequences of this. Advancement and acceptability by society is no longer based on merit, work, or character. It is purely based on emotional platitudes and kowtowing to the altar of acceptable emotional platitudes. To say something contrary to the altar of acceptable emotional platitude is to be condemned, shunned, and excommunicated.
Reliance on argumentation, facts, and logic need no longer apply to any conversation—and as such, need no longer apply to policy either. This is why people cannot identify arguments and issue even the most cursory of rebuttals. The only thing people can do is fly into a fit of emotional rage or label someone as racist, sexist, or cruel.
There is, of course, a terrible degree of narcissism involved by those who wage their Twitter and Facebook campaigns of “justice.” The social justice mobs are the cold and indifferent people of the world, who flee from reality and retreat to the comforts of their computer and cell phone screens and fly into fits of moral rage condemning people they do not know and receiving the applause—or likes—of people they also do not know. As if capitalizing every letter really makes you so much more intellectual or compassionate.
Far from becoming the arbiters of “love,” these narcissistic mobs who drive out people from restaurants, protest outside of homes, and get satisfaction from making someone apologize for remarks or quotes, are unloving and uncompassionate people. Properly analyzed, these people only love themselves—they love looking into the screens of their own indulgences, proclaiming to the world how courageous they are in fighting oppression and hierarchy.
They take to Twitter or the streets to showcase their own self-adulating compassion before a mass mob of equally narcissistic people waiting to congratulate them on their heroism for standing up “for what is right.” It is the love of self masquerading as the love of others where the principal concern is self-gratification by use of the other as the object of one’s own self-gratification.
Sentimentality is the real coldness of the heart, not facts. For sentimentality allows one to withdraw himself from the actual problems facing people and create a fantasy world—through social media—where sentimental crusaders can present themselves as the hero. Going to a protest, condemning someone on the internet, and driving out the devilish Republican from a restaurant will win you the praise of others, which is what these narcissistic sentimental crusaders crave.
Ours is not an anxious age. It is an emotional age. In an age of emotion facts and truth are the first casualties. And these mobs, and they are mobs, are nothing more than infantile narcissists in adult bodies—which is what makes them so dangerous. They are adult children who refuse to grow up, preferring instead to live in their fantasy world where they themselves can pretend to be heroes blind to the reality of their own petulant narcissism.