Lewis: The selective outrage pandemic | VailDaily.com

Lewis: The selective outrage pandemic

I read the opinion sections of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I am not sure why I bother because, with very few exceptions, I already know what they are going to say. The same goes for watching CNN and Fox News. Each of these media outlets has almost institutionalized the practice of partisan selective outrage in their reporting and editorials.

Selective outrage, in addition to being the name of a comedy show by Chris Rock, has become pervasive in American society. Simply put, selective outrage is an inconsistent response to consistent (similar) behavior.

A current example. Donald Trump made history recently by becoming the first ex-president to ever be indicted for a crime. There are strong feelings about this, with the views mostly mimicking party lines. While I am no Trump fan, I think this indictment appears to be an overzealous prosecution and believe it is a bad move. That said, I also thought Trump’s mantra of “lock her up,” pushing for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for minor email mishandling, was equally wrong. The same goes for Rep. Jim Jordan and his Biden laptop vendetta.

If you see the commonality in these events, you, like me, are in what is rapidly becoming a small minority. Most have become completely comfortable with selective outrage — fully comfortable supporting an overzealous partisan investigation into Hunter Biden while at the same time outraged at the partisan injustice of indicting Donald Trump.

Whenever I write on a topic, I try to cite examples of the (bad or good) behavior on both sides of the aisle, as that is usually the reality. In a recent column, I wrote about the issue of state and local governments becoming too autocratic and trying to impose cultural compliance on companies. I cited example actions by both Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Gavin Newsome. I found it interesting that most of the people that gave me feedback wanted to justify why one or the other was righteous in their actions while still being appalled by the other governor’s actions.

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The simple truth is that many of us will seek to defend those that share our beliefs, even when they may act in the same way as those whose beliefs we oppose. Ardent Trump supporters will decry the Black Lives Matter riots spawned by the killing of George Floyd but will downplay the riot at the capital on Jan. 6. Why shouldn’t we be outraged at any mob violence regardless of the situation?

When I was growing up, teachers were surrogate parents. My parents would always side with the teacher if I got in trouble. Wrong was wrong, regardless of if it was your kid or another kid. Today, that seems to have completely changed. Parents now regularly oppose teachers and take their kid’s side in disputes. This would have been unheard of in my time.

Regardless of the affinity for tribes to which we belong — be they political, social, or familial, I believe we need to step back and ascribe the same and consistent value judgments to each individual’s actions, especially to those in our own tribes. This is not about fighting for our beliefs or even our families, it is about removing the vitriol and partisanship from the equation.

We have always been a country of varied beliefs yet, up until recently, we never had this level of animosity toward those who are not in our tribe. I believe the pandemic of selective outrage is to blame. The defining moment for me was when most Trump supporters, especially those who espoused evangelical Christian values, failed to call out Trump for his comments on the Access Hollywood recording. What became clear was that beliefs had become more important than values.

The aim of our laws is that they are applied consistently and fairly to all members of our society. When we express selective outrage, just toward the actions of those whose beliefs we oppose, we are effectively undermining our own cause. Admonishing those in your own tribe when they do wrong is not a sign of weakness or an invalidation of your beliefs, it is just being fair and impartial when it comes to improper behavior.

Mark Lewis, a Colorado native, had a long career in technology, including serving as the CEO of several tech companies. He retired from technology and is now writing thriller novels. Mark and his wife, Lisa, and their two Australian Shepherds — Kismet and Cowboy, reside in Edwards.

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