What do the following have in common?
- "Too big to fail" government bailouts
- Executive pay on Wall Street
- The absence of universal health care in America
- The influence of lobbyists on government
All of the realities identified above, should generate profound outrage among majority of the American population, regardless of individuals' geographical location, race, ethnicity, politics, or religion.
People should be mad as hell over the excessive resources - time, energy, and money - being spent on initiatives that either counter, or are irrelevant, to the interests of Americans.
One would expect this sentiment to be expressed in the form of sit-ins on Capitol Hill and midnight vigils. Yet, the only group from which we see visible outrage these days is the lunatic fringe, comprised of individuals more interested in imposing its ideologies than acting in the best interest of the American people.
So in this context, I have wondered, is public outrage dead?
Given that our government seems to be controlled by lobbyists and special interest groups, are ordinary Americans suffering a learned helplessness, in which they have surrendered to the belief that they have no control or influence over the decisions made in Washington that affect their lives?
Is the current economic climate so debilitating that Americans have become focused on simply surviving, with no surplus of time or energy to register outrage?
In the context of profound global instability, are Americans simply burying their heads in the sand because they don't want to acknowledge all of the problems that affect their lives?
Have the seemingly incessant wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession, and political divisiveness on Capitol Hill simply worn Americans out?
In contemplating these hypotheses, I thought, wait a minute, perhaps the outrage is there; it's just not visible, or noisy. After all, it is the 21st century, a time when there are countless ways to express outrage, many of which did not exist 20 years ago.
In effort to have our voices heard and effectively express our outrage, we want bang for our buck. If we express outrage, we want to know our feelings and messages are being received by decision-makers in Washington. As this relates to protests, such demonstrations may be cathartic and serve as a good theatric spectacle, but they don't reach a very wide audience and their impact is uncertain.
The Internet has provided us with a new "megaphone," through we can communicate our outrage. It has given us an unprecedented vehicle to share our outrage with millions of people across the country. Outrage 2.0 arrived in full force during the 2008 presidential election. Outrage has gone all tech and viral on us.
The current health care debate demonstrates the power of Outrage 2.0. I began to search for outrage over health care on the web and found it in spades, and on both sides of the political aisle. On websites, on blogs and in their comments sections, through emails, texting, and on-line petitions and donations, by way of Facebook and Twitter, people on both sides of the debate have been speaking out.
So outrage is alive and well and living in America. It isn't a public or loud outrage, yet it can be heard in every corner of America and, thankfully, in the halls of Congress. Though the tag line for the 1979 science-fiction film Alien tells us, "In space no one can hear you scream," in cyberspace, everyone can hear you scream.