| Jan 13, 2021

Outrage Culture: How The Media Gets Your Attention

A tried-and-true method to get views, the media deals regularly in manufactured outrage. Have you fallen victim yet?
outrage at news

I have nothing against anyone named Karen. But the natural progression of identifying those who make a “big deal out of nothing” was taken on by the internet and thus was born — The Karen.

Usually identified by a face of outrage and rapidly calling “authorities” on those who do not do their bidding, without regard to right or wrong, The Karen has gained a reputation of turning a small issue into a loud and angry one. And the internet shares it, everywhere.

Many digital tabloids have this same character. It all started with pressure on writers to meet a viewer quota, and today we see journalists, editors, and staff writers with the challenge of finding something wrong in the world to transfix their readers. After all, these websites and newspapers cannot survive without viewer traffic and advertisers.

Anything You Say May Be Used Against You

The outrage culture adopted by news and social media is probably one of the most fascinating methods to draw in readers.

“People Seething That Mayor _______ Is Not Supporting [Group Name]”

“Twitter Outrage Sparks an Avalanche of Hate When [Business Name] Said This”

Such titles are very common. And they work. We are drawn in through a form of hypnosis to join our brethren in our civil pursuit of righteousness and fight for a cause. After all, what kind of person would I be if I did not show up to defeat evil?

While there are many noble causes to join, staying on Twitter for just one hour may have you suddenly finding that there are far too many causes and that the world and the people in it are evil and destructive.



To hook a reader or gain a follower in this outrage culture, the Digital Karens must have the following traits:

1. Don’t use specifics. Be broad. Words like “people” or “everyone” or “they” give the sense that there is an army of vigilantes behind your statement. This perpetuates the message, hooks readers, and takes one or two negative statements and turns them into an avalanche.

2. Use emotionally manipulative words. Outrage, Seething, Angry, Uproar are all emotional states describing a response to something.

3. Sugarcoat with prominent names. There’s nothing like a title to hook a read which includes a big name with scandal and outrage.

Let’s look at an example. I jumped over to Google News and typed in “Twitter outrage.” A fresh article comes up.

Sounds terrible right? Nike [Prominent name] must be racist against the Japanese [an entire nation] and sparks [emotional] Internet users [7 billion people] to call for a boycott [justice] as it’s loaded with prejudice [emotional].

Phew… That title is enough to make me click, hate Nike for a few days, and perhaps even tweet at them with harsh, angry words.

Anything you say may be used against you.

What To Do

As a victim of a Digital Karen, the best way to defeat this is to challenge the generality: “Who is they?” “Which people are you referring to exactly?” Or “Please give me all of their names so I can personally clarify the matter with them.”

And in every instance you will be told, “I cannot give you the names,” or “It’s all over the internet.”

Persistence in this line of questioning will eventually discredit the source and going the extra mile to show this false sensationalism will clear your name.

The truth is, the world is made up of many nice people. If you just take the time to talk to someone you will likely find they too have been tricked into a false fear of their environment. With you both feeling highly suspicious of each other’s motives, you now have “solid evidence” that people and groups are bad. When in actuality, this is simply more manufactured outrage. Don’t fall for it — don’t be a Digital Karen, and don’t let one trick you into feeling a certain way. You just mind find yourself feeling a lot better about your fellows and the world.

Brook Zimmatore
Executive Author

CEO & Co-Founder, Massive Alliance

Brook is a media and publishing technologist and CEO at Massive Alliance. view profile


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