Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chronic Outrage Fatigue

This article first appeared in the Sunday Paper. Because there is no online link available we present the text of the column here:

Feeling listless? Unable to conjure up the energy to
perform everyday tasks? Suddenly turning away from
your favorite 24 hour news personalities? You may be
suffering from Chronic Outrage Fatigue, a condition
currently sweeping America into a frenzy of I don’t
give a damn.

A media cycle of non-stop effrontery and shocked
response has left many in a catatonic state of
ambivalence that Dr. Lars von Helmet of the Institute
of National Neurosis warns could be irreversible.
After years of being told to be outraged by the
opinions of this or that Supreme Court nominee, the
behavior of this or that pop star or actor, and the
improvised ramblings of a myriad of radio
personalities, many in the general public have simply
become numb to outrage. When they hear of the latest
public scandal or indignation they feel a hollow
nothingness and can’t play along with the rest of us.
According to the doctor, “it’s as if they’ve lost
their will to be angry at strangers on TV.”

Dr. von Helmet tells the story of one young lady,
we’ll call her Alice, who became so confused at her
own conflicting episodes of outrage she collapsed into
a heap of befuddlement and has been unable to extract
herself to this day.

After being angry at the Dixie Chicks in 2003 for
opposing the war and saying bad things about the
President, ‘Alice’ found herself outraged at that same
President two years later and the war in her head
began. Now she hates both the chart-topping country
trio and the man they said they hated when they
outraged her so much to begin with. She sits in a
corner window of the Institute rocking to and fro,
mumbling... haunted.

Alice isn’t alone. Another subject being studied at
I.N.N., we’ll call him Bob, was recently outraged by
so many things he saw on Fox News in a one month
period he suffered the kind of mental breakdown that
requires trained professionals to handle your bathroom
duties for awhile.

Some experts believe Chronic Outrage Fatigue may have
gotten a big push during the nationwide television
drama known as Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

Before the levee broke many viewers were outraged with
the looters for stealing goods from stores after the
owners evacuated the city. After the levee broke those
same viewers became outraged with the government for
not saving the looters quickly enough. Later they were
outraged at the rape and murder that was reported to
have been happening inside the Super Dome. Later
still, viewer outrage was trained upon news reporters
when it was revealed that no rape or murder actually
took place inside the Super Dome.

If you feel you are suffering from any of the symptoms
of Chronic Outrage Fatigue doctors advise you to
unplug your televisions and disconnect your computers
from the internet as soon as possible- and for as long
as possible. It is only through rest and
non-stimulation that the outrage reflex can be
restored to the point of making a person one day give
a damn again. Continued exposure to the news cycle
will only exacerbate the problem.

“You can be a cowboy and decide to fight this thing
while staying plugged in,” says Dr. von Helmet, “but
you don’t stand much of a chance in a media climate
where D-List comedienne Kathy Griffin is dissin’
Jesus, octogenarian Jerry Lewis is offending the gays,
and O.J. Simpson is back on trial.”

With plenty of outrage yet to be dished up the
Institute of National Neurosis is predicting that if
left unabated these constant episodes of vitriolic
outrage will, in time, paralyze the entire country.

The only effective prescription, a grain of salt, has
not yet been approved for medicinal purposes by the
FDA. Isn’t it outrageous!