Life as we blow it: The outrage factory

Everything is outrageous. Outrage has become our default setting.

It’s exhausting, really, being outraged all the time. What’s worse, it blunts the impact of outrage. These days, that shit’s like the dollar in 1930: barely valuable enough to be worth churning out.

Of course, there are things by which we should rightly be outraged. Many of them, in fact.

Shark Week? Not so much.

We’re in the middle of now-venerable cable network Discovery’s 28th (!) annual, celebrated run of shark-centric programming. If you don’t know about Shark Week (I’m not quite sure how that’s possible), it’s exactly what it sounds like, and it’s built up not just an obsessive fanbase but also a monstrous mainstream following.

Or at least enough of one to cross that tipping point that amost always seems to trigger a backlash-esque sort of outrage.

For the second or third year, a small but vocal group is drawing media attention for being YOUGUESSEDIT that a cable network with such a science-y vibe would air misleading, factually incorrect, historically inaccurate and downright sensationalized shows during Shark Week in order to heighten the excitement and draw in more viewers. Gasp! Do they mean to tell us programs like Bride of Jaws, Ninja Sharks, Sharksanity 2 and Island of the Mega Shark might not be the viewing equivalent of scientific journals? Are they saying that, in the post-reality television landscape, when cable channels are scared out of their wits of losing eyeballs to the internet, Discovery is focusing on entertainment rather than teaching a series of marine biology classes?

Could they really be implying that horror-movie director Eli Roth, the man behind such anatomically educational films as Cabin Fever and Hostel and host of one of Shark Week’s offerings this year, isn’t a credible source of unimpeachable scientific fact?

Sure, it’s irritating. But it’s about as outrageous as water being wet, or ice cream being sweet, or Fox News commentators being comically misinformed. It’s simply a characteristic of a thing’s nature — TV is, and always will be, primarily about revenue-generating enertainment.

Anger can be a powerful weapon, and an effective tool for change. But not if we dull its blade by banging it against every single thing we find disagreeable.

By all means, be outraged by income inequality. Be outraged by the fact that an angry white racist committed an act of terrorism on American soil, and the primary response seemed to be discussions about his mental well-being and the symbology of flags. Be outraged that, after 40 women claimed a beloved male American performer drugged and raped them, it took the performer himself admitting to procuring drugs for that purpose to make the public angry — and that the mainstream media still won’t use the word “rape” in headlines next to the performer’s name, saying only that he got the drugs to “have sex with” his victims.

These things are worthy of our outrage, in all its full and fiery power.

Shark Week? Come on. Let’s not waste our juice.

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