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Living in an Age of Outrage and Wolf Den Politics

Wolves

So, something upsets you, eh? Well then, go search the internet for like-minded folks and you will almost certainly find them. It’s the Age of Outrage. You will discover that whatever your lunacy, there is an online champion to defend it. Giant spider creatures secretly control the Pentagon? There’s a Facebook group for that! Unfortunately, nasty, virulent beliefs can also be reinforced on the net, as true believers join together in wolf den politics.

So, instead of discussing the giant spiders, the group plots about how to kill Jews who secretly control the banks or infidels who are stopping the Caliphate from forming. The crucial point here is they may have no direct contact with their mothership except via websites, because they don’t need it. The memes can spread without direct interpersonal contact. That what makes the internet so simultaneously wonderful and dangerous. Ideas and ideologies spread quickly. Toss in mentally unbalanced people like Dylann Roof and the Orlando shooter into the mix and the result can be catastrophic.

The Orlando shooter was influenced by jihadist ideas. It matters not if jihad groups had actual contact with him or even knew he existed. Ditto for Roof and white supremacist groups.

It is crucial to not burrow deeper and deeper into ours own reality tunnel, only reading news that agrees with our points of view. I deliberately follow people and websites I don’t usually agree with just so my views don’t get calcified. (And yes, sometimes they have good ideas too!) Being outraged can be great fun and is indeed addictive, but can lead to joining wolf dens, some of which are seriously deranged and dangerous. And that’s not so fun. The self-radicalizing / recruitment process can happen so stealthily the person may not even be aware of it, and then they think, well of course giant spider creatures control the Pentagon, how could anyone believe otherwise?

Combine an age of outrage with the internet and you can get virulent wolf den politics. Click To Tweet

Wolf dens:

Reuters review of the approximately 90 Islamic State court cases brought by the Department of Justice since 2014 found that three-quarters of those charged were alleged to be part of a group of anywhere from two to more than 10 co-conspirators who met in person to discuss their plans.

Even in those cases that did not involve in-person meetings, defendants were almost always in contact with other sympathizers, whether via text message, email or networking websites, according to court documents. Fewer than 10 cases involved someone accused of acting entirely alone.

Mark Mason on being addicted to outrage.

Most people believe that people are becoming more polarized. According to the data, this is actually not true. People’s political beliefs are not that different than they were a few decades ago. What is changing, the data indicates, is how we deal with the viewpoints that make us uncomfortable.

It isn’t that our beliefs have changed, it’s that the way we feel about people we disagree with has changed.

In short, people have become less tolerant of opposing opinions. And their reactions to those opinions has become more emotional and outrageous.

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