Essay: Profiteers are manipulating Americans’ outrage. Let’s commit to resist them together.

October 10, 2020

Originally published in USA Today

Debilyn Molineaux

Before the President tested positive for COVID and was hospitalized, most news was about ongoing protests (violence/looting) on the left and political hypocrisy (will of the people) on the right. Now, most of our news is focused on the health of the president, speculating who is running the country and barely disguised glee by some that one who seemed so dismissive of COVID, now gets to experience being sickened by it, firsthand. 

In talking with my neighbor yesterday, (a Catholic priest), he made an interesting point. He said that the President and COVID reminded him of the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Only now, David is getting the worst of it. 

I was confused. In my view, the president lives his life as if he were Goliath. And a virus too tiny to see has knocked him down. As I said this to my neighbor, he shuffled a moment and then said, “Well, I like to think of the president as David.”  And I knew that he believes, as do many supporters, that the president fights against the giant of our collective establishment gone awry. 

I get it now. My neighbor is rooting for the president to rise up in righteousness to continue fighting for him and for all the people who have been dismissed and condescended to by the liberal intelligentsia. 

My conservative friends are taking note of the glee that detractors of the president are expressing. And it’s causing even more outrage.

My progressive friends are taking note of the lack of support in contact tracing from the WH event, the timeline of subsequent events and seeming disregard for people the president and others came in contact with. And they are outraged, too.

Let’s recap. There’s a pandemic going on. We don’t know enough about it. There’s no cure. We have many economic challenges. Why, again, are we outraged by each other instead of fighting the virus?

In three words:  Money and Power

When we are working together for the good of humanity, it is bad for demagogues and profiteers. All the good news would mean low ratings (and revenue) for the media industry, too. Demagogues and profiteers increase their money and power in times of chaos. Chaos is fomented by outrage. Media gains viewers and readers. We give the media more of our attention to confirm our self-righteousness. Then we give the demagogues and profiteers our power and our money, because they persuade us that their solution will lead to peace. (It doesn’t.)

Almost everyone prefers peace to violence and this preference is easily exploited. There will always be provocateurs who use acts and accusations of violence to grow outrage and gain power. There will be media to cover it. We are missing the opportunity to stop the pandemic, fix our economy and increase the presence of justice without acts of violence. We are missing these opportunities due to manipulated outrage. How do we stop being outraged? It starts in each of us.

For every “outrage video” I see, I pause to ask myself: 

  • WHO wants me to be outraged and WHAT do they gain?
  • If I react, how helpful will my actions be to solving the thing I’m outraged by? 
  • Am I simply spreading more outrage, and if so, who will catch it?
  • I consider again, who are the puppet masters of outrage?  
  • How can I thwart their plans?

For the long haul, as a society, we need to consider the following big questions:

  • What do we want as a society? 
  • What are the “new rules” that assume inherent human value and justice?
  • When triggered by provocateurs, can we calm ourselves enough to plan a course of action?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice justice for peace? 
  • Can we find peace through a principled stand for justice?

We also must engage in our internal work. The people who are exploiting the divisions of this country are wily and cunning. They will find our hot buttons and push them, knowing how we will react. They will know our hot buttons better than we know them ourselves. And we must accept this vulnerability in order to diffuse it’s power. 

Let’s start working on our collective challenges, beginning with the pandemic, the economy and justice for all.