Thursday, December 20th, 2012
18

The Year In Internet Outrage

Last weekend, in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, and the revelation that the person behind it might have been a troubled young man, a writer in Idaho, Liza Long, put up a blog post, ""I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," that purported to speak to the experience of Nancy Lanza, who had been her own son's first victim. Tightly written and extremely candid about the violent rages and suicide threats of her son, it quickly spread beyond its original home on the web, picking up millions of pageviews from Gawker, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post and other outlets looking for another weekend traffic jolt during a trying time.

And then the backlash began. Long was a bad mother, said those who'd trawled the other posts on her blog, which often took on the "take my kids, please" tone employed by so many mommy bloggers; she was seizing on SEO for her own personal gain, and using heartstring-tugging to elide serious issues; she was exploiting her son’s identity in other posts on her blog; she was a Libertarian Romney supporter using her exaggerated experiences to derail the gun control debate. Long released a joint statement with one of her detractors, then appeared on "Today". And so on.

The way this single blog post ricocheted around the Internet—controversy begetting controversy, backlashes whipping against each other, each new entry dragging eyeballs toward it like it was a still-piling-up car accident—was a sped-up microcosm of how so many online controversies sparked and caught fire during 2012. Tempests brewed in tightly shut teapots, they would often boil over to the rest of the Internet, engulfing people in their argument-filled tide who sometimes seemed to not even realize what they were arguing about in the first place. The terse constraints of social media helped and hindered these debates, 140-character missives having the ability to be either succinct or glib (and, sometimes, both). At times, the playing to the angry seats seemed so blatant that it was hard to not wonder if people (and marketing departments) were trying their damndest to cut through the clutter of modern life by actively courting negative attention—but then again, why not do so, since trying to engender positive attention rarely attracts unless you're a really cute cat. Here, a look at some of this year's defining outrage points as they played out on the Internet.



"Girls," Lana Del Rey, Sheila Heti, and other young female artists on the verge.
CRIMES

Being young and white and female, a.k.a. essentially serving as a mirror for people (especially older white males) to project their insecurities, and not realizing that they've been offered a space in the public sphere as spectacles for the crowd to watch get eaten alive as much as to honor their talent.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

Lana Del Rey's twirly, drowsy "Saturday Night Live" performance, any public appearance by "Girls" creator Lena Dunham, the releases of Marie Calloway's GChat-nudes-and-self-loathing-filled GDoc "collages" and Kate Zambreno and Sheila Heti's semi-autobiographical work.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

Misogyny, racism, class privilege, ageism, the "universality" of a woman's perspective vs. that of a man's, having to identify oneself as a woman artist instead of an artist who happens to possess female genitalia and how that affects the way one's art is perceived by the media-industrial complex, feeling sort of like a traitor to your gender because while you appreciated the effort put forth by some of these artists you just kind of wished the execution was a bit sharper.

CYCLE SPEED

A new target seemed to come around every 28 days or so. (Just like a menstrual cycle! Get it?)





Chris Brown and Rihanna.
CRIMES

Unapologetically tweaking the noses of "music writers" forced by economic exigency to report on any/all artist-related gossip via their defiant use of Twitter and Instagram posts that, at times, unleashed the fervent-fan hounds on critics; shifting from crafting quality pop songs to churning out music that's almost as vapid and unpleasant as their public personas.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

Will they? Won't they? Wait, why is he dressed up like an extra from Hot Shots: Part Deux?

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

The cycle of domestic abuse; "do we really know what it's like in a celebrity relationship?"; vague racism on behalf of people who were harassing Brown on Twitter, but who weren't exactly protesting Charlie Sheen's continued possession of a career; celebrity journalism phoniness; bad tattoos.

CYCLE SPEED

Endlessly looping, with no release in sight. Kind of like "We Found Love."






The New York City Marathon.
CRIMES

Not getting canceled until the last possible minute, despite the devastation Hurricane Sandy had wreaked on New York days before.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

Probably hit its stride when some thwarted runners took a petulant photo underneath the now-useless starting line, not too far from hard-hit areas of Staten Island.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

Privilege, mostly.

CYCLE SPEED

Pretty much dormant for now, although next November will surely see a couple of "I'm still mad about last year" clickbait posts.





Instagram.
CRIMES

Commodifying nostalgia via the application of photographic filters; revealing to the world how much people love photos of nail art and text-and-cliché-heavy images that are basically bumper stickers; selling out to Facebook after engaging Twitter in a long, value-enhancing con; informing users "LOL, your photos are free for you to upload, but they're free for us to sell to ad agencies as well"; backtracking on that stance, sorta.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

The TOS change was the big one, although this writer feels rage any time she accidentally clicks on the tab featuring popular photos.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

The commodified nature of "free" products put out by overvalued social media companies; fake nostalgia; the bumper-stickerization of human emotions; seriously, nails are not that interesting, come on.

CYCLE SPEED

Almost faster than it takes to develop an actual Polaroid.






Reddit.
CRIMES

Embarrassing media types who were delighted to use the site's zeitgeist-predicting volunteers as their de facto assignment editors… until they realized that, ew, some of the maladjusted dudes spending all their time upvoting stories were even creepier than Peter Braunstein.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

"How dare you take away our First Amendment rights to take stealth pictures of women we worship from afar," parts 1-infinity.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

Misogyny; "misandry"; the rights of people on the Internet who violate the rights of women who have the gall to exist in public spaces while being attractive; the fact that some women actually fall for the tricks put forth by pick-up artists.

CYCLE SPEED

The traffic-generating prospects of Reddit mean that it's again "OK," even for the 13-year-old who pushed for the gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven.






Our own awful senses of humor.
CRIMES

Revealing peoples' inner Beavis and/or Butt-Head; unleashing "7:30 set at the Comedy Hut"-worthy yuks on the world in the name of feeding the content machine.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

The radio gag that had the world snickering at a slightly gullible hospital receptionist in the UK… until she offed herself out of humiliation; "The [Number] Worst [Genre] [Art Form/Artist Type] Of All Time"; "Can You Believe These People On Twitter Didn't Know Who This Celebrity Was."

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

What with all these hamfisted attempts at humor being especially popular during the workday, maybe we need to rethink the notion of "office productivity" in 2013.

CYCLE SPEED

Slow and grinding, like late-night molar activity that stems from being haunted by the notion that you might not be as original in your witticisms as you seem.






Misogynist Republicans.
CRIMES

Trying to strangle Planned Parenthood (and smearing the Girl Scouts while doing it); ignorance of basic biological facts; "legitimate rape"; trying to mandate medical procedures they'd never have to have; asserting that sexism was over because there were "binders full of women" floating around their interoffice mail. Basically, it's what happened when you throw a book club full of people who think The Handmaid's Tale was an uplifting book with a happy ending.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

Honestly, in 2012 it seemed like some GOP guy was putting his foot in his mouth every day.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

The death rattle of the white heterosexual male's cultural supremacy sure did result in an earthquake, huh.

CYCLE SPEED

You'd think the drubbing most of the people responsible for these bon mots received during the elections would have stopped women from being used as an easy oppression target, but then Newtown happened, and one enterprising writer realized that the absence of a coherent response on the Right's side meant that women would have to return to their rightful victim status once more.






Outrage itself.
CRIMES

See above, then pick apart anything I left out.

OUTRAGE PEAKS

What peaks? The outrage cycle takes Andrew WK's advice to not stop living in the red to a new level.

ISSUES TOUCHED ON

Everyone on the Internet secretly hates themselves, at least while they're on the Internet.

CYCLE SPEED

A slow slog, until you walk away from the computer.




Previously in 2012 In Review: The Year In Cheating


Maura Johnston is not always in this bad of a mood.

18 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

At last, the article you can't comment on without proving the author right.

@deepomega I did it!!

hershmire (#233,671)

Rage is out.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

The reason people writing on the Internet rage so much is because they sit around too much. This causes their precious body fluids to congeal in their butts, where it obstructs the even flow of energy (life force, prāṇa) from the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. The irritation caused by staring at a computer screen for hours causes this impacted energy to be released in bursts which we experience consciously as rage. It's something like road rage (caused by sitting in a car while paying close attention to idiotic traffic) and has little or no content.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Thoughts arrive like etc.

BadUncle (#153)

I'm so tired of being angry. And listening to angry people. I'm just tired of anger. This week sucked all the joie de rage out of me. I'm not even going to go to the bad place we've all been to tell you how sick of anger I am.

Instead, it was at Sahadi's this morning, while yawning and waiting for my turn to belly up to the nut bar, that some manager came out raging at one of the dried-fruit-and-nut workers, about not serving customers quickly. There were all of 3 of us there at 9:15, so it wasn't like Macy's on Black Friday. And yet this rage machine wouldn't stop screaming at this poor, hapless guy. And one customer even said, "You know, we don't need to hear this." And this only lessened the volume fractionally. And this was at the happiest store I know. A place that fills me with olives and warm thoughts. And that's when I realized that I can not feed the Angry Ghosts any more.

adriana (#1,654)

"Belly up to the nut bar"
Best phrase I've read in ages.

Spencer Lund (#2,331)

"seriously, nails are not that interesting, come on." Maura's nails are cool, though.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@Spencer Lund don't let Jane Marie catch you sayin such things

Danzig! (#5,318)

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Tulletilsynet (#333)

The Year in Things I Missed or Ignored

brad (#1,678)

@Tulletilsynet – my ignorance is so blissful.

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I have been interested in this topic for quite some time. I have been researching it for a couple of hours and found your post to be very interesting. Cheers.
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babomango (#241,747)

Your approach to this post is unique and appreciating. I am writing an article for our research paper and this post has helped me. Thanks.
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misiekpl (#242,183)

And yet this rage machine wouldn't stop screaming at this poor, hapless guy. And one customer even said, "You know, we don't need to hear this." And this only lessened the volume fractionally. And this was at the happiest store I know. A place that fills me with olives and warm thoughts. And e-papierosy vision that's when I realized that I can not feed the Angry Ghosts any more.

tompal (#244,462)

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mughal12 (#245,016)

As with most audiences when there is a celebrity onstage, our laughter is performative, disproportionate, and noncontextual: a semaphoric ass kiss across the footlights. Here we are, famous person! We get you. He is the great actor. david bowie t-shirt

RogerPaul (#247,902)

"was a sped-up microcosm of how so many online controversies sparked and caught fire during 2012" – The problem was so many of other "controversies" were nothing major, until the world was involved through the social media engine. People that wrote things thinking that only their small group would see or read were in serious shock when their comments went viral — and were often taken out of context.

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