11 Times This Year Righteous Outrage Was A Complete Waste Of Energy
If there’s one thing we’re good at in America, it’s righteous outrage. This can be a force for good — righteous outrage at injustice, abuse, and suffering has driven social movements to improve those conditions.
However, sometimes people jump on the outrage wagon before they check to see who’s driving, and the result is an explosion of outrage and anger over something that really didn’t happen, or that happened completely differently from how the riders on the outrage wagon believe. In those cases, these expressions of moral outrage can be worthy of a good eyeroll, or completely laughable.
Here are 15 times in 2015 that we’ve seen examples of righteous outrage that turned out to not only be not-so-righteous, but pretty much not right at all.
1. Caitlyn Jenner was awarded the ESPY award, and Noah Galloway was not.
When Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce) came out as a transgender woman, it was a really big deal. As many know, ‘coming out’ in any capacity isn’t easy to do, and for Caitlyn, a well-known celebrity in the public eye, it must’ve especially been difficult. Imagine doing something that’s still so controversial, in order to be true to yourself, and knowing that the reactions of your family will be public, and that the whole world will have an opinion to express about your right to just be who you are.
It was a brave move, and Caitlyn was selected for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Soon, a rumor was spreading that Caitlyn had been chosen over Noah Galloway, who went on to have great athletic success after losing two limbs in service in Iraq — that Caitlyn had been, essentially, declared more brave than Noah. According to Snopes, it wasn’t true, though, and no one has suggested that Jenner is more courageous than Galloway. There’s no rule that the award is given to the single bravest athlete ever — that would be virtually impossible to ever determine. There are many kinds of bravery, and in this case, ESPN elected to award it to an individual who showed courage in a way that’s still quite revolutionary and new, in, as ESPN described it, “a single act that shines a light on an important contemproary issue.”
2. People aren’t forgiving Josh Duggar, and Lena Dunham is a liberal.
Lots of people have compared Josh Duggar’s crimes to Lena Dunham’s revelation. There are some key differences that make the outrage here rather silly: for one, Duggar was 15 when he violated a child as young as five (age difference is one defining factor in abuse of a child by another child), and for another, his family sustained a years-long cover-up. Of course, there’s also the fact that Lena Dunham isn’t trying to pass laws preventing an entire demographic of Americans from having basic rights while calling them child molesters. All of these contribute to a difference in the response to the two cases.
As the backlash against the Duggars goes, we could list dozens of cases of people getting outraged over silly aspects of the case (like Megyn Kelly’s insistence that the file was ‘leaked’ illegally, in the face of conflicting evidence.) However, no one has jumped on the outrage soapbox for this comparison with such a screeching, foaming-at-the–mouth diatribe as dear Sarah Palin, who posted on Facebook in a caps-locked, barely-comprehensible fury, not so much at the evil media and dirty liberals who condemned Josh, as at Lena herself.
HEY LENA, WHY NOT LAUGH OFF EVERYONE’S SEXUAL “EXPERIMENTS” AS YOU HAUGHTILY ENJOY REWARDS FOR YOUR OWN PERVERSION? YOU PEDOPHILE, YOU
Hey Sarah, why not recognize that telling the truth isn’t persecution?
3. A marine was court-martialed for failing to follow orders, which is anti-Christian persecution.
— ConcernedVetsSC (@ConcernedVetsSC) May 28, 2015
Fox reported last month that a marine was facing punishments for her Christian beliefs. In plain English, what they meant was that when asked repeatedly by a superior officer to remove a Bible verse from her desk in a shared space, Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling refused, and the charges against her were for
…failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer.
She wasn’t punished for being a Christian. She was punished for failing to follow orders — something that’s kind of a big deal in any defense branch.
4. Speaking of anti-Christian persecution, there’s the boy who was forbidden to read his Bible at school. Why is this a case of misplaced outrage? Because it quickly turned out not to be true.
The Blaze reported it in January: a 12-year-old Missouri boy who to the media with his claim that he had been forbidden to read his Bible during his free time at school. The story quickly blew up into righteous outrage, persecution of Christians, and an attack on freedoms…until the principal responded to the claims.
In short, it wasn’t true. It wasn’t even a case of a teacher being misunderstood: the principal explicitly said no teacher was involved in the situation at all, and that there had never been any rule preventing the boy from reading his Bible.
5. Michelle Obama was texting during the Pledge of Allegiance at White House Correspondents’ Dinner. (This is also not true.)
Is this Michelle "Mooch" Obama texting during the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States? pic.twitter.com/vW4iYapxKI
— Lawyers Guns & Money (@lawgunmon) June 7, 2015
The above image circulated on social media, drawing disgust. People decried the First lady as a crass, classless, anti-American fool who would text during the Pledge of Allegiance at a major televised event in a blatant show of disrespect. If you’re already thinking, wait, that wouldn’t just be rude, but stupid — she had to know there were cameras there, then you’re right on target.
Snopes debunked the claims, showing pictures that demonstrated that no only was Michelle Obama separated from the crowd, but that she was wearing a very different hairstyle and dress, making this individual clearly not her.
6. High School forbids the American flag (not really.)
— Andrew Kiel (@AndrewKiel) May 14, 2015
Again, this could be a list in itself, in which dozens of items would essentially all read: Person is told to remove flag. Outrage ensues. The real story comes out, and it wasn’t anti-American after all. In most cases, the real story would include a flag being outside the size limits for an HOA, placed in a location where it caused safety hazards, or otherwise not conforming to rules that apply to all items or decorations, not just the flag.
In this case, while some reports say that it was because people were ‘offended,’ the school maintains that a large waving flag is a visual distraction, and that this was a safety issue. According to WBTV, students protested, and the nation screamed in outrage, leading to the school to get enough calls and emails that the board decided they’d just back down and allow the flag — which is still large and distracting.
7. The Supreme Court ‘legalizing’ same-sex marriage.
In this case, the righteous outrage is over something that not only hasn’t happened yet, but that technically can’t happen — because ‘legalizing’ marriage equality isn’t even what the court is debating. Same-sex marriage is already legal — the Supreme Court is not deciding whether to allow same-sex couples to wed, but whether to allow some tates to ban it. The reason this semantic distinction matters is that the faux outrage is all centered on the terrible things that will come if marriage equality ‘passes,’ like fire and destruction and Christian persecution. The fact is, same-sex marriage is already legal in most of the country — and non of these dire predictions have come true, making the outrage of right-wingpoliticians and televangelists look as ridiculous as it really is.
8. Another false claim of persecution: a baker refused to write anti-gay messages on a cake.
The claim itself is true: following a case in which a baker was told that it is indeed discrimination to refuse to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, many had the bright idea to compare this to an LGBT-supportive bakery being asked to write derogatory anti-gay remarks on a cake. According to the Washington Post, one bakery in Colorado unwillingly became a test case for this, and did indeed refuse to write the words requested.
However, courts affirmed that the bakery was not guilty of discrimination, because workers did not refuse to make the cake for a customer, based on a protected class — that is, they didn’t refuse to make cakes, including message cakes, for Christians, straight people, white people, or any other group as defined by gender, sexuality, religion, etc. Instead, they refused to write a certain message — and still tried hard to find a way to accomodate the need without actually promoting the message themselves. Despite the righteous outrage in some circles, this wasn’t persecution of Christians — it was well within the law, and within moral bounds by any reasonable measure.
9. Yet another: this Fire Chief was not fired for his religious beliefs, but for promoting discriminatory messages in a way that would be associated with the city and potentially invite lawsuits.
Though the firing took place in 2014, there is still a lot of outrage stirring about Kevin Cochran’s case. Basically, he was the Fire Chief in Atlanta, and he published a book that explained why he believes that being gay is equivalent to raping children and animals. This wasn’t about his beliefs — it was about making a move that actively associated derogatory and discriminatory beliefs with the city itself.
According to Fire Geezer, he went further still: he passed out the books on the job, attempting to disseminate his religious beliefs while on the clock for the city. He also explained his desire to promote a culture of (his version of) Christianity throughout the fire department — something that violates the rights of the other employees.
While the Fire Chief certainly has the right to his beliefs, any outrage aimed at a city choosing not to be associated with those beliefs is definitely misplaced.
10. The ACLU defends Freedom of Religious expression — for everyone?
A common accusation against the ACLU is that they ‘only’ defend non-Christians. The ACLU defends the rights of LGBT individuals, racial minorities, atheists, and others — but do they defend Christians? The latest explosion of righteous outrage in this vein was by Ken Ham, of Answers In Genesis, who was perturbed that the ACLU defended the right of a Native American boy to wear , to his graduation, a feather that, for him, had religious or spiritual significance.
Ham is pretty sure that the ACLU isn’t being fair, and is only supporting this student because he isn’t Christian.
Now, I wonder, would the ACLU defend a Christian wanting to wear a Bible verse or carry a Bible to a graduation ceremony so they could honor their heavenly Father and the Christian heritage of their family? I would say no! They have consistently showed that they are hostile towards Christians and Christianity.
Here it turns out to be a good thing that this false claim is leveled so often — ACLU Fights For Christians is a web site devoted to listing recent cases in which the ACLU has defended Christians. With a long list of such cases, it quickly becomes clear that this is a lot of soubluster over nothing.
11. Obama is banning all online discussion of guns and ammo.
There a lot of people up in arms (no pun intended) about an NRA claim that Obama is moving to ban discussion of guns online. It comes from the NRA ILA (Instistute for Legislative Action), and the story is that Obama is updating some words in the International Traffic In Arms Regulation. This is urgent, warns the NRA. (Oddly, the regulations in discussion were first offered for debate in 2011 — why weren’t they urgent then?) It’s a lot of legalese about ‘technical data’ in the ‘public domain’ and the right to ‘export’ this data overseas. If you believe the NRA, the new regulations will make it illegal to talk about guns online, because if you, for instance, describe your rifle and explain what ammo it takes, you’re talking about ‘technical data’ that could be reasonably accessed by persons outside the U.S.
This is clearly bunk — if the government was talking about eliminating the right to discuss giuns online, it wouldn’t only be the NRA who would be speaking up. In fact, the document in question, the Final Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules (pdf warning), says nothing of the sort. The little bit that is mentioned about transmission of data (in this summary, also pdf) in fact does the opposite, clarifying that data is not an export — that is, the data it’s talking about is being reduced in regulation, not increased. This is specifically because of concerns that the data, stored online or transmitted by email, would violate current rules — and a real read makes it clear that this ‘technical data’ isn’t about what caliber of bullet a given gun uses, but about activities themselves — the sale, export, and transfer (such as in the name of defense) of firearms.
Short version: No, Obama isn’t make a new rule that you can’t post a gun review to your blog. It’s a language change to already-extant laws, making sure that simply storing data about the sale, transfer, and export of defense articles — weapons — online isn’t accidentally breaking ;aws about ‘exporting’ this data to foreign nations.
Righteous outrage can drive change — when it’s justified. The cases above, though, make one thing clear: before you get outraged, you might want to take a breath, take a minute — and take a look at the facts.