White Kids on Poutrage
By Al Giordano
In his post yesterday, Outrage Works: Extra Bailout Funds Out of Budget, OpenLeft’s Chris Bowers hunts for a silver lining in the wake of the collapse of the “Dump Geithner” movement before it got any authentic traction in public opinion. He shifts the line of scrimmage from Geithner to future bailout funds, hailing a quote from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who informs that a $250 billion “place-holder” fund – reputedly put aside for future Wall Street bailouts – has been removed from the Obama budget. Bowers writes:
“…it wouldn't have been possible without red-hot, blinding, widespread outrage over the bonuses. Score one for anger!”
Gawd, this is beginning to sound like something in the self-help books section at Barnes & Noble: “Assuage Your Liberal White Upper Class Guilt through Anger Gestalt Therapy in 10 Days or Less,” could be the next NY Times bestseller.
As Bowers himself noted in May 2007:
We know from repeated studies that the progressive, political blogosphere skews toward the following demographics: 85-90% white, 60-65% male, very high income ($75-$80K average income), and the highly educated (40-50% advanced degrees, and 80-85% four year degrees).
To the extent that the aforementioned “progressive, political blogosphere” has grown slightly more diverse over the past two years since that May 2007 snapshot, the Obama movement gets the credit for bringing most of the refreshing newcomers in. The gates of the “unbearable whiteness of blogging” have been stormed by a new generation of black, Hispanic and other minority bloggers, readers and commenters, some of whom, like our colleagues over at Jack & Jill Politics, have risen to the front tier of the Netroots. The May 1, 2006 general strike against immigration raids in the United States and the movement it launched likewise provoked a new generation of blogs like that of one my favorites, The Unapologetic Mexican, who have generally been skeptical if not scornful of the white Netroots personalities.
I’d say that no other factor has had a more positive effect on the Netroots than this relatively recent storming of the previous gate-stormers. (And, yes, it’s very heartening to see Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos come home on the immigration reform issue; I look forward to fighting side by side, probably later this year, with him and others when the matter comes to blows again in Congress. As I noted back in 2007, the last time it came up, the Netroots had offered deafening silence or worse during that hour of national moral crisis.)
Human events have acted over the past week to confirm our thesis of The Banality of Outrage. The “Dump Geithner” movement – led mainly by white college-educated neo-populists - has been completely undone in a matter of days. And now its architects – foiled again - are back at the drawing board trying to move the chains and set new yardsticks as the old ones have drifted back into the dustbin of history.
I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan of Time’s Joe Klein. But he is a fairly accurate barometer of liberal media punditry and the chatterers have now noticed what we pointed out last week. Klein just wrote a post titled Populist Rage? …Never Mind:
So, yes, people are "angry" at Wall Street. They are also "angry" at Octomom. I wonder if the depth and quality of those two rages differ--or is this all just a television show? I mean, how many demonstrations, how many economic riots, have there been? There have been real free-for-alls, featuring real violence and bloodshed, in places like China, where the level of societal unfairness and desperation makes our own not-insignificant inequities seem like a workers' paradise. There used to be economic riots and marches here--back in the Great Depression, and further back in the populist era of the late 19th century. But none lately. There doesn't even seem to be significant movement in the polls, which are our own, latter-day way of marching on Washington…
But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievances…
And, yes, to a certain extent some in the online Poutrage Club are either being paid for it (or, say, using manufactured outrage as part of their auditions to get on Cable TV and become paid well for it), but there’s also a “self-help book” flavor to much of it among that mostly white, male, $75,000-a-year average income crowd that now wanders the Internets looking for its next Poutrage-of-the-Week: “I am outraged, therefore I am part of the working class!”
Pshaw! How flattering!
And yet so much of it is based on their own prejudicial stereotypes of the working class, common in white college-educated circles, that we’re somehow uncontrollably angry: walking balls of rage waiting to be ignited... by their so-called leadership! In fact, the opposite is the case. It’s, rather, the ones that are wearing their caricature of anger and outrage like a new style of clothes who don’t have much practice (if any) being on the receiving end of the fundamental unfairness of capitalism.
I certainly don't intend to return the volley of class prejudice by lumping all college-educated whites earning $75,000 a year into that anger-as-fashion-statement camp. A few angry apples don't spoil the whole bunch, no!
Authentic anger knows all too well the dangers of “exploding head syndrome,” its impotence and its consequences, and therefore understands how to control and harness itself, based on experience. That’s why when the President says, as he did on 60 Minutes on Sunday, that “we can’t govern out of anger,” the increasingly diverse working class in the United States of America and elsewhere “gets” that on a profoundly informed level, whereas the white kids on poutrage seem to be viewing their new fetish as about their emotional needs, with apologies to Ginsberg, “looking for an angry fix.”