Thursday, December 5, 2013

Feeding the Beast

A Facebook friend posted today a link to some new Fox-promoted lie about Obamacare with the comment, "I'm always surprised people continue to believe this stuff."  I was surprised that she was surprised.  After all, she is a successful psychologist who specializes in treating addiction. More than most, she should understand that "believing" is not what drives the audiences of Fox and other media outlets that rely on people's insatiable appetites for outrage.  The fact is, most of us enjoy being outraged.  It's fun to get mad.  Anger makes us feel strong.  It motivates us.  That's because anger releases a cascade of stimulating hormones that make us feel more alert ("alive") and energetic.  No wonder many of us get addicted to these powerful mind-altering chemicals that we can manufacture ourselves, right in our own heads, in the privacy and convenience of our own homes.  (And by "us," I mean "me" because, being of the XX persuasion, I am hopelessly solipsistic.) 

There have been a number of articles about "feeding the beast" of public outrage, and I expect to see more about this as people start to feel trapped in cycles of frustration and helplessness that are relieved temporarily by experiencing a dose of righteous anger, only to result in a "crash" -- that is, until the next scandal engages our attention and pumps us full of adrenaline once more.  It's exhausting, though, isn't it?

There is a lot of anger addiction in my family, and I am an anger addict myself.  I was taught to fuel myself with my own anger the way other people are taught to use coffee, as a routine stimulant in response to fatigue, fear, stress or any event that I find excessively taxing.  That doesn't mean I walk around in a state of simmering rage or am prone to public melt-downs.  But it does mean I can be rather unpleasant to be around when I am girding my loins for battle with some unpleasant or tiresome task such as cleaning the house or tackling a mountain of paperwork.  I have long been conscious of how I manipulate my own brain chemistry in order to energize myself with a goodly dose of anger.

Ironically, by feeding the anger beast I often wind up depleting my reserves.  Instead of actually harnessing that anger to effect real change (such as actually re-grouting the tub), I pursue the "high" like the junkie I am, seeking more "hits" of outrage.  For better or worse, like everyone else I live in a media-rich environment where there are endless opportunities to divert myself, and endless opportunities to be outraged.

I suppose this came to mind today when I found myself idly peeking at Matt Forney's twitter feed instead of cleaning the bird's cage.  Yesterday, he had tweeted something about me, to the effect that reading my blog was "like watching a nervous breakdown in slo-mo" and that I should really be put on "suicide watch."  Both comments made me laugh, and I wasn't offended by either.  To be honest, I wanted to see if he had tweeted anything more about me!  ("Vanity, thy name is woman!")  Instead, he was on an entirely different toot, courting new sources of outrage by virtually dancing on the grave of Nelson Mandela.

Forney's post about why girls need less (or was it more?) self-esteem has already faded from collective memory.  These things seem to have a half-life of about two weeks. Now he is left with the unenviable task of keeping attention on himself with nothing but his internet connection, smartphone, and nastiest impulses to help him.

Not for the first time I am thinking that in terms of grinding, mind-numbing, thankless vocations, the endless pursuit of internet notoriety must be the worst.  And it isn't even like "trolling for a living" fetches up much of a "living."  One of my mild but persistent obsessions is trying to figure out how a guy like Forney manages to stay as porky well-fed as he does.  I can only speculate that even though he's long since dropped out of college, his mom is still sending him "care packages."  (Or is it that, in the words of Shakespeare, anger is his meat and he sups upon himself?)

When I first stumbled into the "manosphere" I couldn't believe my eyes.  I would never have guessed how many Angry White Men were out there.  I felt compelled to read boatloads of these blogs in an effort to grasp the depth and breadth of it, to accept that the resurgence of a "new" misogyny was real.  I started with Roosh (hence the name of the blog), but soon discovered he was only one of many men who really, really hate women and don't hesitate to express that fear & loathing with shockingly contemptuous and even violent imagery (from safely behind their keyboards of course).  And they had fans too, and many of those readers had their own tiny terrible blogs and tiny furious twitter feeds.

I'll admit that these guys (and a few of these gals) scared me.  I hate to admit that because that's exactly what they want to do: to control women by playing on their fears.  And then I got very angry, which is a natural coping mechanism, because anger makes the fear manageable.    

OK, I now see this New Misogyny really is a thing in our world (not in my own small "real" world, mind you, where I have never met -- or at least never had reason to recognize -- any guys like this).  I've entertained my worst fears about what it represents, and have come to the conclusion that it does not represent a serious social threat, at least in its current incarnation.  

So what's my excuse for continuing to immerse myself in the toxic morass that constitutes the "manosphere"?  Is there a 12 Step program for people like me, who are addicted to feeding their own internet-fueled anger?  And what are the salient differences between "people like me" and "people like them" anyway?  In terms of our respective anger addictions, it seems very few.

It strikes me that on some small level I have been engaging in a symbiotic relationship with the manosphere bloggers, a sort of "dance of anger" in which we take turns outraging each other.  Maybe there is more in common between, say, Matt Forney and me than meets the eye.  Like many dysfunctional relationships, we are each getting some pay-off, feeding some addictive and self-destructive need.

Anyway, enough about Rush Limbaugh-wannabe Matt Forney for now (and in a reasonable universe, enough about Rush Limbaugh and Matt Forney forever.)  Time to watch once more "The Marriage of Maria Braun" (yes, I'm still on my WWII Germany kick) and pull my Christmas lights out of the attic because God forbid I be the only house on my cul-de-sac without lights on it.


  1. Good questions. I've been asked by a couple of people why I waste my time reading hate Manosphere sites which, let's face it, aren't exactly written by towering intellects or formidable opponents.

    The truth is, I love a frisson of outrage. I read the Daily Mail for the same reason. But maybe underlying that, there are just so many real problems to deal with. When I'm groaning under overwork (even make work jobs are too much for our lady brains) or I've read another depressing economic report, I can just click on the Manosphere and watch them run round getting exercised about non-problems (the collapse of civilisation because of awful women). It kind of puts things in perspective.

    1. One of the reasons I find your blog so much fun to read is that you seem able to keep these guys in proper perspective, which is say in a mocking light. Reading your witty takes on their various positions actually helps dissipate the anger they arouse in me.

    2. Really, these guys are silly. They're obvious and easily knocked down. The kind of sexism I encounter in my job is much, much worse because it's subtle and often comes from colleagues I respect.

  2. As horribly fascinating as I've found the Manosphere, I've decided that, for the sake of my blood pressure and long-term mental health, I really need to stay away from their blogs, message boards and other websites. While the outrage those things often fill me with used to be perversely pleasurable, it stopped being fun after a while, particularly when it'd have me stewing all day about something that invariably wasn't that important. To be sure, I still enjoy the blogs (such as yours) and other sites that poke fun at the Manosphere, and mercilessly dissect its outrageous claims, but I'm staying away from the "source material" for the most part. Very occasionally, I'll succumb to temptation, and take a peek at a Manosphere site I've sworn to stay away from, but it doesn't take me long to be reminded why I chose to stay away from it in the first place! It's just all too much for me now: the ridiculous jargon; the projection so blatant it's almost comical; the completely off-the-wall conspiracy theories (easily one of the most bizarre I ever encountered was from a guy who claimed that the NWO (or some other favourite right-wing bogeyman) were recruiting frustrated thirtysomething male virgins to help advance the "Global Depopulation Agenda", whatever the hell that is); the veneration of cranks and just generally vile people (Vox Day springs to mind); the reactionary social agenda (saying that these guys want to take us all back to the 1950s is way too kind - the 1850s would be more like it); the insufferable arrogance; and the risible hypocrisy of a bunch of guys all claiming to "live by their own rules" while exhibiting far more conformity than the women and "beta" males they mock.

    My brother in Seattle would echo the above views. When I visited him earlier in the year, I told him about my forays into the Manosphere, and while he was initially interested (we often like to share the fucked-up things we've found on the Internet), it got to the point where he just point blank said to me, "Dude, STFU about the fucking Manosphere! People in real life just don't behave the way those idiots say they do!" He should know, as his own current relationship bears virtually no resemblance to the Red Pill "ideal" (hell, just for a start, his Asian girlfriend isn't remotely submissive!).

    It's not just the Manosphere I've decided to stay away from, though; it's the conservative media in my own country as well. I used to religiously read The Australian, one of our national newspapers, until I got thoroughly fed up with its neoconservative, economically neoliberal agenda (a few years back, for example, they were vocal supporters of a truly odious (not to mention Orwellian) piece of industrial relations legislation entitled WorkChoices). There was one writer on their staff who particularly annoyed me, a woman called Janet Albrechtsen who I came to vehemently dislike the first time I read a column of hers (a ridiculous piece on the "evils" of metrosexuals). There doesn't seem to have been a right-wing American political viewpoint she hasn't parroted (she even once wrote a column praising the Tea Party!), and one of her columns was so extreme that the KKK approvingly reproduced it on one of their websites! That was quite funny, actually.

    1. If one of the most distressing aspects of the MRM and other radical right groups is that so many women jump on board, one of the most reassuring aspects of exploring these blogs is to find out that many (most?) men find them as abhorrent as I do. In fact, most of the men I talk to about the "manosphere" have no idea what I'm nattering on about and no interest in finding out first hand.

      It's all about finding the proper balance, isn't it? I know I won't really stop poking around in the blogs of hate groups -- a kind of morbid curiosity about human nature drives me to dark and terrible places -- but I do need to consciously balance the input I feed my mind.

    2. The only people worth worrying about are people with real power. People with positions of authority are different and should be taken seriously. Nutbags on the internet are entertainment.


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