Public Sociology vs the Anger Industry (or Why Lying Makes Michael Savage Richer)

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4 Responses

  1. Keri says:

    Fabulous post! You are addressing some very important issues to both sociology and society. Thinking about one public–students–I see a scary trend of distrustfulness of science and blind acceptance of the media. It is quite bizarre that the power play you identify has not only managed to successfully distract most of the public, but they have also succeed in manufacturing “truth” or something quite close to it. The long term implications of this–beyond legislative stagnation–are frightful indeed. How might that public wrest power from the media?


  2. Ned says:

    I think that people of all political stripes use rhetoric to persuade their audience. Michael Moore’s movies also incite emotions such as anger and he construes facts to fit a “liberal agenda”. Michael Moore versus Savage is a more fitting comparison, at least. Both are pundits and are serving the same objective: to persuade. That is not the objective of academics, so I think you make a bad comparison.

    • pjrey says:

      What’s at issue here isn’t really the Right vs. the Left. In fact, the tendency to try to reduce every issue to a simple Right-Left binary is characteristic of the anger industry. Instead, the conflict that concerns me is between rational, evidenced-based public debate (what sociology contributes to) and political discourse that exploits anger and fear to benefit the person or institution creating that discourse (what most of talk radio and cable “news” contribute to). No doubt, there are people and institutions on the Left that contribute to the anger industry, but the Right tends to have far greater success (consider the failure of Air America). That said, many contributors to the anger industry serve neither the Right or the Left but simply their own self-interest.

      A final point is that anger isn’t necessarily irrational. It is certainly possible that rational, evidence-based debate may lead to or be bolstered by righteous anger. The fact that someone is angry or makes us angry does not preclude the possibility that they are contributing positively to public discourse. The problem is when anger is severed from reason.

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