You'd Like Me When I'm Angry


The Economist's oh-so-smart columnist "Lexington" has filed a curious study of America's "rebirth of outrage." It's a big target, but somehow the columnist misses it. He identifies the "tabloid titans" as a handful of cable chat show hosts, and then claims they appeal "only to narrow slivers of the country." Sure, they do. But any study of American outrage has to take in the apolitical rage-mongers who hype up local crime and kidnapping stories. O'Reilly's modest audience is only a fraction of Rush Limbaugh's, and Limbaugh is merely the most successful of the hundreds of rageholic radio hosts sharing the AM dial. And they're not all political, either—I'm assuming Lex has never listened to a sports call-in show.

The column lacks any real evidence of, or reasons for, an outrage boom. There's speculation about the 2000 election, gerrymandering, Roe v. Wade, and the feuds between Puritans and Cavaliers. Despite the hectoring tone, there's nothing here that explains why American outrage is bad (you'd expect a few stats on cholestoral and heart attacks, at least). If you wanted to explain why America has fast-paced, endlessly amusing media and culture, you might end up with a very similar column.