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Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists

Perpetually raging about the world's injustices? You're probably overcompensating.

akg-images/Newscomakg-images/NewscomWhen people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don't affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as "moral outrage"—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one's own status as a Very Good Person.

Outrage expressed "on behalf of the victim of [a perceived] moral violation" is often thought of as "a prosocial emotion" rooted in "a desire to restore justice by fighting on behalf of the victimized," explain Bowdoin psychology professor Zachary Rothschild and University of Southern Mississippi psychology professor Lucas A. Keefer in the latest edition of Motivation and Emotion. Yet this conventional construction—moral outrage as the purview of the especially righteous—is "called into question" by research on guilt, they say.

Feelings of guilt are a direct threat to one's sense that they are a moral person and, accordingly, research on guilt finds that this emotion elicits strategies aimed at alleviating guilt that do not always involve undoing one's actions. Furthermore, research shows that individuals respond to reminders of their group's moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing. These findings suggest that feelings of moral outrage, long thought to be grounded solely in concerns with maintaining justice, may sometimes reflect efforts to maintain a moral identity.

To test this guilt-to-outrage-to-moral-reaffirmation premise, Rothschild and Keefer conducted five separate studies assessing the relationships between anger, empathy, identity, individual and collective guilt, self perception, and the expression of moral outrage.

For each study, a new group of respondents (solicited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk program) were presented with a fabricated news article about either labor exploitation in developing countries or climate change. For studies using the climate-change article, half of participants read that the biggest driver of man-made climate change was American consumers, while the others read that Chinese consumers were most to blame. With the labor exploitation article, participants in one study were primed to think about small ways in which they might be contributing to child labor, labor trafficking, and poor working conditions in "sweatshops"; in another, they learned about poor conditions in factories making Apple products and the company's failure to stop this. After exposure to their respective articles, study participants were given a series of short surveys and exercises to assess their levels of things like personal guilt, collective guilt, anger at third parties ("multinational corporations," "international oil companies") involved in the environmental destruction/labor exploitation, desire to see someone punished, and belief in personal moral standing, as well as baseline beliefs about the topics in question and positive or negative affect. Here's the gist of Rothschild and Keefer's findings:

  1. Triggering feelings of personal culpability for a problem increases moral outrage at a third-party target. For instance, respondents who read that Americans are the biggest consumer drivers of climate change "reported significantly higher levels of outrage at the environmental destruction" caused by "multinational oil corporations" than did the respondents who read that Chinese consumers were most to blame.
  2. The more guilt over one's own potential complicity, the more desire "to punish a third-party through increased moral outrage at that target." For instance, participants in study one read about sweatshop labor exploitation, rated their own identification with common consumer practices that allegedly contribute, then rated their level of anger at "international corporations" who perpetuate the exploitative system and desire to punish these entities. The results showed that increased guilt "predicted increased punitiveness toward a third-party harm-doer due to increased moral outrage at the target."
  3. Having the opportunity to express outrage at a third-party decreased guilt in people threatened through "ingroup immorality." Study participants who read that Americans were the biggest drivers of man-made climate change showed significantly higher guilt scores than those who read the blame-China article when they weren't given an opportunity to express anger at or assign blame to a third-party. However, having this opportunity to rage against hypothetical corporations led respondents who read the blame-America story to express significantly lower levels of guilt than the China group. Respondents who read that Chinese consumers were to blame had similar guilt levels regardless of whether they had the opportunity to express moral outrage.
  4. "The opportunity to express moral outrage at corporate harm-doers" inflated participants perception of personal morality. Asked to rate their own moral character after reading the article blaming Americans for climate change, respondents saw themselves as having "significantly lower personal moral character" than those who read the blame-China article—that is, when they weren't given an out in the form of third-party blame. Respondents in the America-shaming group wound up with similar levels of moral pride as the China control group when they were first asked to rate the level of blame deserved by various corporate actors and their personal level of anger at these groups. In both this and a similar study using the labor-exploitation article, "the opportunity to express moral outrage at corporate harm-doing (vs. not) led to significantly higher personal moral character ratings," the authors found.
  5. Guilt-induced moral outrage was lessened when people could assert their goodness through alternative means, "even in an unrelated context." Study five used the labor exploitation article, asked all participants questions to assess their level of "collective guilt" (i.e., "feelings of guilt for the harm caused by one's own group") about the situation, then gave them an article about horrific conditions at Apple product factories. After that, a control group was given a neutral exercise, while others were asked to briefly describe what made them a good and decent person; both exercises were followed by an assessment of empathy and moral outrage. The researchers found that for those with high collective-guilt levels, having the chance to assert their moral goodness first led to less moral outrage at corporations. But when the high-collective-guilt folks were given the neutral exercise and couldn't assert they were good people, they wound up with more moral outrage at third parties. Meanwhile, for those low in collective guilt, affirming their own moral goodness first led to marginally more moral outrage at corporations.

These findings held true even accounting for things such as respondents political ideology, general affect, and background feelings about the issues.

Ultimately, the results of Rothschild and Keefer's five studies were "consistent with recent research showing that outgroup-directed moral outrage can be elicited in response to perceived threats to the ingroup's moral status," write the authors. The findings also suggest that "outrage driven by moral identity concerns serves to compensate for the threat of personal or collective immorality" and the cognitive dissonance that it might elicit, and expose a "link between guilt and self-serving expressions of outrage that reflect a kind of 'moral hypocrisy,' or at least a non-moral form of anger with a moral facade."

Photo Credit: DHF/Dinendra Haria/WENN/Newscom

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    What satisfying findings!

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Nietzche was right. All philosophy is psychology.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Mises was right. All economics is psychology.

  • Diane Merriam||

    We can obviously categorically denounce these findings since one of the authors was a Rothschild and therefore must be one of those infamous Gnomes of Zurich.

  • ||

    My support of the Innocence Project and IJ is definitely self-serving and guilt-based. Because government acts on behalf of "the people", and I'm included in that last I checked. Just tryna right wrongs done in my name.

  • Paucau||

    Well then keep on keepin' on.
    Unless you're a screeder.
    Screeders are often self-serving.
    Don't be a screeder.

  • $park¥ don't care bout yo mom||

    But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as "moral outrage"—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one's own status as a Very Good Person.

    Well I'm certainly shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, at this amazing discovery.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    For real, though, who could have predicted that collectivism - especially as regards such strongly negative emotions as guilt - would so easily lead to lashing out at the Other? Besides that tiny minority of people with more than half a brain.

  • $park¥ don't care bout yo mom||

    I can't wait for the massive "nu-uh" to come from those offended by these new findings.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    If i were still on Facebook and reposted this, i'd expect 2-3 Likes from libertarian/conservative/contrarian friends and a big thunderous Nothing from the Prog Quarter.

    (Big Thunderous Nothing was Crusty's nickname in college, by the way).

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Crusty was also voted Most Likely to Suceed....in finding the back of a pet store.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    I'm better than you.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The world's best scientists have labored in vain for years to come up with any metric by which that is true.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    You do feel the need to steal my commenting memes.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I steal EVERYBODY'S commenting memes.

  • $park¥ don't care bout yo mom||

    Comment meme thief was my nickname in college.

  • American Memer||

    Excuse you.

  • Ventura Capitalist||

    That's because you're so generous when you're spending other people's money!

  • AlexInCT||

    That's the power of all this virtue signaling from the people that think anyone not paying lip service to the narrative is a racist of phobe of some type.

  • Joe Wazzzz||

    At what? Ultimately the best, most successful people on the face of the earth are its survivors.

  • Bubba Jones||

    We bitch about social signaling every day.

    You might say we are outraged by it.

  • prolefeed||

    Or annoyed.

  • Sevo||

    Sometimes bored.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Usually apathetic,

  • susan845||

    Or mystified...

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    I have the best outrage. It's a big league outrage. It's huge. It's a huge outrage.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Moral Outrage was my nickname in college.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Floral Outrage was mine.

  • Memory Hole||

    I inject outrage in public bathrooms.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Wouldn't that be eject?

  • Philip Nolan||

    'Nickname" was my nickname in college.

  • Rich||

    Triggering feelings of personal culpability for a problem increases moral outrage at a third-party target.

    Mental illness is a terrible thing.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Actually it's kind of entertaining,

  • MotörSteve||

    Noooo! *My* outrage is PURE, I tells you! Only *those* people are self-serving!

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't really stick up for the right of terrorists not to be tortured, for the right of Scientologists to practice their religion, for the right of arsonists to legal counsel, the right of racists to speak freely, etc. What I'm really sticking up for is my own right not to be tortured, my own right to choose my own religion, my own Fifth Amendment rights, my own right to free speech, etc.

    The realization that other people's rights and your own rights are intimately connected may be the beginning of all libertarianism. That realization probably comes to people by way of altruism--and so that altruism really shouldn't be discouraged. It should just be expanded upon.

    It shouldn't surprise any libertarian that altruism and self-interest don't exist entirely independent of each other in a moral vacuum. Adam Smith's invisible hand is all about that. When people are free to pursue their own interests, the results looks like altruism.

    Likewise, evolutionary demonstrates that altruism is a natural consequences of the survival of the fittest--it confers evolutionary advantages against competitors that lack those advantages.

    Hence, when we libertarians "publicly rage about perceived injustices that don't affect them personally", it may not be "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others"--but that's completely beside the point. A society that "does unto other as you would have done unto you" is of great benefit to both others and you.

  • Rich||

    Well said; but don't forget the Silver Rule.

  • ||

    Which is: that is mine keep your filthy stealing hands off

  • prolefeed||

    Likewise, evolutionary demonstrates that altruism is a natural consequences of the survival of the fittest

    Well, that explains why male lions that take over prides immediately kill all the lion cubs fathered by the previous ruler of the pride.

    Frankly, much, perhaps nearly all, "altruism" is arguably selfishness of people trying to feel better about themselves or doing social signaling to enhance their prestige.

  • mortiscrum||

    RE: Frankly, much, perhaps nearly all, "altruism" is arguably selfishness of people trying to feel better about themselves or doing social signaling to enhance their prestige.

    Agreed; I've been saying this for years. We don't do nice things for other people for selfless reasons, we do it (at best) because it makes us feel good about ourselves. It's ultimately a selfish act in the sense that it's driven by personal enjoyment and/or fulfillment, not altruism.

  • esteve7||

    Milton Friendman used to say this - that everyone, *everyone* does things out of their own self interest. Even Mother Teresa

  • mortiscrum||

    Especially Mother Teresa...

  • Eman||

    Exactly! Its impossible not to. Everything you do is because you prefer it to the alternatives.

  • Big Zeee||

    Been saying this for at least 30 years but nobody could appreciate my point.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Frankly, much, perhaps nearly all, "altruism" is arguably selfishness of people trying to feel better about themselves or doing social signaling to enhance their prestige."

    I'm not convinced that all acts of altruism are also selfish.

    I read a story about a soldier that threw himself on a grenade to save his buddies. To say that he was selfish because he cared more about his buddies than he did about himself, strains the meaning of the word "selfish".

    I'll go with the suggestion that not every act of altruism necessarily needs to be free from self-interest in order to be altruistic, and, certainly, self-interest can and often does lead to apparently altruistic outcomes.

  • mortiscrum||

    I think you make a good point, but for the sake of discussion I'll try to refute it -

    In any situation, when a person is faced with doing something altruistic, they of course also have the option of NOT doing it. But if they don't do the action, they must come to terms with the fact that they are a person who opted to not do something altruistic when the opportunity to do so was right in front of them.

    It's extremely rare that someone thinks of themselves as a bad person. But not doing something altruistic is something a bad person does - cognitive dissonance! There's two ways that can be addressed: provide mental justification for why it was reasonable for a good person to not act altruistically, or to just do the altruistic act and avoid the situation entirely.

    Your example of the soldier: How do you think he'd feel about himself, days, weeks, years later, if he didn't jump on the grenade? Knowing he probably could have saved several lives, but didn't? That'd be an awful lot of cognitive dissonance to mitigate.

  • gclancy51||

    Richard Dawkins considered this scenario. He felt it was the genes kickin' in. Human genes are able to sacrifice an individual (the soldier) for the greater good (the buddies) in some scenarios, as it's better for the collective gene pool than losing all.

  • mortiscrum||

    I'd like to read that book, because that, frankly, feels like a weak-ass explanation. Does he offer any better supported reason than his own thoughts?

    In the larger picture sense, an individual sacrificing themselves to save others works in the groups' favor, but it certainly doesn't help that individual pass on their genes. It's very counter-intuitive to me.

  • A Simple Life||

    His idea is that in the past, people lived in much closer social units and had less contact with "outsiders". This means that the majority of people you'd meet would share your genes, so that sacrificing yourself to save someone else can be seen as justified from the perspective of natural selection. Another example are worker bees - they are infertile but share the genes of the queen. Therefore, their hard work and sacrifice despite never directly reproducing still contributes to the continuation of their genes.

    The idea is that modern altruism is a "surplus value" of this preexisting condition. Nowadays, we mix with people who do not share our genes, but the underlying mechanism is still there and we still have a natural urge to help others.

    FYI I'm not entirely sure that I really accept his analysis, but I think this represents a good summary of his ideas.

  • mortiscrum||

    Thank you; it is a bit more compelling with that explanation.

  • Big Zeee||

    To put it simply, an altruistic act is 100% correct in the eye of the doer and not necessarily a coincident concept in the minds of the beholders; altruism is a subjective abstract concept.

  • Berserkerscientist||

    Go read "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. I thought like you for years. But altruism is real. Another word is "kin selection".

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    I am morally outraged at Ken's longass comments.

  • Guatestitcher||

    Scientology isn't a religion.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Ayn Rand says "Fuck you!"

  • Diane Merriam||

    There's a big difference between altruism and generosity.

    Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

    Beware of altrusim. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.

    If tempted by something that feels "altruistic" examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!

    - Robert A. Heinlein

  • Tyler.C||

    Has anyone told shikha yet?

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Har har!

  • MHaber||

    I don't think she reads Reason.

  • ||

    Shikha has retreated to her safe space and is currently unreachable.

  • american socialist||

    Good article. I think it is based on low self esteem and then morphs into an addiction which they crave. Like people who perpetually complain...they want to do that. Their self worth becomes tied in it

  • ||

    There are 'professional Victims', and their Creators and Sopporters-(special intentional)-the Democrats

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists


    I find those findings to be outrageous!

  • Memory Hole||

    You're better than that!

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    ....because there's nothing more inspiring as a white hipster from Seattle calling people in flyover country racist.

  • Tommy_Grand||

    if you're *really* attractive, you don't feel compelled to tell people you're attractive. they know

    by no later than age 22, smart girls learn the pony-tail guys who claim to be pro-woman and who never miss a chance to proclaim themselves feminists are secret misogynists who fantasize about rape and hit girls when mad

    we people of color know the pasty-faced Seattle hipster screaming "death to trump" every second is a covert racist

    The big butch dudes who ridicule homos non-stop are something like 75% homos

    At Harvard, Bill Gates famously carried in his pocket a copy of his stellar SAT score report. I suspect he no longer suffers from that compulsion

  • Paucau||

    what's a 75% homo?

  • Provocateur||

    A bi- bi lover?

  • gaoxiaen||

    You and your bromance.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Duh. I've been saying it for two years now. Everyone's moral outrage is just virtue signaling, EXCEPT FOR MINE.

  • MHaber||

    Ah, so you've discovered virtue signaling.

  • MHaber||

    Ah, so you've discovered virtue signaling.

  • Sevo||

    A couple of times.

  • Memory Hole||

    I've always bitched anonymously so I guess that makes me superior.

  • gaoxiaen||

    No. You're a bottom or "catcher".

  • Misty||

    Lol. Moral outrage is a manifistation of guilt? This is gobbledygook.

  • Horatio||

    Such reading comprehension!

  • EscherEnigma||

    Such a conclusion should be a call for inspection and self-examination.

    I doubt it will happen.

  • CharlieMac||

    I believe the actual term for this is "narcissism".

    I have long believed that the Progressive Movement is the home of the modern-day narcissist who is forever virtue-signalling.... trying to prove to everyone he knows that he is a better person than them......because he cares more.... although narcissists, by nature, couldn't care less.

    This is simply an act meant to reinforce the "false face", the tapestry covering the deep hole in their psyche borne of there total lack of self-worth.

    My recently failed 16 month relationship with a malignant narcissist has taught me extremely painful lessons that no person should have to learn; that the hole in their soul is so deep.... and the facade they have created to hide
    their own feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred so essential .... it will be protected by any means necessary, including destroying the ones they claim to love when they start to lift the tapestry and see the true person behind that beautiful piece of artwork.

    One of my best friend's husband is a flaming narcissist, and a holier-than-thou, virtue signaling, guilt-inducing Progressive. His pathologically driven need to prove his moral superiority oozes out of him like sap from a tree, when in reality he has the least amount of empathy and concern for those around than almost anyone I know. A covert narcissist, he maintains his false face in public while treating his wife like dirt at home.

  • 10mm||

    As Adam & Drew say, it always comes back to narcissism!

  • reardensteel||

    I said that first, though.

  • gaoxiaen||

    +1 Easy to be Hard.

  • CharlieMac||

    This man tirelessly lectures the rest of us on our lack of concern for illegal immigrants as tries to hide his contempt and misanthropy behind his feigned concern for those he doesn't know. I have begun to call him on his false compassion by revealing his lack of compassion for his fellow citizens who have been so impacted by the flood of illegals streaming into America.

    His wife, finally, has begun to fight back and establish boundaries as, with my help, she now has an understanding of who he is and has done enough research on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder to understand why he seems to be two difference people, a caring and compassionate Progressive in public.. ..and a monster at home.

    This is the real nature of many of the progressives you will argue with today.

  • reardensteel||

    Thanks for sticking up for me, man.
    I can't even count how many progressives I have argued with today.

  • Sardondi||

    This goes a long way to explaining Democrats.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Guilt generally exists as a bevy of bears trampling temples of logic.

    It's a wonder anything conclusive can be gathered from such a narrowly-useful emotion.

  • Torbrew||

    This article repeats what Jesus said 2000 years ago:
    "Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How dare you say to your brother, 'Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,' when you have a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)

  • ace_m82||

    That Jesus guy, it was like he was supernaturally wise...

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    I once asked a Christian about that verse when they were morally posturing. Their answer for it was that there was no log in their eye, and they were pointing out the logs in everyone else's.

  • ace_m82||

    Huh. A Christian ought to know* that changing moral behavior doesn't save anyone. A Christian ought to know* that the only reason they do anything good is due to God's work of salvation in them, not though anything they did themselves.

    *Of course, most don't, because most Christians are Biblically illiterate and many, many of them are "Christian" in name only, due to having been raised as such.

  • Philip Nolan||

    If correct, the conclusions derived from this study would help explain the violence in this country over the last four months, specifically the violence and anger coming from the left.

  • Emissary||

    That corroborates my assessment from several years ago. And I have no sheepskin decorating my office wall.

  • John V. Linton||

    This article seems to distressingly bypass a central concern: How can any sort of public moral or political discourse happen except -- to some degree -- by the engagement of some interior evolutionary imperative or other?

    At some point it seems tautological.

    The author also takes it as an article of faith that collective guilt per se exists -- this is deeply in contention.

    There is a huge difference between being aware of one's luck or comparable advantage due to factors wholly outside one's control and an actual inherent guilt for something Person Y did.

  • ace_m82||

    Yeah, I don't really feel guilty because some other white guys had slaves, or that some other Americans murdered some people, or that some other "Christians" (with or without the quotation marks) treated others poorly.

    I have enough guilt for myself; I don't need to hold onto anyone else's.

  • Mr. Flanders||

    Duh, that's why you aren't out there reading the Guardian right now.

  • Aranhas||

    I was a psych major and this is one of the issues we discussed in school: the moral outrage over actions of Republicans. I was/am a Republican and found the discussion to be an answer to my questions over how "moral outrage" could trump (?) common sense. Obama was elected because of the cognitive dissonance created within the white voters who couldn't come to terms with their racism and prejudices. He was the most unqualified person ever to run for office, yet he got the job. That didn't make sense at any level. The only reason anyone could come up with was this inner conflict and an attempt to reconcile common sense with morality. He was a mulatto. That was enough to beat an experienced woman. That also explains the Nobel Peace Prize. The white voters who pushed him over the edge were racists. So was the Nobel committees. Pretty obvious.

  • CZmacure||

    I ask people why Oprah was so inspired that she helped Obama launch his campaign. They ignore her multiple public explanations that she was racistly inspired by his race and say "both Obama and Oprah are from Chicago."

  • Mr. Flanders||

    Wow, that's a lot of leaps of faith. All white people that voted for Obama are racist? You're just as bad as the people that are screaming "racist" at Trump voters. It could be that they simply bought the rhetoric of "hope" and "change", or that they disliked him less than they disliked McCain or Romney.

    I'm no fan of Obama, but its obvious you're reaching really far to make this argument.

  • Domina Elle||

    With all the psychics in the vocations of psychology- why aren't they picking the lottery numbers???

    I'm white and voted for Obama because I DESPISED Bush and wanted to see a black person as president. Turns out Obama may as well have been Bush in many regards. I am not racist. I reject the myth of races. There is one human race which encompasses many genetic variations but there's only one race one species of human. Speak for yourself. Some of us don't view reality or ourselves and others via the outlined defined mechanisms. How limiting!!!!

    The racism narrative needs to be canned. Yesterday.

    They'll give anyone a phd these days provided you show up do your work memorize the books and viola.

  • Provocateur||

    So....you're not racist, but you voted for Obama because you wanted to see a black president?!?

    Ooooo k....

  • reardensteel||

    Yeah, I kinda think voting for someone based on the color of his skin is the definition of racism.
    And you do know that Bush never ran against Obama, right?

  • Domina Elle||

    DUMB! Racist Whites would never vote for anyone other than someone who they feel represents them- a WHITE PERSON. Preferably a fellow racist white person. Have you ever known a member of the kkk? A racist skinhead? You couldn't pay them to get them to vote for a POC!! This 'hidden' subconscious racism balarky is JUNK SCIENCE. Virtue signaling on the other hand around convincing yourself you're a good person is what Christians have been doing in mass. But adding racism into the equation- a load of BS.

  • Domina Elle||

    Subconscious racism accusations is GASLIGHTING

  • Domina Elle||

    Yeah this touched a nerve.

    People mistake culture clashes as racism.

    No- humans are not all created equal like clones. I will never equate myself with say a pedophile or a serial killer. Doesn't matter what amount of melanin, gender, whatever. Every human should be treated with dignity and afforded their human rights equally but the humans themselves THANK GOODNESS aren't all 'equal'. Hopefully humans choose to aspire to personal greatness constantly challenging themselves. We are not a HIVE or a HERD but that seems to be what some want us to be.

    The hypothesis, the CONJECTURE that all people are subconsciously racist is a THEORY at best!!! One for the junk pile. It also acts as a promotion of racism. It's not a means of addressing racism but a means of keeping people confused and divided and as confirmed RACISTS. Is that the goal?! LETS TAKE IT FURTHER. Have the academic geniuses who came up with this crap reasoned out a solution?

    People are not genetically racist. Racism is taught. Racism is a construct!!! There's no racist gene!!

    Is this conjecture being applied to blacks? Or is it just whites and everyone else is in a kumbaya circle?! If it is only being applied to whites (which would make it even dumber) that would be racist.

  • susan845||

    Years ago, my roommate brought a 6 week old, pit bull puppy home and within the first 3 hours, playing on the front lawn, it went into full attack when my Black Postman arrived. Always wondered what that signified.

  • Provocateur||

    Domina Elle, that's an awful lot of third party moral outrage ya got there...

  • Diane Merriam||

    My -ex and I were talking shortly after the 2008 election and while neither of us would have thought of voting for him, we still had a minute of looking for some good in it and said, "Well, at least we've come to the point where he didn't lose simply because he was black. Maybe now we can finally set some of that angst aside." Boy, were we wrong.

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    In other news, the eternal blue sky is blue.

  • Mr. Flanders||

    Get out of here with your virtue signaling!

  • reardensteel||

    Whoa, man, that's like your screen name.
    That's far out, dude.

  • ||

    Careful ENB, you might trigger some of your fellow Reason editors by writing stuff like this.

  • freewill2112||

    Of course moral outrage is self serving, and the wisest activist leaders are fully aware of this fact when they engage their targets. As a result, activism today is a high-growth industry, and can be a very profitable career for many if it's well marketed - just as the church was back in its heyday. "Pay me to relieve you of your guilty burden!" Big bucks in that mission statement.

  • Eman||

    Right. As we're still getting richer - however slowly and unsurely - we have more to spend on luxuries like charity.

  • bullgator||

    Bein' us envy!

  • Mitsima||

    IOW, the more 1st World privilege you have, the more outrage you express over the things that make your sad empty life comfortable, unless you are the type who has few fucks to given about things you can't control.

    Did I get that right?

  • Domina Elle||

    VIRTUE SIGNALING

  • Jr12||

    Does this article mean that Reason will no longer be publishing their moral outrage over criticism of illegal immigration.

  • Bloodhound121||

    I don't really buy all these "altruism doesn't exist, everyone is really just a selfish asshole" comments. To me, true altruism is doing the right thing regardless of whether anyone knows about it or whether you ever receive a reward of any kind. The social justice wing on the left has me somewhat conflicted, because on one hand, I still think there are ways in which people are not equal ( blacks being pulled over more than whites despite having less contraband, trans being denied right to use restroom, etc) but on the other hand, their CONSTANT whining over things that could be considered even the slightest bit offensive so they can feel morally superior really pisses me off, and I don't see what it accomplishes other than turning people away from them so completely that they never even consider the more important parts of the movement. Most of the less "PC" part of the left already support the things that would improve their lives anyway, all this griping and moaning does nothing.

  • Bloodhound121||

    Also, this site is is libertarian as hell lol. I thought when Google recommended me an article from a website called reason.com it would be full of a bunch of atheists or something, but no, no, it's libertarians. Ah well. At least it seems like you agree with me on the left being shitty and PC

  • William Pilgrim||

    Everything is self serving, be it our political philosophies, our religious proclivities, or our choice of fuck buddies. But if we are true, science slaps us in the face and makes us honest, if we're not too damaged yet to be open to the truth.

  • Jeep's Blues||

    Pathological altruism is not a new concept.

    http://reason.com/blog/2013/06.....-r#comment

    In general I'm wary of people who expend a lot of oxygen trumpeting their own morality. You never heard Louis Armstrong trying to convince others how good he could play his horn.

  • Kernighan||

    This is what I call "The Badge". It's, in my mind, a psychological need to look at oneself as a protagonist, the "good guy". The emotion does not require that the positions taken, or actions taken actually ACHIEVE good effects, instead, it's all about seeing oneself with this "badge", or status as perhaps SJW, or other similar concept. It's just to assuage one's emotions. The important thing is that it has nothing to do with whether the positions help anybody.

  • Johnimo||

    So? What's new? We've all known this for a long, long, long time. Liberals are full of indignation at the plight of "their" special interest groups. THEY are racists who think all of their groups cannot take care of themselves. Indians on reservations need the help that only the concerned (and guilty feeling) liberals can provide. Black Americans need special privileges that only the (race guilty?) liberals can give to them. Pick any group you want, it's all the same "Oh, we have to help them" B.S.

    Those of us who don't feel guilty have a more balanced view of the world and society. I'm pretty certain that most folks can take care of themselves and that most people are willing to judge individuals by what they do, despite personal prejudices they might indulge.

  • M'liss||

    All you can hope for is that when white males are no longer in power, which will be sooner than you can imagine, they won't be treated as badly as they have treated others.
    This site is all about white boys beating their chests.

  • Weygand||

    Never happen. Not as long as sluts love cock

  • Wayne Allen||

    True moral outrage is self serving, however the outrage we have with Trump and his cronies is Ethical Outrage and that is not self serving but serving the interest of America.

  • Wayne Allen||

    Morals are all dogmatic B.S. Ethics are all that matter and Trump has little to none!

  • Jeep's Blues||

    What makes you believe Donald Trump is more or less ethical than any President we've had before him?

  • Eman||

    I have yet to see anything contradict my prediction that he'll probably be somewhere around average

  • Joe Wazzzz||

    This article is written from an amoral and above the fray perspective. You could make a case that all the reasons listed for people's righteous indignation are positive and necessary hardwired human traits. More simply put, the cost of safety, happiness, wealth, liberty and freedom is eternal vigilance. Vigilance without its harbingers has no point.

  • Guatestitcher||

    There was no mention of religious affiliation or practice. Strange since that is the basis of moral behavior.

  • M'liss||

    I guess Pope Francis & Mother Teresa have a lot of guilt. Come to think of it, add Jesus to that list.

  • M'liss||

    Funny how those who can't see beyond their own needs get so upset when others do. Sounds to me like they may be harboring some guilt of their own.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    In other news; study shows that belief in Socialism as a force for good is a strong indication of serious brain damage.

  • N_Bourbaki||

    Philosophers calls this moral outrage directed at others "indignation". There's an old Hebrew saying that translates as "Those groups who slander others do so because they are projecting their own sins.".

    The study reminded me of how many on the US left on their moralizing championing of the Tibetan independence cause and the associated demonization of the 3rd party (Chinese people). They accuse China of "occupation" and killing "a million Tibetans". This while their tax dollars and the politicians they voted into office killed a million Iraqis and occupied their country along with many other countries. It's textbook projection used to hide their own guilt.

  • reardensteel||

    It's completely inappropriate for some people to be feigning outrage to assuage their feelings of guilt.
    This can't be allowed to continue.
    How would you like it if your credibility were damaged by all these poseurs?

    It's up to us, friends.
    We must not stop fighting until the respect and dignity of honestly morally outraged folk is restored.

  • ||

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  • gush||

    On latest news, rain is wet.

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