When historians look back on the first two decades of the 21st century, they may well conclude that the defining characteristic of our age is feigned outrage.
|This is not how you get ahead in politics.|
These are the things we're supposed to get upset about.
We're told — by people who know nothing of American history — that Americans are polarized as never before. Actually, quite the opposite.
We agree as never before. The consensus is shifting on some issues, from marijuana legalization to gay marriage — both of which slim majorities of Americans now favor — but most people don't really disagree about a lot.
Unfortunately, this makes life hard for politicians, pundits, professional activists and others whose livelihoods depend on people being at each other's throats. So, partisans of Team Red and Team Blue go around looking for things they can pretend to be angry about, and then try to make you and me angry about them, too.
These are, usually, not serious issues. How can they be? Team Red and Team Blue agree on so much. A president of one party gets a national mandatory health insurance plan enacted, and the other party, which says it is against mandatory health insurance, nominates a challenger who enacted the same insurance plan in his own state. From the size and scope of government to issues of war and peace, there are no serious disagreements among our leaders or the opinion makers who orbit them.
So, bring me the head of George W. Bush.
The head, not meant to be President Bush's head but just the head of some unlucky bloke who got his noggin lopped off, as happens to so many "Game of Thrones" characters, appears in an episode that first aired more than a year ago. No one noticed. The producers commented about the head when season 1 was released on DVD, saying they needed a head to put on a spike and the head of the former president happened to be what they had lying around. No political message was intended, they said. Again, no one noticed.
Until last week, when, suddenly, feigned outrage struck again, with Team Red scribblers like the New York Post's Andrea Peyser saying this was yet another example of the liberal Hollywood elite slamming wholesome American values. Never mind that getting beheaded by the repugnant, inbred King Joffrey is, if anything, an honor that puts you in pretty good moral standing.
Did William Shatner get upset when the makers of the "Halloween" movies put a bleached-out Shatner mask on their lumbering serial killer Michael Myers? I think not.
But HBO folded. It pulled the offending episode from iTunes and its HBO Go service, and it stopped shipping new DVDs.
All this because of trumped-up outrage over an "offense" it took the offended a year to notice. Don't think I'm picking on Team Red. Team Blue over to our left is no better.
Remember when getting really upset about something Rush Limbaugh said was a thing? Yet most of the people claiming to be upset were probably delighted, because it turned Limbaugh's otherwise unremarkable target, Sandra Fluke, into a martyr and gave Team Blue an excuse to engage in one of its favorite sports — beating up Limbaugh for saying something stupid.
Maybe someday we'll go back to being outraged about things that matter. But not today.