Wednesday, September 2, 2009

There's Anger and Then There's Anger: Mainstream Media Memes about Anger and Manipulation of the Catholic Right

Eric Boehlert published an interesting article last week at Media Matters.

The gist of his argument is that when the political left expresses viewpoints with passion, the mainstream media dismiss the left as "angry." But when the political right comes out gunning, its passion is celebrated in the mainstream media as a newsworthy phenomenon--good anger as opposed to the bad anger of the left.

As a result, the glaring, radioactive, white-hot anger of mobs carrying guns and calling for the president's death (and of people of faith right there in the middle of the mobs, urging them on) is celebrated in the media as populist fervor, while anti-war protests are treated as angry demonstrations by left-leaning flakes.

It's particularly interesting to see how this frame--which is designed, as Boehlert notes, to marginalize and control those on the left--is now replicated in the political discourse of the radioactively angry religious right, who bash their brothers and sisters in faith communities who dissent from their viewpoints with taunts about how angry those brothers and sisters are, while seething with irrational anger themselves against political ideas and political groups they have been taught to view as the incarnation of evil.

Anger is, of course, a human emotion that can be used for good or for evil. In and of itself, it's not reprehensible. When it is directed at injustice and fatuous ignorance used to justify injustice, it can be righteous--as the scriptures constantly remind us when they attribute anger to God, as God confronts injustice.

With anger, everything depends on the goal the anger intends. Everything depends on the ends it seeks to achieve.

The considerable anger of the Catholic right, which dominates its discourse and often determines its reading of scripture and tradition, is fascinating (and repellent) to watch, because it is so clearly often engineered anger, and because those nurturing this engineered anger have no clue about how angry they are, and why they are angry. And those engineering the anger, those pulling the strings, are doing so because they want the Catholic social conscience to be captive to their economic interests.

They want the anger of the Catholic community to be directed, for instance, to bugbear threats about killing grandma, rather than against the fact that millions of citizens in this nation have no access to basic, ongoing health care at all. Those pulling the strings and engineering the misplaced anger of the Catholic right want the Catholic conscience not to see how our health care system is designed primarily for profit and not at all to serve the common good or the values of life.

And they're adroit and very successful at what they're trying to do, particularly when they combine the anger-stirring with a dumbing-down process that succeeds in turning us into moral imbeciles, angry about and determined to destroy what we ought to be supporting, and completely complacent about what deserves our righteous anger.