Don’t Feed the Outrage Bears


I think it’s vitally important to consider the sources of our information about the world. Where we get our information can prime us to react in different ways. Here’s an example that floated across my Facebook feed. The headline was, “This law California just passed may signal the END of our Republic.” The person who posted it commented, “Did California really just pass a law turning high school into the ultimate participation trophy?” Here’s the link:

Photo Nov 14, 7 21 10 AM (1)

The very first thing I did when I saw this article, is that I did two Google searches: (1) When did California implement its High School exit exam, and (2) How many states have High School exit exams? Turns out, California passed a law in 2004 requiring high school students to pass an exit exam before graduating. Further, many states don’t have exit exams for High School, including Utah and Idaho, and never have.

In 2015, after observing the effects of their exit exam for 10 years, the California legislature thinks that it may not have been the best idea, so they are repealing the requirement. Were they right in 2004, or are they right in 2015? *I don’t know.* It doesn’t matter for my comments here. My point is this: the exit exam didn’t exist in California before 2004, but suddenly, it’s the *end of our Republic* if it doesn’t exist after 2015. That is ridiculous. That is the rhetoric that is destroying civil discourse in our nation. That is the rhetoric that’s keeping us from examining issues from every angle, from have cool and collected minds as we respond to policy decisions made by our leaders. This is what is dividing our nation.

Should High Schools have exit exams? I don’t know. I would have reservations were they to implement one in my state. And I am a conservative/ (former)Republican /libertarian sort of guy. So it’s not crazy to oppose such a requirement for graduating High School — at least, I don’t think it is. Standardized testing has always been a controversial, contested issue, by people on all sides of our ideological divides. But yet, according to this article, it spells the end of our Republic that California is revisiting and questioning the requirement which was implemented only 10 years ago. But notice that the article doesn’t include that information. The author acts as if the requirement had always been in place until now, that California is undoing centuries of civil tradition.

The fact that the exam was only implemented 10 years ago, and that many states don’t even have such an exam, seems like extremely relevant information *regardless of where you stand on the issue.* So either the author was woefully ignorant and incompetent in his reporting (by neglecting to look up and report such a crucial piece of information), or willfully deceptive in his writing. In either scenario, why would you ever go back to this site for news again? If a source has been demonstrated to be either incompetent or deceptive in such a dramatic way, why would you trust them again? (Also, this particular site is a repeat offender many times over.)

Here’s my challenge to you:

  1. If you get your news from sources like this, STOP. Just stop. If you’ve been deceived in the past, that’s fine. But don’t go back again, otherwise, you weren’t just fooled, you are just being foolish. These sorts of polemic sources — whether liberal or conservative — do nothing good for you, except lead you to live in a state of perpetual outrage, and often at shadows (in this case). Don’t share such articles.
  2. When you read such an article, don’t reflexively go into outrage mode. Go and *look up* the issues being discussed. Find other, more credible sources. Ask the relevant questions (In this case, When was the law first passed that is being repealed? What does it actually say? What are the reasons given by those who support it? Do other states have similar requirements? etc., etc.)”

11 thoughts on “Don’t Feed the Outrage Bears

  1. I have a variety of newsfeeds to my Facebook account including the Guardian out of England. I also have an app called Watchup which provides video clips from numerous news sources, both local and national. I occasionally read articles and editorials from the Washington Times as well as the Washington Post. It is very easy to fall into the rut of letting others do your thinking for you. I learned this early when I observed my father who was intelligent and well read, however he didn’t know what he thought about political issues until he had read the editorials in the Salt Lake Tribune each morning.
    There is an immense amount of click bait generated by various ‘news’ sources, both conservative and liberal. It is up to us to put our ‘thinking caps’ on. Sadly I believe that most Americans have become sound bite oriented, which may explain why Barack Obama and Donald Trump were ranked as number one and two of the most admired men in America recently.

  2. Everytime I see a linked article on fb that says something like “this meme DESTROYS the arguments made by [whoever], or “new video COMPLETELY UNDERMINES talking points of [x persons]” – I can 100% guarantee it does no such thing, and tends to be little more than a idiotic mix of confirmation bias, fear-mongering, and wish fulfillment.

  3. Absolutely!!!

    It’s more than a little ironic that the very technology that empowers the public sphere of rational discourse aimed at consensus that participatory democrats have always longed for has actually served to dissolve civil discourse and consensus. Social media has been a remarkable demonstration of Plato’s reservations towards democracy and the ways it can tend toward civil war and mediocrity in general.

    LDSphilosopher, I deeply applaud all your efforts to reestablish – if not slow down the erosion of – civil discourse and empathetic understanding.

  4. I can’t quite tell if I’m more disappointed in people who continue to believe whatever is posted and perpetuate the misinformation without being determined to be more informed or those who deliberately write these things. I find it extremely hard to believe that the individual who wrote the original post misunderstood the California bill. There has to be understanding and yet a complete disregard for the truth and then a conscious thought process to write out a blog post deliberately misinforming others with their commentary. Am I getting too hung up about this???

  5. There has also been a lot of false flag stuff going around for years to make the other side look bad.

    In addition, activists sometimes do something outrageous to “raise conciousness”, such as a black college student putting a noose on their own dorm room door-knob to generate outrage against white-on-black racism.

    On the other hand, there have been plenty of legitimate things to be outraged over. Or as has been said “If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”

  6. A little Google goes a long way. I usually double- or triple-check any interesting or outrageous-sounding news story before posting it elsewhere, for exactly the reasons shown above. And even with that, I sometimes mess up.

  7. Stating the obvious, this also holds true for things related to the Church. The difference is that there is more to understanding Church-related things than just Googling stuff.

    I love social media and the power of technology. But being aware of the risks and downsides is ever-so-important.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Some very good points. I think Pat echoes my thoughts when she says,
    “sadly, I believe most Americans have become sound-bite oriented”.
    Just as bfwebster said, I try to double check before re-posting as well, and have still made mistakes here and there.
    It is important to remember that while many things are labeled as “news”, in reality, I haven’t found anything yet that is truly without bias. Our “news” is mostly just an extension of entertainment these days and conflict and fear seem to sell more than truth.

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