Justified Anger

Author: Gary Hart

A lot of Americans are angry these days.  Some have better reasons for their anger than others.  Let’s consider justified and unjustified anger.

The justifiably angry include: the unemployed; the homeless; the hungry; those who’ve lost their homes because of unscrupulous mortgage company inducements; those carrying an unfair tax burden; those who see special interest lobbyists running Washington; young people who cannot afford an education; those with inadequate health care; those whose loved ones have died in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan; voters who see parties nominating inadequate or unqualified candidates; and so forth.

The unjustifiably angry include: voters whose party or candidates lost the last election; those who hate President Obama or think he is a foreign Muslim; those who refuse to obtain information from other than the Fox network or right wing radio; those who do not vote or participate in public forums; Wall Street; those who do not pay a fair share of taxes; and many others.

For pundits and commentators to discuss endlessly anger in America as if it were all one thing is to overlook the significant distinction between those who have a genuine reason for their anger and those who simply don’t get their way politically or economically.  For investment bankers, whose industry was saved by the national taxpayers, to complain about “hostility” in Washington is absurd, particularly when they complain while taking home their tens of millions a year.  Those who paid for the bailouts have a lot more to be angry about than those who benefited from them.

The next time you hear some cable television wiseguy talk about angry Americans, send them a message about who is justified in their anger and who is not.

9 Responses to “Justified Anger”

  1. Publius Says:

    Reading your blog reminded me of the movie Network,where Howard Beale asks his viewers to open their windows and proclaim “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore.” The problem with imploring this action is that it is insincere. It is astro-turf, not grass roots. It is directed by the elite and the powerful who provide the voice, the forum for the movement.

    Nothing has changed since 1975, in fact it has gotten worse. Today we are bombarded with Howard Beales 24/7. The Glenn Becks, Keith Obermans and Rush Limbaughs of the media world use emotion to manipulate the masses. Is their truly something to be mad about or are we just being told to be mad. I am not sure. Anger begets anger and from this dark well springs the fear that is now driving our nation. We have lost faith in our President, Congress, and most other institutions including the churches.

    The message which should ring out is not sexy, nor does it provoke a visceral response. Give peace a chance. John Lennon would have been 70 years old and his life was spent spreading a doctrine of cooperation and love. If any modern public figure would suggest this ideal in 2010 he would be laughed off the stage. The politics of the current generation relies on fear, it demands confrontation, you have to choose sides and deny compromise.

    Paddy Chayevsky’s brilliant work provided a warning of the power of the media that has gone unnoticed except by the master manipulators of Fox and Clear Channel and the Tea Party who used it as a guidebook. We are no longer mad as hell, unless we are told so.

  2. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Justified vs unjustified anger? In the words of Arte Johnson (Laugh In); Veeery Interesting! Spot on Sir. And the way the media has been presenting said anger is appalling. Oh yeah, they’ve covered the Tea Party non-stop. And highlighted their lunacy. Whereas, “real” anger justified by real affects (loss of job, hunger, lack of health care) not so much, if at all. The left HAS covered it. I cite MSNBC and Keith Olberman. HE (and Ed Schulz) both highlighted and raised money for the Free Clinics. THEY ‘got it’. Excuse me. Where WAS everyone else when the health care ‘debate’ (if you can call it that) was on? Hmm? Nowhere I could see. It was just the looneys at the town halls. Not ONE mention of real horror stories from the lack of health care. NONE. It was inevitable that where we are right now is a direct correlation to what information we are exposed to. Or expose ourselves to. I will plead guilty to excessive watching of MSNBC. Guilty as charged. Do I care what the morons on FOX say? Not really. I wouldn’t pollute my mind with the garbage they produce. Does this set us up for a polarized view. Yeah it does. Until we clear the airwaves of the garbage on it, this is what we’re gonna get. What’s that you say, free speech? Well, I counter with lying ISN’T ‘free speech’. And that’s basically ALL FOX does. Lies. I want, no check that, I DEMAND real information. The ‘truth’ if you will. And I don’t stop until I find it.

  3. Gill Winograd Says:

    1) Angry people make bad decisions. In politics, anger almost always translates into blaming the party in power and looking for scapegoats. College students may be justified in feeling angry about the cost of tuition but that doesn’t tell them how to vote or what to do about it. All it does is encourage them to impulsively grasp at the first simplistic solution offered by the smoothest talking demagogue. We need less anger in our politics, justified or not.

    2) Anger at Fox News and other sources of disinformation is misdirected. Why are so many people buying that bilge? That is a much harder problem to admit to having, much less to solve, that tens of millions of Americans are suckers. Much easier to blame it all on Bill O’Reilly and feel righteous. If Jefferson’s marketplace of ideas is no longer working, that’s not because we have foolish ideas in the marketplace. We always have that. It’s that a large fraction of our people have put aside their reason in favor of their passion. This is the classic way in which democracies fail, when citizenry degenerates into a mob. Stirring up more anger in that part of the people who are not yet members of a mob is exactly the wrong thing to do.

    3) What supporters of the President need is not anger, but fear and commitment. They need to realize that much is in danger of being lost and then do the hard, unglamorous, work of getting their vote out and changing the minds of those open to be changed. Anger is not only wasted energy, but reasonable politicians can never manipulate anger as well as demagogues. If it gets down to who can whip up an angrier mob, Ms. Palin and the Tea Party will always win.

  4. Robin Cohen Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,
    I am more disappointed than angry. President Obama was elected with tremendous enthusiasm and hope for our future.I was in London during the Christmas Holiday of 2008 and wherever I went,people were excited about Obama.
    Clearly my voice is American and I was met with “You’re American! We love Barack Obama!” What a change that was in comparison to comments in the previous 8 years! I am disappointed because the change we anticipated HAS NOT HAPPENED. It’s still business as usual in Washington. Candidate Obama seems to have disappeared.

  5. Publius Says:

    With all due respect Mr. Winnograd placing the onus on the media oligarchs is not “bilge”. The deregulation era of the 1990s include two Republican led intrusions that created the destruction of the American economy – 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowing for the elimination of the Glass-Stegall Act of 1933; and the 1996 Telcom Act that allowed for the massive concentration of the media by a few powerful individuals – in particular Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel. Your denial makes me wonder if you are on this site to discredit opinions which are in conflict with the powerful. Big Brother isn’t the government, it is corporatism.

    The ubiquitous nature of television renders your arguments void. Go into any convenience store, bar/restaurant, barber shop… in America and it seems as if the absence of a television is the exception not the norm. Walk into the home of most Americans and a television will be switched on, it is the background music of our lives. Chayevsky’s less known soliloquy is far more chilling than the “Mad as hell” rant.

    “Because you people, and sixty-two million other Americans, are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books! Because less than fifteen percent of you read newspapers! Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers… This tube is the most awesome G**-d****d force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls in to the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA – the Communication Corporation of America. There’s a new Chairman of the Board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the twelfth largest company in the world controls the most awesome G**-d****d propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?”

  6. Pat Boice Says:

    Professor Hart – you are absolutely correct! So many people are swayed by emotion – and not excluding the “Christian” Right – and there is a great deal of emotion directing this anger currently – such as Beck, Limbaugh, Fox “News” etc.
    Very damaging to this country and very un-American. President Obama has made a tremendous effort to bridge this hyped-up anger, and the Right has rejected it, and so many on the Left ridicule Obama for being too soft, or having no spine!
    I, for one, am committed to support the President – the alternative is really way too scary – and support civility.

  7. Gill Winograd Says:

    Slate just published a thoughtful article on the psychology of the red/blue divide that deals with the feelings about whose anger is justified and why.

  8. Mark Says:

    The anger of the tea party brigade seems to have surfaced just as we elected our first African American President. I would ask, “Where was their outrage when George W. Bush took our surplus which we had under Clinton and transformed it into massive debt in just a few years?” Where was the anger over the all too elusive and expensive reach for power into a region as unstable as the Middle East, where fanatics have flourished for decades, sometimes with the help of the USA?

    Their anger is misplaced and seems to be directed at our President personally, which coincides with his election as the first AA President.
    Not all of it is rooted in racism, but there is certainly an element of racism involved. And that, my friends, is sad, especially now, in the 21st centruy.

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