The Need To Be Angry

Reprinted from Loose Change (

A businessman came up to me the other day to tell me he was an avid reader of my blog. I implored him not to toy with my affections, but he persisted. “No, really, I read your blog every week so that I know what I’m supposed to be pissed about.”

As Goldie Wilson, the future mayor of Hill Valley, exclaimed while sweeping the floors of Lou’s Malt Shop, “I like the sound of that!”

Kind of.

It’s becoming more difficult to know what one should legitimately reserve anger for. It seems at every turn someone is trying to piss us off, particularly in the human recycling bin that is Facebook or Twitter. We are peppered with all manner of anger-baiting, from little puppies being abandoned and chickens being caged to Pussy Riot imprisonment, Tea Party harangues, outrages from the left about human injustice, and stridency from the right about loss of human freedom. The social media menu and media in general offer every possible inflammatory opinion, whether it’s U.S. Congressman Todd Akin’s stupid remarks about rape or the latest campaign smear from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Temperature’s risin’.

If you’re really looking for heart-pounding, anxiety-invoking information, nothing beats the news. The New York Times should come with a tab of Valium. I can’t read their front section without my head involuntarily shaking back and forth at the pending world’s end. Who needs Incan calendars when you’ve got The New York Times? The California section of the Los Angeles Times could just as easily be retitled “News from Hell.” Even my hometown newspaper has a local section that is largely populated with news bites from the dumpster of humanity, i.e., babies being shaken to death by their mom’s boyfriend, sex offenders released only to rape or molest again, children abducted, teen girls sold into sex-trafficking syndicates, gang murders, and three-time DWI losers who kill a family in a drunk-driving stupor.

The crazy thing is, we make a decision to access this stuff. Is it really what we want to occupy ourselves with? It’s certainly what the media wants. Google Analytics concurs. This blog gets more page views when the headlines are snarky or angry. The snarkier they are, the more the metric needle moves. Without discounting our prurient natures altogether, or hiding our heads in the sand about the legitimate problems we face as a society, does what we encounter in the media really define life as we know it?

For my money—it does not. On the rare occasions when I miss reading the newspaper or watching TV for a week or so, upon my return I discover I haven’t really missed much. Most certainly, the world keeps turning.

I consider myself lucky to be able to tell you the personal and business life I know. Though sometimes sad, exasperating, challenging, scary, or fitful, it overflows with richness, appreciation, and opportunity. I know there are those who cannot say the same, but like I said: The world keeps turning. And media doesn’t help us sort through it with their masterful work at magnifying those dark moments, selectively crafting happenstance just as a movie or a book does, becoming a curator of mere wrinkles in time. Worse yet, our always-on access further compounds the impact of the storytelling.

Our minds and spirits crave inspiration, context, and purpose. Do our news addictions prevent their adequate consumption? Had the headline on this blog read, “Inspiration, Context, and Purpose,” would you have been as inclined to take a look?

Editor’s Note: Gary Johnson is President of MSP Communications in Minneapolis, MN and authors the blog Loose Change for