The lethal impact of outrage porn
Kim Kyoung-heeThe author is an EYE team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo. Due to the nature of my job, I have become somewhat insensitive to malicious comments. I feel more pity than anger when reading comments lacking logic and using abusive language. I consider them losers who bother to write a comment to induce anger from others and enjoy a cheap pleasure, and ask for forgiveness when sued. Whether the target of the blind criticism is the writer of an article or the persons featured in the article, I thought it was okay as long as I was not affected.
But there are times when it is difficult to keep composure, such as when victims of various incidents, including sexual violence, are ridiculed or blamed. The comments right after the Itaewon disaster on Oct. 29 were disastrous. When little was confirmed aside from the fact that a large casualty presumably caused by a crowd crush occurred in the middle of Seoul, malicious comments were posted whenever related articles were published. They blamed and insulted the victims, “What can be done about the people who went to have fun in a crowded place and died?”
Their false claims lost ground as the whole picture began to be revealed little by little, including multiple reports on the risk of a crush and the poor command system of the police. However, the families of the victims and survivors of the disaster have already suffered irreversible damage. They suffered indiscriminate verbal violence when they are perhaps at the lowest point in their lives. I often felt guilty writing about the disaster, thinking I may be offering a place for the haters.
We live in a society defenselessly exposed to “outrage porn.” Just like pornography, outrage porn is a tool for self-satisfaction. To maximize the level of anger, they only show what they want to show, and sometimes they scapegoat innocent people. Haters are no different than harmful substances spreading outrage porn, just as pornography is distributed to random people.
What is most worrisome is that people are repeatedly exposed to outrage porn and end up overlooking issues they should care about. In a 2019 New York Times article, C. Thi Nguyen, a professor of philosophy at Utah Valley University, said, “Genuine outrage is a crucial part of a moral existence. It motivates us to act, to fight injustice. Moral outrage porn is troubling because it threatens to undermine the all-important function of the real thing.”
Even at this moment, someone is producing outrage porn using all kinds of vulgarity and discriminatory language. The victims are not just the subject of the malicious comments but all of us. The social harm is too great for us to be insensitive to malicious comments just because there is no effective solution.
Copyright© 코리아중앙데일리. 무단전재 및 재배포 금지.
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