|Sculpture by Damien Hirst, (Palazzo Grassi, Venice)|
The voicemail system at the Chicago Sun-Times takes messages up to 6 minutes long. I know this because some guy phones me late at night and fills up three or four messages.
He’s been calling for years. I used to listen. Now I dump it the moment I hear his opening sneer: “Mister Steinberg, your ‘column’ is the typical li. . . .” Some people speak so you can hear both italics — a drawl dripping sarcasm — and quote marks: an incredulous stutter-step. Delete, delete, delete.
While I’m all for hearing other perspectives, “you stink,” isn’t exactly a road map for self-improvement.
Then again, a guy doesn’t leave 20 minutes of grumbling abuse for my benefit, but for his. It must satisfy him somehow.
There’s a term, “outrage porn,” that seems a handy concept for understanding much that passes for discourse lately. Like porn porn, outrage porn offers up not real life but a fun-house-mirror parody of real life. Life distorted to reflect the users’ fantasies. Outrage porn serves up pat little vignettes of indignation to get the reader excited, leading to the release of full-throated condemnation. Unlike porn porn, outrage porn is not a private vice but one you invite your friends to share.
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