Eyeballs are attracted to anger

My former professor, Robert Reich, writes:

Not long ago I was debating someone on television. I thought the discussion was going well until the commercial break when a producer said into my earpiece “be angrier.”

“Why should I be angrier?” I asked him, irritated that he hadn’t appreciated the thoughtfulness of debate.

“That’s how we get channel surfers to stop and watch the program,” the producer explained. “Eyeballs are attracted to anger.”

Well, an angry guy flew a plane into an IRS building in Texas yesterday, killing at least one other person besides himself.

This seems to be an angry time at our country. The angry voices are heard, and the news media does not report the quiet, reasonable ones.

Should we Humanists get angry? Should we become agressive, militant, and violent in our rhetoric?

I’d say no. We’re not in this for ratings or to maximize our income, but rather to make the world a little bit better. I don’t think anger will help us. But I would appreciate some suggestions on who to improve our communications so we do have our voices heard.


2 Responses to “Eyeballs are attracted to anger”

  1. 1 Robert Mack
    February 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I’m afraid that the proposition that “eyeballs are attracted to anger” is largely true. At the moment the Humanist movement is the beneficiary of the buzz generated by the “Angry Atheists.” By presenting ourselves as kinder, gentler counterparts (even if we still, in my case at least, have most of the same beliefs and non-beliefs) we are at present basking in the media glow that the Four Horsemen generated. But at the end of the day I’m afraid niceness tends to be boring. While I consider Humanism a pleasant and satisfying way to live, it has little inherent drama. And, as you point out, feigning anger in order to draw attention would be inconsistent with what we’re all about. So I think we should take due advantage when the media spotlight happens to fall on us, and we should seek ways consistent with our principles to attract attention. But ultimately I think we have to accept drawing less notice than we want, or even deserve.

  2. 2 David Kimball
    February 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    What does one do when the popular way is not correct and the correct way is not popular? I could say that the best way is to utilize the principles of conflict management by utilizing the skills of active listening and engagement. However, that wouldn’t get much of an audience. This would be effective to engage those few who want to exercise critical analysis and empathy, but would do nothing for the majority who do not want to get engaged at that level.

    Imagine a Sunday morning discussion show where two people, representing two different sides, were in a soundproof room. They could only hear the questions and comments of an intelligent moderator – and not the “opponent”. They would be expected to only answer the questions of the moderator who would ask probing questions and try to draw out of each person their values and teh basis for their claims. Instead of having each of the two attack the other, and put up straw men to attack, and to put spins on the material, they were forced to engage in a dialogue. A dialogue occurs when the people leave the table with more than they came to the table, as opposed to these Sunday morning circuses where the people just give a presentation and/or spin and walk away with nothing more than they came with.

    I’ve given up expecting to be an influence on the masses. All I can hope to do is to be an influence with the people within my first degree of separation. But to be a positive influence, I feel I need to be prepared to deal with issues with critical analysis, empathy, eithic/justice, and conflict management and recognize when someone else is not applying those principles.

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