July 18, 2019

NOAH ROTHMAN: The Outrage Economy.

The commodification of outrage has become a business model. Nike’s sales surged after it joined forces with its controversial spokesman and his campaign against standing for the singing of the national anthem. The carmaker Audi, too, enjoyed a sales bump when it advanced in a Super Bowl spot the flawed notion that women only make a fraction of what men make for the same work. The razor-maker Gillette’s two-minute-long web-based advertisement appealing to stereotypes to imply that conventional male socialization was transforming young men into abusers and sexual harassers generated a firestorm of controversy and a 6 percent increase in Procter & Gamble’s stock price.

Surveys routinely show that consumers will patronize firms based not on the products they produce but the “social or political issues” they embrace. People want to (literally) wear their politics on their sleeves. The controversies around which brands organize their outrage campaigns are, however, often chimerical.

“I think a lot of people in today’s day and age want to know, ‘What are we supposed to be outraged about,’” said a former employee of the anger-stoking Millennial media company Mic.com. The site specialized in controversies you didn’t even know you should be mad about. It advised its readers that they should be outraged over the sexism evident in the BBC’s description of one of its anchors as a “mother of three” and the racism in the television industry exposed by an African-American comedian’s decision to leave NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

What horrible people.

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