I propose a new name for the politics industry, the industry that keeps thousands of Americans employed as full time politicians, political aides and paid political party officials. How about calling it the Phony Outrage Industry?
I thought about this when I read Bill Maher's description of how he deals with the radio show of right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh: "I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck."
Mr. Maher's piece, "Please Stop Apologizing," is an enjoyable but probably futile editorial against the endless time that's taken up demanding that somebody apologize for one thing or another.
The latest controversy was about Robert DeNiro's quip at a fund raiser for Michelle Obama, where he joked, "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”
This, of course, was an affront to every right-thinking sentient creature in the Milky Way galaxy, and Mr. DeNiro was forced to apologize, sort of.
As Maher writes, "In the last year, we’ve been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong cliché for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?"
Limbaugh recently got into trouble by referring to a law student, in the current controversy, as a "slut." That was offensive even by Rush's standards, and Limbaugh did apologize after days of criticism.
That hasn't stopped the ongoing social media crusade against Limbaugh that's designed to drive him off the air.
The crusade doesn't hurt Limbaugh, of course. He thrives on publicity.
I live for the day when someone will launch a national crusade against my blog. Someday, I hope to find the right words to offend Gawker, so that I can become a national figure, too.
Here's what I think the real purpose of the endless appeals to outrage.
This fall, the American people will decide a presidential contest. The showdown apparently will be between Barack Obama, currently pretending to be a Democrat while governing as a moderate Republican, and Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican currently pretending to be an extreme conservative in order to win the Republican nomination.
The only way to get people excited about such a choice is to fill them full of indignation about the other side.
The way that each side is spinning the contraception controversy offers a good example of this principle in action. An army of Republican partisans are pushing the notion that Democrats are trying to end freedom of religion and conducting a war on the Catholic church! Similarly, any Democrat will explain to you that the Republicans are waging a war on women, because all Republicans hate women!
The crusade against Rush is part of the Democratic Party's current "Republican war on women" meme.