Outrage porn

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Outrage porn (also called outrage media and outrage journalism)[1] is any type of media that is designed to evoke outrage for the purpose generating increased web traffic or online attention. The term outrage porn was coined in 2009 by political cartoonist and essayist Tim Kreider of The New York Times.[2][3][4][5]


The use of the term was first attributed to Tim Kreider in a New York Times article in July 2009,[5][1] where Kreider said: "It sometimes seems as if most of the news consists of outrage porn, selected specifically to pander to our impulses to judge and punish and get us all riled up with righteous indignation".[2] Kreider made a distinction between authentic outrage and outrage porn by stating, "I'm not saying that all outrage is inherently irrational, that we should all just calm down, that It's All Good. All is not good...Outrage is healthy to the extent that it causes us to act against injustice".[2] Kreider is also noted as saying: "It spares us the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding".[4]

The term has also been frequently used by Observer media critic, Ryan Holiday.[6][7][8] In his 2012 book Trust Me, I'm Lying, Holiday described outrage porn as a "better term" for a "manufactured online controversy" to describe the fact that "People like getting pissed off almost as much as they like actual porn".[9]

In general use, outrage porn is a term used to explain media that is created not in order to generate sympathy, but rather to cause anger or outrage among its consumers.[10] It is characterized by insincere rage, umbrage and indignation without personal accountability or commitment.[6][11][5] Media outlets are often incentivized to feign outrage because it specifically triggers many of the most lucrative online behaviors, including leaving comments, repeat pageviews and social sharing, which the outlets capitalize on.[12] Salon, Gawker, and affiliated websites Valleywag and Jezebel have been noted for abusing the tactic.[13][14][6] Traditional media outlets, including television news and talk radio outlets have also been characterised as being engaged in outrage media.[15]:12–13


In 2014, Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study on the spreadability of emotions via social media and concluded that "Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action...It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on".[16] Additionally, online audiences may be susceptible to outrage porn in part because of their feeling of powerlessness to managers, politicians, creditors, and celebrities.[17]

In 2014, Tufts University professors Jeffrey Berry and Sarah Sobieraj in their book The Outrage Industry characterised outrage media as being a genre as well as a discursive style of media, which attempts to provoke emotions through the use of overgeneralisation, sensationalism, and misleading or false information.[1][18] They also characterised it as being personality-centred, focusing on a particular media professional, and as being reactive, responding to already-reported news rather than breaking stories of its own.[15]:7–8 In their 2009 study of political media in the United States, they found outrage journalism to be widespread, with 90 percent of all content analyzed including at least one example of it; and that "the aggregate audience for outrage media is immense".[1]

Notable incidents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Austin, Michael (2019). We Must Not Be Enemies: Restoring America's Civic Tradition. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-1-5381-2126-9. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Kreider, Tim (July 14, 2009). "Isn't It Outrageous?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2019. It sometimes seems as if most of the news consists of outrage porn, selected specifically to pander to our impulses to judge and punish and get us all riled up with righteous indignation.
  3. ^ Sauls, Scott (June 10, 2015). "Internet Outrage, Public Shaming and Modern-Day Pharisees". Relevant. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Kenny, Paula (September 28, 2018). "Have we become addicted to 'pseudo-outrage' in an image obsessed world?". Irish Examiner. Retrieved May 23, 2019. Tim Krieder of The New York Times was the first to coin the phrase 'outrage porn', and perhaps still has the best explanation for why it is so addictive. 'Like most drugs, it is not so much what it gives us, as what it helps us to escape.' 'It spares us the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.'
  5. ^ a b c Sauls, Scott (October 4, 2016). Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. NavPress. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-1-4964-1833-3. New York Times writer Tim Kreider coined the term outrage porn to describe what he sees as our insatible search for things to be offended by
  6. ^ a b c Holiday, Ryan. "Outrage Porn: How the Need For 'Perpetual Indignation' Manufactures Phony Offense". New York Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Brendan, Michael (March 14, 2014). "Why we're addicted to online outrage". The Week. Retrieved May 23, 2019. Over at Beta Beat Ryan Holiday writes about 'outrage porn', the steady stream of insincerely performed umbrage and gulping hysteria that seeps like superconcentrated vinegar out of the web's pores every moment of every day.
  8. ^ Lukianoff, Greg. "Curing Social Media of Its Outrage Addiction May Start on Campus". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Holiday, Ryan (2012). Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Portfolio. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-59184-553-9.
  10. ^ Patricia Roberts-Miller (April 2, 2019). "Ocasio-Cortez Exploited as Clickbait and Outrage Porn Magnet". Washington Spectator. Retrieved May 23, 2019. outrage porn, in which the participant takes pleasure in being outraged at the idiocy of 'them' (some out-group)
  11. ^ Leibovich, Mark. "Fake Outrage in Kentucky". New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Holiday, Ryan. "Rage Profiteers: How Bloggers Harness Our Anger For Their Own Gain". New York Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Daum, Meghan. "'Jezebel Effect' poisons conversations on gender and sexual violence". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Young, Cathy. "Gawker & the Left's Selective Outrage". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Berry, Jeffrey M.; Sobieraj, Sarah (August 2016). The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility (Studies in Postwar American Political Development). OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-049846-7.
  16. ^ Shaer, Matthew. "What Emotion Goes Viral the Fastest?". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  17. ^ Herbert, Geoff. "Rooney Mara to play Tiger Lily in new 'Pan' movie? Outrage is all the rage nowadays". Syracuse Post-Standard. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  18. ^ Stedman, Ian (June 1, 2017). "The 'Outrage Porn' Problem: How our Never-Ending Fury is leading to Hollowed-out Discussions about Government Ethics and Accountability" (PDF). Canadian Political Science Association. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  19. ^ Holiday, Ryan. "Exclusive Interview: Meet Maddox, Owner of the Internet's 'Best Page in the Universe'". New York Observer. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  20. ^ Curry, Colleen. "Jonah Lehrer Joins Publishing's Most Notorious List". ABC News. Retrieved September 14, 2015.

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