Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Turn down the instant outrage!

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 9:58 AM EST, Sat March 2, 2013
Despite the outrage sparked by a joke about the Holocaust, comedian Joan Rivers said she had nothing to apologize for. "It's a joke, No. 1. ...This is the way I remind people about the Holocaust. I do it through humor," she told HLN's "Showbiz Tonight." Despite the outrage sparked by a joke about the Holocaust, comedian Joan Rivers said she had nothing to apologize for. "It's a joke, No. 1. ...This is the way I remind people about the Holocaust. I do it through humor," she told HLN's "Showbiz Tonight."
HIDE CAPTION
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
So outrageous
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: We live in a cultural era of instant outrage, fed by social media, news cycle
  • He says we inflate small things into big deals too easily -- jokes by Joan Rivers, Seth MacFarlane
  • He says we all get mad but why not about really outrageous things such as poverty, abuse
  • Obeidallah: Next time you tweet about a celebrity outrage, direct some ire at something real, too

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Never have so many been so outraged by so little.

We live in a time of instant outrage. The explosion of social media and the demands of the 24-hour news cycle let us immediately express our self-righteous anger about any incident, while the content-desperate media eagerly report -- and repackage -- our rage.

Outrage has become conveniently instantaneous. In the years before social media, people who were truly outraged would have to get a piece of paper, type a letter, put it in an envelope, stamp it and drop it in a mailbox. In contrast, today you can use your thumb to type a tweet on your phone and simply click "Tweet." Your rage is communicated to the world.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Just this week, we saw instant outrage on full display in response to Seth MacFarlane's jokes at Sunday's Oscars. Amazingly, MacFarlane offended almost every group in America in one show. He was accused of being sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist. (It has to be an Oscar record.) Did Oscar organizers possibly hire MacFarlane to trigger our instant outrage for their own benefit? After all, they knew he'd say outrageous things.

Any chance they wanted the public backlash to make the show, which has seen ratings woes in recent years, more relevant? (And ratings did rise for Sunday's Oscar telecast 11% in the coveted 18-49 age group.) Make no mistake: Our outrage has value.

More recently, comedian Joan Rivers found herself the subject of outrage for a joke she made this week invoking the Holocaust. The media are now filled with people debating the "important" question: Did Rivers go too far? (Will the media ever stop asking that tired question about comedians' jokes?!)

Instant outrage, however, is not just reserved for comedians; it crops up all over the news cycle. We saw it this week over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's new policy banning telecommuting in the company she's been hired to revive, meaning people have to work from the office every day or quit. Twitter lit up: It's outrageous!

It even happened to me last weekend when I was on CNN with anchor Don Lemon and playfully joked about Canada. Bingo! My Twitter feed was instantly filled with Canadians incensed that I had the audacity to poke fun at their beloved country. Just to be clear, I have nothing against Canada. In fact, it's my third favorite country in North America.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



There's so much more: Beyonce's halftime Super Bowl outfit; Hulk Hogan tweeting a photo of his daughter's legs; Kim Kardashian tweeting a photo of her diamond-encrusted gun; NBA star LeBron James wearing a T-shirt that some claim was about devil worship and/or a symbol for the illuminati.

I get it. We all want to have our opinions heard. When we are mad about something, we want others to know about it. When we are offended, we want to call out the person who has offended us. I'm no different.

But here's the thing: Why not also unleash our collective fury over issues more meaningful than just a comedian's joke or a celebrity's tweet? I'm not suggesting we ignore those -- because even if I did, no one would listen. But in addition to those, take a moment to express your powerful outrage over issues that might tangibly benefit your life and the lives of others.

Joan Rivers' Holocaust joke criticized

Let's get collectively angry that every nine seconds, a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten. And let's get even angrier that three women a day in the United States are killed by domestic violence attacks.

Let's get really pissed that 22% of American children are living in poverty. And please save some (actually a lot) of outrage for Congress, which has become the political equivalent of Lindsay Lohan: We only see it in media coverage doing bad things.

Sure, go ahead and be outraged over Joan Rivers' and Seth MacFarlane's jokes if you must, but let's show some anger about the fact that almost 10,000 Americans died in gun violence last year and still Congress hasn't passed a universal background check to ensure that criminals and mentally ill people can't legally buy guns.

So let's collectively tweet away about the issues that outrage us, be they stupid comments or Syria, comedians' jokes or the growing income inequality in America. But please don't just reserve all your outrage for celebrities. They simply aren't worthy of it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT