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 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT