Why Do We Engage in Outrage Porn?

Part of finding healing and redemption from pornography addiction is knowing why you engage in that behavior. There are two broad reasons why people engage in pornography. Either they are trying to find comfort (a maladaptive coping strategy) or pleasure.

One of the most common sources of addiction is actually not of the pleasure-seeking variety but rather as a coping mechanism. One of the greatest indicators of pornography addiction is a person battling deep-seated shame. Often if you can address the issues of shame, then the pornography addiction will be a bit easier to work through. This is even more typical of those who are believers wrapped up in this particular sin and wanting to find freedom but not sure how.

But there are also many who become addicted to pornography through simple seeking of pleasure. Chemicals are released in our brains when we become aroused. Biological things happen whenever we see images of things we find attractive. But ever since our first parents we’ve also got a bit of a law of diminishing return in every one of us. This means that porn will never satisfy and the addiction will only become more controlling.

But what of outrage porn? I would argue that the reasons for engaging in outrage porn are similar to traditional pornography. It’s either simple pleasure-seeking or it’s a more complex seeking of comfort.

Seeking Pleasure

Studies have shown that self-righteous indignation actually release pleasure chemicals in the brain. There is something pleasurable about viewing articles which outrage us. David Brin says it well:

Well, it turns out that there’s substantial evidence that self-righteous indignation is one of these drug highs, and any honest person knows this. We’ve all been in indignant snits, self-righteous furies. You go into the bathroom during one of these snits, and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! “I am so much smarter and better than my enemies! And they are so wrong, and I am so right!” (Source)

Let’s be honest, part of the reason we go to those websites which we know we are going to disagree with, those which are surely going to outrage us, is because we will feel better about ourselves afterwards. We might feel a little dirty, like we need to take a shower after diving through the internet’s dumpsters, but we’ll feel much better that our actually intellectual home isn’t in such dives. And so we keep going back on occasion to feel better about ourselves.

Sometimes it feels good to get nice and angry. Now, its possible that this belongs in the next section, but often we’ve got unresolved issues bubbling under the surface. We know that we can’t lay into our boss, so perhaps some silly fool on the internet can be the target of our ire. It feels good to get all that anger out. And so we engage in some outrage porn, feel better having vented, and maybe even share it online…which leads to our next thought.

We were wired for community. Therefore it’s going to feel right for us to be involved in a community which has the same shared values as we do. Community is a good thing. Being radically obsessed with yourself isn’t. We’ve got that second one down whilst still striving for that first one, which means we seek community which mostly agrees with us. In outrage porn we can find about any type of community to agree with us. It doesn’t matter who you hate or what you love—some dude on the internet probably feels the same way. And that feels good.

Comfort Seeking

I’d say it isn’t pleasure which gets most of us involved with outrage porn. It’s likely that we are seeking comfort and we try to find it in an unhealthy way. As stated earlier, seeking community and needing to vent our emotional issues might belong here as well.

Certainly what belongs here is the role that fear-mongering plays in all of this. We live in a scary world. We aren’t in Eden and we certainly aren’t in the New Heaven and New Earth. That means that things are going to be difficult for us at times. Things can get scary. What outrage porn does is offer a place to calm our fears. Unknown fear is scarier than known fear. We read fear pieces because it confirms in our hearts that the world is screwed up. But it also gives us comfort knowing that our fear has been named.

Living in a fallen world means that we are going to be victims. People will sin against us and it’s going to hurt. When those sins are the especially egregious and deeply painful ones we will pursue comfort and justice. Outrage porn often serves as that salve as it brings to justice those who’ve hurt us….or at least people who remind us of those who hurt us. As an example, maybe your social security check is hurting because of a policy a politician put into place. You’ll find healing when his party is mocked and derided.

There are many different ways where our brokenness will wrongly pursue comfort on the internet. One other to consider is the comfort of knowledge. Occasionally young men will get wrapped up in pornography early on simply out of curiosity. It’s the same reason we are susceptible to click-bait titles. Why do I really care what these four kids found at the end of the rope? But I click on it, don’t I? And you’re wondering what it was yourself, now. It’s because knowledge makes us feel safer. We often engage in outrage porn because we are doing what my friend calls “opposition research”. But again, it’s the same issue—we are pursuing comfort in the wrong place.

Conclusion

That’s really the issue, isn’t it? The fundamental issue with traditional pornography is that we are pursuing pleasure and comfort in a place where we aren’t ultimately going to find it. We are meant to find ultimate pleasure not even in our spouse, but in Christ. We will not find healing and redemption in traditional pornography or outrage porn. That ultimately comes from Christ.

It’s to him that we find healing from our fondness for outrage porn…

Photo source: here

Read This! 02.20.18

Pastors Need Friends Too

I thank God for the many friendships he has given me.

Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism

Same here.

I Need a Miracle Every Day

While not a piece to read for theological insight, I was delighted to read about one of my favorite pitchers—Jake Peavy.

The Danger of Gossip

Jared does a pretty good job spelling this out.

The Gratitude Inoculation

How Deuteronomy gave deep gratitude.

5 Reasons Christians Shouldn’t Be Cynical

Good word.

How to Teach Boys How to Respect Women

A massive need.

David Platt Leaving the IMB

I’m saddened to hear of this but excited for the future of IMB as well.

Ligon Duncan explains the regulative principle:

Does It Really Matter If I Share Half-Truths?

“What would happen if we took outrage porn as seriously as we take traditional pornography”? That is the question I’m asking in this series of blog posts.

Is it really that big of a deal to view outrage porn (that type of media designed to get traffic by making you angry)? I don’t think most Christians view it as such a big deal. Or at least it’s somebody else’s problem. Like those snowflake liberals who get all hot and bothered by truth. Or those stick-in-the mud conservatives convinced they must force their morality onto other people. You know, the other guy. Outrage is their problem.

So because outrage porn isn’t seen as such a big deal, or at least somebody else’s problem, I need to first convince you that if you’re addicted to and engaging in outrage porn it’s not okay. Just as I’d counsel any young man in my office who is viewing online pornography…you need to stop it. Let me explain why I say that.

Why Porn Is a Big Deal

First, consider why traditional pornography such a big deal. What’s going on there? Does it really hurt anybody for you to view other people engaging in consensual sex?

Yes, it’s a big deal. And it’s a big deal because our sexuality is a big deal. It’s a mirror to our hearts. And engaging in pornography is engaging in lust and adultery. Sex is meant to be enjoyed by two people, a man and a woman, in the context of a covenanted relationship. Anything outside of this is a selfish act which does not accurately image God. It’s a big deal because it’s a lie.

Pornography takes a God-given gift, hijacks it, and turns a selfless God-reflecting act into a selfish God-belittling act.

I would argue that outrage porn does the exact same thing. It takes a very good desire (truth and justice) and hijacks it. Remember outrage porn is writing in such a way to evoke anger for the sake of getting traffic. The worst part of outrage porn is that it tricks us into thinking we’ve actually taken a stand when we’ve done nothing. It makes us just like the well-wishing goober in James 2 who prays for a freezing guy instead of giving him his coat. I think Brant Hansen is correct:

Let’s face it: we’re positively in love with ‘taking stands’ that cost us absolutely nothing. We even get to be fashionable in the process. (Unoffendable, 94)

Actually engaging in real social justice (did I just trigger someone?) is a way of imaging God. It’s a way of selflessly acting on behalf of another. But engaging in faux outrage on the internet while not actually being moved towards tangible action is a selfish act. It’s using the plight of another to garner attention for yourself. Traditional pornography is based on a lie. So is outrage pornography.

Porn Robs Community

There are also practical reasons why pornography is an issue. It’s become such an issue that even our sex-crazed culture is picking up on the problem. Even Time magazine ran a cover story in 2016 on the dangers of porn. They are seeing that porn use has an impact not only upon marriage but even upon sexual performance. Porn does the opposite of what it promises. It is air-brushed and unrealistic.

Pornography trains people to be selfish. Since sex was designed to be the enjoyment of another, selfishness robs it of pleasure. You cannot have true unity when you are obsessed with and focused on self. So it’s not surprising that a porn-saturated culture is finding it empty.

I would argue that outrage porn does something very similar. It too robs of true community and doesn’t deliver on it’s promises. It parades itself as truth seeking and passionate about justice, but it ends up promoting neither. David Murray summarizes the damaging effects of outrage porn well when he says, “an overemphasis on falsehood breeds only destructive cynicism, suspicion, mistrust, and hostility”. (Murray, 29) Those things are not going to help community. They will destroy it.

Conclusion

Whether you write outrage porn, share it, or just indulge in it, you need to stop it. Today. It does harm to the body of Christ and it does harm to your soul. I know that it feels like you are taking a stand and furthering the cause of Christ, but you aren’t. I challenge you to look at the New Testament and give me examples of Jesus or his followers using their sermons/platform to incite people to anger and outrage. Can you find any? When Peter did respond in outrage and grabbed a sword, how did Jesus respond?

Listen, this isn’t the way of the Master. And just as pornography robs you and does harm to others so also does outrage porn. It is a big deal. Reading those articles and sharing those articles likely started as a passion for truth and justice. So I leave you with this quote from J.I. Packer:

A half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.

Photo source: here

What Is Outrage Porn?

The definition of outrage porn is simple. “It refers to any type of media that is designed to evoke outrage for the purpose getting traffic or attention online.” (source) But trying to decide whether or not that article you are writing, reading, or sharing is outrage porn is a bit more difficult. So here are a few questions to ask. It’s a bit like Justice Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” comment on pornography and obscenity. But I think we can perhaps ask a few questions of our media to help us determine this.

But I would say first, if you are really angry and bothered and all worked up not only will you probably not consider these questions, but even if you did they would be skewed. So remember this, if you are really angry about something take a breather. Go ahead and write that piece, or bookmark it, or queue it up to send. But don’t actually do it until you’ve cooled down. If it’s true when you’re hot and mad then it’s true when you’re cool and calm.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the purpose of this article? Why do I want to share it? Is it for traffic? Is it to evoke anger? If it isn’t to build up and edify (Ephesians 4:29) then it’s probably just unwholesome talk.
  2. Does this accurately state the other person’s position? Would a fair-minded person say this accurately represented their belief? If it doesn’t then it’s likely outrage porn.
  3. Does the article use extreme words? Any marriage counselor will tell you to avoid those extreme words like “always” and “never”. Does the article paint the other side in the best possible light or the worst possible light?
  4. Does it offer a solution? There are times when we see something but do not have a legitimate solution, so it doesn’t have to be outrage porn just because it doesn’t outline a plan. But if it’s not pointing towards hope and written in a hopeful tone, it likely doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test.
  5. Would you say it to their face? If you’d say it different to their face than you would behind a keyboard that should be a telling sign.
  6. Does this strengthen the cause of the gospel? Am I attaching the gospel to something which isn’t a key component of the gospel? If I don’t know for sure that something is true and I share it, then what happens to my witness when I’m found to be sharing untruths? Am I equating following Jesus with following a party, my preferences, or something else? Or am I stirring up and pursuing unity within the body of Christ?
  7. What I want this to be the last thing I share? Would you want this to be something which was part of your funeral? I realize that by saying this a good amount of things we share wouldn’t fit the bill. I share stuff about the Royals that I wouldn’t much want to be the last thing people remember me by. But I’m attempting to make a larger point here. Do you want to be known as a peddler of gospel hope or of fear-mongering, criticism, and cynicism? I’ve decided for me, I want to be known as a guy who gives hope and encouragement and points to Jesus. I’m not sure I always accomplish this but asking these questions I’m convinced will move me more towards being more Christ-like.

So what if I can’t answer these questions in a positive way? Does it really matter that much if I occasionally engage in outrage porn or share outrage porn?

Photo source: here