As I’ve said many times before, no single thing has been more responsible for the advancement of marijuana law reform in the United States than the Internet. The ability to organize and share information on a global scale – and in an incredibly short amount of time – has been the game-changer activists needed to force real policy changes.
But like most things – especially things that are done on a massive scale, like the Internet – there are drawbacks. Since billions of people contribute to the cloud of thoughts, ideas, jokes, etc. that populate the net every day, you don’t have to look long to find every imaginable take and opinion on every single subject in existence. By giving everyone a voice, social media has done much to accelerate this phenomenon.
Things people would never say to someone’s face get immediately posted and directed at others on social media. A hundred likes on a meme can make someone feel like a poet/philosopher of respectable proportions, someone people should take notice of and listen to.
In this milieu has grown a certain segment of the population often referred to as “outrage culture”. As the “culture” moniker implies, this is not a static group of people, but an ever-shifting amalgam of offended and outraged individuals that come together in different combinations depending on the issue they are outraged about.
For example, those who are outraged by a story on abortion are not going to be the same people who are outraged by a court ruling on Native American lands and so on. And this is not to say that outrage doesn’t have its place; it is an emotion that has caused many things to change across human history. My point is that every single thing that happens anywhere may not rise to the level of someone needing to express their outrage about it.
The marijuana law reform community itself is not immune from being attacked by outrage culture, and it is not exempt from becoming part of that culture either. Whether it’s people “dragging” Senator Kamala Harris on Twitter for an admittedly silly lie about getting high and listening to Tupac in college or people having a meltdown over Miley Cyrus’ mom being shown in a picture with a bunch of bags of marijuana, there is sometimes no telling what direction outrage will come from.
In the case of Tish Cyrus, the outrage was used by some to raise awareness on the very real issue of people still being criminalized for cannabis. Some commentators seemed to imply that the picture itself was an affront to those who have been jailed on cannabis offenses, while others simply used the picture to highlight certain distinctions drawn in our criminal justice system.
And then another group of outraged people used the picture to claim it as some sort of proof of degeneracy inherent in the Cyrus family that has led to their unleashing of horrible children on society. “No wonder why your children are so stupid to take drugs, because you are a stupid role model,” one moron commented. “The police should put you and your family in prison.”
As I said, the Internet is so big that the entire spectrum of opinion is available to see and critique. But isn’t that all the more reason for every one of us to make an effort to calm our outrage over little things so that we don’t dilute the very notion of ‘outrage’ itself?