Words by Tom Haskell
I stopped watching QandA sometime ago. It was about when I realised just how formulaic the whole thing is. There’s usually a Labor MP, a Liberal MP or an IPA fellow, some random academic, some SBS comedian who isn’t funny, and then some random US panelist who is down promoting their book/speaking tour/etc. Someone will ask a really pseudo-intellectual question about economics or something which will receive talking-point responses from the MPs, and some reductive “it’s so simple people!” analysis from our SBS comedian. Tony Jones will then turn the question to our US friend who will say something like “I don’t really understand how Australia can do this” which usually prompts Jones to say “well America did elect Donald Trump!”. Cue raucous laughter, rinse and repeat until the end of time.
I kept watching this shit for years purely because I love getting angry. I love it when the Liberal MP says some conservative nonsense that misses the point, I love it when the Labor MP tows the enlightened-centrist party line which misses the point, and I love it even more when some baby-boomer audience member posits a question about why he’s been forgotten in modern Australian politics. Fuck you all, I love you all so much! Or at least I did until I realised what a pointless exercise this all was, especially when QandA only ever has a good episode when you’re not watching it. When you do watch it it’s actually really boring; I call this phenomenon Schrödinger’s ABC.
In a similar way, this is how I was with Overheard at the University of Adelaide for quite a while. It was the same story every day with Overheard. Some shitposter with too much time on their hands would post a provocative image or piece of text, and then a torrent of replies would flood in and everyone would get their mates to like each other’s comments. I would reply to these posts more out of pure disinterested moral outrage than anything else. I wasn’t trying to virtue signal or change anyone’s mind on the issue, I just wanted someone to piss me off like the outrage junkie I am.
We are all guilty of this. Each and every one of us. We only need to look at the response to On Dit’s recent article calling out the lame “flindor” meme war on Overheard. It seems that a fair chunk of our classmates feel it to be a personal affront to their own ego when you make the assertion that Adelaide isn’t Harvard and your elitism (banter or not) is laughably pathetic. But, just like myself, we all love to be outraged and this post seemed to break an almost two-month armistice on divisive issues in Overheard.
Outside of the fishbowl of Overheard, we can find outrage junkies everywhere. They’re on AFL pages with nuffies asserting how their team’s misfortunes is some grand conspiracy; they’re on political pages with nutjobs bearing the unenviable burden of explaining how a parliamentary democracy is also a dictatorship; and they’re especially on twitter with bored twenty-somethings sharing how livid they are with the apparent indignity of someone wearing a particular dress to prom. Less extreme examples are in everyday situations. The bus is late? Fucking hell, why does Adelaide Metro always do this, the pricks!
However, the saturation of outrage in society may not be entirely a bad thing. Consider the opposite: no-one ever getting upset over anything. Such an attitude may seem like a utopian concept. Whereas before we were blinded by the confines of our own blind outrage, seemingly unable to consider opposing views as we are so locked within our own, we would now be free to consider the alternatives with reasoned and thoughtful debate.
But there are far too many instances of positive change being enacted with collective outrage. At a student level, the way in which we successfully opposed the Government’s attacks on students could not have been achieved without us maintaining the rage. On a larger scale, the entitlements we enjoy today at work would not exist without the australian labour movement getting outraged and fighting for them, and I’m sure at least one personal problem in your life has been solved by getting pissed off about it. Simply put, nothing ever gets done by shrugging your shoulders and settling in for the next episode of Masterchef.
Ultimately, outrage can be an incredible resource or change, but it can also be an absolute waste of mental energy. We should maintain the rage, but maybe we should also just chill-out, have a cup of tea, and stay away from QandA and Overheard’s more political posts.