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United Airlines and the Outrage Industry

United Airlies and The Outrage Industry, by Michael Rectenwald | 13 April 2017 |

I was asked by a friend how I would characterize the United Airlines controversy in terms of moral outrage. My answer is that the UAL controversy represents an outrage fetish, an event of relatively little importance eliciting an amount of outrage far out of proportion to its significance. The reasons for this outsized outrage have to do with the fact that outrage is produced by an outrage industry whose outrage products must find a home for expression in everyday events.

The outrage industry, meanwhile, is part of the moral economy, a system parallel to and also immanent in the political economy, and one that manages the emotional responses to the results of worldwide commodity production, distribution and competition, including the militarization of its processes. The outrage industry distributes moral and emotional responses to events, often producing outrage fetishes like this one in order to divert mass energy away from potential flashpoints of systemic vulnerability.