Before writing this post, I took a scroll down my Facebook feed, to see what news stories my friends are linking to. Here are the first four stories I spotted:

The essence of each story is the same: someone said/depicted something that you should be outraged by. Some are first-order outrage stories: we are supposed to be outraged by Taylor Swift’s clueless racism, and Norway’s clueless or malicious anti-Semitism. Others are second-order outrage: the Kentucky clerk is outraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Dan Savage is outraged by her outrage. Yet others are third-order outrage: Black Lives Matter activists are outraged by police brutality, Ted Cruz is outraged by their outrage, and we are supposed to be outraged by Ted Cruz. Alan Jacobs has a brief piece up today about the Kentucky clerk in which he expresses his outrage at the outrage of those who have savaged said clerk.

Not all of these kinds of pieces are genuinely furious; some are more ironic or humorous. And these aren’t the only kinds of news stories out there. My feed has plenty of substantive stories about the Iran deal, or the Canadian elections, or off-Broadway theater openings (well, it is my feed, so, you know). But however inflected, outrage porn clearly a very popular genre – and that popularity ensures that it will continue to proliferate.

All of which just makes me . . . tired.

Does the stuff work on me? Sure it does, sometimes. Was I outraged by this Jezebel piece about college move-in day? Yes! Am I outraged by this piece from Time about the sisters in Uttar Pradesh sentenced to be gang-raped for their brother’s transgression against caste lines? Yes! But my outrage is entirely impotent. I don’t, after reading such stories, find my consciousness raised. I just find myself exhausted.

If I step back, I can formulate non-exhausting questions. I wondered how prevalent those college banners actually are – if highly prevalent, they would seem to me to be a prima facie decent case for a hostile environment harassment suit, against either the fraternities or the universities in question. I’m curious whether such a suit has ever been contemplated, and if not why not. The story out of India made me think about the limited reach of the modern state, and the ructions associated with modernity rubbing up against traditional society (and about how neo-traditionalists forget the extent to which traditionalism is upheld by violence, particularly sexual violence, just as modernists forget the extent to which modernity has proved no antidote to violence, particularly sexual violence). But those aren’t the kinds of thoughts that get into my Facebook feed. (And heaven knows what I’d be inundated with if I were on Twitter.)

I can remember when outrage fueled me, rather than leaving me enervated. In the wake of the attacks of 9-11, every terrifying piece of news felt like it was essential. When I was a more conventional right-winger, every outrage by the “other side” confirmed me in my convictions, and every time the “other side” got outraged it confirmed to me that their perceptions were deeply biased, their priorities deeply confused. But it’s not like that outrage fueled any, you know, action, much less any understanding. All it fueled was – a feeling.

Outrage is a kind of drug, one that gives the illusion of involvement, of caring, when really derives its power from an emotional and informational distance that the stories themselves then strive to deepen, laying the groundwork for the next piece of outrage porn to do its work. And thus proceeds an addictive cycle.

Alan Jacobs says of the Kentucky clerk story that there are “two significant stories here,” one about the clerk’s legal claims and one about the way she’s being treated in the press. But really, there are zero significant stories here. The legal questions she raises are not profound and will be handled by the duly-constituted authorities; there’s no crisis of any kind, genuinely nothing to see. And the press has been awful because unless they are awful, there’s no story. Because outrage, like sex, sells – and that is not news at all, nor likely to change.

And I don’t know what to do about that. In my own life, and my own writing, I strive to follow the line from “Wargames” – “the only way to win is not to play.” As a consequence, outrage, like cheap vodka, which once seemed to reduce my inhibitions and make me feel strong and confident, now makes me feel a bit ill, and puts me to sleep.

But without it, the job of blogging is a whole lot harder.