Outraged About Uninformed Outrage

What does Edward Snowden, Trevor Noah and the Kenya school shooting have in common? You probably don’t know much about any of them.

Jon Oliver‘s semi-crude and humorous questioning of Snowden made understanding the complexity of security, privacy and Snowden’s actions quite simple. Have I lost you yet? I would think so, considering that prior to the interview, Oliver asked pedestrians what they knew about Snowden and the answers were typically, “not much.” And while Oliver’s description of the NSA’s policies using language related to dick pics and sexting was immensely entertaining, it is upsetting that the interviewed pedestrians only became interested in the most important hero/traitor in recent history (ahem, Snowden) after hearing crude analogies.

The recent tragedy in Kenya, where 147 people were killed in a school shooting, has also received disturbingly low attention, especially in contrast to the thorough coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year.

In contrast, the public was quick to judge Trevor Noah, the new host of “The Daily Show” because some of his past tweets were deemed sexist and anti-Semitic. Thousands of twitter users were ready to write off Noah’s promising career over a few unfunny jokes—some of which were offensive, to be certain, but people need to be given the chance to learn.

So why does the public care so much about topics they are uninformed about, such as Trevor Noah, and care so little about issues of security and tragedy? It’s difficult to say—but it paints a dark picture of the public as selectively compassionate and uniformly uninformed. No wonder there is a horror film coming out called “Unfriended” about public shame and social media.

Maybe before getting outraged before something you know little about, get upset at yourself for not seeking to learn more.

—Melissa Lin, News Editor