Outrage Tactics

What are outrage tactics? Outrage tactics comprise a communications strategy employed to general an emotional response to an issue by conflating it with a second issue about which people are inclined to become outraged.

Outrage tactics
Anything can be the subject of outrage tactics.

Politicians and pundits often use outrage tactics in to energize and motivate the base to action. “The War On Christmas,” “Rape Culture,” “Culture Wars,” “Patriarchy.” These are all terms which are used by people looking to stir up outrage which creates engagement. Once engaged, a person becomes more inclined to write letters, comment, share posts, show up to rallies, and share the idea with friends (and everyone else).

Voters can be polarized by these tactics. They  can be driven to vote for candidates who might not support their interests because they are convinced that the opponent is the enemy of Christmas or women or morality or immigrants or any other group or idea that the voter cares about.

Social media platforms like Twitter can be particularly effective in fanning the flames of outrage. People reflexively share items which trigger an emotional response, allowing a meaningless or even false story to spread with alarming velocity.

Recently, we saw the example of the gender neutral Santa controversy. It was almost entirely invented to generate marketing attention, web site clicks, and political traction, and the public ate it up.

An Adversarial Reputation Crisis (ARC) may be driven with outrage tactics, in which the target is tied to a concept that the audience is inclined to become outraged about. The detractor can link the target to an outrageous idea, which psychologically transfers the outrage from the idea to the target. This is unfortunately quite effective when a detractor is trying to take down a target for a relatively minor offense.

When you see an issue that is so outrageous it can’t possibly be true, consider the possibility that it might not be true. Who stands to gain by your outrage? Is your inclination to say “well, that’s just too much!” being manipulated?


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