‘Outraged’: A book that looks at how criticism online is a huge waste of time and how ‘charity’ hashtags don’t make you a hero

With the advent of the internet and the decline of one-way channelling of information, global communication has become more democratised. In the process, things have gotten very, very messy, with so much criticism and complaining going on online, the ‘critique’ has become white noise while progress of important movements is sacrificed in the process.

Author Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles addresses this noise in her very good book ‘Outraged: Why Everyone Is Shouting And No One Is Talking’.

Using key examples of stories from the international press that have gone viral via social media so as to evolve into shouting matches of sorts, Dotty provides a thought-provoking dissertation on how words have gotten in the way of action, while hinting that we each need to start curbing our online outrage if anything positive is to come out of bad situations.

There is a strong focus on the sensitivity of individuals in an age of victimisation – where one wrong word can set off spiraling arguments that go nowhere.

There are entire chapters devoted to news stories that have seen subsequent conversations getting out of hand, such as the murder of Rachel Dolezal (a US resident who ‘pretended’ to be black by darkening her skin, putting in braids and working for black causes), and the rantings of Katie Hopkins (British talk-show guest whose main ammunition to winning fame is to criticise anyone who is not white and privileged).

The usual suspects are referenced, of course, from rampant tweeter Donald Trump to backward-thinking author JK Rowling, and a host of angry keyboard bashers in between.

Dotty also puts forward that arguments lose their potency when simply tweeted and re-tweeted, and she highlights the concern we should feel when issues are lost in the convoluted web, where mouse-clicking has replaced actual leg work to get issues sorted.

In short, just because we put hashtags in posts that allude to our concern for certain issues, this doesn’t mean we’re instant heroes. We’ve actually got to get out and do something for positive change to take effect.

And it’s not just the responsibility of each individual to clean up their online mess, with the author pointing the finger at big corporations who should be doing a lot more than just apologising online when they overstep the mark in their racist or misogynistic marketing.

In all her critique, Dotty never gets too aggro herself, making Outraged a more attractive and enjoyable read than its title and bold cover art might suggest.

Indeed, you’ll find this page-turner hard to put down.

Antonino Tati

‘Outraged’ by Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles is published through Bloomsbury Australia, RRP $29.99.

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