Outrage talk ‘bad on political left, but worse on right’

February 12th, 2011 - 4:28 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 12 (ANI): A new study has found that outrage talk, although quite bad on the political left, is worse on the right side.

Tufts Assistant Professor of Sociology Sarah Sobieraj and Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Berry systematically scrutinized what they call “outrage talk” in leading talk radio, cable news analysis, political blogs and newspaper columns.

The term refers to a form of political discourse involving efforts to provoke visceral responses, such as anger, righteousness, fear or moral indignation, through the use of overgeneralizations, sensationalism, misleading or patently inaccurate information, ad hominem attacks and partial truths about opponents.

Over a 10-week period in 2009, four researchers found that almost 9 out of 10 cases sampled, or 89.6 percent, contained at least one outrage incident.

They also found that inflammatory language is worse on the political right.

“Our data indicate that the right uses decidedly more outrage speech than the left. Taken as a whole, liberal content is quite nasty in character, following the outrage model of emotional, dramatic and judgment-laden speech. Conservatives, however, are even nastier,” said one researcher.

The data showed the political right engaging in an average of 15.57 outrage acts per case, while the left engaged in 10.32 acts per case.

However, the two sides use it in ways that are remarkably similar.

“Whether it’s MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann spitting out his coffee because of some conservative transgression or radio host Michael Savage venomously impugning the character of immigrants, cable television, talk radio and blogs overflow with outrage rhetoric, and even mainstream newspaper columns are not above the fray,” they said.

Whether outrage is ultimately corrosive, constructive or both to the health of democracy is still an unanswered question, said the authors.

The study appears in the February 2011 issue of the journal Political Communication, available online February 8. (ANI)

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