Those who can feel righteous indignation only about things that directly affect them may have some moral deficiency in their character, and it seems that such deficiencies are more common in our postmodern, narcissistic culture.
On the other hand, I’ve commented here that there is something bizarre and unnatural, not to say phony, about the left’s tendency to get outraged about some wrong that they perceive happening to people in far-off lands, or to their minority clientele/mascots. They have this maddening habit, these lefties, of taking offense on behalf of others who haven’t themselves complained of being offended. Example: the ongoing protests of athletic teams with names like ‘Braves’ or ‘Indians’. Polls have shown that many American Indians (‘Native Americans’, in PC-speak) say they find nothing offensive in such names; some even say the names have a positive connotation to them — yet leftist Whites and other minorities often show outrage on behalf of American Indians. Can’t the supposedly offended speak for themselves? Aren’t the lefties being condescending and paternalistic by claiming to be offended for them? The same thing happens when say, White Republicans set up a howl about how the Democrats ‘keep black people on the plantation’ or ‘liberals destroyed the black family/black community.’ I suspect those complaints originated in the minds of politically correct White people, not from black people themselves. I don’t think most black people would bite the (liberal) hand that feeds them, and provides ‘programs’ for them, programs that are the main source of income for many minorities.
On the Reason.com website, there is a piece about this kind of vicarious moral outrage on the part of the ‘social justice’ crowd.
“When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don’t affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a “disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.” But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as “moral outrage”—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one’s own status as a Very Good Person.”
Two professors, Rothschild and Keefer, conducted studies which, to sum up, shows a definite self-serving aspect to this phenomenon — which is just what I would think. We give these meddling lefties far too much credit to ascribe ‘altruism’ to them.
“Ultimately, the results of Rothschild and Keefer’s five studies were “consistent with recent research showing that outgroup-directed moral outrage can be elicited in response to perceived threats to the ingroup’s moral status,” write the authors. The findings also suggest that “outrage driven by moral identity concerns serves to compensate for the threat of personal or collective immorality” and the cognitive dissonance that it might elicit, and expose a “link between guilt and self-serving expressions of outrage that reflect a kind of ‘moral hypocrisy,’ or at least a non-moral form of anger with a moral facade.”
It’s a veneer of morality and solicitousness but the motivation behind it is to present a moral pose, a front to the world, and to claim the moral high ground.
Don’t let’s be fooled by it.
H/T to commenter ‘Anonymous’ at Steve Sailer’s blog for the link.