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Why Is America So Angry? The Real Roots of American Rage (theatlantic.com)
75 points by howard941 89 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

Having recently discovered Adam Curtis (from other HN posts), I'd highly recommend watching his documentaries. All of them. Absolutely riveting stuff.

HyperNormalization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh2cDKyFdyU

Bitter Lake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRbq63r7rys

The Trap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y97Ywl7RtUw&list=PLsGiHTmHVD...

The Power of Nightmares: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTg4qnyUGxg&list=PLtPP_-rkrT...

The Mayfair Set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuqYbohCLFM&list=PLtPP_-rkrT...

The Century of the Self: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s

Thank you, I missed that one. Another is Dr. Jordan Peterson. I found this very interesting as well, and is another piece of this puzzle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQCTeGKHsVc

Its interesting but you should know that Adam Curtis and Jordan Peterson are opposites in their conclusions. Curtis attacks negative liberty and individualism birthed in the 80s. Curtis suggests that we should still try to change the world (positive liberty and collective action). JP is very the polar opposite to this. He is almost purely negative liberty (libertarian) and is the inheritor of the 80s individualism.

Seems like the underlying point of all their examples are:

People are tired of having control stripped away from them and being told what to do, and lashing out.

Isn't this a tale as old as civilization ? We have leaders who no longer care about the will of the "peasants". A generation that has forget why the noblesse oblige.

"Recently, however, the tenor of our anger has shifted. It has become less episodic and more persistent, a constant drumbeat in our lives. It is directed less often at people we know and more often at distant groups that are easy to demonize."

CP Grey has a great 7min video[1] explaining this phenomena in a very insightful way. Basically controversial pro/con memes (say abortion) aren't fighting each other but are in symbiosis, helping each other grow.


From the article: “When we become angry, we feel like we’re taking control, like we’re getting power over something.”

Around 75% of my paycheck is taken up by Health Insurance, Rent, Taxes, Automobile, and extraneous required fees. That's just to subsist in modern society on a middle class level.

I'm make WELL above the national average.

I can only imagine how difficult it is working in a small town with limited opportunities and a family and making at or below the national average income.

Most modern people are completely powerless with no chance at a better life.

It's just spun so well that people don't realize it but have this underlying feeling of powerlessness and rage. I think it's going to continue to get worse as inequality increases and more and more people make less and less money.

That's why American's are angry in my opinion.

How "modern man" forgets that the comforts of a "middle class level" are unobtainable for all but the Uber wealthy in the world.

Your problems are problems. But they're not real problems. Real problems like starving to death. And not "if I lose my job and x and y and z then I'll starve", but "I'm dying" kind of starve.

Your logical fallacy is: Not as bad as




This story is not supported by surveys and studies. White Americans, particularly men, are angry that they're losing their dominant group status. It's not that they're actually losing money or jobs or anything, it's just that they've been brought up to believe themselves above everyone else and always be at the centre of attention. Unfortunately, this mindset means that even marginally fairer treatment of other groups gets interpreted as "oppression".


As a white male, in Kentucky of all places... I've never once thought or heard, aloud or in confidence, a complaint about losing 'dominant group status.'. The closest would be probably immigrants taking jobs, but I think that's more related to wages and unemployment than anything else. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I can't imagine anything close to a majority of whites feel that way.

As a white male from the south, all I see in current political rhetoric is a fear of the other coming here and supplanting the good christian white men and women. Those rapists from mexico coming here, and China stealing our knowledge, immigrants are the threat to our way, support from the president of those people who are espousing white supremacy.

I don't think a majority of people feel this is an accurate worry, but I do think it's a dominant political message.

Caveat: I'm also a white male, from a rural part of a southern state that went heavily for Trump. It definitely exists, though I'm not sure it's specific to "white male" as opposed to "white people" (very generally). I've definitely heard "But whites will be in the minority soon" relatively frequently... Countering with "What's wrong with being a minority?" never ends well, from personal experience.

Wages for white male working class in the lower quintiles has seen no growth for the past 40+ years. (More specific analysis can show negative wage growth)

https://youtu.be/BsqGITb0W4A?t=1100 Mark Blyth - Brown University

Isn't the more illuminating data the average wage growth of an individual?

That is, observing that the average height of the lower quintile has regrettably not changed in 40 years obscures the fact that it isn't at all unlikely for an individual who started at 1 foot tall to grow to 6 feet tall in just a few years.

Who cares? The argument is that populist anger is rooted in economics. You want to look at large fractions of the populations and categorize them.

I agree with your assessment of losing dominant group status and I think you're definitely right.

However, I do think it relates directly back to income and survival.

Humans are tribal and want to associate with members of their own tribe.

Being the dominant tribe gives members of that tribe certain advantages in the job market.

If any other tribe gets in power members of that tribe will then have those advantages.

I wonder to what degree a couple of decades of persistent warfare without an end in sight also plays a role.

I can't recommend America: The Fairwell Tour more highly... it gets to the core beyond manufactured divisions that atomize citizens, set them against each other, manufactured consent, grotesque inequality, learned helplessness and the broken American dream paving the way for grotesque inequality.

It's a shame this isn't higher up. It's a fantastic long-read on the roots of modern outrage.

tl;dr anger is a great tl;dr compression algo

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