10 Acts of Manufactured Outrage

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

So many things will send our society flying into a rage, albeit usually an impotent one. Violence, perceived injustice and celebrity rudeness are but a few things that the media can goad us into being angry enough about that we follow stories with rapt attention and let everyone in our social circles know how we feel. The fact that sometimes people try to create outrage on purpose doesn’t stop the outrage from happening, as you can see with…

10. Crowds on Demand

Few organizations are as cynical and transparent as the Los Angeles company Crowds on Demand. They started  by providing crowds of actors that pretend to be paparazzi, fans, and security guards so clients can pretend to be celebrities. But apparently there wasn’t enough of a market for that, as they began offering their services to political rallies. By August 2013 they had become a company that staged protests for 15 dollars per hour per person, including controversial issues like calling for gun purges.

How Successful Was It?

Given that the company now also offers extras for film shoots, their success to date seems fairly limited. They only have enough employees to stage protests of about twenty people, and their site emphasizes that they offer discounts to charities, which is something of an indication they know how sleazy they sound. It’s a pretty dubious service given all the people that will protest for free out of idealism.

9. Good Jobs Nation

If you’re curious about how well Crowds on Demand could work, consider the example that we got to see in October 2013 as a result of the American government shutdown. Twenty protesters gathered outside of a World War Two memorial, ostensibly to protest being furloughed. But they were in fact members of a group called Good Jobs Nation and were paid $15 an hour for their protests, which was discovered through the bold investigative journalism tactic of briefly talking to them.

 How Successful Was It?

It wasn’t the slightest bit successful after the news broke. It didn’t help that the group was misreported as protesting the veterans who were visiting the site only to find access to the memorial blocked. So the story shifted from being about protesting the loss of pay to an incomprehensible case being made that America’s veterans were being disrespected, in the Inception of manufactured outrage.

8. Females for Felons

In 1983, ex-con Ralph Sturges was reported to have founded the organization Females for Felons. Their intention was to convince women to have sex with prison inmates for free, or “donate their bodies” as Sturges more tactfully put it. The logic was that providing felons with conjugal visits would improve rehabilitation. At least, that was the claim.

 In reality it was a ploy by one Alan Abel, who was attempting to show how ridiculous and outrageous organizations would inevitably receive national air time if they sought it. To help with making the group seem more alarming and bizarre, and thus more telegenic, he wore a ridiculous hooded disguise for his role as Sturges.

How Successful Was It?

It was extremely successful in terms of media exposure, if not in convincing people to have sex with inmates. Among the high profile shows that Abel got to play the role of Ralph Sturges on was the Larry King Show, where you can get a sense of the sort of anger his pretend group generated.

7. Snuff

fakeoutrage4

Snuff was originally a 1972 Venezuelan film called  Slaughter. It was based on the 1969 Manson murders, which critics and audiences agreed held little commercial promise or potential entertainment value. But American distributor Allan Shakleton hit on a novel solution: convince the American public that Slaughter was actually the first commercially released film featuring a real murder.

To that end, he had a new ending shot which supposedly featured an actress being actually gutted and changed the title to Snuff. He also hired actresses to “protest” the screening of the film with sandwich board signs.

How Successful Was It?

For a while Snuff was racking in good money, undoubtedly aided by the fact that the hired protesters were joined by sincere protesters from the National Organization for Women. Even though the ad campaign resulted in a ban and a criminal investigation, the biggest testament to the ad campaign’s success was that the film is now credited with being one of the most significant contributors to the urban legend of commercially screened snuff films.

6. Omar’s School for Beggars

In the 1970s, a name cried out for attention in the New York City phone book. It was a service called Omar’s School for Beggars, which offered professional panhandling training with helpful tips like using bandages to look desperate. The school became national news in both 1977 and 1987.

How Successful Was It?

The school received coverage from TV personalities such as Mike Douglas, Tom Snyder, and Sally Jessy Raphael, all of whom naturally denounced the inflammatory program. This was despite the fact that it was the work of hoaxer Alan Abel again, whose work really should have put their guard up by that point. Rarely has one man done so little to get so many people angry.

5. Custer’s Revenge

Shop Related Products

All the current complaints about sexism and racism in games seem to pale before the 1982 Atari 2600 game Custer’s Revenge, a game about dodging arrows so you can rape a Native American woman tied to a cactus. To ensure maximum free publicity, developers American Multiple Industries previewed the game at a trade show and garnered the no-doubt desired response of protests from Native and feminist organizations.

How Successful Was It?

While it’s hard to quantify the success of marketing through deliberately angering activists, some have suggested that it doubled sales. But people with taste had the last laugh — Atari sued American Multiple Industries for defaming their brand, tying the company up in court and soon driving them out of business.

4. The Urine and Feces Abortion Protest

fakeoutrage7

When it comes to highly controversial topics like abortion, activists can be accused of almost anything and the public will believe it. One of the more flagrant examples was reported on conservatives blogs and sites like Glenn Beck’s Blaze.com. According to them, on June 12, 2013 pro-choice protesters were outside the capitol building in Austin, Texas with jars of urine, bags of feces, and tampons to throw at pro-life lawmakers before the police confiscated them.

How Successful Was It?

It didn’t take long for word to come out that the story was completely untrue and that there were only a few peaceably assembled protesters. Rather than serving as any sort of indictment of the pro-choice movement and its “orange-clad” followers, the whole thing became an embarrassment for whoever fell for the story. The attempt at whipping people into an unwarranted frenzy has gone down with the not-quite-stirring name of “poopgate.”

3. Crimea Protests

fakeoutrage8

In December 2013, Ukraine fell into a destabilizing conflict with Russia and its own citizens over the Crimean Peninsula. Many Crimeans not only claimed Russian sympathies, but acted violently on them. Government buildings, banks and even police stations were seized — such was the power of the pro-Russian movement.

However, major news outlets began releasing information in April 2014 that suggested the protesters were less lovers of Russia than they were paramilitary mercenaries. First the United States reported that there was evidence payments were being sent to the protesters from the Russian government. Then Vladimir Putin publicly stated that he was providing financial aid to the protesters. While some Crimeans had a legitimate desire to rejoin the Motherland, it’s hard to believe that that’s what compelled the uprisings.

How Successful Was It?

Numerous buildings were seized by the financially supported protesters, and on July 1, 2014, the Ukrainian president announced that numerous violations of an attempted ceasefire had occurred. It certainly seems that the “protesters” gave Putin his money’s worth.

2. The Akkari-Laban Dossier

fakeoutrage9

In 2005, when anti-Islamic sentiments that had barely abated in Western nations in the wake of 9/11 were newly inflamed by bombings in London that killed 72 people, comics that caricatured the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist were published in a Danish newspaper. Known as the JyllandsPosten cartoons, the story the West heard was that this very minor act in a blatantly racist publication goaded Muslims into a dangerous rage. Riots around the world made people afraid to republish the drawing, in what clearly illustrated how unreasonable some followers of Islam were and how absurd their overreaction to a mere comic was.

But that’s a misunderstanding as to how those protesters were informed of the situation in Denmark. Rather than merely being shown a cartoon and being angered, the information that was distributed to the Muslim public came from a document called the AkkariLaban Dossier. It included not merely the cartoon, but additional information and images meant to illustrate how Muslims felt living in Denmark.

These images went significantly beyond drawing the Prophet with a bomb for a turban. There were images of Muslims being publicly humiliated and a drawing of the Prophet being portrayed as Satanic, which could easily be taken out of context as evidence of real Danish persecution of Muslims instead of a representation of what it felt like to be a Muslim in Denmark.

How Successful Was It?

The creators of the Akkari-Laban Dossier admitted that the images they included had been likely to cause this sort of reaction. This was a rather understated way of describing an act that led to mass protests and the deaths of dozens of people. Western media outlets were scared to show the image that all this anger was falsely attributed to, while reports on the violence reinforced anti-Muslim prejudices. So it could be said to have been an enormous success in terms of manufacturing anger, misunderstanding and stereotypes.

1. The Ems Dispatch

Bismarck and Telegram

In 1870, a newly unified Prussia was looking to demonstrate its military might and was making France extremely nervous. In Spain a Prussian prince was ascending to the throne, and Emperor Napoleon III was demanding that Kaiser Wilhelm oppose the royal promotion. At the spas of Ems he dictated a long, wishy-washy and polite response to Napoleon that Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck was charged with sending. Bismarck came up with a remarkably simple method of goading France that became known as the Ems Dispatch. He simply edited the message down so that it seemed rude and aggressive without changing any of the wording or even the meaning.

How Successful Was It?

The Prime Minister got exactly the war he wanted, saying that his message waved “a red flag before the Gallic Bull.” Fortunately for him, the Prussian army was in much better fighting shape than the French one. Within a year Prussia had defeated France in a conflict that we think you can guess the long-term historical consequences of.

Your manufactured outrage over Dustin Koski can be expressed on his Facebook profile here.

Ready to be outraged about something?
You can marvel at the 10 craziest stunts PETA has ever pulled, or brush up on your protest songs so you can express your anger in style.

Share.

3 Comments

  1. Nr. 3, really? Better stop watching FOX news.
    The WHOLE crisis in Ukraine was manufactured by the US, just google Victoria Nuland. Russia just reacted to western provocation. In the end, the Crimea is better off with Russia than with the puppets and nationalists who are currently in power in the Ukraine. And without Chevron.

Leave A Reply