David Brin’s theory that self-righteous indignation is an addictive drug makes sense of the pundits on left and right who persist in denouncing their opposition without suggesting balanced solutions. The demagogues who advocate emotional, “they must be stopped” responses rather than thoughtful, “let’s solve this problem” ones are, in essence, feeding addictions for their audiences. (In turn, they might be hooked on the adulation from their rabid supporters.)
In The Edge’s World Question for 2006, Daniel Goleman brings up the notion of “cyber-disinhibition”: that communication on the Internet, lacking all the real-time feedback of talking to a living human being that you can see and hear, leads to implusive speech that people would never use in person. (e.g.: flames). This also contributes to the polarization of the blogosphere; a good rant that vents your frustrations can be very satisfying, and there are no automatic obstacles in place to make people think twice before hitting the POST button.
What to do about it? Participating in the feedback loop to try and break it is probably counterproductive: it would be perceived as an attack in a medium where people are already expecting attacks. Reality filtering— simply ignoring what a person says, even if it makes sense, because the speaker is in a demonized category— will probably prevent addicts from listening to anyone who tries to intrude on their worldview. Choosing not to participate in the feedback loop is a start; the trick is making it clear that there’s a population that is actively avoiding the mess. Perhaps we need some catchy terms on which to hang these concepts— perhaps “hate dealers” and “bile emporiums” to describe the pundits and weblogs that are part of the problem? “Blog rage” to describe someone whose cyber-disinhibition has led them off the deep end?