On the State of Political Rage, Part 4: When the Rage Becomes the Message–Remain Calm and Carry On

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Anger is useful only to a certain point. After that, it becomes rage, and rage will make you careless. ― Lauren Oliver

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. –Jesus

At a certain point, if political rage is not calmed and the ragers contained within the law, it reaches a tipping point where it turns  into the issue and the original issue becomes obscured in the fireworks, literally and figuratively.

This phenomenon is somewhat akin to artist Marshall McLuhan’s famous observation that “the medium is the message,” meaning, the message and how it is conveyed morphs into a kind of single entity of communication via a “symbiotic relationship” where “the medium influences how the message is perceived.”

Trouble is, when this applies to rage the resulting chaos is not a work of art but of anarchy which serves no one and often makes observers turn sour toward the original message which might have significant merit.

In other words, when the rage over something or someone becomes both message and medium, the original grievances over which people are legally protesting get lost in the din of high emotion (or engineered high emotion) which feeds mob rule, shuts down the opposition via fear, and puts everyone in a state of confusion and frustration.

We see this in the takeover, of late, of political protests, particularly on campuses where the so-called “black bloc” arrive at a pre-determined point in time with their weapons of mass vandalism and start destroying things.

Film at eleven.

Of them.

Not the lawful protesters.

As rage overtakes reason.

And the medium becomes the message.

Fortunately, some citizens, students in particular, are recognizing the uninvited rioters for who they are, i.e., lawbreakers and vandals, and the peaceful protesters are beginning to speak up. Let’s hope it’s not too late, given the power of mob rule.

That said, there are those of the “engineering high emotion,” aka, the chaos, aka, the rage, camp who know well what they do.

One revolutionary many believe at the bottom of the pile of this brand of political turmoil is Saul Alinsky, who put forth one solution on how to change the status quo in his book Rules for Radicals (1969), his thoughts summarized here and excerpted below (bolding, mine):

According to Alinsky, the organizer — especially a paid organizer from outside — must first overcome suspicion and establish credibility. Next the organizer must begin the task of agitating: rubbing resentments, fanning hostilities, and searching out controversy. This is necessary to get people to participate. An organizer has to attack apathy and disturb the prevailing patterns of complacent community life where people have simply come to accept a bad situation. Alinsky would say, “The first step in community organization is community disorganization.”

(Note the ironic use of the term “community organization” when the real objective is community disorganization.)

And given the nature of human nature, such disorganization, resentment, hostility, and agitation have a way of turning to blind rage. Causes degrade. People get hurt and start looking for a savior…which, of course, feeds the (Dis)organizers-in-Chief who rent the black bloc lawbreakers and others like them to co-opt civic protest thereby forcing revolution and the kind of change and control, perhaps via martial law, that those at the top want.

So, how do we maintain our right to peaceably assemble?

If one has had occasion to study the ways and means of abusive people, I believe there are some strategies survivors report that can help to first, survive, then, thrive beyond the push-pull and abuse of professional agitators (perpetrators) whose objective is to break down existing order and replace it with their own.*

Ideally, one would establish “No Contact” (NC). Don’t play the game. Don’t engage in the struggle. Walk away and reserve your energy for lawful solutions.

This can be very difficult when the ragers engage in intimidation, violence, and so on. It can also be very difficult when certain law enforcers are told to “stand down” while the lawbreaking ensues.

If there must be contact, “grey rock” (i.e., become very boring, as boring as a grey rock) the perpetrators. This means interact with them as little as possible. Sensing no drama and exploitable anger coming back at them, perpetrators will likely move on to prey upon others who are yet unaware of the con and who can thus be used to rub resentments and fan hostilities. In the meantime, those in the know may decide to run ahead to warn the unsuspecting by speaking out, writing, and engaging them in conversations on the topic.

Make sure the battle is yours, so to speak. If it is, seek wise advice before proceeding. If not, establish NC…

As believers, we also have the wisdom of innumerable Scriptures that advise us to remain peaceful, loving, kind, and patient. Jesus offers us His peace, as well.

It might seem counterintuitive, but a peaceful soul is the foundation of a rational mind, and reason, in the long run, is the most effective response to rage, helping one to decide what is the best course of action.


For the entire series, click here.

*Here are just a few of innumerable sites that help readers identify and deal with abusive/angry/difficult/rage-filled people:






This entry was posted in most recent posts, ON THE STATE OF POLITICAL RAGE, spiritual survival, survival tools and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to On the State of Political Rage, Part 4: When the Rage Becomes the Message–Remain Calm and Carry On

  1. pnissila says:

    Thanks, C.G.

    I trust the Lord will bring those by for whom it might be an encouragement and/or perhaps some enlightenment. My original thought for this post was something along the lines of rage as a cult, for the unprecedented hate and anger present just now in this country, alone, not to mention the entire world, has an almost supernatural hold on people. So many normally reasonable people seem to have been caught up in a vortex of, well, rage.

    My students and I had a brief discussion about this. One man shared that his wife was getting so enraged about politics she was experiencing repeated migraines! He was able to get her to at least watch some of the comedy shows for some relief and it helped her a little bit.

    Of course, we have seen other extraordinary manifestations of the influence of the rage “in the air,” as it were…

    It’s no wonder God seeded His word with so much about peace and keeping our mind stayed on Him. Here’s another Scripture I think about a lot, these days: God will keep in perfect peace he (read: he and she–editorial pronoun) who’s mind is stayed on Him because he trusts in Him (a paraphrased Isaiah 26:3).


  2. Carl Gordon says:

    This is now posted on my facebook wall.


  3. Carl Gordon says:

    “A peaceful soul is the foundation of a rational mind….” Even saying those words relaxes and refreshes my soul. I wish this would go viral. It needs to.


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