Man Seeks Smoking Gun, Instead Encounters Sea Serpents
That is forthcoming. Let me just begin by saying that I am not as hardened and soulless as I sometimes might seem. Though I have long toiled in the finding-fault-with-others industry, and sometimes appeared a bit flinty or irritable or slightly intolerant of, uh, everything, the fact is I have softs spots, too. There is blood coursing through my veins.
Sometimes I like things. Such as, I dunno, Skittles. And VE Day.
I can even occasionally muster a certain appreciation for people, places and things that ordinarily do not impress me. For example, I despise Oliver Stone, for obvious reasons, yet "Natural Born Killers" is a masterpiece, is it not? While I typically eschew mixed drinks, on the grounds of why would you ruin perfectly good liquor by contaminating it with candy, I have been known to consume a margarita…or 9. Very refreshing and delicious.
And, though I was no big fan of George H.W. Bush, I can never stop appreciating his principled stance on broccoli. You'll recall he once let slip that he disliked the stuff, resulting in a total freakout from the lobbyists for Big Broccoli, but the commander in chief remained resolute: "I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!"
He should be on Mount Rushmore for that, in my opinion.
The point being, while admittedly persnickety, I have the capacity, in my mind's eye, figuratively speaking, to click on Like. This gets to today's subject: stuff you train your cursor on. As my worldwide cult of acolytes well knows, I take every opportunity to sneer at the category of content called “clickbait.” On the editorial side, I find it demoralizing that the likes of Huffington Post (“Did You Know These Stars Identify As Bisexual?”) and BuzzFeed -- and pretty much everybody else -- generate traffic with silly lists, pix of kittens, boobs, celebrities and other populist attractants. Versus news and information of substance.
This doesn't surprise me; its cynicism simply disappoints me.
What enrages me is when ostensibly reputable publishers use such links, disguised as editorial content, in “Around the Web” sections leading readers into ad pitches. No need for me to belabor this. I've been ranting about it for months.
But for all my flying spittle, I do have to acknowledge the significant skills of the folks who write those headlines. They are often very, very good at their jobs. So often I -- five-alarm infosnob -- have felt my mouse moving, Ouija-like, in the direction of a headline that offers no insight on the economy, Iranian nuclear ambitions or the schism within the GOP.
Now, headline writing was always regarded as an art form -- ahem, “Headless Body in Topless Bar” -- but
except in the New York City tabloid wars, the stakes have always been low. Nobody got any richer or poorer based on the hed drawing readers to a story. But now clicks are currency, so you can say
goodbye to “Area Man,” “Solons Convene” and “Council Considers.”
There's money in them thar links. It's Ouija time.
Truth be told, my intention today was to locate a whole mess of brainless, trashy, empty Internet calories on mainstream sites, and to again decry how editorial has been irrevocably corrupted by the Internet economy. Instead, at ABC.com, I forgot my errand. In the right rail, I discovered these headlines.
I defy you not to click on that bait. They were all legitimate stories, by the way -- albeit surely relegated to the inside pages of most newspapers. But come on…sea serpents? Clown assassins? Killer asteroids? (Spoiler alert: NASA says not to worry.) Of course, I read every single article. How could I not? Yes, I was suckered by sensationalism, but no hard feelings at all. I learned about oarfish and the Tijuana cartel.
Nice work, cynics. This time, you win.