CLICKBAIT THINKPIECE

CLICKBAIT THINKPIECE

19th December 2013 // By Adam Disney
Stop reading this. Seriously, close the tab – you’re making things worse. You see, everyone is talking way too fucking much. About everything, all the time, from every possible angle. You must have noticed it; slowly but surely, as we enter the Iron Age of the internet, the exchange of information has blossomed and fouled into a vast and bubbling cacophony of turgid opinion. This is problematic, to borrow a beloved phrase.The viral spread of knowing commentary such as this has made it virtually impossible for any sort of mass media event to occur without being followed by the now-standard package of preachy thinkpieces. Miley? Opinions. Mandela? Opinions. Kanye? So many fucking opinions.

An event may not simply occur nowadays, and be reported. Instead we must stand and watch as writers tussle over What It Represents. Is race the issue here? Is it gender? Is it class? It may well be all three, but even-handedness has no place within a modern writer’s arsenal. For people like me, there is only One Explanation. And people like you keep clicking on it. Now I don’t mean to point fingers – I’m just as culpable. As a renaissance man, I must of course remain well informed, but time is precious, and there are only so many hours for straight information. Better to skip to the opinions – facts go down easier with a little dilution. And it makes sense, really. Technology has levelled the playing field to the extent that there’s no longer any significant difference between the speed and exclusivity of various outlets’ content. We no longer turn to our chosen source because they have The Facts. No, what we want is a good read. Whether you agree or disagree, a forceful piece will stimulate your brain and stick in the memory – and make you a repeat customer. No matter how many times I close my browser scornful and irritated at the latest burst of rabid self-righteousness, I will nevertheless find myself returning to the same sites again and again because I know that, if nothing else, here is something engaging. It is in this arena that the budding opinionist must make themself known. How does one do this? A tempting avenue is through simply shouting the loudest. The internet is a noisy place – even with AdBlock installed – and strident prose is always a solid tactic for capturing the wandering eye. X MEANS Y – THERE CAN BE NO DEBATE. But this isn’t just a loudness war. Once you’ve sucked them in, it’s a matter of keeping them there. This is no time for hedging your bets with fairness and concession; for admitting the possibility, however slight, that you are partly or wholly wrong. No, you’ve got to be bold; you’re the visionary, and visionaries don’t deal in ‘maybe’. You must be loud and consistent, and maybe original, if you’ve got the time. In such an environment, it is only natural that commentary tends towards unreflective vitriol. Even the internet is not immune to the laws of the marketplace, and if you want to earn a crust then you must yield to their demands. But it’s not merely aggression. What sets this latest plague of day-to-day wisdom dispensers apart is their obsession with quasi-academic terminology. Too often writers try to cloak weak arguments, or weak writing, in a veneer of respectability through employing a fearsome arsenal of obscure and constantly changing terminology. It’s a great scam – you wedge any person, artwork or incident into the grand narrative of your own pet crusade, and as long as the verbiage is significantly highfalutin, any counterargument may be dismissed as Beneath Your Intellect. And it’s hard not to let them sway you – at sufficient saturation, your recollection of the years’ happenings becomes irrevocably drowned out by the flurry of brow-furrowed thinkpieces that attempt to reframe any given day’s events within the context of their own grand unifying theory. Indeed, despite reading the opinions, I doubt that I’ve read or seen even one tenth of the actual primary sources upon which the respective scandals feed. Who has the time? Few do, but there’s already enough white noise online nowadays, and when we start confusing it with fact, that’s a problem. What’s to be done? That’s a thorny one. You can’t stop comment, and neither should you. Folks will write about what they please. But they also have the power to choose what they read, and that’s where you come in. People like me thrive on clicks – if no one reads it, we won’t do it. It might be tricky, but if you can resist the quick thrills of rabid opinion, then maybe we can starve the beast. These articles get written because they pay dividends, at least by internet standards, and if they don’t get read so much, they won’t get made so much. Yes, it’s depressing to rely upon Consumer Sovereignty to save the day, but sometimes grubby tools are the only option. Attention is a precious commodity, and you’ve got to spend it wisely if we’re to expect any kind of quality from people like me.

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