Sandy Beaches and the Clickbait Media

It turns out that a couple of “XYZ is problematic” clickbait pieces on a popular feminist culture website by the pseudonymous “Sandy Beaches” were actually the work of a troll, in an affair that sounds like a cross between The Sokal Hoax and Naked Came The Stranger.

Quite simply, I wanted to see how ridiculous and flagrantly wrong/untruthful I could be and get away with it. I’d had the FFVII/sexism article written well over a year ago, yet I didn’t pull the trigger. I thought, at the time, that it would be far too stupid and misinformed for any publication to run. However, as the articles regarding feminist complaints on…well everything…began to pile up, each one getting progressively less logical and more poorly argued, I decided it was time.

It is the most successful article I’ve ever written. More comments, more views, more shares, more threads, more responses, than anything I’ve ever done before. As of now, the FFVII/sexism article sits at around 1000 FB shares and 700+ comments, not including the multiple threads and video and article responses I’ve seen.

When you take into consideration I wrote this piece in about 30 minutes (35–40 including some editing I’ll get into later), the energy to reward ratio is unbelievable.

As I’ve said before, if your rhetoric is so predictable and formulaic that an outsider who is opposed to everything you stand for can fake it without being caught, you need to raise your game.

The usual suspects are predictably declaring the whole thing as a judgement on the current state of feminism. But I think the real villain here is the dubious outrage-for-clicks business model of so much of the online media. It’s become a race to the bottom to see who can push people’s buttons for profit, and damn the longer term cultural consquences. Even Guardian Music has started to publish pieces like “Is Opera the most misogynistic of all artforms?, which I refused to read on principle. And no, this is not just a “Social Justice Warrior” thing; the right has its own outrage-sheets which are every bit as rancid.

It’s poisoning our cultural conversations, polarising our online communities into petty warring tribes, and sucking up energy thar could be better spent in enthusing about things.

Online journalism and cultural criticism needs a better business model, one that supports well-written and informed cultural analysis rather than cheap and nasty clickbait that preaches to partisan choirs. At the moment I don’t believe the ad-supported model can do this.

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