Are you sick of provocative clickbait articles across the web that read like something deep into Poe’s Law territory? Ben Collins of The Daily Beast is sick of it too. This is his response to a particularly ridiculous piece of above-the-line trolling that’s generated far too much monetised outrage.
As you know, this is a stupid thought only an intentionally provocative person would think, and the Internet let the author (whose name we’re also not printing, because we’re not rewarding this kind of thing) know exactly that. At some level, you’ve got to admire the guts: this guy had to have known that no person with real problems on this Earth shared this thought, and yet he spent hours of his human life writing about it before disseminating it on a big media platform with his face next to it.
But it’s still profoundly stupid. And he knows it. And he printed it anyway.
It’s not his fault, though.
If you think you’ve seen more of these recently—stories with no grounding in reality that 99 percent of the planet would never agree with and exist solely to get you to click and see if you’re not having a very swift stroke—well, you have. If you think standards for what is an acceptable story in respected news publications on the web have gotten lower in a chase for clicks, you’re right.
I don’t think this stuff is merely irritating but essentially harmless. The worst examples deepen the internet’s cultural and political divides, making the online world a more polarised and nastier place. We’re seeing people egg-manning this stuff, loudly declaring that their chosen outgroup believes some outrageous thing, and this is why we must all hate them.
Just like the ever more intrusive nature of web advertising, it’s a race to the bottom which will ultimately eat itself. Sadly even once-respected publications are being dragged down this route.
Ben Collins has suggested websites change their advertising model to encourage engagement rather than maximising clicks. Whether he’s right or not, the current situation is not sustainable.