Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Click Bait and The Decline of Empire - a Pinko Valentine

For Valentines Day, I gave Pinko my cold.  He's sleeping through his cold, but my cold turned into one of those lingering, loose coughs.  I blame the NYC Department of Education, since I had to trudge through the blowing snow and ice, over mounds of frozen sludge to climb onto the bus to get to school.  Our school stayed open because DOE was open.

I get it that the Department of Education has many issues to balance, but it seemed to me that DeBlasio was looking at schools as day care centers for low wage workers.   Priveliged workers can work from home, take a personal day, or figure something out because we typically have options and support structures in place.  Low wage workers can be at work or be replaced. 

Teachers across the region were fully pissed off on Thursday and used social media to vent.   New York Collective of Radical Educators posted a link to a news story featuring this photo/caption.

"School's in NYC are to remain open." - Bill de Blasio
I'd provide the title of the story, but it was one of those typical "click bait" titles that describe the contents of the article as hilarious, and in my considered opinion, the contents were mildly amusing at best.   The one with Godzilla made me chuckle because it's an accurate assessment of the situation - especially since I've been expecting Godzilla to rise up from the ocean again ever since Fukushima.

Pinko has been on a tear lately about "click bait," because so many people on Face Book share articles without even checking to see if they are remotely true, or even reading the article at all for that matter.  They share an item on the strength of the headline or the graphic alone.   For example, a while ago, there was a little video going around that showed a few moments of what was supposedly an accident with fireworks but it was really a daytime display of fireworks.  I think it was in France.  I didn't watch any of it because, frankly, I didn't care to spend four more minutes of my day on Bullshit, and that was before I'd been trudging through the sleet and slush to get to work for days and days.  But, people were having a good time sharing the video and making comments like, "oooops."
Pinko became an internet party popper by posting links to the truth in the these same comment threads.

He gets annoyed when stories are circulating about the bad behavior of an individual, and the citizens of Face Book are all pissed off, demanding retribution on the alleged perpetrator.  Generally, it's some stupidity on the part of someone who should have known better - like that ancient video of the woman who swiped a foul ball from some little kid at an Astros game:

Granted, the woman looks like a greedy asshole in the video.  She probably works for BP or another corporation filled with greedy assholes - but the incident itself occurred in April 2012 and stories were still appearing over a year later like this one in Opposing Views in September 2013 (

While this little vignette in Houston might provide some sort of contemporary morality play if anyone stopped a moment to find out a few facts and draw some conclusions - that's not what happens on Facebook.  People start spewing invective and dreaming up appropriate punishments for the douchebag on parade.  The same thing happened with that story about the sorry-assed Boy Scout leaders who fucked up some sacred rocks in Utah (Charges Filed Against Boy Scout Leaders Who Toppled Ancient Rock Formation, ABC News, Feb 1, 2014).   It was undoubtedly an example of exceedingly bad behavior, but what's worse - in my mind anyway - is that thousands of people were bitching to high hell about a couple of assholes in a state park, but we can frack the whole country to smithereens and the same people don't even know it's happening.

Like the other day, more news came out about the dramatic increase in Oklahoma earthquakes since Fracking was introduced in the state a couple of years ago - and there is little, if any, mention of bit of information in the mainstream news - much less circulating around Facebook like the viral videos of stupid shit., 2.14.14

It seems to me that somebody somewhere makes a concerted effort to distribute and publicize stories of individuals behaving badly.  These stories antagonize folks who are already cranky about life in general, like so many of us are these days.   By offering up some tiny little target for their anger, the stories distract the public from larger, more central issues such as big money in government, privately funded climate change denial - take your pick.  The point is that if everyone is busy complaining about the Outrage Du Jour, then people won't band together and take to the streets to protest the Endless War and Ecocide resulting from years of corporate control.

Gothamist recently addressed the Click Bait phenomenon in an article entitled Jerry Seinfeld is The Devil Who Hates Minorities & Women.  Evidently, there's a service known as Chartbeat that records the number of hits a website or blog receives.  Gothamist explains:
Chartbeat, to the uninitiated, is a giant, coal-and-kitten-blood-powered factory located somewhere in the middle of Death Valley that counts up every single precious little click on websites like Gawker in order to calculate each blogger's exact worth as an employee.
I can see how a writer would want to stoke the Outrage Machine to drive up hits to his/her work in order to keep a job, get a raise, or whatever.  But since media consolidation has given roughly 350 executives dominion over the print and electronic news programming in a country with roughly 320,000,000 million people - well, you can see how it pays to keep America focused on celebrities, sports and examples of individuals behaving badly.  While we're looking at some bogus flickering images, the rich guys can do whatever they want - the guys of the Wall Street Kappa Beta Phi chapter can tell you:

One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society, by Kevin Roose, 
You can also see how it would be useful to publish photoshopped pictures of giant squid and attribute Fukushima radiation, or of fictitious Grammy acceptance speeches.  The thing is that when passionate people impulsively but earnestly share information only to discover that they've been fooled or hoaxed - it can lead a citizen activist to doubt his/her own judgement.  Consequently, that person may hesitate to share real, important information about social and economic justice, the environment or peace.  These "satires" can be just as effective as hostile trolls when it comes to shutting up the Left.

These are the sort of topics Pinko and I discuss at the dinner table when we're not absorbed in a lovefest.  Mostly, we're absorbed in lovefests, but we originally became friends over political and cultural analysis and the original discussion continues with the addition of Burning Man.  Sometimes we both sit at our computers, me at my desk in the corner and him by the window across the room where he occasionally smokes one of his Rollie cigarettes, and we tell each other about what we're reading - like an old, married couple reading the newspaper sections at the breakfast table.

Since the whole world is clearly going to Hell in a hand basket and there's little chance of stopping the inevitable decline of The Empire, it's a comfort to be here at the edge of the Apocalypse with Pinko the Bear.

He's going to be on BearMan Radio this coming Sunday around noon, talking about the shit going down this week in Kiev.  Although it appears that the people are rising in protest against tyrants, like the Arab Spring, the reality may be that some fascist types, with the backing of spooks from the US, are stirring up the locals.   He was talking about the situation on his own blogtalk show last night - Up Late with Pinko the Bear: Kiev is on Fire.

Honestly, it's hard to believe that we never laid eyes on each other in real life until six months ago, when I jumped on a plane and went to Burning Man.  We're going again this summer, of course.  I've already got my ticket.  If the end of the world as we know it is on the horizon, I'm delighted and grateful that we're following our bliss in every day life, and celebrating the human spirit for vacation.  Must be Thing of Beauty #076-101 (Explore Beauty - a Challenge, from realia).

Here's the podcast from Bearman Radio.  Great discussion that shows exactly what I like about Pinko the Bear, and his new Bear friend


Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

"You had me at "Fuck the System."

February 20, 2014 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

Good post. You're right, it's all distractions. Nothing bugs me more than having to correct all those inaccurate posts people keep sharing! And congrats on Pinko, sounds like a perfect match.

February 20, 2014 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Cali said...

You're right, of course. It's the Eve of Destruction and everyone is cranky and wanting to bitch about something, anything, because TPTB have made it unsafe for one's future security to bitch about anything important in the US. Funny that TPTB are reacting to Syrian and Ukrainian protesters by backing them, while making all sorts of laws AGAINST the right to protest here. It kinda makes my head hurt to think about it.

February 21, 2014 at 3:50 AM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Mauigirl, It feels like a perfect match. In many ways, he's kind of like Woody there - which makes sense because Konopak and I are Besties. I'm glad there's folks like y'all out there correcting the misinformation. All that interaction makes me tired.

Cali, every time I hear Obama or Hillary talking about the rights of demonstrators it makes my dang head explode. It's hard to believe just how many people still believe what comes out the mouths of our "leaders"

February 21, 2014 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger H. M. Stuart said...

PENolan, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria. This invitation has been extended to you by email as well.

In addition to posting on anything you wish, as you desire, you may of course mirror posts you've already written from here or elsewhere to gain a different or additional audience or for any other reason that appeals to you.

If you think you might be interested, contact me through Alexandria or by return email via this comment and I'll forward our formal invitations for you to look over and return if you decide to proceed.

Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start some new - and different - ones of your own.

I look forward to hearing from you.

H. M. Stuart

March 15, 2014 at 8:23 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home