In 2009, Jan Moir, a Daily Mail journalist in the UK wrote a deeply unpleasant and grossly offensive article on the death of a gay Irish singer Stephen Gately. Written within hours of the singer’s demise, the article was discussed, dissected and shared around the world on social media. And, of course, every view earned her piece a click. A simple click of a mouse that earns a website fame and the vast fortunes of online advertising.
By no means was Jan Moir the architect of ‘clickbait journalism,’ but the article’s infamy and mass reach inspired others to follow. Soon after, a dung beetle in human form, Katie Hopkins was hired to rattle the stick of outrage. She didn’t disappoint. She described immigrants as ‘cockroaches’ and added that their bodies ‘floating in the water’ wouldn’t make her care. She was horrific. She was disgusting. She was, and still is, one of the most talked about and successful columnists in the UK.
By all accounts, Hopkins is pleasant to talk to. She’s shy. She’s intelligent. She loves to talk about her family. It’s just that for a living, she talks about sending gunboats to machine gun someone else’s. It makes people angry. It makes people share. It makes people click her bile-filled crap. Outrage is in, and the mob is hungry. It seems that desire for success far outweighs our responsibility to be, you know, fucking human.
By the time you read this, Donald Trump will, most likely, be on his way towards becoming the most powerful man in the world. For a man who has never held an elected position – or indeed voted for anyone in a Republican Primary, his ascendance to the highest level of American politics is extraordinary to say the least. He has, so far, impersonated a disabled journalist, offended women, suggested banning 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the United States and claimed Mexican immigrants were rapists. And every single time, he has dominated the media. He could very well become the first clickbait President.
Our mainstream media has excitedly followed suit. Instead of real news, we’re faced with outrageous hyperbole, designed to make us terrified, outraged or turned on. And hey, the advertising trade press hasn’t exactly been shy to throw a little raw meat to the trolls every now and then. It seems outrage, fear and hysteria, so easy to drum up, are easier emotions to induce than respect and admiration.
Psychologists such as Reid Meloy of the University of California believe that school shootings would dramatically reduce if the news media would simply stop at reporting them, rather than gorging on every last, sensationally garish, detail. It would deprive the infamy these deranged individuals crave. Maybe if we stopped reading and sharing clickbait, it might just go away. If media owners and senior figures exerted their vast powers over the media, maybe they’d report objectively and honestly rather than attempting to keep the population terrified and angry. Maybe sanity will win the day. But then again, so could Donald fucking Trump.
This article originally appeared in Adnews.