OPINION: Self-spinning rage-bait is the laziest kind of hack journalism and we’re all falling for it

author avatar by 3 years ago
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Here’s a confession: I am a really, REALLY lazy writer. I very rarely do more than two drafts of a story before hitting “submit” and just praying it’s good enough that a few of you fine folks will find it funny. In the Trump days, it was even easier; you’d just write exactly what he said, pepper in a few instances of the word “YUGE” and then go for lunch.

My “artistic” excuse is that if a satire piece needs more than two drafts then the idea probably wasn’t good enough to begin with, but the honest reason is that I’m just lazy. The Facebook comments that follow some of my stories are often far funnier than anything in the actual stories, sending me into a spiteful, self-hating rage which usually ends with me ordering some kind of cheese-based fast food.

But then I look at some of the actual journalism, the “real” news for which NewsThump is so often mistaken, and I don’t feel so bad. I’m not lazy after all! I’m an effort machine! I am the Linford Christie of the written word, fueled by creativity, nuance, and cheese.

What is this lazy, hack journalism that makes me feel like Oscar Wilde (no relation) by comparison? Well, let’s get down to it…

You’ll have seen the headlines:

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“Snow White may be CANCELED!” – The Sun

“Disneyland’s new Snow White ride draws consent backlash” – The Independent

“Disneyland’s Snow White ride criticized for including Prince Charming’s “non-consensual” kiss” – Entertainment Weekly.

And so on, in every paper, on every morning news show, EVERYWHERE.

Must have been a HELL of a backlash. YUGE. Hundreds of people – nay, THOUSANDS of “woke warriors” beating down the gates at Disneyland, demanding the complete and total demolition of Snow White’s Enchanted Wish (the revamped Snow White ride in question). They’ve brought their own sledgehammers! One of them even rented a wrecking ball and Anne Hathaway is swinging on it!

…except she wasn’t. There weren’t thousands of people. Or hundreds. Or dozens.

There were TWO.

“Not two hundred, just two,” as Charlie Bucket once said to his flabberghasted maths teacher.

Two journalists for the San Francisco Gate shared the opinion that the non-consensual kiss (no quote marks required, it IS a non-consensual kiss) was not appropriate for the children’s theme park attraction- which they otherwise rated as a very good attraction. They even note that the final kiss scene “is beautifully executed – as long as you’re watching it as a fairy tale, not a life lesson”.

No calls to cancel anything. No pitchforks… in fact, a fairly positive review with the caveat that kissing unconscious women isn’t really on and MAYBE isn’t something to promote to an audience of children, and it would have been nice if a different scene had been chosen.

It really wasn’t, and isn’t, a big backlash.

But goddammit, you’re going to be TOLD it is.

You’re going to be convinced that the Social Justice Warriors are out to CANCEL Snow White. You’re going to ruddy well ACCEPT the image of an army of avocado-munching, carbon-neutral-hammer-wielding millennials battering down the gates of Disneyland, calling for Mickey Mouse’s head to be served on an otherwise-vegan platter.


The fact it isn’t doesn’t matter.

Your rage is an incredibly valuable asset to absolutely any outlet – NewsThump included. Rage gets clicks, rage gets stories shared, rage starts debates, those debates generate more clicks. “Mwahahaha”, cackles the media outlet.

People who didn’t previously care about preserving Snow White will now care MASSIVELY just as they suddenly cared about those Dr Seuss books they’d never heard of. People who didn’t previously consider the lack of consent of “that kiss” will now think about it and argue that it’s wrong and that the ride should indeed be altered.

Even though it was only two people who gave a shit at the start of the week, it’s going to be way more than that by Friday. This small, well-balanced critique in a news outlet most of us hadn’t heard of until today will EXPLODE into a wider debate about old media in a more progressive world, about freedom of expression, and about consent. The debate will happen not because any kind of “woke warrior” asked for it, but because the rest of newsland – many of which claim to have a problem with the fact these debates exist at all – made it happen.

In advertising, this kind of cynical, self-spinning rage induction is called “storm chasing” – the deliberate pursuit of controversy from a start point of practically zero in order to generate press coverage and free publicity. Gillette pulled it off a treat a few years back when they suddenly decided to give a shit about the way men treat women (even though the price for a pink Gillette razor remains mysteriously more expensive than a blue one. Go figure…).

This happens all the time. Remember when loads of people wanted a gender neutral Santa? It was maybe nine people on Twitter. But the Mail still told you about it. Because they wanted your ANGER.

We’re all still falling for it though. We’re falling for the idea that the opinions belonging to a group of people that wouldn’t fill a bus shelter represent a large, significant threat to *insert thing you care about from your childhood, probably*. Then we get so worked up and vocal about it, that we inadvertently create a far larger force for the counter-argument; a force that wouldn’t have existed at all had you not told them about the thing that had upset you in the first place, and YOU wouldn’t have known if the Independent hadn’t told you. You are the middle part of the cycle and your rage is a VITAL part of making sure the story keeps going.

Googling the word “problematic” and then writing a news story about whatever tiny thing you find is not fucking journalism. It’s a cheap trick to make you angry at NOTHING.

Nobody cares more about “wokeness” more than the people who hate it.

The “real” journalists worked that out a while ago (and fair’s fair, the satirists did too, but at least we’re joking), and they’ve been winding up the entire world an absolute treat ever since; feeding you rage-bait, getting you high on cathartic anger, watching you turn a single tweet into a big deal that will keep their ten-minute article in the news cycle for a week. They probably don’t even bother with a second draft.

Lazy? Become one of THOSE journalists. You’ll be done by lunch.