And the Opinion-bait led to us thrashing on the riverbank, bug-eyed and gasping

This was written just before going on stage tonight, so may be overly florid (even by my standards). Errors of punctuation and logic continue to prevail.I have also been loose on link bait definition, I am old and have used it to mean journalism that seems primarily to exist to lure you to be furious and RTing  

Has twitter ruined pop culture? Is everything aimed for maximum retweet and trending? If a pop star falls in Crouch End, and nobody is there to tweet about it, do they just making a sound until someone does? 

It is easy to view that past as a place of ideals, where journalists were all drunken but passionate hacks who’d be played by Denholm Elliott in the film version, where television was a tool of rebellion, a mirror on the world untainted by remnants of snotty coke left by a confident executive, and where pop music was a primal howl from the passionate. It is difficult to balance the desire for an honest picture of the past, with the desire to be inspired by more idealistic times. The angry optimist in me believes that there was a time when impassioned humanity wanted to learn, to strive for a better world and social justice, the skeptical pessimist wonders if the promise of garish distractions and alcohol in allt he colours syrup can contain is what we wanted after all. I believe that if given in depth reporting of injustices and TV shows about Greek architecture and the Rift valley, the people will demand more and refuse all further “reality” escapades. Then I remember that when I go to the BBC news websites, I frequently check the Entertainment section before the science section. This mind may be battling against its evolved desire for tittle tattle. 

The sceptic in me tries to remain alert in this world of link bait. The landscape of tawdry or bitter opinion seems increasingly lush, though lush with poisonous and ugly flowers that smell of dead, rotten flesh. This rotting flesh is potent, the smell may be foul, but we want everyone to sniff it and share our disgust and so the side of the carcass has just enough smooth flesh for advertising space, a message from our sponsor spelt out with wounds made by sentient maggots. Recoil in disgust at the stench of death, but as your head whips back, perhaps just noticed noticed that Marks and Spencer’s have a fabulous offer on Merlot or that a new line of lingerie is shaping and holding better than ever before. 

We adore sharing our moral disgust. Our social evolution seems to wants us to bond over what we despise more than what we adore. It is good to know that your companions enjoy the fine and beautiful things you adore, but even more important that you are ready to collaborate with furious outbursts and furrowed disappointment over those you find repugnant, we don’t want them sharing our wheels or secrets of firestarting. 

This is a handy foible to manipulate for financial gain. Twitter has added to its potency. 

Your TV show is a success when it is a national trend. Twitter can be your reptile brain, lashing out before the upper mammalian parts have risen up and said, “whoa there, don’t tweet that. Oh too late”. I cannot say with any certainty whether panels have got worse, but there is spider sense tingle when certain individuals crop up. “ah, that moron is popular with the liberal twitter user, let us unleash this foul brew and see how these minions writhe.”

All newspapers, even that one you like and trust, seem to have upped their game in commissioning articles that will stir up an ultimately impotent fury that manages to ride its high horse and high dudgeon to the internet, but doesn’t always manage to get beyond the virtual and make it to the march, protest or action. I wonder how Machiavellian the commissioning decisions are. Does the editor twist that wax moustache while gleefully looking into the middle distance and murderously murmuring, “oh this opinion piece will lure you into my mantrap of increased advertising revenue funded by your misplaced ire. Fools! FOOLS! HAHAHA”

Has it all been a happy mistake? “who would have though this empty, bitter, misguided piece that was meant as filler would fulfill my venality so delightfully. I must commission more”. 

Many of us comfort ourselves in hoping that many of the more noxious scribblers are tricksy contrarians, creating fictional postures for readies. Certainly, some of those I’ve met seem to congratulate themselves on their cleverness, men of the people who despise the people. We are all a ringtone away from unleashing our inner lunatic on a phone in show. 

The more I’ve talked to some of them, the more it seems that it’s a double bluff, the duplicitous mask, “I”m just pretending to be a bigot for the larks”, slips to reveal that they really do believe what they say, but are more comfortable denying it. How much cleverer you seem as a player of some game rather than just another sufferer of arseholism.

I wonder if some started out as slippery con people, playing a game, but then found they suffered Stockholm syndrome of the brain, and found themselves siding with the bully fiction they had created. 

I think Twitter has got better, I think people are beginning to feel that some journalism is specifically created for them, animosity that unites but makes victors of the ones they find despicable. What prevents it is not getting angry and sharing links, but ignoring it, or writing opposing views without the links. Once the ad revenue shrinks, some opinions may shrivel, after all they may not be held because of deeply held beliefs, they may just opinions for cash. 

The best contrarians provoke but that provocation leads to insight. They can make you uncomfortable, question your own opinions, it is not just about making the reader ferocious, it’s not just throwing shit and bricks and then laughing at the mess.

And now the public information slogan –

Think before you tweet that opinion bait have you fallen into their snare?

2013 Tour is nearly over – Kings Lynn, Cirencester, Leicester, Dartmouth, Evesham and Tunbridge Wells, then new show starts soon. Also Christmas gigs with Brian Cox and plenty more. Details of all that stuff and more HERE

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2 Responses to And the Opinion-bait led to us thrashing on the riverbank, bug-eyed and gasping

  1. sam says:

    The only good thing to come out of Brit pop was the album name Modern Life is Rubbish. The machines can not imitate humans, so they are making us imitate them. It has begun !

  2. sam says:

    Forgot to say, glad you blog, twitter is shit

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