Once upon a time, before the death of irony (what do you think, did irony really die in 2001? I feel like it’s sort of still around) there was a link soup column called, “Suck.” The format was a short essay written in a glib, cynical voice (I just typoed that as, “void,” and that’s totally appropriate) riffing on some trend-of-the-moment, with one or two links to stories or websites sprinkled in each sentence. It totally earned the name, “Suck,” by not putting alt text on the links, so you had no idea where the link went. If you followed every one, you’d have a boatload of open tabs to click through, so it would suck up your day, as well as being a sucky website.
That said, it occurs to me now that as shitty a way of aggregating a daily news feed as that was, I think I’d rather have that than the horrendous torrent of vague hot takes on Twitter. At least Suck was meta enough to give some hints about whether the link would be worth following or not, albeit still being vague about the content in what’s clearly recognizable today as a clickbait move. Dunno if they were getting referral money from those links or not.
Once upon an even earlier time, for about a week I thought I might enjoy writing for the school paper. I got a tiny bit of training and actually went out on assignment and turned in a story and then decided that while I could possibly have gotten enough better at writing short essays – for no money and no grade – that people might want to read them, I had no actual desire to do it. Too much like work. One of the things I remember about the training, though, is that the headline is supposed to engage readers, giving a gist of a story while inviting the reader to keep going. Apparently, that’s not true any more. Nowadays, it seems that the purpose of a headline is just to drive hate clicks.
So, that’s the evolution of discourse.
Here’s the best of today’s crop:
“Senate Republicans make new infrastructure offer as House Democrats urge Biden to dig in” – Washington Post
So, the public humiliation of the Democratic party is continuing. Everyone who cares already knows that the Republicans don’t give a shit about public infrastructure. So if they’re not going to build roads and bridges, what are they doing? They’re making the Democrats dance to their tune. Why? Go ask the kids who swiped the loser kid’s backpack and are now playing keep-away before school, why are they doing it. They’re doing it because it’s fun. Because they like taunting the helpless. Because they actually don’t like that kid and they want that kid to suffer. Because the suffering of others is fun. And that’s the kind of people they are.
Of course I didn’t click through to the story. Why would I?
Seriously, God bless the hippies. They’re so cute, how they think that there’s some big agent out there, “Nature,” and that agent doesn’t actually include human beings. Because things humans do are not part of nature, because humans are unnatural. Sure, I’m playing semantic games, and we all know that’s not what is meant in this context, but come on. Think for a hot second while you read that headline – climate doom for whom? Let it, how? Is there any mystery left about how human activity has altered the climate? Nah, not really. And do sea level rise, weather pattern shifts, and average temperature increases threaten all life on the planet, or just the established human land use patterns? Yeah, we all know the answers there, too. So what needs to change? Yeah, we know that, too. I mean, there could actually be something in this article about new farming practices or something but that headline doesn’t suggest it; it’s just trying to restate the warnings we were getting 50 years ago.
I’m one of the hippies and even I can see that this headline is aimed squarely at a point that we’ve passed long ago. Of course I’m not gonna click that.
“How Many People Die When Polluters Exceed Their Limits?” – Wired
I’m gonna go ahead and guess that the answer is, “All of them.” I mean, everyone dies, right? Yeah, I know, this is about the fact that pollution causes disease, either by pathways we know explicitly or by means we don’t quite know but which we can see clearly in statistical analysis. So, really, this is like saying, “Okay, you’re going to die sometime because nobody’s fucking immortal. Now, if you suck on this exhaust pipe for 12 hours a day, you’re gonna be real short of breath and lose a significant amount of brain function due to lack of oxygen, as well as get a very elevated risk of a whole suite of cancers. Which will likely kill you sooner rather than later. But if we cut it down to 4 hours a day, the same damn things will be true, except it’ll take longer. So what’s the number of hours that’s right for you?”
Substitute heavy metals leached into the drinking water, or whatever pollutant you want. I still see this as an attempt to convince somebody that maybe some stranger’s life isn’t worth throwing away just so you can pay less for your next t-shirt. I bet that if you really think cheap electronics are more important than clean water, no news story is going to change your mind. That said, if it does, then give this writer a fucking medal.
“We worked in a VR office for a few months and didn’t totally hate it” – Mashable
I guess that puts you one up on literally every human working in a cube farm, ever.
No, I’m not going to read about how it’s almost not horrible, being a veal in a pen, when the pen is in your own house.
“The future of remote work is a lot like living in a video game” – Mashable
…because video games have become just like fucking work! Grinding an MMO to get leveled up so you can do your part in a big raid, or grinding so you can build some better longhouse, or getting better at tapping different buttons so you can make sandwiches faster and sell more things. Have you yet realized that your “recreation” time is being spent doing dumb shit that we used to pay teenagers minimum wage for? You are paying a monthly subscription fee to be allowed the privilege of working fast food, or working in a goddamn warehouse! Work isn’t becoming like a video game, video games have become work!
Of course I’m not gonna click that!
“The U.S. is alarmingly close to an autonomous weapons arms race” – Fast Company
For this news organ, “alarmingly close,” is the style guide’s preference over, “already in.”
I guess that the target market for Fast Company is people who do not read any tech news, nor listen to any popular science podcasts. People, that is, who are utterly unaware of the developments in robotics since 1990.
No, I’m not going to read that.
“Will rule of law succeed where Congress failed and hold Trump accountable?” – The Guardian
Saved you a click.
“‘Never seen levels like this’: Union president on airline passenger misconduct” – CNN
This is a story about how people are garbage, which comes as a complete surprise to everyone who has never read the comments section anywhere on the Internet.
As well as being a story, this one is a video clip, which means that in addition to being told that people are garbage, it’s going to use even more of your data stream. So, people with power are being dicks to people they have power over. Saved you a click. And a gig of data.