On the evening of December 9, French protestors set up a Guillotine to protest Macron’s globalist policies. But what if I told you…
See what I did there? Strategically placed ellipsis plus the “More” tag, making you click and read. If you’re getting your news from stories that start like this, you’ve clicked on RageBait. What’s more, you’ve probably spread it yourself.
But wait for the payoff: This photo, which I myself helped spread a week and a half ago with a provocative caption, has gone viral. It’s all over the Internet. But, despite the yellow vests, these are not protestors. That’s not the presidential palace; it’s the Museum of Antiquities.
Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. Neither did those of you who laughed and hit Share.
And, to be perfectly Frank, in the context it’s a legitimately humorous picture — unlike that of the real protest Guillotine, which was unrealistic and sad. The pic from The Guardian showing half a dozen protestors gathered around a 2×4 mockup in a nasty drizzling rain wasn’t impressive enough, so this pic got copied into a news release instead and has since gone around the world.
You’re not surprised; you’re asking yourself, “So what? Why should I care?” Well, I’ll tell you… just exactly enough to let you decide for yourself.
The sitting president has been besieged by accusations of collusion with a foreign power to win his office, and a lot of the country believes it. The penalty for this collusion, it’s widely agreed, should be impeachment and imprisonment. A decade ago you’d have thought they were making yet another unnecessary remake of “The Manchurian Candidate”; today it’s so very normal that most of us are bored with the story.
But what if I told you that it wasn’t really the Russians? Not only that: What if I could prove it?
Funny thing is, most of you wouldn’t care. Either you’ve already picked sides and closed your minds or the story has actually bored you to brain-death. The way you can tell if it’s the first of these two is that you’ve already dismissed the possibility that I can prove anything, and the more you think about it the more convinced you are. Those who know me better will suspect some kind of trick. They’re right.
Except that it’s not me doing the trick. I’m just doing the reveal; this trick was played a long time ago.
In 2008, Barack Obama became president. He did so in the face of hardened opposition from within his own party. Many attribute his victory to his personal charisma, which is considerable, but it must be acknowledged that a large percentage of his voters were persuaded by what they saw on social media. Obama’s campaign was the first to do a massive Facebook buy, and it paid off. To his credit, he didn’t use Facebook to smear; others did that on his behalf.
Then someone asked, “Where’s the birth certificate?” Remember that one?
There are people who come up with RageBait posts for a living; NPR ran a story on them a while back. They either blow a story entirely out of proportion (Joshua Feuerstein and the so-called “War on Christmas”) or they invent one out of whole cloth (Santa should be female). They post the headline and sell banner ads on their site, some of which you can’t help but click trying to either hit the mysteriously dancing Next button or, eventually, attempting to close the page. The key to their success is that appeal to your prejudice, your unthinking hot-buttons, your automatically triggered rage.
Yes, some of these memes are designed in Russia by employees of RT. Which, by the way, is not a news outlet; it’s a wholly-owned propaganda organ of the Russian government in a manner the BBC is not and never has been. On the other hand, some of the RageBaiters live right here in the USA and are employed by sites like Occupy Democrats and Trump Train. Incidentally, would you be surprised to learn that Occupy Democrats and their opposition, that dedicated right-wing nemesis, Occupy Democrats Logic, both shared a distribution network?
See, the people who are really at fault here? They’re you.
You click on the bait. You read it. You Share it. As often, you’ll Share it without reading because the headline echoes your blinkered unthinking narrow-minded prejudice.
Before I get too self-righteous, remember: I did this too. I’m just as guilty as anyone. I Shared the picture at the top of this article; I did it without researching. Because it was funny, I helped spread a well-fabricated lie that made the Yellow Vests look more legitimate than they were, back before they were widely known as the Yellow Vests — back before they were widely known. It wasn’t a meme created by a foreign power trying to disrupt the French government; it was probably just a producer somewhere who wanted to ‘punch up’ the front page.
It’s still a lie.
You want to know if Trump colluded in a foreign power’s plot to steal the election? My response is, Who cares? You did; you played right into their hands. Trump may well be guilty, but you’re worse: You’re pretending it’s someone else’s fault, and you’re reveling in the downfall of — well, let’s be fair: Trump’s a truly odious man, and it would be a joy to see him crash and burn. Just don’t be all righteous about it.
Because you colluded with Russia too. You Traitor!
(Note: This article has apparently been flagged by the major search engines as unfit for public consumption. I’ve been shadow-blocked on Facebook, Twitter, and Google searches. I’m hoping this is temporary, and I’ll keep writing. But seriously — Stop and think about that for a minute.)