stupidity cardYou’ll be shocked to learn the secret of how easily we can have wealth, photographs of underwear, and free coffee from Starbucks. OK, maybe not free coffee. In 21st century America, we have several motifs that show up in our popular culture like a bad case of acne. With a solid grasp of the scientific method, which I carefully avoided, I’ve categorized several of those motifs from a variety of internet websites.

It’s a Secret! And Nobody Knows Unless They’re on the Internet

This motif is extremely popular, both in pseudo-news articles and in advertisements for idiotic things no sane person would buy (like secret vegetables to raise your testosterone level). As any child can tell you, there is something titillating about being let in on a secret. Perhaps the revelation briefly makes us feel special, which is something we crave. With internet surfing, we can pretend to be special multiple times a day.

Think how special you’ll feel when you read an article titled “Warren Buffett Reveals How Anyone with $40 Could Become a Millionaire”. Man, all I gotta do is ask my Mom for $40… The word “reveal” has a very active life in the world of internet drivel. There is also a popular subgenre to this motif: “What U.S. Power Companies Don’t Want You to Know”. The clever reporters have discovered some secret and are letting it out, ha ha! The best example of this motif that I’ve found was “The truth about tilapia”. I wish I had made that one up, but it’s real. It seems that bland little fish is sneakier than we realized.

Everything You Want Is Easy

I understand that it’s basically a drag to have to go shopping, or go to school, or go to work, instead of lying on a big soft couch with a bag of potato chips. Things worth having take so much damn work. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were simple easy ways to get stuff?

Yes! Here’s a sample advertising headline from this motif: “Simple trick to learn Spanish”. Wow, a simple trick, and I thought it required actual study. ¡Qué sorpresa! The word “trick” seems to indicate that there is an easy way to do the thing in question, something you just didn’t realize. That idea of easiness is emphasized by adding the word “simple”. In fact, it’s so simple, why didn’t you figure this out before, dumbass? Here’s another “trick” headline: “Are you skipping the one beauty trick that can make you look a decade younger?” (Hmm, yes I am.) Less obvious, but still within this motif of getting things easily, are headlines like “14 things you should stop paying for now” and “Find the best savings accounts”.

Emotion as Deep as Elephant Dung

I thought about skipping this one, as it’s merely a description of human nature. I went ahead, however, as there seems to be a quantitative change from the past. While it used to be that a person had to wait for a public hanging or the birth of a royal baby to wallow in useless emotions, we can now do that on many popular websites (especially! the! Yahoo! homepage!).

This category is epitomized by a headline reading “Adorable! Pup Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy”. The writer in that case even went so far as to crudely tell the reader which emotion to feel. Openly telling the reader what to feel is not rare in internet headlines, perhaps a sign that our culture is groveling its way toward End Times. Here are headlines from three more articles whose only purpose is to make the reader feel an emotion—which emotion does not remotely matter: “Why These 5 Siblings Walk on All Fours and Can’t Stand Up”, “You OK, Sis? Why Those Three Words Can Save a Woman’s Life”, “Driver saves ducklings, receives $100 ticket”. (I’m just glad to know the baby ducks are OK.)

Can We Smell Your Baby?

No, I’m not talking about Prince George. After all, what American doesn’t want to lick the toes of British royalty? Nowadays when we look at our Congress, we’re sorry about that revolution thing, and can we come back?

No, I mean deep involvement in the lives of total strangers, and not just professional freaks like the Kardashians. Here is a real headline: “Whom do you think Selena should date?” Myself, I was going to vote for Justin Bieber, until I saw the headline “Justin Bieber poses for underwear shot”. He’s not good enough for her. As a variation on obsessing over celebrities (or as I should say, celebs), take the headline “Mom’s open letter to her teenage son”. This is obviously not news, and these people aren’t famous, but the hungry maw of the web now tries to fill the empty space by grubbing through the lives of normal people.

I want to see all these things combined into one perfect internet headline: “The secret of Justin Bieber’s adorable underwear, and how you can get a pair!” You know you would click on that.

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