News You Make Fake

In my phone’s news feed, there are some headlines that I know are pure clickbait and more times than I’m willing to admit to, I’ve clicked them.  The grand offender of this scam is a website, Alternative Nation, which seems to specialize in rock music gossip, a total tabloid trash website.

To get an idea of how bad they really are, I went directly to their site and did some browsing.  Because they appear to be a blogging platform, I simply appended /feed to their domain and I was able to get an RSS feed of their latest articles, which I loaded into Outlook for some cleaner review.

Here’s an example of how this bullshit works.  Eddie Van Halen has been rumored to be in poor health for a very long time.  So what the editors at AN do is create a headline that suggests EVH’s health has taken a turn for the worse.  An example would be: Eddie Van Halen Family Leaks Terrible ‘Skinny’ Photo. (The subject of the post is not EVH, but his wife.  The photo is not of EVH or his wife, but of a random skinny person who is representative of her weight loss goals.  Not a leak, not terrible.)

Another broader method they use is to exploit the perceived depravity of rock bands.  Motley Crue, Aerosmith, KISS are all prime targets here.  The trick is to take something completely simple or innocent and twist the words so your brain thinks it’s something dirty or horrible.  It’s your fault and when you figure it out after reading the article, you might be mad at AN for tricking you like that, but again, you know you’re to blame for reading too much into the headline.  Some examples:

  • KISS Singer Paul Stanley Leaks Creepy ‘Feet’ Photo – It’s a picture of him wearing KISS branded Puma shoes.  No leak, no feet, no creepy.
  • Steven Tyler Girlfriend Reveals ‘Worst’ Drug Used – A brief mention about listening to music while on acid.  "Worst" does not get used in the article.
  • John Lennon Sad ‘Licking’ Claim Finally Revealed – "Lick" as in "guitar lick", no tongues.  Sad, indeed!

The headlines have some go-to words: "sad", "disturbing", "terrible", "stuns", "caught".  But those words are probably part and parcel of any tabloid editor’s toolkit.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was a utility that could re-write an article replacing all normal-strength adjectives with hyped-up, over-the-top versions.  The only difference between these articles and printed tabloid stories is the lack of exclamation marks.

But you know, it’s all for the clicks.  These "editors" subscribe to celebrities’ social media, then attempt to build an article on a single statement.  A single statement isn’t much to work with, but with some clever wordsmithing, at least the article will generate a page view and some ad views.  That’s all that matters anymore.

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