You Are the Sap, Not the Media
Every week there’s an innuendo-laced Santorum headline that goes viral. This week’s winner was “Santorum comes from behind in Alabama three-way.” The popularity of these headlines is driven in part by an “I can’t believe they actually published that” feeling that arises from the possibility the headline creators were unaware of the innuendo. We love entertaining the notion that we’re in on a joke and somebody isn’t. The problem is that these headline writers are 100% aware of what they are doing. In reality, all the headline writers are in on the joke, and we are the oblivious ones.
As of right now, the story above, which is from a Birmingham news site, has been tweeted nearly 1,600 times and has 6,000 “likes” on Facebook. A previous story by the same writer, “Bama Fact Check examines AEA claims about GOP jobs bills,” has 2 tweets and 4 “Likes.” All of those tweets and likes are real cash for the site. These headlines are no accident. They are created because people will always be manipulated into sharing them.
Given that the explicit goal is to create these types of headlines, there should be no “wow” factor, and if the headlines have to stand on their cleverness alone, there would be nothing noteworthy about them. A majority of precocious 5th graders could have come up with the headline above given the facts of the story and the goal gettting the most Facebook links.
“Who cares?” you might be thinking. As a self-appointed comedy snob, I care, because thousands of people are being made to laugh under false pretenses. It’s like being shown a funny “real” video of somebody getting hit in the groin, when in reality the groin-shot was staged. Those 1,600 people who tweeted the headline could have otherwise tweeted links with something genuinely funny or informative.
People need to take note that the media is now actively participating in Santorum innuendo jokes. That means the joke is officially dead, and I call on all those controlling “link capital” to stop linking to Santorum headlines that are only funny under a false impression of naïveté.