The news cycle is getting more and more chaotic with content strewn about with the same care we assign to an overflowing dustbin. The first indication that arrested my attention was back when HuffPost was Huffington Post, and Black writers were populating the blog for Black Voices.
When voracious editors invited me to be “a blogger” after my essay about the missing school girls became a viral sensation on Medium, there was the excitement and validity that energized the desire to be aligned with a platform, that was both popular and well-respected.
“Exposure” was the currency that deceivingly propelled most of my decisions, and this time it just felt right. But once registration was done and the “publish” button was clicked, the euphoria evaporated when I switched to the homepage, and gasped at the load of rubbish that distorted my view.
Perhaps the personal investment forced a closer examination of how we were internalizing news items, and my summation was damningly sobering.
As I scrolled though the plethora of verticals, it quickly occurred to me that I had signed on to be a dumpster truck. Bloggers were systemically dumping shit upon shit on existing shit, until all that shit reads like the jumbled brain cells of those robots in Westworld, that are lined up for much-needed tune ups.
The freshly-deposited essay that I had proudly shared was nowhere to be found. And when I was about to give up the task of squinting my eyes in a last minute attempt to painstakingly locate what I had poured my heart and soul into — there it was — lodged at the near bottom of a very long page — jammed in the middle of non-related topics.
Huffington Post had perfected the art of dousing large white spaces with quality content that tragically resembled a collection of worthless words, that were arranged to essentially provide proof that this was an outlet that would never run out of ways to house as much content as humanly possible — even if the value of output substantially depreciates.
This was around the time that a friend who championed my pursuits of establishing a writing career in a rapidly ailing industry, brought my attention to another heavy hitter — the Daily Mail.
This was about 5 years ago, when we were still receiving mixed reviews about online curation, and how it was drastically refurbishing the art of delivering news — for better or worse.
Daily Mail was and still is the exact replica of Huff Post with similar modes of alignment, that give the front page a debris-laden view, that instantly intoxicates the senses with the incentive to nonchalantly scroll through terror-themed items with the same casualness that is allotted to the growth spurt of Miley Cyrus.
This was the beginning of what we’re presently cursed with, as the climate has finally settled on the duty of discouraging allegiance to anything newsworthy for longer than a minute.
The dizzying ride that commences after you land on digital portals has gotten even more erratic, and when you pair that with the equal headiness of social media, that furiously shoots out ammunition for our burgeoning insanity with the traitorous assistance of lethal tools like Tweetdeck, SocialFlow, etc — the paralyzing response to this bloated virus that keeps viral stuff activated will slowly erode the privilege of individualism.
Online journalism has become the recruiting mechanism that hires “click-baiters” who only recognize the vitality in maintaining the habitual harassment of targeted notables, who are vulnerable to the elements of “cancel” and “hate” culture.
This potent renaissance that pollutes timelines with non-stop persistence has the mission of basically reducing famous humans to bite-sized vitamins that boost the daily requirements of editorial calendars.
Consider the state-of-affairs in the feisty universe of Duchess Meghan, who committed the ultimate sin of marrying Prince Harry, and getting pregnant merely months after the scenic walk down the aisle.
The British press has been notoriously brutish in its quest to demonize Meghan Markle by utilizing the purity of the White Queen-to-be, Duchess Kate, the victimized sister-in-law, who has been reduced to tears by her partly-Black nemesis, who callously plotted the imminent downfall of the House of Windsor.
And it’s not just British gossip sites that are obsessed with publicly shaming the unsightly presence of a mixed-race royal and her distracting baby bump, which she weirdly rubs as if she’s suffering from the disease of ownership.
American editors from reputable mags like Cosmopolitan, The Cut, etc, are also emphatic about boarding the out-of-control train to nowhere when it comes to keeping the clicks clicking, with less-hostile coverage of Meghan’s non-existent friction with the in-laws she’s terrorizing with her Blackness, and the unfortunate introduction to questionable relatives.
This compulsory regimen of harassment has been endorsed by “click-baiters” and the readers who can’t get enough of the splattered filth, that only incites the increased hunger for more weaponry, that gratifyingly fulfills the celebrated hatred for the expectant biracial Princess, who has to be defeated in order to restore the all-White glory of the British throne.
While England fights to ward off threats to White supremacy in the royal household, America is also battling those themes during a month when Blackness was supposed to take centerstage.
Black History Month began with the bang of racist White cops mocking a young Black woman with designated hashtags that were created for our empowerment. They seized her vehicle at night, in below freezing weather, and ungraciously offered her ride home. When she refused, her walk of shame provided the Snapchat moment that stung with the brutality of the police force, and why we can’t ever forget the names that didn’t survive those encounters.
But that disgusting story got buried under the Blackness of the blackface controversy that was activated by the incriminating actions of White politicians harboring the blackened history of painting White skin with black makeup, as a way to pay homage to an era when that kind of entertainment depicted why it was perfectly legal to stage lynchings and applaud the deaths.
The news cycle regimentally followed the previous course of mandated triggering material, that overwhelmed the summer of 2018, when editors promised bonuses to White writers, who possessed the uncanny ability to successfully dig out enough stories about White people publicly harassing Black people and children — to last way past the warm months.
The daily postings of content that unfailingly showcased the ire of White women invading wide open spaces in search of Black kids to torment or Black men berating Black women for fun, was an emotional assault that had to play out until the trend would shift back to Trump’s racist plea for the wall.
Black History Month be damned!
The blackface trend has to be tolerated with the influx of Gucci’s snug sweater, that turned into an intervention that promises what Starbucks promised when diversity finally beckoned with vengeance. And then Katy Perry briefly made an appearance with the “face” shoes, that almost ended her, even though wearied observers can’t decide between “guilty,” “coincidence” or “lethargy.”
And then an even darker turn manifested in the case of Jussie Smollett’s horrific episode at the hands of attackers who specifically chose him to demonstrate the flawless example of a hate crime.
The weeks after the ill-fated incident have astutely verified all the reasons why we were never meant to consume news in the fashion that we’ve inexplicably normalized.
The rollercoaster ride of updated bulletins with stale headlines shuffled in with a bevy of spirited commentators, commenting about the opinion pieces that loosely display the facts, has given bipolar writers like me, the exasperating realization of how much we’ve contributed to this wasteland of disarray.
Regardless of how you feel about Smollett’s involvement in this frighteningly mysterious saga, that is also fascinatingly multi-faceted, what can’t be refuted is how the relentlessly mind-numbing coverage is serving as the weighty evidence of why online journalism can no longer be categorized as such.
Regular folks are paying to be tormented by an avalanche of missing pieces that have to be re-configured by those who are committed to staying informed at all costs. And that will involve researching the validity of the viral video featuring Mike Pence making room for the applauses that never come.
Or do they?
We were never meant to be overpowered by the greediness of the press, who only take breaks from the obsession of the White House when Black History Month turns into a roving horror show, that contains R-rated fare that must be maximized with the reinforcement from White gawkers, and the gut-wrenching dismay of Black people who are immersed in a modernized form of terror.
If you manage to take hours away from the maddening mob of scavengers and the click-baiters who feed them, or even just an hour will do; you will find yourself heading to the bottom of the murky seabed, once you return to the familiar and promptly lose your balance.
There is fear all around us.
And it manifests in the dread of being too human to adapt to the inhumanness of engagement and how that affects stalled trajectories. It also motivates the need to do whatever it takes to keep the “bait” juiced up, even if it means enhancing the hostile rhetoric of historical fodder with the boosted irony of the hate crime that finally served the nefarious agendas of real-life haters.
When “news” was news, the pace was regulated by methodical teams of truth-tellers who were only interested in divulging factual offerings that didn’t need future edits — recklessly defacing the finished product.
Publishing at record speed wasn’t a viable option for journalists, who took the time required to compile their findings in a cohesive package, that maintained originality until the next step of the ongoing investigation was civilly attached without the tediousness of links and hyper-links.
We are consuming garbage and not shitting it out fast enough — and that leads to the congestion that can’t be unclogged until we find the necessary antidote.
But how can we recover what can’t be reactivated, and how can we start afresh when our screens are locked indefinitely?
Fake news isn’t the enemy because “news” isn’t news anymore, and until we define what we’re consuming, the clicks will click us out of existence.