The effectiveness of click bait propaganda sites across the political spectrum and on behalf of all of the presidential candidates has been taken to a new level in this election cycle. Often funded and operated by Super PACs or by other political organizations with significant financial resources, these sites have thoroughly permeated social media during the primary campaigns. Authors of articles on these sites say things about opposing candidates that the candidates themselves would be unlikely to say for fear of being accused of making unfair or unfounded criticism (granted this does not seem to bother some of the candidates). If the sites are caught dealing in falsehoods, the candidate on whose behalf they are operating can easily distance himself or herself and say that the site is not related to the campaign. The operators of these websites can do the dirty work of spreading a negative narrative about political opponents while the candidates themselves appear to remain above the fray. It is easy to make numerous sites on behalf of a candidate, creating the effect of various sites mutually reinforcing one another. If you say it enough in as many venues as possible, the greater likelihood that it becomes more believable for a larger group of people.
The willingness of these sites to use “half truths” and sometimes “no truths” to promote a particular candidate is disturbing in and of itself, but perhaps even more disturbing is how willing so many of us seem to be not only to click on such sites but also to share them, even when it would only take a bit of research to see that many of these articles contain gross distortions of fact. But the articles confirm our biases and so like click bait robots we click and share, click and share, click and share.
Political propaganda is nothing new of course. It has been present in various forms throughout the history of our country. Political propaganda has been promulgated through speeches, pamphlets, whisper campaigns, magazines, print ads, radio ads, films, TV ads, and now the internet. What makes the click bait phenomenon perhaps more pernicious than the propaganda forms of the past is that we become not only passive participants experiencing the propaganda through various forms of media, we also become active and willing participants in the spreading of the propaganda with all of its half truths and sometimes no truths. We become active propagandists, and when we click and share the article with half truths and sometimes no truths, we are complicit in telling the lies therein as we become a nation of propagandists rather than participatory citizens of integrity. In the expediency of doing whatever it takes for our side to win, we continue to lose the bonds of trust with one another that are so vital to the virtue and flourishing of human community in our nation.
Now, please click and share.
I hadn’t heard “click bait” before. I’m obviously out of it. What can be done about it??
Nancy Cain peace, equality and justice for all
The key thing I think is to be aware of and critical about the source of anything that poses as news on the Internet.