Exploiting Black Rage for Clicks and Online Ad Revenue

We live in the digital age, and we consume much more news and information than our fore bearers just a generation ago did. Studies have revealed that we are assaulted with 174 newspapers worth of data, and that we receive five times more information than we did in 1986. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you have been receiving recently, you are certainly not alone.

If within that onslaught of information, you’ve found yourself furrowing your brow about some questionable (or just plain misleading) headlines, you are not alone. As traditional newspaper and magazine sales and subscriptions have continued to fall in favor of online consumption, publications have had to make up the shortfall by employing a number of creative methods to get eyeballs on their content. In the digital age, clicks convert to dollars and there is no better way to get clicks than through riling up the emotions of an influential group of people. That being said, have you noticed how many headlines recently seem to have a disparaging bent where people of color are concerned? Yeah, I know! I too thought I was alone, but my Twirra Sistah Sensei published this vlog on her YouTube channel discussing this very thing.

No dear friend, you are NOT paranoid. There is indeed a trend of trolling Black rage for clicks, and those clicks – and our accompanying chatter – mean big dollars for American corporations.

There is no question the power and impact of Black opinion and culture. From whips to worship, Black culture drives how business is done and dictates consumer tastes…globally.  Black buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion this year, according to Black Enterprise. Most of that money will not go to Black owned businesses. And in addition to the physical dollars that will be diverted away from corporations that neither have our communities’ best interest – or any interest at all – at heart, there will be an additional economic siphoning with our dignity as the conduit for exploitation.

These are just a few of the headlines I can recall from various online and print publications that have targeted Black rage for clicks. The folks sitting in the meeting rooms of these media organizations know exactly what they are doing. They know that nothing spreads faster than outrage, or an outrageous attack. This is known as “click bait”, and we fall for it every time. The most irritating thing (for me) about click bait-y headlines is that you rush in expecting to read one thing, and come out on the other end experiencing a mix of emotions you weren’t prepared for – and in some cases, utterly sullied. It’s psychological abuse.

ghetto bulliesThis is probably one of the most obvious examples of trolling Black rage for clicks that I’ve ever seen. I was pleased when Black Twitter saw it for what it was and swam away. At the time of this posting, Tyga was shagging a very under age Kyle Jenner, Amber Rose had some thought about it, Kourtney jumped in and got verbally smacked down, and Blac Chyna was being awesomely petty on Instagram during the whole affair. We were all there for the drama.

Then comes THIS guy.

By calling Blac Chyna and Amber Rose “ghetto”, he was betting on setting Black tongues ablaze with anger…and hopefully clicking on his newly launched blog to tell him about himself, thereby rewarding him with traffic and revenue. We saw right through this, fam. I’m proud of us. I made it a point to forget his name and the name of his fonky little blog. I hope it dies with his ambitions.

venusAfter Serena’s grand slam hopes (and the hopes of millions of people along with them) were dashed this year, this article surfaced a few weeks later. In the headline, the author boldly declares that Williams’ sister “nearly cursed out” her opponent during the game.

Gosh. This sounded very much unlike the poised and professional Venus I knew from TV. I clicked to read the article. What did I discover?

I discovered that it was Roberta Vinci who actually screamed the words “What the f***?!?!” at Venus for “taking too long” to serve, to which Venus frostily replied “Excuse me?”

That was it. There was no cursing. There was no head rolling. There was nothing in the encounter to give this false headline any credence. Even a good number of white folk were upset by this one and called BS. Thank you, concerned white folk.

hillaryI haven’t decided who I’m voting for, and up until her Benghazi grilling, I was certain I wasn’t voting for Hillary. However, she came out of that storm looking like she was made of Teflon and ice. Nothing could stick to her, nothing could burn her. One of the (many) reasons I disliked Hillary was because of this headline in particular, which was accompanied by a redacted soundbite. Why would a seasoned politician make a blunder of these proportions?

As is turns out, these words were not only taken out of context, but paragraph and tome as well. But ooohhh weeee! Were Black people mad. And oooooh weeee! Did online publications have a field day and rake in a lot of money with the shares.

hutsThis is just repulsive.

The story of the emergence of Africa’s middle class has been told congruently with that God-awful “Africa Rising” narrative plastered on the cover of Time magazine for  past 15 years. Africa has been rising for almost two decades, usually with an amber dawn and a solitary acacia tree illustrating its ascent. Images are powerful. That’s why I don’t understand why The Economist had to evoke mud huts in its title. They could have mentioned the middle class without either mud huts… or high rises for that matter. Do we talk about London’s class disparity by juxtaposing pissy pubs with Windsor Palace, or are the pissy pub dwellers generally accorded more repect?

There are some people who see this as an illustration of the truth. After all, there are indeed mud huts in Africa. No one is disputing that. However, because the image of the dirty, plodding, ignorant, diseased ridden mud hut dwelling African is the one that has endured the longest in Western imagination, it is the one we of a certain class and privilege have long had to battle on behalf of our less affluent brethren. There is knowledge and information that could save the world in those mud huts…but those values are not depicted here in this headline. The Economist is not innocent on this one. And as one twitter user pointed out, the article itself was spot on – and I have no doubt it is, these ones usually are – but I refuse to reward them by contributing to their traffic when the intent to mock is so clear.


Really? Do I even have to explain this one? Trolling on steroids!


I invite you all to be vigilant and watch the headlines. Really take note. From the Cosmo cover declaring the Kartrashians as the “America’s First Family”, a launched rock guaranteed to infuriate the beehive BECAUSE the Obamas, to headlines that court sympathy for child rapists, click bait is all the rage. Decide for yourself who you are going to reward with the power of your fingertips. I, for one, will no longer support outlets/celebrities/wannabe celebs that troll my emotions to buoy their bottom lines.

Remember: you have 174 options from which to choose on a daily basis.