About a year ago, the world was thrown into chaos when a ridiculous story about coffee cups made the headlines. According to Buzzfeed and websites of similar reputations, some nutty Christians were furious that Starbucks decided to change its annual Christmas cups into secular “holiday” cups with an ugly red gradient. IT’S A WAR ON CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
I had no idea that people cared so much about cups. I never heard about anybody looking forward to Starbucks’ annual Christmas tradition. Probably because they fucking didn’t. You see, this story was cobbled together by digging hard to find the tiny handful of angry tweets that existed and blowing them up into seeming like there was a big movement going on. There was literally one or two accounts that were used as a basis for this story in the beginning, one of which had an egg avatar. Completely inconsequential.
However, for sites like Buzzfeed, the truth doesn’t matter. What matters is manufacturing enough controversy to get people to click and share. These writers make all of their money from ad revenue, so it’s in their best interest to write the stories that will best generate engagement, even if they have little justification.
Sure enough, the Starbucks Christmas Cup story reared its head once again in 2016. This time, the problem is with green cups. Buzzfeed News now had a few more tweets to choose from. Hilariously, the top tweet that they chose to showcase was one from a Twitter user by the name of @JazzHandd that was actually sarcastically poking fun at last year’s fracas. Hopefully, she manages to stave off the inevitable harassment campaign from people who are too invested in being outraged to see that they are being conned.
Another example of this is the #BoycottStarWarsVII “movement.” I placed the word “movement” in quotation marks because once again, this hash tag can be credited to a tiny handful of cherry-picked tweets that most likely came from troll accounts. Of course, the clickbait junk peddlers ran with the story because racist drama is big money nowadays.
There was also the case of white Twitter “exploding” over Bomani Jones’ Caucasians jersey, a cute stab at the controversy over the Cleveland Indians’ logo. It’s a pretty interesting story on its own, but to really bring in the clicks, hack writers had to use Twitter accounts with 15 followers to invent an angle about white outrage.
Writers for Buzzfeed and its ilk need to be held accountable for constantly inventing something out of nothing. They are actively profiting from making the world a worse, more hateful place.
PS: If this topic interests you, you might like Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday.