Ragebait: Clickbait’s Evil Twin



If you’d give me a moment, I’d like to talk to you about Captain America as a Hydra agent. Those of you who already know about this twist may already be feeling your blood boil. To sum up, a recent Captain America comic had a twist ending that revealed Captain America had been a secret agent for the nazi organisation Hydra all along. (Or not, because of something something Red Skull)

As much as there is to talk about this godawful twist, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to discuss all the articles I’ve seen halfheartedly praising said twist.

Despite getting so much negative backlash, many websites have released articles praising the twist, claiming it to be a masterpiece of writing. Some angry commenters often suggest these writers are getting paid by the folks at Marvel behind this terrible twist, in order to win fans over to the dark side. While that may sound plausible, I doubt that’s the case for one simple reason: Marvel doesn’t need to pay the writers of these articles. They just need to rely on the magic of a thing I like to call Ragebait.

Ragebait is effectively Clickbait’s evil twin. While clickbait uses catchy headlines to entice people’s curiosity in the most shameless way possible, ragebait uses catchy headlines to make people angry-so angry they’re going to read it all then vent in the comments section. Ragebait is taking a controversial topic, and displaying it to everyone while saying “You mad bro?” And everyone takes the bait, vents at the writer while giving them all the attention they want, even if it is negative.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this does not apply to every single article that praises something with negative press, or criticises something with positive press. Anyone has the right to write down their opinions that go against the status quo, and sometimes it’s fascinating to read well thought out pieces that criticise a beloved piece of work, or vice versa.

Ragebait, however, is not about freedom of expression or going against the status quo. Ragebait, like clickbait, is always written with page views and attention in mind. More often than not, you can tell the writer barely even supports or believes what they’re saying. They are simply saying it to grind people’s gears and rake in angry hate-views.

So, why am I talking about this? Because every single time I see an obvious ragebait article online, the people in the comments always have the same reaction: anger, accusations of clickbait, and often statements along the lines of “this website is going downhill!”.

It’s the last part I’m most concerned about. People often make accusations of a drop in quality when websites turn to manipulative clickbait. These people have a valid point, but they are going about it all wrong. Simply by drawing attention to it, through views, comments, or sharing on facebook with a rebuttal attached to it; you are giving the writers what they want. Worse still, you’re justifying the use of ragebait. Those who create ragebait don’t see a comments section and think “oh no, thousands of commenters hate my article and views”. They look at the comments and think “wow, two thousand comments! That’s over five times the amount on my reasonable reviews!”

What is the best way to prevent ragebait then? Well, before you ever click on the title of an article because it triggered some sort of anger in your head, think really hard about it: are you really going to have your views changed by some article on the internet? If the answer is absolutely not, then don’t bother.

If your answer is “well, maybe if it was well written enough”, or “no, but I’m interested in seeing the other side’s point”, then click away.

If the writer of the article seems passionate about it, provides a thought out argument that clearly shows valid research, then by all means start a debate with them. If the writer sounds as though they couldn’t care less, or if they sound passionate but are simply pulling arguments/evidence out of their ass, then close the tab and don’t go back. Any counter argument you could possibly give is going to be drowned out by the message of “any publicity is good publicity, and this article is giving me a lot of publicity”.

The internet has often been plagued by things that attempt to capture people’s attention that actually just end up annoying them and nothing more. This is what killed the pop up ad. This will hopefully kill the autoplay ad. But, sadly, clickbait now has a defence against people’s annoyance in the form of ragebait. The only way to kill these annoying attention seekers is by simply not giving them attention. And unless we stop responding to clickbait and its evil twin, it will not be going away any time soon.


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