Friday, February 5, 2016


Are you one of those people who would really like to find out Eleven Secrets of the Palm Pilot? No? Well maybe you just checked out the Six Favourite effects pedals used by Blues Gods and armed with that knowledge, you will soon amass data about their favourite jeans, ice cream and hair products....

Go on. Own Up. Stand up in a circle of close friends and say the following...”My name is (today I am going to be Dopey) and I am a Click Bait Victim. I have tried but have been unable to break my addiction. This very morning I looked at six pictures of American preachers who wear bad hair pieces and then I found myself scrolling through the ten top Stevie Ray Vaughan chord progressions that are most copied by pub blues bands. It was terrible. I couldn't seem to control my mouse. It had a life of its own. Therefore, I have come here to stand up bravely amongst my peers and give you Twelve Reasons why I need help....and when I have done that I would like you to give me Five Examples of how I can get away from here on a free holiday...”

If there were ever a colourful demonstration of how you can fool all of the people some of the time, it is the resident internet malarkey of what has become known as 'click bait'. Yep. We all know about it. We all love to hate it. We all protest that we are far too smart to go anywhere near it. This is the technique of headlining an article or advertisement with an eye-catching link that invites you to click and view to find out more. When you do so, along with countless others, the clicked content moves up the article popularity list making it even easier to access by a search programme and a lot of happy advertisers. It takes many guises from grainy images of the hot and trendy C-list celebrity to mad distorted science claims about aliens and unknown plagues. Sometimes it asks you a question..”How Many” and sometimes it tells you what to think “You'll never believe” and occasionally it orders you to view...”Click here to find”...and from time to time it just beckons you in with some near naked flesh, an insider trick to win stuff or save money and there is always an offer you feel unable to refuse.

But, like so much that is promised, you know that like listening to the man in the top hat on the door of the bearded lady and live mermaid tents, it will probably end in disappointment, disillusion and the regret that that You, the Incredibly Smart and Alert You, have just wasted another five minutes of your life.

The problem is that you cannot blame anyone else. It's not those smooth talking beautiful people reading stuff written for them by machiavellian marketeers. They are paid to do it. Every day we encounter hundreds of marketing devices that pander to your desires and emotions. We casually deal with them, shrug our shoulders, smile knowingly and move on.... and yet click bait continually seems to be the one that really sucks our brains out of our heads and slaps us later for Being So Stupid. Because it works, it will not be going away anytime soon - indeed it will get more subtle and sophisticated. Those people Vance Packard referred to in his book, 'The Hidden Persuaders' will continue to be one step ahead of us....subliminal images, the manipulation of our thought direction and the psychology of our need for possessions are all things that have become a permanent part of our existence in a commercial world.

Indeed, not only is it not going away, every branch of commerce, culture, music, arts and science is on constant look-out for better techniques to get us to look at, enjoy and maybe buy their stuff. Inevitably, some corners of the 'arts' are inclined to look at this with a peg on their nose to keep them at a distance from the wicked world of naked commerce. Sadly the short end of that view is often that the distant and aloof high ground will not be enough to get you heard amongst the crowd of similar projects baying for your attention. At one extreme, we all know that if the posters for the band gig stay behind the bar, then nobody will know and nobody will turn up....word of mouth is wonderful, but someone has to start with the first word. At the other end, even if the established artist is internationally known, they still inhabit a competitive world that is battling for access to your disposable income. The power of the social media and the internet search are now firmly established as part of the tapestry of that fight for attention. Click Bait might be pretty crude and disappointing right now but it will continue; it may get more subtle and less shouty and we will all continue to click away, hate ourselves for being suckers – and do it again tomorrow.

My advice is simple and two-fold.
First - you listen to Tom Waits sing 'Step Right Up' where you will learn, amongst other wise things, that 'the large print giveth and the small print taketh away'.
Second – You really must try harder. The Hat doesn't of course have any money to give away even if he wanted to. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Disappointed eh? However, as you're here now, I've found a nice picture of Helen Bonham Carter as bait...

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man In The Hat