TRAWLING through Facebook today, I found a paid post by the music news website Loudwire. “Very sad news for Marilyn Manson”. it read, with a link to the site.

“Oh right,” I thought,, “I wonder….” Hang on …. no, surely not. They’re not…. really? Yes they are folks: Loudwire were using the death of the rock singer’s mother, Barbra Warner, as click bait.

For the uninitiated, it works like this: you’ll remember the days when headlines told you what was in a story. Sometimes, they even said things that weren’t, or were barely, in the story. That practice has been getting journalists in trouble for a century or more.

But now, in an environment where no-one is buying papers and journalism is collapsing, the trick is to pique the curiosity of the readers on social media to such an extent that they cannot resist visiting the website being promoted by clicking on the link, hence the term “click bait”.

The number of page views dictates the fee charged for advertising and the fee charged for advertising dictates whether the site is profitable, the reporters get paid and the relevant information is disseminated.

Another post on Loudwire‘s Facebook page reads: “Foo Fighters are full of surprises these days, including one very big one over the weekend! Details here:”

The death of Marilyn Manson’s mother, to the chimpanzee churnalist sitting in Loudwire‘s office, was no different to Dave Grohl’s latest song, video or reality TV show. You just apply the formula: leave out the most important fact and people will come to the site in droves. That’s social media doing its job: you don’t give away that which you are selling, do you?

I complained.

“Guys this is very distasteful click bait. To use the death of someone’s mother to get a page view by withholding information in a facebook post is, at best, a serious misjudgment, and at worst morally bankrupt. Where will all this end?”

And later, also from me:

“Imagine a photo of four kids and a heading ‘one of these children was hacked to death” you gotta click to find put which one, giving the website a page view. THAT’s where this is heading unless some decency is applied.”

My comment was liked 230 times. That made it the top comment, giving it a prominent display on a post that Loudwire pinned to the top of their page because of its popularity. They did not change the tasteless wording of their post; my criticism of it was helping it attract even more “engagement”!

I’ll let that sink in: a media outlet has been called out for immoral behaviour. Hundreds of readers agree. The outlet highlights the criticism without responding to it – because the criticism simply attracts more readers.

That’s the world we now live in. For all the disdain of traditional media, this sort of amoral, exploitative behaviour would have a newspaper, radio station or TV network severely censured. But for social media, any publicity really is good publicity: venom and hate grease their wheels much more efficiently than praise. Websites and Facebook pages simply don’t care; they are malevolence incarnates.

Every person that challenged me in the comments under the Manson story, I engaged. I tried to explain click baiting … over and over again. Louis Minnett seemed to think I was accusing Manson himself of exploiting his own mother’s death by writing and posting the item himself.

Loudwire are in charge,” I responded.  “How stupid do you think I am? That Marilyn Manson goes posting stuff on music news websites? Helloooooo….”

Then I received a response that stunned me almost as much as the post’s crassness. It’s a comment that made me think social media will eventually become an intellectual ghetto, where the anti-social and gormless will be left to canibalise each other in a sort of electronic leper colony.

Jay Padalecki: “ha…..Steve…’re so smart…Steve Mascord for president…..steve posting “stuff” on Facebook. Hellooooooo….”

In other words, if you’re so smart, why are you interacting with idiots like us? Leave Facebook to me and my fellow imbeciles…..”


A QUICK note about this column.

I am 45. I’ve never been married, have no kids, no car, no mortgage. Pretty much everything I have ever done for work, I would have done for free. I am abiding loyal to one person above all others: my 18-year-old self.

I try to make him proud every day. I do not save, I currently do not even pay rent in any one place, let alone own property bigger than that couch I have in storage.

I have an idealistic perspective on just about everything. I expect people to tell the truth, do what’s fun above what is profitable, try to get the most out of life, and be vitally interested in others.

I think I probably revel in my own naivety. I see the world very differently than you do.

Yet all I have ever written about is rugby league and rock music. So this column is about everything else. If you think I’m selfish, say so below and I’ll write a column about it. If you think I’m going to be lonely in old age or that I’m sad or shallow or naive or stupid or ugly or a loser … great topics for the next Living The Dream.

I might not be living the dream. I might be dreaming my life while you’re living yours’ … in which case, you can help me grow up.




MY SOMETIMES ABC colleague Tim Gavel on Monday posted a Tweet that was beautiful in its simplicity: “The dangers of gambling on sport and the perils of social media are two major issues facing Australia’s current generation of sportsmen.”

As if to lead by example, Tim left the statement – which was in no way controversial – to stand on its own and didn’t immediately respond to anyone who agreed or disagreed.

Let’s divide this sentence – perfect for Twitter’s character limit – into two.

Sports gambling in Australia is at a crossroads. We live in a country where you can’t buy alcohol at the corner store but bookies are part of the footy commentary team.

The various governments have begun to move on the issue but they earn money themselves out of gambling and are, as a result, conflicted. Most of the NSW-based NRL clubs rely, to some degree, on poker machine income.

In fact, the old Sydney premiership was so deeply rooted in gambling that State of Origin was introduced to counter the attraction of pokie money dragging Queensland talent across the Tweed River.

Who knows? We may one day find out that many, many games in the past were fixed with SP bookies seemingly never too far from our dressing rooms and training fields.

If there ever was corruption in top level rugby league, it is gone. Racism and sexism have been a part of the game too. They, too, have been chased to the fringes.

But don’t kid yourself that just because Tom Waterhouse is on television, gambling is a new scourge. It is an old bedfellow and the only thing new about it is its outrageous generosity.

We relied on gambling when we were a part-time sport and we never developed the guts to become independent of it. Russell Crowe tried, ripping the pokies out of Souths Leagues and after an ownership change, it went broke.

Somehow, we are a now a fulltime professional sport with $1.025 billion in TV rights and gambling still has us by the cohunes. How? Think of the gambling industry as a tide, which will come in day after day, filling the gaps we leave for it.

We thought we could replace it with TV money – so it just paid its way into our television coverage and sponsored a stadium or two! Rugby league delivers working class Australians and no-one sucks money out of working class Australians like the gambling industry.

It was forever thus.

So what are the dangers to players? That they are seduced into affecting the progress and results of matches for the sake of bookmakers? Again, I would say that is nothing particularly new.

Social media, on the other hand, is rather new. When Josh Dugan complained on the weekend that he was “like everybody else”, he had already proven the point.

People love provoking reactions – Dugan included. He loves that people know who he is, that he has thousands of followers and that everybody has an opinion on him. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t engage those people.

We have to get past the mentality of concerning ourselves with what athletes say on social media because social media now IS society. If you are abusive on social media, you are ANTI-SOCIAL. The keystroke is just today’s equivalent of a drunken rant or breaking other people’s property.

The problem is not that Josh Dugan called someone a “nuffie” and a “spastic”, it’s that he THINKS of fans like that. Just banning someone from social media is like putting them on what we used to call “a media ban”.

Just because you don’t do any interviews – or post any pictures on Instagram – does not stop you from being a hazard to yourself, your club or the general public. Making people behave on social media is no more than a copout or a cover-up

The “perils of social media” are now “the perils of life”.


FOLLOWING our item last week about the obstruction rule, it was heartening to hear Daniel Anderson on the ABC strongly suggest he will be giving referees back their discretion when he has enough ex-players who have their heads around working in the video box.

At least, that’s what I read between the lines. He said the aim was to “get to the point” where Cooper Cronk’s round three try against Canterbury would be allowed.

Clearly, Anderson doesn’t trust his charges at this stage to get it right – so he’s introduced the hard and fast rules which have upset so many people.