There is so much pushing and shoving, so many people trying to be interesting, so many ads and videos and self-marketers trying to control your eyeballs… that it’s impossible to even exist these days without Hype. (It may as well be illegal.)
By Hype, I mean Storytelling. And by Storytelling, I mean Strategic Headline Design.
It’s become more important than any other art form.
If you want people to care, you have to trim your message down to a few words that make them click click click. This is no place for a panorama. You’ve got to frame your facts… because people don’t want just the facts anymore.
For example… when someone asks you what you do for a living, you can answer in one of two ways:
1.) I utilize software to achieve measurable results by generating content and streamlined production deliverables according to niche industry standards.
2.) You know that bad dialogue in porno movies? I write that.
Are both statements true? Yes. Which one will lead to an interesting conversation?
News producers know this. They zoom their cameras in on one tiny detail, blowing it way out of proportion. They make the widow cry for the first time in years, because it’s no fun to watch her moving on and living her life. By cropping out everything else that doesn’t serve the conflict, they create a new context.
Suddenly, a flu is a pandemic. A few buildings falling down is a war. An oil spill is the single greatest environmental catastrophe in human history, and will end all life in the northern hemisphere.
Sometimes an event is just an event, without archetypal significance. Why so dramatic? Is this supposed to be a movie or a report?
Screenwriters learn to make the uninteresting interesting by starting scenes late, ending them early, and even cutting them out altogether. They count on the audience being drawn towards that imbalance and dissonance. The thing that’s missing gets all the attention.
The problem is that the storytelling chops get out of control. Once you learn them, you’re like a kid with his first BB gun. There’s nothing you won’t point it at.
Eventually, storytelling turns into plain-old lying.
We end up with sensational headlines and polarizing soundbites that have nothing to do with the original facts.
Do newspapers print intact speeches by Bin Laden? No, they select two or three sentences that will enrage the average American, surround it with bloated commentary, and use it to sell advertising. “Call us and tell us how angry you are.” Are readers not capable of critical thinking? Are we afraid of reading an open letter from our supposed enemy?
We’re smart enough to spot propaganda, aren’t we? (Aren’t we?)
Remember: Lie Responsibly.
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