Once or twice, we at Cracked have gone out of our way to point out when a totally bullshit "news" story blows up and goes viral. And by "once or twice," we mean we've done this exact premise 25 times.
So far we've confined ourselves to going after stories that were outright false and spread mainly by the most crapulent news sources imaginable, but lately we've started to notice a different growing trend: attention-grabbing headlines that have nothing to do with the article's actual content. Websites can get away with this because, for thousands of people, the headline is all they read before clicking "share." One of NPR's writers proved this beautifully on April Fools' Day 2014, with an article titled "Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?" The actual article admitted they had nothing to say about literacy and it was purely a test to see if people would share content they hadn't even skimmed.
Sweet flashdancing fuck yes they would.
So apparently lying to millions of people is fine as long as you do it with the right headline. We've christened this trend headlying and put together a guide to spotting it before you give precious clicks to a bullshit article. You should start getting suspicious when you notice these dead giveaways:
#5. The Stupidest Detail Is the Whole Story
Hey, did you catch this story about a woman who parked her car on the highway, leading to the deaths of two motorcyclists? She's now staring at the chance of life in prison, and you probably feel like that's a fair punishment. Shitty drivers rank right above Nazi doctor and below Satan on our Sympathy Scale. If this story doesn't sound familiar, it's because almost all the coverage looked like this:
"But the ducks are cool, right?"
Michael Bay's latest cinematic rage abortion, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, contains three hours of the most nonsensical plot ever constructed, consisting of informational lectures on statutory rape, robot John Goodman shooting a giant alien vagina, and Marky Mark using a sword as a laser gun. We tried to diagram the movie and just wound up with the contents of a serial killer's pencil box.
Source: Profound Mental Illness.
So you're a big-time celebrity and you've just pissed off millions of people in the world by saying something astoundingly dumb. We've all been there. What's important now is getting back in the public's good graces by issuing a heartfelt apology -- and by "heartfelt" we mean "coldly manufactured using the following tips." The closer you stick to the formula we're about to present, the sooner everyone will forget that you're an objectively terrible person and go see your movie/buy your record/re-elect you for public office.
So whether you're planning to get drunk in public, insult an entire ethnic and/or religious group, yell at some nice officers, or do all three things at the same time (see: Mel Gibson), just keep these pointers in mind and you'll be fine!
#5. Play the "Hey, I'm a Victim Here, Too!" Card
According to experts, the perfect script for an apology goes like this: (1) say how much you regret the incident, (2) apologize clearly, and (3) grovel for forgiveness. However, celebrities know a little about this subject, and they've added an important step to that recipe: (0) point out that you're a victim here, too, in a way.
For instance, back when David Letterman came under fire for not being able to stop boning his staff, he started his public apology by mentioning that this whole thing came out because he was blackmailed. Only two minutes later did he get around to the "Oh, by the way, sorry to my wife and stuff" part, but he already had our sympathy by that point.
If you saw a headline titled "Man Sues His Wife Over Ugly Kids," most people would approach the article with a healthy dose of skepticism. But if you read the exact same headline with the adjective "Chinese" tacked to the front, then there's a good chance you'll see that shit splayed willy-nilly all over your Facebook wall. You see, during our ongoing journey into the heart of bullshit Internet journalism, we've noticed that there's literally no story that isn't somehow made more believable to the media if you set it in China, all thanks to the miracle of casual racism. Case in point: everything you're about to read!
#5. "Chinese Man Painting Naked Slips and Gets Dick Stuck in Pipe for Two Days!"
Some headlines are works of art by themselves. This one is so perfect that we almost hate to ruin it (almost):
Laugh all you want, but you gotta admire his stamina.