And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
Perfected by the pretend news service Fox News, (the appalling US TV channel owned by emotional and intellectual husk Rupert Murdoch), the screaming head is a single voice that espouses a right-wing view on a topical issue with the verbosity of Katie Price, the charm of Davros, the wit of James Corden and the sartorial elegance of Grimaldi.
The head is uninterested in truth, fairness, politeness, coherence, consistency of argument and proof. It does not just fire an angry rant; it seeks, clumsily, armed with a limited vocabulary, to give the impression of making a point that is designed to be provocative, is deliberately unpleasant and is purposefully and relentlessly dumbed-down. The choice to be as unintelligent as humanly possible is informed by a desire to negate debate as well as discouragement of the viewers to analyse and to educate themselves.
The performance is intended to be partly entertainment; however, it’s main raison d’être is to wall-in the viewers’ cerebral capacities. The repetitive nature of the delivery, the constant non-sequiturs and the determination not to reach a conclusion, accompanied by wide-eyed ham-acting and wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubeman visual embellishment, ensure that the viewer is dulled, running on limited brain functionality and, thus, registers only the single statement that the screaming head is attempting to promote. That single statement, which would be instantly refuted in sensible debate, sits in the screamer’s soliloquy like a small dog turd resting in a large pile of vomit.
Words in papers, words in books
Words on TV, words for crooks
In Britain no mainstream television broadcaster has descended into the malodorous pit of frequent screaming heads as a time-filler, other than occasional appearances on mid-morning pseudo-current affairs shows by grotesques such as Rod Liddle and Kelvin McKenzie. There are several shock jock radio stations who specialise in far-right ejaculations, most notably LBC.
Britain is home to the professional troll. The professional troll is a consequence of the convergence of two separate features of internet-based interaction; that is, amateur internet trolls and online news sites.
The amateur internet troll appeared as soon as online messageboards became popular. The troll engages with the sole purpose of verbally poking people with sticks to elicit a response. The style of the troll’s narrative varies: Anger, sarcasm, ridicule and superciliousness are common tools, as are careful timing of entry into discussion, side-tracking and abrupt – often emotionless – departure. More recently, twitter became a natural home for amateur trolls, although the character limit demands concise wit – not a typical attribute of a troll – and perpetrators are more likely to encounter intellectual combatants with greater armory on twitter.
Alongside the social media homes of the amateur trolls locations exist for people to be paid to write something, anything, on an ever-expanding collection of web-based newspapers, blog sites and magazines. There is no shortage of good writers for these sites and, as any competent writer will attest, a well-written article needs a strong command of language, time spent researching and acquiring knowledge to use in the article and the intellect to compose a well-structured, informative and concise piece that is of use to the readers.
The professional trolls emerged as some writers, journalists and the more persistent amateur trolls perceived that, instead of the above, a “writer” could just spew forth a rambling, pointless, unstructured stream of drivel and get paid for it if the product got a sufficiently numerous reaction from the readers. They knew this to be true because the success or otherwise of most web-based news sites is measured by clicks, volume of written responses online to an article and volume of discussion of an article elsewhere online, and so a provocative vitriolic piece of prose, combining the skills of the amateur troll described above with the turd-in-sick style of a screaming head is appealing to the proprietors of such sites
The process of compiling their tripe is a much easier task for the trolls than the process a writer uses to compose an intelligent article. For the professional troll, research and knowledge are a hindrance, use of language is as simplistic and as inaccurate as possible, correct grammar and punctuation are banished, and, most importantly, cohesive structure, including premise, argument and conclusion, with proof, is dispensed with entirely. The result of a professional troll’s typing is a series of random expulsions of vomit.
One global news site, Breitbart, has been created to be, exclusively, a home for professional trolls. The website’s values do not permit any contributor to compose an article that is assisted by prior research, that imparts any knowledge to the readers, that uses didactics, that has a coherent structure, or that seeks to prove any point or assertion made within it. Unsurprisingly, Breitbart has become the natural home for UKIP.
Beyond the screamers and trolls
The screaming heads and professional trolls will continue to exist because their respective employers know that there is a consumer market for the bile they produce. The key is to recognise these characters for what they are and to engage with them via peremptory snorts.
(Not all professional trolls are right-wing. For example, the recent popularity of Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has caused some commentators and analysts that support that party to abandon their usual qualities as writers and drop down to the style of a professional troll.)