Trump, the VMAs and clickbait

Step right up to the Clickbait Emporium! This is your one-stop shop for all your clickbait needs! Here at the Clickbait Emporium, we have two premium products available. For pop culture junkies, we can offer the state-of-the-art Video Music Awards. For more political minds, we have the famous Donald Trump. Both of these will provide you with unscripted “epic” putdowns, sudden onstage shouting matches, women being degraded, long rants, Twitter beef, and anything else you need. They both even have a delusional narcissist who is seeking a nomination for President! With such great options, why take the boring, scripted, predictable competitors? You won’t find better clickbait material than these two anywhere else!

The quest for page views and “clickable” headlines dominate how our generation consumes information. Jeb Bush recently received scant media coverage until he made controversial statements on “anchor babies.” All we’ve heard of Hillary Clinton lately is her email scandal. And while Twitter explodes over the latest VMAs, when was the last time someone under 30 willingly watched the Golden Globes? Write all you want about tax policies and Best Screenplay predictions. Those stories won’t retweet themselves.
First, let’s talk about the Video Music Awards, the pop culture clickbait juggernaut. The VMAs have inexplicably become a cultural force. This year’s show was the most tweeted about non-Super Bowl event since tracking of those statistics began. This is all while music videos are a dying breed. MTV, the very station which hosts the show, barely even shows music videos anymore.

And yet, the awards are all we talk about. The VMAs have spawned Kanye’s “I’mma let you finish” moment, Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement, Miley and Robin Thicke getting nasty,and most recently, President Kanye, plus Nicki Minaj’s Miley jabs. We don’t care about the actual awards or categories. What we care about is capturing the moments on social media, being part of the “did you just see that?” experience. It may be pre-conceived and scripted chaos, but it is chaos nonetheless, and we can’t help but watch.

Donald Trump, then, is the VMA of presidential candidates. As we scroll through our Twitter, Facebook or Reddit feeds, it is the Trump headlines that attract our attention. It may even be why you read this article in the first place. Trump knows how to play the game. He makes people gasp, shake their heads, and hit the “share” button. Though his politics don’t jive with our generation, his media presence certainly does. Like the VMAs, he knows how to engineer the perfect type of chaos that we can’t help but tweet about.

This campaign has coincided with a sea change in the media. Print journalists who have worked decades for renowned newspapers suddenly have to spend time writing for blogs and ceaselessly promoting their own Twitter profiles. They may need Donald Trump more than anyone. Just ask Jorge Ramos, for example. Ramos is one of the most respected reporters in all of Latin America. And yet, I had never heard of him until Trump shouted “Go back to Univision!” and removed him from his press conference after a pointed question. Now, he’s on the talk show circuit and the subject of multiple profiles in publications such as the New York Times. The clickbait gods smiled favorably on Mr. Ramos.

And so, in the endless search for more page views and retweets, we follow Trump and the VMAs like seagulls follow the trawler, waiting for sardines to be thrown off the side. And they both deliver. While Trump may eventually wilt under the pressure of more traditional political machines, he will ride the wave of Twitter beef and “did Trump cross the line?” as long as it lasts. He has engineered the perfect blend of seemingly unscripted chaos. He truly is the VMA candidate.