One of our news and comment sites has a particularly ham-handed give-away. It is served with standard click-bait material - teaser stories designed to get your click counted, boosting the advertising rate - but it doesn’t know what to do with these click baits.
You can get a riddle picture, a smart part-person in an immaculate suit with cufflinks and fancy watch, but not identifiable, only hints of class and youth, power and good looks, with the slogan: “This (City) Millionaire Tells How He Makes His Fortune.”
The site is supposed to make it into “This Johannesburg Millionaire” or perhaps “This Benoni Millionaire” or whatever they choose as their focus. But this site doesn’t. For months it’s been missing the trick - which each time gives me a flicker in the head, doubting not only their alertness but also, sorry to say, their competitors’ integrity.
That this person gets quietly made into a Toronto Millionaire, a Nairobi Millionaire, a Vladivostok Millionaire is not heinous. But it doesn’t gel with the ferocious ethics-worship that (many of) the selfsame media pour down our throats like Castrol into a hotrod. It says, “look, we cheat”.
I’m a sucker for internet dirty tricks. I feel a red face coming on even years later when I recall the first time someone “with your surname” died leaving a gigantic, unclaimed sum and I earnestly referred the enquiring “lawyers” to Becketts I knew of. But some of its offences no naiveté can bypass.
Like comment lines that feel like swimming in a river of turds. The comment line has surely unearthed the lowest form of life since footpads murdered people for their teeth.
Now and again I’m asked where the Stoep is available electronically, and say I don’t know. I raised that a few times in the early days, with a temporary effect each time. I get told (probably indignantly) to take steps about that, I say “yes, yes”. I never exactly intend the tone of voice that means “I’ll forget as soon as you go,” but it comes out that way. That’s the comment-line effect.
I used to delight in writing something that started debate, but I think - or could this be sour grapes? - that technological wizardry has drowned that in the terror of the comment line. One approaches a comment line with long teeth, not so much as for what they say about the writer, though that too, as the misanthropic sewage spread by tortured souls fighting race wars in pseudonyms.
Most people are decent, even on comment lines. But in the way of the world, decency is less noticed.
It overlaps with “worthy” for a start, which is first cousin of “stolid”. But no matter how exciting its design is made, we are sentenced to forget it as soon as our ear is befouled by the kind of accursed poison bite that, once heard, can’t be unheard.
That’s of course a different brand of internet let down, much uglier. But there’s also a way that sad private fury is more forgiveable than cool calculated deception, like making the same mythical figure a citizen of 50 cities.
It’s not just the millionaire wanting to share his fortune-making secrets; it’s the improbably good-looking Gauteng Heiress showing you her house, or the Highveld Model with the health tips, or the South African Inventor making R131 200 a week part-time.
When you see those strangely specific numbers, by the way, check the exchange rate. Bet they make a round figure in dollars.
* Denis Beckett's Stoep Talk column appears in The Star every Monday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.