A single word embodies the trend that’s eating away at news reporting like a slow cancer. That word is ‘douchebag.’
You see it in headlines, articles, videos and (perhaps most often) comments sections.
Spoiler Alert: Douchebag is a word that means absolutely nothing at all. It’s something you say when you’re too lazy or too dumb to offer constructive criticism.
Don’t take that as a personal attack. I’m the first to admit that I’ll drop the phrase when my blood’s boiling…or, as previously mentioned, when I’m too lazy to come up with something useful. Strangely enough, I hear it used most often when the ‘douchebag’ in question is not present to dispute whether or not he/she is a big old bag of douche.
I’ll tell you when it’s least okay to use it, though. It’s least okay to use it when you’re in a position of power. And you’re a ‘respected’ web writer and/or reporter of news. And you’re too lazy to do your goddamn job.
Origins: Why I came to hate the word (and why you should, too)
In his new book Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday details the poisonous, counter-productive effects of snark, the internet’s addictive, sarcastic and bitter version of spin. You can guess where this is going: ‘douchebag’ is clearly the queen bitch of snark, offering a hollow, narrowly defined slander to the crux of any criticism on the web.
According to Holiday,
To be called a douche is to be branded with all the characteristics of what society deigns to hate but can’t define. It’s a way to dismiss someone entirely without doing any of the work or providing any of the reasons. It says, You are a fool, and everyone thinks it. It is the ultimate insult, because it deprives the recipient of the credentials of being taken seriously.
It’s the most dangerous result of groupthink: a blogger with an inherited audience stirs the pot by calling someone a douchebag. And people not only believe it; they spread it to their friends. They click the headlines because: “Holy shit, this guy/gal must’ve done something seriously horrific to earn the title of douchebag!” Then, they share the article on Facebook or Twitter because it’s bound to get likes and retweets.
And the circle of slander and counter-productivity keeps on a-spinnin’.
An experiment in douchebaggery
It all came to a head for me a few weeks ago when Jezebel posted the following headline: 10 Reasons Why Ryan Lochte Is America’s Sexiest Douchebag.
That made me wonder: how often are blogs with high traffic using the term?
- Jezebel, the original offender, has 171 listings for ‘douchebag.’ And ‘douche’ has 186 of its own.
- Flip through Gawker’s douchebag and douche archives and get 350 and 293 matches, respectively.
- A search of the term ‘douchebag’ returns 409 results on TechCrunch. ‘Douche’ registers nearly 700 links.
- Dare we try Google? Douchebag gets a whopping 13,200,000 hits. Douche? A cool 109 million.
This is an epidemic of startling proportions. And if you agree that it’s hateful and pointless, you can do something about it. You can stop clicking on headlines that use the term. You can stop going to websites that abuse the word.
For the record, I don’t find the term douchebag offensive. I do think it says something about the mental capacity of the person using it for profit. If we all just put a little bit of thought into what we say before we say it, we can return the internet to its double-rainbowed glory.
To sum up: if you profit off of careless use of the word ‘douchebag,’ we won’t call you a douchebag. We’ll call you a conniving, ignorant, lazy, opportunistic, bitter, jealous sycophant with nary a shred of human decency. Or some combination thereof.