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The trendy journalistic habit of trying to reduce complex and nuanced arguments into a handful of McNuggets creates the kind of oversimplified, alarmist thinking that will leave planet earth engulfed in flames. I guess a listicle goes down easy, like a Popsicle, but has the comparable potential for creating nausea and diabetic coma. Yes, lists provide readers with extra evidence that they are progressing through an article. (Woo hoo! We’re getting closer to #1!) I’m sure that many authors faced with a blank screen let an outline drip from a vein but end up so drained that they surrender to writing a listicle. There must be a better way.
I’m sure a discussion of the top 5 strains has to have a list in it somewhere, but these often miss chances to compare and contrast strains in informative ways. And complicated topics simply can’t get a fair shake. The cannabis community can do better. I’m trying to avoid blaming all of this on the 10 Commandments. Few ideas worth discussing in print can reduce to the same number of key points as there are grams in an eighth.
Here is my list of reasons why this approach needs to end.
1. List articles often bypass the most important issues in favor of the ones that are easiest to explain. We live in a multivariate world. The answer to the most interesting questions is often “it depends.” List articles don’t provide the luxury of all the conditions that contribute to important topics. They have to keep each entry short and sweet. I’d give an example, but we have to move to #2!
Okay, try this one as an example. See how obtuse? See how oversimplified? See how riddled with rhetorical questions it is? Note how complicated issues get ignored, too.
2. Sexy tends to beat sensible. The list article, and other journalistic quickies, often leads an author to unzip the most risqué metaphors, the ones that prime nakedness, intercourse, or erotica. Most intricate sets of interlocking issues do not parallel combinations of lube, latex, and leather, so this habit ends up becoming distracting at best and confusing at worst. I realize that folks writing articles without lists often fall into this trap, but lists can lend themselves to this sort of suggestive approach given their need to generate rapid arousal.
3. They lack depth and detail. They often shortchange explanations and elaborations, too. See?
4. List articles rely on the inflammatory. The quest for clicks and links and tweets and posts and gurgles leads many authors to ignore the idea that both sides of an argument might have merit. Instead of sifting through the pros and cons of each point and coming up with a reasoned opinion, they grab tightly to the firmest part of one idea and stroke it until it’s engorged and red. Then they ignore the softer parts of an alternative idea that might need more time to warm up. Many appear to think that squirting capital letters afterwards, even when they are grammatically inappropriate, also helps rile up readers in a useful way. OH,YES! FUCK YEAH, THEY DO. Yes, they do. If you don’t believe me then you’re an idiot. I’M NOT KIDDING.
5. Breasts. See #2.
6. List articles are not inspiring. It’s hard to get emotional about a list. Great essays have a beginning, middle, and end. They tell a story that generates the feelings that should inspire action. (Think Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” or Defoe’s dated but delightful “The Education of Women.”) Some of the best articles makes folks mad as hell and not willing to take it anymore. What list does that?
7. They often fail to appreciate irony.
For previous humor piece published by Ladybud, click here.
Photo Credit: Steven Straiton under (CC-BY-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons