The King is Dead… Long Live the King

It’s taken people (and by people, I mean the intellectually devoid and morally corrupt individuals of our society) a long time to recognise “what is a clickbait”. Unfortunately, this awareness is superficial at best, and relates only to the blatantly overt forms of the clickbait scourge.

Phrases such as “Number 2 will blow your mind” and “You’ll never guess what happens next!” are played out. Even the most cognitively impaired among us can now identify and subsequently dismiss this form of exploitation. The battlelines for social media traffic have been redrawn.

Since then, savvy marketers and pseudo-journalists have forged ahead with a new technique in farming clicks, and I’m afraid the outdoor blogosphere is not immune to this rising trend. Owing to the fact that very little information is gleaned from the abridged excerpt provided by a Facebook link or Twitter feed, writers are now obscuring the true content of articles by omission of certain facts from the title and introduction. These facts, which become apparent only after opening the piece and therefore contributing to the publication’s revenue stream, give rise to a much different reality to that which was alluded to in the title alone.

To be fair, this is something that journalists have probably been doing since the dawn of time. However, newspapers and websites are very different delivery systems. A newspaper has already been purchased by the time an article is read, whereas a website is subject to the ebb and flow of popular opinion for its revenue. Therefore, more onus is placed on a printed publication to produce a consistent level of quality than is placed on a website which has sporadic readership and less accountability.

This persistent trope has not been diminished in the least by recent shifts in content delivery by the major players in online news. On one hand, attempts at legitimacy have been made by established purveyors of plagiarism, bullshit and sensationalism such as The Huffington Post or Buzzfeed. I’m afraid that ship has sailed, friends. On the other hand, we’ve had a regression of standards by formerly reputable, though offbeat sources such as Vice. What it all amounts to is mediocre reporting and tabloid sensationalism in outlets which are fast becoming mainstream media.

I spent this morning plagued by an intense fit of rage caused by a noisy crow, screaming babies and an article by Christopher Solomon of Outside Online titled “Yosemite to Rename Several Iconic Places”. The blurb and accompanying image would have you believe that landmarks such as Half Dome were about to become embroiled in a trademark dispute.

I was in two minds at this stage. Firstly, I’m generally pretty cool with Californians having their collective bubble burst. Irrefutable evidence that proves the existence of a world beyond the confines of Yosemite is glad tidings indeed. I prepared myself for the gratifying voyeurism that comes from reading a thousand comments of pure Californian butthurt.

At the same time, my sense of justice was enflamed by the impending corporate seizure of natural icons. I also prepared myself to leave civilisation for good at the prospect of Starbucks Astroman and El Capitan brought to you by Apple (iCap?).

And then, as many didn’t, I actually read the article. As it turns out, it’s all a load of shit.

The trademark disputes relate to several corporate concerns operating within the park, namely hotels. So regardless of the fact that any and all Anglicised titles have taken precedence over established native names for major landmarks, all we’re talking about here is few different road signs and a new marquee on some buildings.

To put it bluntly, who gives a fuck?

I certainly don’t, but there are many who do. In a tediously predictable cascade of popular dissent, the champions of Yosemite were quick to denounce the move, citing the historical and sentimental value of such names.

“I think this is pretty outrageous that the park service, because of a 50-plus-million-dollar lawsuit, is forced to change these historic namesakes,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “It’s a tragedy.”

Well, Amy… How about you stay within your fucking lane. As an “Environmental Action” campaigner, you have much bigger fish to fry than the name of a hotel. For example, how about the environment? Just putting it out there.

This kneejerk reaction to the proposed name changes was a pure metaphysical certainty in a culture as biased and one-eyed as the Yosemite crowd. Their passion has bred a sense of entitlement and their blinkered reaction speaks of the darkness of obsession. Outside Online (and others, I’m sure) have played to this zeal and produced an article that enflames the pride and prejudice of Yosemite’s patrons for financial gain.

The renaming of several corporate institutions give me zero cause for concern. But what does raise my ire is the dearth of critical thinking displayed in the public commentary that accompanied the article. To me, this signifies the true death of the Camp 4 ethic.

Yosemite’s status as the Rock Climber’s Mecca was established in the heady seasons of the 60’s and 70’s. The Dirtbag lifestyle was in full swing, and climbers thought nothing of shacking up at Camp 4 for months, if not years on end. In order to sustain this lifestyle, they would often steal food from the very hotels which are now the subject of such controversy.

Their life was simple and it was dedicated to one thing: climbing. In a sense, the Dirtbag legend grew from the anti-establishment mentality that was characteristic of youth culture in that time period. Corporate structures would have been the very least of their concern, much less the names emblazoned upon them.

2014’s Valley Uprising tracks the meteoric decline of the Yosemite mythology, from a veritable temple of spiritual and personal freedom to a bureaucratic nightmare. The film documents the myriad ways in which regulation and ham-fisted enforcement have ripped the soul right out of the woods and off the towering granite faces.

And so it is strange and sad to me to see that it is the patrons, not the authority figures, who have put the final nail in the coffin of the Yosemite mythos. In falling over themselves to heartily display righteous indignation, they’ve betrayed the spirit of the valley. If films and literature are anything to go by, climbing in Yosemite has classically been an “us-versus-them” proposition… “Fuck the Police” as NWA put it. These days, the Valley Culture is a twisted caricature of itself, where the tenets of isolation and freedom have been discarded yet the spectres of entitlement and elitism remain.

It’s time for a reality check, folks. How much sleep will you lose now that you know that Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will be renamed Yosemite Valley Lodge. Get a fucking grip.

If people were able to separate emotion from reason, I wouldn’t need to elaborate on the fact that some shrewd but malignant journalism has sparked an unnecessary debate. If we get down to brass tacks, you could call the place Ebola Meadows and people would still climb there.

Let’s focus on what’s important and crack on.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
January 2016

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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