1283: Headlines

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Headlines
1916: 'PHYSICIST DAD' TURNS HIS ATTENTION TO GRAVITY, AND YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HE FINDS. [PICS] [NSFW]
Title text: 1916: 'PHYSICIST DAD' TURNS HIS ATTENTION TO GRAVITY, AND YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HE FINDS. [PICS] [NSFW]

[edit] Explanation

This comic satirizes the sensationalist language used in Internet headlines. Many websites generate ad revenue for getting visitors ("getting more clicks"), so some unscrupulous editors seek to manipulate their readers using tantalizing yet formulaic and crass headlines, designed to attract readers rather than summarize the article's contents. You might recognize this technique from those ridiculous text advertisements — "local mom discovers 1 weird tip to reduce belly fat." The practice is nothing new: tabloid journalism has been doing this for many years (e.g. National Enquirer). The numbers shown at the headline are also often wrong and not covered by the article.

Signs of a dishonest headline include giving undue weight to trivial topics, or appealing to readers' emotions or needs (fear, outrage, pity, lust, laziness) instead of offering serious information. In severe cases, it may be a bait-and-switch, claiming to offer something it isn't. By failing to give a useful summary of the story, whilst attempting to force the reader to click on every story on the off-chance that it's interesting, they amount to an intentionally deceptive form of spam.

Randall parodies the formula in this comic with such trivializing headlines for important historical events:

  • 1905 - How a shocking new theory, discovered by a dad, proves scientists are wrong about everything!
Albert Einstein published his Annus Mirabilis papers, which changed views on space, time, mass, and energy, and laid the groundwork for much of modern physics. They included his papers on special relativity and on mass–energy equivalence ("E = mc2"). He had an infant son in 1905 (born May 1904).
The use of the term "dad" helps readers tune in emotionally. "Proving scientists wrong about everything" is obviously an inflation of Einstein's achievements. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his work on the photoelectric effect, his work on relativity was still not accepted by many physicists at that time.
  • 1912 - 6 Titanic survivors who should have died
Sinking of the RMS Titanic. "should have died" seems to be referring to six passengers whose survival was downright miraculous, though the wording is (deliberately) ambiguous to imply the six passengers deserved to have died. Possibly referred to here is the survival of J. Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line (the company responsible for the Titanic), who was condemned as a coward for leaving the sinking liner.
  • 1916: 'Physicist dad' turns his attention to gravity, and you won't believe what he finds. [PICS] [NSFW]
Einstein published his theory of General relativity, which is a vast generalization of the theory of Special relativity from 1905 and provides a model for gravity. In 1916 Einstein had two sons who lived in Zurich while he lived in Berlin.
[NSFW] is "Not Safe for Work" - a tag to identify explicit images. Here it is used to trick readers hoping to find pornography.
[PICS] tells the potential viewer that there are images embedded
  • 1920 - 17 things that will be outlawed now that women can vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, guaranteeing voting rights for women in all US states. The prediction of new prohibitions is a reference to alcohol prohibition under the authority granted to the federal government by the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. While the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified before women's suffrage was guaranteed by the Nineteeth, alcohol prohibition was widely seen as an issue driven by women's opinions (hence the suggestion that more things would be prohibited now that women had the vote).
  • 1928 - This one weird mold kills all germs
Penicillin was discovered.
  • 1929 - Most embarrassing reactions to the stock market crash [GIFS]
This is a reference to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the most devastating stock market crash in history and the beginning of the Great Depression. The "embarassing reactions" may be a reference to the suicides of people suddenly impoverished by the depression.
[GIFS] indicates that the post will contain an animated GIF image - a crude form of short video
  • 1945 - These 9 Nazi atrocities will make you lose faith in humanity
1945 is the year that World War II ended. It's also the year that many war crimes committed by Nazi Germany were discovered or declassified.
  • 1948 - 5 insane plans for feeding West Berlin you won't believe are real
1948 is when the Soviet Union established the Berlin Blockade, preventing food and other critical supplies from reaching occupied Berlin. In response, Western forces organized the Berlin Airlift.
  • 1955 - Avoid polio with this one weird trick
The polio vaccine was developed.
"One weird trick" is a common phrase used in Internet ads: see this article for more information.
  • 1957 - 12 nip slips potentially visible to Sputnik
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite. A nip slip is when a woman unintentionally exposes all or part of one or both of her nipples; in the context of the internet, it generally refers to a photograph capturing such a moment.
  • 1968 - This year's assassinations ranked from most to least tragic
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated in 1968.
Assassinations are rare and considered to be always tragic, so "ranking" them trivializes the political and emotional depth of the events.
  • 1969 - This is the most important photo of an astronaut you'll see all day
Apollo 11 performed the first manned lunar landing. During this historic trip newspapers printed as many pictures of astronauts as they could.
  • 1986 - This video of a terminally ill child watching the Challenger launch will break your heart
Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight. See Space Shuttle Challenger disaster for details. This was the first shuttle mission that included a teacher on board as part of the crew (Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space Project), so there were many children -- a New York Times poll put the number at 48% of 9-13 year olds in the US -- watching this particular launch live as teachers around the country had TV sets in their classrooms showing the ill-fated launch in real time. The launch was not shown on most mainstream TV stations; only CNN broadcast it live.
  • 1989 - You won't believe what these people did to the Berlin wall! [video]
Fall of the Berlin Wall.
[video] indicates a link to a video
  • Jan 1, 1990 - 500 signs you're a 90s kid
A 90s kid is someone born in the late 80s or early 90s (and spent most their childhood in the 1990s). Headlines like this one from BuzzFeed toy with their readers' sense of nostalgia. The parody headline is funny because it starts precisely on the first day of the 1990s, meaning that the only "90s kids" that it would apply to would be newborns. This is a reference to a common joke about the 90s not having a concrete identity in some ways like the 70s or 80s did in terms of popular culture, and yet those born in that decade always seem to have long lists of things that make you a "90s kid".

This topic is re-used in 1307: Buzzfeed Christmas.

[edit] Transcript

20th Century Headlines
Rewritten to get more clicks
1905 - How a shocking new theory, discovered by a dad, proves scientists are wrong about everything!
1912 - 6 Titanic survivors who should have died
1920 - 17 things that will be outlawed now that women can vote
1928 - This one weird mold kills all germs
1929 - Most embarrassing reactions to the stock market crash [GIFS]
1945 - These 9 Nazi atrocities will make you lose faith in humanity
1948 - 5 insane plans for feeding West Berlin you won't believe are real
1955 - Avoid Polio with this one weird trick
1957 - 12 nip slips potentially visible to Sputnik
1968 - This year's assassinations ranked from most to least tragic
1969 - This is the most important photo of an astronaut you'll see all day
1986 - This video of a terminally ill child watching the Challenger launch will break your heart
1989 - You won't believe what these people did to the Berlin wall! [video]
Jan 1, 1990 - 500 signs you're a 90s kid
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Discussion

"1912 is, of course, the year of the the sinking of the RMS Titanic." I don't think this is such a given fact that people know when the Titanic sank. I'm removing the "of course". And someone should add an explanation for how these titles are supposed to get more clicks, and what "getting more clicks" even means or worth. I'd do it myself, but I'm on my phone... on second thought, let me boot my laptop... 95.35.58.162 06:31, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Okay, I added a short explanation for now. Someone should fix it, add mentions to NSFW photo articles and list articles (5 easy ways to add 10 years to your life expectancy!). I'm out. 95.35.58.162 07:10, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Don’t you think the 1916 headline is a reference to the fatness of someone’s mom? Quoti (talk) 07:28, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

fat mom (married to physicist dad?) and gravity: Gravitational Mass. Perhaps he found pictures of her down in the gravity well? What do you think? 195.37.42.200 16:20, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Surely "1916 :'PHYSICIST DAD' TURNS HIS ATTENTION TO GRAVITY" is a second reference to Einstein?[1] Wwoods (talk) 07:47, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

"1986 - This video of a terminally ill child watching the Challenger launch will break your heart" - Probably has something to do with the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown as well? 212.123.0.8 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I don't think so. The child is probably American. Xhfz (talk) 12:38, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
The Challenger was in January. Chernobyl was in April. No one watching the Challenger launch was sick from Chernobyl, because it hadn't happened yet.108.162.215.61 19:21, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

"Jan 1st 1990: 500 signs you're a 90s kid" - Can somebody explain this one? This is the only one I, and so far explainxkcd, cannot link to a specific historical event. Or is this supposed to be an example of an attention grabbing headline on a day nothing happened?--108.17.2.71 13:05, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

I think it is making fun of sensational news - making news out of nothing. Here, on the very first day of the 90's, the newspapers already have 500 signs that you are a 90's kid. But nothing has actually happened so far. Sayno2quat (talk) 13:16, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Alternatively, it can be written as, "20 signs you're a 70s kid" 108.162.212.200 15:54, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

I changed the line about the 1929 crash being "the largest stock market crash in history" to "the most devastating stock market crash", as it wasn't the largest. By points, it's not even worth mentioning. By percentage (which is more important anyway), it ranks second to the 1987 crash. In 1929, the crash was 13% in one day, and 24% over two days. The 1987 crash was 22% in one day, and 30% over five days. JamesCurran (talk) 15:55, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

And by sticking to the formula "the most (something) in (something)" you are inadvertently falling into the sensationalist language this cartoon mocks. (At least with checked facts) 173.245.53.110 14:26, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

"1969 - Last peek at Naked Singularities. [NSFW]" --FbFree --128.135.70.205 15:59, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

This seems like a subtle dig at Cracked.com 76.79.82.50 17:28, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

And Buzzfeed and Huffington Post and so on... (And not so subtle.) --Jeff (talk) 17:47, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

John Gordon Mein, the United States Ambassador to Guatemala, were also assassinated in 1968. he was "the first United States ambassador to be assassinated while serving in office". --valepert (talk) 18:14, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Am I the only one who wants to read these articles? 108.162.246.117 04:04, 1 November 2013 (UTC)

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, not '68. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy 173.245.52.197 17:45, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Please don't mix up Robert F. Kennedy with John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK). I did revert your edit.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:53, 24 November 2013 (UTC)
And just for some more understanding: 1968 has been the most terrible year for the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated far after LBJ did sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 originally proposed by JFK. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while he was running as a candidate for the Democratic Party (United States) for the 1968 President election. Massive student protest did occur at that year, mainly caused by the Vietnam War. That year was a horror for every US citizen, and even more.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:20, 24 November 2013 (UTC)
I saw this in Reader's Digest, specifically (named by date): 1912, 1920, 1928, 1929, 1948, 1969, and 1989. I just found this yesterday. --173.245.56.85 23:46, 12 February 2014 (UTC)
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