Pet Peeve of 2014: When News Sites Get Pushy

I can only assume my inability to delete push notifications is borne from sheer dumb optimism – the dream that, one day, those drumbeats will announce, 'Netanyahu and Abbas locked in room together, told not to emerge until peace treaty signed.'

Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan
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Illustration by David Lockard
Illustration by David Lockard
Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan

There has been no sound more depressing in 2014 than the four electronic drumbeats heralding a Haaretz push notification – and I write as one who has heard the latest One Direction album. Indeed, conspiracy theorists may note that bad things seem to come in fours: Harry Styles records, push notification sounds, potential prime ministerial terms, horsemen ...

For those who have spent the past five years in captivity or think push notifications are only issued by midwives, here’s a refresher: Pushes are the messages your apps send to your mobile/iPad/Galaxy/etc. screen. So, newspapers send breaking news; e-commerce sites beg you to single-handedly save the global economy; and games sound like spurned lovers and demand you return to them (“I know it got crazy intense last year, but I miss you desperately and need to see you again – Candy C.”).

Haaretz’s push is pretty unusual because it has its own bespoke sound, instead of the default electronic bleep (although it’s not quite the most unique in my collection – I have one push that announces its presence with a spectacularly unpleasant farting sound; I always assumed it was from JPost, but apparently it’s one of my kids’ apps).

I started to fall out of love with Haaretz’s push when it became the soundtrack of the summer, during Operation Protective Edge. Through no fault of their own, those drums of doom, those beats of burden, created a soundtrack so depressingly repetitive and monotonous, Philip Glass is still kicking himself for not thinking of it first.

Apologies to John Bonham, Ginger Baker and Animal from “The Muppets,” but drum solos have always sucked. They’re up there with male nipples, appendixes and Jessica Simpson as the most superfluous of God’s creations.

And Haaretz’s “Der-der-deh-der” drum fill has sealed the deal. By the way, that was meant to capture the Haaretz push sound, not the “Pink Panther” theme tune – even if it is easy to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and Naftali Bennett as Cato, launching into a surprise assault on the PM in the cabinet office (“Not now, Naftali!!”).

The problem is, Haaretz’s four little drumbeats now serve as a trigger for two thoughts:

1. Shit! What has Israel done now?

2. Shit! What has someone done to an Israeli now?

(Actually, there is a third, extremely rare, thought based on a push that arrived last September: “Shit! Why the hell is Haaretz telling me a large stalactite cave has been discovered in Israel? Is it anti-Semitic?”)

So why keep getting the bad news as soon as it breaks, when the more natural reaction is to stick your fingers in your ears? I can only assume my inability to delete the push is borne from sheer dumb optimism – the dream that, one day, those drumbeats will announce, “Netanyahu and Abbas locked in room together, told not to emerge until peace treaty signed.” Or “ISIS downsizes, wishes to be known as Islamic Village.” Or perhaps an operation where no one dies: “'Call me Yvette’ – Lieberman plans gender reassignment surgery.”

Of course, the depressing truth is that we’re often dealing with life-and-death situations here. Many years ago, a BBC correspondent described the country perfectly, saying that Israelis are sitting by the side of a volcano, drinking coffee. Given that scenario, it’s essential to know when things are about to erupt, lest you spill your cappuccino.

And talking of coffee, how is it that when I’m sitting in a café and a Haaretz push arrives, my four drumbeats always sound after everyone else’s? Whoever said bad news travels fast clearly never had Cellcom as a network provider.

Want the really bad news? The push is still in its infancy, and in the future our mobiles will sound like an orchestra warming up. Good things will emerge, sure – is there an app yet that lets you push announcements to friends and family (“You forgot my birthday!” Or, “The kids seem to be handling the divorce very well”)? But once things get more commercial, all our screens – mobiles, TVs, desktops, windscreens – will be bombarded by messages 24/7.

For example, I give it six months before Haaretz sends you this push: “Obama says all options are still on the table over Iran – check out IKEA’s stunning range of office tables here!”)

And we hear the Kremlin is working on its own version of the push: Don’t forget to sign up for its putsch notifications, coming soon.

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