A Superwholock for every news cycle
Read to the end for a cool video of old-timey special effects
Everything Is Fandom
Around 2010, social media sites began to realize that if they wanted to avoid dying out like Myspace, they needed ways to keep people on their platforms longer. And, so, sites like Reddit and Tumblr began emphasizing their fandom-building tools. Reddit’s subreddit system could easily create new pockets for users with a couple clicks. Don’t like what’s happening with the mainstream Star Wars subreddit? Well, you can break away and start a reactionary one and bring people over there. This is how extremist users from the pickup artist community r/seduction created r/TheRedPill. Meanwhile, on Tumblr, its tags were evolving away from a way for users to organize their own blogs into a way for users to find each other across the site, which has never had particularly good discoverability. This would eventually lead to the creation of amalgamated fandoms, like #Superwholock, which was a macro fandom dedicated to Supernatural, Doctor Who, and BBC’s Sherlock.
This idea would spread, though, to larger platforms over the next couple years. Instagram’s Explore page launched in 2012. Twitter launched Moments in 2015. And Facebook’s Groups feature launched in 2010, becoming central to the company’s strategy in 2017. But this internet-wide pressure for fandoms and communities to exist on poorly-moderated corporate platforms was already turning rancid by the end of 2014, when gamers weaponized fandom spaces on Reddit and Twitter to organize a hate campaign called Gamergate that would eventually lay the groundwork for how the online far right galvanized around Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
And, now, in light of the current reactionary movement swirling around the Depp v. Heard trial, many have once again brought up the argument that Gamergate never actually ended and is, now, basically how everything on the internet works. Which is partially right. But it’s not that Gamergate never ended, it’s that no news cycle, if viral enough, ever actually ends now. The merge that has happened over the last decade between virality, news content, social platforms, and fandoms has created cultural pockets online that never fully die. Social platforms are full of zombie communities that were forced into existence thanks to the short-sighted incentives of corporate engagement quotas and now they light up when anything remote aligned with their initial reason for being comes across their feeds. It’s happened with the Gamergaters who became anti-Last Jedi activists who became Snyder Cut truthers who became Depp v. Heard watchers. And it’s happening with the pandemic expert LARPers who became lab leak conspiracy theorists who are now obsessed with monkeypox.
The other day I came across a very viral tweet from a user named Jeffrey A. Tucker. I wasn’t familiar with him before his tweet appeared in my feed, but he was verified and was writing in complete sentences, so he seemed like a serious person. According to his Twitter bio, he’s the president of the Brownstone Institute, which also sounds like a serious organization and describes itself as “a social, public health and economic research nonprofit.” Once again, this all feels very legitimate. But Tucker’s tweet made me pause a bit. Mainly, because it’s outrageously fucking stupid.
If you can’t follow the threads here of what Tucker is claiming. He appears to be implying that Bill Gates created a tabletop simulation about a May 2022 monkeypox outbreak to, uh, I guess, telegraph his eventual plan to cause a worldwide monkeypox outbreak? I guess? At least, that’s how folks in the replies are interpreting it. Though, my favorite interaction in his replies was one user asking, “Wait, you think Gates engineered monkeypox and, for some reason, *warned us all about it in a tabletop game*? What possible reason would he have for doing that?” To which another user wrote, “He makes money off of these things. Why else would he do it?”
Now, I write a newsletter about the internet. Which means I have the time and energy to google Tucker and find out that he’s a prolific libertarian conspiracy theorist and Bitcoin maximalist and that the Brownstone Institute is a right-wing think tank that was created for anti-COVID lockdown advocacy. But for a lot of people, who either don’t care enough to look all this up, or just don’t care, in general, Tucker’s tweet is just another piece of content that reaffirms their particular news fandom.
The best example of this “everything is fandom” phenomenon is QAnon, which is Superwholock for seditious chiropractors and real estate agents who watch too much cable news, complete with their own grim DashCons where they stand for days in Dallas waiting for JFK Jr. to return from the dead and camp out in the parking lots of Trump rallies, selling each other homeopathic medicine and giving each other COVID.
And, even more darkly, it impacts how new news stories are digested every day. For instance, as news broke yesterday about the incomprehensibly horrific school shooting in Texas, a transphobic anime fan named @animebuche took photos of a trans woman off Reddit and claimed the photos were of the shooter. Meanwhile, other users on Instagram began making fake pages with the shooter’s real photos as way to spread fake motives for the shooting that align with whatever ideology — or fandom — they subscribe to. And then these fake accounts, these fake pictures, these fake motives, all get transmitted out to various hubs for larger fandoms, more intricate conspiracy theories.
The disinformation spread by these groups in the first 24 hours after the shooting has compounded so badly on Twitter, in particular, that it’s affecting auto-fill results on the app’s search.
But this is what communities on the internet have been trained to do for years. There is no meaningful difference between what libertarians are writing about Bill Gates and monkeypox to what anime nazis are writing about trans people to what Swifties are writing about Lana Del Rey stans. It’s the same tactics, the same playbook. It’s about dominating trending topics with disinformation and memes and harassment and conspiracy theories, not because you care about any of it, but because you don’t want an adversarial fandom to control the trending topic. It’s a game and every new news story, every new piece of content, every trend is just another chance to win.
Looking for something fun to do in Brooklyn this week? I’m performing at Littlefield tomorrow night with some extremely cool people, such as Dylan Adler, Jake Flores, Ashley Reese, and Bridget Todd. Also, this is the last live show I have on the books for New York City probably until the fall!!! Click here to pick up tickets!
If You Haven’t Watched The Steve Kerr Video Yet, You Should
More On The Luna Crash
Just how bad was the Luna crypto crash earlier this month? Well, according to a new report from Bloomberg, it wiped out over $80 billion from the world of decentralized finance, or “DeFi”. According to Bloomberg, MakerDAO, the largest DeFI startup, lost close to $10 billion alone. Yikes!
The massive downturn in the crypto market hasn’t scared off venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, who still seem to believe in Web3 as
a great to quickly make their investment money back the future of the internet. A16z raised $4.5 billion for a crypto fund this week.
And, finally, some stray crypto things before we move on:
NFTs will make reserving a hotel an absolute nightmare.
The WeWork guy is a crypto guy now.
The MonkeyPoxInu coin crashed.
No one’s buying Madonna’s NFT.
A Real Good Rick Roll
An Excellent TikTok
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It’s Morbin’ Time
Congratulations to Twitter user @RANK10YGO for coining the phrase, “IT’S MORBIN’ TIME,” which is now immortalized in the Know Your Meme article for Morbius Sweep. @RANK10YGO acknowledged their place in meme history this week, tweeting, “I seem to have inadvertently started a cultural movement. Sorry.”
But they did not, however, confirm whether it’s meant to be based off the Power Rangers’ “It’s morphing time” or the Fantastic Four’s “It’s clobberin’ time.” Interesting.
Influencers Are Still Boxing Each Other
I came across this bizarre website this week for a YouTuber/influencer/online creator charity boxing series. Obviously, the fights are happening in Florida. According to Dot Esports, the whole thing was organized by the YouTuber iDubbbz, who I guess is, uh, a YouTuber. I’ll be honest, I pretty closely follow internet culture and also watch a lot of Twitch and YouTube and only recognized like 25% of the creators involved with this. The Epic Meal Time guy is fighting. I recognized him.
I’m curious as to why the YouTuber boxing thing is still happening. I suppose it’s an evolution of the same quandary that has plagued this space since the very first VidCons. For video creators, there’s a real lack of a sense of upward momentum after a certain point. They’re still largely shut off from traditional entertainment, with only a few true YouTubers ever successfully crossing over into movies or TV, so a lot of the bigger video personalities online end up just kind of aimlessly floating around. I also suspect it’s why a lot of them suddenly start making feature-length videos as a way to create the illusion that they’re becoming more serious. And I guess boxing matches are part of this, as well, which is a weird fit, but I suppose the world of boxing needed some kind of relevant hook for millennials and zoomers to compete with pro wrestling and UFC and this is the what everyone ended up with.
Will Pop Punk Finally Merge With Country Music?
lol this isn’t totally an internet thing, but it kind of is! The pop punk band State Champs have a new album out and the lead single of it has gone incredibly viral thanks to the fact it features country music singer Mitchell Tenpenny singing on it. It’s always crazy when you see like the true viral power of normie internet, like when Slipknot or Florida Georgia Line do anything. But after pop punk bands latched on to TikTokers for a while, this whole collaboration makes me wonder if we’re heading for a pop punk/country music collision in the next year or two. There’s definitely a lot of overlap between the two fanbases, especially as millennials get older and lamer. Plus, both genres have kind of burned out on their influencer phase and seem to be looking for a new gimmick to latch on to.
Excited to see if these musical aesthetics can properly combine to the create the ultimate soundtrack for your Facebook friend from high school’s 2000s-themed backyard gender reveal party.
An A.I.-Generated Centaur Except The Man Part Is A Jumbo Shrimp
Yep, it sure is.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a cool video of old-timey special effects.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
Some background for you on Steve Kerr from Rex Chapman - no doubt why Kerr is particularly gutted by what the families are going through.
“He makes money off of these things. Why else would he do it?”
Yes, clearly the monkeypox outbreak is a *coughs* viral marketing campaign for the true source of Bill Gates’ wealth: tabletop gaming.