The American digital backwater

Read to the end for a good Tumblr post

I’m on the road this week and doing a bunch of running around before this week’s show. So no audio versions, but we’ll be back next week. You can find previous editions on every major podcasting app. If it’s not there, here’s an RSS feed.

Silicon Valley Is Trying To Psyop You Into Thinking Everyone Has Worse Internet Than Us

Last week, prominent tech investor Sam Lessin wrote a piece — well, a screenshot of a piece (it’s a thing he does) — titled, “Europe Probably Just Can’t Have The American Internet Anymore…” It’s part of a growing anti-European movement from Silicon Valley, which is tangentially tied to European Union regulation backlash. But, as these things often do, it has spread out in all kinds of directions. The Bay Area reactionaries have been blathering on about how Europe is “dying” for years now and there are a million podcast guys aggregating TikToks meant to convince you Europe is Over. I’m not saying Lessin is a reactionary btw, I actually used to agree with a lot of his takes, but since the arrival of generative AI, I think he’s sort of lost the plot a bit. Which we’ll circle back to in a sec.

Lessin’s piece is a good summary the common talking points you might be hearing right now. He argues that the European economy is worse than America’s, that they have “crappier stuff,” and that they no longer deserve access to American-made digital services. Essentially painting the EU as an antitrust-obsessed parasite pulling down the glory of American tech innovation. And underneath Lessin’s post are, of course, a bunch of other guys who pay for X agreeing with him and saying Canada and Australia should be cut off, as well.

And it’s true that EU’s antitrust regulators are getting a lot more aggressive. They’re currently going after Meta for their “pay or consent” scheme, that effectively bypassed GDPR requirements by offering people an ad-free subscription. The EU also forced Apple to adopt USB-C plugs (hooray!) and has set a deadline for when Apple will need to offer replaceable batteries (lol get wrecked). Which Apple has signaled it plans to fight. But the real thing that seems to be worrying America’s increasingly-desperate technocapitalists is the EU’s incredibly comprehensive AI regulation, which passed this year and basically killed any dreams of AI products running rampant across the continent. Which is a problem because AI is the only new idea the US has at the moment.

The common wisdom is that the current generative AI push is a direct result of Silicon Valley elites losing their minds in 2020. The double whammy of the end of Trump era low interest rates and COVID lockdown isolation sent America’s CEOs spiraling, chasing after hype bubbles like crypto, the metaverse, streaming platforms, and, now, AI. But after doing some research for a piece that Garbage Day researcher Adam and I published in Sherwood this week about the rise of Chinese apps, I actually think 2022 was the moment this all shifted.

In January 2022, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the world. And immediately after it topped both iOS and Android charts, dozens of other Chinese-made apps like Shein and CapCut also launched to huge success in the US, largely thanks to buying TikTok ads. Flash forward to now and Chinese e-commerce app Temu is now the most-downloaded app on iOS two months running. And it only launched in 2022. While America’s biggest app, Facebook, turns 20 this year. Because American tech monopolies have essentially been unable to come up with anything new for over a decade. And because they can’t, they’ve settled on a two-prong approach for managing their twilight years: lock in users with AI services and pressure legislators for an American version of China’s Great Firewall. According to investigative outlet Sludge, Meta spent a record $7.6 million lobbying both Congress and the White House in the lead up to the TikTok ban bill being passed this year. (It has denied lobbying against TikTok directly. Uh huh.)

Meanwhile, abroad, their new threat for any country trying to regulate how these businesses operate — at least in ways that don’t help them or hurt their competition — is, “let us do whatever we want or we’ll leave.” Google and Meta have been battling Australia and Canada over laws that would require them to pay publishers for content, threatening to pull service in both countries. And Google even deployed the same tactic while fighting with regulators in the far-flung country of, uh, California. Which I think is where they live, right?

But none of this is that much of a threat because American tech companies are pretty easy to replace. Whether it’s by China or by a country locally. I used an Estonian ride-share service in Tbilisi earlier this month that was faster and better than Uber and also integrated the city’s existing taxi fleet. In fact, I have used — and continue to use — the internet outside the US a lot. From 2014-2019, I lived in the UK and spent considerable time reporting across Europe. I’ve traveled and worked in across Asia, as well. And since 2020, I’ve basically been spending half my time in São Paulo, Brazil. Which means I can confidently say that the American internet experience is worse, at least for users, in most cases. It is more expensive, it is slower, and, increasingly, it is full of more junk.

So the real risk isn’t that the rest of the world is deprived of US technological innovation. It’s America becoming a digital backwater while the rest of the world increasingly realizes they don’t need us.

Garbage Day Live San Francisco Is This Week!!!

Garbage Day’s first-ever West Coast event is finally happening! It’s at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on July 12th. The show will also feature some very exciting guests, including visual artist Danielle Baskin, Platformer's Casey Newton, V-Tuber Shindigs, and The Onion's Stan Kelly.

Think About Supporting Garbage Day!

It’s $5 a month or $45 a year and you get Discord access, the coveted weekend issue, and monthly trend reports. What a bargain! Hit the button below to find out more.

There’s also a new referral program, which is a great way to get Garbage Day for free in exchange for sharing it with your friends. Click here to check it out.

A Good Meme

This was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by my long-time nemesis Mitch.

Those Crazy French Bastards Really Pulled It Off

French President and Europe’s fanciest little man Emmanuel Macron called a snap parliamentary election last month, which looked like a complete and total disaster for his party and a huge gift to the country’s far-right movement. After the final round of the election yesterday, only one of those things ended up being true.

Macron believed that his centrist party would come out on top, with a renewed sense of power. And analysts thought far-right manic Marine Le Pen’s party, one literally founded by Nazi collaborators, would. Instead, it was a runaway victory for a new left-wing coalition. Macron’s party came in second. But no party won the majority and now the country is left with a hung parliament. Whoops! Or rather, oups!

It’s best not to wonder what this means for the US election in November. I’ve seen a lot of folks hoping the UK’s labour sweep last week and France’s leftist uprising this weekend mean America might go the same way, forgetting that we had our “blue wave” anti-conservative pushback in 2018 and the Democrats decided to do nothing with it. Instead, you should just relax and watch this video of French leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon arguing with a Charizard Instagram filter.

Threads Has A Creator Problem

Where are all the Threads creators? It’s a question reporter Taylor Lorenz put in a Washington Post article and also posed to other users on the site. And you might not know this if you don’t use Threads, but while there aren’t any actually interesting native creators doing anything meaningful and original on the platform, there are a lot of weirdo Meta bootlickers who will get incredibly mad at you if you point that out.

So what’s the deal? Why has Threads not produced a single meme or even novel user behavior in its an entire first year? The closest thing Threads has to a meaningful cultural contribution is the concept of “gas leak content,” which is probably not what Meta wants the platform to be known for.

“The issue isn’t that they aren’t winning over video content creators who they don’t need,” Lorenz wrote. “It’s that threads hasn’t had its breakout cultural moment giving it wider relevance and urgency for users.”

Part of that lack of urgency is certainly due to the fact the platform’s algorithm effectively shadowbans controversial political accounts. But I am beginning to come around on the idea that Threads is simply not a social network. It is a holding pen for frustrated Instagram creators and, possibly, a long-term bet on the Fediverse, if that ever materializes.

An Honestly Very Funny Video About Discovering You’re Bipolar

Well, the first 13 minutes are pretty funny. If you aren’t familiar with Rob Scallon, he’s a big music YouTuber, who has been consistently making great stuff for years. This week, he posted a video opening up about learning he has bipolar disorder. The story of his last year is worth listening to, even if you aren’t a musician. I thought the parts about his bipolar mania influencing his life as a creator were especially interesting. He, apparently, at the height of his episode, really wanted to launch a rollerblading channel.

The Cast Of Evil Will Show Feet If Netflix Picks Them Up

Evil is one of those shows that has bounced around the streaming dark web for years. It started on CBS, moved to Paramount+, and is now ending its run there and looking to get picked up at another streamer. It is also very, very good. It's like if Darin Morgan's X-Files episodes were filmed like Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, but horny in a different way. And its cast is impressively unified online about trying to find a new home for it. To the point where series lead Katja Herbers is posting stuff like this:

Even more impressive, though, is how many viewers the show is getting right now. It is right behind House Of The Dragon in terms of weekly audience.

Jeremy Fragrance Is Doing Something Really Weird Again

I stopped writing about deranged perfume man Jeremy Fragrance last year after photos surfaced of him hobnobbing with members of the international far right. But his newest “project” is too weird to ignore.

He’s running some kind of fan contest right now to find a girlfriend. He has an email setup ([email protected] if anyone Garbage Day readers are interested, I guess) and is receiving applications. Which is already weird, but, apparently, he’s looking for a very specific woman. One that looks like a female version of him that he made using an AI filter.


A Good TikTok about Megan Thee Stallion


I think we all saw this guy's video and I couldn't tell if he's Japanese or not so I dragged him in both scenario (he is whether Japanese ... See more

Did you know Garbage Day has a merch store?

P.S. here’s a good Tumblr post.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***


or to participate.