Babies are expensive
Read to the end for the official anthem of 2021
Consider subscribing to Garbage Day! Readers get exclusive content and access to a truly wonderful Discord that I think I’d probably be in even if I didn’t run it lol. It’s $5 a month or $45 a year. Hit the green button below to subscribe!
The Bad Take Event Horizon
Over the weekend, a Twitter user named @margaritaevna95 tweeted a thread starting with an absolute banger of an open sentence: “‘Babies are expensive’ is anti natalist propaganda.” The rest of the thread, which you can check out here if you hate yourself, is a bunch of identitarian dreck about how millennials need to stop “buying elaborate tattoos, subscribing to kitchy sub boxes” and start traditional families.
@margaritaevna95’s thread was thoroughly ratio’d. As you can see in the screenshot, her tweet has almost 3,000 quote tweets and the top reply right now is from internet creator Christine Sydelko, who wrote, “You’re a freak lol”.
But there was another interesting take I saw about this tweet. “i’ve reached a point where it’s impossible for me to feel anger when i read a stupid tweet. i can only laugh. for example, this one right here? is comedy. no one is doing it like her, 10/10,” Twitter user fillegrossiere wrote.
I wanted to interrogate that idea a little bit and figure out if that’s a good thing or a very bad thing.
If I had to characterize the biggest internet trend of 2021, I’d say it was outrage. Outrage over bad tweets, outrage from Trump supporters, outrage over Trump supporters being outraged, outrage over COVID variants, outrage over random TikTok users. 2021 has been an extremely angry year. Even when we’re having fun online, it seems like we’re still kind of angry. Like in February, where all of Twitter ganged up on Michael James Schneider, the Portland Instagram artist better known as “Balloon Guy”. It all reached a point where even news outlets wrote about it. I even joined in, writing a particularly scathing takedown of his whole deal: “In a lot of ways he reminds of me of the 40-something Gen X guys I’ve worked with or bumped into at conferences over the years who basically saw a couple Ok Go videos in the early 2010s and decided that taking high-res photos of faux-bespoke pop art with memeable captions was the future of all media.”
Months later, it’s actually sort of weird that I was that angry. So, in a sense, yes, I’m beginning to feel more in line with Twitter user fillegrossiere’s sentiment above. It feels like I’ve reached a point, particularly with bad Twitter content, where I’m no longer able to feel outrage, only bemused absurd indifference. But there’s also something troubling about not feeling outraged anymore. And this @margaritaevna95 thread is actually a good example of why.
@margaritaevna95 is part of a new “classical” aesthetic movement that is spreading across right-wing and far-right corners of the internet. Influencers within this movement blend together cottagecore-style content with subtle white nationalism and emphasize some kind of “return” to a more “traditional” concept of a Western European lifestyle. Users within these networks fetishize Greco-Roman art and, increasingly, are obsessed with cryptocurrency. I did a podcast episode recently about an Instagram bodybuilder named @SolBrah who was using “trad values” to crowdfund a private crypto island.
@margaritaevna95’s 36,000-follower Twitter account is a quintessential “trad wife” account. Her tweets alternate between random photos of European architecture, criticisms about feminism, COVID denialism, cottagecore memes, and plugs for her OpenSea NFT gallery. She has a Substack called Classical Ideals, which doubles down on all of this content even more. At first I suspect @margaritaevna95’s account was a sock puppet, but her avatars all seem to match a real person named Megha who was based in Canada as recently as 2020, taking online courses for learning Russian (obviously).
During the 2016 Trump president campaign, 4chan users became obsessed with the concept of the “Overton window”. The Overton window is a political concept defining a range of political beliefs that fit within the mainstream view of society. Trump supporters on 4chan believed that if they flooded larger social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit with racist memes, they could inundate users in extremist content to a point where white nationalism became the new mainstream. While it’s extremely debatable whether or not Trump’s online army specifically was responsible for the radicalization of mainstream online platforms, based on pretty much all research conducted between 2015 and now, those platforms do appear to be fully radicalized.
Which means, six years later, there is so much garbage on Twitter, in particular, that the average user simply does not have enough time in their daily lives to fully analyze what kind of bizarre identity movement the freaks in their timeline belong to. What’s easier? To laugh at the bizarre woman telling her Twitter followers to feed babies table scraps or to do what I did, and spend like 45 minutes trying to figure out what her absolutely bonkers politics are and what kind of propaganda she’s trying to spread?
Speaking of Twitter being awash in a dizzying amount of propaganda…
The Patriot Front Conundrum
Over the weekend, fascist white nationalist group Patriot Front held a demonstration in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The group’s leader, prominent white nationalist Thomas Rousseau, told reporters, “Our demonstrations are an exhibition of our unified capability to organize, to show our strength.”
But when photos and videos of the demonstration went viral on Twitter an interesting thing started to happen. Different right-wing accounts started to claim that the whole thing was a set-up. The term many accounts used was “glow show,” which a reference to a racist meme from 4chan’s /pol/ (warning: that link contains hate speech) that CIA agents glow in the dark.
The Patriot Front conspiracy theory spreading on Twitter at the moment is that the CIA or the FBI or, more vaguely, “the feds,” organized the demonstration to make conservatives look bad. (lol imagine thinking that members of the US federal government or law enforcement would have to pretend to be anti-democratic extremists.)
All that said, one of the most viral tweets about Patriot Front was published by an account that was made last month. The account, which is now suspended, had an AI-generated face for an avatar and was going by the user name @SherylLewellen. Twitter researcher @conspirator0 has a good thread on this:
After the @SherylLewellen account went viral with its Patriot Front tweet, it then rebranded itself as a Patriot Front account and then started spamming Patriot Front promotional content. Right-wing Twitter users are now calling the @SherylLewellen account a “fed page” and claiming that it was part of the government conspiracy to make conservatives look like fascists (once again, lol).
What is more likely is that Patriot Front members created an account with an AI-generated face of a nice looking white lady named Sheryl and then used it to distribute a video of them marching in Washington. And then, even sadder, verified accounts from very real and professional people started interacting with Sheryl. One of the top replies to Sheryl’s tweet from was former director of the US Office for Government Ethics Walter Shaub.
And, so, to wrap up both the @margaritaevna95 thread above and the @SherylLewellen thread here, Twitter is functionally unusable. Real users are indistinguishable from fake users, everything is radicalized propaganda, and everyone is so burnt out from being angry all the time that they can’t even muster up the energy to be angry about anything anymore. I’m beginning to get a good idea of why Jack Dorsey left.
A Good Tweet
Is TikTok The New CMS Of The Internet?
In 2014, New York Times tech writer John Herrman wrote in The Awl (rip in peace), “What is a Tweet? A unit of content on the Twitter website, limited in size and decorated with regalia signifying connections to outside forms of content.”
Though the size of a tweet, what you can put in them, and how you can string them together has changed since Herrman wrote that definition, the idea of a tweet being “a unit of content” has remained extremely true.
Over the years, the internet has flirted with other screenshot types — there is a cottage industry of accounts that screenshot Tumblr posts, the brief moment where every image had the Snapchat black bar on it, and YouTube comments were pretty big a decade ago — but, for the most part, the tweet has stayed the standard unit of measurement for online content.
I can’t, for the life of me, find where this was written, so I apologize if I’m crediting this next point wrong, but I believe it was my friend Katie Notopoulos who once called Twitter “the CMS of Instagram.” Basically, if you wanted to post words on Instagram, the easiest way to do that was to tweet them first, screenshot them, and then post them as photos to Instagram. In fact, at one point, Instagram was so awash in screenshots of tweets that when Twitter made an account, its first post was a joke about it.
I’m wondering, though, if that’s changing. I’ve come across more and more examples recently of text that used to be tweeted, instead, posted in a TikTok and then screenshotted. (In fact, I’ve seen a few TikTok accounts just taking viral tweets, putting the text over themselves in a video, screenshotting that, and then posting that back to Twitter.)
In a sense, this new text over a TikTok screenshot is actually a return to form for viral content. We used to think of a “meme” as just an image with text on it — lol cats, advice animals, rage comics — and then, as more people got access to both applications like Photoshop and also platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which had better delivery mechanisms for text, the idea of viral content being the combination of text and a visual began to go out of fashion. We started to get viral images, viral videos, viral posts, etc.
Around 2013, platforms like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat began to offer more complex tools for content creation. Which is how we ended up with Snapchat screenshots or pictures full of Instagram bubble text. TikTok, however, is a much more advanced content creation tool. It’s basically a mobile-friendly Adobe Suite.
We’re also currently on the precipice of a pretty hardcore generational shift in how the internet works. Twitter isn’t even in the top five most-used platforms for Gen Z. So it seems to make sense that as Gen Z becomes the main demographic driving and innovating internet culture, Twitter could lose its popularity as the official content management system of the internet. Whether or not this also means that all ideas online no longer begin their life as dumb tweets, though, is yet to be seen.
The Anti-Web3 Movement Has Officially Begun
This was sent to me by Garbage Day reader Tyler and newsletter writer and open internet long-hauler Ernie Smith is also promoting it. An organization called yesterweb.org has put up a page outlining the false promises of Web3 evangelists — namely that it isn’t actually decentralized, isn’t actually community governed, and doesn’t eliminate monopolistic middlemen. If you’re seeing a bunch of stuff about Web3 and struggling to cut through the spin, this is a pretty good place to start.
While we’re talking about crypto stuff, El Salvador’s millennial president, Nayib Bukele, confirmed on Twitter that he uses his personal phone to buy Bitcoin for the country. Very cool. Very normal.
A TikTok With Powerful Vine Energy
Behold, The Largest Furby
If you click through on this tweet there are more photos of this tremendously big Furby.
The Bizarre New York Times Music Copyright Thing
This YouTube video was sent to me by a few readers over the weekend and it’s wild. The creator of the video, music producer Benn Jordan, makes a pretty big allegation that New York Times reporter Ian Urbina is “scamming” musicians by getting them to sign weird royalty contracts to be included in a sound bank for Urbina’s book The Outlaw Ocean.
It’s sort of hard to wrap your head around, but, basically, Urbina has a Spotify account with 680,000 followers, which streams music “inspired” by his book. These musicians, if they agree to work with Urbina, sign contracts that give 50% of streaming royalty payments to a record label/non-profit organization called Synesthesia Media, which, in emails to artists like Jordan, Urbina claims is handling the distribution for these songs which Urbina gets from artists. Jordan claims that Synesthesia Media is actually run by Urbina’s wife. It’s a huge mess!
In the last four days since Jordan’s video went live, users have been trying to get the allegations listed on Urbina’s Wikipedia page as a way to warn other musicians who might be contacted by Urbina. But it couldn’t be added there until there was a written source to cite. Which, thanks to Input Mag, now exists. (Though his Wikipedia page still doesn’t mention all of this.) Urbina refused to comment for Input’s story, but Input did report that Urbina was contacting musicians using his New York Times email address, which is very 🤔.
According to a statement which was put out by Synesthesia Media, neither Urbina or Synesthesia have profited from these sound banks and they say they are now providing artists the ability to receive 100% of the royalties from streaming services.
Nic Fuentes Admits He’s Never Had A Girlfriend
One more far-right thing (sorry). The de facto leader of the Gen Z extremist group the Groypers, Nic Fuentes, confessed on right-wing media personality Sydney Watson’s podcast that he’s never had a girlfriend or any real relationship with a woman. You can watch the whole interview here. It’s extremely cringe, but does explain some things about Fuentes’ whole deal.
Some Stray Links
“Crime Prediction Software Promised to Be Free of Biases. New Data Shows It Perpetuates Them”
“TikTok Drama Channels Are Turning Into Online Intelligence Agents” (I wrote this one!)
P.S. here’s the official anthem of 2021.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
Urbina's Outlaw Ocean Foundation is pretty open that it uses collaborations with artists and Spotify streams to pay for their reporting, including a recent, incredibly important investigation into Libyan migrant prisons and how the EU funds them, so this controversy feels pretty misguided and dumb!
So much anger comes from discovering one thing you like about a person and then filling in the (vast) gaps in knowledge about them with just a list of other things you don't like.