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Bronies, Radicalization, And Mass Violence
Shortly before carrying out the attack, the shooter wrote on Facebook, “I hope I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her.” According to the internal memo from Facebook that the Wall Street Journal viewed, his account was full of content associated with the brony subculture. The Facebook memo describing the shooter’s account also reportedly mentioned how bronies are often associated with far-right ideology. It’s unclear how My Little Pony factored into the attack, if at all, of which four of the victims were Sikh.
On Saturday, Equestria Daily, one of the largest and oldest brony-based websites, wrote about the Facebook memo. “Facebook and The Wall Street Journal couldn't find any actual motive behind the attack from either of the pages; just ponies,” the post reads. “Be prepared for some potential blowback once the news starts breaking out into the wider internet. The Wall Street Journal did bring up the ‘far-right’ side of the fandom that caused a stir last year, though they could not find any correlation between the two.”
The comments, both on Equestria Daily and on Twitter, all basically say the same thing: this could be bad for other bronies. “My concern is Hasbro will have a knee-jerk reaction and will decide it's time to quietly forget about [Applejack],” one user wrote. “Or the soccer mom shareholders will write letters saying [Applejack] needs to be quietly retired. In fact, all the shareholder [My Little Pony] fans out there should start writing letters to Hasbro now stating they -don't- want to see [Applejack] get thrown out because of this tragedy.”
The brony connection to the shooting immediately reminded me of the “developments in late capitalism in 2014” chart.
In 2014, Tumblr user cryinwilson created the above Venn diagram. cryinwilson now goes by @asselerationist on Twitter. His chart, in my opinion, is the best explanation for how internet radicalization works and its direct link to how capitalism works online. Brand identities are co-opted by extremists via memes and used as recruitment tools within giant corporate social networks that turn a blind eye because the engagement is good for time-on-site metrics.
I’ve kept up with @asselerationist over the last few years — he tweeted the chart again over the weekend. I’ve also interviewed him before about what led him to make the chart in the first place. He said the main inspiration was one blog, My Nationalist Pony. The account is now deleted, but screenshots remain. The blog attempted to reimagine My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic as a white nationalist parable, it argued that the ponies live in a caste system, were against social welfare, and supported a white hegemony.
Following an excellent piece by Kaitlyn Tiffany in The Atlantic last summer, the entire internet began asking if bronies were racist, with many outlets framing it as some kind of Trump-era reckoning with race. But My Nationalist Pony was active as far back as 2011, less than a year after the show premiered. The violent white nationalist contingents of the brony community have been there since the beginning. And the toxicity of the brony community wasn’t just an online phenomenon either, there were reports of rampant racism and sexism happening at My Little Pony conventions as far back as 2012.
The brony fandom has had problems with radicalization since the very beginning of its existence for the same reason that many other male-dominated online communities produce mass violence — there is simply no place for young men to socialize online that isn’t full of extremists. Whether it’s anime, video games, sports, menswear, or coding, there are no spaces left online that haven’t been absorbed by terrorists or incels. The battle to defend those spaces was back in 2014 and we didn’t even lose it, we just didn’t fight at all. A culture war bubbled up within certain fandom spaces, spread outward, stoked by far-right websites like Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, and was largely ignored by mainstream culture. It will take a very long time to fix things and we can’t even start that process until we can admit there’s a problem and it affects everyone, not just the guys who are writing tributes to cartoon ponies.
A Good Tweet
Let’s Talk About The Jake Paul Fight
Over the weekend, in a boxing match in Atlanta, YouTuber Jake Paul knocked out a guy named Ben Askren. The KO came two minutes into the fight. Twitter is full of people who, uh, think it’s interesting how short the fight was and have questions about that.
I wanted to know who Ben Askren was, but when I went to his Twitter profile, the only thing in his bio was the hashtag, “#Bitcoin”. I have since learned that Askren is an Olympic level wrestler and MMA fighter. So I can see why people might be confused that about how Askren could be knocked out almost immediately by one punch by Jake Paul.
The extremely legitimate and fair boxing match was part of Triller Fight Club, an event series run by Triller, the Fyre Festival of short-form video apps. They recently acquired Verzuz, the DJ battle series created by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. During the brief possibility of the US TikTok ban (one of the many plot holes of the Trump era), Triller was the app trying to buy up all the hype house influencers. According to Taylor Lorenz, Triller paid to fly out a ton of white influencers to the fight, but denied a ton of black influencers. It’s worth noting that Atlanta right now is basically the black influencer capital of America.
So, Triller Fight Club was a big giant mess, considered a massive rip-off by fans and also managed to be racist. I’m excited to hear in a few weeks how this is the future of media. One true silver lining of the whole thing though, however, was Pete Davidson, who really, truly did not seem to give one shit about being there:
The Tramp Stamps are a girl band that became a massive joke on TikTok last week. Users were blasting the group for being industry plants and trying to cash in on hyperpop and the mall emo revival happening right now. The band was accused of having connections to infamous producer, Dr. Luke, which makes their lyrics like, “I'd rather die than hook up with another straight white guy / I'd rather die than fake it like I'm having a good time” and their extremely woke social media presence all the more weird.
The band released a statement on Instagram that is one of the wildest things I’ve read in my life. Some excerpts:
“The misinformation and lies that feed this cancel culture are so fucking toxic.”
“Fuck you if you are so fucking sexist that you cannot believe this band was created and built from the ground up by 3 women.”
“Marisa tweeted out language when she was 15 that she is deeply ashamed of. This language is not true to the person she is today”
“Shall we move on to AGEISM?! Our oldest member is 29 years old. Some of you think she has a kid too.”
“Men create music until they’re 900 years old and have families and nobody gives a shit about them.”
Judging by the comments, it doesn’t seem like this is going to really help the band’s image. The top response when I read it was, “Can I get the spark notes for this😭” It also seems the Tramp Stamps recently deactivated their Tumblr. Their tag on the site is a MESS.
I’ve seen several posts that appear to have been from the Tramp Stamps. This one actually looks legit. I think there are some other fake ones floating around, though.
For what it’s worth, as someone who has spent a decent amount of time looking at the backlash against the Tramp Stamps, most of the users making videos about the group were young women who identify as queer. Also, just more broadly, if I was accused of being millennial industry plants trying to haphazardly cash in on Gen Z music trends, the last thing I’d want to do is rail against cancel culture in an Instagram post and the ragequit Tumblr. Those are the two most millennial things you can do!
New Meme Dropped
I’ve been seeing the trade offer meme everywhere. Know Your Meme links the trend to an earlier set of videos on Instagram from last year, but the thing that really solidified the format that everyone’s using right now was a TikTok from a user named @bradeazy. He’s been doing a lot of them. Anyway, here’s my favorite.
A Very Old Video Of The Red Letter Media Guy
What’s Old Is New Again
I am utterly fascinated by this post that was shared on r/teenagers earlier this month. Unlike many parts of Reddit, I tend to think r/teenagers has managed to stay somewhat earnest. I do think there are a lot of weird adults in their cosplaying as teens for clout, but, in general, I think it’s a pretty accurate reflection of at least a certain kind of teenager right now. If you click through and read the comments, they’re all very wholesome and supportive, offering suggestions for what other streaming services might look like as people.
I’ve been following how Gen Z has been reimagining meme archetypes, like how doomer wojaks are just Rage Comics. What’s amazing about the streaming services as people post is that it, too, is something we’ve seen before:
There were a lot of attempts in the early 2010s to imagine the internet as people, but this one was definitely the most iconic. It was created by a Tumblr user who now goes by @asmolpeach on Twitter and, for a while, these drawings were everywhere.
I don’t think there’s any large takeaway here other than it’s kind of cool to see a second generation grow up online. It’s a chance to learn what kinds of things are innate to the way we use social media. Apparently, personifying internet services is one of those things! It all just reminds me of one of my favorite internet truisms, which is, “the nature of humanity is just that every so often someone accidentally invents Hetalia again.”
An Intense, But Extremely Correct Appraisal Of “A Thousand Miles”
P.S. here’s a good tweet about curry.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***