Coolness is just scarcity

Read to the end for the ungodly beast emerging from his wretched lair

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On Industry Plants…

Last month, GQ published what ended up being a bit of a controversial take, titled, “The End Of Merch”. And it argues that we effectively stepped out of pandemic lockdown and into a world where merch — or the clothing we once used to signify our various subcultural allegiances — no longer matters or even really exists.

“The most fundamental dynamic behind the end of merch is this: We once got excited to see other people wearing our interests on our sleeves,” the essay reads. “And then it began to terrify us.”

But as I said, the piece was controversial. And not just because GQ was using it to literally advertise their own branded merch lol. It seemed to resonate quite a bit with middle-aged men who loved the idea that, no, it is actually the children who are wrong. Meanwhile, writers like Kim Kelly and Niko Stratis were quick to poke a few holes in it. “Normies are so interesting. The ‘end’ of merch! I cannot imagine just… not wearing band shirts anymore. What else is there to even wear,” Kelly wrote.

And Stratis was particularly astute here, writing, “The ‘merch is over’ idea also feels like it stems from the tendrils of monoculture that feels particularly insidious right now, the minute you start to create rules and boundaries around ideas, subcultures cease to exist and everything becomes a branding exercise that can’t last.”

All that said, I do think there is something weird happening to the way we understand subcultures. These communities, of course, still exist. There are punks and metalheads and hippies and queer kids and weebs and ravers and all the rest. And, thanks to the internet, there are more sub- and sub-subcultures than ever, with platforms like TikTok generating new ones every day. But, also, thanks to the internet, the barrier for entry into these communities has, effectively, been eliminated. You can go consume their respective lore on Reddit or YouTube, pop over to Amazon or Hot Topic, grab some gear, and off you go.

When I was a teenager in the 2000s, I could use the internet to get a sense of what was happening with a music scene or a fashion trend or a fandom, sure. But then I’d have to experience the mortifying ordeal of test-driving my new identity in a physical space among an in-group that, at least I assumed at the time, had not had to use Wikipedia and message boards to educate themselves (they probably did). In fact, I acutely remember going to my first concerts and first comic conventions and being somewhat anxious that I had interpreted the rules correctly.

And in the 2010s this dynamic flipped. The internet slowly began to matter more than physical spaces and eventually everyone knew the same stuff. At the time, I saw this access to community as something universally positive. I remember going to concerts in the middle of the decade and just feeling lighter thanks to the absence of gatekeepers, real or imaginary. I had a particularly profound moment at an American Football reunion show at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn around 2014 where I realized, oh we’re all on the same websites. But now that Gen Z is firmly in the driver’s seat of culture, this is becoming something of a funny problem.

Gen Z is still establishing what they want and what they care about, and no attempts at generalizing a generation are ever perfect, but it does seem to be the case that in the same way millennials loved relatable, mass-appeal content, Gen Z is at least curious about bringing back niche coolness. (Remember, the bulk of the attendees for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour are millennial women.)

But you can’t have coolness without gatekeeping. Because coolness, in many ways, is just scarcity. And you can’t really create scarcity without gatekeepers. So how do you bring back scarcity to the world that millennials built to kill it? Well, the answer is: It’s hard and, currently, it’s actually kind of a mess.

For instance, take this recent post from an X account called @thecasualultra. It’s a fairly big account that covers soccer hooligans. For some bizarre reason — well not that bizarre, but we’ll get to that in a second — it broke theme last week to complain that “the Adidas obsession has gone mainstream now.” It shared a video of women in London wearing Adidas shoes, writing, “the amount of girls wearing them has gone through the roof.” This is a patently absurd thing to say, that Adidas has “gone mainstream,” but it’s not an accident that this account is so fixated on what young women are seemingly suddenly wearing. Young women are always the first victims of coolness.


But the best example of how scrambled these new attempts at gatekeeping have become is the reaction to the swift ascent of singer Chappell Roan. I wrote last week about the conspiracy theory that Roan is somehow an “industry plant”. And another post pushing the claim went viral on X just yesterday. Though, the user who wrote it did us all a huge favor and fought with people in the replies and exposed that they don’t actually understand what an “industry plant” is and also don’t seem to understand how musicians got popular pre-2012.

I’ll spare you the history of the “industry plant,” but the artists that are almost always accused of being one are usually just women trying to enter one of these subcultural spaces. If they aren’t successful, it’s cringe. If they are, they must be an interloper. Gen Z seems to be unaware that their favorite classic rock band Paramore battled “industry plant” accusations for years. But accusing Roan of being one is especially funny, seeing as how her entire career has played out on social media and you can literally scroll back and watch her build an audience in real time. I’m not even her target demographic and I had seen a couple of her videos before she blew up. Which is really the point here.

I get the desire to want something new. There were plenty of things about peak millennial culture I found annoying or embarrassing. But to try and make access to culture somehow scarce again while we’re all still using the internet is, at best, silly and, at worst, delusional. Oh, you heard about something before everyone else? Well, unless you saw it on a flyer somewhere, all that means is you were looking at the right feed at the right time. And, at this point, there aren’t any feeds left that aren’t run by some massive corporation, pumping exactly what they think you want at you. So, tell me, who is the industry plant in this situation?

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Instagram Can’t Get Enough Of The Dirt Man

I saw this on X over the weekend and got curious about what this actually is. It’s from an Instagram account called Urban America Horror and it’s using AI-generated images and audio to animate weird creepypasta stories. Honestly, seeing as how creepypasta are all just recycled slop anyways, this seems like a good fit for AI.

Speaking of horrifying uncanny valley AI videos…

New Awful AI Video Dropped

This video was generated by Luma AI, which launched a new model called Dream Machine, which turns text prompts and images into short video clips. This example, contrary to what the post above says, is awful. But, yes, it is better than what I’ve seen from these platforms.

If you’re wondering why the guy sharing this video thinks it looks good it’s because he’s the founder of AInfinite TV, a YouTube channel that generates AI video 24-hours a day. I went to check out what they were streaming and, for a while, I was the only viewer lmao. Probably should have used Family Guy characters, I guess.

This is a good place to drop a reminder that the AI industry is in a serious time crunch. As theoretically impressive as this tech is, if the companies building these models, as well as the companies built on top of them, can’t figure out something people actually want from this technology soon, the whole thing is going to go bust. If the AI boom was the pandemic crypto market, we’d be in 2021 right now.

Three Curious X Updates

First, users have noticed a glitch where if you post a specific aerial photo from of the cars left behind after the Nova Music Festival terror attack, X’s Community Notes will automatically generate a massive warning. The glitch does not look at what you’ve written in your post, however, which means users are posting things like “pee is stored in the balls,” and automatically getting flagged with a Community Note that reads, “this was already debunked in November last year by basically every major news source.” Not ideal, probably.

Next up, users have started using the Miiverse “Yeah” picture instead of liking posts. This is a good lesson about moderation, actually. If you tell users that you are trying to reduce spam that will only create new, more elaborate vectors for spam.

And, finally, X is tracking what it thinks you’re interested in. This seems to be affecting what shows up in your For You tab. It’s under “privacy and safety” in your settings. It doesn’t seem to be very good, though. X thinks I’m interested in on two topics, apparently, “Colin Kapernick” and “Marvel Universe”. And it says that my account is known for Premier League Football.

Shane Gillis Bombs Hot Ones

Gillis’ Hot Ones appearance is actually so bad that his subreddit is complaining about it. I watched it this morning and it’s surprisingly terrible. It seemed like he was nervous about how spicy the wings would be? idk man, if you’re entire public persona is being a giant schlub that’s funny on podcasts, you’d think you’d actually try and muscle through a chicken wing talk show.

A Redditor Has A Relationship Problem


This post on r/relationship_advice has gotten a lot of pick up this week. Even British tabloids are getting in on the aggregation game. The TL;DR is that a guy’s girlfriend shouted out “Ben 10” while hooking up with him. For those not born in the micro-generation between millennials and Gen Z, Ben 10 was a Cartoon Network show.

Most of the commenters are convinced the girlfriend was lying about having a Ben 10 fetish and is actually having some kind of affair with a guy named Ben. But there is also a small, but vocal portion of the commenters that said they had a crush on Danny Phantom, so anything’s possible.

If Disturbed Covered Shaggy


#disturbed #shaggy #itwasntme #90s #2000s #rock #metal #mashup

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