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Who Are The People In The Trend Pieces?
This morning, Roberto Aram Ferdman, a writer for VICE, noticed a very interesting detail in a recent New York Times piece about Billie Ellish’s new look. “The New York Times published an article about how some people don't like that Billie Eilish Vogue cover,” Ferdman tweeted. “And the entire thing hinges on one person (bot?) who didn't like it: a Twitter user with 3 followers who joined the platform in December and has only tweeted in English once.”
The NYT piece, titled, “On That Bombshell Billie Eilish Cover for British Vogue” has a subhed directly beneath it that reads, “The pop star known for defying gender stereotypes got a glamour makeover with a corset. Not everyone is happy about it.”
The “not everyone” in the piece is illustrated by one negative comment, from a Twitter user named @jetztissesraus, who, on May 2, tweeted, “**before: unique, different, a class of her own ** after: mainstream, exchangeable, slick and polished Why????”
And, yes, @jetztissesraus tweets almost exclusively in German and has 3 followers. For what it’s worth, though, I don’t think they’re a bot. Many of their recent tweets appear to be them livetweeting the long-running German police procedural called Tatort. I’m not sure how they became the NYT’s key Billie Ellish dissenter, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because they tagged their Ellish tweet with the hashtags #BillieEilishvogue #Billie #BillieEilish.
Based on an extremely basic search for “Billie Ellish” on Twitter, @jetztissesraus is in the minority. The reactions to Ellish’s Vogue cover have been overwhelmingly positive. Even among the thornier, more tribal parts of stan Twitter, people seem genuinely excited for her to be changing up her style.
A random German user being quoted in the Times in 2021 is, honestly, wild. Outlets randomly including unvetted Twitter chatter in their trend pieces is exactly how accounts created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency ended up getting quoted and embedded in most mainstream American news outlets between 2015-2018. We know this is one of the main ways that bad faith actors amplify their trolling operations. It’s also a dumb, yet succinct and extremely useful example of a larger shift in culture that has happened over the last year.
Why are we writing stories about whether or not “people like” Ellish’s blonde hair? How is there any value to that? We firmly do not live in a monoculture anymore. Even memes are splintering off in thousands of directions now. Americans don’t watch the same shows or movies, rarely experience the same music, and, for the most part, exist in vastly different parts of the internet. As a result, if you want, you can go online and find someone saying literally anything. My friend Alan sent me a video this morning of young mom who believes her baby should be able to eat “sticks, rocks, dirt, sand, and unsanitized shopping carts.” I didn’t know that was a thing, but, also, of course it is. You want to find people who hate Billie Ellish’s blonde hair? Commenters on 4chan’s /pol/ were calling her a “Lady Gaga clone,” among other more horrible things, earlier this week. Does quoting them in your trend piece feel like a weird thing to do? Then why is it any less weird to amplify a random person on Twitter?
Yes, cultural trends still happen and it’s worth writing about them, but the days of some kind of top-down cultural consensus are over. We’re also no longer in an era of randomly viral chaos — our former Gangnam Style world. Instead, we live in bubbles and those bubbles have influencers and identities and content cycles. The Billie Ellish stans might love her new hair, but the Lana Del Rey stans might think she’s cheugy, while the BTS fans think it’s lame to call things cheugy.
The Oversight Board Sorta Kinda Almost Makes A Decision About Trump
Look, I’m not going to mince words here. Everything about the Facebook Oversight Board’s Trump decision is wildly tedious. On Monday, I wrote that the Board was basically a safe way for Facebook to define its borders and sovereignty. It’s the first step towards Facebook reimagining itself as a nationstate.
This morning, the Board ruled that Trump would not get his account back, but also, Facebook has six months to determine whether the former president is banned for good. Or, put another way:
The Oversight Board says that Facebook has six months to make some kind of final decision on Trump’s account. Though, all of this is made up and there is literally no way for the Oversight Board to make Facebook do anything, so this is all just a very fun way for everyone to play model UN.
Also, Trump released a statement this morning, and, interestingly enough, did not mention Facebook. Look, I am just going to put this out there — there’s a good chance that he literally does not give a shit about getting his Facebook page back. Facebook can’t give him what he wants, which is a way to instantaneously harass and ridicule celebrities and journalists. He can really only get that kind of fix from Twitter and Twitter CFO Ned Segal told Yahoo! Finance this week that he is still very much banned for life.
In fact, Trump craves the immediacy of Twitter so much that he’s built a Twitter feed on his website:
If you want to read more about how the Oversight Board came up with their brave and innovative decision to, uh, not really make a decision, the board’s content director, Eli Sugarman, has a Twitter thread about it. Snark aside, from a moderation standpoint, I actually find the Oversight Board’s process more interesting than the actual results.
And, finally, it wouldn’t be a Trump-related social media hullabaloo, without some good right-wing self owns. Charlie Kirk thinks the Supreme Court should step and do “overturn” the Oversight Board ruling. First, what ruling lol. And second, guess what, they did. Twice. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2018.
And, my favorite leftist, Ted Cruz, argued that we need to stop “Big Tech oligarchs” from silencing us. I agree, comrade. It’s time to unionize tech workers and use antitrust legislation to create a fairer playing field. Very good idea, Mr. Cruz, thank you.
Jake Paul Claims He FaceTimed With Trump
I figured in the 24 hours since Jake Paul posted a screenshot of a possible FaceTime with Trump, we’d get at least a little bit more of the story? But no. It seems like this is just one of those things that’s going to come and go without any real explanation. What is probably the funniest part of this though is that the Trump FaceTime screenshot wasn’t even worth its own Instagram post. Paul included it in a carousel of other stuff he’s done in the last two weeks lol. And it wasn’t even the first picture!
My favorite take on both Trump’s possible Jake Paul FaceTime and the former president’s new not-Twitter feed was from Refinery29’s Lydia Wang, who wrote, “Florida Man Starts A Blog & Befriends Jake Paul In Desperate Attempt To Stay Relevant”.
Clubhouse Continues To Fade Away
Some new data out this week paints a VERY grim picture for Clubhouse. Downloads have been dropping for a while, but it seems pretty dire over there right now. It’s still unclear how this bodes for the entire market of “live social audio” products that are popping up everywhere right now. But I think we can probably safely say that starting an invite-only app that initially only works on Apple and aggressively courts a LinkedIn grustle demographic, while largely ignoring the black creators that were actually trying to make your app cool, is probably not a good strategy for launching a social network!
Signal Tries To Advertise On Facebook
Signal, fresh off their recent adventures in hacking a message decryption device regularly used by law enforcement to search people’s phones, are back with a brand new troll campaign. Yesterday, the encrypted messaging company published a blog post, titled, “The Instagram ads Facebook won't show you”. Here’s what one of the ads looked like:
According to the blog post, they purchased Instagram ads which then listed the targeting information for the users that would then see the ad. “Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used,” Signal’s post read. “Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.”
Their ad account was disabled when they tried to run the ads, Signal said.
Well, Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications director, tweeted that Signal never actually tried to run the ads. Facebook then put out a full statement saying that if Signal had tried to run the ads, a few of them would have been rejected because that “assert that you have a specific medical condition or sexual orientation.” Though, advertisers can use that to target you?
But wait! There’s more. Signal then fired back, saying, no, the screenshots were real and their account was disabled. Then, finally, Joe Osborne, who does corporate communications at Facebook, tweeted that the ads were not what was rejected, but that Signal’s account was “briefly disabled” for an unrelated payments issue.
Anyways, at no point in all of this back and forth did anyone from Facebook say that any of the targeting options Signal focused their ads on were untrue or not real.
Cool Crab Game
I’ve seen this game on my Tumblr dashboard a lot recently. It’s a third-person shooter where you play as a crab with a gun. Seems chill. If the gun crab seems familiar, the game was created by Noisestorm, the same studio that gave the world the Crab Rave video. Fun fact: A Crab Rave edit was how I learned Prince Philip died.
Sign ups for the Crab Champions beta is now open on Steam and you can request access here.
An Interesting Meme
The bottom image there, by the way, was recently tweeted by North Carolina congressman David Rouzer. He wrote, “This is what happens when you extend unemployment benefits for too long and add a $1400 stimulus payment to it. Right when employers need workers to fully open back up, few can be found.”
Anyways, here’s a good related tweet:
Things Are Getting Weird In The Fragrance Fandom
It seems like a lot has happened to Jeremy Fragrance since I wrote about him last month. Fragrance, who is now also going by his real name Daniel Schütz, released a pretty troubling and confusing video called “My Gay Past.” In the video, which is over seven minutes long, he addresses, somewhat indirectly, several rumors or allegations that have been floating around social media about him. At one point, he claims that a woman “sued him for rape” and that he and a “gay friend” made up a story to protect himself from the allegations.
As one commenter wrote, “Jeremy, I love your channel, but .... I have no fucking idea what you've talked about for these 7 minutes! :') I got so many questions! Tell us more!”
I’ve seen some Pastebins of the allegations about him being shared by Reddit users on the r/fragrance and r/fragrancecirclejerk subreddits. But it seems like r/fragrancecirclejerk users are just as confused about what this new video is meant to be about. Also, last week, he posted a video on Instagram about his morning routine that is EXTREMELY odd, even for him. At one point, he goes very in-depth about trying to find a girlfriend in Miami.
It’s all getting very strange, folks.
V-Tubers Have Officially Arrived
Netflix’s anime YouTube channel launched its own V-Tuber (virtual anime girl streamer). Her name is N-ko. My friend Julia has a great write-up about N-Ko over at IGN. Regardless of what you think about V-Tubers, the fact that a company like Netflix is throwing some resources behind starting one of their own is a big deal! My favorite comment on N-ko’s video:
“Serious question for N-Ko: Does liking Beastars make me a furry? This question is very important.”
P.S. here’s a tweet that will age you a thousand years.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***