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When Twitter Becomes The Whole Internet
Last week, things came to a head in Substack land. If you’re a normal person who isn’t immersed in the oddly dramatic world of online newsletters, here’s a very quick TL;DR. Substack pays some writers an advance to start newsletters. I am not one of them, though, I did apply for a Substack grant last year, which I, also, did not get. Substack will not publicly confirm which writers they’ve given an advance to and said last week they don’t plan to. This program is called Substack Pro. Some of the writers believed to be part of Substack Pro are “controversial” to say the least. The Columbia Journalism Review coined the term “Substackerati” to define this increasingly well-organized group of very influential (and white) columnists who are using Substack newsletters to rage against cancel culture. Many of them also promote a particularly noxious brand of trans skepticism.
There’s been a lot of good writing about the Substack blow up. Dan Hon had a great rundown of the situation. Rusty Foster collected a bunch of the reactions going around Twitter. Casey Newton pointed out that this is not the kind of fight that Substack may want to be in as Facebook and Twitter start launching their own newsletter services. And, finally, Brian Feldman wrote about how much of a bummer it has been to watch Substack pay writers to bring needless Twitter drama over to their platform.
Last week, I suggested that this all may become a moderation problem for the company. Then the readers of some those controversial writers spent several days sending me death threats.
There’s a type of guy. He’s currently his 40s or early 50s. He’s white. He lives in New York, San Fransisco, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or maybe Austin. London, if he’s international. He works in media or technology or venture capital or politics or has worked in all four at some point. He may be a Republican, he may be a Democrat, but he’s wealthy and white enough where there really isn’t a material difference between the two parties for him. He’s the kind of guy who is quietly impressed with Elon Musk, proud that he just doesn’t get TikTok, and thinks he’s too cool for LinkedIn. And for this guy, Twitter is the entire internet.
But this is a problem because Twitter, though it can feel like it sometimes, is not the entire internet. And, increasingly, it’s not where younger tastemakers are really having interesting conversations. But Twitter is one of the last social media platforms that has a fully indexed and searchable directory of its content, so it feels actually more tapped into the zeitgeist than a real search engine like Google. Which is why the Twitter Is Everything Guy loves Twitter. It makes him feel like he understands culture. And these guys are, ostensibly, the ones in charge right now. Which means, any new thing that is deemed important needs to come from Twitter.
This is why I think the recent brouhaha over Substack is, in many ways, the same brouhaha happening around Clubhouse, which is to say, they’re both the same brouhaha that’s been happening around Twitter for at least the last five years. And I think this sort of thing will continue to be a problem for any service or platform that uses Twitter to build a user base. In Substack’s case, it literally uses Twitter for audience building. If you follow me on Twitter, Substack will recommend Garbage Day to you. Clubhouse crawls your Twitter contact list for suggested followers, as well.
And I suspect the drama and infighting happening on these apps is simply the result of taking Twitter users, wholesale, over to new platforms with even less moderation than Twitter has. But, because the worlds of politics, media, and technology are run by and influenced by and financed by Twitter Is Everything Guys, this problem will keep happening. And they will keep making arguments that they’re simply making good business decisions. But are they?
For instance, Clubhouse is still primarily courting a “people who listen to podcasts about Burning Man” user base. But their real core community is black creatives and entrepreneurs. And, while many of the controversial writers that are suspected to be part of the Substack Pro program are hugely popular, the most popular user on Substack is Heather Cox Richardson, a 59-year-old history professor at Boston College. Richardson, as of December, had 350,000 readers on Substack. Her newsletter is on track to earn over $1 million this year.
So, if Clubhouse wanted to optimize, it would be smarter to build features and products for black users. And if Substack wanted to really optimize, they’d recruit more writers like Richardson, who publishes an extremely thoughtful, but very straightforward newsletter about history that’s geared towards middle-aged women.
But you know who’s not going to be very interested in either of those pivots? The Twitter Is Everything Guys. And, at least right now, unfortunately, they make all the rules.
An Incredible TikTok
Grimace Did Have An Irish Uncle But He Wasn’t An IRA Member
Gang, I went down quite a rabbit hole last night. I saw a tweet last night that linked to a McDonald’s Fandom wiki for a character called Uncle O’Grimacey. The character was meant to be Grimace’s Irish uncle. He was briefly featured in a few absolutely cursed commercials in the 70s to promote the Shamrock Shake. Here’s what Uncle O’Grimacey looked like:
So this is all insane, but it gets weirder. On the Uncle O’Grimacey Fandom wiki, there’s a “controversy” section:
In March 1978, Uncle O'Grimacey was involved in an altercation at a pub in Philadelphia after an event to promote the Shamrock Shake. After getting into an argument with another patron, he was quoted as saying, "The only good British soldier is a dead British soldier." Shortly thereafter, an investigation done by the Washington Post unearthed his strong allegiance and membership with the Irish Republican Army. This triggered a massive backlash culminating in a boycott of McDonald's across Great Britain.
McDonald's initially resisted the calls to fire O'Grimacey but eventually caved to pressure from British Parliament in June of 1978.
I had to find out what happened here. So I did some digging. If you search Uncle O’Grimacey, you can find articles saying he was simply retired, but there is also a weird amount of references to some kind of controversy. This Philly Voice story from 2017 says, “Uncle O’Grimacey was let go shortly after because of his controversial ties to the IRA.”
I think I finally figured out how Uncle O’Grimacey became associated with the Irish Republican Army. The Onion published a story in 1997 titled, “Sinn Fein Leaders Demand Year-Round Shamrock Shake Availability”. In the article, Uncle O’Grimacey joins the IRA in their calls for year-round Shamrock Shakes:
In a videotaped statement from an IRA safehouse somewhere near Belfast, Uncle O'Grimacey, the most radical member of the Grimace family, demanded the immediate loosening of Shamrock Shake restrictions throughout Northern Ireland. "Release the shakes to us at once," O'Grimacey said, "or the lives of your children will be forfeit."
McDonald's shake representative Grimace was quick to distance himself from his IRA-member uncle. "All shakes in their time is my watchword, and certain flavors all year," Grimace said. "O'Grimacey is a radical Grimace acting without the approval of the McDonald's corporation."
So, there you go. Grimace has an Irish uncle. He is not part of the IRA.
What Should We Call Weeaboos For Ireland?
I came across this very funny Tumblr thread this morning. The Tumblr user telltaletypist posed a very interesting idea: weebs, but for Ireland.
If you aren’t familiar with the term “weeb,” it’s short for “weeaboo”. The term comes from this Perry Bible Fellowship comic. Thanks to an inside joke on 4chan, it evolved into a catch-all term for white people obsessed with Japan and anime. The term has continued to evolve. “Koreaboos” for fans of K-pop and K-dramas, etc.
I tweeted a screenshot of the weebs but for Ireland Tumblr post and said that this basically defines the entire city of Boston. Then, a Twitter user named @dangnammit quote-tweeted me and used the term “eireboos”. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it’s a thing. I love it.
Happy St Patricks Day to all the eireboos out there. I hope you have a nice day of listening to Dropkick Murphys live albums and explaining to anyone who will listen that the Guinness just tasted better on that one trip to Ireland you went on once.
A Cute Chess Video
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by HarryJ. I, admittedly, had no idea why this was so funny, but Kotaku has a good explainer. It’s a chess meme called the “bongcloud attack:. It’s called that because you’d have to be stoned to try it. Basically, it’s just an incredibly stupid opening chess move.
In the video, grandmaster Magnus Carlsen opens with a bongcloud attack in his match against fellow grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. According to Kotaku, Nakamura has used the bongcloud attack to win competitively before. So that’s probably why he thinks it’s so funny.
Chess grandmasters! They have memes just like we do and they’re just as dumb.
Elon Musk Made An Absolutely God Awful EDM Song About NFTs
Dude, I don’t know.
Skweezy4real Is On TikTok Now
Chances are you’ve seen screenshots of this guy’s posts all over the internet. He goes by Skweezy Jibbs. He’s one of those internet people who have just been at it for a really long time. His Facebook page and Twitter are both really popular and he’s just kept making content. Fun fact: I googled around and apparently his real name is Tim Savage. Here’s a video of him out of character from 2017.
I sort of put this in the same category as Hank Green joining TikTok. It feels like there was this tremendous consolidation of internet culture between 2014-2021, and now that things are opening back up, a lot of familiar faces, ones who survived the great Facebookification of the web, are popping back up again.
An Incredible Michael Winslow Video
New DinoTendies Dropped
Look, I keep doing this. I keep saying, if you click on this, it’s going to be bad. And still, readers click on stuff and then message me and say, “oh wow, that was real bad.” Well I warned you! This is another one of those things.
If you’ve never heard of DinoTendies, he’s a well-known user on 4chan’s cooking board /ck/. (Yes, 4chan has a cooking board, a friend of mine posts her bread pics there sometimes.) DinoTendies’ whole deal is that he lives in a dilapidated squat and makes disgusting food and has a pet possum. There are Imgur folders of some of DinoTendies’ best threads.
This Tweet Rewired My Brain
P.S. here’s a wild thread about Clubhouse.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***