Wow, what a week to take a break! Isn’t that always the way, though? You take some time off from writing about the deranged minutiae of the internet and suddenly one of Twitter’s biggest wokescolds is unmasked as a nepotism hire for a defense contractor.
Seeing as how we’ve missed so much important garbage over the last week, I’m going to forgo the normal format and just dive right in. Let’s see what one week on the internet in 2022 looks like in its entirety, shall we?
To spin through the two biggest “news” “stories” of last week, Ana Mardoll, a prominent social justice account and YA fiction content cop accidentally revealed that he not only worked at Lockheed Martin, but worked there because members of his family also work there. This is one of those truly incredible moments of internet lore and, frankly, I’m glad I got to experience it as a civilian, just following along with all of you.
Mardoll has led a bunch of messy online campaigns over the years, but you may remember him from the “reading is ableist” discourse which kicked off earlier this month. Mardoll tweeted that he was leaving Twitter after the Lockhead Martin news broke, but his account is still live, so there’s always a chance he could tweet again someday.
Then, quickly coming off the back of that, Twitter users discovered an Instagram user named Mary Catherine Starr, who posts under the name @momlife_comics. She published a cartoon about peaches that broke everyone’s brains for a while. Most of her comics are about how much she, a mom, sacrifices for her family, while her husband is a lazy selfish idiot. The comics, both the aesthetics of them and the content, were created specifically to do well on Instagram. When that content was pulled over on to Twitter, a website with vastly different incentives, people freaked out.
A common refrain from users dunking on the comics was that Starr didn’t have to choose to live like this — all of her posts depict a wildly grim sense of domestic martyrdom where she singlehandedly has to care for her husband and kids. But if you go check out her actual account you can see exactly how growth-hacky these comics are. The images themselves are overwhelmingly negative towards her husband. Which is good for likes. But the captions are long missives about how much she loves her husband and how the comics don’t accurately reflect how much he helps out the family. What she’s actually doing is choosing to contort her life into something that could be “relatable” to other Instagram users, which I would argue is sadder.
If you can understand that tweet, maybe it's you that needs a vacation, my friend.
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CPAC last week was a big vector for both videos of elderly fascists cheering on the end of American democracy and also a lot of disinformation. Just to clear things up: Blaire White, a trans right-wing YouTuber, did not shit herself at CPAC due to lack of access to a proper restroom, but a man in a fake jail cell wearing a MAGA hat did cry for a while. Also, Alex Jones’ media empire may be coming to an extremely satisfying end, but he was nice enough to give us one last meme.
Speaking of authoritarian governments who love to post, Facebook's former chief security officer Alex Stamos thinks that platforms should suspend official government or state-media accounts affiliated with countries that "block normal citizens from access" to those platforms, like China or Russia. I'm actually a bit of an extremist about this and think no official government accounts should exist at all on private social networks. But seeing as how the Twitter account for the Russian Embassy in the UK is using the platform to advocate for the killing of Ukrainian prisoners of war, maybe Stamos’ idea is a good first step. Regardless, it’s definitely much more coherent than the one that the New York Times published last week.
The Times piece argues that congress could use Social Security numbers to block people under 18 from using the internet. It's a confounding and wildly naive piece and it's actually sort of a head-scratcher as to why it was published at all. Well, not really. The piece's author, conservative political analyst Yuval Levin, accidentally shows his hand towards the end, writing, "Real age verification would also make it possible to more effectively restrict access to online pornography — a vast, dehumanizing scourge that our society has inexplicably decided to pretend it can do nothing about." Which, I guess, answers any questions you may have had about whether or not the New York Times Opinion section is still waging its bizarre culture war against pornography and sex work.
Oh, also, fun fact, while I was in Italy all of Russia Today's tweets were unreadable. They just looked like this in my timeline:
HBO Max is imploding, which is a shame. I thought it was one of the only streaming services out there that seemed to understand the right ratio of weird bottom-barrel fandom content, premium water-cooler shows, and the kind of movies you'd watch either hungover or on a plane (or both, I suppose). Reddit's r/movies subreddit is furious about the dismantling of the platform and the r/boxoffice subreddit, which apparently has beef with r/movies, thinks that's funny.
Beyond HBO Max inflicting further torment upon the adult men who want to watch Joker movies, awful internet men are also upset that the new Predator movie, Prey, is too woke because the majority of its cast are indigenous. As writer Brandon Streussnig tweeted, "Trying to do 'a woman can’t beat the predator' discourse these days feels like the last gasps of 2010s internet. No reason to really pay it much attention, there’s 500 YouTube channels nobody’s watching where this stuff has gone to die. Incel retirement community."
I'm not sure I agree — if anything I think this stuff is getting stickier and more pervasive. In fact, right now packs of internet men are ranting about wokeness in Prey, Netflix’s Sandman, Amazon’s new Lord Of The Rings, and a bunch of other fandom properties that dare to have a woman or person of color speak lines of dialogue. But I do like the phrase "incel retirement community" a lot.
Anyways, Prey absolutely rips (so does Sandman) and the men who are upset about it live in a miserable psychic prison of their own making. Also, in a strange quirk of platform economics, I watched Prey while I was in Italy, which meant it was on Disney+, not Hulu. I know it makes sense for the Disney monopoly’s content library to live on one platform, but man was it weird watching a Predator movie on Disney+.
But fandom drama doesn’t just happen around scifi movies anymore, though. The band Blink-182 had their own little QAnon-style frenzy hit a fever pitch last week. Fans have thought for a while now that they were connecting dots that seemed to point towards the band's original guitarist Tom DeLonge going back on tour with the band (and maybe even recording something). Things got ugly when it started to look like that wasn't happening and people actually started yelling at Mark Hoppus in the band's fan Discord. Don't yell at Mark Hoppus!!!
Speaking of platforms slowly being dismantled, the most popular Facebook post in the entire world last week was from a page called "Like if you love minions" and according to Australian journalist Cameron Wilson, it's run by a former cop from Guyana who now works as an email marketer. I'm shocked Meta doesn't want to invest more money in this excellent content ecosystem.
Oh well, they've got bigger projects they're working on right now, like the Blender AI they released that is just as spiritually rotten as you'd expect a machine trained on Facebook content would be. It already told the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Horwitz that Trump is still president and will be for the foreseeable future. Well, if Meta’s forays into artificial intelligence don't pan out, at least they can always fall back on monetizing genocide, which they're still doing.
But you know what is a real cool use of AI? This artist, @ai_curio, who uses an AI to make album art.
Before we leave the world of artificial intelligence, The Information's Sam Lessin made a super fascinating argument about why the Kardashians are so upset about Instagram becoming TikTok. Lessin argues, correctly in my opinion, that the Kardashians are essentially people who get paid to make a social feed of friends more entertaining. They’re virtual friends that do stuff that’s more interesting than your real friends. And in a world of TikTok-esque feeds of content sorted by an AI and produced by a user base trained to mindlessly chase memes and trends, the Kardashians start to feel a little boring.
When I was a kid, I once downloaded a thing called a Bonzai Buddy. It was an annoying purple monkey cartoon thing that danced around your deskstop, said dumb stuff, and filled up the family computer with spyware. I think I would have uninstalled it pretty quick regardless, but the entire concept felt especially silly when I started using AOL Instant Messenger relatively soon after because I could suddenly use the internet to interact with real people. Anyways, what I’m saying is if you’re an influencer who isn’t interested in doing viral party games dictated to you by a Chinese artificial intelligence, well, I’d say you might end up like that cartoon monkey.
Beyond making the Kardashians irrelevant, TikTok is also now pivoting into becoming a search engine. Here's a good thread on that. While on vacation in Italy, my girlfriend and I noticed that a lot of young women were wearing the exact same very specific black cowboy boots. This was notable because it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit even at night and also I was in a beach town. So I searched TikTok and found the exact boots everyone was wearing. I assume that as TikTok becomes better for search and discovery, culture around the world will continue to both fracture, globalize, and accelerate to such a degree that entire movements in art, music, fashion, and even language will soon speed by in a matter of hours. Sounds fun.
Elsewhere on the app, an Italian uncle got real mad about a date. A Porta Potty became the TURDIS, piloted by Doctor Loo. Click the link, you'll get it. And the Omegaverse got banned from the platform and I had to learn that fact via this meme. Oh, also, there was a Waluigi bachelorette party.
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We don't have time to get into it today, but I'm beginning to see reports that the Alabama sorority rush is starting again. So keep your eyes peeled for that, folks.
And, finally, I thought I'd have more crypto stuff in here, but that whole scene is sputtering really hard right now. But there was a bunch of drama last week around Helium, the blockchain-enabled hotspot app that got a lot of goodwill from tech journalists because its pitch was always confusing and vague: "People will get paid in crypto to power WiFi" or whatever. Well, it turns out it's kind of terrible and none of its investors like it and think it sucks and also it was lying about working with Salesforce and Lime. Also, things with the blockchain-based Pokémon-knockoff Axie Infinity keep getting darker and sadder.
Alright, let’s wrap things up with a few stray bits: JER, the band started by YouTuber creator Skatune Network, was featured on hate5six, which, for some of you, will be utterly earth-shaking news, and for others, complete gibberish. I wrote a big piece about the app BeReal. And Bob Odenkirk is no longer following the perfect_feet_in_shoes Instagram account.
P.S. here’s a good tweet about Montana.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
That Lockheed tweet would have made a great “Yes yes no” segment on reply all.
Ok this was fantastic and as a subscriber can I just say that I would absolutely *love* a weekly subscriber-only email in this format. “All the garbage you missed” would be amazing. Please?