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Kayfabe content and podcasts that don't exist
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The Viral “Nut” Podcast Clip Isn’t From An Actual Podcast
So, over the weekend, I wrote about the curious rise of podcast clips that come from shows that don’t actually exist. Essentially, there are a bunch of content creators — mostly weird Gen Z hustlebros — who set up a microphone and talk into it as if it were a podcast and then turn the footage into short TikTok clips. My theory is that the podcast mic during the time of COVID has evolved into a visual signal of importance, sort of like how during the era of peak TED Talk, a bunch of guys would film themselves on stages, add some inspirational music, and then post it to Facebook. If there’s a mic in front of you, I assume the logic goes, it means you’re important enough to record.
Well, this week I have been followed around the internet by this extremely graphic video of a woman describing how she would sexually satisfy her hypothetical husband six-to-seven times a day. The video has been retweeted thousands of times and viewed tens of millions of times and there’s also a viral TikTok audio of it that people are dueting. And so I got curious. Does this podcast actually exist?
The video has no watermark, which I thought was interesting. Nor does it ever show who this woman is talking to. And, in the comments, no one was mentioning where it came from. Nor was anyone naming the woman in it. It turns out there’s a very funny reason as to why, but let’s go through the steps here.
TikTok search is a lot better than it used to be, so I tried searching specific lines from the video in the app, which I’m sure has completely broken my TikTok algorithm and put me on some sort of watchlist. But all that did was just pull up a lot of remixes of this same clip. Then I tried screenshotting it and putting it into Google’s reverse image search. But Google image search is totally broken now and all that did as give me a list of Twitter accounts retweeting this version of the clip.
I finally stumbled across a TikTok user who shared the clip with the caption, “where she at?” And someone in the comments @’d an account that didn’t belong to the woman, but aggregated her videos. It appears her official TikTok account has been banned or taken down, which may explain why it was so hard to find her. The reason it was banned is most likely because she’s a pornstar and regularly posts pretty graphic content.
Her name is Victoria Banxx and she has around 1.9 million followers on Instagram, which is where this clip originated from. And she has a few other clips, all framed in a similar style. But, best as I can tell, there is no actual podcast. It’s just these clips. Also, this may come as a surprise, but the clip that people on Twitter are taking somewhat seriously or, at least, at face value, in the context of her other videos, seems like a bit.
And Banxx’s social media presence is interesting because this isn’t the only piece of what I’ll call “kayfabe content” that she’s making. She has also posted clips of her doing man-on-the-street interviews that also aren’t real or come from any larger production. A lot of the faux-viral content she’s making is just to advertise her OnlyFans.
To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with staging a podcast to make viral clips. And there’s certainly nothing new about the uncanny meta-reality of porn and it’s connection to viral media. But there is a larger, darker trend that I think the popularity of this video is tied to, which is the dunking-on-women-in-podcasts content economy. Here’s a recent example of what I’m talking about. There’s an entire universe of post-Andrew Tate “sexuality and relationships” podcasts that put young women in front of microphones, ask them outrageous questions, turn it into viral clips, and let audiences tear them apart. The podcast I linked to even has a “casting” process for finding new guests.
The punchline, of course, about the video above is that, at least in this specific instance, it’s a woman doing it to herself and then using it to promote her OnlyFans. Which I think is better? At least from a monetization standpoint.
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Alright, I’ll Bite, What’s An Indictment?
We have officially entered a nightmarish discourse vortex following the announcement of the indictment of Trump last night. We still don’t know what he was indicted for, but it seems like we’ll have more info by next Tuesday. As the world waits to see if ol’ Donny Trump can wiggle his way out of this one, we also now have to wait and see if conservatives will attempt a second insurrectionist protest movement. As I wrote a few weeks ago, much of the digital infrastructure that was used to organize the last one no longer works the same way. And there’s the issue of Trump being in Florida and being indicted in New York, so a geographic focus is tougher to agree upon. I also saw someone make the interesting point that, unlike when protesters headed to Washington in 2021, it’s a lot harder to drive into Manhattan from out of town and find a place to park.
In terms of bad discourse, you can really pick your poison, whether it’s Fox News pundits shrieking about George Soros, liberal pundits shrieking about looming 4chan psyops, or centrists shrieking about how our “democracy is being tested”. Though, as for that last one, I thought this short video explainer by Semafor about other democracies that have indicted their leaders was really good. Makes you wonder if, perhaps, instead of setting a dangerous precedent, the indictment of a former leader is actually, maybe, just a sign of a maturing political structure.
Twitter Revenue Is Way Way Down
It is impossibly hard to keep track of where we are when it comes to what Twitter is planning, what it has announced, what it has retracted, and what it’s even currently doing. I suppose one could argue this is some 5D chess business strategy, but I think the simplest answer is always the best bet, which, in this case, i that Elon Musk doesn’t knows what he’s doing nor is currently operating a business structure that would allow anyone who does to help him.
On Monday, I wrote about the newest announcements regarding Twitter Blue:
On April 1st, legacy verified accounts will be “winding down”
On April 15th, only verified accounts will be included in the For You tab’s recommendations
And, apparently, today, Twitter’s algorithm is going “open source”. I am not waiting around to publish this to find out if that actually happens or not because, honestly, who cares.
But there are a whole bunch of asterisks and caveats there. Musk has since clarified that the For You tab will also include people you follow. Most major news publishers have announced they won’t be paying for Twitter Blue. Twitter says it will now “exempt” up to 10,000 companies and organizations from paying for Twitter Blue. Twitter’s source code was already leaked to Github and the company then subpoenaed Github over it, ordering the site to identify the user. And, most importantly, Bloomberg is reporting that revenue from the site’s top 10 advertisers has dropped almost 90% in the last two months.
Chasing Down Another Contextless TikTok Video
This is weirdly similar, in terms of thematic content, to the fake-podcast clip above, but tells a slightly different story about online context collapse. I first saw this controversial wedding vows exchange in the video in the tweet above. Though, the video, itself, is a clip from a user named @gemma2e dueting the original TikTok video, which was posted by a wedding photographer that goes by @lensculture. I’m unclear if @lensculture was the wedding photographer that actually shot the wedding or not, but either way, I’m not sure blowing up a couple’s wedding is a good way to advertise your services.
The video went so viral the bride actually had to reply to @lensculture’s video and also post a video defending her husband’s (very bad) vows. She’s also currently using the video’s virality to sell vibrators. And just in case you wanted some more psychic damage, all of this apparently happened at a Harry Potter-themed wedding barn wedding.
Look, if a cringe Snape wife wants to have a lame Pinterest wedding with her misogynist soyjak Reddit husband I actually don’t think that needs to be a trending topic. I’m sure they’re a fun couple to go to Buffalo Wild Wings with. And if it was her actual wedding photographer that kicked all of this off in the first place, I would literally consider suing him for emotional distress. Though, I suppose using said distress to sell sex toys complicates things. But I honestly just don’t think we’re meant to live this much in public. Weddings, like most big moments in people’s lives, are weird and personal and complicated and probably not really meant for this level of mass consumption.
Hopefully, the US government will do the right thing and take this technology away from us (jk lol).
That AI Letter…
There’s been a flurry of panicky AI warnings published this month that I think are somewhat overstated and, in some cases, belying some ulterior movements. Here are the four most notable ones:
“You Can Have the Blue Pill or the Red Pill, and We’re Out of Blue Pills” in the New York Times, by Tristan Harris, Aza Raskin, and Yuval Harari
“Why Are We Letting the AI Crisis Just Happen?” in The Atlantic by Gary Marcus
“Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter” by the Future Of Life Institute
“Pausing AI Developments Isn't Enough. We Need to Shut it All Down” in TIME by Eliezer Yudkowsky
As far as the first two are concerned, I think they’re just a little bit much. And, personally, as someone who really liked his book Homo Deus, I was surprised that Harari was involved in a piece about AI that was that bombastic.
In the case of the Future of Life’s open letter, I think it’s notable that its major signatories include many heads of AI firms in direct competition with OpenAI, along with Elon Musk, who, through Tesla, is also the head of an AI company, I suppose. And as far as Yudkowsky’s goes, I think it was downright irresponsible for TIME to have published it, considering how he openly advocates for the military destruction of any country that does not agree to a “multinational agreement” on a worldwide moratorium on training new AI models.
Anyways, maybe I’m just a big pessimist, but I just don’t think there’s much we can do about the “AI crisis”. It’s just going to happen. And I think it’s actually very funny that all of these guys (once again, all guys, curious) are imagining some kind of organized global consensus even being possible with regards to something as complicated as the definition of artificial intelligence as we barrel our way into the third year of a still-very-much happening pandemic that people still can’t even agree on how to deal with.
I just don’t think there’s any world where humanity comes together to deal with this stuff, which means any advocacy for it is doomed to end in geopolitical conflict and, man, I just don’t think the invention of a slightly better autocomplete app is worth World War 3.
A Gen Z Breakup
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Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good crab video.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***