Meatball Ron Wants You To Stop Making Soyjaks Of His Face
Last week, ABC News published a piece teasing that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis might formally announce his presidential run next month. But further down the article there was a passage that got a lot of attention on Twitter:
Still, sources said the governor's strategy heading into the debates will be more focused on introducing the governor on a national stage rather than getting into a sparring match with the former president. However, the team has been paying close attention to how to help manage the governor's facial reactions in the upcoming debate, sources said.
Or, as Twitter user @ettingermentum wrote, “KEEP POSTING THE RONJAK THEY’VE SEEN IT THEY’RE AFRAID”. To be clear, “ronjak” refers to images like this:
As I see it, there has been one overwhelming question at the heart of American politics since basically 2015. And though most people have, at least, personally, decided what they think the answer is, the truth is that we still don’t totally know. The question is whether the memes made Trump or Trump made the memes. Could another right-wing candidate use Trump’s campaign playbook to become president? Or was it all simply a natural extension of Trump’s very specific cult of personality?
And the inability to really, truly know the answer to this question has, to use the right’s own parlance here, absolutely cucked DeSantis.
From the very beginning of Meatball Ron’s political ascendence, he has been defined both by Trump and in opposition to him. There’s no better example of this than the “Make America Florida” tagline that started going viral back in 2021. But you can also clearly see DeSantis trying to emulate Trump by picking a fight with Disney and passing insane moral panic legislation in step with headlines from right-wing media. But, as perfectly captured by DeSantis’ team’s fear of his weird self-conscious face inspiring memes, DeSantis isn’t Trump and has no idea how to be Trump and seems to be missing a fundamental understanding of what Trump was even doing and why.
The best way to describe Trump’s specific kind of Memepolitik is as a constant erratic strongman chest-thumping shielded by an unflappable obliviousness. He would say stuff that young conservatives could turn into memes and then he would almost never acknowledge it. Not only would Trump and Trump’s team have never let it leak out that he was concerned that people were making soyjaks of him, it wouldn’t even be clear he knew what a meme was. And during the times where he did interact with internet culture — like when he retweeted racist shit from Reddit or brought a bunch of fascist influencers to the White House — all of it would be so obfuscated in ego and grandstanding that, well, much of the country for years has been very convinced he had dementia. I often see people say that Trump is purposefully amplifying QAnon, but nothing about him has ever indicated that he has any real understanding of internet culture. I don’t think he would have gotten this far if he did.
DeSantis is a different politician. I would actually argue he’s a more competent — and thus more dangerous — authoritarian than Trump. But that also gets him into trouble when he tries to imitate the former president. For instance, while I’m not totally clear what the intended outcome was with DeSantis’ feud with Disney, I’m fairly confident it has not led to what DeSanti wanted, considering the entertainment monolith is now suing him. Which is, like this photo of Biden and DeSantis recreating the virgin/chad meme irl, just not something that Trump would have ever let happen.
I know this sort of sounds like I’m trying to give DeSantis campaign advice, but I swear I’m not. Instead, I think he’s a fantastic example how thoroughly clouded by virality the GOP is right now. Early in the Trump campaign, as he started saying more aggressive authoritarian rhetoric, far-right users on sites like Reddit and 4chan started babbling about “meme magic” and praying to racist frog pictures, believing that if they amassed enough online energy they could help Trump win the same way Goku in Dragon Ball Z absorbs energy to make a Spirit Bomb. And after Trump did win, even the stuffiest parts of the American right wing began believing, at least on some level, in the power of virality — almost to a mystical degree. And I think part of the mysticism stems from the fact Republican insiders still aren’t totally clear whether Trump was inherently viral or if any candidate can become just as viral if they say and do the right things.
The real punchline here is that I think it’s possibly too late to figure out the answer. I hesitate to write anything optimistic about American politics, but I have begun to wonder if, like so many doomed digital media companies that tied their futures to Facebook’s never-ending traffic, Republicans have done the same to Trump, to Fox News, to Facebook. And I wonder if we’re going to see over the next year or so DeSantis’ team try and contort him into something increasingly silly in the hopes he can consistently go viral in a way that captures Trump’s base.
Of course, I don’t think Trump will notice. He’s said he’ll never drop out, even if he’s in jail by then. And he’s also threatened to boycott any primary debates. He’s going to run for president, say crazy stuff, and if and when he loses again, he’ll probably try and organize another coup. Because he simply does not give a shit about anything other than winning. Meanwhile, DeSantis will still be trying to convince people he’s a normal guy who doesn’t eat pudding with his hands.
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Here’s Shaq Rapping Over “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor”
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There is so much to process here. It’s almost impossible for your brain to really handle it. But I thought the best take on this was from Twitter user @discourse_stu, who wrote, “At some point over the last few years, we finally purged the lingering influence of 9/11 from culture, and are resuming the derailed cultural trajectory we where on in the summer of 2001.”
New MrBeast Exploitation Vid Dropped
MrBeast did another “for the first time” video. With the same kind of extremely deranged thumbnail. Though, I stared at both the thumbnail for the video above and the one he used for “1,000 Blind People See For The First Time” and, while they are practically the same, it does seem like his face is slightly different in each. Which is actually much crazier if you think about it.
Anyways, last time he did this there was all this hemming and hawing about whether or not it was exploitative. Well, in case you were still on the fence, he’s now turned it into a replicable format and is doing followups. Here’s a good essay going further into why this is gross.
An Incredible Twitter Own
Over the weekend, a pickup artist that goes by @shadesofgame tweeted that he’s 40 years old and he only dates girls under the age of 24. Yikes! He then posted two photos of himself with said women under the age of 24.
First, an adult content creator named Ivy Wylder came forward and claimed that a lot of pickup artists hire sex workers specifically for photoshoots like the ones that @shadesofgame posted. “ Last summer, I was on a boat with four other women and the guys who booked it took selfies and Snapchats with us all day, which ended up on one guy’s ‘alpha male’ account where he was like ‘these women flock to me’,” Wylder wrote. Then, Twitter’s Community Notes flagged one of the photos that @shadesofgame posted as possibly being AI generated.
After @shadesofgame was accused of generating women with an AI to pose with, he started tweeting videos of him with the women. So, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Community Note was accurate. Though the fact the photos are real is possibly more depressing considering the videos seemed to show him celebrating his birthday party alone at a nightclub in Bangkok called Bobo with a bunch of bottle service girls.
The real surprise, though, is that this guy isn’t paying for Twitter.
LoRas Are The Big Stable Diffusion Thing To Watch
Over the weekend, a bunch of AI subreddits started buzzing after Logan Kilpatrick, a developer advocate at OpenAI, tweeted a lengthy thread essentially warning people against becoming “prompt engineers,” writing, “More and more prompt engineering will be done by AI systems themselves.”
Basically, most generative AI tools right now work via descriptive text called “prompts”. Users have been obsessively mapping out prompt-friendly phrases and syntax and some even guard what they discover from others and sell it. I interviewed the head of a prompt marketplace back in December. And this idea of AI eventually not needing prompts at all, or at least, not needing a specific skillset for making prompts, came up in the interview and was basically shrugged off.
The prevailing belief among AI evangelists is that prompt engineering is not just the job of the future, but the only job of the future. And many of the people who are spending hours and hours figuring out how to generate the perfect anime woman have convinced themselves that they have a head start on this quickly approaching future.
But you can already see the idea of a “prompt” evolving into something more complex in the open source AI world. The big new thing over the last few months on the Stable Diffusion subreddit are “LoRas,” or “Low-Rank Adaptations”. They’re essentially aesthetic packages that you can load into an image generator. Here’s a good example of one for a children’s book. It was trained on 100 or so images (I don’t know from where, but that’s a whole other can of worms) and if you download it and load it into your instance of Stable Diffusion it should spit out images that look consistent in that particular style. It basically moves the prompt work behind the scenes.
If you click on that link above, you’ll see a lot of comments from designers and commercial artists saying they want to make a LoRa of their own style or aesthetic and feed it to Stable Diffusion. I’m not sure how serious to take them, but I have to imagine that’s coming.
A Bunch Of People Are Trying To Make The Whole Breath Of The Wild Map In Minecraft Before The Next Zelda Game Comes Out
Here’s a reddit thread about it. They’ve successfully completed most of the Gerudo Desert so far. And here’s a link to a YouTube video showing their progress. I don’t know why this impressed me so much, but they’re also doing all of the interiors, as well.
All The Coronation Stuff You Need In One Video
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(Reddit mirror for folks in non-TikTok regions.)
Some Stray Links
“Marissa Mayer figures Yahoo could’ve done better buying Netflix instead of Tumblr”
P.S. here’s some really good street fashion.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
The last thing in the world that I ever wanted to be a pedant over is the nu-metal/buttrock pipeline
but I have to point out that the "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" song was by Drowning Pool and not Disturbed.
I don’t think it was the memes or the virality. Trump basically mastered the infomercial but for politics. He sold America timeshares and made them feel good about it. He made it their identity, that lil boost of status you get from the timeshare which is simply an expensive hotel room sucking away your money year after year. It is amazing that nobody else is trying this to the degree Trump tried it. I.e., lying your ass off about some STUFF you get. They think people want to see their enemies roasted on a spit and that is all but he promised free healthcare, better healthcare, you will never lose your job, all countries of the world will be bested, all the jobs will come back, wages will rise, etc. etc. The enemy roast has to be seasoned with this spice of free stuff. DeSantis will never have merch. His candidacy has no whiff of the swag bag. Nor can he credibly pull that off. Maybe memes make people feel like all that is forthcoming, sort of like commercials do where you drink this beer and everyone loves you. You have to be the beer, have to make people feel that treats will fall from your cloak.
Maybe things have changed since I was 18-24 but when you are 18-24 24 a 40 year old man is OLD. Like OLD OLD. You just FEEL the oldness. I remember because my friend dated one and this was all we talked about. Her wrinkly boyfriend (who she dumped pretty fast). Does he get them to go out on a date with him? Maybe? Will there be an endless stream of 18-24 year olds who will be his paramours? UNLIKELY.