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Who Are The Good Guys?
A week ago, r/WallStreetBets began an awe-inspiring pump of GameStop stock. It has thrown the financial world into chaos and caused massive headaches for the hedge funds who were shorting the stock. In the days since this all began, there has been a lot of agonizing about whether the r/WallStreetBets users are populist heroes or a financial Gamergate.
In my first Garbage Day item about the subreddit last Friday, I wrote, “they’re all radicalized post-Gamergate nihilists.” More than a few users have sent me death threats over this. That makes sense, if you’re in your early-20s trading stocks on Reddit right now, you were probably 14 or 15 years old when Gamergate happened and there has literally been no attempt by mainstream American society to properly explain in a meaningful or substantive way what Gamergate was or who the villains of it were. I imagine for most teenage boys who watched it play out, the redditors were the good guys and they successfully defeated the shrieking hysterical SJWs who were censoring them or whatever.
This has made writing about Reddit campaigns difficult ever since. It’s sort of hard not to address the fact that a subreddit like r/WallStreetBets speaks fluent 4chan-speak and uses a cartoon Trump as their mascot. Their main Discord server was banned for hate speech this week. And embedded above is a Twitter interaction that freelance reporter Hillary Sargent had with a GameStop pumper. Note his display name is “Kek Hitler” and his handle is @cokeabuser. A lot happening there!
At the same time, I’ve spoken this week to not-insane-and-racist r/WallStreetBets users. Those of you who have emailed me, thank you. And through my conversations with them, I’m confident that there is at least a small, but passionate nugget of genuine GameStop supporters at the heart of the meme pump who think the company is a smart investment. The Wall Street Journal interview with the dad from Boston known on Reddit as u/DeepFuckingValue is heartwarming and lovely.
Neeraj Agrawal, who does communications for Coin Center, made good point, as well. Far-right rhetoric was successfully able to infiltrate every aspect of internet culture. That doesn’t mean that all internet culture is far-right propaganda. Anyone can use a meme in any way they want. Pepe the Frog can be racist and not-racist at the same time. Also, Pepe the Frog can be not-racist, become racist, and then stop being racist. These things are fluid.
But the messy decentralized grayness of being online doesn’t work well on cable news. There were more than a few attempts over the course of the Trump administration to throw the meme baby out with the radicalized bathwater. Which is exactly what folks like Steve Bannon learned from the Gamergate era. If you radicalize a meme beloved by internet users, you can successfully bait establishment media into condemning that meme. This then, in turn, mobilizes the internet users to defend the meme and demonize journalists. It’s the same psychology behind a decade of “video games make children violent” rhetoric leading to literally extremist gamers violently bonding over their shared hobby. It’s prohibition logic.
And this mangled understanding over how people bond in digital spaces is exactly how we end up with truly galaxy brained takes like former SEC commissioner Laura Unger on CNBC comparing the pumping of GameStop stock to violent insurrectionists trying to kill politicians on the front lawn of the Capitol building.
Let’s be clear — hedge funds losing money on the stock market is not the same thing as the president whipping up a violent siege of his political enemies! That’s nonsense. But the underlying mechanism is similar. The internet is collectively rebuilding reality and it’s causing our current systems to glitch and sputter out.
As for my initial question — who are the good guys in all this — I think it’s like anything else on the internet. It’s complicated and weird and confusing and somewhat random and depends on which end of it you’re looking at. And I would argue that the fact this whole thing doesn’t fit neatly into a CNBC news package is exactly why this is happening in the first place 👀
4chan Goes To GameStop in 2022
The Republican Party As A Hype House
I’ve had this tweet saved all week. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t lost amid the GameStop frenzy. It’s an objectively stupid thing to say and it’s not true. But it’s also a great example of what my friend Hussein refers to as “everything is posting.” It’s an idea he explores on his podcast Ten Thousand Posts.
It seems more and more likely that Trump’s true legacy, beyond the racist authoritarian white nationalism he brought to the forefront of American culture, is that he convinced an entire generation of younger right-wing politicians that internet popularity equals political power. Perhaps it does! Or maybe it used to. We’re at a strange impasse where we don’t really know how the rules of the previous political establishment will impact the reality of the current one.
But this explains why someone like Gaetz has no ability to conceptualize the political ramifications of an impeachment beyond “being canceled.” This mentality is also the only thing that is really holding the fractured pieces of the Republican party together at the moment. They all have a pathological obsession with message board drama. I will be, from this point forward, referring to this as Encyclopedia Dramatica syndrome. Far-right militias, QAnon mommy bloggers, Groypers, and neo-Trumpists like Gaetz can all agree that posting is good and they should be able to do it unencumbered.
This makes a lot of sense. Weaponizing social media platforms for recruitment and abuse is free and easy and fun. You can destabilize democracy and organize American ISIS right from your phone! Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are still the perfect radicalization machines they’ve been for years and without unfettered access to them, it makes it very difficult to keep right-wing ideology relevant.
All of this is why I think it’s probably helpful to stop thinking about the Republican party as a political party and more like a hype house. Every politician is an influencer and all the drama, scandals, deplatforming, collaborations, and endless feuds and beefs will continue to fill the vacuum where any sort of coherent platform used to be.
The big question mark here, though, is whether this strategy can succeed without Trump. Also, Facebook and Twitter have begun signaling that they won’t be simping for the right anymore. (YouTube, as always, does not seem particularly interested in doing anything.) So this should be an interesting space to watch. If any Garbage Day readers have noticed anything that falls in line with this, let me know!
A GameStop Meme
The Facebook Oversight Committee Makes Some Decisions
The Facebook Oversight Committee released its first round of decisions this week and they have also announced what their next cases will be. If you’re just catching up on this, there is now an independent board that will review high-profile moderation decisions made by Facebook’s community team. Facebook has said that they will defer to any ruling made by the committee. It’s basically a content Supreme Court. Here are three notable decisions made in its first batch of cases:
It overturned the removal of a post written in Burmese, that used a photo of drown Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi and included text claiming that Muslim men were psychologically unwell and that if Kurdi hadn’t drowned he would have become a terrorist. The board found that the post was offensive, but not hate speech.
It overturned a post that compared Donald Trump to Joseph Goebbels that had also been removed for hate speech.
And it overturned a French post that was removed for promoting hydroxychloroquine and criticizing the French government’s COVID response. In this particular instance, the board argued that the misinformation and imminent harm rule was too vague and suggested Facebook create a better standard for health misinfo.
Interesting stuff! You can read the full rundown here. The next batch of cases are centered around the Capitol insurrection. While I’m not 100% in agreement with all of these decisions, I can’t stress how nice it is to just have some transparency about how these rulings are being made. In my own experience as a community moderator, you don’t have to get things right 100% of the time — and, in fact, you never will — but being transparent about why you’re doing what you’re doing goes a hell of a long way.
Everyone’s Learning About Finance This Week
The Doge Pump
This morning, Twitter users began reporting that Coinbase — one of the most popular apps for casual cryptocurrency investors — had disabled Bitcoin purchases. I tested it myself. According to some folks replying to my tweet about this, it was also blocking purchases in pounds and euros, as well. It appears that it is no longer currently blocked for some users.
Coinbase effectively occupies the same role that Robinhood does for stock traders. It’s heavily criticized for its suspicious lags and downtime that just so happen to align with huge market surges. Also, the Coinbase subreddit is full of people desperately trying to take their cash out, but can’t.
The Coinbase Bitcoin freeze came after the cryptocurrency market started surging this morning. It’s unclear what caused the surge, but it seems like it was at least helped by the “Bitcoin in the bio” Twitter trend. Elon Musk and other huge Twitter accounts started putting #Bitcoin in their bios, which caused users to begin speculating that a big crypto announcement from Musk was on the horizon.
The crypto market has been a total mess since a splinter group of redditors started pumping dogecoin. For those who don’t follow this stuff very closely, dogecoin has been a crypto punchline for a while now. A lot of trading apps won’t even let you buy any because of how worthless it is. After redditors started meme-pumping it, though, it has risen 350%.
Right now, things are moving too fast to really get a grip on anything, but I think once this is over it’s worth looking at huge trading platforms like Robinhood and Coinbase through the prism of something like Facebook. Yes, these trading apps allow revolutionary amounts of access to the financial market for casual investors, but they are also corporate-owned proprietary platforms with their own recommendation algorithms and UX incentives and zero transparency about what their influencing their users to do.
Some Inspirational Tony Hawk Content
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by Sean and it made me EXTREMELY emotional. Tony Hawk is 52! Is this how boomers feel about Joe Namath or whatever?
Some Chill Sounds At The End Of A Crazy Week
This was sent to me by Twitter user @newnow_. The site is called tree.fm and it’s basically a radio stream for forests. It’s super neat!
Another Good GameStop Meme
My mom sent me this at like midnight last night. It’s pretty good!
Papa Roach Re-Released “Last Resort”???
2021 is the chaotic messy disaster that keeps on giving it seems. Yesterday, Papa Roach released a new version of their hit song “Last Resort”. The new version features TikToker Jeris Johnson, who is apparently pivoting to emo rap right now. His new EP, My Sword, is, uhhhhhhh, not good! And that’s coming from someone who actually likes emo rap and hyperpop.
But Johnson is not the only TikToker making the Hot Topic pivot right now. Chase Hudson released “21st Century Vampire” last week. It’s not bad. Sorta like a Kidz Bop Marlyn Manson vibe.
More importantly, when are we getting a What We Do In The Shadows episode about MySpace vampires like Pete Wentz’s wall-jumping vampire and the evil dandy vampires from Panic At The Disco and …The Academy Is facing off against this new generation of TikTok vampires?
One Last GameStop Thing
That Robinhood tweet on the bottom there is from 2016. Life comes at you fast!
P.S. here’s a good TikTok about bowling.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***