Big Orange Cheeto Man Gets Drumpf’d In Covfefe Court
Yesterday, in a lull between the release of the Barbie movie trailer and the second Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse trailer, former President Donald Trump was arrested and arraigned. I do not have cable because it’s 2023 and I am under the age of 55, but according to the clips that made it to Twitter, it seemed like a fun time for America’s news anchors. For instance, CNN gave us some valuable insight into how many doors and hallways the Manhattan courthouse has.
Journalism truly is the first draft of history.
Now, I am not so completely blackpilled that I think this isn’t a big deal. A president was arrested! I think it’s ok — and actually necessary — to reflect on that if and when it happens. The time for cynicism will come later, when Trump likely faces almost no consequences. But I also am inclined to side with writer Hamilton Nolan who succinctly summed up yesterday with: “None of this garbage is important.”
And watching a bunch of guys with (legacy) Twitter checkmarks all tweet “and there it is” yesterday while sharing the same blurry CNN screenshots of Trump walking down one of the courthouse’s many hallways to one of its many doors really hammered home for me how unimportant all of this garbage is. Especially now that the core real-time news-gathering mechanisms inside of Twitter are, I assume, irreparably broken. Though the fact we got a whole bunch of puffed up neoliberal history-in-the-making posts from guys who wear ties in their profile pictures on a site that still currently has the doge meme as its logo is actually very funny.
More than anything, though, yesterday felt like being on one of those emo cruise ships, where the bands from your iPod come out on stage and sing songs they wrote when they were 16, while taking some important time between each to apologize for the lyrics about murdering their girlfriends, before going back to singing more songs about murdering their girlfriends. But instead of it being a weird self-conscious nostalgia play for middle-aged emo fans, it was for people who professionally use TweetDeck and have CNN playing on mute on a screen somewhere in their office.
Everything about yesterday, from the viral SnapStream Twitter clips of Trump’s car driving around Manhattan, to the rushed out posts written by clearly very-bored reporters who profiled the couples that happened to be getting married next to the arraignment, to sprawling Twitter threads documenting the few dozen deranged racists that came out to support Trump and accuse journalists of being pedophiles, to the screenshots of Tomorrow’s Front Pages Today announcing the arrest, just felt like such a sad attempt at trying to recapture an era that simply no longer exists. It was like being teleported back to the magical world of 2017, a time when the combined forces of peak Facebook, a version of Twitter that everyone’s editor was paying attention to, and cable news created some shared sense of reality that we could all pretend Americans were paying attention to. Hell, someone even tried to fire off a #resistance girlboss side eye tweet. Content, folks, is truly back. Except it’s not. And everyone but America’s mainstream media knows it.
This whiplash time warp back to the last days of Journalism-with-a-capital-J is, of course, great news for Trump. Because he understands that that shared sense of reality was never real and has always been easily hijacked if you’re loud and dumb and hateful enough. Which is why his team immediately started using the arrest to sell T-shirts featuring a photoshop of a mugshot he didn’t take. He didn’t take a real one, I assume, so they’d have more control over the branding for merchandise. To say nothing of the violence that is assuredly waiting for us as this wades on. Trump’s sons have already posted a photo to Truth Social of the judge’s daughter. And his supporters are flooding mainstream social networks with triumphant AI art of him capturing New York City while far-right communities like QAnon stumble their way towards some kind of consensus about how this fits into their fan fiction.
My point is that nostalgia curdles. It darkens over time. And Trump, himself, is a creature of nostalgia who may not understand much, but does have an innate ability to weaponize — and monetize — it. And I can’t think of anything more ugly and insane than combining American media’s desperate obsession with Trump and the era of politics he created in the 2010s with American media’s toxic obsession with high-profile court cases. In fact, right-wing media is already pushing for Trump’s trial to be televised. So if you ever wondered what the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial would have been like if Depp became president at the end, well, now you might have a chance to find out.
Big Garbage Day Milestone!!!!
So, first, I just want to say thank you to all of you. I recently rolled over 50,000 total readers. Which is just absolutely insane to think about it. Incredible to imagine that my readership is the size of Newark… Ohio. Thank you all for signing up and helping this little newsletter grow into something truly special.
If you don’t have a Garbage Day subscription, now’s a good time to think about it! It’s only $5 a month or $45 a year and you get lots of bonus stuff. Hit the green button below to find out more.
A Good Tweet
An Important Reminder That Being Verified On Twitter Was Always For Nerds
Journalist Silvia Killingsworth recently shared a story she wrote for The Awl back in 2016 and, you know me, I can’t resist an opportunity to quote old Awl stories. Killingsworth’s piece is titled, “Dear Twitter: Stop Trying To Make Check Marks Happen” and it’s a fascinating snapshot into what has weirdly enough become maybe the most important moment in the history of the modern web? The period of time when Twitter began working directly with newsrooms to verify journalists. This was, at the time, a way to give reporters a few extra tools for sourcing content from Twitter, which, in turn, would raise Twitter’s profile. But as it turns out, the idea of giving a tiny blue cartoon checkmark to 23-year-olds with open floor plan jobs that were paid salaries consisting entirely of granola bars, La Croix, and Sixpoint beer caused so much psychic damage to America’s ruling class that it would eventually cause the end of social media as we know it.
But what I was really struck by while rereading Killingsworth’s piece is that it was pretty lame to be verified even at the time. I had actually forgotten that there was an entire movement pushing for a way to opt out of the checkmark. I was not part of this movement, of course. I got the email telling me I was verified while I was at a bar and a guy who runs a fairly prominent dog-themed Twitter account bought me a tequila shot.
Post News Is Still Happening
Post News, which popped up as a Twitter alternative after Elon Musk bought the app, finally publicly launched this week. It turns out it’s less of a Twitter alternative, though, and more of a Substack competitor. Which is a curious decision, to say the least.
Unlike Substack, though, which just runs on Stripe and operates more or less like Patreon, Post News has an unfathomably complicated points system, similar to Twitch, but not even really. You use Stripe to pay for points and then use those points to unlock paywalled content. Which makes the whole thing feel closer to a mobile game like Marvel Snap.
Noam Bardin, Post News’ founder and CEO, told Tech Crunch that the current CPM, or cost per one thousand views, on the site is an impressive sounding $25 for paid posts. But I haven’t read anything about what traffic is like on Post News, so for all we know, publishers could be making fractions of a cent per story.
Fun slightly related fact I learned while writing this: “post.new” redirects Wordpress. lol owned.
Hallucinated AI-Generated Filler Text For Spam Bots
So this is a fascinating use of AI-generated text. It was caught by comic artist, and fellow internet Ryan, Ryan North. I looked up the account and what it’s doing is alternating crypto spam with totally hallucinated AI-generated text. In the example above, it includes totally made up details about North’s life. Even including a cartoon that North did not draw that’s supposedly part of a comic strip that North did not make. The comic was actually created by an artist named Matthew J. Willis who posts on Reddit under the name u/MurkyWay.
I’ll admit I did not see this happening so fast. But before you can process how unnerving that is, here’s another troubling thing…
This Actually Freaked Me Out A Bit
This is a YouTube video of an AI model of “Kanye West” singing “Hey There Delilah,” by The Plain White Tees. And it’s pretty convincing I think. I listened to it a few times and the only real artifacts you can hear are in the longer notes at the end of lines.
Though, copying West’s voice with an AI and making it sing is sort of funny because there’s not really many examples of West singing without some kind of filter or autotune. “FourFiveSeconds” is probably the song with the most organic West singing vocals in it. Which makes an AI singing clean vocals in his voice all the more off-putting.
The speed of improvement for AI vocal models is genuinely shocking to me. My most conservative assumption is that this just ends up like a more extreme version of Napster legislation and people start getting sued into oblivion, but it also feels totally unenforceable in a way.
Oh, one more AI thing. That thread of Rick James’ home from 1979 was created by an AI. May god help us all.
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We’re Doing Babylonian Copper Memes Again
Twitter is super broken right now, so I actually had a tough time trying to figure out why everyone was making jokes about Ea-nasir, the Sumerian copper merchant who got called out in a tablet in the year 1750 BCE, but thanks to a Tumblr post I came across it seems like it was just recently the one year anniversary of it going viral the last time. Also, xkcd did a comic about Ea-nasir today, as well.
Anyways, huge shoutout to Ea-nasir, first dude to get cancelled (I assume).
Some Stray Links
“Google contractors say they don't have enough time to verify correct answers from the company's AI chatbot and end up guessing”
“Another 4Chan Troll Who Lives With His Mom Arrested for Threatening Anti-Nazi Sheriff”
P.S. here’s a game you shouldn’t tell your wife about.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
Excellent post, Ryan. I particularly enjoyed the part about the internet.
Ea-nasir popped back up on tumblr not only because everyone there is obsessed with him, but because he got mentioned in an article about JP Morgan's nickel stock that ended up being stones. I think it was the WSJ one, but it's paywalled so I can't confirm that. Also can't find the tumblr post because this was 2 weeks ago and tumblr's search continues to be the worst. For the most part tumblr doesn't remember anniversaries unless it's Julius Caesar's death.