Please Stop “Hexing” The President In Amharic
Read to the end for another good Fleetwood Mac TikTok
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First, An Update On Etsy
Last Friday, I wrote about the QAnon section of Etsy. I mentioned that I had come across Proud Boys merch on the site, as well. A few hours after the email went out, I was contacted by a spokesperson for Etsy who told me that Proud Boys products were prohibited on the platform that the couple had I noticed had slipped through. They’ve now been pulled down.
“Sellers on Etsy agree to follow our policies, which prohibit, among other things, hate against protected identities, and attempting to incite violence against individuals or groups,” the spokesperson said. “We have removed the items in question, and we continue to actively monitor the site and review and remove merchandise that violates our policies.”
The QAnon items, it should be noted, are still very much up. But I checked this morning and all the pro-Proud Boys content has been removed. After the Proud Boys hashtag was repurposed by LGBTQ users over the weekend, now most of the top results on Etsy look like this:
Here’s A Good Meme
A Few Stray Thoughts On The Biden Beauty Line
Biden Beauty was set up by Very Good Light, a publication run by skincare influencer David Yi. I’ll confess that when I first was first alerted to this on Twitter I assumed it was cooked up by a bunch of Russian chaos agents. As it made its way through various group chats I’m in last week, the general consensus seemed to be that this was a real Pokémon Go to the polls 2.0. The idea of Biden’s old white guy face fronting a beauty brand is a lot to take in. But I’ve had some time to interrogate my knee-jerk feeling of “oh no, the libs are at it again.”
I think my intense reaction to this is two-fold. First, American millennials are very burnt out by political youth outreach. We are the Vote Or Die generation after all. (I think this is why so many of us were radicalized by far-right YouTubers who could create convincing enough veneers of authenticity.) I will never fully trust the effectiveness of any kind of Democratic attempt to connect with young people.
And second, I definitely suffer from Twitter over-exposure. Anything that breaks Twitter’s monolithic view of the news cycle causes a mildly violent response. I think this also explains why so many people have completely dissociated from reality and spent the weekend tweeting about “the final season” of Trump’s America. Twitter, whether purposefully or not, creates the illusion of a main storyline to reality and anything that feels out of place within that narrative causes minor cognitive distress if you’re too steeped in it.
But ultimately, Biden Beauty doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s not even officially affiliated with the campaign. And it appears it’s raising a decent amount of money for the Biden Victory Fund. And in 2020 America, everything is political. If this allows young people (ones who are predominately women and/or queer) to raise some money for Biden’s campaign, that’s great! In 2020 America, everything is political and nothing is frivolous.
A Really Helpful Chart For Conspiracy Theories
This chart was created by a tiktoker going by @tofology, real name Abbie Richards. She has a bunch more videos building on the chart on her channel. Her categorization system is really smart.
It represents a spectrum from “Based In Reality” to “Not Based In Reality”. As the conspiracy theories travel further out of the realm of reality, they become more engrained in science denialism and then, antisemitism. It’s a really useful framework for thinking about how misinformation can start as something stupid and then become violent and dangerous. Even cooler, after working on the chart and building it out, Richards recently dropped this brand new one on her Instagram that’s way more detailed.
So, I’m obviously an Avril Lavigne clone replacement truther, but other than that I think Richards did a pretty good job!
It’s Spooky Season, Here’s A Really Good Video
This came out back in May, but I think it’s time to recirculate it. It’s very cute and definitely worth a watch! I would totally watch a whole series of this. Here’s a really awesome piece of fan art Twitter user @junkmixart created this week for it.
A Little Piece Of Colorized History
Little known fact about me: I’m a huge sucker for good colorized history. I love this snowball video. But I recently learned there’s actually a big controversy about colorized history YouTube channels going on right now. WIRED has a really good piece about it. One YouTuber in particular, Denis Shiryaev “upscales” videos using AI. This one he did using footage of 1910s Tokyo is really amazing. The snowball fight above was made with AI retouching tool called DeOldify. Historians are mad about these kinds of videos, arguing (rightfully, in my opinion) that AI-enhanced videos risk distorting our perception of history. Here’s a big Reddit thread about the controversy, as well.
So while I think it’s true that using machine learning to convert footage of the past into something that looks like more modern video is messy, to say the least, I also love watching these videos. I think they help us build an emotional connection with the past that is incredibly valuable. Watching the dude that shows up in the snowball fight around 0:37 absolutely eat shit in full color just feels different than if you were to watch it in Lumière’s original film.
Speaking Of Using AI To Resurrect The Past
I’ll be honest, I had a really hard time watching this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a Deepfake video of Parkland shooting victim Joaquin Oliver. In the video, a virtual version of him urges Americans to vote for stricter gun regulations. Making things even more uncomfortable, the Deepfake Oliver is aware that the real one is dead.
“The election in November is the first one I could have voted in, but I’ll never get to choose the kind of world I wanted to live in,” he says in the video.
The whole campaign was put together by Oliver’s parents, who run a nonprofit called Change the Ref. They partnered with McCann Health, a health and wellness-focused marketing firm. Here’s a good Ad Age piece on how it all came together. I thought the best encapsulation of how I feel about the whole thing came from a Twitter user named @L0m3z, who described it as thusly:
Change the Ref @ChangeTheRefIn 2018, Joaquin Oliver was shot and killed in the Parkland school shooting. His parents used AI to bring him back to tell people how voting can prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening to any more families. https://t.co/BpK4zZkkbi https://t.co/4Zj70f7Oid
I had a similar feeling watching footage of a South Korean mother earlier this year reunite with her dead daughter inside of a VR simulation. There’s something off-putting about uploading our dead loved ones and the grief and loss we feel for them into the digital content cycle.
Based on how these things typically progress, however, it’s say to assume that these kinds of things will become only more commonplace. And at a certain point, the weird unease I feel about them will no longer exist. And when that happens, I suppose we’ll be living in a very different world.
Please Stop “Hexing” The President In Amharic
If you haven’t spent any time inside of Stan Twitter in the last year or so, you may not have noticed a weird trend where stans hex or curse other users. A lot of times, they write really ominous stuff in really bad Google Translate Latin. It’s pretty funny. What is less funny, though, are the ones doing it in Amharic. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
There’s a whole gallery of screenshots of this sort of thing over on Tumblr. The massive problem with this is that Amharic isn’t some kind of spooky Satan alphabet, it’s a very real language spoken in Ethiopia. (Side note: here’s a very good recent Reddit post about Amharic.)
The theory over on Tumblr about why so many occultist Twitter users are writing curses in Amharic is that it’s the first language alphabetically in a dropdown menu that doesn’t use Latin characters. Which makes sense. Though, I have another theory. I’m convinced these people think they’re actually tweeting in ancient Aramaic, the Assyrian language largely considered to be spoken by Jesus. Aramaic appears in a lot of religious horror movies like Stigmata and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The two languages have similar roots, but are actually very different!!! Please stop tweeting gibberish phrases in an Ethiopian alphabet.
And Finally, What Exactly Is Happening At The University Of Alabama?
P.S. here’s another good Fleetwood Mac TikTok.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***