Who Will Win The Web3 Culture War?
On Friday, I wrote about how furries and fandoms are actively trying to put pressure on Discord to stop the platform from adding features like Metamask integration that could help crypto groups. And I came across an excellent Twitter thread from user @larsiusprime this morning about how the gaming industry is also having a massive culture war over blockchain-based gaming.
“People coming from crypto land severely underestimate how deep the distrust and disgust coming from traditional game developers can be,” @larsiusprime wrote. “Like friends and colleagues will block you for openly working on these projects. Hiring [traditional] game devs is going to require hazard pay.”
But a Web3 culture war isn’t just happening on Discord or in the gaming industry. It’s happening everywhere. Last week, a Twitter user named @nicodotgay downloaded all 10,000 of the Lazy Lion NFTs and turned them into a mosaic of a right-click. And then, also last week, @CryptoCobain, one of the most popular users in the pocket of the internet largely known as “crypto Twitter,” threatened to start minting NFTs of the avatars of anti-crypto furries that right-click and save people’s NFTs.
I need to pause here and just acknowledge that I am very aware of how wildly stupid all of this is. But, like all things that have ever happened on the internet, just because it’s stupid right now, that doesn’t mean that it also couldn’t snowball into a genuine sociopolitical movement. A cartoon frog meme was on flags held by the insurrectionists that broke down the doors of the Capitol building, ok?
Getting to the heart of what is driving this Web3 culture war is tricky and changes depending on what groups are involved. As I wrote on Friday, everyone who isn’t Mark Zuckerberg seems to agree that his version of a metaverse is bad, but the crypto guys who hate Zuckerberg are also feuding with the furries and fandoms that hate NFTs. I’ve found it’s easiest to think of this in Game Of Thrones terms. Meta is the White Walkers — Zuckerberg appears to be just as capable of human emotion as the Night King, at least — and I suppose the crypto guys would be the Lannisters and the non-crypto users would be the loose alliance of House Stark, the Nights Watch, and the Freefolk? I mean, furries are definitely the Freefolk in this analogy.
The best overall articulation I’ve seen so far of why Web3 is so hated by many online subcultures right now was from @nicodotgay, the Twitter user behind the right-click mosaic. They explained in a follow-up tweet that they weren’t anti-NFT for ecological reasons. “The real issue is that they represent an attempt to re-impose artificial scarcity on culture,” @nicodotgay tweeted. “‘Digital scarcity’ is an anti human evolution ideology that imposes board game-like rules which serve no purpose than to preserve the game itself - to hide the internal contradictions of capitalism that become painfully obvious in an area of culture that has overcome scarcity.”
This, to me, feels like the main battleground for the next five years of online development. On one side are people who want to make a lot of money on the internet, like Meta or Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in over 50 crypto startups and launched a $2.2 billion crypto fund last summer. And on the other side, as always, are the various online subcultures and communities and creators and users who really just want to be left alone, allowed to safely and freely make and share whatever they want.
Could crypto projects help people make a living on the internet? Probably, but as I’ve written before, and as someone who has experimented with them myself, blockchain projects I’ve used for content creation are very user-unfriendly and not really sophisticated enough yet to compete with web 2.0 platforms like Twitter or YouTube. Worse, the creators and developers who could actually help make them better hate the technology.
This conflict about how to make money and maintain a sense of ownership in an infinitely-expanding internet without something like blockchain is why I’ve been so interested in “the furries and porn” anti-crypto argument. I’ve seen several variations of it. “Furries, a community of people who are all about commissioning unique pieces off artists. Porn, forever looking for ways to bypass payment blocks from payment companies, famously willing to champion new technologies,” Twitter user freyjaerlings wrote recently. “Neither adopted crypto. Make your own conclusions.”
And Twitter user @outstarwalker tweeted screenshots of two tweets arguing similar points, which are embedded below.
There seems to be a growing consensus right now that if blockchain technology was truly useful, the communities and industries that have led the development of the social web for the last 20 years would already be using it. If NFTs were a good way to manage digital assets, this line of thinking goes, gamers, furries, sex workers, and fandoms would have launched crypto projects years ago.
But there are some problems with this. It’s true that Furries are now the most anti-NFT group on social media, but that doesn’t mean that that community — and adjacent ones — haven’t had their own problems with digital scarcity. In 2020, I wrote about the “adoptables” industry, which is a speculative DeviantArt marketplace for original furry art that, while not being built on the blockchain, was actually suffering from all the same problems as NFTs. In fact, the entire adoptables market crashed after a single user was prescribed the wrong SSRIs and went on a manic spending spree, causing furry art inflation (not that kind of inflation lol).
Also, the idea of the online porn industry innovating ahead of the rest of the internet isn’t as true as it used to be. Unfortunately, the majority of the most popular online porn platforms right now are all owned by the same adult content monopoly, MindGeek. OnlyFans has been an attempt at breaking through the algorithmic Pornhub-ification of online pornography and, guess what? Its based around a paywall system and its reliance on traditional payment methods actually almost brought the site down after credit card companies tried to put pressure on it to drop NSFW content. And what did people immediately start looking into when that happened? The blockchain.
What I’m saying here is that this looming culture war — between the right-clickers and monkey JPG owners — is actually a waste of time. Crypto evangelists think the entire internet should run on their protocol, which makes no sense. But, also, there probably are ways for the blockchain to help with some quality-of-life improvements for various online communities. At the very least, it could help make online communities more self-sustainable.
But while these groups fight for Twitter dunks, big companies like Meta or Andreessen Horowitz will be spending more and more money on the crypto industry and will almost assuredly use it to remake the internet in their image. And my fear is that, like how Web 2.0 went from a million different brightly colored social apps to essentially three companies and nowhere else to go, Web3 could end up even more suffocating. But this time around, it’s not an internet of free garbage, but an online theme park where everything costs a ticket.
The following is a paid ad. If you’re interested in advertising, fill out this form, and I’ll get back to you shortly. Thanks!
If you like Garbage Day, you will really dig Numlock News.
Numlock is a daily newsletter that pops out fascinating numbers buried in the news. Numlock News is chock full of great stories that you’re missing out on, including under the radar science and culture news as well as amazing data journalism that’s drowned out by the loud stuff.
Sign up for Numlock and you’ll actually enjoy catching up on the world each morning, it’s free to read and subscriber-supported. Check it out today.
Jamal And Wanda Are Doing Thanksgiving Again Together
Back in 2016, Jamal Hinton went viral after being accidentally invited via text to Wanda Dench’s Thanksgiving. Hinton showed up and he and Dench have made their Thanksgiving a yearly tradition ever since. Last year, Dench’s husband Lonnie died of coronavirus during the peak of the pandemic in the US, but Hinton and Dench still celebrated the holiday together. And, sure enough, Hinton tweeted this week that he’d be visiting Dench again this year.
These kind of yearly internet traditions are a strange kind of bittersweet and, also, weirdly, as they go on longer, they almost start to make me anxious. Which probably says more about me than anything. American social media, in particular, is really good at producing these wonderful moments of serendipity and then, because of the way our media works, they become massive national news stories, turned into endless content cycles by TV stations looking for open source feel good stories that are easy to flip into segments. And so I suppose I always worry about what will happen when the national attention is all over. But it is really nice that these two are still doing this and really lovely that the random connective magic of the internet still has some lasting power.
A DAO Is Trying To Buy The Constitution
Over the weekend, Alex Lieberman, the executive chairman for Morning Brew, announced that a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, was raising money to buy an original copy of the Constitution. The DAO is, of course, called ConstitutionDAO. As of this morning, according to the DAO’s website, they’ve raised 655ETH or close to $3.1 million USD.
Packy McCormick, the author of the Not Boring newsletter, said that the project is being spearheaded by three people, Graham Novak, Austin Cain, Julian Weisser, who all have backgrounds in the world of venture capital and crypto.
Now, you may be asking, if you invest in this DAO and they do successfully buy the Constitution, what are you actually investing in? According to an FAQ the DAO posted to Google Docs, “You will own a piece of the Constitution based on how much you contribute, as well as the ability to vote for what direction future efforts (such as minting a digital equivalent, display, and other purchases) take.”
You might still be sort of confused as to why this is happening. Why would you want to own .001% of a copy of the constitution? Last month, a DAO crowdfunded a similarly large — though not nearly as large was what ConstitutionDAO is trying to raise — amount of money to buy a rare Wu-Tang Clan album. With all of these projects, beyond the memes and lofty rhetoric about the power of Web3 is an unspoken hope that whatever your DAO successfully buys, you will be able to sell it for more, making money for your investors. I imagine the hope with this is that if ConstitutionDAO can actually raise the $20 million needed to buy the Constitution from Sothebys, the buzz around the project will help them sell the Constitution for even more down the road. And because the market has been so crazy this year post-GameStop pump, it’s not a totally crazy bet. Of course, unless the market completely bottoms out, leaving everyone with a bunch of fake money they bought to be fake shareholders of a Discord server and a random historical artifact.
The YouTube Millionaire Finished Building His Death Game Arena
Well, it seems like he did it. MrBeast spent $2 million building all of the sets and has also put aside $1.5 million for prize money. His Squid Game seems like it’s finally ready to get going. Still unclear whether he’ll be executing the losing contestants or not.
The Cat Pan Discourse
A Reddit user named u/randogenerate posted a question to the site last week about whether or not they were the asshole for letting their cat sit in one of their pans:
I take a picture and send it to the group chat for my family saying "look what we're having for Thanksgiving." I get the normal responses of lols and 😂s. Then my sister goes "I hope you're not going to actually cook the turkey in that. You know my husband is allergic to cats."
I say yes I'm going to cook in it and I'm literally about to wash it and put it away until Thanksgiving. She keeps going on about how disgusting it is and how they won't be eating anything out of it. Its gross.
Most of the Reddit commenters decided that u/randogenerate was not an asshole for letting their cat sit in a pan that they planned to eventually use to cook food for Thanksgiving in. The top comment reads, “NTA - Your sister lacks the requisite intelligence required to understand common sense things. That's not on you. A clean pan that a cat has sat in will not trigger allergies. Cats do not have spirit energy which enters the pan, which then causes the allergy.”
The Reddit post, however, was shared to Twitter over the weekend where it was, inevitably, taken way too seriously by people who spend too much time online and it kicked off a massive discourse cycle.
“‘Oh it’s the cats pan now’ you people are all disgusting and I hope no one is eating at your homes because I know y’all don’t be washing your dishes as much as you should,” one quote-tweet read.
So what do people think? Can a cat sit in a pan just a little bit as a treat? Or are these people disgusting degenerates who should die, or whatever people on Twitter are saying.
This Is A Bop
What I find really fascinating about these videos is that these are layers of TikToks. Because they’re all being done in a decentralized way, there’s actually no one “canon” version of this remix of a cat licking milk out of a spoon. In fact, if you click through on this tweet, there are a bunch of other examples of massive TikTok jams. TikTok is extremely good at producing iterative content, but it seems to really have no good way for users to navigate it. It’s actually a problem that all young social networks go through, so I’m curious if the next round of updates to the app will start trying to figure out ways for users to see a completed trend like this without having to go to Twitter and find the most viral re-upload of whatever version people liked most.
TikTok E-Boys Have Discovered Balkan Turbo-Folk
A TikToker named @carringtonxx, or SwagXL, has made a big stir on Balkans internet for his lip-sync videos of turbo-folk songs, like this recent one of the song “Helikopter” by the Bosnian artist Fazlija. In fact, TikTok influencers helped make “Helikopter” go so viral that Fazlija made an account on the app to thank users for sharing the song. It is becoming increasingly likely that anything that is possible on TikTok will eventually happen given enough time and virality.
Sorry, I Totally Forgot To Show You This Cursed Sphinx Cat Last Week
I don’t have any commentary for this really. Just want to make sure as many people as possible see this.
Uh Oh, Is This Millennial Hair Metal Now?
Just a thought I had lol. As Travis Barker’s TikTok pop punk clique continues to evolve — and absorb every middle-aged millennial in LA — at one point does this just become the Bon Jovi “It’s My Life” for adults born after 1985? All that said, I do actually like this lol.
Some Stray Links
“Italy’s Anti-Vaccination Movement Is Militant and Dangerous” (I wrote this one!)
Garbage Day is a curse upon your inbox that will never end, but some newsletters are trying to figure out how to shut down gracefully
P.S. here’s a really good supercut.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
So how much of this NFT stuff is just that people want to own shit again? I mean is it just like vinyl and people buying sealed NES games?
You use the term “culture war” a few times, but didn’t use the term “bro,” which is an interesting choice. How much of this rivalry would be the same if the technology was completely different (arguments about scarcity and power use moot) but the groups involved remain the same?
Stereotyped as a tool for cis-het-white-dudes, my guess is that crypto would never be treated as anything but a threat to the world of furries and other Tumblr/LJ style subcultures.