"sorry for not uploading Namjoon pics i was in prison."
Read to the end for one last cute Christmas-y thing
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Substack Articulates Its Politics
For those who may be unaware, you are currently reading Garbage Day on a newsletter platform called Substack. It was created by Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi. Per a Business Insider piece from this summer, there are over 100,000 paid newsletters running on Substack. It is, effectively, the biggest hottest new thing in media at the moment. So much so that the New Yorker asked this morning, “Is Substack the Media Future We Want?”
But Substack is also a platform for user-generated content. So I’ve been waiting to see how the company would define its community values. Last week, Best, McKenzie, and Sethi did just that. There are two parts of it I want to highlight. First, Substack is shockingly candid about its politics. I love this section:
Many Silicon Valley technology companies strive to make their platforms apolitical, but we think such a goal is impossible to achieve. As the founders of Substack, our beliefs are fundamental to how we have been building the platform. Our personal politics, while differing in specifics, are liberal in the general sense. We favor civil liberties, believe in democracy, and are against authoritarianism of all kinds. We also hold a set of core beliefs that are reflected in every aspect of the company:
We believe that subscriptions are better than advertising.
We believe in letting people choose who to trust, not having click-maximizing algorithms choose for them.
We believe that the prevailing media ecosystem is in disrepair and that the internet can be used to build something better.
The bar might seem incredibly low, but the very fact that Substack acknowledges that online platforms even HAVE politics is really refreshing! Considering the last five years, this may seem obvious, but Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube still don’t like (publicly) acknowledging this. And I suspect the fact Substack isn’t focused on advertising is why they can be so open about this.
Full disclosure: I have had some interest about advertising or sponsorships with Garbage Day. I’m not against them — a blogger’s got to eat — but being funded by subscriptions really has been profoundly freeing. For instance, most of the earlier stories in this newsletter were ones the editors I used to work for were not interested in.
So while the above section is one I really love the sound of and pretty much agree with full stop, this next section is definitely a lot more controversial:
Ultimately, we think the best content moderators are the people who control the communities on Substack: the writers themselves. On our platform, each publication is its own dominion, with readers and commenters who have gathered there through common interests. And readers, in turn, choose which writers to subscribe to and which communities to participate in. As the meta platform, we cannot presume to understand the particularities of any given community or to know what’s best for it. We think it’s better that the publisher, or a trusted member of that community, sets the tone and maintains the desired standard, and we will continue to build tools to help them to do that. Such an approach allows for more understanding and nuance than moderation via blunt enforcement from a global administrator.
Of course, there are limits. We do not allow porn on Substack, for example, or spam. We do not allow doxxing or harassment. We have content guidelines (which will evolve as Substack grows) with narrowly construed prohibitions with which writers must comply. But these guidelines are designed to protect the viability of the platform at the extremes, not act as a filter through which we see the world. There will always be many writers on Substack with whom we strongly disagree, and we will err on the side of respecting their right to express themselves, and readers’ right to decide for themselves what to read.
This has already gotten a big reaction on Twitter. Free speech conservatives are very excited about it, meanwhile, anyone who has ever written about radicalization and misinformation is, rightfully, skeptical. The first time I read it, it set off my community moderator Spidey sense, as well.
This bottom-up approach, though, actually puts Substack in a class with platforms like Discord and, most notably, Twitch. The live streaming platform, in particular, treats its creators as the frontline moderators of their own communities. I’ve always thought this was a very practical way of moderating at scale. Go after the big nodes first. And I like how this riot incitement strategy acknowledges the network effect of influencers. It has also helped build a firm bedrock that has allowed Twitch to build more nuanced policies down the road, like its beefed-up ban on targeted harassment that will be taking effect next year.
But, unlike Twitch, and more similarly to Discord, Substack is a text-first platform built on dark social, or traffic coming primarily from private social networking apps, like messenger clients and email. Certain extremist communities thrive on dark social.
So far, I haven’t seen any groyper newsletters, but Substack does already have a growing community of TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist), anti-trans, and “trans-skeptical” writers using its platform. Can the company’s fairly lightweight community guidelines really handle such a sophisticated and deeply codified hate community? I’m not sure, but I definitely curious.
The YouTuber Who Stranded Himself On A “Deserted Island” Got 1 Million Followers
A week ago, a YouTuber named Eric Decker, or “airrack,” announced that he was going to stay on a “deserted island” until he reached a million followers. This was met with an incredible amount of eyerolls from misguided 30-something millennials on Twitter who still think that popular culture is meant for them.
Decker’s channel has a compelling hook to it, to be honest. I went through some of his videos. The whole idea is that he was burnt out and miserable working at some kind of non-YouTube job (I didn’t venture THAT far into the archive). So he decided to go to YouTube full time with the goal of going from zero to one million followers in a year. I imagine this goal is easier when you’re a conventionally attractive white person with access to the gear necessary to create regular video content.
Decker, though, to give him credit, has been playing an interesting balancing act. He’s creating all the shameless YouTube traffic churn videos you’d expect:
But he’s also pretty open about the exhausting grind that this kind of thing requires. There’s a shot in one of his videos where he reveals that he was essentially sleeping on a cot in a closet while filming a video about buying Logan Paul’s insanely ugly $90,000 Mercedes Benz couch. It’s a smart idea. Frame YouTube as a video game and suddenly your engagement-juicing videos are actually admirable.
Which is how Decker ended up on the “deserted island”. He announced that he would stay on the “island” until he reached one million subscribers and set up the saveairrack.com website to track his growth. I am not going to, for a second, play along with this and say that Decker was actually stranded at sea. He was vlogging from the “island” for god sake. I once tried to do a livestream from the Greek coast with a satelite pack and was able to upload video for approximately 15 minutes before it went down. I do not think that any of this was legit. Also, as TubeFilter points out, Decker’s whole "Save Airrack” campaign was actually set up by a MSCHF-esque stunt marketing lab called Stir.
But still, watch the livestream below and tell me you don’t kind of root for the guy. The world of professional YouTube has had WWE leanings for a while now and I honestly don’t mind how this guy is embracing it.
We Haven’t Checked In On The K-Pop Community In A While
For all the grief I give Twitter, I have to admit, every six-to-nine months, the site produces something you truly could not experience anywhere else. Yesterday, a K-Pop stan account called @KNSLOOKS tweeted what is maybe now my favorite tweet of all time.
For those not up to the date on the inner-workings of the K-Pop world, “Namjoon” in the tweet above is Kim Nam-joon, or RM, a South Korean rapper (RM stands for Rap Monster) and the leader of BTS, the biggest music group in the world. So why was @KNSLOOKS in prison?
The account posted a short thread yesterday, claiming they served a seven-month prison sentence for getting in a bar fight with a woman who insulted BTS. I honestly don’t know if this is real and almost don’t want to find out because it would lose its special. But it is not without precedent!
A Taylor Swift fan last year revealed they had gone to prison for refusing to join the Israel Defense Forces. So, you know, it’s possible.
People Keep Sexually Harassing Chuck E Cheese
Chuck E Cheese is not having a good year. The aging rat-themed pizza arcade was hit exceptionally hard by COVID-19 — I assume because it’s impossible to go there and not get violently ill during a non-pandemic year. In August, they filed for bankruptcy. And a judge ruled this month that they still have to pay rent on their locations during lockdown. Also, the brand got in pretty hot water in the spring when it was discovered that they were secretly selling their pizza on GrubHub under the fake restaurant name Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings.
So it makes sense that the company seems to be trying to do a little bit of cheap brand rehab on social media. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be going very well, either.
First, Chuck E Cheese set up a Twitch account in September. The family-friendly channel featured a streamer (in the horrible rat suit) playing games like Fall Guys. I wrote about it at the time.
Things got pretty out of control on Twitch, though, after the giant streaming rat “raided” the stream of a popular streamer named Jeremy “Jerma985” Harrington. Raiding is a mechanism on Twitch where one user takes their audience over to the audience of another channel. Think of it like a streaming video retweet.
While Chuck E Cheese’s very young audience was watching Jerma’s stream, he accidentally clicked a link that displayed a picture of him kissing Chuck E Cheese. You can watch the full clip here.
Needless to say, the Chuck E Cheese streaming rat probably wasn’t super pumped about this and they logged out of the chat. Whoops!
Well, I discovered this week that Chuck E Cheese’s Twitter account has been having similar issues lately. People have been tweeting about Chuck E Cheese’s toes since at least September. There’s also a whole bunch of users that keep telling the pizza rat that they “yearn” for him.
I can’t tell for sure, but the rumor circulating on Tumblr right now is that the creepy tweets being sent to the account got bad enough that Chuck E Cheese briefly had to make its Twitter private earlier this month.
I honestly feel bad for the folks running Chuck E Cheese’s socials. Once this kind of behavior starts, it’s incredibly hard to get it to stop. Similar horny trolling happened to Pizza Hut a few years ago after they tweeted, “Knot first or pizza first,” in reference to their garlic knots, unaware that “knotting” is a term members of the furry community use for erections. This also happened to Frosted Flakes after a much-too-attractive redesign of Tony the Tiger made the furry community so horny that they had to shut down the account for a while.
Remember, there are real people behind these accounts and they are just trying to do their jobs! Please do not sexually harass them.
Lazy Ghost Hunting YouTube
This was sent to me by Garbage Day reader Erika. It was first noticed by Twitter user @USSRdad. It’s a really weird account.
A YouTube user named Dwayne McDonald has been recording a room of his house at night and uploading the footage in 10-minute chunks. He’s done two series of these, one with 494 videos and another with 297 videos. In the description beneath the videos, he asks viewers if they can help him spot any ghosts. Smart idea! Sadly, most of the videos have 0 views. @USSRdad has a really good through digging through McDonald’s channel. They claim they went through a whole marathon of the possibly-haunted room.
Weirdly, it seems like Dwayne McDonald has recently switched his focus and is now just uploading public warrants. You gotta always be ready to pivot if you want to stay relevant, I guess.
Let’s Talk About The Astrology And Fascism Thing
This tweet went incredibly viral over the weekend. The OP explained in a follow-up tweet that the screenshot isn’t theirs. Which is true. It’s actually from 2019. There’s a really good Cut piece about the messiness behind the original tweet.
It comes from a queer housing Facebook Group in Portland. And it created a pretty huge debate at the time about — hold on to your hats here people — whether being a Capricorn was a disability and whether or not it was ableist to deny someone housing because of it.
According to astrology-zodiac-signs.com, Capricorns’s strengths include being responsible, disciplined, and having good managers and their weaknesses include being unforgiving, condescending, know-it-alls. I understand what it’s like to be astrologically maligned, I’m a double Scorpio, which, according to Instagram memes, means I’m a deeply sexual and manipulative sociopath. The Cut, in its article, ultimately determined that it probably wasn’t illegal to turn down a roommate due to their star sign.
But this recent round of discussion about astrological bias resurfaced a really good tweet I wanted to highlight here:
I want to make a quick point about this. I actually don’t think astrology is inherently fascist, but I do think that major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram tend to warp belief structures into the most extreme (and fascist) versions of themselves. And astrology is no different. And I think, because it’s so popular with young women and queer people, that it’s not included in the same discussions around radicalization. Which is exactly how we ended up with “pastel QAnon”.
P.S. here’s one last cute Christmas-y thing.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***