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Online Harassment Is A Game Of Escalation
Last month, New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz mistakenly reported that Marc Andreessen said the word “retarded” during a Clubhouse talk. It was actually spoken by Ben Horowitz. Taylor immediately deleted her tweet, clarified what actually happened, and it should have become a fairly minor story for rabid right-wing news outlets. Do conservatives even read Twitchy still? That should have been the end of it.
Then Glenn Greenwald covered it on his Substack newsletter. The post is titled “The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows” and it has about 1,273 likes and 1,232 comments. Ever since then, Greenwald has basically become obsessed with her.
Greenwald’s fixation came to a head on International Women’s Day. Taylor tweeted about the harassment she receives on a regular basis for doing her job. Greenwald tweeted a screenshot of it and drove more harassment against her.
This recent round of attacks against Taylor was enough to earn her a segment on Tucker Carlson’s show, which is basically the most dangerous place you can end up. Carlson spewed a bunch of bile about her and it seems like her social media channels are completely on fire this morning. Full disclosure: I consider Taylor a friend. I’ve known her for close to a decade and I am extremely familiar with how awful her mentions are. Even if I didn’t know Taylor, though, this is an interesting story for Substack as a platform.
Greenwald is part of a cadre of writers who position themselves as neither left or right-wing, instead focusing on culture war Twitter drama about being “canceled” and trans people in bathrooms and woke college students to make the actually very standard and traditional right-wing status quo that they’re defending sound slightly less tedious. Other writers in this network are people like former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Jesse Singal, and, I’d argue, Slate Star Codex writer Scott Alexander Siskind, as well. There are more. They are becoming more closely connected to the “dinner party TERFs” in the UK and Ireland. Almost all of them use Substack as their home base.
Clio Chang in the Columbia Journalism Review last year called this group the Substackerati. “The most successful people on Substack are those who have already been well-served by existing media power structures. Most are white and male; several are conservative,” Chang wrote.
It’s worth thinking about this group not as a collection of writers, but instead as a online subculture that lives on Substack. They operate like any other increasingly emboldened group of power users and I suspect they will be the first big community moderation issue for Substack as a platform. This morning, in between more tweets about Taylor, Greenwald was literally promoting Substack.
Every platform gets a group like the Substackerati. They usually align over vague common interests and an obsession with posting. Their over-engagement with the platform helps them amass huge followings. They learn to network together more and more effectively. Then, most importantly, they begin to escalate. Like the MAGA influencers who spent the last four years constantly pushing and testing every boundary of Twitter, I think it’s safe to assume the Substackerati will begin to do so, as well.
Substack released their first real community guidelines in December. At the time, I wrote about them, saying I was skeptical, but I liked the general direction they were going in. One thing that worried me was how simplistic their definition of harassment was. It’s one line in their content guidelines, “In all cases, Substack does not allow harassment or threats.” And in their December announcement, they also said they don’t allowing doxxing. I read through Greenwald’s original Substack piece on Taylor (it wasn’t easy lol). And it was a vicious screed, but he doesn’t doxx her. But online harassment is a constantly evolving process of boundary testing. Campaigns become better and more organized and every community guideline that can be stress-tested will be. Right now most of the abuse being carried out by this group is confined to Twitter, but it stands to reason that it will eventually spill over to Substack. And dealing with people like Greenwald is going to be much harder to moderate than your average troll.
In fact he’s already now trying to change the narrative and claim that he’s actually the victim in all of this. “You don't know what it's like when Taylor Lorenz uses her big platform to criticize you. The abuse pours in and never stops,” he tweeted this morning.
Singal reached out to me on Friday, saying he had an issue with how he was characterized in this piece.
“please correct the line about me being opposed to trans people using bathrooms that match their gender identities,” he said in a DM. “I think your other, more subjective claims about my politics are completely false as well, as is your claim that I am part of a group engaging in abuse or harassment, but I'm not going to get in a fight with you about this. The bathroom thing, though, is very serious, and you could have avoided this mistake with 30 seconds of research.”
He told me that I should read this Vulture piece he did in 2016 about Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. If you would like to read more about Singal and identity politics, I suggest you read these two Jezebel pieces, this Advocate piece, and this piece from the New Republic. He also said that he refutes the Jezebel pieces.
While We’re Talking About Harassment, Also Don’t Harass The Balloon Guy IRL
Earlier this week, someone drove by Balloon Guy shooting a photo on the street and yelled at him. The person in the car shouted, “everyone on Twitter thinks you’re a dumb nerd.” As far as mean things go, it’s pretty mild. Honestly, about as cringe as Balloon Guy’s actual photos.
I am a very proud Balloon Guy disliker. I hate his content. But, also, I’m not sure creating awful and grating pictures for Instagram is worth accosting someone in meatspace. Keep that stuff behind a screen!
A 4chan User’s Family Gets Vaccinated
It’s Warm Now
All Gas, No Brakes, No Longer
If you’ve never watched All Gas No Brakes, do yourself a favor and watch their video from Midwest Fur Fest. I am comfortable saying the first 47 seconds of this video is the funniest thing ever uploaded to YouTube.
The All Gas No Brakes project was created by Andrew Callaghan. He’s spent the last few years traveling the country in an RV. He puts on a really bad suit and interviews weirdos. Think of like Gen Z Louis Theroux. The whole thing started with a zine/book Callaghan wrote called All Gas No Brakes: A Hitchhiker’s Diary, which chronicles a hitchhiking trip he took around the country in 2016.
In 2019, Callaghan connected with Reid Hailey, the guy behind the @shitheadsteve Instagram account. Hailey used the viral success of that account to build the Doing Things Media network, which oversees over 20 absolutely massive Instagram accounts.
Callaghan shocked fans yesterday, announcing on Instagram that he is no longer involved with All Gas No Brakes. “I am no longer associated with All Gas No Brakes,” he wrote. “I no longer receive any of the Patreon crowdfunding, YouTube monetization or any other show income.”
The announcement doesn’t have a ton of details, but Callaghan said that to launch the All Gas No Brakes YouTube show, he signed a contract a production company, which he doesn’t name, who loaned him the RV. He said that he did not fully read the contract before he signed it.
It’s unclear what will happen next with the All Gas No Brakes brand. Last May, Abso Lutely Productions, the company responsible for Tim And Eric Awesome Show Great Job signed a development deal to produce an All Gas No Brakes TV show. Tim Heidecker responded to concerned All Gas No Brakes this morning, writing, “it's got nothing to do with us. its between Andrew and Doing Things Media. we're working with Andrew on something major.”
They Should Build A Move Theatre At Dufferin Mall
I’ve only ever been to Toronto once before and I’ve never been to Dufferin Mall, but this video makes a really good argument. There should be more than enough mall after the Dufferin Mall redevelopment to add a movie theater!
The Irish Post Asking The Important Questions
The Woke Left Killed Pepe Le Pew
We’re now day five into the national fallout from the Space Jam sequel. First, it was announced that Lola Bunny would be less hot. Right-wing supergeniuses reacted to this news by going on Twitter posting tons of Lola Bunny hentai. Which is an extremely normal thing to do and I’m sure Thomas Jefferson would be fully supportive of your god-given right to get turned on by a cartoon rabbit in a movie for children
Now, the country’s best and brightest culture warriors are furiously pooping their pants over the fact that Pepe Le Pew will not be in the new Space Jam movie. Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo said that Pepe Le Pew was a victim of cancel culture and James Woods made this image, which may be the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life and I might make it into a T-shirt.
You can read about the decision to remove Pepe Le Pew from the movie here. Apparently, there was a scene proposed where Lebron James teaches the sexually aggressive skunk about consent.
All of this is crazy and dumb and if you have any real opinions on this, I beg you, to go for a walk or something. But I will say this. Perhaps, instead of fretting about how Warner Bros modernizes their characters for their Space Jam sequel, we question why the sequel is happening in the first place? Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t that these characters are being updated and instead it’s that all of our popular culture is controlled by like four companies who are constantly spitting out endless sequels and reboots and it’s literally rotting our brains.
Anyways, RIP Pepe Lew Pew.
Here’s Another Really Good Cooking Video
A Very Interesting TikTok Video
This was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by my personal Vegeta-like rival, Mitch.
A Cool Pokémon Thing
P.S. here’s a good video about the Gen Z/Millennial TikTok wars.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***