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Your Fave Is Problematic Is Finally Unmasked
The New York Times published a piece from Liat Kaplan, the formerly-anonymous author of Your Fave Is Problematic. I’ve written about the blog a bit in Garbage Day recently. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say it’s the blog that defined our current era. Kaplan created the Tumblr back in 2013. It was a simple conceit — a bullet point list of “problematic shit your favorite celebrities have done.” The blog didn’t invent the idea of a “callout post,” but it perfected them, elevating them from obscure Lady Gaga message boards, scene kids’ LiveJournals, and Encyclopedia Dramatica articles and turning them into a digital weapon. In my early 20s, when a new YFIP post would drop, it was a big deal.
Kaplan said her blog was largely motivated by her own personal grief and the petty thrill of knocking celebrities off their pedestals. This passage is the most interesting to me:
Teenage me, teaching myself about social justice on Tumblr while also posturing as an authority on that very subject, thinking I was making a difference while engaging in a bit of schadenfreude. Meanwhile, other movements — local, global, unified in their purposes and rooted in progressive philosophies — were organizing for actual justice. Looking back, I was more of a cop than a social justice warrior, as people on Tumblr had come to think of me.
It reminds me of something similar written by my friend Hussein back in December. Is this social justice or are we just content cops, doing free moderation labor for massive social platforms?
Kaplan’s piece has inspired a lot of good reactions. My friend Brian wrote, “it really can’t be overstated how everything happening on twitter now is just Tumblr from eight years ago — except it’s more embarrassing because now it’s adults doing it, and it’s algorithmically juiced.” And then a Twitter user in his replies wrote, “History (USEnet) always repeats twice, once as tragedy (Tumblr) and once as farce (Twitter),” which I thought was a very good way of thinking about it.
Kaplan’s piece reflecting on YFIP and how incongruous it was with actual social justice lines up with a theory I’ve had for a while now about why being “canceled” on the internet feels so violating. I don’t think it’s a moral issue, I think it’s about data. A callout post is the weaponized uploading of someone’s past, whether it’s justified or not. And I want to be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for digital spaces free of hate and violence, but “cancelations” are a tool of digital warfare that anyone or any interest group can use.
The excellent comedian Jesse McLaren told me once, “The internet is non-linear.” He said that movies, TV shows, radio, and books can only be consumed in one direction, start to finish. But when you create content on the internet, you have to imagine it being consumed in four dimensions, front to back, but also out of order, and also without whatever greater context it was created in. Something you posted 10 years ago is just as alive on the internet as something you post today.
A particularly surreal example of this was last year, when Mike Cernovich, while trying to “cancel” a journalist I went to college with, inadvertently also “canceled” a friend of mine who has been dead for almost five years now. She was prolific Twitter troll and we all decided that her Twitter account should stay up as a memorial to her. And then, one morning, as Trump grifters started harassing and doxing and making callout posts for this journalist, her tweets to him were also screenshot by Cernovich.
It was a bittersweet moment. She’s gone, but her tweets were circulating like she was still here. The saddest part of it is that if she was still actually here I know she would have mercilessly destroyed Cernovich.
So when Substack culture armchair quarterbacks like Glenn Greenwald and Bari Weiss complain about cancel culture, I think they’re making things more complicated than they actually are. I assume this is because they don’t know anything about the internet and they make money writing culture war porn for boomers.
It feels wrong when someone unearths something terrible you wrote or said, yes, because you’re ashamed and maybe feel guilty, but also, I think it’s because that’s not supposed to be how it works. Your life is meant to go in one direction. If you say something stupid, it’s not meant to exist in a permanent state somewhere forever. It’s an unnatural feeling seeing it alive in a feed again.
Which I think is YFIP’s true legacy. It exposed the timelessness inherent to the internet. We can’t control how much of our lives exist in near-permanence online, but we can learn to decide what’s worth dissecting and what’s not. We can decide whether a bad thread about beans is the same as exposing systemic racism or sexism. Based on her New York Times piece, it seems like Kaplan has figured that out in the years since YFIP went dark.
“I just know what we all should know by now: that no one who has lived publicly, online or off, has a spotless record,” Kaplan wrote. “I’ve thought about deleting my Tumblr. But doing that would mean erasing my own errors of judgment. I almost feel like I need to leave it up to punish myself for having made it in the first place. That, and I know someone could (and probably would) just pull it up on Wayback Machine. The internet, after all, never forgets.”
A Good Tweet About Mushrooms
Joe Biden Did Not Like An Instagram Of Pregnant James Charles
lol OK so, I’m aware that this may not be exactly a pressing bit of misinformation for most folks, but I’ve seen this everywhere lately. I went over to James Charles’ Instagram this morning and searched the likes. Biden is not there. Either the president did it and then unliked it or it never happened. Also, who are we kidding, Biden does not run his own Instagram.
A Good Meme
This was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord this week and I love it very much.
Happy Birthday to GOD DAMMIT I DID IT WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE
I actually wrote about this video’s birthday last year too, but I have a lot more readers now. So let me share the same fun fact I learned about this video last year. It took place during the 69th U.S. Open tournament.
It’s Also The Birthday Of This Video
This was sent to me by my friend Bijan a few months ago and I cannot begin to describe to you how incredible this music video is. Just. Press play. Please. Side note: Bijan did a very good guest post yesterday over at Today In Tabs which you should totally check out.
The Future Of Twitter Becomes Clearer
Twitter announced two new features coming to the app — super follows and communities. Super follows are basically a tweet paywall and the communities tool looks very similar to Facebook Groups (or Mastodon 👀).
The platform is undergoing a tremendous amount of change, fairly quickly. Which is good! The way it currently exists is a nightmare. After giving Trump the boot last month, the company’s stock is at an all-time high and it seems like CEO Jack Dorsey is genuinely interested in improving the user experience.
The super follow feature immediately drew comparisons to Patreon, OnlyFans, and Substack. I suppose they compete with each other in the sense that everything on the internet competes for our attention, but it’s strange that we still think of tweets as a form of writing or even blogging. It is uniquely its own thing. That’s why people don’t copy and paste the text from tweets to share them. They screenshot the whole thing.
(I’m fairly certain it was New York Times writer John Herrman who called a tweet “one single unit of content,” but, for the life of me, I can’t find the quote. But these two pieces by Herrman are worth reading on the subject.)
The point is, reading a good tweet or digging through a big thread isn’t the same experience as reading a long blog post or a receiving a newsletter in your inbox. Nor is the act of creating content on Twitter the same as writing a newsletter. A lot of times I’ll get an idea for a tweet, decide I want to sit on it a bit, and use it in this newsletter. I cannot begin to describe how different that idea ends up being when I don’t have to jam it into the confines of Twitter.
If you think that Patreon, Ko-fi, OnlyFans, and Substack compete with each other you are suffering from hardcore media brain, where all content creation exists inside of some weird constant WWE showdown with each other. It’s not 2015 anymore, we don’t have to pretend that a YouTuber like PewDiePie somehow competes with something like the Washington Post just you because you can consume both on a computer.
Also, this paywall war nonsense obscures the more fundamental shift that Twitter is making by adding a super follow, which is that it will be first and foremost a content creation platform, not a communication medium. Which, I mean, for most people, it probably already was, but that is now way more cooked into its entire ethos. Weirdly enough, I found one person making this point on Twitter and was going to embed their tweet, but they deleted their entire account at some point to today. So here’s a screenshot:
Amazon Puts Anti-Union Ads On Twitch
If you didn’t know, Amazon owns Twitch. This week, users began noticing ads appearing on the streaming platform arguing that unions want to take money away from workers. The whole thing is part of the #DoItWithoutDues psyop Amazon is running right now to dissuade the company’s warehouse workers in Alabama, as well as other states, from organizing.
I’ve given Twitch’s community team a lot of credit over the last year. I don’t think the site is perfect, but I think they’re a lot more proactive than other platforms. So I was happy to see the anti-unionization ads get removed extremely quickly.
Two Good Tweets About Daft Punk
Trying To Remove Yourself From Clubhouse
Here’s a cool project to keep an eye out for. Whitney Merrill is a hacker and infosec lawyer. She’s currently trying to use the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, to find out what personal data has been harvested by Clubhouse. The conference call app for dark enlightenment wizards has an extremely aggressive feature where it pulls in your whole address book.
I was shocked at how deep the app went into the contact information of everyone stored on my phone. Under the CCPA, Clubhouse was supposed to respond to Merrill’s request within 10 business days, but it doesn’t seem like that happened. Definitely worth following her account to see what happens!
Head Empty, No Thoughts, But Talking Heads Kermit
P.S. here’s some good “Thong Song” content.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***