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The Simulation Has Ended
On Wednesday afternoon, the thing we all knew was going to happen happened. As of last night, over 80 people have been arrested. Four protesters and one police officer are dead. To call this unavoidable is an understatement. Here’s a good Bellingcat article that lays out exactly how all of this was very publicly organized online. There was merch.
On Wednesday, as I sat on Twitter watching the QCoup in horror, I accidentally clicked the wrong link and, suddenly, was watching a video of Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt being shot and killed by police. I have been unable shake the utter confusion on both her face as she hit the ground and the faces of the protesters around her as they began processing what was happening.
You can see that same confusion in the video below. In it, a young man from New Jersey tells a reporter that he was next to Babbitt when she was shot in the neck trying to break into the Capitol Building. He holds up his hand and it’s stained with her blood. He’s clearly in shock and, during the course of the short interview, you can watch him trying to make sense of the physical reality that he’s currently in — that a woman is dead, that he has committed multiple felonies, that there will be no immediate glorious Trumpist revolution — with the digital reality I can only assume he’s been living in.
He attempts to explain to the reporter what it is he thinks he’s even trying to accomplish. “Just trying to get into Congress — or whoever we could get into — and tell them that…we need some kind of investigation into this and what ends up happening is someone might have ended up dead,” he says, beginning to cry.
He then begins to rant at the reporter, saying, “Just make sure people know. Because this cannot stand anymore. This is wrong. They don’t represent anyone. Not Republican, Democrat, Independent, nobody. And now they’ll just kill people.”
The reporter asks who he’s talking about. Who is the “they” he’s referring to.
“Who? I don’t — police? Congressmen and women? They don’t care. They think we’re a joke. $2000 checks were a joke to them. There’s people filming us, laughing at us as we march down the street,” he stammers.
It may sound strange, but it reminds me of conversations I had 10 years ago with people who would reference memes out loud in a conversation. They’d get halfway through describing a rage comic before realizing it wasn’t funny and sort of awkward. Things that make sense on the internet, when spoken out loud, slip away from you as if you were trying to recall a dream.
Which is why, if there was any particular point to Wednesday’s insurrection, other than a naked display of fascist racist violence, it was, for most protesters, simply about creating content to put back on the internet. Trump supporters, militia members, and psychotic QAnon wizards turned the chambers of Congress into VidCon. Baked Alaska and a man who happens to look exactly like Groyper leader Nic Fuentes, but who, according to panicked tweets from Fuentes, absolutely definitely wasn’t Fuentes, livestreamed themselves on DLive running through Nancy Pelosi’s office and taking selfies with cops.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are currently tying themselves into knots attempting to deal with their role in the siege, while also trying to contain the flood of triumphant riot content. President Trump has been “indefinitely” locked out of Facebook. He was also briefly suspended from Twitter. YouTube is putting a strike on any videos denying the election results. These moves are good headlines, but none of them actually matter. The damage is done. These companies missed the chance to change course years ago. There is no separating Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from what happened on Wednesday. Livestreams of the destruction were even monetized. I can’t imagine what the viral frenzy did to these companies’ ad rates.
Over the years, I have been gaslit by endless spokespeople for these websites. I was told countless times that there was no proven radicalizing effect. I was told that it was simply a small group of bad actors or a quirk in the system or just a case of inauthentic behavior or that I just simply did not understand the complexities of how their sites worked.
But I am tired of letting these companies try to convince us that their violent and racist users with hundreds of thousands of followers creating content shared millions of times are somehow not indicative of what these websites fundamentally are. Trump is not a unique outlier on Facebook and Twitter, he is Facebook and Twitter.
The president and his followers act on these platforms in ways that reward them. These sites constantly nudge us with push alerts, demanding we add friends and make connections and increase our networks to the point where we no longer can keep track of who we’re even following. And then they demand endless updates from us — more than reality can sustain — and so we create elaborate fantasies and resurrect deep cultural hatreds to keep the channels, groups, and pages active. The only thing that can satisfy the impossible time-on-site demands of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are hatred and conflict.
This has always been true of these platforms. It was true when Facebook led to a genocide in Myanmar. It was true when the Christchurch shooter was radicalized by edgy YouTubers. It was true when Russian Twitter trolls were bombarding Americans with racist memes and fake news stories during the 2016 election.
The screenshot above was discovered by disinformation researcher Molly McKew. It’s the moment the man from New Jersey realized he had Ashli Babbitt’s blood on his hand.
In the video, Babbitt’s body is pulled away and the man in the blue sweatshirt stands there for a beat, stunned. He was inches away from Babbitt. It could have easily been him bleeding on the floor.
After the slight pause, he takes out his smartphone and takes a picture of his hand.
4chan Weighs In On The Coup
The Coup Is Actually Just A Distraction From The Kanye West/Jeffree Star Hookup Rumors
Hours before the country was thrown into chaos and the dark American heart of the internet was laid bare for all to see, a rumor began bubbling up across social media that Kim Kardashian was getting a divorce and it was because Kanye West was having an affair with YouTube makeup artist Jeffree Star.
I am not qualified to tell you about the validity of the rumors surrounding Kim and Kanye’s marriage. They began with a Page Six article. But! I can tell you that the Jeffree Star rumor was started by notorious internet troll Ava Louise.
Louise made a TikTok video about the article and claimed the divorce was happening due to West’s affair with “a very famous beauty guru.”
Though Louise didn’t name Jeffree Star, she liked a bunch of comments mentioning him and, because TikTok is a social platform explicitly designed to frictionlessly create trending content, the rumor spread incredibly quickly across the app.
If Louise seems slightly familiar to you, that’s because this is not the first time she’s successfully done something completely dumb on the internet for attention. In March, Louise went viral for licking a plane toilet seat and calling it the “corona challenge”.
OK, This Is A Pretty Good Tweet
It Might Be Time For A Nice Long Internet Break For Everyone
I went over to the original Reddit thread. The top comment is, “If that dog got his paws hurt id be so pissed.”
Another popular comment is, “I wonder if he did that weird dance that dogs seem to do when you put booties on them. Like they can step out of them if they just lift high enough...”
Important reminder that according to the original Something Awful rules of dogspotting, pictures of police dogs result in -50 points for “hegemonic oppression” and includes “any dog being used as an agent of police or military intimidation or breaking up peaceful protests and union actions.”
Amorphous Has A YouTube Channel Now
I wrote about Amorphous a few months ago. His mashups are pure joy. Now he’s up on YouTube. Definitely go give him some traffic.
A Very Interesting Reddit Relationship Problem
I’ve commented here before and I can see why this comes off as trolling but it’s a genuine question. My bf goes to the wash room often for a little too long and the toilet never flushes which I assumed was just him wanting his jerk off time. However, I went through his phone recently and discovered a lot of pictures of Garfield I’m a sexual context (that being Garfield with large breast and as a women). He likes anime so I knew he has a thing for nekos as so do I but, this makes me quite questionable on his intentions with these photos. Should I confront him about this? Is it probably a lighthearted joke? He talks about Garfield often as he does like the cartoon character and I often gift him items of the character thinking it’s just a cute thing. What should I do? Asking for actual advice. Thank you.
A point of clarification. The term “nekos” up there means “cat girls”. Anyways, a lot going on here! If you’re having trouble imagining what a cat girl Garfield could look like, I found a SFW example on Twitter.
OK, let’s see what the commenters have to say:
“Paint yourself orange and tell him you hate Mondays and see if he gets aroused”
“he seems kinda weird, i mean this just isn't nermal”
“Is there an actual problem here though?”
Good stuff. A lot of the commenters also accused her of being a troll. Her post is pretty similar to a bit from the podcast My Brother, My Brother, And Me. She claimed in the replies that this was genuine. She also posted an update:
EDIT: I’ve talked to him about it and he admitted he does have a sexual attraction towards a trans version Garfield and went in depth explaining why it turns him on and his embarrassment towards it. Furthermore, I tried to appeal to his sexual desires and did what he asked. Sadly, after the multiple times of trying and the brainstorming we’ve done I’m just too uncomfortable role playing as a cartoon for children.
She said they’re breaking up. Very sad, but that’s just how life goes sometimes.
F In The Chat For Pogchamp
Alright, a few details for people out of the loop. Livestreaming platform Twitch has custom emojis called emotes. One of the most popular emotes on Twitch is called “PogChamp”. Here’s what it looks like:
The screenshot is of pro Street Fighter player Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez. I wrote a few months ago about how Gutierrez is a COVID denier.
On Wednesday, he tweeted about the death of Ashli Babbitt, encouraging more civil unrest in DC.
“Will there be civil unrest for the woman who was executed inside the Capitol today or will the #MAGAMartyr die in vain,” he wrote. “The video will be aired soon on (banned dot video) & (theresistance dot video) and it sounds pretty gruesome.”
Shortly afterward, Twitch announced that it would be remove the PogChamp emote from their system. In follow-up tweets, Twitch said that it wanted “the sentiment and use of Pog to live on” and they plan to want to redesign the emote.
The reaction has been mixed. A huge chunk of Twitch’s user base are radicalized post-4chan Gen Z gamers, so a lot of tweets I’ve seen basically argue that this is shallow virtue signaling. I’ve seen even more people confused as to why Twitch would be making such a big deal about an emoji. But it actually makes sense if you’ve been following Twitch!
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Twitch’s macro community strategy is made up of thousands of tiny quality of life improvements. Content guidelines are strictly enforced and the backend of platform is full of tiny options for users to calibrate the exact kind of experience they want to have.
The other big part of this is that Twitch’s long-term goal as a company seems to be fully divorcing themselves from the reputation as an ESPN for gamers. I mean video games will always have a home on Twitch, but the company seems very interested in becoming the premiere place on the internet for all forms live video content. So the PogChamp debacle is basically perfect for Twitch — a small change that signals they’re no longer aligned with Gutierrez and everything within the specific toxic strain of the pro-gaming community he represents.
And Finally, Axe Body Spray Opposes The Coup
Mike DeBonis @mikedebonisLeft by the mob: a lonely can of Axe body spray https://t.co/wy2bU3fWgH
This was sent to me by my buddy Jenn. Axe, welcome to the resistance.
P.S. here’s a good tweet about memes.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***