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The Taylor Swift Info War
Read to the end for an extremely unhinged Reddit thread
Taylor Swift And The Attention Monopoly
Over the weekend, Taylor Swift played a long-awaited string of concerts in Brazil. And it was, by all accounts, a disaster.
The problems began on Friday with the venue banning outside water, only allowing fans to buy overpriced bottles inside. They also blocked ventilation into the stadium as a way to prevent people who didn’t buy tickets outside from looking in and watching the show. Brazil is the midst of an intense heatwave right now. I actually happen to be São Paulo this month and it’s been brutal, with temperatures in the high-90s, even at night. In Rio, where Swift played this weekend, it was even worse.
All of this led to the allegedly heat-related death of a 23-year-old fan named Ana Clara Benevides and the injuries of many more. Rio’s fire department reported at least a thousand people at the show fainted. The venue also covered up the grass of the stadium’s field with metal sheeting, which fans reported got hot enough to burn their skin. Rio’s public prosecutor’s office is investigating the show’s organizer, Tickets 4 Fun.
On Saturday, Swift canceled her second show two hours before it was supposed to start, citing the extreme heat as the reason why. Except, fans had already been packed into the hot stadium for hours and many took to social media to, well, post videos of themselves listening to Kanye West’s “Famous” and telling Swift to fuck off (or worse). Then, that night, a second fan, a 25-year-old tourist from Mato Grosso do Sul who traveled to Rio to see Swift, was killed on Copacabana Beach in an attempted robbery. Oh, also, Swift’s entourage had their cars seized by Rio police for driving with covered-up license plates.
Most of the English-language reports I’ve seen initially just re-reported the official statement from Swift about the death of the fan, which said “we lost a fan before my show” (emphasis mine). While Brazilian media was pretty clear from the beginning — after talking to Benevides’ friend who was at the show with her — that Benevides got sick during the concert and had to be evacuated and hospitalized several songs in. I also haven’t seen anything in American media about the fact that Swift’s team was running pyrotechnics inside of the stadium even though the felt temperature in the crowd was reportedly around 140 degree Fahrenheit. In fact, Brazilian fans even released a statement begging Swift not to use pyrotechnics in subsequent shows. Meanwhile, TMZ not only repeated the incorrect details about when Benevides got sick, but wrote a glowing piece about how even though Swift didn’t mention Benevides by name on stage during her show on Sunday night, instead, “seemingly paid tribute” to her in a song with a slight lyric change. Guess that’s all Swift’s lawyers would allow.
If only there was a Taylor Swift-centric reporter at a major American newspaper that could really put some investigative muscle into all of this and figure out what happened here!
Swift’s fans, however, did not experience the same reporting problems as mainstream American media. They were much faster about translating and sharing what happened. While English-language media outlets were struggling to report basic details from the concerts this weekend, Swift fan accounts had already circulated the facts in hundreds of different languages and even raised money for Benevides’ family to pay for her funeral.
That’s because Swift is not just, arguably, the most famous person in the world right now. She is also an entire global information ecosystem. And in many ways, these megafandoms around singular personalties like Swift, or as I’ve been calling them, attention monopolies, are what is actually replacing our aging social networks. Instead of having a digital home on one or two platforms, younger internet users live inside overarching fandoms (or political movements (which are, now, usually the same thing)) and use them as a way to link together the broken pieces of the web. This is, of course, not actually a better way to understand the world, and actually just creates all sorts of new problems. The major one being Taylor Swift fans are, by definition, pro-Taylor Swift.
And as the anger is rising in Brazil over what happened — this morning the word “bilionária,” was trending on X — Swifties have begun fighting with each other about whether or not the singer deserves any of the blame for what happened. They’ve, also, started making up all kinds of conspiracy theories about how Benevides didn’t actually die. Which speaks to the great irony about all of this.
We’re the closest we’ve ever been to being a true global village. The internet and, by extension, pop culture, is bigger and more global than ever before. But it’s arriving at a moment where most institutions don’t understand what’s going on anymore. They’ve lost the ability to quantify the size and scale of the internet and don’t know how to communicate properly. And the young people who have figured out systems for navigating this new landscape are all basically in feudal fiefdoms that have pledged unwavering allegiance to various billionaires and spend all of their free time attacking their perceived enemies.
But even your faves and besties deserve scrutiny. We need new ways of getting information out to each other across borders and languages and new platforms to organize all of it. Because the temperates are rising and a slight lyric change and a couple bottles of water tossed from a stage by a billionaire won’t be enough to keep each other safe.
Did The Army Use Anime Cosplayers At A Recruitment Booth: An Investigation
—by Adam Bumas
This was shared in the Garbage Day Discord by user lesspopmorefizz. Folks on the server had a bunch of good takes on how clever — and effective — the idea of a cosplayer was for US Army recruitment. Especially the fact they picked the character Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion. (If you haven’t seen the show, her most notorious moment is kissing a teenage boy to convince him to go into battle.)
I’ll admit I had my own take on this that I was planning to go long on, about how there’s a sort of cultural membrane that has formed around stuff like video games and anime, but it turns out this didn’t actually happen at all.
Yes, the Army absolutely had a booth at the Anime NYC convention last weekend, along with the Marines and the FBI, but they never mentioned hiring any cosplayers. According to a comment on Reddit, the Misato cosplayer was just taking advantage of a photo stand they had. I found multiple other videos and pictures from the convention that support this.
It’s easy to see why this seemed so plausible, though. The Army has been recruiting this audience for years. They’ve worked with plenty of streamers and influencers, and even have their own spokes-egirl. Sorry if this is the first time you’re learning about that.
But, at least for now, they don’t have any official anime cosplayer recruiters. But the Marines’ booth did have a chin-up bar.
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Argentina’s New President Is An Anime-Loving Anarchocapitalist Maniac
Shifting gears to another part of South America and another kind of bad anime thing, Javier Milei was elected president of Argentina last night. I’ve covered Milei a bunch over in issues of Garbage Weekend. But I thought X user @woke8yearold had a pretty concise summary of him, writing, “This is like if Ron Paul won in 2012 only he was also a cosplayer who went to anime conventions.”
Milei kind of looks like if Wolverine was a used car salesman and he started to dip in the polls over the last few weeks because he had some kind of psychotic break on live TV and started talking to himself during an interview. He also said that his dead dog sends him policy ideas from heaven.
His campaign has been my main curiosity with him — simply because his actual politics are gibberish nonsense. He basically just wants to get rid of, well, everything. And he adopted a chainsaw as his main campaign visual, which was meant to symbolize him “slashing” Argentina’s government. Far-right anime weirdos in the country then connected that to the anime Chainsaw Man and Milei started leaning into it. To the point cosplayers showed up in the polls in costumes from the show.
This seems like an unprecedented disaster for Argentina. But both Elon Musk and the X account @EndWokeness think this is a good thing, so who’s to say really.
Sam Altman Trades One Of Kind Of Decel For Another
I assume all of you are somewhat up to date on the OpenAI craziness of the last couple days. As I write this Monday morning, Sam Altman and former OpenAI President Greg Brockman are headed to Microsoft and almost all 700 of OpenAI’s employees signed a letter demanding the board that ousted Altman resign. Let me give you my thoughts on this in three different tiers…
For people who don’t use AI at all: Up until recently, OpenAI’s tech was better on OpenAI’s platform and the Microsoft implementations of tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E 3 were worse. This shift might mean that the Microsoft’s versions are about to be a lot “better”. It, also, might not, considering Altman and the former OpenAI’ers that left with him will be inside of a much larger, and assumedly slower, corporate structure.
For people who use AI a little bit: OpenAI is now run by AI decelerationists — if it still exists by the end of the week. They want to move a lot slower than they have been up until now. This means competitors at places like Google and Meta have an opening to catch up and, possibly, beat them. This also might mean that AI safety is dead across the whole industry now.
For the real sickos: Common EA/decel L.
Dream Beefing With Gumball
The Minecraft streamer Dream and Nicolas Cantu, the voice actor for shows like The Amazing World of Gumball, are fighting online right now. The reason why is a little murky, but, basically, Cantu, and a whole bunch of people online, think Dream is corny and allegedly a creep. There have been grooming accusations swirling around Dream for about a year now.
Cantu got in a fight with Dream on X about it and, in retaliation, Dream posted a video of a drunken Cantu going on a slur-filled tirade in an Uber.
In a darkly funny twist, most users immediately recognized that the video was of Cantu having a manic episode (he’s publicly pretty open about being bi-polar) and, also, conceded that homophobic slurs aside, he sort of roasted Dream’s ass. Users were also quick to point out that Cantu was underage, which makes the optics of Dream, a 24-year-old, holding on to a video of a drunk teenager clearly having a mental health crisis, weird, to say the least.
The larger macro thing to keep in mind here is that last year, Dream, a formally pseudonymous streamer, finally revealed what he looked like. And was mercilessly made fun of for it because he just looks like a normal guy. It was big letdown for a lot of fans and his transition into being taken seriously as an adult — including his new music career — has been extremely cringe and awkward. So the fact he’s now publicly getting his ass roasted by the voice of Gumball adds another layer of cringe to an already impossibly awkward situation.
New Random TikTok Thing To Go Insane About
The number one content trend of 2023, as far as I’m concerned, is TikTok rage bait. It has recently ballooned into a national moral panic and it’s basically the last thing happening on X that seems to have any real cultural relevancy. I came across this post from a right-wing account about a supposed TikTok trend identifying women that are “girl pretty,” or pretty to other women, versus women who are “guy pretty”. It’s allowed a bunch of conservatives to rant in all kinds of insane ways about the degeneracy of “Gen Z,” which is just shorthand for “young women,” the same way the word “woke” is just shorthand for “minorities”.
“TikTok zoomer generation has reached unprecedented levels of narcissism,” one X user who desperately needs to go outside wrote about the trend. “They lack absolutely no concrete sense of self, so they have to categorize every aspect of existence and assign imaginary labels to define who they are.”
I was curious, though, if, once again, this was even a real “trend” or just some random video a very unwell X user found. According to a cursory glance, it’s a small meme on the site. A handful of videos about girl pretty/boy pretty or girl hot/boy hot have a little over a million views. Nothing major. That said, in the course of my research I discovered Reddit threads and posts on blogs like Her Campus about this dating all the way back to 2010. Gen Z! They’re out of control! They’re just changing culture so fast we can’t keep up.
Minecraft Oppenheimer Goes Hard As Hell
Finally, the correct way this movie was meant to be seen.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s an extremely unhinged Reddit thread.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***