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The UK tabloid to American conservative outrage pipeline
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Let’s Talk About Oli London
Oli London has come across my feed a few times over the last few weeks and I’ve sort of dragged my feet a bit about covering them. But there seems to be enough interest/confusion about all of this that it might be useful to explain what is happening here.
Oli London is a low-level influencer and amateur pop artist from the UK. London uses they/them pronouns and they recently ignited a media frenzy after coming out as “transracial” and, specifically, Korean.
As an Insider piece from last week points out, London’s obsession with using plastic surgery to look “Korean” is not new. They’ve been at this for years. London has released their own K-Pop music and there are even videos of Koreans reacting to it. They aren’t fans! In 2019, a video from Barcroft TV documented London’s journey to Seoul to receive plastic surgery that would hopefully make them look like Jimin from BTS.
It seems this month, however, London decided it was time to take things a step further and use their Twitter account to let the world know that they identify as “transracial,” trying to link their quest to look like Jimin to pride month and the wider LGBT community. This has led to an explosion of backlash, especially from members of the trans community who feel as though London is belittling them. But London is also doing a very specific thing that I’m not sure is readily apparent to both US-based news outlets and Twitter activists trying to grapple with all of this. Allow me to explain.
In the UK there is an entire universe of micro-celebrities who only exist via tabloid coverage. In many cases, British tabloids and news agencies will even pay working class people to say and do outrageous things just so they can write about them. When I was working in the UK, I was added to a bunch of press lists for these kind of outlets and they’re constantly pushing editors at different news outlets extremely grotesque content — all of it licensed, of course — and most of it with an extremely right-wing bent. This is the ecosystem that London is trying to game with their continuous plastic surgery stunts.
I mean, that Barcroft TV mini-doc about them is titled, “Caucasian to Asian” and comes from a series Barcroft does called “Hooked On The Look,” to give you an idea of the media ecosystem London inhibits. Also, in the Barcroft doc, London is walking around Seoul with their friend “Frenchy”. “Frenchy” is Angelique “Frenchy” Morgan, the former Rock Of Love 2 contestant who a massive European tabloid fixture. Also, Morgan did an interview with a YouTuber named JojoSpotlight last year basically saying London’s entire BTS stan persona was created after she introduced them to the group.
This UK tabloid shadow realm that London lives inside interacts with social media in strange ways. I can’t think of anyone that has successfully parlayed being a British tabloid celebrity into real, lasting fame. I could be wrong! But, it seems like London has stumbled across another form of notoriety. Their Twitter feed right now is just retweets and clips from all the outlets covering their surgeries. And the majority of them are right-wing. That’s because London, knowingly or not, by linking their obsession with “looking Korean” to transsexuality has given TERFs and anti-trans conservatives a brand new useful idiot. I mean, just look at the state of this:
And even more infuriating, anti-trans activists can use London’s “transracialness” as a way to mock and lampoon the trans community and also tweet about how London is the victim of cancel culture. It’s a mess!
None of this is particularly revolutionary. As I said, the UK has a long and ugly history of exploiting fame-hungry people to enrage and horrify newspaper readers. But, thanks to the internet, these stories don’t stay quarantined in the UK anymore and for the international right wing, still looking for a replacement for Trumpism, they are now the perfect tool for shaping public policy: “Look at this gross nonsense we orchestrated specifically to bother you. Aren’t queer people awful?” And, annoyingly, there really isn’t an easy fix for this sort of thing. I could say something here like, “just ignore the Oli London’s on your timeline and they’ll go away,” but Twitter, in particular, has obliterated any sense of scale for outrage, while also gamifying it. So there’s no incentive for anyone to stop. We live in a tabloid world now and this is what it looks like.
The Facebook Newsletter Product Is Here
I’ve been staring at this screenshot for 24 hours straight. Every few minutes I discover something new and insane about it. Malcolm Gladwell described as a “fresh voice”. The promise of Gladwell giving me a “new conversation”. The fact his newsletter is called “Oh, MG”.
If you’re out of the loop on this whole thing, Bulletin is a platform built by Facebook that will allow a select group of creators and influencers to host newsletter/blog-type editorial projects and, it seems, also podcasts. The initial batch of people who have been given access to Bulletin is fantastically random: Gladwell, sportscaster Erin Andrews, Queer Eye’s Tan France, and a bunch of people I’ve never heard of, but who I’m told are very important.
Bulletin will be built into Facebook’s larger creator monetization infrastructure, where, eventually, you’ll be able to paywall content and provide subscriber-only experiences, like live audio, I guess. But what’s weird about Bulletin, though, and perhaps shines a bit of a light on how much faith Facebook actually has in this product long-term, none of the creators they’ve launched with are people who I would think actually need Facebook’s monetization features. I have an extremely hard time believing that Tan France needs a monetized newsletter hosted on Facebook. In fact, from what I can tell, not a single person involved with Bulletin’s launch are people you could describe as a Facebook-made influencers, which is a group I bet would actually be excited to use Bulletin.
Anyways, the best way I can describe the general vibe of Facebook’s new Substack clone is: “soon-to-be quietly sunsetted tech product I would have attended a beer and wine-only open bar launch party for in 2012 where three different weird men, still wearing their employee lanyards from work, would have asked me what my LinkedIn URL was.”
What Is Even Instagram Post-Pandemic?
In early 2020, after a particularly nasty harassment campaign from QAnon supporters, I made my Instagram private. Then the pandemic hit and I more or less forgotten the platform existed. From what I’ve read, I’m not the only person who has struggled to figure out how Instagram factors into a digital life amid the pandemic. And, with the delta variant spreading quicker than we can vaccinate it away, there’s a possibility that the world that Instagram was created to document might never come back fully.
Now, I’ll also admit I’m probably not the target audience for Instagram. I’m a 31-year-old man, I don’t have any muscles, and I don’t like to post about Jesus. I’m almost at that stage of life where I start taking weird photos of myself not smiling with the camera sort of looking up at my chin. But I also am part of a target audience for Instagram. Over the last year, I’ve waded into the creator economy. I monetize my newsletter, I use a Patreon for a podcast I do, I have a Discord server, and I share my work on Twitter. I’ve experimented with Garbage Day and Instagram, but going on to the app feels like I’m removing myself from the wider internet. Though Instagram is synonymous with influencers, its features actually suck for how creators currently operate.
Which is why, I suspect, the app is now scrambling to add features that could actually make the platform useful for creators. According to The Verge, it’s currently testing giving all users the ability to add links to Stories. The Verge story has an incredible line in it from Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, who said the company is trying to understand how users might use links. Hmm, I’m not sure, but I’d imagine they’d use them to link to stuff.
And according to tweets from Alessandro Paluzzi, a developer who reverse engineers apps to see what features are being added, Instagram also seems to be experimenting with OnlyFans-esque paywalls.
All of which I suppose leads to my main question: What is Instagram? Is it middle-aged millennial Facebook? Is it nipple-less OnlyFans? Is it where TikTokers go to repost their videos and shill weightloss tea? And how does it fit into the new internet that seems to be forming right now, one where creators link together different platforms and services to create one-man cinematic universes of themselves? And while we’re at it, what is Reels?
@JournosPostLs Was Suspended
The account @JournosPostLs was actually suspended today in-between me embedding it in this post and me sitting down to write about it. Which is slightly annoying haha only because I was hoping to dig through it for a larger piece. That said, it’s a good thing it’s been suspended. Here’s what happened.
Earlier this week, Deanna Schwartz, a journalist who does audience for Boston Globe wrote a piece for the Washington Post’s women’s vertical, The Lily, about how the pandemic had interrupted her chances of having her first kiss. You can read the piece here. It’s a lovely and bittersweet reflection on the weird and strange ways 2020 has scrambled our lives.
Schwartz’s tweet was then screenshot by an account called @JournosPostLs, a Twitter account that is part of a larger trend over the last year where different accounts have started appearing documenting particular kinds of people. There are a lot of these accounts and in typical Gen Z fashion, figuring out where they fall along the political spectrum isn’t always easy. The name for these kinds of accounts seems to be “gimmick accounts,” but millennials used to call them novelty accounts.
After @JournosPostLs shared Schwartz’s tweet, it was accused of targeted harassment by many other journalists. And the @JournosPostLs account did drive a ton of abuse towards Schwartz. I’m sure the suspension today of the @JournosPostLs account has made thing even worse for her.
But what I think is interesting about all of these “gimmick accounts” is that they all technically count as targeted harassment. Even the ones dunking on people you don’t like — MAGA Cope Posts and Bluecheck Struggle Tweets and all the rest. They’re all cyberbullying! And their prevalence on the app right now speaks to the how targeted harassment has just become the language of Twitter. And while it’s nice that @JournosPostLs is gone, removing this culture from the platform is like removing water from the ocean.
A Critical Race Theory Check-In
In case you were curious exactly how banning critical race theory would work in practice, the Texas Public Policy Foundation tweeted and then deleted this guide. The TPPF describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan research institute dedicated to liberty, free enterprise, & personal responsibility,” but I’m going to guess it’s not exactly “non-partisan” seeing as how it thinks teaching “colonialism” should be banned from schools.
People Magazine Covers The Punk Scene
People Magazine published a Snapchat/Instagram story-type thing called “Celebs Who Embrace Punk Rock Style”. I came across it thanks to a tweet from Chicago Reader writer Leor Galil. People Magazine’s list includes:
Machine Gun Kelly
Now, first, I want to say I do not have any serious feelings about this whatsoever. I spent most of my teenage years trying in vain to hide how much I loved mall emo like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco and looking back on it, I realize I would have been much happier if I had just openly and honestly enjoyed things that I liked. Also, People Magazine isn’t wrong. I literally wrote about this exactly wave of TikTok emo back in March. These people are bringing back pop punk in a big way.
That said, making an Instagram story about the new faces of punk and only including millionaires and internet-famous teenagers is so funny and works so well as a satire that it’s basically counts as a Bad Religion music video. I love culture right now.
Will You Scan Your Eyeballs For Cryptocurrency?
Sam Altman, the former president of Y Combinator, announced he’s created a startup that, according to Bloomberg, would scan your iris and, in exchange, give you a crypto coin called Worldcoin. Someone on Twitter asked if “panopticoin” was already taken.
While we’re talking about crypto, Twitter has launched 140 NFTs. They’re free and honestly pretty cool if you’re into that sort of thing.
And, lastly, Garbage Day reader Matt sent this to me. It’s a Bloomberg piece about El Zonte, a town in El Salvador that has been flooded with Bitcoin. It does not have a bank and the town’s only ATM buys and sells Bitcoin. It’s a fascinating look at what a crypto-dominated future would look like. Though, the town’s economy is still primarily based on USD:
As more stores began asking how they could accept Bitcoin, Peterson decided El Zonte needed its own app. The Bitcoin Beach Wallet, which launched in September, similarly uses technology that allows for small transactions. It shows users how much they hold in Bitcoin and greenbacks and where they can spend it. Shops in town price everything in dollars, whether the underlying transaction is in Bitcoin or not. A cappuccino always costs $3.50, even if Bitcoin’s value has just jumped or dropped. In this way, it behaves more like a token than a currency.
IKEA Releases Some New Couches
IKEA announced a line of 10 loveseats based on various pride flags. Unlike the tweet above which kickstarted the Twitter conversation yesterday about the loveseats, the overwhelming reaction was negative. You can’t actually buy them. I guess they’re just for display in stores. Apparently, IKEA thought that the best way to follow up serving fried chicken and watermelon on Juneteenth was to make a bisexual couch that has a cushion that reads, “nobody believes you.” Anyways, here’s my favorite meme about this:
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a terrifying thread about climate change.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***