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Various conservative grievances and hyperfixations

Read to the end for the beginning of summer

Tucker Carlson Bet On The Wrong Horse


…But anyways, Threads’ hypothetical success has made things look real grim over in Twitter world. And, as someone who has resigned themselves to a miserable future of checking three identical, but increasingly irelevant apps to see updates from the same 600 people, I think that’s pretty funny. Elon Musk is now asking to compare penises with Mark Zuckerberg and traffic to Twitter is reportedly way down. Twitter has, of course, blocked links to Threads, not that it matters really. Threads is built on top of Instagram, a site that has spent a decade trying as hard as it can to finally vanquish the hyperlink. Plus, Twitter, even when it was healthy, didn’t actually drive traffic to anything.

Musk may not have 100 million “users” like Threads, but he does have the explicit endorsement of the Taliban, which has got to count for something, right?

I can’t think of anyone having a more pathetic time on Twitter right now, though, than Tucker Carlson, who has somehow already put out nine episodes of his Twitter show. The most recent, last night’s, was an interview with men’s rights activist and alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate.

Mashable’s Matt Binder has, thankfully, been tracking Carlson’s declining viewership numbers over the last few weeks. Obligatory note here that Twitter’s views don’t make any sense and are likely not real. They do, however, seem to have somewhat consistent levels of not-realness when comparing the performance of different videos published in the Musk era.

Up until this week, no actual episode of Carlson’s show had done as well as the announcement video, which got around 29 million views. But viewership dropped 85% from the first episode, which was seen around 26 million times, to the eighth episode, which was watched around 4 million times. Clearly, Musk was getting uncomfortable about that and decided to personally share last night’s Tate interview, which has brought the episode up to 40 million views as of this morning.

The Tate interview is also Carlson’s longest Twitter episode yet, at over two hours long. Which means it’s the first thing he’s done for the platform that feels like a real TV show, sort of. I tried to skip around in the video to see just what these two titans of intellect talked about for that long, but Twitter’s video player broke and I gave up.

While it’s doubtful that real human people are watching Carlson’s terrible bad show with any actual active interest, it is fascinating from a content standpoint to watch him seemingly blindly try and figure out how to recapture what he was doing at Fox. I assumed Carlson was much more cynical and self-aware, but after watching this new show, I’m beginning to think he didn’t actually understand what his role was within the larger right-wing media infrastructure.

Carlson’s Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, basically served one function from 2016-2023, which, aside from providing background noise for Texas airport food courts, was to give legitimacy to deranged right-wing internet ramblings. That was the whole deal. It was the conservative equivalent of, idk, Mindy Kaling’s Velma reboot. The novelty with these kinds of shows is that they say things you half-remember seeing on the internet a few months ago. And I assume that novelty is heightened for Carlson’s viewers, who, if they use the internet at all, are definitely not coherently following its various macro conversations.

But now that Carlson isn’t on TV and doesn’t have an army of producers crawling subreddits for 4chan screenshots to spin up into story ideas, he now has two choices: Go full internet native and start making content at the speed of other right-wing influencers in formats preferred by algorithmic platforms or try and just simply pretend his show can still effectively launder various conservative grievances and hyperfixations like it used to. Even though it has a fraction of the audience and budget. He seems to be choosing the second option. For example, it appears he went to Romania to interview Tate and yet no one on his team suggested filming it as a travel vlog or even as a dramatic intro to the episode, which makes me think there’s no one around him who actually understands how to make content.

And so, to bring it all the way back around, that’s why Threads could not be arriving at a worse time.

Musk bought Twitter because he believed it would grant him some kind of cultural legitimacy. He’s spoken openly about the social network’s influence on politics and media and how he still hopes to turn it into a central feed for human discourse that we can all use while working as debt slaves in his mines on Mars, or whatever. And Musk, like all good conmen, has proceeded to turn around and try and sell that supposed legitimacy downstream to users, as well as figures like Carlson or, more recently, MrBeast, who Musk has been begging to post directly to the platform. But now Threads, with its hundred million users, packed full of brands and real, or real-ish, celebrities, has pretty effortlessly revealed exactly how small and, most importantly, niche Twitter is these days.

And I don’t think it’s going to take too long for not just media figures like Carlson, but also paying Twitter Blue subscribers, to realize that they’re spending all of their time and energy posting on some weird guy’s website.

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Alright, Let’s Talk About TikTok Live

A bunch of different tweets with this clip from a TikTok livestream above went viral this week. As one user wrote, “Any time I accidentally happen upon a TikTok live, I feel like I am watching the world end.”

The user in the clip goes by @pinkydollreal and her account is fascinating. Whenever I see something weird on TikTok I just assume it’s a weird fetish thing. And maybe this is, but it’s also not as random as I thought it was. She calls the bizarre movements she does on livestreams “NPC moments,” as in a non-playable character from a video game. She has a compilation of a bunch of her NPC streams here.

As for the question of why TikTok livestreams are so weird, in general. I think it’s just ASMR adjacent.

TikTok has a live feature that supports rewards, donations, and payments. And the success of a live video is based around prolonging anticipation and also rewarding user contributions. So most of the livestreams I’ve seen on the app are like someone being one card away from completing a house of cards while sobbing and thanking people who give them gifts. Is it super dark and depressing? Sure, but at a certain level of abstraction and monetization, all algorithmic video just degrades into meaningless sensory information.

Colleen Ballinger Says She Did Not Copyright Her Grooming Allegations Ukulele Song

Speaking of monetized video platforms, Colleen Ballinger, aka Miranda Sings, has, according to Twitter tabloid Pop Crave, issued a statement via her legal team denying that she copyrighted the song from her video addressing allegations that she groomed young fans. If you’re a normal person, I assume that last sentence was a lot to process. So here are the broad strokes:

  • Ballinger is a very famous YouTuber who was allegedly engaging in inappropriate interactions in DMs with her young fans.

  • Pressure mounted recently for her to address these allegations.

  • She did so in a video in which she literally said that her lawyers told her not to talk about it, but they never mentioned anything about her singing about it.

  • She then sang a song called “Toxic Gossip Train,” accompanied by a ukulele, where she more or less downplayed or denied any of the allegations.

Users noticed this week that the song appeared on Apple Music and iTunes and rumors circulated that it was a way to copyright strike YouTube videos reacting to her video. And, again, her legal team denies this.

So what happened? If I had to guess, I’d say someone else copyrighted it to cash in. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole a few times on YouTube’s automated copyright system for music and it’s a total rats nest. It involves dozens of intermediary services that don’t really talk to each other. And very often, a song will automatically get added to an artist’s profile or copyright database even though someone else is secretly monetizing it.

GeoGuessr Guy Is Going To Play GeoGuessr At The Top Of Mount Kilimanjaro

I’m not sure if anyone else is watching Trevor Rainbolt’s YouTube videos, but they’re sort of delightful. His GeoGuessr videos on TikTok make him seem super intense, but his vlogs are aggressively Gen Z vibes-based, like this video embedded above, which is him just sort of rambling for six minutes about being in South Africa.

He eventually reveals in the video that in a month he’s planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and play GeoGeussr at the top. Which, as one commenter wrote, “imagine climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and reaching the summit and just seeing Rainbolt sitting there with his laptop playing GeoGuessr.”

The Jack Antonoff Wall Of Discourse

Have you read the big brutal Jack Antonoff takedown in The Drift? It’s a little repetitive, but it’s pretty gratifying if you’re part of the growing crowd of people who hate his whole deal.

I would normally stay out of this, but I do think I have a little insight here. I feel pretty well-versed in digital music production at this point, after spending the pandemic learning Ableton. I’m also both a Bleachers fan and a big hater of his production style. Which is why I was struck by what the Drift piece didn’t mention, more so than what it did.

The Drift piece kind of gets tangled up trying to specifically describe Antonoff’s sound. It uses the term “anonymous retro maximalism,” which is super fun, and there are a lot of interesting points about Antonoff’s production design and what it means for streaming music and the death of art, etc., etc. But I do think there is something a bit simpler happening with his music.

I would compare the Antonoffication of music, or the industry-wide adoption of the aesthetics of mid-2000s iPod commercial indie rock, to the dwindling distinction between a low-budget streaming TV show and a high-budget YouTube channel. At a certain point, you’re just making middling pieces of content, shaved of all their edges, that can play fine across any device in any consumption experience. Because who gives a shit? It’s all just metrics now.

And you can see this with his production style, which is, on a technical level, basically just mastering Soundcloud bedroom pop for commercial use. It’s the musical equivalent of a Twitch streamer’s home studio. In fact, there are a few specific things that Antonoff does pretty much across the board that you can point to that proves this.

First, he can’t really sing, so on his solo records he figured out how to layer vocals with distortion and reverb in a way that sounds nice in bad headphones and smartphone speakers. It also provides a feeling of fullness instead of using melodies, which don’t really exist in pop music anymore. He also loves sampling and he’s pretty good at it. I’ve actually gone through the stems of his Bleachers albums before. (He put them online for free.) And I’ve watched him do track breakdowns on YouTube. He’s clearly more interested in what he can do by manipulating existing sounds and layering weird noises than with what he can get out of performers in the studio. And, lastly, when we’re talking about the Antonoff sound, what we’re really talking about, I’d argue, is reverb, and specifically the artifacts of digital reverb plugins. He tends to stick with Valhalla's Plate reverb plugin and Waves’ Renaissance Reverb plugin.

Which leads to my conspiracy theory as to why artists love working with him so much. It’s probably really easy. A couple afternoons in the booth whispering captions from A Softer World and then he goes off and sticks his effects rack on it and starts making a digital avatar of your voice. Sounds pretty convenient!

A Vtuber Does A Face Reveal

Kotaku did a pretty good rundown of what’s happening here. The VTuber’s name is Dacapo. The event was earlier this month at the Cosplay Arts Festival in Thailand. And the crowd going nuts for the face reveal has become a big meme on Twitter and TikTok, which has gotten sort of mean. Which is a bummer.

That said, if you’ve never been to an idol event, either human or virtual, I can imagine that this would be really bizarre to watch.

In my experience, a lot of events like this have a certain undercurrent of camp that doesn’t really translate when there are videos or photos taken. This is especially true for things like furry conventions. Everyone there sort of knows that it’s silly to, say, get revved up when they see an anime boy’s eyes on a big screen, but that silliness is just part of the fun.

A Redditor Makes Some Noodles

Here are the best comments:

  • “Bro literally lives in the dungeons”

  • “Two bucks is a pretty good deal for those. You should stock up next time the trade ship comes back from the eastern colonies with more.”

  • Skyrim ass meal”

Pickled Red Onion Girl Aesthetic

I saw this video on Twitter and, of course, once I tracked down the account that made it, only to I discover that it’s part of a series of videos about making fun of TikTok aesthetics. There’s a bunch of different pickle girl aesthetics, as well as an egg girl aesthetic.

Well, heck, now I’ve got to figure out what kind of pickle girl I am before when I organize my next “girl dinner”.

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s the beginning of summer.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***


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