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You can't have a proper insurrection without normies

Read to the end for the stupid chocolate guy back with another unbelievable video

Coup 2: Electric Boogaloo (Boys)

On Saturday, in a post on Truth Social, a website that only exists in the form of screenshots displayed on Fox News, former President Trump wrote a message in all caps that contained the following sentence: “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” He’s referring to himself in the third person here.

Trump has been posting on Truth Social for a while about a “horseface case” and a “witch hunt” let by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which are two different ways he’s been referring to an investigation into whether or not Trump paid off Stormy Daniels with campaign funds to not disclose a 2006 affair.

It seems unthinkable that Trump could actually be arrested, but the New York Times reported this morning that “senior officials from the district attorney’s office and the state agency that runs the courts had preliminary discussions to plan for a possible indictment and arraignment.” And CBS News’s Robert Costa posted video of steel barricades being put in place outside of Manhattan Criminal Court this morning.

As NBC News’ Ben Collins wrote over the weekend, however, this is, so far, not anything like the lead up to the January 6th insurrection. “January 6th was so publicly organized on these forums and extremely predictable,” Collins wrote. “Not seeing that level of coordination in public (or in quasi-private Telegrams).” And neither did I this morning when I dusted off my own far-right watchlist. That said, the Proud Boys showed up to a drag event in the Village yesterday and I find the timing of that curious, if nothing else.

But it’s hard to overstate how different the right-wing information ecosystem is in 2023 compared to where it was in 2021. January 6th was announced months in advance and organized very clearly and publicly on Parler and, more crucially, Facebook Events. There is no version where January 6th could have happened at the scale it did without Facebook Events as a way to mobilize normie Trump supporters. So far, all I’ve found on Facebook are watch parties for the possible arrest.

The other major difference between January 6th and whatever happens tomorrow is that the right wing is no longer one coherent political movement. They don’t get along with each other and they, increasingly, don’t even believe in the same politics. If you’re curious what these internecine conflicts look like in practice, I recommend this recent interview between Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson, where Shapiro seems completely unable to understand Carlson’s current politics.

And one of the driving forces behind this fracture is that Trump projects a lot less power than he once did. In fact, Stop The Steal organizer Ali Alexander called him “pathetic” in a livestream over the weekend. And I think Trump’s would-be rival for the 2024 election, Florida Governor “Meatball Ron” DeSantis, is smart enough to know that a Trump arrest isn’t totally and completely a bad thing for him.

And that’s not even getting into how much long-term damage conspiracy theories have done to Trump’s base. Right-wing publisher Gateway Pundit published a post this morning using a Twitter poll conducted by right-wing British YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson to push the claim that any sort of protest tomorrow would be “another” January 6th-style “trap”. Even funnier, QAnon influencers are so used to divining subtext from Trump’s updates that they can’t believe an arrest is happening and are insisting it must be code for something else.

And, as NBC’s Collins also wrote in his thread over the weekend, there’s the simple fact that many right-wing influencers, which make their money by transmitting conservative politics as if they were a TV show you can easily follow at home, have moved on to a new storyline. Many are convinced the US economy is going to crash at any moment and it’s hard to make that plot line fit neatly with the Trump arrest. Right-wing influencer Jack Posobiec tried to fit these two narratives together over the weekend, by calling on Trump supporters to do a bank run to crush the country’s economy, but, I mean, c’mon lol.

One of the issues with building a political movement completely downstream from internet culture, the way Trump’s biggest supporters quickly and effectively did over the last decade, is that it is extremely susceptible to the ever-changing tide winds of the web. And right now, the internet is pretty broken. And without the extremist-to-president-to-cable-news-to-normie pipeline that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube offered during the Trump administration — a pipeline that was smashed apart on January 6th — it’s going to be a whole lot harder to build any sort of critical mass. I’m not ready to say that if Trump is arrested nothing will happen. And I actually think the chances of decentralized right-wing violence across the whole country become exponentially higher if he is. But it won’t be like it was two years ago. I imagine it’ll be way more confusing.

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The Era Of Good Enough Generative AI

I know it can be really hard to keep a firm handle on what’s happening in the world of generative AI, so I typically try and organize things into top three lists. The initial wave of generative AI was led by the Microsoft-owned OpenAI, which, first, blew up the whole space with the image generator DALL-E 2 and then ChatGPT. Following closely behind was Midjourney, another AI image generator, and Stable Diffusion, its open source cousin.

After a series of updates this month, I’m comfortable saying we have a slightly new hierarchy: OpenAI’s GPT-4 generative-text interface, Midjourney version five, and, as of this morning, Runway. You can check out what Runway Gen-2 is capable of above. It is finally a working generative-AI for turning text prompts into videos. Is it perfect? Nope. Does it need to be? Definitely not. This stuff is officially good enough.

I’ve been documenting my struggle with defining the AI arms race and I suppose the closest approximation to where we are now I can offer based on where we’ve been is probably the moment apps like Photoshop, platforms like Google Maps, and services like Wikipedia suddenly became good enough. I’m old enough to remember not only the first time I used printed out MapQuest directions to follow on a long drive, but, also, the first time I didn’t have to anymore. And in both instances, the tech I was relying on became good enough to get done what I needed to be done. What’s disorienting is that that process once took years. And AI services have gone from a fun novelty to good enough in, let’s be real, less than a year. And I suspect that’s why it’s taking the general public so long to really grasp it. I think AI is honestly evolving faster than the human brain can really process. Which I’d find scary, if I didn’t mostly just find it annoying.

Oh, before we move on, no, ChatGPT can’t get help you jump a website’s paywall. It can’t read the live internet. Though, it can hallucinate what it thinks is behind a paywall. As of right now, the only AI that has a direct link to the web is Bing’s chatbot. As an experiment, I tried to get it to paraphrase this paywalled New York Times interview with philosopher Colin Koopman and all it could do was tell me general stuff about Koopman’s work, but not the contents of the interview itself.

Hog Leg Down

According to Steam analytics, Hogwarts Legacy has seen an 88% drop in players and 98% drop in Twitch viewers since the game was released in early February. That’s brutal! Especially because it’s an open-world RPG. And, you know, because so many players and streamers were saying that they had to play it because it was popular and/or a game that was too good to ignore simply because the author of its source material would be profiting of it. And that she has a history of financially supporting anti-trans hate campaigns.

The Adorable Story Of A Girl And Her Favorite Horrific Cryptid

Back in February, a TikTok user named Brandon Johnson that specializes in super scary monster cosplay met a little girl who, it turns out, loved his gigantic monster costume. Johnson calls his monsters “spiritwalkers” and he uses stilts to give them a real creepy walk and appearance.

After the first video of Johnson and the little girl went viral, they put out another video that went super-duper viral. And, best of all, now people are making fanart of the little girl and the spiritwalker.

You Gotta Watch This Completionist Video

The Completionist, real name Jirard Khalil, is a YouTuber who 100-percents games. His channel is great and fascinating, just in general, but he recently put out a video where he attempted a different kind of 100-percenting. He tried to legally purchase every game —and their DLC — from the Wii U and 3DS game stores. The video is wild and, honestly, the closest I’ve ever come to saying out loud, “huh, maybe Bitcoin maxis have a point about the digital banking system.”

It’s not a spoiler to say he basically does end up buying every game, and ends up donating them all to the Video Game History Foundation, which is great. But I also saw some cranky users in the r/Nintendo subreddit complaining that he should have just downloaded ROMS and emulators for all of them, but I think both the stunt and the finished product here go a long way towards making a point about how tenuous the cultural history of video games is. The video really does a great job of showing how easily these games could just vanish without any real evidence that they existed in the first place.

And while Khalil doesn’t ever go fully anticapitalist in the video, I’m more than happy to: All of the difficulties displayed in the video above are, in my opinion, exactly what happens when art is completely and totally controlled by large corporations. Now there’s a real reason for gamers to rise up, if you ask me.

Good Squirrel Tip

Some Stray Links

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


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