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Elon Goes 4chan and a Legend Dies
Plus: possibly the most elaborate online scam yet?
Welcome to Friday! The Internet is still a horrible, fascinating place.
If you see internet nonsense happening during the week, report it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take care of it.
Death of a Blogging Legend
This week, Heather “Dooce” Armstrong committed suicide at the age of 47. I’m aware my audience skews young and male, and so there are probably a lot of you who don’t know who Dooce was or why she was so influential. Let me do my best to explain.
This blog is about social media and how it impacts how our culture, our politics, and our behavior. But before social media even existed, the social web was a loose collection of message boards and blogs, and Dooce was a giant of that era. She was one of the earliest, most successful and most notorious ‘mommy bloggers’, and her successes and failures were eerily predictive of the social media world that was to come.
She was one of the first major figures to be fired for online comments. She was one of the first ‘social personalities’ to monetize their online fame and to do ‘sponcon’. She was one of the first people on the internet to be absolutely hounded by a dedicated group of online haters (which anyone who read last week’s piece on Meghan Markle will understand the significance of). She was raw and unfiltered and unapologetic in an age in which media was still buttoned up and sanitized. She talked about things others wouldn’t - how motherhood sometimes felt oppressive, her personal struggles and failings, her journey leaving the Mormon church, depression, alcoholism and divorce. For those not around, she was enormously famous in that internet era, the equivalent of one of today’s top YouTube or TikTok stars.
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The ways in which we use social media today - all of the common practices and systems for how things work around money, fame, attention, etc. - these were pioneered by Dooce and others like her. She wasn’t a perfect woman by any stretch, but a person’s death is rarely the right time to dissect their shortcomings. So for now we’ll just send her off and hope that she’ll be writing again somewhere in the great beyond.
This Week In Elon
In last week’s Elon Musk update, Elon announced micropayments, changed the blue checks again, threatened NPR, and gave up enforcing his API policy. It’s bananas that we have to talk about this man every week, but in just 7 days since there’s been another tidal wave of nonsense.
Elon announced a number of new features, including a new video platform, the ability to buy Twitter Blue for other users, encrypted DMs (but which are not yet secure), and the ability to make video/audio calls from within the app. He also appears to be mulling a Twitter Dating function.
Elon replied five times in less than 24 hours to tweets about how often black people are murderers.
Elon announced that Twitter would begin purging old accounts and posts
Twitter was reported to have retained less than half their early Twitter Blue subscribers, a shockingly poor number.
There are two remarkable stories playing out at Twitter at the same time. The first is Musk running the business into the ground - ad revenue has fallen off a cliff and Elon’s attempts to use Twitter Blue as a replacement are failing badly. As revenue falls, he’s desperately throwing new features at the wall and hoping some of them will stick. The problem is that none of those features address the core problem that Twitter is losing wild amounts of money because all the advertisers have fled.
The second story is that Elon is doing a 4chan speed run and trying to turn Twitter into a right wing fringe site. He’s promoting Tucker Carlson, parroting misinformation, and boosting alt-right conspiracy theorists virtually every day. The stories overlap, but it’s remarkable that he could be killing Twitter in not just one but two separate ways.
And just before I scheduled this for publication, it’s being reported that Musk has chosen Linda Yaccarino as Twitter’s new CEO. Other sources believe it’s Ella Irwin. Either woman is probably more stable than Musk in the short term, but both share Musk’s right wing paranoia and are unlikely to change Twitter’s long term trajectory.
This is a story I’m absolutely fascinated by.
Caroline Calloway is a social media influencer and scammer. Let’s be very clear on the scamming point. Caroline is a scamming scammy scammer who has done many scams. She initially gained fame as an Instagram personality, and parlayed that fame into a six figure book deal advance which she spent without ever writing the book. She then graduated to selling expensive workshops on how to build your brand, only to cancel the workshops because she hadn’t even bothered to book venues for them.
At this point she began to lean in to her ruined persona. She hosted a new workshop titled ‘Scam’. She dabbled in OnlyFans. She sold amateur boob paintings and then began selling essential oils literally called ‘Snake Oil’. She is very much not ashamed of the scammer label. She’s leaning in.
Anyways! In addition to all of the above, Calloway also announced in late 2019 that she had a book deal for a new book called Scammer. This was three and a half years ago, and she’s been teasing the book for that entire time. People have pre-ordered the book. She keeps giving updates on the book. And the best part is that because it’s Caroline Calloway, nobody is even sure the book exists.
She is now proclaiming the book will ship in mid-May. Nobody knows if the book is real. She’s promising bonuses and extras for the people who pre-ordered. I’m enthralled by the idea that the entire thing could be a multi-year piece of performance art. Nobody knows! I almost hope the whole thing is a scam. If you pre-order a book called Scammer from a known scammer, you have to at least take that into account, right? On second thought, the funniest possible outcome is that the book is once again ‘delayed’ and she strings this out for another year of ambiguity.
Bad Tweet of the Week
Links and Posts
Check out this ‘Prophet vs Priest’ analysis of why Elon’s struggled so much at Twitter when he was objectively very successful in his other businesses
If you click on this TikTok, I *promise* you will not be able to guess which direction it goes
We talk about a lot of insane things here, so every This Week in Discourse ends with a happy thought. Here is two otters being friends.
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