Discover more from Infinite Scroll
This week in Discourse: Everyone's stupid, Everyone's in trouble
Elon Musk, Linus Tech Tips, and Kick.com are all getting beat up
Welcome to the weekend, internet gremlins. This week everyone was stupid and everyone got in trouble. Let’s laugh and them and learn some lessons along the way.
Linus gets in trouble
Sometimes when it rains, it pours.
Linus Tech Tips is one of the largest YouTube channels in the technology space, focusing on product reviews, crazy computer builds, and other assorted clickbait content. This week they got into hot water after a fairly brutal takedown video by the rival channel Gamers Nexus. The video is quite long, but to run through the drama quickly:
The video alleges that LTT’s process for reviewing computers and components is sloppy, and that their relationships with certain brands are too cozy.
The most striking example came when LTT reviewed a particular cooling device. The device was a custom prototype meant to be used for a specific GPU, but LTT tried to use it with a completely different GPU and then declared it to be overpriced junk when it didn’t work.
Then, despite agreeing with the original manufacturer to send back the prototype after testing, LTT apparently auctioned it off to a channel viewer.
Not great! But still, you may be thinking “Jeremiah, this is pretty standard YouTube drama. Nothing here is really remarkable or all that interesting” And you would have been right - until a former employee jumped in to start an entirely new chapter of drama by claiming the entire company is overrun by a toxic culture of overwork and sexual harassment.
Former employee Madison Reeve alleges that she was belittled, called “dogshit”, “incompetent”, “bossy”, “retarded”, “faggot”, and “chunky and ugly and stupid”, and that she was told to “put on her big girl pants”, “calm your tits”, and “stop being such a bitch”. She also claims she was groped, asked about her sexual history and preferences, asked to twerk for a coworker, accused of “being a tattletale”, punished for taking sick days, forced to manage a company OnlyFans account, and repeatedly retaliated against for protesting.
It’s one thing to be accused of sloppy work. This set of accusations is something else entirely, and her entire thread is a disturbing read. LTT, which normally puts out a video per day, has announced they are pausing video production and hiring an external investigator to look into the allegations. They also released a lengthy apology/response video featuring the company’s leadership.
Taking a step back from how gross the company’s culture seems, there are a couple things that are interesting about this drama:
First, people continue to be so fucking bad at apology videos. The apology video kicked off another round of outrage because of how poorly it was handled. The video includes jokes about sponsors, references to the company’s merch store, and was monetized! We just had this happen with Colleen Ballinger! Do not monetize your serious-I-am-sorry video! Do not tell jokes! The only worse thing they could have done was include a ukulele.
Second, if you watched the video and wondered who the hell all those C-level people speaking are, and why a YouTube channel even has multiple C-level executives you’re not alone. It turns out Linus Tech Tips is big. Not just in terms of their 15M subscribers or their daily uploads, but their actual company. Linus Media Group lists themselves as having 86 full time employees! For a YouTube channel! That’s legitimately more than a lot of actual newspapers and legacy media companies. I think people continue to underestimate how big some of these social media content operations are.
Third, when it rains it pours. Reeve had clearly been sitting on her accusations for a long while, but I suppose she was never comfortable going public against a very popular channel and personality. But once the cooler-review controversy broke and cracks started to form in the channel’s positive image, she must have felt that if there was ever going to be a time to come forward that this would be the time. And lo and behold, with journalists now interested more things are coming out - like a leaked audio recording from a company meeting that seems to show LTT actually knew of the accusations years ago.
I’m very sorry about all the terrible accusations against me, and while I’m apologizing, have you considered becoming a paid subscriber?
I think the real lesson here is that I need to start a PR firm specializing in handling controversial cases. If you are a public figure and you get in trouble, you will call me. You will write me a check for many, many thousands of dollars. And I will give you very banal advice like “Shut up and don’t say anything” and “All statements will be made by your lawyers” and “For the love of god do not run ads on your video apologizing for sexual harassment”.1
Kick Continues to Rumble
I’ve written before about livestreaming site Kick. While they’ve certainly made made some noise, my perspective has always been that their strategy of gigantic, splashy signings of the biggest name streamers was doomed to fail. Quoting myself:
Every name on this list of Kick’s top streamers got their start on another site - mostly on Twitch, some on YouTube. Kick, to my knowledge, has not yet had a single organically grown star that began their career streaming on Kick. This is a problem. This is not how successful platforms develop. Facebook didn’t beat MySpace by stealing all the top MySpace users. TikTok didn’t become the short-form video king by stealing the best YouTube creators. They grew organically with their own audience, their own network, their own unique crowd and platform. They made their own stars. Kick hasn’t done that and doesn’t appear to be close to doing that.
To be fair to Kick, I’m sure that’s part of the long term goal. They’re young, so it’s hard to have grown very many stars yet. They’re hoping these big names and friendly terms can jump start their own site’s cycle of organic creation. That’s a strategy! It’s an idea! And if you want to challenge the dominant player who has baked in network effects, you’ve got to do something disruptive. That’s all fair.
But I worry that they’re approaching this wrong, and that the ‘Quality Filter’ approach of spending big money on big stars is always going to fail. Twitch has thirty or fifty or a hundred new stars that will be created on Twitch in the next year, without Twitch having to pick them at all. The 'organic creation of stars' is the whole business model for TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch. They don't really have to offer mega deals (although they sometimes do) to get stars to come, because the next star is being created as we speak by the Free Market of Viewer Eyeballs.
There’s good news and bad news for Kick recently. The good news first: While they’ve continued the flashy signings of big name stars (like variety streamer yourRAGE and Minecraft streamer Sapnap), they’re also now aiming to create organic stars through a new Creator Program. The goal of the Creator Program seems to be to take small/medium-scale streamers and offer them a sort of fixed salary for streaming a certain amount of hours, not dependent on viewer donations or ads. This seems like a real attempt to grow their own stars in a semi-organic way, rather than just offering fat checks to every big Twitch streamer. I think it’s a really interesting strategy! Kick is still losing money like crazy, but the owners are VC/billionaires and can afford it for a while. And as I’ve discussed, if they’re ever going to compete with Twitch they absolutely MUST find a way to create these organic stars.
The bad news: Kick is potentially falling into the right wing death spiral?
David Roberts has a classic piece about how there are essentially two forms of media: neutral, mainstream media and conservative media. This is an exaggeration, but only a slight one. A ‘left media’ exists, but is nowhere near as hegemonic and powerful and the conservative network of cable news channels, right wing newspapers, etc. Mostly there are neutral sources that lean somewhat liberal but are committed to facts, balance, and fairness like the NYTimes, CNN, NBC, Washington Post, etc, and there are conservative outlets like Fox News, NYPost, OANN, Breitbart, etc that don’t pretend to be anything other than pure conservative ideology.
Roberts’ piece is mostly about the traditional press, but a similar dynamic exists for social media. You often see a mainstream, ‘traditional’ site like Twitter or Reddit with an offshoot that is explicitly right wing. Parler, Gab and Truth Social are Twitter clones meant exclusively for right wing insanity. Voat and TheDonald.win were Reddit replacements created after Reddit banned several pro-Trump subreddits for breaking site rules. YouTube is a neutral giant, and Rumble is a bizarre right-wing replacement. These sites are all infested with racism, bigotry, conspiracy nuts and all sorts of awful content. And unless Kick does something about it, there’s a chance the same thing may be happening to them too.
Here’s a screenshot from creator Tubbo with screenshots of livechat comments from Kick. Warning - gross stuff below:
The worst part is that these are comment from Adin Ross’s chat, who is not just one of the site’s biggest streamers but also a part-owner of the site. Ross’s fanbase and personality lean heavily into ‘anti-woke’ and edgy-conservative type of content, and there’s a chance that bleeds into the rest of Kick. Once you have a kind of momentum attracting a certain type of viewer, it can be hard to reverse it.
That would be bad news in the obvious sense that spreading hateful right wing insanity is just a bad thing to do, but it would also be bad news for Kick’s bottom line. Explicitly conservative newspapers and cable news sites are able to make good money, but explicitly conservative social media sites mostly lose money. They attract a limited base, become outright extremist hate-sites over time, and ultimately fail. There’s no strategy for Kick to overtake Twitch by leaning into a right wing approach, and they need to fix their moderation ASAP if they want to have any chance of long term success.
This Week in Elon
Time for your weekly
punishment reminder that Elon Musk exists and is running Twitter2. This week’s nonsense:
For seemingly no reason, Twitter is killing one of their most profitable ad formats. Advertisers will no longer be able to promote their accounts directly, killing a 100M revenue stream for a business that is already deeply in debt and deeply unprofitable.
Elon made his engineers delay links to websites he’s mad at. Links on Twitter to sites like Facebook, NYTimes, Substack and included a five second delay before the link would load from Twitter. After the petty move was reported in the press, the delay disappeared.
Elon continues to posture as a tough guy while ducking a fight with Mark Zuckerberg. You already know my thoughts - Zuckerberg would annihilate Musk, and Musk is smart to run away. But it’s very sad how obsessed Musk still is with posturing for his legion of internet fanboys.
Musk claims he will remove the ability to block on Twitter, which seems like a catastrophic mistake. Even his normally loyal blue check army is almost unanimously against the move. The reaction has been so negative he even got Community Notes’d.4
Links and Posts
This story on a social media scandal in a California high school is absolutely fascinating. It raises a bunch of questions I don’t have good answers for: What limits should be put on immature kids using social media? And how do we forgive people, especially children, who do vile things on the internet?
I’ve been thinking about writing a thinkpiece-ish post about cringe. What is cringe? What is the nature of cringe online? What do we mean when accuse someone of being cringe? Then I watched this video from Contrapoints and realized she covered the subject so completely and thoroughly and definitively that I don’t even need to write the piece any more. So now I’m just linking to the video, which is fantastic.
Hank Green has a great video titled The #1 Tip for People Who Use the Internet. In short: If your content has a large audience, you are destined to hear every possible take on that content. Good takes, bad takes, incomprehensible takes. You’re not obligated to pay attention to the takes just because they exist.
There’s a fascinating piece in Vox about the rise of Pop Crave and how accounts like that are changing social media.
Viral TikTok video Planet of the Bass is now a real, actual song available on all platforms. If anything is the Song of the Summer, this is probably it.
Pro tip for celebrities: Under no circumstances do you need to release videos on social media where you tell the world you’re licking a married man’s butthole and his wife is being a real bitch about it. At least thanks to Linus this wasn’t the worst apology this week?
We end every This Week In Discourse with something lovely and pleasant to detox from all the insanity. Here are some friends who know the importance of shade.
Not even joking about this, I am available for crisis management consulting. Hit me up, abusive celebrities.
Until I’m forced, I’m going to keep calling it Twitter instead of X
This sounds like a premium subscription to a porn site
We’re making ‘Community Notes’ a verb now. It’s happening.