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This Week in Discourse: Licht gets Licked
Plus: #Resist grifter exposed, and who's rizzing Livvy
Holy crap, it’s Friday! You survived! The internet had even more absurdity than normal this week, so you’re getting today’s This Week in Discourse and a bonus version tomorrow. Let’s dive right in.
CNN’s Chris, Licked
is was the CEO of CNN. And as this stunning piledriver of a profile from The Atlantic detailed, things were not going well. He’d alienated his newsroom. His signature ideas and shows were flopping hard. And he made the hilariously poor decision to showcase a Donald Trump town hall that went as badly as everyone but Licht predicted. Wednesday, five days after the article was published, Licht was fired.
Last week we talked about how never admitting fault, doubling and tripling down, and striking back at critics is the new PR meta-strategy for celebrities on social media. Chris Licht seems to have attempted this strategy. Throughout the Atlantic article, Licht is defiant. A few quotes:
I asked Licht whether there was anything he regretted about the event. The “extra Trumpy” makeup of the crowd? (No, Licht said, because it was representative of the Republican base.) Devoting the first question to his election lies? (No, Licht said, because nothing else, not even the E. Jean Carroll verdict, was as newsworthy as Trump’s assault on the ballot box.) Allowing the audience to cheer at will? (No, Licht said, because instructing them to hold their applause, as debate moderators regularly do, would have altered the reality of the event.)
He gave no ground on anything else—not even the presence of Representative Donalds on the postgame show. Licht told me it probably didn’t make sense to seat a congressman on the pundits’ panel, but said he otherwise had no regrets, even after I pointed out that Donalds was an election denier who used his place on that panel to question the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.
Licht was still coming to terms with the ferocity of the backlash later that night when CNN’s popular Reliable Sources newsletter landed in his inbox. He read the opening line in disbelief: “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” Licht’s own media reporter, Oliver Darcy, wrote.
The next morning, he began the 9 o’clock editorial call with a telling choice of words: “I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night.”
This is exactly the strategy from last week’s post. The thinking is that if someone tries to cancel you, it’s far better to strike back. Define your own narrative. Things are going great, actually. The obviously disastrous event was a success. You regret nothing. This is working for a lot of people! And yet it didn’t work for Licht.
This is a viable strategy for most celebrities and influencers, because as long as they can convince their core fanbase (or at least some portion of the audience) they’ll be ok. They don’t have to win everyone. And if they can split the world into pro- and anti- camps, the controversy can even end up being good for their career. Controversy drives clicks and attention. But for Licht, there’s a single man deciding his future: David Zaslav, president of Warner Bros. If Zaslav doesn’t buy his schtick, he’s canned. Simple as that. Combine that with objective viewer metrics showing CNN is struggling to retain an audience, and you can see the limits of the ‘strike back’ PR strategy.
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This Week in Elon
We had a week or two where Elon was suspiciously quiet, and we should have known better. He’s back at it. This week’s shenanigans:
Twitter restricted the release of the “What is a Woman?” documentary from The Daily Wire’s merry band of bigoted idiots. Twitter’s team said that the documentary misgendered several people, which was a violation of the hateful conduct policy.
Elon overruled his team and said the documentary could be published and promoted on Twitter. He then retweeted it himself and said ‘Every parent should watch this’.
Two executives then quit in short order: AJ Brown, Head of Brand Safety and Ad Quality and Ella Irwin, VP of Product for Trust and Safety. This appears to be a direct result of the Trust/Safety teams being overruled.
It’s been reported that the ads team has been told not to enforce any standards for ads unless the ad is a scam or outright illegal.
With all this controversy at least business is good? Well, no. The NYTimes reports that Twitter’s ad revenue is down almost 60% year over year. Other fun tidbits: Twitter’s own internal diagnosis is that advertisers are ‘spooked by hate speech’ and that they don’t expect ad revenue to recover any time soon.
Twitter’s lawyers admitted in court that the Twitter Files were basically a big nothingburger.
He suggested Twitter may eliminate the ‘block’ feature, which is insane but would admittedly be very entertaining in a Hindenburg-esque way.
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Mueller She Wrote, Mueller She Grifted
If you were on Politics Twitter early in Trump’s presidency, you’ll remember how big #resist Twitter was for a while. Accounts like the Krassenstein Bros, the Pod Save America guys, and Louise Mensch got enormous followings for loudly posting ORANGE MAN BAD content over and over and over. One of the biggest and most successful #resist personalities was the account Mueller, She Wrote (named after Robert Mueller, who for years was valorized as the man who would bring down Trump). The woman behind the account, Allison Gill, portrayed herself as a pugnacious disabled veteran who wouldn’t put up with Trump’s shit. She was able to quit her day job and parlayed her account’s success into a podcasting and speaking career.
Looking back, the #resist movement always combined two distinct sets of people:
A very earnest/cringe segment of posters who just genuinely hated Donald Trump and posted compulsively every time anything about him was in the news
A group of grifters eager to cash in on the massive audience and endless demand for anti-Trump content
This mix of earnest and grifter is common to a lot of movements, and there are new accusations that Allison Gill was closer to the grift line. According to a very, very long tweet thread, Gill lied extensively about almost every aspect of her life along the way to building hundreds of thousands of followers and a media career. The accusations are explosive and the thread has extensive receipts:
Gill lied extensively about almost every aspect of her military experience
Gill lied about her grandfather dying in World War 2 (why???)
Gill lied about her husband trying to kill her
Gill almost certainly lied about the extent of her disability
Gill lied about being targeted by the Trump administration and being fired for her political views
Gill was caught extensively defending rape jokes from Daniel Tosh years back, which she repeatedly lied had never happened
She also lied about her businesses, subject matter expertise, and other assorted topics
The thread is pretty damning - much of the evidence, if real, is black/white in nature. Gill seems determined to post through it. Rather than fight back and double down, her only move has been to retweet an ally who vague-posted about the situation:
Otherwise, she’s simply continuing to post ORANGE MAN BAD content as though nothing happened (and given Trump’s indictment, she’s got a lot to post about). Gill appears to be banking on this dying down naturally, which isn’t the worst plan. Most social-media-only controversies die out within a few news cycles. The mob will find some other thing to be outraged tomorrow, and only vaguely remember that Gill lied about some things. I think there’s a distinction to be drawn between controversies that escape social media and those that stay there. Unless this escapes Twitter into major news sites (which seems doubtful), Gill probably emerges with a somewhat tarnished reputation but essentially gets off scot-free.
Curtains for Zoosha, The Prophecy is Fulfilled
A story in two acts. First you watch this fever dream of a TikTok:
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Then you realize:
Age comes for us all one day. Prayers for Drip King, may Livvy rizz in peace.
Links and Posts
This may be the most cold-blooded social media block of all time: a Sherpa on Mount Everest saved a climber’s life but was then blocked on Instagram by the climber.
This Week In Discourse always includes a lot of insane stuff, so we always end with a happy thought. Here are friendly mice napping in flowers: