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This Week In Discourse: Sell out so good
What’s up, internet gremlins. You made it to Friday! Let’s celebrate with a heavy dose of online nonsense.
Take The Money And Run
Imagine for a moment that you’ve gone viral. The whole internet is talking about your post or your video. Before you run away screaming - they like you! Whatever you did was funny, or cool, or the right level of awesome. The whole internet is laughing with you, remixing your post, memeing it. Maybe there’s some mockery or some haters, but it’s pretty clear most people are enjoying themselves. I’ll use a relatively benign example from the distant past - let’s say you’re the I Like Turtles kid. Other than bask in the limelight of your Very Good Post, what do you do?
I’m going to propose a rule here - sell out as hard and as fast as you can. If you can sell ‘I like turtles’ merch, sell it! If PetSmart or Chewy show up with a check and an offer to endorse their turtle food, cash that check with a smile. If someone wants you to shill for their turtle movie, ask where the camera is. (and if you thought this was hypothetical, check out the I Love Turtles kid and his turtle movie…)
This is true if you are a content creator who’s already trying to make money with your online content, and it’s true if you’re just a normal person who’s suddenly in the spotlight. If you’re a content creator, you’ve got to grab that chance while you’ve got it! You don’t get the entire internet’s attention all that often. Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for? And if you’re just a regular gal or guy, who cares if you ‘sell out’? What supposed principle are you upholding by refusing to sell out? Take the money and run.
Upgrade to a paid subscription so I can take the money and run. Selling out is cool now!
Now, I don’t mean that you should do literally anything. You should be smart about it. If you have a real banger post you don’t want to ruin the vibes by posting a sketchy BUY THIS VIBRATING DILDO1 link below for fifty bucks. Just dropping a link to your Cash App probably won’t make you much money. There are smart and not smart ways to go about this. If your post is truly huge you should probably get in touch with an agent or rep. But as a general principle you should aggressively seek to monetize your post and maximize its value, and you should feel zero shame about it.
Anyways! Here’s PinkyDoll, the ‘Ice Cream So Good’ TikToker, announcing her new single:
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Apparently fast fashion brand Fashion Nova wants to give her a bag to make a song composed mostly of her catchphrases, and PinkyDoll is taking the bag with a smile. And who knows how good the full song will be, but this six second clip kinda goes hard? She’s even posting about potential collaborations with other artists. I can only salute her - the whole NPC trend is weird as hell, but you might as well ride the spotlight as long as you can. Keep gettin’ them checks2, PinkyDoll.
Stop Badgering Celebrities About Your Cause
Earlier this week, a labor union in Los Angeles representing hotel housekeepers wrote an open letter to Taylor Swift, urging her to postpone her upcoming shows in Los Angeles. Those hotel workers are on strike, and they ask Swift to ‘stand with hotel workers’ and postpone the shows as a show of solidarity for their union. And it’s not just the hotel workers asking: politicians all over California have joined in. State legislators, mayors and city councilmembers have joined in. Even the Majority Leader in the state assembly and the Lieutenant Governor are publicly asking Swift not to play shows.
Now, I don’t want to be too harsh here.
But actually, yes. Yes, I do want that. Everyone involved in this is a flaming idiot and should be banished to the Ninth Circle of Hell to be tortured with pointy sticks and creepy algorithmic Spiderman-Elsa videos for eternity.
Ok, too harsh. Maybe just a few weeks of the stick would get the point3 across. But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s worth analyzing why this is all deeply stupid (and why everyone involved did it despite the fact that it’s stupid).
I can’t pretend to know anything about this particular union. Perhaps they’re a greedy union trying to take advantage of poor hotel owners. Perhaps they’re a virtuous union heroically standing up for the little man. Assume whatever you would like to assume based on your politics, the more relevant question is what the hell any of this has to do with Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift does not live in the region and is not involved in their dispute. She’s going to be in their general geographical vicinity for a few nights to play some shows. That, as far as I can tell, is the entire connection. The letter tries some bank-shot theory of ‘Many of your fans will stay in hotels’ and therefore… somehow their working conditions are Taylor’s responsibility? Her fault?
I’m pretty sure that nobody involved (politicians or hotel workers) actually believes any of this. There’s no actual line of reasoning as to why this would work to pressure the hotels. At the high end, hotels would probably be facing a couple thousand cancelled rooms across the city? Rooms that would just be booked at a later date? This would solve the union’s problems… how? It doesn’t make sense because it’s all fake.
The hotel workers know it doesn’t make sense, but they’re also social media savvy. They know that the easiest way to get media attention and buzz on the internet is to involve a big name celebrity, and there’s nobody bigger than Taylor Swift right now. “Underdog worker’s union writes letter asking Taylor Swift for help” is viral catnip. It doesn’t matter that the request is nonsensical and their issues are unrelated to Swift. It doesn’t matter that Swift has thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on her playing these shows, or that these shows are so impactful to the local economy that the Federal Reserve mentioned them. The intention was never that Swift would actually cancel the shows, the intention was to trade on her name for publicity. And it worked! Politicians are signing the pledge, media outlets are noticing. They got Politico and the Lieutenant Governor for god’s sake!
This seems relatively harmless - Swift’s reputation4 will be fine. But if this sort of thing becomes more commonplace it’s going to get very annoying, very fast. Should Fall Out Boy not play New Jersey because the state won’t clean up a chemical waste site that effects immigrants? That's certainly a string of words you can put into a sentence, but I fail to see how it's Fall Out Boy's problem. Should Billie Eilish refuse to tour until Instagram fixes their moderation policies to be more gender inclusive? Why the fuck not, I guess. As long as we're doing random shit I say we cancel Carly Rae Jepsen for playing shows in states with bad tax policy.5
This is deliberately a bit over the top, but look: It's hard enough to hold celebrities accountable for the things they do directly. Nobody can or should try to hold them accountable for things they have nothing to do with. As a viral tactic it might work for now, but once people catch on you risk your cause losing credibility as you chase celebrity clout.
This Week in Elon
Time to talk about Elon I guess, because this is my personal form of being trapped in the Ninth Circle with the pointy stick.
Because the blue check mark is now less a ‘verification this is a real public figure’ and is instead a ‘verification this person pays $8 for the Former Bird App’,
Also: It’s very funny that this is still happening. Brands love when this happens.
Elon, if you’re reading this,6 can you please go one week without any insane news? Just to give us all a break?
Links and Posts
It’s becoming a theme that if you want your internet news a week before anyone else, this is the place to be. Last week we talked about the real reason the writer’s and actor’s strike is so bitter - people are spending more of their entertainment time on YouTube, TikTok, and online, causing film and TV revenues to plummet. This week - The Information reports on how advertisers are fleeing television and embracing YouTube ads because with the strike ongoing, that’s where the viewers are.
The Washington Post has an insider’s view of how Threads went from idea to public launch in only seven months. I don’t know if Threads will succeed long run, but this is a huge accomplishment for Meta. Most companies lose the ability to do things quickly once they become behemoths with tens of thousands of employees - that Meta can still build entire new platforms very fast speaks well of them.
There are reports that Korean scientists may have made a breakthrough on room-temperature superconductivity. As scientists around the world rush to verify or disprove the claims, it’s possible the first verification may have come from a Russian Twitter user with a catgirl anime avatar who is also a USSR-loving tankie. Friends, the internet is a strange place.
Canada passed one of the terrible ‘link tax’ laws that require sites like Facebook or Google to pay newspapers for linking to their content. These laws are economically backwards - the news sites benefit far more from the links than the tech giants do. In response, Facebook decided to simply block all news links and refuse to pay the tax. Those links make up a tiny part of Facebook’s content, but this will likely have a large impact on the news sites themselves. Google has also announced they’ll just de-list the content rather than pay the tax.
Increasingly, celebrities and artists are as online as the rest of us. Case in point - a fan of rapper Gucci Mane posted a fake song cover that went viral, and one week later Gucci Mane drops a new track with that title using the fan’s art.
China is attempting to regulate how much time kids can spend on the internet.
Twitter’s Menswear Guy is escaping into real world political coverage.
The NPC TikTok trend is evolving - we now have an NPC Child Dying Of Consumption
An in-depth look at today’s most important social media trend: Male Thirst Trap TikTok Chefs
Tumblr is full of crabs
Feel good end - To help deal with all the nonsense, we try to end with something heartwarming at the end of every This Week in Discourse. Here’s a furry friend playing keepy uppy with three people.
Rebecca Jennings at Vox refers to the practice of sketchy promotional links below hit tweets as Clout Mining
Do not do this, Carly is perfect and must be protected at all costs
He is not