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This Week in Discourse - Sophie Turner's Revenge
Fumbled PR campaigns, dramatically quitting Twitter, and how fandoms are changing concerts
Welcome back, internet gremlins. You survived another week! The discourse has been bountiful, so let’s dive into the nonsense. Per usual, there’s a lot of it. So, so, so much nonsense. Enjoy.
Joe Jonas fumbles the smear campaign
Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner - splitting up! On the surface, this is a fairly unremarkable celebrity divorce story. You meet cute, get married, have a couple kids, yada yada yada, and it’s time to divorce. It’s not inherently notable, because if we’re being honest Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are no longer in the top 25 on the Celebrity Power Couple Rankings Index.1 But what makes this worth talking about is how the PR is being run and how social media is reacting to it.
In short - Joe Jonas’s PR team is working overtime to paint Turner as the villain. Stories have been leaked about how she parties too much, how Joe has been taking care of the kids. There are vague allusions to her wrongdoing. All anonymously sourced, of course, and clearly from someone in Jonas’s camp. This kind of jockeying is completely normal during divorce. Even when the divorce is supposedly amiable, there’s a PR fight to see who gets blamed by the public and who will come out as the Bad Guy. Jonas seems to have embraced the theory that you should go hard 100% of the time, to hell with the haters.
The only problem is that Jonas’s PR play isn’t working. The backlash to all the leaks started in the blog world and on social media, but it’s now spread to mainstream outlets like CNN, Today, Rolling Stone, and more. The backlash has gotten large enough that other actors are dogpiling Jonas with unrelated accusations of past misbehavior. So how did things go so wrong?
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A few things are happening here. First, Joe’s PR team went too hard, too fast. Most of the time you want to play offense rather than defense in PR situations, but the smear campaign seemed to release 5-6 different stories about Turner’s misdeeds within a week’s time. It was too obvious what was happening. The stories were also clearly negative without having much direct evidence or impact. Vague statements about how she ‘wants to party’ or is a ‘bad mom’ or ‘there was footage on a security camera of… something…’ don’t really land unless you can show real evidence of something people will care about it. And there isn’t any smoking gun of actual bad behavior.
But even more than the PR being overzealous, there’s another factor that separates this PR strategy from something like the infamous Amber Heard/Johnny Depp shitfight. Namely, Joe Jonas’s fans are almost entirely young women. Opinions on Depp/Heard often split down a male/female line, and Depp’s mostly male fanbase was eager to accept stories about how Heard was an crazy violent shrill harpy bitch. But Jonas’s fans are young women primed to see themselves in Turner. Jonas prominently features her in music videos and even in some live performances of his music.2 He’s halfway to being a Wife Guy!
Here’s the rub: You can’t relentlessly promote your young beautiful wife to your young female fanbase, and then turn around without warning and release a bunch of stories about how she’s actually a monster. They won’t buy it. Jonas’s fans like Sophie Turner, because he’s trained them to like her! And a significant fraction of those fans are now turning on him rather than turning on her. Turner has conspicuously not fought back, which makes the entire thing look more aggressive.
The bottom line is that if you PR strategy is causing multiple national outlets to run negative stories about you and your own fanbase to turn on you, it might be time to find a new PR team. I talk a lot about how I should start a celebrity PR firm whose only piece of advice is ‘Be Normal’, and I continue to be astounded how bad so many of these people are at basic PR tactics.
The Brain Rot of Dramatically Quitting Twitter
This is a small rant from me that’s not really relevant to anything else. But is there anything else in the world as pathetically over-important as media types who write long missives about how they’re Quitting Twitter because of the Bad Man and the site Just Isn’t The Same Now?
This kind of thing has been popping up with increasing regularity. Here’s Dave Karpf dramatically proclaiming he is quitting. Here’s Danielle Kurtzleben. There are a ton more and frankly I’m not gonna search for them all, because it’s only going to ruin my mood.
Look, I get it guys. You, as former media blue checks (when that was a good thing), were addicted to Twitter and you’re mad Elon owns it now. Yes, Elon is doing insane, illogical things with the site. Yes, the site’s experience has gotten somewhat worse. Sure. But to act like the site is now a dead zone with nothing happening is stupid. The site is still rolling along and by any honest approximation there’s not yet a replacement. Twitter is still the main place where breaking Discourse happens. What’s changed is that being important on Twitter used to be the coolest fucking thing in the world to your social scene, and now being important on Twitter is really lame and problematic. And as people with large Twitter followings, you’re sad about it.
The world does not need a declaration that you’re leaving for BlueSky, Mastodon, Post, Nostr, Threads, TruthSocial, VKontakte or FarmersOnly. We’ve seen it before, we don’t care how you’re bravely standing up to the Elon Man. If you’re gonna leave just leave without being so damned dramatic about it.
Fandoms Are Changing Concerts
I keep saying that I want to write more about fandoms and their place in how social media works, and I promise that’s coming. In the meantime, check out this piece from Vox about how TikTok and social media are changing the concert experience.
Live concerts seem to be the one form of media that social media and the internet have been unable to swallow thus far. 99% of newspapers were decimated by the internet.3 Magazines are dying too - women’s mags in particular have basically been replaced by influencers. I’ve covered before how both TV and movies are in decline as they lose market share to YouTube, Twitch and TikTok videos. The internet swallows everything, but so far it’s been unable to swallow live concerts
It’s not for lack of trying - with a little ingenuity, anyone can watch a concert on TikTok or Instagram for any major artist. Plenty of people there are livestreaming it. But it’s hard to replace the communal experience of thousands of people singing as one, physically experiencing the sound and light, “screaming alone together” as Hannah Ewens would say.
And yet while concerts aren’t being replaced by social media, they’re being changed. Fans are more likely to be recording, searching for that viral moment. They’re documenting both the artist and themselves, and are far more likely to dress to the nines. The world of K-Pop brought fan chants into the mainstream, and now fan interactions with songs are so common that Taylor Swift fans need a cheat sheet to remember all the moments when the crowd will chant phrases in unison.
Anyways! More on fandom culture soon.
I’m tired of talking about Elon so here are some tweets about him instead
There was a big piece in the NYTimes about the new Elon biography. There was a lot of other news too, but having to do a weekly roundup of Elon is doing to my soul what Mortal Kombat does to defeated players. So here’s this instead:
This Week in Very Online Lawsuits
This is a real lawsuit, I swear: Dee’s Nuts vs Deez Nuts. MrBeast’s Deez Nuts brand chocolate bars got sued by another brand claiming copyright infringement.
Elsewhere: An antivax YouTuber sued the website, attempting to force them to reinstate his videos. The lawsuit failed, and the channel will remain down
Also in YouTube: thanks to Japan’s absolutely deranged copyright laws, a Japanese YouTuber was sentenced to two years in prison for uploading video game and anime content without publisher permission.
Links and Posts
The UK is backing down on killing encryption after a host of tech company basically said they would abandon the UK market rather than comply. I don’t have a ton of commentary here other than this is obviously good news, and Europeans have the stupidest possible tech regulations in most cases.
Content mills are pumping out videos of Fake Karens - staged videos of women behaving like ‘Karens’ which go viral at astonishingly high rates.
The BBC made a documentary on Gollum-like sex criminal Andrew Tate, and it turns out he’s just the frontman for a shadowy cult figure who based his cult’s worldview around Conan the Barbarian.
Feel good link of the week, to detox from all the insanity. Check out the world’s best podcast host…
This does not exist, but it really should
The other Jonas brothers also have Wife Guy characteristics
The literal meaning of decimation is ‘to kill 1 in 10 people in a group’, in which case the typical American newspaper was decimated 5 or 6 or 7 times over.