Discover more from Infinite Scroll
This Week in Discourse: Throwing shade at the shade structure
Plus: Is Twitter right wing?
You made to Friday, good job! The internet remained a very strange place this week. Here’s what happened:
The disaster that was ‘La Sombrita’
On Thursday last week, the LA Department of Transportation unveiled a new bus stop design called ‘La Sombrita’. For the last week, virtually all corners of Policy Wonk Internet have been mercilessly mocking it. Conservatives, liberals, progressives, libertarians, you name the group and they’re joining in on the dunks. And the dunks were well deserved. It’s a ‘shade structure’ that basically doesn’t provide shade:
But don’t worry: it’s also a source of light that doesn’t provide light!
The entire episode was made more embarrassing by the fact that LADOT had a press conference to unveil and celebrate the structure as though it were some sort of achievement. The non-profit who designed it has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling the world to understand how to build ‘inclusive’ structures (although they insist that was general travel, not travel paid for specifically by the LADOT). The structure was sold in explicitly progressive and gender inclusive language - to “Improve comfort, safety, and the travel experience for women”. Adding even more to the absurdity, this thin piece of metal cost $10,000 United States Dollars. For reference, this 13x10 outdoor patio with a ventilated roof and built in mosquito netting costs about $600 off the shelf at Home Depot. It’s not an exact fit for what you need on a sidewalk, obviously, but the difference in scale here is stunning. It was ten grand for an almost completely useless thin strip of metal vs much larger and nicer and more functional options for shading at a tiny fraction of the price.
There are three distinct issues that make La Sombrita so infuriating and have caused it to be so widely mocked:
The use of ‘equity’, ‘inclusion’ and similar language. Most people would agree that the core idea of being inclusive is good. But the way in which progressive non-profit world uses that language is sometimes absurd. Los Angeles doesn’t need ‘more equitable and inclusive bus stops’ or ‘women and non-binary focused structures’ or however else you’d like to phrase it. Los Angeles just needs BETTER bus stops and public transit, period. Better in every way, on reliability, reach, speed, comfort, safety, and so on. This will benefit women, men, black Angelinos, white Angelinos… everyone. That La Sombrita was sold as a gender equity initiative was aggravating to start - that it was sold that way while completely failing to do anything worthwhile upped the aggravation by an order of magnitude.
The outsourcing of government functions to non-profits. There are quite a few folks who wonder why the second largest city in America doesn’t have a Department of Transportation that can design its own bus stop structures. Why involve a non-profit at all? A cynical view of the non-profit involved is that they’re basically graft in the system, sucking government dollars and producing nothing of value. This is informally known as the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. At its worst it functions as a sort of job guarantee for those who are politically connected and enmeshed in the progressive non-profit world. Even at its best, it raises the question why the government isn’t capable of basic tasks like building its own bus stops - why include a middleman who is one layer further from accountability if you don’t need to? There are sometimes good reasons for local governments to use contractors, but this sure doesn’t seem like one of those times.
The mess of bureaucracy and regulations involved in building anything. This is probably the most important factor here, and also the most overlooked. The non-profit involved and the bureaucrats at the LADOT might be ineffectual and inefficient, but they’re unlikely to be outright idiots or outright evil. So how did this happen? As LADOT themselves explain, this was the only thing that could be built under the current regulations. Regulations say that some sidewalks are too narrow for their standard bus stop structure. They can’t design a new bus stop structure that’s narrower without going through a design permitting process, which would take forever. Building a new bus stop requires coordinating with 8 government departments. Regulations say that to dodge this process, the structure must live entirely on the street pole, be no more than 24 inches across, and a host of other requirements. The project is forced to be stupid, because the regulatory process is deeply stupid. This is part of a larger problem in America, that it’s impossible to build anything cheaply or quickly due to excessive regulation.
This Week In Twitter
For literally the first time since I’ve started this newsletter, Elon Musk has not had enough individual instances of insanity to fill his own section of the weekly drop. He still had some! But maybe he’s calming down just a little! (we can hope) (haha fat chance).
What we did have was One Big Event on Twitter this week - the launch of Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign through Twitter Spaces. And it was a flop - the typical headline looked like this:
The event was plagued by delays and glitches. Elon would pop up promising that they had just allocated more servers to the event, and then it would fail again. And DeSantis appeared in campaign launch - his signature event! - as a weird disembodied voice. It was the opposite of charisma, if such a thing exists.
This probably won’t matter much in the long run, because DeSantis was already a massive underdog to Trump in the Republican primary. But what’s fascinating to me is that it seems to be an inflection point for commentators declaring Twitter is a ‘right wing site’. Axios says Musk is turning Twitter into a ‘Fox News competitor’. Garbage Day’s Ryan Broderick says that Twitter is now just a ‘delivery mechanism for right wing news’. WaPo says it’s a right-wing media venture and The Atlantic declares ‘Twitter is now a far right social network’.
I hate to play spoilsport (fact check: not true, I love doing this) but that’s all a load of nonsense. A lot of the commentary here seems hysterical, and like proof these people have never actually been on Gab, Parler, Truth Social, Rumble, or similar sites. There is absolutely no comparison to be made between the level of insane garbage that populates those actual right wing sites and what Twitter looks like right now. Sure, Twitter has moved to the right since Elon bought it. Blue checks getting priority in replies is an issue because they’re mostly brain-dead Elon fanboys. Twitter is degrading as we watch. All fair and true.
Subscribe to Infinite Scroll and you too can bask in La Sombrita’s 12 square inches of shade
And yet! Right now, the vast majority of twitter remains non-political content. On the real right wing sites, right wing politics dominates the entire conversation and the entire site, non-stop. Most of twitter is still stan armies for various pop stars, sports twitter, celebrity twitter, and hundreds of other categories of completely non-political content. Politics is still a small minority of the site, and if you don’t see that it’s because you’ve algorithm’d yourself into only seeing the politics. And even among the political content, there’s still a massive amount of left leaning content. Perhaps even a majority of the content is left-leaning! This is not at all similar to actual ‘right wing sites’ where seeing a progressive is extremely rare.
I certainly could buy that Elon Musk wants Twitter to be a conservative site, and that he wants it to compete with Fox News. Neither of those things is really true right now - Elon’s site can’t even handle an audio-only twitter space with half a million people without crashing. Trump’s CNN town hall got like seven times that audience. Everyone should dial back the hysteria just a wee bit and chill.
Assorted Dramatic Happenings For Those Who Love Dramatic Happenings
Ja Morant, who fumbled a $100 million bag by waving a gun around on IG Live, had a welfare check performed by police. He posted “Love ya ma", "Love ya pops" and "You da greatest baby girl love ya." He then followed those with a post that simply said, "Bye." Concerning! But it turns out he’s fine. Probably just depressed about the bag dropping? I hope things work out for Ja, but really, the only thing in the world that is stopping him from being a cool hundred-millionaire all-star NBA God is his own proclivity to wave guns around and post like a teenager. Just don’t post! No drama!
Thomas Woodruff is a not-very-well liked person in the comics/art world, and has been nominated for a bunch of Eisner Awards, the comics version of the Oscar. People are very angry about this. Nobody understands why he was nominated, because his comic was obscure, didn’t sell well, and wasn’t critically well received other than these awards. It’s also been accused of being a racist depiction of indigenous people, and just skimming it, maybe they have a point? There’s a whole round up of reactions that show people’s thoughts. He seems like an enormous asshole, if the dozens of comics people venting are to be believed. Drama!
A very popular board game YouTuber appears to have blackmailed a board game company for a good review. Ok, perhaps not exactly blackmailed. But the channel in question, ‘Quackalope’, emailed the publishers with an offer to do a sponsored review of the game that would basically be an advertisement. And then after the publisher didn’t seem like they wanted to do the sponsorship, Quackalope warned them that they’ve already filmed another video calling it a disaster and terrible game… but they wouldn’t release that one if you pay us for the sponsorship. The publisher declined, Quackalope put out the bad review, and then the publisher made public all the emails and accused them of blackmail. What else could explain releasing two videos in a row that call the game “a masterpiece” and then “unplayable”?
Bad Tweet of the Week
Links and Posts
Vlogging OG Hank Green has cancer. It appears treatable, which is great news.
I enjoyed this thoughtful piece about what it means to follow someone for years, about the Hank Green announcement.
The majority of book ban requests at schools - across the entire country! - were filed by just 11 people.
Here’s an interesting reddit discussion of single-celebrity hate subreddits
Hoping Jaime Foxx recovers from his mystery ailment - here’s him doing the world’s best Trump impression
We talk about a lot of insane things here, so every This Week in Discourse ends with a happy thought. Here is smol rabbit eating baby carrots out of a mini shopping car.