This Week In Discourse - Twitch children riot and Zuckerberg wants to fight
Plus - The Sameification of social media and Girlies everywhere
You made it to the weekend! Let’s relax, crack open a cold beverage and dive into the wildest absurdities the internet has to offer.
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Riot in Union Park
If you’re not a terminally online Twitch-brained teenager, you may not have heard of Kai Cenat. But Cenat is currently the second biggest livestreamer in the world, and has more than 80,000 paid subscribers on Twitch. He’s a big deal.
Last weekend, he told his enormous following that he was going to be giving away free stuff in Union Square in New York City, including PlayStation 5s, iPhones, and more. He set a time and date, and promised to be there.
Kai’s fans began gathering in Union Square hours before he arrived, and began rioting before any giveaway could take place - breaking into cars, climbing onto roofs, overturning construction equipment and food carts, fighting, throwing things and clashing with police. More than 65 people were arrested, including eventually Kai himself. Multiple young people were injured with blows to the head, and several apparently suffered panic attacks. The whole incident was very January-6th-for-Zoomers.
At one point, fans began swarming an SUV they believed was carrying Cenat, to the point of clinging to the vehicle’s roof and sides even as it raced away from them:
Thankfully the riot remained pretty small and locally contained, never moving anywhere beyond Union Square. This entire incident is fascinating from all sorts of angles:
I’m almost reminded of Roman bread riots - when the public is promised something and that free goody isn’t delivered, things tend to go poorly.1
We underrate the celebrity appeal of the biggest online stars. Kai Cenat is someone I’ve rarely spent any time thinking about. His content is objectively2 terrible, shitty, trash-tier content. But regardless of my old man opinion, he can inspire thousands of idiots to congregate and riot on his behalf. We need to start thinking of the biggest YouTubers, TikTokers and streamers in the same way we think about A-list celebrities like actors and singers.
This is the biggest incident of this kind I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the first streamer-induced public freak-out. A few years ago in El Paso a streamer did a flash appearance in a mall, and so many people ran to see him that it transformed into a rumor people were running from an active shooter, sparking a panic.3
This entire incident also reminds me of fan hooliganism after major sporting events. If you’ve ever seen videos of fans behaving badly after winning (or losing!) the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup, there are a ton of similarities.
NYC is charging Kai with two counts of inciting a riot, and some lesser charges as well. Turns out that you can’t just gather 10,000 people and encourage them to act crazy without informing anyone in city government you’re doing that! Especially when there are clips showing that Kai knew the whole thing was likely going to spiral out of control. Kai isn’t walking away from this 100% unscathed… but honestly, he’ll probably walk away mostly unscathed. I’d be stunned if there were real consequences like jail time. He’s got enough money to hire good lawyers, and he’ll probably either plead down to a lesser charge or agree to pay a fine and do some community service.
And this whole thing probably ends up being good for him. He’s gotten enormous publicity, the kind of earned media attention you couldn’t buy if you wanted to. He was the subject of national conversation. Sure, the fanbase you attract by inciting riots isn’t going to be the greatest quality fanbase, but if we’re keeping things real Kai’s fanbase was already mostly composed of idiots who love trashy content. I really doubt he has any regrets about how this went down.
Sameification of Social
One of the most fascinating images I’ve seen in a while on the social web and how features proliferate:
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