Last time we checked in on British Jihadists, they were posting snaps of themselves messing about in swimming pools, hoarding Cadbury’s chocolates from home, and generally having a good time. Everything has changed.
"Behead first, ask questions later"
The Only Person Young Thug Follows on Instagram Tried to Fly Me to Dubai in Exchange for Sex
I have a compulsion, or a penchant rather, to seek out and passively absorb images any time I find myself idle. In high school, I satisfied this urge through Tumblr—I would tumbl deep into k-holes of Mary Kate Olsen pro-anorexia blogs and Laguna Beach montages. But now I am (ostensibly) an adult, so I use Instagram to quench my thirst for meaningless images. Celebrity Instagrams are the apex of the form, a place where you can lose yourself in the 2,000 comments on a selfie of Young Thug in the passenger seat of a car.
It was precisely that moment of Instagram hypnosis that an unnamed Noisey editor discovered a strange anomaly: Young Thug aka @thuggerthugger1 follows a single person on Instagram. Just as Kanye only follows his one true love, Kim Kardashian, on Twitter, Young Thug has an interest in only one account, one account over the millions that exist, one account to fill his entire feed every time he desires the soothing soma of social media.
Enter: @HumaidAlBuqaish. Humaid Al Buqaish lives in a massive compound somewhere outside of Dubai. His Instagram account is dedicated to his many pets, most of which are exotic cats. It seems like someone in his very wealthy entourage got their hands on a GoPro camera, and the combination of his comical levels of wealth and his several tigers, cheetahs, lions, and one painfully cute chimp that he dresses in all Paul Frank pajamas has resulted in a mass Instagram following. He’s so famous the Daily Mail even wrote an article about him!!!!!! Wow. Such prestige. Many impress.
I reached out to Mr. Al Buqaish via Facebook about a month ago. He responded almost immediately to my inquiry, but his messages were suspiciously laced with grinning, blushing, and winking emoticons. I should have realized after the first winky-face emoticon that this was not going to be a normal interviewer-interviewee relationship. Instead of agreeing to a Skype or email interview as I had suggested, Humaid took the conversation to an entirely different place:
A Town in Florida Has Made It Illegal for Homeless People to Cover Themselves with Blankets
There’s a new Tumblr blog making the rounds called Selfies with Homeless People. Apart from the rare picture in which the homeless person is complicit in the act, the majority of the photos are posed next to a sleeping or comatose human. Cue snap after snap of the worst sort of millennial douchery, as fresh-faced youngsters exploit the impoverished, dispossessed members of society for Instagram likes and hashtag LOLs.
Although their young souls may be dog shit, they aren’t actually physically harming homeless people. But don’t worry, because Florida, the internet’s favorite affront to human decency and legal reason, is picking up the slack. Thanks to a “camping” ordinancepassed by the Pensacola City Council last summer, homeless people in the city will becriminalized for, among other things, sleeping outdoors while “adjacent to or inside a tent or sleeping bag, or atop and/or covered by materials such as a bedroll, cardboard, newspapers, or inside some form of temporary shelter.”
That’s right. For the grievous offense of trying to shelter yourself from freezing conditions while homeless, you are considered to be breaking the law. For a state so obsessed with the right to defend oneself, it’s shocking that Floridians wouldn’t extend this right to those confronted by the elements. But why is it illegal to use a blanket during those tricky periods when you don’t live in a house? Are blankets harbingers of infection and death? Possibly. The city council argues that “camping” has a detrimental effect on Pensacola’s “aesthetics, sanitation, public health, and safety of its citizens.”
Jihad Selfies: British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media
After being publicly sacked by al Qaeda leader Aymann al-Zawahiri and accidentally beheadinga fighter from one of their main allies in Syria, it’s fair to say the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s PR campaign has suffered in recent weeks. So, like any half decent group of militant extremists, they obviously want to address this slip. Unfortunately, a traditional media outreach is very difficult for them, given ISIS’s policy of kidnapping journalists. So they’ve turned, like many before them, to social media.
Over the past few weeks, foreign fighters from ISIS and their subgroup the Muhajireen Brigade have been busy uploading selfies across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, in an effort to publicize their cause and win more recruits to the Syrian jihad. They offer a bizarre and fascinating look inside Syria’s most feared and least understood militant groups.
On paper, the Muhajireen Brigade are separate to ISIS, but they’re considered by some analysts to be a front group for the larger jihadist outfit. The social media evidence seems to support this view.
This picture (above) shows British fighter Ibrahim al-Mazwagi in battle with Omar Shishani, a Georgian Chechen who formerly led the Muhajireen Brigade, and is now ISIS’s military commander in Northern Syria.
Al-Mazwagi was killed in battle in February, aged 21. This is a collage made to honor him as a martyr, along with his friend and fellow casualty, Abu Qudama.
Above are two other recent British martyrs, Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, and Mohammed el-Araj, 23. The pair are shown here at a jihadist internet café in Atmeh, a Syrian border town that is now firmly under ISIS control.
Mexican Drug Cartels Love Social Media
Above: “Broly”, an alleged member of the Knights Templar Cartel, posing for a selfie with his handgun. (All images courtesy of Antoine Nouvet / Open Empowerment Initiative.)
Members of Mexico’s drug cartels are really starting to harness the power of the internet, using it to run positive PR campaigns, post selfies with their pistols, and hunt down targets by tracking their movements on social media.
Antoine Nouvet from the SecDev Foundation, a Canadian research organization, has been working with drug policy think-tank the Igarapé Institute on a project called the Open Empowerment Initiative. The project looks into “how cyberspace is empowering individuals and rewiring relations in Latin America” and has uncovered a wealth of information about how cartels are using the internet to their own nefarious ends.
Some gold weapons posted on a cartel member’s Facebook page.
The first point Antoine touched on was how cartels have utilized cyberspace in much the same way as a TV company’s PR department might: “They advertise their activities, they conduct public relations initiatives, and they have basically turned themselves into their own media company,” he explained. “Colombia’s cartel groups or drug traffickers in Myanmar in the 1990s were very sophisticated at public relations, but they didn’t have this massive broadcasting platform.”
Lean On Me: Instagram’s Codeine Kingpin Sent Me Emoji Death Threats
As I write this, a drug dealer wants me dead. It might be spelled out in Emoji, but a death threat’s a death threat.
There is an Atlanta-based drug dealer who is convinced I ripped him off for at least a few pints of Actavis-brand prescription cough syrup—a potent mixture of codeine and promethazine. You and I know it as “lean” or “drank.”
I’ve never consumed lean. I’ve never met this dealer. I’ve never even been to Atlanta.
This entire “encounter” took place on Instagram, where hundreds of accounts are selling lean, weed, and a variety of prescription pills in a virtual open-air drug market. Many of these accounts aren’t even private.
Remember Silk Road? That mysterious, deep-web drug market? (Which, by the way, was recently shut down and seized by the United States government) It’s kind of like that, but on the same iPhone app that you use to take a photo of your brunch. The same app that Facebook bought for a billion dollars, or roughly 2.85 million pints of Actavis, the leading lean brand.
They sell it, often overnight it, and you can text them your order.
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Lean, Oil, Mud, Texas Tea, Dirty Sprite, Drank, Sizzurp—the archetypal Styrofoam cup filled with purple liquid you’re picturing is a cocktail of promethazine and codeine, mixed with Sprite, and garnished with a Jolly Rancher. Lean is often touted by rappers and, like hip-hop itself, it took off in an isolated area (Houston) and propagated itself outwardly. H-Town luminaries like DJ Screw and UGK’s Pimp C championed the stuff—and they also died from overdoses.
And, recently, everything is purple. Houston-based rapper Fat Tony—who claims to never drink lean himself—says, “[Lean] has a long history of being associated with rap music because of DJ Screw and Houston music, but now, it’s so popular now because every rap song mentions lean.” The 25-year-old continues, “Look at the top 20 tapes on like livemixtapes and I guarantee that every one of them has several lean mentions, whether it’s a Lil Wayne tape, a Jeremih tape, a Chief Keef tape, a Migos tape, a Rich Homie Quan tape, a Kevin Gates tape, an A$AP tape, or TDE artists like Schoolboy Q or Ab-Soul—even Odd Future artists like Mellowhype. It’s more popular in rap music than I’ve ever seen it before.”
MrPimpGoodGame Is the King of the Instagram Selfie
At first glance, Benny Winfield Jr. seems like a normal 37-year-old who works as a customer-service rep, lives in the suburbs of Houston, and tutors children in his spare time. But online, he’s MrPimpGoodGame, the self-proclaimed “King of the Selfie Movement,” whose prolific Instagram gallery has garnered a cult following due to his signature look: an honest smirk and a shiny head. Although the selfie has been criticized among the ranks of pseudointellectuals, girls who watch Girls, and actual psychiatrists for its seemingly trivial implications on mainstream culture, MrPimpGoodGame takes it all at face value, because according to him, a selfie is face value.
Instead of talking to some Freudian dork about the psychosemantics of the selfie, I wanted to get in touch with a professional. So I web-chatted with MrPimpGoodGame to talk about his newfound fame, business ventures, and women.
MrPimpGoodGame: I was trying to be funny at first. I didn’t think it would take off like this.
Did you have a normal person Instagram before?
No, I’ve always been doing this because it’s what I do. My original account was PimpGoodGame and I was getting so much attention that I had to shut it down because I had co-workers on there. So then I started MrPimpGoodGame and really pushed the selfie movement.
What’s the movement about?
The selfie movement is about loving the way you look, even if you’re having a bad hair day. No matter what. It’s always appropriate to take a selfie.