About That Fleshlight 9/11 Tweet
Today, on the thirteenth anniversary of the time two planes flew into the World Trade Center and set in motion a series of events that have led to uncountable cases of torture, death, and oppression, we are talking about brands. Specifically, we are talking about brands that have decided to commemorate 9/11 through social media. Even more specifically, we are talking about a single tweet from Fleshlight, a company that makes fake vaginas for men to ejaculate into for pleasure:
The Fleshlight tweet has been circulated far and wide on websites because putting “Fleshlight” and “9/11” in a headline is Facebook traffic GOLD, baby, and also because it is pretty funny and gross and awful that companies are taking a few seconds to metaphorically bow their metaphorical heads and go: See guys, we feel sad about the sad thing too. Here is a picture of a flag!
We do this every year. September 11 rolls around and people feel the need to acknowledge it, because it remains this shadow looming over everything. There are the streets named after 9/11 victims and the fading memorials painted on walls; there are the stories about young children who lost parents in the attacks; there’s also the matter of US foreign policy, which is still centered around getting the bad guys responsible in the Middle East. The event seems monumental and impossible to understand—this infuriating injustice that has spawned lots of other injustices. Just thinking about it for too long makes you feel angry and sick. It sucks all the irony out of the room, and you get a twinge of guilt or transgression when you joke about it.
RT to Kill: It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Tweets a Death Threat
On the night of March 11, a Twitter user with the handle @StillDMC stood at a window in downtown Los Angeles and took a photo of his rifle, the barrel aimed at what appeared to be a couple of pedestrians standing on a street corner in the distance. At 12:09 AM, he tweeted.
“100 RT’s and I’ll shoot someone walking,” he wrote alongside the picture, which quickly racked up well over 100 retweets. An hour later, he followed up: “Man down. Mission Completed.”
This time the image showed a young man lying on the ground, clutching his torso—along with what looked, in the pixelated dark, like a chest wound.
The next day, LAPD detectives arrested 20-year-old Dakkari McAnuff. The police report states that investigating officers had “discovered multiple pictures displaying an unknown type of rifle pointing in the direction of various Los Angles city streets [sic],” determined McAnuff was @StillDMC, and confirmed his location. At midday, police officers arrived at 22-year-old Zain Abbasi’s high-rise condo building, where McAnuff was a guest.
According to Abbasi’s account of the arrest, the building’s property manager summoned him to his office, where detectives placed him and another friend in handcuffs. Helicopters circled the building, snipers took aim from a complex across the street, and multiple police cars blocked the parking lot.
The detectives told Abbasi to call McAnuff and to instruct him to come down to join them. As soon as he left the condo, McAnuff was apprehended by ten LAPD officers who were lying in wait, their guns drawn. The officers searched Abbasi’s apartment and found the weapon pictured in the tweet: an unloaded air rifle.
The entire group was handcuffed and taken into custody. McAnuff was “jailed on suspicion of making criminal threats,” and his bail was set at $50,000.
It was all supposed to be a joke, of course.
Dumping a Bucket of Ice on Your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist
Unless you lack access to the internet, you’ve certainly seen the viral onslaught of Ice Bucket Challenge videos in the past few weeks. The idea is to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and “nominate” others to do the same, as a way of promoting awareness about ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). If you don’t accept the challenge, you have to donate $100 to an ALS association of your choice. It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism. By the time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.
This is the crux of millennial “hashtag activism,” where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, good causes end up being a collective of social media naval gazing. We reflected on our favorite social-movements-gone-viral and found out what happened to them after the fell off our Twitter feeds. Because, yes, social problems continue even after you stop hashtagging them.
Before hashtags even existed, there were still ways to obnoxiously flaunt a social cause that you had no real connection to. Remember Livestrong bracelets? Those rubbery yellow bracelets were the brainchild of Lance Armstrong, who sold them through the Livestrong Foundation to raise money and spread awareness about cancer. Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Johny Kerry sported one on their wrist; wearing them signified that you were both sensitive and stylish.
At least the dollar you spent on the stupid-but-trendy bracelet went toward funding cancer research via the Livestrong Foundation. Or at least, so you thought. In actuality, the Livestrong Foundation started phasing out its cancer research in 2005, and stopped accepting research proposals altogether just a few years later. Over 80 million of the bracelets have been sold. Where the hell did all of that money go?
The world was more than a little shook-up when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, burying at least 200,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure. #Haiti became thesecond-largest trending topic on Twitter that week, and was the subject of at least 15 percent of tweeted links in the week afterward. Remarkably, many of those links directed people to donation sites. Even the Red Cross mobilized on Twitter, encouraging people to send donations and spread the word about #HaitiRelief.
Social media may have actually done Haiti a solid, helping to raise $8 million in relief funds. But, like all things on the internet, they lose their luster and their urgency, and we forget about them. It’s been four years since the Haiti earthquake and although those initial donations made a huge impact in rebuilding the rumble of Port-au-Prince, there are still at least 150,000 Haitians living in the plywood shelters in relief camps. Earlier this year, NPR reported that many of these people are living without water, electricity, or light. Why isn’t anyone tweeting about that? Because #Haiti is so four years ago.
The Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
Everybody knows and loves the fake Ghostface Killah
blog where the author annually lists the “Top Ten Softest Rappers in the Game.” While the rap game is certainly tough, it pales in comparison to the dark underbelly of the internet art community. When net artists leave the safety of the web, they get drunk, take copious amounts of drugs, get into fights, and fuck each others’ girlfriends and boyfriends like it’s a Bret Easton Ellis novel. So, to pay tribute to whoever writes that brilliant Ghostface blog, and to illuminate some of the politics of the net art world to the general public (who likes paintings and/or ceramics), I present to you:
Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
The Jogging’s Tumblr is like some indoor kid’s delusional projection fantasy about what sports probably feel like. Besides that, it’s filled with images of zebras wearing pizzas, Crocs, houseplants, and mirrors. Even its name is like the softest exercise that somebody can do besides a 3K Fun Run/Walk. The people who run it have names that look like the guest list for a screening of The Graduate on Tommy Fucking Hilfiger’s yacht: Artie and Brad and Haley and Jesse and Joshua and Lauren and Norm and Rachel and Spencer.
Murphy’s also in this batshit crazy noise project called MSHR
with Birch Cooper
, and that shit isn’t soft at all, which is why she’s only at #9. Her weird three-dimensional digital collages and shit are totally psychedelic, but they still feel like a book of my aunt’s wallpaper samples fed through a seapunk filter that I’m checking out while trying to get laid in Second Life. I do like to look at her work because it makes me feel like I’m on drugs, but it’s like I’m on drugs that make me soft (weed, psychedelics) not drugs that make me hard (coke, Beezin’
Image via Andrew Birk’s Facebook account
I don’t even think these two motherfuckers count as net artists because Birk paints and Delmar is a corporation, but it’s like I look at Facebook for about two seconds and suddenly I’m the third in their relationship. Do they live in Mexico City? Paris? Brussels? Nobody fucking knows because it’s just an unending slideshow of travel pics which are 100% the softest kind of pics that exist. The hardest pics are obviously selfies, doge, and that stoner alpaca
If there’s anything softer than Anime, it’s art history. In Hayes’ work, these two ostensibly disparate worlds collide and it’s even less brutal than that Powerman 5000 song (I’m saying that they’re not a very tough heavy metal band). Don’t get me wrong, I like Jeanette Hayes personally. But if I were in a burning building on the tenth floor and had to leap out of the window, I’d pray to the heavens that there was a pile of her paintings to land on in the street below (I’m saying that her paintings are soft and I’d be safer if I landed on them).
My Hometown’s Mayor Sicced the Cops on My Friends, and Now He’s Getting Sued by the ACLU
One of the mantras of journalism is that you should never become part of the story, but what happens when those in power target you specifically because you’re a journalist? That’s what happened to me when the cops, at the behest of Peoria, Illinois, mayor Jim Ardis, raided my friends’ home over a parody Twitter account written in the voice of a druggy, pussy-licking version of the city’s chief executive.
This Guy Hates Clickbaity Headlines. Here’s Why
Anyone who has ever scrolled through a Facebook newsfeed knows what “clickbait” is—the internet is awash in headlines promising a photo cuter than all other cute photos, an outrage-inducing news item more outrageous than all other news items, a piece of celebrity gossip juicier than all the previous undeniably juicy gossip bits. The key is that these headlines always withhold that critical piece of information: who the best guitarist in the world is, what the bad Republican man actually said, which nutritional supplement will cause spiders to grow in your stomach and eat you from the inside out.
Jake Beckman has achieved a modest amount of internet fame by ruining these headlines and saving people clicks in the process with his aptly named Twitter account @SavedYouAClick. Inoften hilarious fashion Beckman retweets links to stories from websites and publications like theNew York Times, Salon, the Atlantic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Upworthy, and Buzzfeed, among others, with a pithy summary of the article’s interesting bits. His tweets save everyone time by boiling down stories into single words (“The World Cup is days away but is Brazil Ready?”“Nope”), but they also should shame people who write misleading or insulting headlines and tweets in the service of drawing traffic to uninteresting stories. @SavedYouAClick has apparently struck a chord, amassing 90,000 followers in just over 400 tweets, and last week, Beckman even got the opportunity to save his followers a click to a story about himself. How charitable of him:
VICE: You told Jack Shafer of Reuters that you don’t have a problem with headlines that ask questions, which leaves only teasing, “curiousity gap”–exploiting tweets in your crosshairs. But you don’t appear to be going after some of the worst clickbait offenders—sites like Upworthy and the God-awful Facebook mom feed, Elite Daily. Are those sites just too easy to target?
Jake Beckman: It’s not that headlines with questions are always OK—sometimes they’re legitimate, and sometimes they’re not. What I’m targeting, though, are the tweets: how these articles are positioned on social media in an attempt to score easy traffic. I definitely include Upworthy, and just recently followed Elite Daily—I’m always looking for more publishers to follow. Usually it’s just a matter of timing—when I’m looking for tweets and how recently the offending tweets were published.
Running a Twitter feed doesn’t pay, as much as we all wish that was the case. What do you do for a living?
I run @SavedYouAClick as a personal side project. I work for RebelMouse, a publishing platform with a focus on social content. I used to work in breaking news and editorial at ABC News and Bloomberg TV, so I’m very familiar with how newsrooms work.
Offline Activism Is the Tricky Part for #YesAllWomen
As with every mass shooting in the last decade, Elliot Rodger sparked a clash of ideologies. This being a misogyny-fueled massacre, instead of the usual gun debate, it provoked a nationwide Twitter war between anti-patriarchy feminists and a bunch of apologist white guys, with most tweets focusing on the fact that while not all men denigrate women, all women are denigrated by men, and culminating in the latest clicktivist hashtag #YesAllWomen. It’s a strong hashtag, and it has staying power, but does it have the potential to inspire people offline?
When a branch of the American Revolutionary Communist Party concerned with banning pornography for the benefit of women, called StopPatriarchy.com, organized a series of #YesAllWomen rallies in Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco, it meant another attempt at turning global social media awareness into community activism, in the hopes that the effort is broadcast somewhere, anywhere. Best case - recursively on social media; worst case - word of mouth. This cyclical advocacy happens fair often with little effect, #BringackOurGirls and #Kony2012 come to mind. Ralph Nader was right, “the Internet doesn’t do a very good job of motivating action.”
“I’m not everyone’s cup of tea,” she said. “There are people who can’t stand me, and others who love me. But I’m willing to be disliked.”
Meet Mikki Kendall
Their Eyes Were Watching Twitter: Mikki Kendall and Her Online Beefs with White Feminists
You don’t need to know anything about the history of racial tension among white and black feminists to understand Mikki Kendall. But it helps. In 1870, a good many white suffragists opposed the passage of the 15th Amendment—which allowed African American men to vote—on the grounds that black males ought not to be given voting rights before white women. Frances Willard, a leader of the suffragist movement, even supported the predilection for lynching beloved by her white sisters below the Mason-Dixon Line. In an 1890 interview with the New York Voice, Willard said that “the best white people” down South had told her that “great, dark-faced mobs,” multiplying “like the locusts of Egypt,” had threatened “the safety of woman, of childhood, [and] the home.” Such an onslaught necessitated a vigorous defense, she believed, often by men in white sheets. A pioneering black journalist and suffragist named Ida B. Wells had the temerity to confront Willard. But Willard and other white feminists were unapologetic and attacked Wells. She had transgressed a bedrock principle of the nascent women’s movement: Women don’t criticize other women. They stand in solidarity.
One morning last August, Kendall, who is black, had Ida Wells in mind as she debated whether or not to violate this principle. An aspiring writer and full-time office worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Chicago, Kendall was curled up on a red love seat in the living room of her Hyde Park apartment, her computer perched on a small lap desk. She was thinking about “cuss[ing] out” Jill Filipovic, a white feminist writer and editor with whom Kendall had a Twitter beef. The origins of said beef are baroque and often confusing and always of the “(s)he tweeted, she tweeted variety.” To follow its thread requires one to know (and care) about the Twitter doings of a defrocked male feminist named Hugo Schwyzer, a young woman who goes by the Twitter handle @Blackamazon, and whether or not Filipovic had expressed support for the former at the expense of the latter. But the real import was Kendall’s belief that white feminists—not necessarily Filipovic, a reasonable sort who makes a poor target—behave in a Willardesque fashion and go unchallenged because of that same historical call to solidarity.
Kendall chose not to curse at Filipovic and instead drafted a hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. The slogan meant to reference the long history of internecine feminist discord, one in which black women are obliged to suppress their needs in defense of white prerogatives. She began riffing on #Solidarity, again and again and again, in more than 40 tweets: “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when you ignore the culpability of white women in lynching, Jim Crow, & in modern day racism”; “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when you idolize Susan B. Anthony & claim her racism didn’t matter”; “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when feminist discussions of misogyny in music ignore the lyrics of [the Rolling Stones song] Brown Sugar.”
She knocked out scores of Tweets in an hour, tapping the rich vein of black female marginalization until Twitter locked her out for over-tweeting. (This, apparently, is possible.) So she hopped off the couch and made herself a snack. By the time she returned to her computer she was famous.