The Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
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.”
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.
Get the Hell off Twitter, Morrissey
Morrissey is now on Twitter. We’re doomed. But I guess that’s progress.
In olden times, you had to wait ages for Morrissey to say that the Chinese were little yellow fungal spores splattered unevenly across the planet who should use their burgeoning space program to build a big rocketship that could cart them all off to the nuclear heart of the sun.
Honestly, under-25s, it was a whole process. First, a journalist had to be summoned. Then, the negotiations as to whether the banner headlines would over-summarize his racial opinions had to be undertaken with a publicist. A venue needed to be found. And a journalist to put his or her tapes in the tape recorder, and ask two questions: “How are you?” and “Do you think the Smiths will ever reform?” An hour later, a groaning tape recorder full of glib jokes and moans would have to be sent off for transcription. Finally, days, weeks, months later, the world would finally know what was wrong with the Chinese (they are a sub-species), and how it could be fixed (with flaming astral death). The headline-writers would then load up their headlines: “Bigmouth Strikes Again!” or something. Then the opinion writers would be summoned to put together essays about how He Really Has Gone Too Far This Time. Then a plucky freelancer would have to be dug up to rail against the backlash, and on and on, forever.
Now, all of that shit is going to be INSTANT. “Cut off the head of Dappy,” Morrissey will poke, one finger at a time, into his Samsung S5, and the three saps who write all the music news blogs will go: “Morrissey Stokes Controversy as He Urges Dappy Beheading.” “You’ll Never Guess What Morrissey Has Said Now…” Gawker will tease. “Beheading Dappy: N-Dubz Hitmaker Hits Back at Moz” the HuffPo will wail, despite its readers having no particular interest in either person.
Everyone’s Tweeting Photos of Police Brutality Thanks to the NYPD’s Failed Hashtag
Twitter is a cool website where you can type any old thing into a box and senpecid it out into the ether for the entire internet to read. Some people use it to joke around, some people use it to be like, “HEY INJUSTICE IS HAPPENING, WHOA #GETINVOLVED” and some people use it in order to roleplay as characters from Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you like heated arguments with total strangers.
Large institutions like corporations and government agencies use Twitter too, usually pretty badly. “Hey, we’re a pizza company, send us pictures of you eating our pizza and hashtag them #pizzapics” is an example of a typical lousy tweet from one of these accounts. Generally institutions try to drum up something vague called “social engagement”—basically they want to get people tweeting good stuff about them so other people see those tweets and, I guess, come to think good thoughts about the institution who started the engagement campaign. The New York Police Department was probably thinking they could do one of those social engagement thingies when they launched the hashtag #MyNYPD with this tweet:
What the person running the Twitter account probably failed to realize is that most people’s interactions with the cops fall into a few categories:
1. You are talking to them to get help after you or someone you knew was robbed, beaten, murdered, or sexually assaulted.
2. You are getting arrested.
3. You are getting beaten by the police.
The Police Raided My Friend’s House Over a Parody Twitter Account
Jon Daniel woke up on Thursday morning to a news crew in his living room, which was a welcome change from the company he had on Tuesday night, when the Peoria, Illinois, police came crashing through the door. The officers tore the 28-year-old’s home apart, seizing electronics and taking several of his roommates in for questioning; one woman who lived there spent three hours in an interrogation room. All for a parody Twitter account.
Yes, the cops raided Daniel’s home because they wanted to find out who was behind @peoriamayor, an account that had been shut down weeks ago by Twitter. When it was active, Daniel used it to portray Jim Ardis, the mayor of Peoria, as a weed-smoking, stripper-loving, Midwestern answer to Rob Ford. The account never had more than 50 followers, and Twitter had killed it because it wasn’t clearly marked as a parody. It was a joke, a lark—but it brought the police to Daniel’s door. The cops even took Daniel and one of his housemates in for in-depth questioning—they showed up at their jobs, cuffed them, and confiscated their phones—because of a bunch of Twitter jokes.
Now Daniel’s panicking.
“I’m going to fucking jail,” he told me yesterday when he was on a break from his job as a line cook. “They’re going to haul me away for this shit.”