I don't normally make New Year's Resolutions, online or off, but I made an exception this year. Here's mine:
"Block with abandon. I spent far too many emotional cycles last year on people arguing with me in bad faith, diving into arguments that could never be won. At some point, I stopped arguing and started blocking. I blocked hundreds of randos who insulted me or threatened people I admire— sea lions sauntering their way into my attention — and turned the Internet into something I could love again. Never. Again."
As of today, I've blocked 603 accounts, the vast majority of those in the last three months.
Last month, I threw a Lazyweb request out into the ether:
I need a Chrome add-on to make Twitter blocking a one-click process. Something like this would be just great. pic.twitter.com/f1lQ1MJloR— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) December 2, 2014
Within seconds, Phil Renaud replied:
@waxpancake on it— Phil Renaud (@phil_renaud) December 2, 2014
A few days later, he delivered Twitter Quicker Blocker, a Chrome add-on that does one thing beautifully: it turns blocking into a one-click process from the Twitter website. (Two weeks later, Brian Henriquez made his own as a learning exercise.)
Here's what that looks like:
Ideally, Twitter would provide better tools for managing your experience and coping with Internet assholes, but until then, I'm grateful to all the devs trying to make things better.
Jay Smooth's new Illipses video for Fusion on rioting in Ferguson was so powerful a debunking of a common racist trope, I felt compelled to transcribe it in the hopes more people would read it, quote it, and pass it on.
Take it away, Jay.
So, I want to talk for a minute about human beings and about riots.
This past Monday night, while we were all sitting there waiting for that blow that we all knew was coming and hoping that we might be wrong just this one time, I said on Twitter that, "The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, it is more Darren Wilsons."
The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, it is more Darren Wilsons.— jay smooth (@jsmooth995) November 24, 2014
That thought struck a chord with a lot of people; it was linked to more than any tweet that I've ever made. But later on that night, we saw some things happen in Ferguson. We saw some unrest, we saw things you could call rioting.
And when that happened, a bunch of other people on Twitter were delighted by the idea that that heartache and grief and rage gave them a social media "gotcha" moment.
"So who's the real danger now, Mr. Social Justice Warrior? You see all those thugs out there? You see how you people act? What do you have to say now?"
Well, here's what I think now: I believe what I said. Now, more than ever.
And if you think what happened on Monday disproves what I said, you didn't understand what I was talking about.
I wasn't happy at all about what happened Monday night. I hate to see people pushed that far. I hate to see people's community, family businesses destroyed. I hated seeing that.
But I'm also clear that if you ask me to weigh one against the other, we are weighing the destruction of property against the loss of a life. And if you value some people's property more than the life of a black child, we're not on the same team.
And regardless of that, for us to even discuss caring about one or the other is presenting a false choice because they're not in opposition to each other. One is a byproduct of the other.
That unrest we saw Monday night was a byproduct of the injustice that preceded it.
This is not a choice, this is a cause-and-effect relationship. If you're worried about the effects, you need to be thinking about the cause.
Riots are a thing that human beings do because human beings have limits.
We don't all have the same limits. For some of us, our human limit is when our favorite team loses a game. For some of us, it's when our favorite team wins a game.
The people of Ferguson had a different limit than that.
For the people of Ferguson, a lifetime of neglect and de facto segregation and incompetence and mistreatment by every level of government was not their limit.
When that maligned neglect set the stage for one of their children to be shot down and left in the street like a piece of trash, that was not their limit.
For the people of Ferguson, spending 100 days almost entirely peacefully protesting for some measure of justice for that child and having their desire for justice treated like a joke by every local authority was not their limit.
And then after those 100 days, when the so-called "prosecutor" waited until the dead of night to come out and twist that knife one last time, when he came out and confirmed once and for all that Michael Brown's life didn't matter, only then did the people of Ferguson reach their limit.
So when you look at what happened Monday night, the question you should be asking is how did these human beings last that long before they reached their human limit?
How do black people in America retain such a deep well of humanity that they can be pushed so far again and again without reaching their human limit?
How do we keep going through this same cycle? Because that's the thing, it's not just these 100 days. It's the 100 times this cycle played out before Michael Brown.
The thing about that tweet I sent out Monday night? That tweet wasn't really from Monday night.
The fundamental danger of an acquittal is not more riots, it is more George ZImmermans.— jay smooth (@jsmooth995) July 13, 2013
I made the exact same tweet a year and a half ago about Trayvon Martin. The exact same tweet, word for word, all I did was switch out the name.
And that's how sick, that's how predictable and sick this white supremacy Groundhog Day is that we live in. You can literally, word for word, have the exact same conversation, year after year, and just switch out the name of the black child we lost.
There is nothing more exhausting or more inhumane than black America's eternal cycle of being shocked but not surprised.
When you have to go through your whole life with all your muscles tensed, waiting for the same blow to come again and again, knowing it will hurt a bit more each time precisely because you always know it's coming. And then you have to teach your children how to go through the same cycle.
That's the definition of torture. Those are not fit living conditions for a human being.
So when I see President Obama say he has "no sympathy" for people who destroy a car? I'm sorry, but I do have sympathy for them.
I'm not happy to see them doing it, but human beings have limits.
When I watch that footage of Michael Brown's mother out there crushed and heartbroken and I see her family talk about burning this thing down, I'm not happy to see that, but I don't think we should be making excuses for that. I don't think we should be explaining that away.
I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. That is real life. That is what happens when you treat human beings this way.
So if you hated what you saw on Monday night, if you hated seeing those human beings pushed past their limit, you need to do something about the government, the justice system, and the institutions of policing that do not treat them like human beings.
If you watched the news Monday night and didn't like the effects, you need to do something about the cause.
You, I, we need to go out there and make this country into a place where black lives matter.
Tucked quietly into the 4am slot, Adult Swim occasionally broadcasts a segment listed simply as "Infomercials." Most of these have been parodies of late-night infomercials, but for the last week, they've aired something a little different.
Have you ever watched something, and knew as it unfolded that you were witnessing the birth of a cult classic?
Please allow me to introduce you to everyone's favorite late '80s sitcom, Too Many Cooks:
Some things you might have missed (spoilers):
- The credits appearing over each character are their real names. The IMDB page is suitably nuts.
- If you slow the end credits, nearly every character's last name is "Cook." Also spotted: Cooke, Van Cook, O'Cook, McCook, Bake, Broil, and B6-12.
- The stalker, credited as "Bill" on IMDB and "Featuring William Tokarsky" in the credits, appears in the background many, many, many times before he's officially introduced. Watch it again.
- Hardest to spot? The serial killer appears in a background oil painting.
- Lars von Trier as "Pie," who has his own badge.
- The dad, Ken DeLozier, is the patient infected with "Intronitis." His face is replaced by William Tokarsky's as soon as the final photo's taken.
- Katelyn Nacon aka "Chloe Cook" is the teen daughter introduced third. She's introduced again around the dinner table, and looks bored to tears.
- The magazine read by both grandmas is called "Magazine: The Magazine." The cover promises "Pages Inside" with words and paper.
- The creator, Casper Kelly, also writes Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, a live-action workplace comedy set in Hell.
- Vulture and EW both interviewed Kelly about the film, which was in post-production for over a year, and they did a Reddit AMA.
Like meta-TV intro credits humor? You may also enjoy this inferior One for the Road, a MadTV sketch with a similar starting premise, USB's Hart and Home, and Adam Scott's The Greatest Event in Television History series.
Rush Coil released a ridiculously great chiptune cover:
Over the last week, I've been scraping every single #Gamergate tweet to do some network analysis. I ended up writing the whole thing up on Medium, I hope you like it.
One interesting bit: I discovered Newsweek made a major mistake reporting the sentiment analysis on their Gamergate feature, confirmed by the analytics company that collected it. I updated my post with the details.
We're posting every XOXO talk on YouTube, one every weekday in speaker order, and we're a little over halfway through. There's some really amazing stuff in there already, it's hard for me to even pick favorites. Jonathan Mann and Gina Trapani are personal highlights.
The most popular talk we've ever had, by a decent margin, is Anita Sarkeesian talking about the tactics used by sexist jerks to discredit her and other women online. Go watch it. There's an interesting behind-the-scenes story there, but maybe another time.
I just posted Justin Hall's talk today, and it's pretty great.
When he gets onstage, you can see he's visibly shaken. That's my fault. Before I introduced him to the stage, I told the audience that his site was the inspiration for teaching myself HTML in 1995. I told him I'd followed his life online for over 20 years, he opened my eyes to ways of using the web I'd never considered, and that he deeply influenced the way I thought about technology.
I made Justin Hall cry. And then we cut out my intro from the video, making him look like a big crybaby. Whoops!
There's so much I love about Justin's talk.
In 1995, starting at age 19, he started spilling the most intimate details of his life online, from his father's suicide, the drugs he was taking, and the interactions he was having with friends, family, lovers, and long-time partners.
He wanted everyone to experience this, so spread the word in person and on TV and on roadtrips, an evangelist for the web as a personal communications medium. A Johnny Appleseed for HTML, trying to use technology to generate empathy.
It didn't play out quite like he expected.
It takes a profound sense of self-awareness to realize the flaws in your deepest-held beliefs, talk about them publicly, and do the work to fix them.
"We're all scientists of our own lives. We're all constantly running experiments, every day. And what the web allows us to do is to share our data. What are we learning about our experiments, about what it means to be a good person and be connected?
We can use the web to share those truths with each other and evolve them, because we don't know!
Let's learn together until we're dead."
Sounds good to me.
When 4chan started banning every Gamergate-related thread from its videogame forum, the infuriated gamers fled to 8chan (aka ∞chan), a year-old spinoff with its own unique origin story. Gamergate was welcomed with open arms. (I'm guessing Moot wasn't heartbroken to lose their business.)
So, I know this is a cheap thrill, but I find it incredibly satisfying to read threads on 8chan from Gamergate supporters mourning all their fallen heroes.
But as Gamergate continues to grow, and its accompanying campaign of harassment escalates, more and more artists, writers, and critics are publicly taking a stand against it.
That's led to a lot of disappointment and frustration from pro-Gamergate supporters mourning the betrayal of their heroes, as they disappear one by one into their Social Justice blacklists.
For someone who's sick of the abuse, these 8chan threads are pure schadenfreude:
Among the fallen heroes mentioned: Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen, Felicia Day, William Gibson, Tim Schafer, cartoonist Mariel Cartwright, Joss Whedon, writer Greg Rucka, Wil Wheaton, writer Jim Sterling, John Scalzi, Adam Sessler, Jon Stewart, and the creators of Raspberry Pi, who came out forcefully against #gamergate.
When prompted for alternatives to their lost idols, a handful of names are mentioned, but only those who have remained silent on the issue. Their best hope is that the silent are secretly on their side, since nobody else creating stuff seems to be. They mention Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann, and the artists behind the Oglaf and Nedroid comics as possible supporters.
I wondered aloud on Twitter if their silence actually meant their support. Anthony from Nedroid immediately replied:
Oglaf's Trudy Cooper replied later that night:
This morning, Jeff Gerstmann posted a strong statement against Gamergate in an editor's letter on Giant Bomb:
So when "GamerGate" rose up to cover over a campaign of harassment with a veneer of concern for the ethics of games journalism, it more or less set off every single disgust alarm I have. Though I'm sure some good people have been roped into this mess under this guise, the ethical concern portion of all this is largely a farce, a fallacy.
Cross those three off the idols list, I guess.
Towards the end of the thread, one commenter summed it up, "We have to accept that pretty much the entirety of western society has turned against us and chugged kool-aid like crazy."
I've said it before—creating something new and putting it online is an act of bravery, and it exposes you to a tremendous amount of criticism. At any level of popularity, you deal with kneejerk contrarians, self-entitled fans, and anonymous haters—the bread and butter of the Gamergate movement.
It's not too surprising that they're having a hard time winning their heroes over to their side.
@waxpancake One would think the realization that "all my heroes are against me" might lead to some faint flicker of self-reflection.— Patrick Smith (@Patrick5mith) October 17, 2014
Twitter's for 140-character short-form writing and Medium's for long-form. Weirdly, there really isn't a great platform for everything in the middle — what previously would've just been called "blogging." Mid-length blogging. Middling.
I think that's partly why seeing Matt Haughey, Paul Ford, and Michael Sippey restart regular blogging on Paul's delightfully retro tilde.club is so refreshing to me. I miss seeing people I admire post stuff longer than a tweet.
So I think I'll try doing the same thing here. In the early days of Waxy.org, before I launched the linkblog, I used to blog short posts constantly. Multiple times a day. Twitter and Waxy Links cannibalized all the smaller posts, and as my reach grew, I started reserving blogging for more "serious" stuff — mostly longer-form research and investigative writing.
Well, fuck that. I miss the casual spontaneity of it all, and since I'm pretty sure hardly anybody's reading my site again after the death of Google Reader, the pressure's off.
What do I have to lose?
Update: Nice, Gina Trapani's in too.
For the second time in 18 months, I've lost a friend to depression—a unique, young talent with their greatest years ahead of them.
Chloe Weil tasted words. She was vulnerable to rich emotional experiences in the summertime. She hated her birthday, and she hated surprises. She had a cat named FACE that was famous on Reddit for a day. She helped us listen to songs traveling across the stars.
She was, in short, a badass.
She poked fun at her depression, even as she was fighting it.
Chloe, I wish I'd told you in life how much I admire you, how incredibly talented I think you are. You continually made things, and like your synesthesia, they revealed someone who experiences the world unlike anyone else I know.
I wish I'd been able to say these words to you in person, instead of writing them to you in death, so that you could have tasted every one.