And friendster and Myspace and YikYak and on and on
|Aug 22||Public post|
This Week in Our Dumb World
First of all, you should go read The 1619 Project over at the New York Times (the link is to the pdf at the Pulitzer center because not everyone subscribes to the Times). If for some reason you haven’t heard of it, it’s a collection of essays reflecting on America and Slavery. It is an important continuation of America’s growing attempt to actually grapple with the racism that has been with us since long before the founding.
Given the scope of that project, it is not shocking to see the myriad ways that people are unable or unwilling to grapple with that truth. I’m not going to share them, but you don’t have to look very hard to find reactionary articles decrying the un-patriotism of people to talk about America’s racist past. These people badly miss the point.
This is, at heart, a deeply patriotic project. If I could, I would quote the whole thing here, but I will instead include this passage from the first essay that absolutely sings.
I wish, now, that I could go back to the younger me and tell her that her people’s ancestry started here, on these lands, and to boldly, proudly, draw the stars and those stripes of the American flag.
We were told once, by virtue of our bondage, that we could never be American. But it was by virtue of our bondage that we became the most American of all.
But, just sharing the 1619 project was somewhat too straightforward for this newsletter. So, I wanted to share with you a fascinating story of how people on the other side of the slave trade are, like America, beginning to dig beyond the sunny version of their history and engage with the hard truths of participation in the atrocity of the slave trade. This is a small story of how Ghana began facing its own participation.
“The chiefs and peoples decided, ‘All right, we will not talk about it,’” he said. “They created a mythology that we were innocent bystanders whose land was raped by Europeans.”
The British ruled for 80 years. In 1957, Ghana became the first African country to break away from colonial powers and declare independence. It was the height of the US civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Ghana’s first independence day.
“In the US, we must solve this problem of racial injustice if we expect to maintain our leadership in the world, if we expect to serve as a moral voice in a world that is two-thirds colored,” King said after he returned.
African Americans started to travel to Ghana. Amarteifio was in his first year in college. He and some friends were asked to serve as guides.
“Naturally, we were recruited to take them around to tourist sites. So, I remember when they asked us, ‘So, who was sold?’ We said, “Only the bad people — thieves and drunkards,” Amarteifio said. “I mean, we're 19, 20 years old.”
They were just making it up because they didn't actually know what had happened.
I have used, or at least created an account on most of these apps and/or websites. They were all mostly harmless and generally poorly managed. The exceptions were:
Vine, which was terrific and fun and helped build some of the best parts of the internet
Yik Yak, which was basically everything awful about the internet and social media in one place.
Whenever I encounter something like this, I tend to think about the last hold outs on each of these websites. The people who serendipitously built good and fun communities on platforms like Orkut only to see those communities shrink and fade with time. I want to know the story of the last five people to log on Path or the last band to update their MySpace page. These apps are mostly jokes, but I would wager they were all deeply important to small groups of people for a while. I wonder what became of those communities. It must have felt like such a loss to see your internet neighborhood fade away.
Except for Google+. Fuck you, Google+.
Lots of corporations (mostly Google) have competed with Facebook for the social media colonies, and their attempts aren’t missed; but Facebook’s monopoly also beat out the divey-er venues and communal spaces which elevated their members to five minutes of fame and triple platinum albums without sponcon. Their obituaries tell us what we already know–that your feed could look a lot more interesting, more avant-garde, joyous, local, intimate, kinky, weird, and hilarious–and yes, scarier and even more hateful than it does now–thanks to varying degrees of censorship, cross-platform embeds, aesthetic customization, technopanic, and algorithm-free zones. It’s not to say that without Facebook, the whole internet would be more like a local farmer’s market or a punk venue or an art gallery or comedy club or a Narnia fanfic club, just that those places are harder to find these days.
It is well established that I am a sucker for both oral history and weird subcultures, and this history of the founding of Gold’s Gym absolutely gives you both of those in spades.
It remains incredible to imagine a world where lifting weights is seen as a weird subculture. When we think about the dramatic changes in our lifetime, it is crazy to think that the absolutely dominant position of fitness in America is maybe 40 years old.
Balik: Without question, Joe Weider was the most important person in establishing Arnold here. Arnold wouldn’t be here without Joe Weider making the first step and supporting him.
Joe Weider first told Arnold to go to Vince’s because they were doing business together. I was standing next to Vince at the desk when Arnold walked in for the first time. He was wearing flip-flops, white shorts, and a string T-shirt. Arnold was probably the biggest he’d ever been; he weighed maybe 255 pounds. He said in very broken English, “I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m Mr. Universe.” Vince took the cigar out of his mouth and said, “You just look like a fat fuck to me.”
God, but I do love data visualization. As you can see from the picture, this has a number of fun depictions of places we go online. Some of my favorite takeaways…
Facebook is the third biggest internet site in the world. Whenever you read a story about how Facebook has a history of questionable behavior when it comes to managing content, this is why it’s super important. People will tell you that young people aren’t on facebook, but if absolutely everyone else is on Facebook then we need to take it very seriously. Facebook is beating Porn for god’s sake.
Everything I just said goes triple for Youtube, which is bigger and (if I had to guess) has an engagement level that dwarfs facebook. When you see an article about how YouTube’s search algorithm is surfacing conspiracy theories and racism, please insert, "and it is the second most trafficked website on the planet.”
It’s always interesting to see the scope of the non-US internet.
eBay sure would have been higher about 15 years ago.
Adobe is at 99, and that is the power of those annoying update requests.
This is an interesting scientific phenomenon, but mostly I want you to try and imagine how badly your average US city would handle blood rain in 2019.
h/t Rob Hebert for the comic