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#ComeyDay, terrorism memes, and a YouTube feminist gone rogue: the internet was an intense place this week

Thank the horror gods for Gay Babadook to lighten the mood.

Trojan And YouTube Vlogger Laci Green Invite UC Berkeley Students To Take The Pledge To Support Consent On Campus As Part Of 'Consent. Ask For It.' Campaign
Is celebrity feminist Laci Green backpedaling away from feminism?
Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Trojan
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

You could be forgiven if you only noticed one event happening on the internet this week.

On Thursday, #ComeyDay — which some media breathlessly dubbed the Super Bowl of politics — had the world transfixed.

Astonishingly, though, there were other things happening on the internet this week. All in all, it was an intense week marked by humor as a response to world politics, a disturbing ripple in YouTube’s social ecosystem, and, thank the gods of horror, a gay Babadook for Pride month.

On to the mayhem.

James Comey’s Senate testimony consumed social media

Pee jokes were made. People made fun of John McCain’s confusion. Medievalist Twitter briefly got excited when Comey made a reference to the murder of Thomas Becket. Comparisons to superheroes were made, sometimes by superheroes, as well as to the Oscars. House of Cards turned up a lot.

A significant point of discussion amid the Comey Twitter din was the eerie similarity between Trump’s treatment of Comey and the harassment and abuse of women by predatory men.

The subsequent “why didn’t you do more?” responses to Comey from the GOP Senate also strengthened this comparison.

Meanwhile, the White House blithely discussed “infrastructure week” and President Trump was notably silent on Twitter throughout the hearing — though his lawyer did release a typo-filled letter that just added fodder to the mounting jokes about the inadequacy of Trump’s response.

Thus the most significant day in US politics since the 2016 election ended as it began: with no clear answers on whether anyone obstructed justice or colluded with Russia, but with plenty of social media jokes.

It was a turbulent week across the globe, and there were memes for every occasion

The best “Trump withdraws the US from the Paris Accord” meme award goes to this variant of the long-running “cracking open a cold one with the boys” meme.

“A cold one” in this case being, you know, Antarctica. Shrugsies!

Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack was broadcast and live-streamed to millions, but it was a police officer dancing with kids in the audience that got all the attention.

The police officer, Pc Paul Taylor, wasn’t alone — security guards were having a blast throughout the concert.

The UK endured another terrorist attack in London on Saturday, and it, too, spawned an outpouring of typically British reactions — namely the memeifying of this viral picture (and video) of a man escaping the attack while holding his beer.

The meme was part of the British public’s wider reaction to the attack, which was a collective repudiation of terror as a valid response. This was perhaps best exemplified in the hashtag #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling, which mocked media and political hysteria surrounding the attack by asserting that Brits are far too busy panicking over the small things to be bothered getting bent over terrorism.

Wonder Woman became the most-tweeted about movie of 2017

In addition to shattering glass ceilings at the box office, Wonder Woman has a new notch in its power belt: It’s now the most talked-about movie of the year — on Twitter, at least. According to Buzzfeed, the film has easily surpassed its competitors, La La Land and box office champ Beauty and the Beast, with a whopping 2.19 million tweets as of Thursday.

A movie starring Alexandra Shipp as a black Daria is not actually happening

Last week we discussed fancasted film concepts, based on real photos taken out of context, which then go viral on Twitter and may or may not be made into real movies. The latest attempt — fancasting Alexandra Shipp, a.k.a. “shorty from the Aaliyah pic,” as Daria in a new movie based on the beloved animated MTV sitcom — is actually a longstanding hoax.

In fact, this viral tweet is a straightforward copy/paste of an identical tweet by another user from 2015, which that user immediately prefaced with a tweet reading “Let me see if I can successfully create a rumor about MTV’s Daria.” The photo source is Shipp herself; she posted it, hashtagged #Daria, on her own Instagram account in 2014. The photo was picked up as evidence of a “rumored” film by various entertainment blogs, and the fake rumor has been circulating ever since.

Of course, we’d love to see this concept actually become a reality. And it’s good to see that Twitter’s viral fake film trend is continuing to promote minority and underrepresented stories. It’s a good alternate cinematic universe you’re building, internet — keep it up.

Let a “metamodernist” explain alt-right troll psychology to you. (No, seriously.)

Journalist, poet, and English professor Seth Abramson wears many hats, but chief among them is his role interpreting and explaining metamodernism. Think of it as a kind of post-post-postmodernist worldview that frames modern culture — nay, reality itself — as a construct that can be perpetually manipulated by self-aware participants operating fully within that system of manipulation.

That may sound like refractory nonsense, but in fact it neatly describes many aspects of internet culture — in particular alt-right trolling. Abramson is thus in an excellent position to understand and explain the psychology of the typical disaffected white male troll who’s become the shrill voice of white supremacy and white nationalism online. He’s done this in a long but extremely good Medium piece about how to effectively engage with an alt-right troll, should you desire to do so. Abramson outlines the reasons why you might want to do so (in a word: empathy), but he urges caution. Then he walks the reader, step by step, through the various kinds of logical leaps you have to make in order to understand what’s going through a troll’s mind when they troll you in specific ways.

Much has been written about the way alt-right trolls use irony to promote sincerely abhorrent messaging, but Abramson’s best contribution is explaining the philosophical gaps between alt-right trolls who wage war on abstract political correctness and hardcore white-supremacist ideology — and the reasons that the trolls so often fall prey to being recruited into actual racist extremism. Even if you don’t want to personally fight the trolls, Abramson’s take will help you better understand how they came to exist in the first place.

Of course, there’s engaging with alt-right trolls, and then there’s... dating one

But lest we overlook the danger of engaging with trolls to any degree, a cautionary tale from YouTube is currently provoking discussion and disappointment online.

With 1.5 million followers, Laci Green is the most popular feminist on YouTube. Last year, Time dubbed her one of the most influential people on the internet — and she’s currently using that influence to entertain the alt-right.

In May, Green posted a video in which she discussed “taking the red pill,” in the sense that “men’s rights” activists and other alt-right groups have appropriated it to mean waking up to the “reality” that feminism is a destructive cultural force. Green discussed what she viewed as her nebulous status as a “social justice warrior” or SJW — a derogatory term the alt-right has applied to feminists and progressives, which has become common parlance in ideological internet debates. Green took issue with what she claimed is the idea in social justice communities that “bigoted ideas, this harmful speech, should be suppressed,” arguing this viewpoint was akin to conservative censorship of feminist ideas, and that a “slur” isn’t as violent as “punching someone in the face.”

Green has long been viewed as problematic and an embodiment of white feminism by many feminists (Green is biracial — she is half-Iranian — but identifies as white), and her video, along with subsequent videos in which she attempts to dialogue with alt-right YouTubers, provoked vehement reactions among feminists, as well as considerable confusion.

But then she went further: On June 5, she confirmed that she was dating a controversial “anti-SJW” vlogger, Chris Maldonado, a.k.a. Chris Ray Gun.

In a viral Facebook post, popular progressive writer Ranier Maningding minced no words about why Green’s behavior poses a serious problem for people of color:

1.5 MILLION subscribers, and she can walk away from ALL OF THAT and still be loved and have her needs met because she's white....

Laci Green is one of the most known, if not the most known SJW on Youtube. And if she can turn her back on people of color and fuck a white supremacist, how the FUCK do you think people of color should feel about the entirety of white allyship? How can ANY OF US trust white women, let alone whypipo as a collective?

Former prominent feminist friends of Green’s have also distanced themselves from her recent rightward movements, and her former media outlet, Everyday Feminism, has apparently dropped her, in a move which prompted a sardonic response from Green.

All in all, Green is probably the classic example of a feminist whose feminism was never grounded in a deep commitment to the principles behind social justice. Because her articulation of the basics of feminism was simple and neat, her platform was more palatable to mainstream liberals and casual progressives than, say, someone like Roxane Gay. But that ultimately seems to have made Green more susceptible to having her worldview dismantled through engaging with right-wing YouTubers.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your views or exposing yourself to other viewpoints, unless those viewpoints actively dehumanize and marginalize real people. Among Green’s new friends are prominent right-wing vlogger Blair White, a transgender YouTuber who has argued that allowing children to transition is child abuse and that transgender identity is “a fad,” and who once suggested refugees need to be gassed. Chris Ray Gun himself recently incited harassment against a black feminist on Twitter and defended YouTuber PewDiePie’s controversial “death to all Jews” video.

But as Patheos blogger Peter Mosley (Martin Hughes) argues, Green’s longstanding skepticism toward the tone of social justice discourse was a giveaway that her feminism may have always been rooted in self-affirmation rather than empathy. “Laci Green’s practice of apologizing in order to make herself look better, instead of doing so to empathize with other people and acknowledge a deepening understanding of their pain, seems to have been going on for awhile,” he writes.

Mosley adds that “Laci Green’s burnout is a lesson to the rest of us who are representing social justice causes that include marginalized groups we are not part of. If it’s about you, you will burn out ... you will leave social justice causes — or be thoroughly miserable in them — like Laci Green if you forget the most important rule when it comes to ensuring social justice for other members of marginalized groups: This isn’t about you.”

Plus, it’s just kinda sad for everyone.

We’re all babashook by the Babadook’s ascent to gay cultural icon

Six months ago, Tumblr user taco-bell-rey introduced the world to the concept of a queer Babadook thanks to a Netflix error that had the film listed under the LGBTQ category. “So proud that Netflix recognizes the Babadook as gay representation,” taco Tumblred, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos thoroughly explains, the concept of the gay Babadook was born on Tumblr in 2016, and is now everywhere. He’s been especially prominent during Pride month.

Is there any better note to end this roller-coaster week on? Abso-babalutely not.

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