Constant Vigilance

One month after controversial adult-content purge, far-right pages are thriving on Tumblr
https://thinkprogress.org/far-right-content-survived-tumblr-purge-36635e6aba4b/

This subtle far-right creep echoes a 2017 study by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue which warned that the far-right had become extremely adapt at using internet platforms to normalize their ideas. “The weaponisation of internet culture is deliberately used by extreme-right influencers to bring about attitude and behavioural change, in particular among the younger generations,” the report warned.

This sort of normalization of white nationalist talking points was what tech companies were supposedly shocked by – and promised to stop – in the wake of Charlottesville, as they provided an easy way of “red-pilling,” or radicalizing and recruiting, new members, most of whom are young, white, disaffected men.

White Supremacist Propaganda
https://closet-keys.tumblr.com/post/160047478578/white-supremacist-propaganda-while-a-lot-of-klan

The intent is to convince racist white people (who don’t think of themselves as racist, but who clearly are, and clearly feel angry when their entitlement isn’t immediately gratified) that the hate group in question is just ‘misunderstood’ and is really about pride and celebrating your own culture, etc.

The intent is that once someone falls for that bait and hook, they can play up on their underlying resentment and entitlement. If you already believe that you should be able to celebrate being white, and they can bring you from that belief to the belief that people of color are preventing you from your right to have pride in that, then they can foster anger against people of color. From there, any time there is a collective societal reaction of disgust towards the hate group or towards the notion of white pride, the recruited whites can be relied upon to feel victimized by society collectively.

Both of these essays accurately reflect my social media experience with mainstream white supremacy and white supremacist messaging, which is worded and coded in such a way that it seems plausible that a decent, reasonable person would agree with it if they didn’t know where it was coming from. “Loving your heritage doesn’t mean being a racist” is representative of this type of entry-level messaging, which is intended to target people who feel socially alienated and are searching for positivity and affirmation.

At the beginning of 2019, I expressed concern about people on Twitter getting upset over chunky otters and Marie Kondo. I understood why people were getting upset, of course, and there were some important discussions on the subject of Marie Kondo in particular. Still, there needs to be a serious and public conversation about covert white supremacist messaging, and I’m not sure that we took advantage of the opportunity to have it.

To give an example of what I mean by “covert white supremacist messaging,” back in 2016 or so I followed a few people who occasionally reblogged lovely nature photography. Tumblr’s algorithm then began to recommend all manner of weird gender essentialist and white supremacist posts. What I was eventually able to figure out is that the nature photography was of scenery in Germany specifically, and that the blogs posting it had tagged these posts as “featherwood,” a term that may have once been associated with female prison gangs but has since spread to people who have embraced a Quiverfull-style ideology concerning race and gender (namely, that it is the duty of white Christian women to have as many white Christian children as possible). As soon as I blocked the word “featherwood” on Tumblr, the problem was mostly fixed. I also had to unfollow three or four people who reblogged these posts, often alongside Steven Universe photosets and radical leftist “are the cishets okay” memes.

What I’m trying to demonstrate with this example is that there are in fact codewords and ideological patterns that are strong indicators of veiled white supremacist leanings. Because it’s entirely possible for intelligent people in progressive communities to spread alt-right memes without understanding what they are, I wish the huge public conversations about race and representation happening on social media would touch on this sort of thing.

Another example is the expression “the coastal elites,” which has been a white supremacist codeword for “the Jewish global conspiracy” since I was in college (and long before that, I’m sure). When people associated with the American left wing started talking about “coastal elites” during the lead-up and aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, that was a huge red flag for me. There were people on Tumblr reblogging all sorts of authoritarian craziness in the name of social justice, and I had no idea how to tell them that the ideological purity they were advocating was using the language of hardcore white supremacy. When I tried to explain my understanding of what was going on to a few people close to me, the response was inevitably something along the lines of “well you’re a racist for not understanding that Hillary is just as evil as Trump.”

It’s 2019, and you’d think we’d have figured this mess out by now, but that’s not the case. To give yet another example, I’ve recently seen a few of my friends and professional contacts on Twitter retweet things coming from people who advocate #humanscience and #humanbiodiversity. What the people who use these hashtags are specifically referring to is “race science” (here’s an archived webcapture of a widely circulated “human biodiversity reading list” for reference), whose main guiding principle seems to be the “scientifically proven” assertion that melanin is a chemical that causes violent and antisocial behavior. The message that these people (many of whom are writers whose work has been published in respected tech journals) are advocating is that, if we accept that science tells us that climate change is real and that we need to vaccinate our children, then we must also accept it when science tells us [insert whatever racist bullshit is currently trending here].

During the past month or so, when I’ve messaged a few people whom I know personally and have been friends with for years with a gentle note of caution, the responses have been along the lines of “So you’re an antivaxxer then” or “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a climate change denier.” It’s like, “Hang on there friend, I was just trying to give you a heads-up that the person you’ve been retweeting constantly for the past week is a secret white supremacist!” Except it’s not even a secret, because all the codewords are right there in their Twitter profiles.

What I’m trying to explain with these examples is that some people are indeed “secret racists,” and the reason that most decent people don’t see them for what they are is because most of us (thankfully) don’t have much exposure to white supremacist vocabulary or alt-right online spaces. The only reason I know a tiny fraction of what’s going on is because I grew up in the rural Deep South (where people tend to feel more comfortable with being openly racist) and now spend time on gaming forums where MRA-style misogyny can often serve as a gateway to more radical belief systems. My first instinct is to block and avoid this sort of thing when I encounter it, so I’m not an expert, and I still experience the occasional unpleasant surprise when I realize that something I thought was silly and harmless is, in fact, deeply disturbing. (I actually just reblogged something that turned out to be propaganda for the Church of Scientology, and I was mortified when someone told me what it was.)

This is why I wish the conversations people engage in on Twitter and other social media platforms about covert white supremacist messaging would focus more on identifying and explaining codewords and exposing and calling out creepy individuals. If we had more of a collective awareness that this sort of hidden messaging exists and is carefully designed to spread throughout mainstream social networks, it might be easier to identify and quarantine it. After all, the reason that cult-like belief systems are so fringe is because most people find them uncomfortable and strange and don’t want anything to do with them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t real danger in inadvertently spreading this type of messaging.

Ganondorf, Villainy, Race, and Fandom

Despite a few occasional bouts of drama, I love the Legend of Zelda fandom, and the only real unpleasantness I’ve encountered has had to do with Ganondorf. I want to talk about this briefly, because I think it’s representative of an alarming tendency in fandom as a whole.

The United States is in a strange and difficult place right now. It’s been like this for as long as anyone can remember, but the current presidential administration has brought some very ugly sentiments right out in the open. It was never particularly easy to be a Muslim or an African-American in this country, but since 2015 or so the violence of the rhetoric of prejudice has been omnipresent and overwhelming. We now have, for example, black women whose children were effectively lynched being subjected to all manner of humiliation and abuse for speaking out against police violence even as a mainstream presidential candidate won voters by belittling the Muslim family of a soldier who was killed in the line of duty.

This is just one of the myriad reasons why many of us are very sensitive to expressions of hatred against ethnic and racial minorities. Some people may feel confident in saying that ethnic stereotypes exist for a reason and that they don’t understand why people get upset over certain depictions of fictional characters, and I think it’s important to point out that not everyone who feels this way is (or identifies as) white. Fandom is supposed to be fun, after all, and no one wants to feel as if they’re being given a lecture when all they want to do is talk about video games.

I completely understand the desire to make fandom a politics-free zone, but I also think fandom should be large enough to accommodate multiple views and approaches. When it comes to Ganondorf specifically, I think there should be room for both silly jokes and serious analysis. On one hand, how ridiculous is the fact that Ganondorf built himself a giant murder castle in Ocarina of Time? On the other hand, how is Ganondorf’s intense love/hate relationship with Hyrule representative of the legacy of colonial ideologies both within the game and in the real world?

Ganondorf is clearly a villain in the Legend of Zelda universe. There are people in the Zelda fandom who love Ganondorf because he’s a charismatic and fascinating character, and there are also people in the Zelda fandom who hate Ganondorf because he’s just not a very nice person, to put it mildly. Both receptions of the character are totally understandable and valid.

The complication that arises with Ganondorf is that he is demonized according to real-world patterns of white supremacy, one of which is the common narrative that holds that “the Evil Barbaric Dark-Skinned Oriental Other” must be defeated by the virtuous heroes of a holy empire. Accordingly, the trouble I’ve experienced with fandom is that it can be easy for people to inadvertently slip into projecting negative racial and ethnic stereotypes onto the fictional world of the games.

Like men of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent in the real world, Ganondorf is portrayed in a number of fanworks as unintelligent, bestial, violent, and incapable of human emotion. This is a gross oversimplification of how Ganondorf is canonically characterized in the games, but there are powerful cultural forces in our own societies that attempt to ensure that many of us become invested in the narrative of “the Brutal Evil Dark Man” to such an extent that we replicate it without intending to. Because of the nature of the narratives of the Zelda games themselves, in which Ganondorf is portrayed with very little sympathy, dealing with the character is always going to be tricky. This is why there needs to be a multiplicity of voices addressing these issues. For example, what does it mean that Ganondorf is imprisoned without a trial in Twilight Princess? Meanwhile, it’s equally worthwhile to make silly jokes and shitposts about the character; because let’s be real, you can bounce a quarter off that man’s leotard-clad ass. In other words, there needs to be room in fandom for humor and smut and serious analytical meta essays and silliness.

Unfortunately, Tumblr-based fandom has become so polarized that this sort of exchange is almost impossible. On one side of Tumblr are people who insist on ideological purity, and on the other side are people with good intentions who nevertheless feel alienated by “The Discourse,” an expression that refers to an incendiary argument that something or someone is “problematic.” What this means in practical terms is that, while one side of Tumblr is quick to attack anyone who engages with a “problematic” character like Ganondorf, the other side of Tumblr has come to ostracize anyone who’s interested in a more nuanced critique of popular media.

What’s happened within the specific context of Zelda fandom, then, is that many people will only draw and write about and reblog work featuring the light-skinned protagonists, while many of the people who are interested in the darker-skinned antagonists are surprisingly tolerant of what would generally be considered borderline racist representations in any other context. It’s not that any one approach to a character like Ganondorf is upsetting in and of itself, as it’s only natural that different people participate in fandom for different reasons, but rather that the aggressive refusal to consider or even acknowledge the validity of alternative opinions and perspectives can make the Zelda fandom a very weird and uncomfortable place to be sometimes.

To minimize potential confusion, I’d like to clarify the points I’m making about race and villainy:

IT IS OKAY to have dark-skinned characters who are not good people.

IT IS OKAY to have dark-skinned characters who do bad things and make mistakes and gradually grow and change.

IT IS OKAY to have dark-skinned characters who are irredeemably evil.

Let racial and ethnic minorities be villains! While you’re at it, let women and LGBTQ+ people and neuordivergent people and differently abled people be villains! Villains are great!

However:

IT IS NOT OKAY for a large multinational corporation to tell stories about how everything that is or has ever been bad in the world is the fault of one person whom we are supposed to know is evil because he is the only person in the story with dark skin.

Likewise, IT IS NOT OKAY for fans to tell stories that purposefully reproduce overt white supremacy in their portrayal of dark-skinned characters. For example, it’s not okay for fans to tell stories about how a dark-skinned character is “saved” by light-skinned people who teach him that his cultural heritage is bad so that he can be fully integrated into the “good” culture of the light-skinned majority ethnicity, or for a dark-skinned character to redeem himself by learning to apologize to representatives of the light-skinned ethnicity for his anger regarding the slavery and genocide of his people.

In other words, it’s totally normal to have a character who is a villain with dark skin, because expecting characters with dark skin to be perfect while denying them the full range of human experience and emotion is a ridiculous and counterproductive way to approach representations of racial and ethnic difference. That being said, it’s weird and gross to have a character who is a villain BECAUSE he has dark skin.

I’m excited that the recent Breath of the Wild sequel trailer has inspired a renewed appreciation for Ganondorf. It’s my hope that, while fans are enjoying the design and storytelling potential of a fun and interesting character, they’re also able to engage in critical discussions of the politics and ideology of the Zelda series without the conversation devolving into an exclusionary black-and-white mentality. The real-world implications of video game ideologies are multifaceted and complicated, and it’s important for these issues to be discussed outside of academia. Transnational fandom cultures are a perfect place for a wealth of diverse perspectives to come together, which is why I’d like to advocate for a better tolerance of a multiplicity of fanworks and opinions, as well as gentle and nuanced pushback that doesn’t take the form of death threats, bullying, or other forms of harassment.

The Captain-Planet-Official Problem

I’ve been open about my distaste for “call-out” and “canceling” culture within left-leaning spaces on social media. My overarching point is that people shouldn’t be harassed online, especially not for stupid shit that doesn’t matter.

I’m going to put it out there, however, that sometimes people do in fact need to be shut down. Figuring out where to draw the line between “something you don’t like that isn’t hurting anyone” and “a toxic asshole who can just be blocked and ignored” and “a serious problem that is affecting far more than a tiny online community” isn’t always easy, however. There’s a lot of moral gray area here, and I think it’s worth talking about.

In my experience, one of the main issues that comes up during these discussions is something I’m going to call “the Captain-Planet-Official Problem” after an ecofascist blog on Tumblr that was extremely popular in relatively mainstream circles before it got shut down. The problem is this, basically: A lot of alt-right gateway accounts are popular because they’re funny, relatable, friendly, kind, and filled with memes that most reasonable people will find silly and inoffensive.

If you’re unfamiliar with ecofascism, its message is more or less “save the planet by getting rid of all the brown people.” This is often couched in terms of “controlling invasive species that are threatening native plants and wildlife,” and it’s connected to the tendency of various “European identity movements” to celebrate the natural beauty and “environmental heritage” of places like Germany and England. There’s often a superficial level of anti-capitalism accompanying this messaging, like, “What if this beautiful landscape were bought and destroyed by global capitalists?” In this case, “global capitalists” usually means “Jewish people,” but I’ve also seen it applied to “Asian people” with no attempt to differentiate between people from various East Asian and South Asian countries.

Left-leaning communities in social media spaces love the environment and hate capitalism, which is fair. What this means is that, if some well-meaning person sees a random post from a blog with a catchy username like Captain-Planet-Official about how capitalism destroys the environment, they probably won’t think twice about reblogging it. Maybe they, or one of their followers, might even go to the Captain-Planet-Official blog, which (based on the screencaps I’ve seen) had a lot of clever shitposts and a charming and active moderator. If they decide to subscribe to this blog, they’ll probably realize soon enough that there’s a disturbing current of white supremacy underlying the memes.

At this point, one of three things will happen. Some people will unfollow the blog and resolve to be more careful in the future. Some people might have gotten a taste of the Kool-Aid (or red pill, or whatever) and decide that they like it and want to pursue it farther into some of the more overtly right-wing blogs that regularly interact with Captain-Planet-Official. Most people, however, will decide that it’s just Tumblr or Twitter or Reddit or Imgur and therefore doesn’t really matter. This latter group of people is willing to put up with occasional messaging about “invasive species,” which they might not understand or even see if they’re not familiar with that specific type of coded dog-whistle political language or just don’t spend that much time on social media.

The people who are interested in the white supremacist messaging will probably only be a tiny minority, but those people are out there, and I’m willing to bet that there are actually a lot of them in the left-wing spaces occupied by their peers. They feel increasingly alienated, but they’re also like, “I’m not a literal Nazi,” so they won’t enter clearly marked right-wing spaces directly. For people like this, something like Captain-Planet-Official is a gateway; and, the wider the gateway – the more people who promote it by reblogging its more inoffensive posts – the more people who will end up passing through it.

(By the way, this is a post with screencaps of a good collection of tweets about how these gateways work.)

Obviously there’s something unpleasant going on with left-wing spaces that alienate certain subsets of people so much that they’re driven to white supremacy or men’s rights activism or whatever Breitbart is going on about these days, but that’s an unpopular conversation to have for many (extremely valid) reasons. It’s also highly likely that a baby cryptofascist would have found their way into the alt-right anyway, even if they didn’t encounter Captain-Planet-Official on Tumblr. So why bother doing or saying anything about Captain-Planet-Official? They’re not aggressively hurting anyone, and they’re probably doing more good than harm in the way by spreading awareness of environmental issues and helping vocalize resistance against capitalism. Right?

So this is the problem: How do you explain that what a blog like Captain-Planet-Official is doing is a completely different type and level of “problematic” than a blog that celebrates an imagined romantic relationship between two fictional characters? And are you going to send a message to everyone you follow who reblogs a popular post from that blog? And if one of these people tells you that they don’t care, because it’s just a stupid meme on Tumblr and doesn’t matter, are you going to unfollow them? And if you unfollow them, what are you going to say to the other people in your fandom who still follow them? That they shouldn’t interact with them because they don’t take white supremacy seriously? Because they reblogged a Captain Planet meme about protecting the environment by fighting capitalism?

I should mention that this goes for radical left-wing messaging as well, especially when it comes to TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) who use catchy feminist slogans to promote homophobic and exclusionary rhetoric and ideology. “How dare you say that protecting women’s rights and reblogging pride flags is bad” works in exactly the same way as “How dare you say that protecting the environment and reblogging cute animal pictures is bad.”

In any case, I don’t think the answer is necessarily to appeal to the powers that be to shut down a particular blog. As the Tumblr “flagged posts” debacle proved last December, there’s a lot of potential for abuse and basic ignorance when distant authorities are invoked, so it’s in the best interests of a community to figure out how to handle problems like Captain-Planet-Official on their own. Deciding where the line is between the normal stupid bullshit that happens on social media and something that’s genuinely scary isn’t always as easy as it is with Captain-Planet-Official, nor is it always easy to tell when someone has crossed that line and isn’t coming back. This is why I wish left-leaning communities would stop devoting so much energy to asinine ship wars (Will Rey and Kylo Ren kiss? Who cares??) and start using the principles of social justice to figure out what to do about the promotion of dangerous ideologies that’s happening in the real world right in front of them.

Shipping Isn’t Morality

(from the Tumblr blog Shipping Isn’t Morality)
https://shipping-isnt-morality.tumblr.com/post/183726148328/yknow-its-been-a-while-since-i-made-this

When I say “abuse is the fault of the abuser,” I don’t mean in just a pure metaphysical, “everyone’s responsible for their own actions” kind of way. I mean that abusers start with their abusive behavior, and then fill in whatever behavior and excuses they have to to justify it to themselves and their victims. Maybe it’s media. Maybe it’s substance abuse. Maybe it’s past abuse that they suffered. Maybe it’s some psychology mumbo-jumbo about projecting past trauma onto you. Maybe it’s mental illness. Maybe it’s anything. […]

Abusers choose to hurt you. They know that their actions will hurt you, and they choose to do it anyways.

Everything after that is an excuse.

This is a good post in the ongoing pushback against fandom purity discourse and respectability politics. I ended up reading through almost two dozen pages of this blog last week, and it was an enlightening experience. This person also runs an anti-fandom receipt blog (that posts screenshots of harassment, rape threats, and so on), and I admire that they’re so good-natured despite having seen and experienced so much garbage.

I also found another good chain [here] about how, basically, “if I was eight years younger and wandering into fandom for the first time, I can guarantee that the culture right now would’ve fucked me up and ground me down and taken away all my healthy outlets.”

I still haven’t found much of anything that addresses some of the particular problems I’ve experienced in the Legend of Zelda fandom, which are much more intersectional than most of the issues I see discussed on fandom positivity blogs. I will keep looking, but it’s been a journey.

I should qualify all of this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the idea that fandom has to be therapeutic or serve some purpose in order to be valid. There’s another good chain [here] that highlights the misogyny and homophobia of the assumption that female and queer fantasies need to be “productive” in order to be allowed to exist.

I’m glad that smart people are out there doing the work of unpacking the absurdity of insisting on sexual purity in subcultural queer spaces, because even the act of reading these conversations is exhausting to me personally. I briefly considered starting a fandom discourse blog myself, but then I thought about it for two seconds and realized how time-consuming and emotionally draining it would be. Something I’ve noticed about the pro-fandom blogs I encounter on Tumblr is that they devote an extraordinary amount of care and attention to research and maintaining ethical standards. That’s admirable, of course, but this level of effort also feels a bit strange and uncomfortable. Like, how did we get to a place where this level of background reading and moral self-reflection is necessary to make the point that it’s not okay to send death threats because of fandom ship wars?

Fanfiction, Numbers, and a Very Small Window

So I recently found a short essay…

Ten Simple Ways To Get More Attention For Your Fanwork

https://melannen.dreamwidth.org/354977.html

This is all reasonable, at least in my experience, but the truth is that fandom engagement seems to have dropped off for most writers during the past two years. Almost no one posts or links to their fanfic on Tumblr anymore, but what I do see are posts with massive numbers of notes about how painful it is to be ignored by your fandom, possible reasons why no one leaves kudos anymore, and so on.

There’s a pervasive idea that you can build your own audience if you’re consistent and good at what you do, but the most popular thing I ever wrote was a steaming heap of garbage that I posted on Fanfiction.net back when Fanfiction.net was still mainstream in, like, 2009. I think a lot about how maybe I missed a window of opportunity, and how maybe I just wasn’t born in the right year. Like, maybe if I were a little older, maybe I would have been able to “make it” before social media blew up and collapsed in on itself. Or maybe, if I were younger, I would have had access to the resources and platforms that could have helped me develop my skills and community when I was still a student.

I’m afraid that the real truth is that some people are never going to make it, and maybe I’m just one of those people, unfortunately. Even worse, maybe my entire generation is never going to make it.

I think all of this is definitely worth worrying about, and not just from the perspective of a writer. Over the past four years, I’ve seen so many incredibly talented fanfic authors just up and disappear after expressing frustration with not getting any feedback, and it kills me. I wanted them to keep writing for very selfish reasons – I wanted them to finish a story they were serializing, or I really enjoyed reading their work and would have read anything they posted in any fandom. I hope they stopped sharing fanfic because they became professional writers, but I’m afraid that a lot of people probably just gave up and quit.

I have immense respect for professionally published authors, as well as people who are capable of doing the social media hustle, but I also desperately want to see the re-emergence of a healthy fanfic culture on more subcultural platforms like Tumblr.

That “Abandoned Mall” Feeling

After the porn ban, Tumblr users have ditched the platform as promised
https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/14/18266013/tumblr-porn-ban-lost-users-down-traffic

Tumblr’s global traffic in December clocked in at 521 million, but it had dropped to 370 million by February, web analytics firm SimilarWeb tells The Verge. Statista reports a similar trend in the number of unique visitors. By January 2019, only over 437 million visited Tumblr, compared to a high of 642 million visitors in July 2018.

Tumblr loses almost a third of its users after banning porn
https://sea.mashable.com/tech/2777/tumblr-loses-almost-a-third-of-its-users-after-banning-porn

But NSFW posts were the lifeblood of Tumblr communities, and when that left the site, many of the users fled with it. PinkNews reports that traffic fell from 521 million monthly page views in December to 437 million in January, according to SimilarWeb analytics. By the end of February, Tumblr only received 369 million page views. That comes out to 151 million fewer page views, or a 29 percent drop.

Tumblr has lost 30 percent of web traffic since December
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19393500

This doesn’t surprise me at all. I run a reasonably popular non-porn, submissions-based blog and immediately after the ban was implemented, our numbers tanked. Submissions dropped from 25-35 per day to around 10-20, while the number of notes (likes+reblogs+replies) per post has dropped from 600-800 to 200-400. Unfortunately, we still see about the same total number of spambots and fake blogs in our notes. So at least from my own anecdotal experience, the ban did nothing except drive away human users.
That last post reflects my own experience. I used to get around 600 to 800 notes a day in 2018, while now I’m only getting about 350. Then again, I don’t really post anything these days, so that could be a factor as well. I was actually looking forward to Tumblr quieting down a bit, but the trolls haven’t left yet. Because of the relative silence, their mindless barking seems to echo even further, unfortunately. I’ve been putting more effort into customizing Twitter to be a less chaotic experience, but it’s still difficult to express a healthy and multifaceted personality on that trashsite.

The Sepia Tinge of Decay

Echo of footsteps
A sharp fluorescent buzzing
Empty grocery store

I spent way too much time watching Dan Bell’s Dead Mall series on YouTube last night, and it creeped me out. Dan Bell himself is appreciative of the period architecture and kitsch aesthetic, and he doesn’t film in a way that attempts to create elements of horror where none exist, but there’s still something upsetting about these places.

This video series is all very Rust Belt; and, based on the specific locations, I would assume that this slowly creeping neglect is connected to both rural depopulation and the institutionalized economic marginalization of Black communities. That’s upsetting enough in and of itself, of course.

But there’s also a more universal memento mori quality to these videos that inspires a dread of cultural senescence.

I feel like someone should make a video series along the same lines about abandoned websites, because they give off the same sort of energy. It’s not nostalgia, because the affect is distinctly negative, but it’s similar. I think what makes the urban exploration of abandoned malls unpleasant is that they’re “abandoned” instead of “closed,” meaning that the lights are still on and the water is still running. If they were completely shut down and gradually being overtaken by nature, they would be beautiful, but there are still people inside these almost-dead buildings, and that’s disturbing. In the same way, online spaces like Blogspot/Blogger feel weird because there are still a few people using them, and websites for children’s movies from the 2000s are a little eerie because someone is still paying to host them. You want to feel nostalgia when you look at the past; but then, when you realize that it’s not safely in the past, it’s uncomfortable and uncanny.

Also, can I be real for a second? Tumblr is starting to take on an “abandoned mall” feeling, and I don’t like it.