For some reason, the hardest part of writing an interview (besides sending a polite DM to whoever you’re planning on talking to) is the introductory paragraph, at least to me anyway. I find it scarily hard to condense why I find a certain artist or personality interesting down into a few sentences without coming off as even more of a pretentious arsehole and sadly the work of Matthew Harris (aka. Applemask) is no exception to this inability. According to the about page on his website, Harris is obsessed with what the Japanese term “mono no aware” – the pathos of things. In other words, Harris obsesses over small, discarded pieces of pop culture and uses these glimpses into the more mundane aspects of the past as the basis for his various video essays. Applemask is probably best known for ‘ITV in the Face’, a scarily-long amateur documentary series that dissects the (at the time of the 2016 remaster) sixty-year history of the British broadcaster through it’s various regional logos and idents, heavily utilizing footage from VHS tapes that’d usually be skipped or forgotten about. There’s something oddly captivating about Harris’s combination of the mundane and the substantial – historical events are marked by embarrassing ads for tabloid rags and Julie Simmons introducing *’Coronation Street’,* reinforcing the odd mundanity of living through a major news event that we’re all currently staring straight in the face. One of Harris’ best video essays (and one I’m mad for not asking about in this interview) is “The Alma Syndrome”, a piece attempting to depict the eeriness of British media in the hours following the death of Princess Diana. Even as someone who talks scarily frequently about James Connolly (and gets stupidly insecure about coming off as a West-Brit while reading this paragraph), there’s something quite fascinating about this video – the last thing aired on ITV before the news broke that Diana had died was some tacky Britpop song that I couldn’t be arsed to locate and there’s something oddly poignant about that fact. The world will probably melt during a ‘Room To Improve’ repeat and Harris’ work is interesting as it makes that fact blindly obvious (if not strangely beautiful). Hopefully that doesn’t seem too pretentious for an introduction – either way, let’s just get on to the interview already.
By the time I get this blog post up, you’ll have probably heard about the supposed leaking of the TF2 and CSGO source code on a certain imageboard that at this rate will probably haunt everything I write about. This anonymous leak is widely believed to have originated from a friend of Tyler McVicker, better known as the constantly suffering YouTuber Valve News Network. The story that I’ve seen repeated on Twitter is that this friend got removed from a Discord server for being a transphobic arsehole and decided to respond to this by leaking everything he was shared with the wider internet – presumably in an attempt to ruin McVicker’s career. This quite understandably set a small corner of the internet ablaze, with TF2 servers going offline due to security concerns and random people on Twitter getting concerningly mad about the whole thing. I’m writing this just after it was revealed that the leaked code was “given to many people in May 2018 by a mentally unstable source who wanted to cause damage to Valve” and that Valve found no reason for players to be alarmed or to avoid using current builds of their games. However, the leaked source code is arguably the least interesting part of the story (or at least it is to me, someone who has documented their love-hate relationship with CSGO in the past and has no intentions of relapsing). The anonymous arsehole behind the leak also dumped chatlogs of Tyler talking to an unconfirmed Valve source, something he apparently shared with multiple close Discord friends. Now I’m not here to play journalist (and trust me you shouldn’t trust this blog for anything like that), but I feel as if these leaked chatlogs give us an interesting glimpse into the experience of being a minor internet personality and the weird power-plays inherent to being a big deal in a community that only five people actively care about.
So far my lockdown experience can be summarized through the apathetic sensation of suddenly remembering that you (a) have headphones on and (b) have been blaring music for the past three hours. At the moment I’m probably listening to way more music than I usually get around to in a year, however presumably as a result of this music has stopped being something I get actively excited about and more something I intermittently pay attention to while scrolling through the same three or four websites waiting for content to appear. My taste has always been deeply stagnant (even if for the longest while I’ve never wanted to admit as such), but I’m currently facing this realization head-on each day during the drawn-out hours between the six-one and the nine o’clock news. There’s something inherently comic about this sensation – Soundcloud seems to think that I’m into intense workout playlists when I actually just need 230BPM speedcore mixes to motivate me to get up from the couch I’ve slept on for the past month. Just in the same way that Alex G remarked that as he got older it was “no longer three chords” that excited him, the longer I spend holed up within a 2km radius of my house the less likely I am to pay attention to (or even seek out) new music. However, since time no longer exists whatever enthusiasm I held in music when I actually had serotonin seeps out – leading us to this moment in time.
One of the main perks of being Irish is the ability to shrug off whatever’s going on across the pond with a cynical laugh and a James Connolly misquote. I’ve always held irrationally low expectations when it comes to the UK – outside of Mark Fisher, old men who make electronic music in tracksuits, Spartacists with scarily verbose signs, and irony podcasters, all the UK really has to offer us is just bass-boosted evidence as to why we’re all doomed and why you should never respect people who write down their opinions on a regular basis. Joining the ranks of that one Giles Coren documentary in offering us a nearly comical glimpse into how soulless ghouls operate is the recently leaked internal report on Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations. According to a report in The Guardian by Rowena Mason, the document claimed that it “had found no evidence of antisemitism complaints being treated differently to other forms of complaint” but instead found “abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in party HQ” – in other words, we learned more about the ratfucking (an international pastime at this point) of Corbyn than anything relating to how bigotry is handled within the Labour party. And trust me, there’s more than a fair share of ratfucking clearly laid out within this report – to the point where I’ll barely even touch upon the surface of it within this blog post. Some “highlights” of the dickery include some arsehole passing on the fact that Diane Abbott was crying in the bathrooms over racist abuse to a Channel 4 journalist, notorious milkman and continual failure Mike Gapes helping to get a lad suspended from the party over reporting Islamaphobic harassment he was receiving, and the fact that half of all the antisemitism complaints arrived from one person who seems to get off by being an arsehole over the phone.
“Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights” by Even Oxen is a haunting record – this is aided by the fact that the musician behind the record probably doesn’t want you to listen to it. The record, which was released around June of 2016 was removed from streaming and Bandcamp unceremoniously at some stage in 2018, only kept online through a mirror hosted by Space Friend Records and an unofficial YouTube rip. Nobody seems to know exactly when or why the record vanished – with YouTube comments and imageboard posts suggesting that the musician behind the project either “got depressed” or just forgot to renew their DistroKid subscription. Regardless of as to why this collection of lo-fi gospel-inspired tunes nearly disappeared off the face of the internet, there’s something oddly poignant about its ability to do so. This album that I only seem to remember while being oddly emotional at half four in the morning feels indicative of something larger, even if I only seem to recognize that fact at half four in the morning.
AN UNFINISHED COLLECTION OF UTTER SHITE (2019-2020)
Fiteclub was a zine I planned on releasing at the end of last year as some larger “project” that bridged the gap between some of the blog posts on this website and a coherent piece of writing. However, since I am notoriously horrific at keeping a proper rate of creative output I ended up burning out hard, failing to complete half of the planned material, and sitting on what was finished for months. Around February of this year I decided to finally compile whatever material I had composed into a small, unfinished zine – mainly just so I didn’t have to read any of the writing again and to absolve myself of any obligation to finish it. I doubt anyone will get much of anything out of this, but hopefully it offers some perspective – even if that just arrives from laughing at it.
My aim for this project was to write about topics that only I cared about in the hopes that by writing with an expected audience of zero people this zine would somehow loop around and be vaguely interesting to those who have similar brain worms to mine. I’ve spent way too much time in the past trying and failing to condense my work into a more general, consumable format to the point where I was convinced that the only way to reach that goal would be to just indulge my worst habits to their logical extremes and essentially just parody myself. The articles that Fiteclub would consist of intended to only be interesting to people in the exact same situation at the exact same time, regardless of the fact that this audience doesn’t exist and never would exist. If you’re a vaguely-depressive, anxiety-ridden culchie this is the zine for you (and I hate you for it).
The following is a lightly touched up article I wrote during an all-nighter a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if I should make it public but since my friend Tom said I should release something “human/personal” after the last two weeks of techno-nihilism I thought this could be an interesting escape. So, tread carefully and if I unintentionally covered things incorrectly or was unintentionally insensitive please blame Tom instead of expecting to me have basic levels of accountability – I was tired!
As the two friends who’ll eventually get roped into reading this trainwreck of a blog post will know, I’m a bit of a messy bitch and because of this I have an obsession with music that’s dramatic and hyper-emotional to the point of being extremely cheesy. If your music doesn’t make you sound like you’d impulsively put your hand down a shredder after being ghosted by a dude I just don’t have time for you anymore. This obsession has manifested itself in three ways over the last month – either through listening to a lot of early Xiu Xiu and the same three Björk songs on repeat with headphones on, hopping on the inevitable “The Prodigy was good actually” bandwagon before half of RYM or blaring some of the tackiest 2000s pop music at four in the morning. And to think that only two years ago I was one of those people who thought that listening to Bandcamp bands was a personality trait! Anyways, this brings us to this current point in time. I’m sitting at my laptop at a stupid hour in the morning feeling slightly sad and vaguely caffeinated trying to capture the exact reason why I’m just after listening to the song “All The Things She Said” for the seventh time in a row and why I’m just after spamming one of my uninterested friends with several discord messages about the band’s Wikipedia page. I’m really living my best life and this was a great idea.
Acting as if we’re going to remember this story in two days isn’t genuine. Like pretty much every other incident of right-wing terrorism from the last few years we’ll have a small collective song and dance about how horrible the incident was, perhaps get mad at twitter at some smug media pundit saying something intentionally cruel to draw attention to themselves, pen a few badly written blog posts so we can feel some vague sense of catharsis and gesture to one another that this has to be the point where something changes. Then we’ll pretty much forget about the whole thing when Trump tweets something that implies he was in the crips or something equally inane. The fact of the matter is that in three weeks – let alone three months, the same exact people who pushed the ideology who lead to this shooting will continue doing so largely unchallenged. Sure some token actions may be taken and perhaps we’ll see one or two alt-righters get deplatformed for being a little bit too blatant but to think that anything major will be done by corporations to prevent right-wing organization on their platforms is naive at best. Look at Charlottesville, look at Pittsburgh, look at Charleston. Did corporations do anything to take proper steps against the alt-right who literally organized on their platforms? Nope.
Before we dive further into the relationship between the tech world and the alt-right let’s just get the obvious out of the way. The concept of free-speech online is a myth peddled by dumb radical centrists, delusional libs and bad-faith right-wingers. Social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are not actually interested in hosting all opinions, even if their lip service implies otherwise. They don’t actually care about your supposed right to say what you want, don’t really care about your dumb idealized fantasy of free debate, don’t give a toss about the “marketplace of ideas” and they sure as hell don’t care about the content. However, the one thing they do care about is profit (duh). Sure they can cloud this fact by talking to Joe Rogan, writing oddly long blog posts and releasing misguided marketing campaigns but at the end of the day, their goal is just to get us to collectively use their services for as much time as possible in order to show us advertisements. Nothing more, nothing less. This goal is reflected in the design of these websites – constantly trying to trap you into consuming hours of mediocre content followed by snickers ads. This is blatantly seen in the YouTube recommendation algorithm, which prioritizes watch time over literally anything else – unsurprisingly making YouTube a haven for finding child porn, right-wing ideologues and anti-vaxxers. This isn’t great, especially considering how the website’s audience is gradually getting younger over time. Now this has been a known problem for years yet Google did basically nothing (on its own volition) about it. However, the literal second that a big sponsor like Kellogs sniffs something vaguely foul and pulls their “Sexy Tony the Tiger” marketing campaign from the website Google will freak out, try to hack together some half-hearted attempt to deal with the issue, unintentionally screw over some creators, then fall flat on their face. They don’t care about how their products impact society, don’t care about what they’re promoting and don’t care about the creators of the content. It’s just advertising. If anything it vaguely reminds me of being home alone with a cool sibling. You can go wild all you want but the second your parents pull up we’ve got two minutes to clean everything up or we’re both dead.
You’re probably not surprised to find out that hosting right-wingers is actually quite profitable. Groups like Turning Point USA and PragerU use a stupid amount of their seemingly infinite amount of Koch brothers money on targeted ad campaigns on YouTube and Facebook, every third “Spending Christmas alone watching Birth Of A Nation on repeat to OWN my LIB family members!” post on /r/The_Donald gets gilded at least twice and as you read this post at least fifty pimply-faced nerds are leaving vaguely racist comments on seven-hour-long SJW cringe compilations. As a demographic, the right wing are extremely online, constantly angry and always consuming some form of media. So basically the perfect people to market to. There’s a reason why the replies to Trump tweets mainly consist of links to tacky right-wing merch – it actually sells. These are the exact people who think that YouTube is an actual community, that SJWs are coming to ruin their escapist media, that smashing a Keurig is a form of political protest and that buying a MAGA hat suddenly makes you brave. Their combination of rampant consumerism, constant anger and ceaseless posting just makes them ripe for some of the dumbest, least-interesting marketing online. These are the people who actually like discord’s marketing! This status as an easy marketing demographic is arguably the main shield keeping them on social media. Sure deplatforming the alt-right would probably stop future violence, but then who’s going to watch the pro-troops Mountain Dew advert?
And now it’s time to talk about PewDiePie – someone who I (correctly) thought was cool to hate on back in 2014 and have been smug about ironically ever since. Since the internet as a whole is collectively more concerned about a millionaire being mildly inconvenienced by losing his CondomDepot sponsorship deal as opposed to the literal slaughter of children a lot of the discourse surrounding the shooting has been based on the fact that the incel who carried it out told people to subscribe to PewDiePie before slaughtering 49 innocents on the basis of religion, presumably just to remind us that we’re in the dumbest timeline humanly possible. Some of the fully grown adults who base their personality around watching a YouTuber that became famous by fake-screaming at horror games are convinced that this will either be used as an excuse to get rid of creative freedom on the site, to get rid of his channel, to turn off advertising on “edgy” content or just for the media to make fun of him even more. There’s one very clear response to these people – so what? I don’t care that he might only make one million this year as opposed to two! I don’t care that his next video in which he inadvertently promotes fascism while fellating Elon Musk won’t have a Squarespace sponsorship slapped in awkwardly halfway through! I don’t care that a soulless corporation will have the number one spot on a website that’s obviously soulless and corporate and is owned by the literal dictionary definition of a soulless corporation! 49 people were shot last night and that’s infinitely more important than dumb ad-ridden escapism or a faux sense of community.
On the other side of this extremely online argument are those who ponder if the Swedish YouTuber is either a useful idiot or an outright sympathizer of the far-right and if his channel serves as somewhat of a gateway to extreme right-wing ideology. People who believe this will point to the fact that he’s reviewed a book by infamous frog freak Jordan Peterson, did an “oopsie” by promoting a literal nazi cartoon reviewer (we live in dumb times), paid people on Fiverr to hold “death to all Jews” signs (edgy humor guys!!!111), followed a bunch of dumb right-wing grifters on twitter as well as dropping a few slurs on stream during heated gaming moments. Again, when it comes to these questions of his motives the best answer is just a simple “so what?”. Regardless of if he’s just dumb or malicious, it’s very clear that the far-right were able to use his fandom to push their ideology and were able to have their propaganda recommended right beside his videos. It’s clear that he platformed the far-right (either unintentionally or intentionally) and that’s more important than how he personally feels about them. Either he’s a full-on nihilist nazi or someone dumb enough to let alt-righters fester in his community, platform them on a regular basis “by accident” and follow a bunch of them on twitter without noticing something strange. It’s not like either is really a glowing endorsement of the YouTuber and it’s not like either shows that he’s responsibly using his platform. However, I do feel that some of the people who mainly lay the blame on PewDiePie are being kinda disingenuous.
If there’s anyone truly responsible for what went down in New Zealand it’s big tech. They’re the one constant presence in this story – the constant chase for high engagement and advertising revenue has lead to people being radicalized, falling in with far-right crowds then livestreaming their inevitable insecurity-fueled massacres on Facebook Live. If you need proof on this presumption of mine just read the manifesto left by the deranged shooter – a rambling mess that swerves from the navy seals copypasta and ironic screeds about Spyro 3 to genuine rants on white nationalism and ecofascism. The whole thing just screams “I got brain worms from the internet and this is my revenge!” – I mean he did actually joke about Fortnite flossing over his dead enemies at one point.
It’s blatantly obvious that sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit have been monumental in the growth of the alt-right and it’s becoming that those behind the wheel at each company don’t seem to want to do anything about it. Jack Dorsey personally overruled his staff to keep literal white nationalist Richard Spencer on Twitter. Reddit’s CEO let the mask slip and implied that racism was allowed on his platform during an AMA. Facebook let you market to Nazis. The fact of the matter is quite simple – these libertarian techbros have nothing to gain from deplatforming dangerous right-wingers since they rake in stupid amounts of money from this kind of demographic. The Mountain Dew and Taquitos don’t sell themselves and it definitely helps that these companies also make money from these tragedies. In the words of every annoying SEO person on this planet, a major news event equals more clicks which in turn equals to more ads for Frito Lay and therefore more money. And hell, it’s not like they’re not going to get away with it virtually unscathed! Sure one or two articles may deride them during the media song-and-dance surrounding the event but nothing actually comes out of it besides a way-too-long twitter thread that beats the dead horse of online free speech while also somehow being about meditation and the values of debate, the one way to fight fascism. This liberal fetishization of free online debate is flawed as it presumes that literally anyone online acts in good faith, that debating the far-right doesn’t just normalize them, that we need to debate if the Holocaust happened and it ignores that sometimes the right’s freedom to speech comes in the form of bullets. And now we’re here. 49 people lay dead, their lives cut abruptly on Livestream by some deranged lunatic who spent too much time on incel-ridden imageboards and we all probably first found out about it in the form of a twitter notification. I’ve really only got one thing to say to those who brought us to this point in order to get another Frito Lay sponsorship. You got what you wanted, I hope you’re happy.
The following was originally intended as a script for a video I was planning on releasing at the end of 2018 as a part of a series of vlogs on YouTube but scrapped after producing and editing the vlog this was intended to be in. I scrapped this series as working with video felt extremely tedious and it felt embarrassing to talk into a microphone. I don’t necessarily agree with all the points within this script (in hindsight I just sound like a stereotypical ennea-type four) but I feel like this script is interesting enough to warrant being seen by the two friends I annoy enough to read my blog. I know these posts have been somewhat heavy lately, hopefully next week I’ll have something more fun and lighthearted to balance things out.
Lately it’s seemed like I’ve been making things for the wrong reasons. For nearly all of this year I’ve alternated between either thinking to myself “wow I spend all my time making stuff, isn’t this great?” and “wow I spend all my time making stuff, I wish I was normal and didn’t have to do this”. When I’m in a negative thought spiral or when I’m obsessed with trying to work out how to become normal I usually just end up thinking a lot about why I spend so much time screaming art into the void and why my life is just me trying to make things while coming across as a pretentious loser. I only really end up with one answer as to why I live my life like this.
content warning: mental illness, depression, suicide
I first stumbled upon Yoñlu’s music in September of 2016 through a review on rateyourmusic. I listened to his record “A Society in Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre”, read one piece about him in PASTE magazine and then I pretty much forgot about him. That was until February of this year, where I randomly revisited his work while bored on Spotify only for his music to click. I then spent roughly two weeks obsessively listening to the same fourteen songs, bringing the topic up when talking to friends, constantly browsing the English-speaking side of the internet for information and refusing to shut up about Yoñlu’s music. This article is pretty much the result of this conflict – an attempt to put this topic to bed while sounding vaguely interesting.