Many of us may complain about Twitter and its potential future owner Elon Musk, but in today’s edition of Cleanse the Timeline, Scaachi Koul dedicates several impassioned paragraphs to the task. Tomi Obaro recommends the first novel in a stunning trilogy about a teenage girl living in Rhodesia in the late ’60s. And Stephanie McNeal takes on the greatest musical moment of our time: the social media dominance of that ubiquitous “My money don’t jiggle jiggle” sound. (If you need a palate cleanser after even seeing those words, I recommend “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” by Big Thief.)
Estelle Tang, senior culture editor
Please enjoy this edition of Feudwatch, a column wherein Scaachi Koul talks about a feud she is enjoying, engaged in, or perhaps: both.
Elon Musk vs. the rest of us on Twitter
Hark, a new Twitter landlord may be soon to arrive (or not), this time in the form of an unlikable white guy with too much money who a lot of people seem to agree sucks, a real departure from its former CEO, Jack Dorsey. The general consensus among normal people is that it is very bad that Elon Musk could be taking the reins of the bird app. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? A social media site designed for people to share their most inane thoughts will perhaps be used as a tool to disrupt a democratic election and sow conspiracy theories and violence and hate crimes? Again? It’s not like Musk has already said he’d reverse the former president’s permaban on the site, right?
Ever since the deal was announced, there’s been a steady cry from people on Twitter about how they’re sure to leave the “hellsite,” as they call it. (On that note, anyone calling it a hellsite is probably too much of a loser to actually leave the aforementioned hellsite.) Almost none of the folks on Twitter complaining about Twitter are going anywhere. We can cry and scream and stomp our feet and promise we won’t use it anymore, but we will. Even Meta, a company run by a haunted doll brought to life, has reported that its user base is still growing. People get mad fast, but they move on from that anger just as fast too.
Not that I’m blaming anyone. We are a community of the hopeless and helpless, waiting for someone else to make a social media site that doesn’t give us intellectual heartburn. (Remember Tumblr? All they had to do was let us use it for porn and they couldn’t even get that right.) But this is the state of the internet today: You can either participate in the (demonstrably evil) machine, or you can sit in your silly little house and have no audience at all.
We could say volumes about what it means that many of us would rather scream into the ether together about nothing — in a way that benefits someone who just had $44 billion lying around, apparently — than to be forgotten by the tides of digital history. Everyone wants to leave a record of themselves somewhere, even if that record is a) boring and b) no real benefit to anyone. I mean, it’s not like Musk will do anything with the data we give him, right? He’s not going to, like, sell the information I’ve provided Twitter about my period or my contraception or my firm belief in abortion accessibility to anyone who might vehemently disagree, right? Ha ha ha. This is fun. We’re having a good time! The dystopia is sexy.
To be clear, I speak from no place of authority whatsoever; as I type this, I’m posting a photo of my cans to my Instagram stories because I just need someone to see them. They’re real, and they’re spectacular.
Winner in spirit: The devil. What does he even do with all the souls of these billionaires? Even the Tooth Fairy makes necklaces.
Winner in actuality: Meta. —Scaachi Koul
Hi and welcome to Like and Subscribe, Stephanie McNeal’s column about the accounts and trends she just can’t stop following on social media.
The Hottest Song in the US Right Now Is This Random TikTok Sound
For the past week or so, I have had one song playing in my head no matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m working, exercising, doing chores, or just playing on my phone, in the background I hear the familiar refrain:
“My money don't jiggle jiggle, it folds / I like to see you wiggle wiggle, for sure / It makes me want to dribble dribble, you know.”
I’m not alone. My fellow sufferers all over the internet are also posting about how they can’t get this song out of their heads. Shay Mitchell is genuinely concerned it will be her birth anthem; people can’t work or sleep. It’s truly taking over hearts and minds. (And yes, I think it is jiggle, not jingle.)
As you probably know by now, this “song” is not actually a song at all. It is a clip from an interview YouTuber Amelia Dimoldenberg did in February with British journalist Louis Theroux that was then autotuned, going viral on the app.
In the interview, Theroux discusses a rap he wrote for a show he hosted called “Weird Weekends,” and performs a few of the bars. DJs Duke and Jones then autotuned it and uploaded it to TikTok in March, the duo told the LA Times. Since the “song” was uploaded on TikTok, it has been used in more than 1.7 million videos on the app. The sound went so viral that the duo told the newspaper it landed them a record deal with a Sony Music imprint in the UK.
Perhaps the funniest thing about the virality of the song is that it is just the latest iteration of one of the oldest internet trends out there: autotuning the news. Not to get all “back in my day,” but before Gen Z started dancing to Theroux’s rap, millennials had to deal with the “Bed Intruder Song” being stuck in their heads nearly 12 years ago. That remix of a news report, done by YouTube comedians the Gregory Brothers, eventually made it onto the Billboard Top 100 and into mainstream pop culture, including being parodied on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (It was also subject to some thoughtful analysis about the problematic elements of its virality, including an excellent 2016 piece for BuzzFeed News.)
Duke and Jones, who are 26, are actually working off the Gregory Brothers playbook, the LA Times reported, trawling the internet for videos and autotuning them in hopes they will take off on TikTok.
They say everything old is new again. What one person thought to do on YouTube in the early 2010s, people are going viral for now on TikTok, and so it goes. I can’t wait until they discover the joys of filming small children after dental procedures. —Stephanie McNeal
Welcome to Read This, where we recommend something new to add to your ever-growing book pile.
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
I have to confess I didn’t read this classic coming-of-age novel until earlier this year. First published in 1988, Nervous Conditions tells the story of Tambudzai, a determined 13-year-old living in Rhodesia in the late ’60s (in what would eventually become Zimbabwe). When her older brother Nhamo dies unexpectedly (we learn this in an iconic first sentence: “I was not sorry when my brother died”), Tambudzai is invited to live with her wealthy uncle, his wife, and her cousin, Nyasha. While there, she attends the Mission school, where her uncle, who was educated in England, is headmaster.
Tambudzai is alternately fascinated and repelled by her cousin, a brash young girl, who speaks Shona in an English accent and smokes cigarettes, and who bristles against the patriarchal expectations her father has of her. Tambudzai’s experiences at the Mission are in stark contrast to her home life, where her parents are unwed, to her uncle’s chagrin, and live in great poverty. Tambudzai oscillates between feeling gratitude toward her uncle and resentment at the wealth and proximity to whiteness that necessitates this arrangement, even while striving to be mostly apolitical.
And amid all the internal familial strife, the possibility of war and of independence from minority white rule only makes these tensions more fraught.
Nervous Conditions is the first book of a trilogy. I’m finishing up the final book, 2018’s This Mournable Body, now. Independence has been attained for Zimbabwe (in 1980, which still feels shockingly recent), but Tambudzai, now middle-aged, has never been more adrift. Tambudzai is a fascinating character, capable of shocking cruelty while also deeply sympathetic. Like so many great antiheroines, she’s neither entirely good nor bad, but deeply riveting to read on the page. —Tomi Obaro
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