New Releases

3OH!3 and 100 Gecs' "LONELY MACHINE" Explores the Millennial/Gen-Z Divide

100 Gecs have become the darlings of post-genre trashcore for digital natives, and their iconic, ear-splitting "Money Machine" is the closest thing we have to today's "Don't Trust Me."

30H13 and 100 Gecs

In one of the year's most uncalled-for collaborations, 30H!3 has returned to accompany 100 Gecs on a new song.

The song is everything you would expect from these bands' combined efforts. It's abrasive, excessive, grating, and obnoxious. It features some aggressive lyrics and flickers of vintage 200s emo-tronica from 3OH!3. It also features some absurdly auto-tuned, extremely confessional lyrics from Laura Les that are sure to resonate with anyone who grew up using the Internet.

The song marks 3OH!3's first musical return in four years. The group achieved astronomical fame in the 2000s thanks to their song "Don't Trust Me," a staple of teen karaoke parties and bar mitzvahs in the aughts.

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Ed Markey

Massachusetts senator Ed Markey might look like your average outdated boomer, but make no mistake—Markey is a legend.

Markey may be 74 years old, but he's been fighting the good fight for a long time, serving as one of the most progressive members of Congress for over four decades. He co-sponsored the Green New Deal alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernies Sanders, strongly advocates for single-payer healthcare, and believes in preserving an open Internet. In short, this dude is the real deal.

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Culture Feature

The Boomer's Guide to Online Activism in the Age of TikTok and K-pop Stans

Gen Z online activists are flexing their ability to outfox Boomer politicians and police

Boomers may write them off as trolls.

But Gen Z has reclaimed that word and is forging a new breed of "pop activism," which remixes the earnestness of Millennial social justice warriors with the zeitgeist of dank memes, hashtags, and K-pop fancams of Jennie from Blackpink, winking.

For instance, June was supposed to be a glorious comeback for President Trump, with his first public rally since America went into COVID-19 lockdown. But over the weekend of Juneteenth, the White House learned the hard way: You don't want to piss off the dance-meme dragon that is Gen Z (AKA Zoomers) or their K-pop stan partners in crime.

A Tik Tok video of young people dancing while text on the screen says "Doing the macarena in front of my confirmation for 2 tickets to Trump's rally so these 2 seats will be empty" Doing the Macarena while fake-registering for Trump's June 20th Tulsa Rallyhttps://www.tiktok.com/@eleanorstoa

We all know the embarrassing aftermath. Trump's rally, which originally had "almost a million" ticket RSVPs, was attended by a scant 6,200 people. CNN, Washington Post, and the New York Times hailed these Zoomers as wily activists. K-pop stans, who had also mobilized en masse to reserve tickets, were heralded as "anti-racist heroes." Glowing articles were shared with glee on Facebook. On Twitter, Millennial leaders like AOC gave their stamps of approval.

Tweet by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, responding to Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale. AOC's tweet reads:  "Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID  Shout out to Zoomers. Y\u2019all make me so proud." Congresswoman AOC giving a shout out to Gen Zhttps://twitter.com/AOC/status/1274499021625794565

Meanwhile, there arose a subset of Boomer and Boomer-adjacent minds (note: usually NOT Trump supporters), who simply could not understand what these gosh-darned kids were up to.

The typical lookey-here-we-can't-stoop-to-their-level Boomer comment:

Screenshot of a Facebook comment that reads: "not a good tactic. Profoundly anti-democratic. The other side can do these kinds of tricks, too. Plus it's never a good idea to poke a stick at a rabid dog." Boomer Exhibit AFrom a Boomer on Facebook


The I-could-have-done-it-better-than-these-whippersnappers Boomer comment:

Screenshot of a Facebook comment that reads: "I submit that it would have been a better strategy if Tok Tok teens and Kpop fans had not revealed what they did, and that they should have covertly continued to reserve seats at each and every rally from now till the election" Boomer Exhibit BFrom a Boomer on Facebook

At least one journalist bemoaned Gen Z's methods, sounding the this-is-what Russian-hackers-would-do-omg alarm: "...Those who pioneered them and who exploit them today often take pride in valuelessness," wrote Molly Roberts in her opinion piece for The Washington Post. "Surely it is better to troll to disrupt racism than to promote it... The whole story is cute and clever, but more than that it's sad—sad that this is the activism that feels most normal and most natural to those who grew up in the Internet age, sad that many believe it's the activism most likely to succeed in a battlefield already full of falsehoods, and sadder still that they may be right," she continued.

But let's consider: The humiliation of Trump, the crashing of a Big Brother-esque police app, and the drowning of racist hashtags on Twitter...are those things valueless?

Contrary to what Boomers may assume...Gen Z isn't just playing around.

"We may live in a digital world that allows us to create fantasies on the Internet. But we're also aware of how to take these fantasies and make them reality," says CD + The Players, a rising influencer on Alt TikTok. "My local BLM protest is being led by high school students...a group of minors got on the Internet and made a plan."

Gen Z hasn't just played a huge part in documenting the protests; they've unapologetically recorded their conservative family members berating them and sometimes even kicking them out of the house. An oft-told joke in the comment sections: Gen Z is too scared to say anything when the barista f*cks up their drink, but has NO PROBLEM telling cops in riot gear to go f*ck themselves.

"It's hard for the older generations to understand it, because it's like a whole separate culture online," says Will Mahony, the brains behind #mannyflag, a wildly viral TikTok campaign.

Recently, Mahony whimsically mused to his 1.3 Million followers about how Gen Z could troll Fox News by starting a petition to change the American flag. Within 24 hours of the original TikTok, he and a friend decided to create the Manny Flag, featuring the mug of Manny Heffley of the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series.

A flag that has yellow and white stripes, as well as a black box with the white drawing of Manny from "Diary of Wimpy Kid" The Manny Flaghttp://mannyflag.org/

Kids quickly began changing their profile pictures to the Manny Flag, repeating the mantra: "Whenever you see the #mannyflag, go and sign a petition"

"In a lot of ways, we...mess around and...make a lot of memes...but in the end we know that we are the future and we fight for what's right." says Mahoney. "We are able to unite millions of us under a common goal in literally hours with the power of social media."

It's precisely that swiftness, made possible by the viral nature of pop activism, that disorients many people. While virality definitely has some predictive markers, it's never 100% guaranteed that a certain meme will gain mass popularity. Even less guaranteed is whether the meme will remain similar to its original form or wildly mutate. Unlike the white-knuckled world of political spin and A/B-tested marketing (what Boomers are used to), pop activism is mutable, sometimes maddeningly so.

For Manny Flag, the initial idea has evolved in several ways, generating some tongue-in-cheek versions:

A tweet where a young person compares the American flag and the Manny flag Gen Z is not feeling the American flaghttps://twitter.com/Eri60086918/status/1276876713654464512

The Manny Flag has also become paired with other political movements (such as #ACAB), which led to an official statement on the Manny Flag website that clarifies the flag is "a symbol of PEACE, and NOT to be radicalized."

But one of the hallmarks of Gen Z pop activism is that anyone and everyone can (and is implicitly encouraged) to build on previous successes, much like one would surf on the momentum of a meme. Much like works of art, in the world of memes, the audience's gaze becomes as much a part of the piece as the artist's initial intentions.

This horizontal authority (rather than top-down hierarchy) has often been denigrated by Boomers, who say it's no match for the juggernaut of traditional institutions of power such as cash-rich lobbying groups and political action committees.

"Trump and the media are very aware of us," says Ashley Vee, who has helped push forth a renewed #RIPTrump. "I personally think it's hilarious that some of his most formidable opponents can't even drive yet."

These young people have watched Vee's #RIPTrump Tik Tok over a million times. The video advises fellow activists to claim that any current footage of Trump was pre-recorded and that he actually died of an hydroxychloroquine (an antimalarial drug that Trump swore to be a cure for COVID-19) overdose.

Activism or Trolling?

For Boomers, this youthful pop activism often looks like mere trolling. Though trolling can be "valueless," it can also be wildly powerful, a tool used by either dystopian misinformation pirates in Siberia or by stoner mumble-rap fans who are spending quarantine in the basement of their mom's house.

Of course, that leaves a deeply incomplete picture of Gen Z pop activism.

"Older people never listened before, so now we're forced to use troll techniques," says Vee, expressing a sentiment echoed by many in Gen Z. Essentially: Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Screenshot of a tweet from @YourZoomerNews which says: "In honor of our recently deceased president  @realDonaldTrump  I\u2019d like to share this patriotic picture of him hugging our beloved flag. #mannyflag #themannywillnotbetelevised #blacklivesbetter #GenZ" Donald Trump hugging a Manny flaghttps://twitter.com/YourZoomerNews/status/1278078788493025282

Boomers will decry "fake news" generated by Gen Z, all while laughing heartily at reruns of The Colbert Report. Boomers would never confuse biased reporting from Fox News with political skits on SNL.

And yet, they view Gen Z's over-the-top hashtags and Doja Cat dances annotated with political messaging as too similar to Trump's fake-news tweets. Virality is seen with suspicion because it seems "too easy" to manipulate, to share, to headline-skim.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest supporters of these rascally kids? The OG of online guerilla activism and radical transparency: the "hacktivist collective" Anonymous. With their Guy Fawkes gravitas, it may surprise Boomers how deeply Anonymous cross-pollinates and supports TikTok teens.

Screenshot from a tweet from Anonymous that says: "There is currently an ongoing effort to report all Trump accounts for hate across platforms ranging from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and others. #riptrump #opFanCam" Even Anonymous is grooving to BTShttps://twitter.com/YourAnonCentral/status/1276975067541323776

The Intersection of K-Pop and Activism

In particular, K-pop stans have been written off by many online denizens as being a bunch of screeching, vapid airheads who create toxic silos where one group of K-pop fans will attack another group of Kpop fans over which group reigns supreme. Few would have guessed that these warring factions would unite for recent Black Lives Matter activism.

"Kpop fans are passionate about this sort of activism because the message that a lot of groups have is to express themselves and be themselves." says Ai⁷, a Kpop stan who was involved in boosting BLM activity on Twitter, as well as donating to the Match a Million effort for One in an Army⁷.

Screenshot of a tweet from @oneinanarmy that reads: "BTS fans match BTS' one million dollar donation to Black Lives Matter. #BlackLivesMatter #ARMYMatchedAMillion #2MforBLM" Kpop stans have raised over $1Million for social movementshttps://twitter.com/oneinanarmy/status/1269808529688481796

For Boomers, activism is a very narrowly defined sort of public action. Because K-pop stans are partaking in what many would consider "feminine, immature" activities, sexist and age-ist judgments have labeled them politically unaware (at best).

And yet the pastel stiletto nails of K-pop stan activism are formidable. Unlike paid-for-hire trolls and bots that move in mercenary ways, K-pop stans are tirelessly devoted and emotionally invested in their favorite K-pop stars.

"A lot of K-pop has political messages, a lot of artists discuss mental health and societal expectations," says Ai⁷. Also, "A lot of groups are acknowledging their influence and roots with American Black music... [Many K-pop artists] spoke out regarding BLM. Psy participated in Black Out Tuesday...because the groups acknowledge it, their stans acknowledge it."

Casual fans may not realize it, and Boomers definitely wouldn't know it, but to be a K-pop stan is inherently political. And add to that: "K-pop fans are literally the epitome of online organization, both in Korea and around the world," says CD + The Players. "This is something that has existed since the early 90s when...fandoms were mainly offline. The only thing the Internet did was just give them a bigger platform to do what they were already doing beforehand."

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

This is a brave new world, where constant WiFi has erased the boundaries that have previously defined "activism."

In this sense, Boomers are thinking like the redcoat officers of the British Royal Army, befuddled and horrified at the guerilla techniques of underdog Patriots during the Revolutionary War. The trolling techniques are not just for giggles, or even mischief. They come from a place of extreme practicality. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Gen Z knows how to exploit algorithms in order to make mainstream media pay heed.

So you can call them: trolls, pop activists, online guerilla soldiers.

Just don't underestimate the sheer f*ckery that Gen Z can wreak.

The labels aren't the point for Gen Z.

The labels aren't the point for K-pop stans.

Because they will do what it takes.

And that's on periodt. (note to Boomers: periodt is spelled this way on purpose).

CULTURE

John C. Reilly's Son Is a Hot E-Boy, and I'm Very Confused

Meet Leo Reilly, the 22-year-old model, musician, and TikToker who looks nothing like his dad.

For most of us raised among slapstick comedy of the 2000s, John C. Reilly is most often associated with his roles in films like Step Brothers or shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

But the actor, whose resume includes Chicago, Boogie Nights, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, also has a family to attend to when he's not caught up in on-screen antics. While that's nothing new to write home about, I'm incredibly shocked to discover that Reilly and his wife, fellow actor Alison Dickey, have an alarmingly attractive son. This son is Leo Reilly, a 22-year-old model, TikToker, and pop musician who records under the alias LoveLeo. Backed by a few hundred thousand followers, he's garnered attention lately surrounding his debut single, "BOYFREN." But above all, folks of the Internet are in disbelief that he's from the same gene pool as his funnyman dad.

I'm not saying John C. Reilly is ugly, per se—in fact, he was quite handsome in his youth! But the lack of apparent physical features shared between him and his dangly-earring-and-nail polish-wearing, E-boy son is astounding. It feels as though the two have been plucked from entirely different universes; Leo looks like the Gen Z Freddie Mercury, while I can't see a photo of his father without hearing "Did you touch my drum set?"

www.youtube.com

But don't be fooled—the two seem tight. Leo shares his love for his pops pretty often on his Instagram, where his sense of humor is also evident. Back in 2008 during the Step Brothers press cycle, John shared that he'd be glad if his kids stuck around the house as adults: "Maybe there will come a time when I'll get tired of them, but I really depend on my kids for company," he told People. "I love every minute of being with them."

As expected, it appears Leo has a healthy sense of humor, too. His Instagram photos are often surreally Photoshopped, and the "BOYFREN" music video is comically quirky. Genetics, man! Crazy stuff!

www.youtube.com

CULTURE

What Ageism Means in the Era of "OK, Boomer"

If you cling to outdated ideas, you are choosing to be left behind.

A relative recently reached out to express concern that I was sharing ageist sentiments on the Internet.

She didn't have to specify which content had bothered her. I knew she was talking about my attacks on "boomers."

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CULTURE

The Ironic Politics of TikTok: China's Muslim Genocide and Eyelash Curling

Why TikTok is the language of the post-American Dream world.

Is TikTok a threat to our national security? Are we all being secretly monitored by China? How do you get long eyelashes?!

These three pivotal questions of our modern times collided when a Muslim-American teenager woke up Monday morning to find that her TikTok account was suspended. Word quickly spread that 17-year-old Feroza Aziz was banned from the platform because of her popular video in which she feigns beginning a beauty tutorial about getting longer eyelashes and ends up making cutting commentary on the Chinese government.

"So, the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes, obviously," Aziz begins her 45-second video. "Then, you're gonna put them down and use the phone you're using right now to search what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there... This is another Holocaust, yet no one is talking about it." She ends the video by leaning in with her lash curler to get down to business: "Please spread awareness, so yeah. So you can grab your lash curler again...

Later, she explained, "People don't care at all that this is happening. All they care about is what the trend is, the new fashion trend, who's dating who, what new YouTuber there is. [So], I thought, 'Why don't I speak about what they want?' A lot of people want bigger lashes, let me reel them in. Let me pretend that this is a lash video they can watch and then I'll hit them with what really matters, what they should really be caring about."

With China unlawfully detaining approximately 1 million members of its Muslim Uighur population in "vocational centers" that are documented to be little more than prison camps, Aziz's video was a refreshing reminder that Gen Zers are indeed politically conscience and engaged–if only ironically.

TikTok: The "Frontline in America's Ongoing Culture War"

TikTok has boggled boomers' minds since its U.S. debut in 2016, when it absorbed the lame app Musical.ly for a whopping $1 billion and soon spread faster than an outback bushfire (aw, too soon?). Known as Douyin in China, where it was developed, the app has since been downloaded over 750 million times worldwide. In the U.S. that means it's time for the Committee on Foreign Investment to assess whether the app sending user data to China. Lawmakers voicing concern over its threat to national security include Senator Marc Rubio and Senator Chuck Schumer, the latter of whom called TIkTok "a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore." He also stated that "apps like TikTok—that store massive amounts of personal data accessible to foreign governments—may pose serious risks to millions of Americans."

Of course apps like TikTok are of great concern–considering homegrown American companies like Facebook can't even stop themselves from selling users' personal data. Whether or not TikTok is "a Chinese Cambridge Analytica Data Bomb Waiting to Explode," as Quartz's David Carroll questioned, remains unknown. Carroll even investigated (read as: responsibly stalked) TikTok staff in charge of answering privacy questions. They explained, "It's important to clarify that TikTok does not operate in China and that the government of the PRC has no access to TikTok users data." The (okay, alarming) caveat of his findings is that user information collected before February 2019 "may have been" processed in China—but what demands attention is the fact that TikTok, as of this writing, has not been caught illegally sharing data or systemically deceiving its users.

But do they censor content? Aziz's ban clearly seems to be a punitive measure in response to her criticism of the Chinese government. Aziz said, "I still find it suspicious that TikTok took down my video right when my posts on China's concentration camps were made. Doesn't sound right to me." The company's Chinese developer, ByteDance, has repeatedly refuted the claim. "We don't remove content based on sensitivities around China or other governments," TikTok's director of creator community Kudzi Chikumbu told CNBC. Another statement from the company added, "We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period."

Gen Z Irony: Why Life Is a "Dark Humor Joke"

Rather, TikTok claims that another one of Aziz's ironic videos is what prompted the ban. "A previous account belonging to this user had been banned after she posted a video of Osama Bin Laden," the spokeperson explained, "which is a violation of TikTok's ban on content that includes imagery related to terrorist organizations. Another account of hers, @getmefamouspartthree, and its videos–including the eyelash video in question–were not affected and the video continues to receive views."

Aziz was unaware of TikTok's justification until she spoke to reporters on Tuesday. She clarified the nature of the "dark humor joke" she posted about Bin Laden: "As a Muslim-American growing up in a country that ridicules me … I've been told, 'Why don't you go marry a terrorist, you're a terrorist yourself," she says. "So I thought OK, I'll make a TikTok of me saying a terrorist is cute. Obviously I'm joking about that … but it's taken down, it's taken out of context, and I didn't mean for it to be taken out of context at all like that." But Aziz adds that she's had multiple other videos deleted from her account. "All the videos taken down were my Muslim videos," she said. She says that she makes the videos to "cope with the racism [she faces'] every day," but those are taken down, "me making jokes Muslims could laugh about, relatable Muslim content. That's just how TikTok is. There's always people that report things."

But that's exactly the problem with a "dark humor joke" online–sure some people won't get it, but more specifically, jokes on TikTok have unique potential to become politically charged. Artist and writer Joshua Citarella recounted TikTok's early days as the "frontline in America's ongoing culture war," with comparisons being drawn between the app's irreverent tone and edgy trolling and toxic online spaces like 4chan. He writes, "While millennials earnestly tweet about the stress of their student loans and freelance precarity, Gen Z TikToks in joyous nihilism, mocking a society in which self-determination and upward mobility have long since collapsed."


But of course coming-of-age amidst climate crises, heinous abuses of power exposed by #MeToo, televised trials of corrupt government officials, and the deepest political divides between parties in decades would make you a little nihilistic. Irony may be the only mode of language for Gen Zers to communicate the deep paradoxes and embedded lies of the American Dream; we're so clearly living in the creepy computer simulation that the American Dream turned out to be. Speaking in memes and ironic expressions of self, "Milennials, and Gen Z after us, adopted irony as a cultural strategy," Citarella writes. "Irony allowed us to continue life under late capitalism while psychologically sheltering ourselves from the demoralizing reality."

Sure, there might be disasters-in-waiting as a result of speaking in ironies and irreverent hot takes, such as the irony poisoning at the root of TikTok's misunderstanding of Aziz's Bin Laden video. Mocking an ideology by appropriating it for a joke can lead to real proliferation of those ideas, which, yes, is bad. But in a post-American Dream world, so many ideologies have become such mockeries of themselves that the best way to communicate their flaws is through a "dark humor joke."

"As a Muslim girl, I've always been oppressed and seen my people be oppressed, and always I've been into human rights," Aziz told Buzzfeed News. In a follow-up video posted to TikTok, she explained why she bothers posting videos. "Generations before us don't have the same power we have now, and that's technology," she says. "Our voices can do so much."