This is the trial of the century – kind of like. The legal duel between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has the nation enchanted and Derek a little confused. Why is everyone talking about this tragic celebrity relationship? Why are so many people obsessed with demonizing Amber Heard?Producer Devon Manze explains to Derek why she thinks the trial has conquered the news cycle, and atlantic organizationKaitlyn Tiffany’s explains why the internet hates Amber, and what it says about the truth, the future of fandom, and who we are on the internet.
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In the excerpts below, Derek and atlantic organizationKaitlyn Tiffany’s discusses the comparison between the Gamergate and Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trials and the social media reaction to the trial.
Derek Thompson: Caitlin, why is the Internet so obsessed with this trial?
Caitlin Tiffany: Well, I think one of the things to understand why so much experimental stuff seems to be everywhere is that it’s coming from these people who are already really connected and networked. So, it would be Johnny Depp fans or related groups that sympathize with Johnny Depp fans. That’s why, I mean, don’t start this comparison from scratch, but that’s why Gamergate feels unavoidable, right? Not because literally everyone on the internet was interested in it, but because it started out in these super tight-knit groups, very good at signal boosting, and just rolled it out over and over until eventually it did reach mass interest point, or even just mass passing interest, so…
Thompson: Can you do a quick 101 on Gamergate? I know this is a very complicated question because there are 1000 things that somehow foreshadow the Internet age we live in. But in a nutshell, what is Gamergate?
Tiffany: yes. I don’t know, Gamergate is arguably the most important cultural and historical event of my adult life. It actually started in my first year as a reporter for a tech site, so I was very familiar with Gamergate. But basically, Gamergate is so well-designed, I guess you could say that the system or network of harassment activity started in the video game space, targeted women in the industry, and then radiated outward as mass misogyny and on the internet reactionary politics.
Thompson: Many people who harass women, harass women journalists, are often closely associated in Gamergate with their networks on Reddit or Twitter or Facebook and Instagram. If you think about how the internet works a little bit like a virus, it’s an old metaphor that unfortunately has gotten very, very close to our lives in the last two years; you’re talking about super-spreading with well-connected people By.
As we understand viruses, some people are more efficient at spreading the virus indoors, some people are online, and by virtue of their location in the network, they have friends who are really influential, or simply because they have a lot of followers . They don’t have 50, they have 500,000 or a million people closely related to them. If they wanted to push a message, “Attack this female reporter”, “Attack this male reporter”, “Attack Amber Heard”, they would be very influential because the size of their reach and engagement is tied to them the first order. Is it right?
Tiffany: fully. And I think it’s more important than during Gamergate that we now have an internet with a fairly coherent incentive structure where there’s an easy-to-find tipping point where there’s enough interest in a topic that if you start creating about that theme, it may be of great benefit to you.
So, this obviously started with Johnny Depp fans pushing out these narratives, and then it quickly became a general interest among YouTubers making videos because it was going to get 1 million views. I recently wrote about this woman who was once a regular Instagram lifestyle influencer who has since grown her audience exponentially by covering these pop culture, overnight true crime stories. She does a lot about Free Britney and Gabby Petito. So, I think those two steps are what really gets everyone in your life like, “Wow, why am I seeing so much about this experiment?”
Thompson: right. So, you’re talking about having two waves of anti-Amber hearing. The first wave of anti-Amberism was a fan of Johnny Depp.These people have a lot of followers and love pirate [of the Caribbean]. Love, I don’t know, Edward Scissorhands. They love the whole Johnny Depp classic. The second this trial started, they started posting a bunch of negative stuff about Amber Heard, and they got a lot of attention from their own community.
The second wave of anti-Amberism is when all these lifestyle bloggers or lifestyle vloggers on YouTube see, “What’s everyone talking about? What’s the hot topic of the day? Oh, it seems to be finding all kinds of ways to hate. Amber Heard.” Like mercenaries, they came out of the woodwork, they started making content that might get them a lot of clicks, and suddenly there was a second wave of the anti-Amber Heard movement, and now it’s Just this all-consuming beast on the internet.
Tiffany: Yes, completely. Both groups are then able to attract people who have a natural empathy for what they are doing. Therefore, it is easier to compare with QAnon. People who like puzzles or who like to believe that there is a secret conspiracy behind Hollywood or something the media isn’t telling you, will be attracted to them. They will be curious about the story. Likewise, I think there have been reports of men’s rights activists who want to highlight how women manipulate and destroy men. It’s also a convenient story for them. It’s just a rolling pile of junk.
Thompson: Yes, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth waves. yes.So, let’s take a look at the article you wrote atlantic organization On the phone, we’ve set out to answer the question, “Why the Internet Hates Amber Heard.” Start by describing the nature of the Internet’s hatred of Amber Heard. Give me example. What degree of disgust are we talking about here?
Tiffany: yes. Total disgust. I think what really brought it home and made me think, “This is really weird,” was that I followed a lot of Harry Styles fans on Twitter, and I started seeing them tweet, “Listening to Amber Heard makes me sick Yes.” “Amber Heard is the plague.” So that’s pretty surprising, because I think their language is very powerful and unexpected, especially since Harry Styles fans see themselves as very progressive.
Then, the second thing I noticed that was really shocking was that on TikTok, there were a lot of teens reacting to Amber Heard’s testimony about the specific circumstances of her violent abuse. The way they act on TikTok to make fun of them is…you might be able to write a paper on some of those TikToks because there’s so much going on. It’s so weird to see a teenage girl make her boyfriend wear a pirate beard and pretend to make a joke on her face.
This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.
Moderator: Derek Thompson
Guest: Caitlin Tiffany
Producer: Devon Manzer