@infinite_scream is a Twitter institution. Somehow both comforting and bleak, the bot account periodically posts tweets containing some variation of “AAAHHHHHHHH”—a primal, cathartic yelp, and perhaps a perfectly logical articulation of what life on this planet feels like in 2019.
The bot has been emitting these cries every 10 minutes since November 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidential election, and it now has nearly 75,000 followers. Yet on Wednesday, the bot temporarily stopped screaming—not for the first time—and offered some thoughts on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing an official impeachment inquiry into Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
I reached out to @infinite_scream creator Nora Reed, a New Mexico-based writer who is also behind accounts like @thinkpiecebot, about why they decided to interrupt the scream for the impeachment news. Our interview—which took place over Twitter DMs—has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Why exactly did you start screaming?
I think the main reason was that it was about 3 a.m., and it seemed like a funny idea at the time. That was back in 2015. I made infinite scream and a companion bot, @infinite_bees, and set them both to post every few hours. I didn’t turn it up to posting every 10 minutes and giving it a clearer political message until 2016, though there was always an underlying theme about screaming about the state of the world, at least in how I thought about it.
You’ve let the bots run uninterrupted until recently?
I jump on infinite_scream to say stuff pretty often—the pinned tweet is one example, but there are others. I probably do it on average about once a week, I think? I don’t turn the bot off or anything when I do it. The volume of “AAHHH” tweets is just so high, at 144 nonreply tweets a day, that people don’t usually see them in the flood of bot posts.
Why did you decide to interrupt the bot with the recent impeachment news?
I just saw a bunch of resistance Twitter types losing their shit over it, wanting to make Pelosi their queen or whatever, and it’s taken SO LONG to get here, after so many flagrantly corrupt and immoral acts of this administration, and I was frustrated and wanted to throw a wrench in it. I do this on the scream account periodically both as a sort of catharsis for me and to throw something out there for people feeling the same way about it, to be like, “it’s not just you”. Robots taking a break from being robots to point out inhumanity seems to hit people differently than if I just post about it on main.
If you interrupt the bot on a somewhat regular basis, why do you think the interruption this week got so much attention?
I said something at night (well, night in New Mexico) and then followed it up with a thread the next day, so it got a two-punch of engagement, with people who’d have missed the first post seeing it when I continued it during the day. (I’d love to say that the message was reaching people more effectively, but I think it was just that I accidentally followed the correct formula for reupping something you want maximum eyeballs on.)
How long would you say you’ve been waiting for an impeachment inquiry?
Remember when the story came out that people were paying to go to Mar-a-Lago to get a chance to talk to Trump and those photos of the people posing with the “nuclear football” came out in 2017? I’d hoped for impeachment before then, but that was the moment I completely lost my mind. If he’s profiting off letting people take Instagram photos with the nuclear football, that’s a “sometimes you have to throw the whole country away” moment.
What were the reactions to you interrupting the bot this week?
It was positive. It’s always pretty positive; people are pretty fond of the account. Someone called it “Screamy,” which was adorable.
Are you pretty confident that Trump is going to be impeached? Or are you skeptical at this point?
I’m still skeptical. I’m hoping we can at least get some daylight on the absolutely wackadoodle level of crimes and corruption.
In the event that Trump is impeached, or even removed, I’m assuming that @infinite_scream is still going to keep screaming?
I think if we get to a point where things are less bad—if we manage to internationally take the necessary steps to reduce global warming, create a humane immigration system for climate refugees, and do the other things necessary for a just world, like abolishing global capitalism, maybe at that point I’ll turn it down to posting, I don’t know, maybe hourly? But if it stops screaming entirely it won’t be my choice to do that, it’ll be because it went the way of @infinite_bees—banned for completely arbitrary reasons—or because Twitter arbitrarily removes Cheap Bots Done Quick’s ability to post. Both are entirely possible—I’ve had about 50 bots that do stuff from generating book titles to bad pizzas get suspended; CBDQ has never gone down for long but Twitter has shut it down before temporarily, effecting thousands of bots on the service. We’ve seen tons of Twitter policy changes that shut down thousands of art bots before.
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