Everything Is Tumblr Now

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S1: If you thought you were a wolf born in the human body, you were Wolf kid, but you could be a focus or a money tree or Harry Potter yourself.

S2: Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton.

S3: And I’m Madison Malone Kirchherr. You’re listening to. I see. Why am I?

S2: In case you missed it, Slate’s

S3: podcast about Internet culture. Rachel, what are you thinking about this week?

S2: Well, as per usual, I’m thinking about how everything is Tumblr now and has been since at least 2013 Tumblr, the blogging platform that most people know for banning porn in like twenty eighteen, but which kind of may have raised me. I’m so glad

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S3: we’re finally doing this episode because you make this statement multiple times a day. And from now on I’m going to have like a swear jar for it. But it’s going to be you’ve been showing me a dollar every time you say that everything is Tumblr. Now, I

S2: don’t agree to that.

S3: Too late. On today’s episode, we’re going to draw a line from the early 2010s era of Tumblr that Rachel is so obsessed with straight through to the way that people talk and behave on the modern day Internet. We’re going to hear an exclusive interview with Zeon Berry, who’s now an online community builder and writer. But for a certain era of Tumblr user, again, Rachel, he’s probably best known as the creator and moderator of a blog called This is White Privilege. He’ll talk about the blogs complicated legacy and what ultimately led him to step away from it. But first, we’ve got a couple of high speed downloads to catch you up on, some absolute online nonsense from the last few days.

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S2: In case you somehow missed it, high speed download is a game we play in which we have exactly 60 seconds to explain something that happened on the Internet in the past week. Before we get started, I would like to say that if you are a person who hates listening to people speak really fast, I would highly recommend putting your podcast playback settings on point five speed, because we’re about to speak really, really, really fast. Madison, what are you going to be telling me about this week?

S3: Rachel, I’m going to be telling you about another Rachel who has sullied the Rachel. I’m talking specifically about girl by self-help guru Gross Rachel Hollis, who got into some hot water this week and then just proceeded to turn up the burner under the hot water she was in. What is it about me that made you think I want to be relatable?

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S2: All right. You have one minute on the clock starting three, two, one, go.

S3: Rachel Hollis is an event planner, turned influencer, best selling author, girl, best motivational speaker all around. Yes, Queen. Queen, she is a mother of four, was married to a former Disney actor, girl, boss, wife, guy. They have since divorced short of a girl wash her face, which Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon obviously all endorsed. I cannot overstate to you how many people bought this fucking book. Typical self-help. Go get your goals, girl. Stay motivated. Super toxic positivity does not account for any structural challenges that women, especially, you know, women of color face in actualizing those goals. Go figure. She was once accused of plagiarizing Maya Angelou and taking credit for the Still I Rise quote on Instagram. This week, she posted a video responding to someone who called her out for being privileged and not relatable for having a housekeeper. In response video on Instagram, where Rachel has one point seven million yikes followers, she said she hires, quote, a sweet woman who comes to her house twice a week to, quote, clean the toilets. He got to hear the way she says, clean my toilets. It’s weird and demeaning and like it just just say you have a housekeeper. That’s OK. You’re right. And second, housekeepers, that she works really, really hard to be a girl boss and doesn’t want to be relatable. OK, girl, your whole spiel is being relatable. Face Wash is relatable. It’s soap. In the caption, she lists the names of other quote unquote, not relatable woman women. That was phenomenal. Thank you. I feel really good about that. But unfortunately, I was just about to get to the thing that I know is going to send you through the roof. Are you in a position to receive information that might hurt you?

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S2: I kind of want to take away the rule where you get another sentence because I feel like I don’t want to hear this. But you get one more sentence to tell me what’s wrong.

S3: In the caption of this video, Rachel lists other women who she deems not relatable. They include Oprah. No Malala and Harriet Tubman.

S2: Are you fucking kidding me?

S3: I, I wish I were. I obviously didn’t get into, like, how the apology, non apology cycle has gone, but I don’t you don’t

S2: even need to get that. You know, I know exactly how it went. I just I my head hurts.

S3: Her follow up book was called Girl Stop Apologizing, which is very funny in light of her current situation.

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S2: Wow. Wow.

S3: OK, Rachel, it is your turn to hurt me. And your topic today is Khloe Kardashian. Are you ready? I am. OK, you have one minute on the clock. Three, two, one, go. OK, if

S2: you don’t call Kardashian is where the fuck have you been? But also she is a influencers member of the Kardashian junior squad, which again, if you know who they are, how do I get where you are? But this weekend she authorized photo of her appeared on the Internet, which means that it was unedited and it was apparently uploaded by some unwitting assistant, which, like IP, that is, this is career and shows her in a bikini. And let’s be clear, she looks great, but it’s really not like the plastic CGI smoothness that like all the Kardashian photos, they’re really good. And if you think the devil works hard, Kris Jenner works motherfucking harder because she worked, like, so quickly to get this photo taken off the Internet. Like anywhere you try to find this photo like photo, it’s like copyright claims. And so, as I thought it was getting scrubbed from the Internet, we’re just a controversy by doing Instagram live in a about bathroom, showing off our best angles, which is like really sad for like five reasons. One, like she looked great in the first photo. It just wasn’t edited.

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S3: Ten seconds.

S2: Deciding something on the Internet is really hard. And they’re like the Kardashians created the weird, like we touch Seiberg Flatmate’s Instagram culture that we now live on.

S3: And like maybe we should have like

S2: a second of introspection, like, girl, what the fuck?

S3: That was so good, that last, like, word salad, you got it like the cyborg CGI flat tummy t Instagram culture,

S2: you know, poetry has the ability to just and rapture all of us.

S3: Rachel Hollis would probably agree with that.

S2: Oh, Jesus Christ,

S3: Rachel, I you did really well there, but you do get one more sentence. So what else do we need to know?

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S2: I mean, I cannot state strongly enough that the Kardashian clan is like not solely responsible, but has played a huge part in the unrealistic standards of bodies on Instagram. And it is like deeply wild to me that there is not a single second of, like, introspection in that caption.

S3: She did did host a show called Revenge

S2: Body, which, like the conception of revenge body, is so deeply toxic in so many ways.

S3: In case anyone is not familiar. And honestly, I’m so happy for you. Stop listening now. A revenge body is like when you get really shredded and hot and lose a lot of weight to, like, make your ex jealous that they’re your ex.

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S2: Just if you want to lose weight and get shredded, get shredded for yourself like do you. I’m sorry I have so many thoughts about this.

S3: Is not the there’s just like such an extreme sense of schadenfreude, of seeing this person who like has contributed to a culture that has made me as a woman feel so shit about my body being like I feel really bad about my body. Why are people respecting that? That photo would have gloss passed my eyeballs and I wouldn’t have like that.

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S2: If she hadn’t said anything about it, I would have been like, hmm, that’s a photo of Khloe Kardashian looking, you know, like she has twenty seven personal trainers and a nutritionist in her house.

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S3: Well, I think that’s all for high speed download until we check in with our pulmonologists, respectively. But coming up, we’re going to talk with Dion Barry, who I mentioned is the founder of the Tumblr. This is White Privilege. This is his first interview ever about his time in the trenches of what he calls the Tumblr discourse era. He’s going to tell us why he thinks Tumblr was the abandoned clown factory on the other side of the Internet and why he chose to leave the factory behind.

S2: All right, and we are back. It is personally inconceivable to me that you could perhaps not know what Tumblr is because it was such a

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S3: big deal to me. So if you’re in that camp, no shame.

S2: No, there is no shame. It’s just such a big part of my life that it’s crazy. But Tumblr for the uninitiated, which your brain is probably less broken than mine, is this blogging platform, which is very simple on its surface in that you can post text and you can post photos and you can post GIFs and you can post videos. And like fan art had this very booming kind of fandom community, it was very easy to find individual niches for yourself. And that’s pretty much it. Like that’s what Tumblr is. But if you were on the platform between around 2013 and 2016 is the Tumblr blogs, this is white privilege and its offshoots like this thin privilege or this is pretty privileged. We’re kind of inescapable. They introduced a generation, specifically my generation, to concepts like micro aggressions or colorblind racism in these really like bite sized digestible nuggets that in hindsight seem destined to go viral. But if you are a black girl growing up in suburban Texas, like I was, this is white privilege, really kind of help me understand and come to terms with the pit. I would get in my stomach when white classmates would ask why I was always angry and loud. But if you talk to Don now, as we are doing, even he will admit that these blogs were also a kind of ground zero for a black and white antagonism in the name of, quote unquote, social justice. And that antagonism is very much still visible in the discourse today.

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S1: Hi, I’m Dianne Berry and I started the Tumblr blog. This is White Privilege.

S2: First, thank you for joining us and truly wondrous time. Yeah. So I guess my first question is, when did you first join Tumblr?

S1: Oh, OK. So I first joined Tumblr and now the year of our Lord 2010. Who I was. Yeah, I was in my college dorm room with my my roommate Michael SRAM. We were doing homework and he just turned to me and he was like, you know what, we should get tumblers. And I was like, why? And it’s like, you know, because I think it’s really good for musicians and it’s really like artsy and stuff like that. So we should get temblors. And I was like, OK, so I signed up for my Tumblr in 2010 and yeah, that’s kind of how it started.

S2: Can you tell me about your experience on Tumblr, which is kind of a lot to sum up, but we love impossible questions.

S1: Yeah. So I guess it really starts with, you know, when I signed up in 2010, I was just starting to get into socialism as a concept. So that was just what I was putting on my Tumblr. And then that’s kind of where the followers started to come in. I will say at the beginning it was fragmented. Right? There was a socialist Tumblr, there was a feminist Tumblr, there was a black people Tumblr with all these all these different little political sub pockets that were going on that eventually converged into one big thing that turned into what we would all call Tumblr discourse.

S3: So we should we should probably talk about your your moderator area.

S1: I remember that there was a VMAs. It may have been the VMAs in 2013.

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S3: The VMAs for Best New Artist goes to. Oh, there you go, Tyler the creator.

S1: I remember that night was Tyler, the creator, winning and being, and that caused a big argument and that’s the very first big political argument I ever remember on Tumblr, because the discussion was, Tyler, the creator is homophobic. Oh, he’s also a misogynist, but he’s pro black. But you can’t judge black people for what they create to get out of poverty. So it was like a big thing that was going on. And that’s when I first started to use that term white privilege or when I first heard the term white privilege. And that’s kind of what prompted me to start. This is white privilege, which was the Tumblr blog that I moderated.

S2: So I guess in your own words, what do you can kind of describe what you think this is white privilege did and what kind of gap you see it filling in the discourse

S1: in the discourse? I’ll say that the legacy that it had was that there was a big offshoot of other this is black privilege blogs. I think the gap that it filled was it took a very complex topic, which was privilege, and it simplified it into these small bite sized chunks that were easier to understand. And the kind of basis of the blog was, oh, if you’re someone who doesn’t believe in privilege and you say, OK, show me an example. Well, here is a million bazillion examples of how white privilege works and how it functions,

S3: dán for maybe some of our listeners who weren’t online in in the era that was Tumblr. Could you describe like a quintessential this is white privilege post or your your platonic ideal of this is white privilege post?

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S1: Oh, yeah. The Post would be a really simple text post. It would just say something like white privilege is textbooks being written by people who speak the same dialect that you speak. Another example would be like white privilege is every hiring manager that you meet looks like you, little things like that. It was really almost a list of micro aggressions, if you will. I tried to avoid doing big, long essays or anything like that, just stuck with just like small everyday examples of how white privilege impacts the lives of people of color.

S2: You said earlier you kind of refer to this time as the discourse era. And I’m curious as to how you see this as white privilege and its function fitting into the discourse era.

S1: So I think that there’s two levels of what the discourse looked like right there was at the beginning when we were all just talking about feminism and racism and homophobia and misogyny and stuff like that. Then there became once it was a simple way to explain it. And any time you make something simpler, it has the ability to make it worse, right. It has the ability to make it not as effective. Privilege is a huge, huge, huge conversation. And I was trying to simplify it. So therefore, you had people break off into blocks like this is pretty privileged or this is clean privilege was one that popped up where people were saying that there was a oppressive structure against people who didn’t shower or didn’t smell good. I hope I contributed something positive to a lot of people. I know. I know a lot of people learned about privilege for the first time through that blog. But I also wonder, you know, did I dumbed down the conversation so much that I ended up having a negative impact?

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S2: Maybe I’m kind of sensing some ambivalence about the place that this is white privilege and the legacy that the blog has. And so why did you stop moderating it? What was kind of the breaking point?

S1: So I think it burnt out in the sense that I became interested in other things. I heard someone describe Tumblr once since the abandoned clown factory on the other side of the Internet.

S3: That’s really good.

S1: Part of it is like I had an urge to make make it transactional. I had the urge to make it into a website or to publish it into a book or something along those lines. But I think the ambivalence really comes from I don’t like dumbing down the conversation. I think that when I was 20 or 22, I felt like I knew everything and I felt like it was so simple and it was so black and white and so easy to understand. And that if you disagree with me, that means you hate black people. And if you don’t like the way I run the blog, it means that you’re just a racist period. And I was just so full of, like vinegar and anger. And I just don’t think that reflects the way I feel now. At 31, I feel a lot different about how to express some of that stuff than at twenty one. If I ever had to go back there and read probably some of the ways I spoke to people on that blog, I. I’ll probably be embarrassed, I probably want to go back and apologize to them.

S2: I’m curious, actually, did you see the Times op ed from the person who ran your famous problematic? Because it really touches on like a lot of the things that you’re saying.

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S1: No, I would love to read that because you’re famous. Problematic holds a fascinating place in the discourse, too, I think.

S2: Definitely. But what do you think of it? Tell me about that place it holds.

S1: Yeah. So your famous problematic was great because it great and horrible in the sense that the Internet. Yes. I think that it also did a similar thing that this is white privilege did, which was it was a format that was so digestible and easy to understand that it taught people a lot and also dumbed the conversation down so much that it was difficult to come back from. The same person who called Tumblr the abandoned clown factory also said that Twitter sometimes threatened to reach the Tumblr event horizon. And I think that this is white privilege and your favorite problematic were part of that event horizon where the conversation got so easy that you no longer had to think to participate in any of this stuff. We weren’t teaching any critical thinking. We were discouraging critical thinking. There was a time where we said that it was problematic to ask a question. And that’s that is wild to me.

S3: It’s interesting to me that the nuance you’re describing and what sounds like had a large part in you deciding to step away from from moderating this Tumblr is is the mantle that has been picked up and weaponized by this this community online we’re talking about now?

S1: Yeah, I do think so. I think it’s been I think there are people and I’ll point the finger to my self. No. One, I was attracted to the amount of attention and quote unquote power and the voice that I had on 2013 to 2016 Tumblr. I was learning for the first time what my ability was to mobilize a group of people on the Internet, which is now my job and what I do professionally. But there is something that will always rot. What you bring to the table when part of your motivation involves the power you get from it, the serotonin shot in your brain when you can force Tyra Banks to apologize for a character she played on a fake reality show 15 years ago. So things like that, I think, are what make me worried about what that era of Tumblr did to Internet discourse.

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S2: Hmm. Yeah. I mean, I hesitate to say this, even though Soumitra I kind of grew up on Tumblr in that I got on Tumblr when I was in high school, which I think is when your brain is the softest and therefore the most comfortable to a lot of this stuff. And it’s been interesting seeing the way, as you’ve said before, the kind of raw anger you have at their age change into something different. And so I don’t know if it’s Tumblr specific or the fact that we all just retread the same things every six years on the Internet because the Internet has the memory of a goldfish. But so much of what’s happening right now is like so deeply familiar in a way. And I don’t know if it’s just because there’s a new generation of people who don’t who weren’t on Tumblr and therefore aren’t nearly as exhausted by or if it’s just like we’re just cycling back.

S1: So I’m a I’m a professional wrestling fan. That was my first fandom I ever had. And I think that what you’re saying is a very similar thing that you might see there where, you know, people get so angry about something they might see on the screen. And I’m not angry about it because I’m like, nah, man, we did this seven years ago with the different race. Like, it’s the same thing. And there’s a concept in wrestling that you can repeat the same angle, the same story or the same character every seven years because enough people have cycled in and out that people really don’t remember or they think it’s fresh. So I think that’s a similar thing to what we’re experiencing in our current discourse. The current mobilization of anger that we see, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the idea that you get older, you move to the center because you’ve had a lot of these conversations or you you get older and you feel like the center has now shifted onto you. But it’s kind of complicated to to to pick it out. We’ll see it. We’ll see at forty one how I feel about

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S2: we’ll check back in in ten years. I think our last question is if you could go back to 2010 or the day that you decided to start, this is white privilege. Do you knowing everything you know now, would you still do it

S1: to me with the same mindset I have now? I wouldn’t, I don’t want to smoke. I want those. Problems of the earlier part of my career was really trying to be a provocateur, but I think that I think that people learn good things from those blogs. I don’t think everything that we learned was bad. I just don’t personally look back on that as something I’m proud of necessarily. It helped me understand how to build an online community, but I’m not necessarily proud of the way that it made me that made me behave.

S2: I know. I suppose my last question, my actual last question, which is more of a fun question, depending on what you answer, is what is the absolute wildest take you remember seeing on Tumblr

S1: that the other kin group that was there, I don’t know if you remember other kin.

S2: I do.

S3: But in case in case, hypothetically, someone on this call does not, could you describe it?

S1: And other can was a person who believed that they were non-human of some kind. The comparison that they would use would be, you know, transgender people, you might say, oh, this man born in a woman’s body or something like that. That’s older language people used to use. That’s kind of the language that other kid would use for an animal or a cartoon character. A plant or plant. Yeah, or something like that. So if you were you thought you are a wolf born in the human body, you are wolf kin. Oh.

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S3: So it’s a species dysphoria.

S1: It’s similar, but you could be a ficus or a monetary or Harry Potter yourself. Wildest discourse I ever saw was that it was wildly and offensive to be somebody else’s kin if they had claimed at first. So if I was Batman, right. That means I am the only one who’s allowed to be Batman. And if I encounter someone who also claims to be Batman, can we have to figure out who posted it first on Tumblr? And it’s extremely problematic for that person to claim to be a can of a thing that is is my kin. Unless we’re shared spirit cans, then we share where one spirit in two different bodies. So that was probably my favorite one. That’s probably one where I looked at and I was you know, I don’t know if this website is for me anymore.

S2: So what you’re saying is it’s like the Spider-Man meme pointing at each other.

S1: Oh, exactly. Except they’re screaming at each other because how dare you be Spider-Man? I’m Spider-Man.

S2: Yes. I had fully blocked out otherkin from my brain and now I need to, like, go crawl in a hole somewhere because that was a wild time to be alive. But this is really great. I’m so glad that we did this. Thank you so much.

S1: Yeah, thank you. You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on.

S2: Bimberi was the founder of the Tumblr blog. This is white privilege, you can find him on Twitter at hashtag Deong.

S3: OK, that’s the show. We’ll be back in your feed on Wednesday. So definitely subscribe. It’s free and means you’ll never miss an episode. And please leave us a rating and review an Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen and feel free to share it all over social media so we can spread the gospel according to. I see. Why am I in the meantime, though, if you have got a tab on your browser that you just can’t close,

S2: a trending topic that you still don’t understand three weeks later?

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S2: I see why I is produced by Daniel Shrader as supervising producers Derek John Forrest with many Slate’s culture editor and brought this editorial director of Audio Online or Not.