On TikTok, Professional Piranhas Have A Platform To Show Off
Adam Smith, Karl Marx, the dude who wrote Rent … all of the greatest economic philosophers agree that landlords are the worst. Aware of this universal despisal, the professional owning class used to shun the limelight like the cockroaches in your kitchen they were going to “look into” three years ago. Online shop-talk was kept behind closed Facebook groups where they could call tenants “rentoids” and refer to each other as “kings and queens” away from the social media guillotines. But now that we’ve hit the “retro feudal” stage of capitalism (aka the Shkrelisance), the latest generation of petty tyrants no longer sees the need to be ashamed, instead choosing to flaunt their professional fiendishness to the tune of Wolf Of Wall Street.
There’s a special kind of megalomania to PropertyTok, the side of TikTok where young landlords try to live in your head rent-free. Equal parts a bad episode of MTV Cribs and those suspiciously low-budget “get rich quick” infomercials, Very Online Landlords gleefully boast about having discovered the key to easy success – screwing over people without rich parents as much as the law allows them to.
If this sounds like an ironically tone-deaf use of a music-based platform aimed at young people for whom the property ladder is more of a greased fireman’s pole, that’s part of the Patrick Bateman charm. Never outright bragging, young PropertyTokkers instead ‘help’ their eternally renting audience become “financially independent” by explaining their clever “homehacks” which, again, either involve ruthlessly exploiting the very renting class they claim to be reaching out to …
Or ruthlessly exploiting bureaucratic loopholes to snatch property from less experienced homeowners.
But landlords are only one of the many Gordon Gecko cosplayers on what can best be described as ParasiticTok. Another mainstay is the sleazebag lawyer, an offshoot of LawTok that’s not all well-meaning legal eagles explaining privacy law (on an app that logs your microphone and fingerprint data), or human rights violations through interpretive dance.
These Saul Goodman wannabes have recognized the value of TikTok as the 2.0 version of their old bilingual injury law commercials, popping up on your screen to remind you that becoming an American millionaire is only one slip ‘n’ fall away.
To their credit, it’s a very effective strategy. If I were looking to hire a remorseless ambulance chaser, I’d go with the guy who tried to go viral on a lip-syncing app by boasting how he successfully sued a nine-year-old kid despite the annoying hurdle that “many jurors would feel sympathy for the child.”
Of course, there’s nothing new about universally despised professionals trying to become internet famous. Neither is people showboating their moral bankruptcy all over social media. (For the latest trends, check out shoplifting hauls or vaccine passport forgery tutorials). But there’s a hellish freshness to seeing these two things combined on TikTok, where expert ghouls will lean into the scummiest aspects of their jobs not as a confession but as a selling point -- as if we should admire them for living their best lives on the backs of the less fortunate.
So while the app is taking its time deciding if they want to ban these users for promoting unethical(ly capitalist) behavior or boost their visibility because the algorithm loves how hot and hateable they are, who knows who else will become emboldened to join ParasiticTok? Will it be poachers clubbing baby seals to the rhythm of viral sea shanties? Or perhaps debt collectors pointing at ‘hacks’ to trick pensioners into paying zombie debts? Hopefully, the app will make up its mind before someone tells me they’re a sweatshop owner without actually telling me they’re a sweatshop owner by making 70 kids do the Bird Box challenge while stitching Nikes.
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