The Internet has devalued hatred. Where overwhelming public criticism used to shatter people and make them re-evaluate their decisions in life, now everyone just expects it. The trolls, the bullies, the teenagers and the attention-starved have ruined their only weapon, spreading loathing so liberally across so many comment sections that it's all become white noise. Today, anyone creating for the Internet (me included) is so callused to spiteful criticism that it's no more effective at making us alter our forward momentum than a swarm of cluster flies.
There's a reason we only give you a finite number of down votes.
More importantly, the hate has become indistinguishable from fame. As long as people are paying attention to your YouTube videos, to your tweets or to your blog posts, then each one can be considered a success, like a child basking in the negative and violent attention of bullies, because at least they are acknowledging his existence by cramming his head into a toilet. That's not all bad, by the way. It's hard for perpetually angry people to hurt anyone when the Internet starts craving their criticism, but we're also finally seeing the consequences from the other end; we're realizing how dangerous people can become when they are starved for hate. The most egregious example is the new music video "It's Thanksgiving," where creator Patrice Wilson sacrificed a young girl to the Internet in order to perpetuate his own renown.
In case it's not immediately obvious, or you refuse to ruin your own day by watching that music video, that's the next installment from ARK Music Factory, which created Rebecca Black's "Friday." But rather than a sequel, "It's Thanksgiving" serves more as a prequel; the girl is younger, she's singing about a Thursday, she's somehow even more blissfully unaware of the wave of hatred gathering on the horizon. The only difference between the two videos is that the negatively charged virality of "Friday" was a surprise to everyone involved, while "It's Thanksgiving" was purely intentional.
Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jey created ARK Music Factory to write and produce music videos on behalf of teen girls with a few thousand dollars to burn and who want to feel like celebrities. Except, in the case of Rebecca Black, it actually worked, and she became the synthetic, window-dressing version of a pop star. Since then, Patrice Wilson has feverishly tried to capitalize on that success, without much luck. Here's a painfully embarrassing fake interview he uploaded to YouTube in which the interviewer does everything short of dampening a warm rag and washing his balls for him.
While it looks like it took him a year of staggering around, pleading with the world to keep him relevant with their collective hate, he finally realized that the only way to generate the same buzz as "Friday" was to do the exact same music video again. No exaggeration there -- the two songs and videos are almost identical. They both open on a calendar, they both have rap interludes in the exact same section, they both promise a vague version of "fun" and "a good time" over and over and they both spend an inordinate amount of time pointing at objects and announcing what they are.
"My friends"; "Car seats"; "Turkey"; "Fourth of July"; "Boom mic."
Even the subtler elements are the same. A pop music critic and sociology professor at California State University, Long Beach, named Oliver Wang said:
"'Friday' embodies any number of current trends practically guaranteed to inspire a set of backlashes ... music for teens, anemic dance tracks, Auto-Tuned vocals, super-trite songwriting and most of all, a resentment toward young people whose presence seems to disproportionately dominate social media."
In other words, Patrice Wilson knew what he was doing and intentionally followed a formula that he stumbled upon with Rebecca Black to ensure that everyone despised his next music video, because that was the only way he could guarantee that it would be watched by millions and millions of people. Just think about that for a second. Fame is still desirable, even when it comes in the form of truckloads of letters from people inviting you to fall in a fire.
As unhealthy and sad as that sounds, it gets worse.
If Patrice Wilson wanted to situate himself in the focal point of the world's loathing, that would be fine. We genuinely like having something to hate, so if someone wants to fill that role, then there's really no harm. Except Patrice Wilson isn't the star of the "It's Thanksgiving" music video, even if he wishes he could be. No, the star is 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook, a bright-eyed kid who had no idea that she was going to be a human sacrifice.
"LOL. Sounds fun, can my friends come?"
With Rebecca Black, it's hard to blame Patrice Wilson for the onslaught of insults and vitriol she had to wade through. He probably didn't know that his shitty song would be shitty enough that everyone would hate-share it. But Nicole Westbrook is different. Everything about "It's Thanksgiving" invites abuse from viewers, from a chorus that just lists dinner sides to Nicole Westbrook earnestly singing her heart out into a turkey leg. It is intentionally bad, baiting critics to rip it to shreds, and everyone seems to know it except that poor goddamn girl. Her career as a singer, her social life, her future are all casualties of Patrice Wilson's hunt for recognition. His best-case scenario was that everyone will hate Nicole Westbrook enough to talk about her for years.
You're still too young for it to mean anything when I say that this picture will live forever.
If you think that's an overstatement, we've already seen the consequences before. Rebecca Black dropped out of school because of the attacks, and she tried to distance herself from "Friday" by creating new songs and music videos on her own dime, but the abuse follows her wherever she goes, and will follow her the rest of her life. She's doomed because she was unlucky. Nicole Westbrook's doom, however, was carefully orchestrated, and blame should rest solely on the shoulders of Patrice Wilson.
Though surely her parents should have known better, right? We can't blame a 12-year-old for wanting to be famous, but her parents are supposed to protect her from disasters like this. How could they let this happen? Well, hang on. The Internet has ushered in a new era where parents are hopelessly out of their depth. Even if they peripherally knew who Rebecca Black was, they likely didn't recognize the red flags in her crumbling life, and they almost certainly didn't know how powerful the Internet could be when focusing all its energy on attacking a single person. The enormity and immediacy of Internet fame is uncharted territory for most parents of preteens. The closest thing they can relate these music videos to from their own childhood was getting glamour shots taken at the mall. Parents have no context for what ARK Music Factory is trying to do with their child's face, because this brand of exploitation is unprecedented.
"The only happiness I've ever known comes from your children's disgrace."
So it's no coincidence that throughout "It's Thanksgiving" adults are suspiciously absent, even on a holiday that's synonymous with family. This music video is the perfect metaphor for the Internet as a whole. The kids seemingly live alone, cook the meals unsupervised, live by slogans like "Dance Until Dawn" without really knowing what that means and sit around a table giving thanks for the really important things in life, like mashed potatoes.
Sorry, there is one adult in that world. Patrice Wilson is also at the table. The Lord of the Flies, and he's wearing a turkey suit.
"You're all in good hands."
Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.