Why does the internet hate Amber?

It’s the trial of the century, sort of. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s legal battle has gripped the country, and Derek is a little confused. Why is everyone talking about this miserable celebrity relationship? Why are so many people obsessed with demonizing Amber Heard? Producer Devon Manz explains to Derek why he thinks the trial beat the news cycle, and Atlantic OceanCaitlin Tiffany explains why the internet hates Amber and what it says about truth, the future of fandom, and who we are on the internet.

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In the excerpt below, Derek and Atlantic OceanCaitlin Tiffany discusses comparisons between Gamergate and the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial and social media reactions to the trial.

Derek Thompson. Caitlin, why is the internet so obsessed with this ordeal?

Caitlin Tiffany. Well, I think one thing to understand about why so much experimental stuff seems to be everywhere is that it comes from these groups of people who are already really tightly connected and networked. So it would be Johnny Depp fans or related groups that sympathize with the Johnny Depp fandom. This is why, I mean, not to make this comparison right off the bat, but this is why Gamergate felt inevitable, right? Not because literally every person on the internet was interested in it, but because it started with these groups who were very closely connected to the network, were really good at promoting the signal and just pushed things until eventually it reached a point of mass interest. : or even just massive passing interest, so…

Thompson: Can you just do a quick 101 on what Gamergate was? I know that’s a really tough question because it was 1,000 things that somewhat foreshadowed the internet age we all live in. But in a nutshell, what was Gamergate?

Tiffany: Yes. Gamegate, I don’t know, the most important cultural, historical event of my adult life. It actually started when I was studying to be a reporter for a tech website my freshman year, so I was very familiar with Gamergate. But essentially, Gamergate was this elaborate, I guess you could say, system or network of harassment campaigns that started in the video game industry and targeted women in that industry, and then just spread outward into this just massive outpouring of misogyny and. reactionary politics on the Internet.

Thompson: And a lot of these people who harassed women, often harassed female journalists in Gamergate, were really closely connected within the network of people on Reddit or Twitter or Facebook and Instagram. If you think about how the internet works a bit like a virus, it’s an old metaphor that has unfortunately been very, very close to our lives in the last couple of years. what you’re talking about with well-connected individuals are super-distributors.

In the same way that we understand that with a virus, there are certain people who are more effective at spreading the virus in a closed environment, there are certain people online who have really influential friends because of their network locations, or simply because they have a lot of followers. They don’t have 50, they have 500,000 or 1 million people closely related to them. If they want to spread a message that says: “Attack this female reporter,” “Attack this male reporter,” “Attack Amber Heard,” they’re going to be very influential because of their reach and the scale of the people. associated with them are of the first order. It is true?

Tiffany: Completely. And I think even more so than during Gamergate, we now have an Internet that has pretty consistent incentive structures where there comes an easily detectable tipping point where there’s enough interest in a topic and if you start creating that topic related content, it may be of great use to you.

So this obviously started with Johnny Depp fans pushing these stories out and then quickly became something that general interest YouTube is going to make a video about because it hits 1 million views. I recently wrote about this woman who used to be a general Instagram lifestyle influencer and has since grown her audience exponentially by covering these pop culture, true crime stories that explode overnight. He’s done a lot of Free Britney and Gabby Petito. So I think it’s those two steps that really get to the point where every person in your life is like;

Thompson: Correct. So what you’re saying is that there are two waves of anti-Amber Heardism. The first wave of anti-Amberism is the fans of Johnny Depp. These are people who have a lot of followers and love Pirates [of the Caribbean]. love i don’t know Edward Scissorhands. They love the whole Johnny Depp canon. And when this trial starts, they start pushing out a lot of negative stuff about Amber Heard, and they get a lot of attention from their communities.

The second wave of anti-Amberism is that all these people who are lifestyle bloggers or lifestyle vloggers on YouTube are seeing: “What’s everyone talking about? What’s the trending topic of the day? Oh, he seems to find different ways to hate on Amber Heard. And so, like mercenaries, they come out of the woodwork and start producing content that will probably get them a lot of clicks, and suddenly this second wave of the anti-Amber Heard movement blossoms, where it’s now just this all-encompassing beast. On the Internet.

Tiffany: Yes, absolutely. And then both of those groups can turn to people who have a natural sympathy for what they’re doing. So the easiest thing to compare it to would be QAnon. People who like puzzles or like to believe that there are secret machinations behind Hollywood or behind what the press isn’t telling you, they will be drawn in. They will be interested in this story. Similarly, I think there has been some coverage of men’s rights activists who want to highlight how women can manipulate and destroy men. This is a suitable story for them too. It’s just going to be this spinning pile of garbage.

Thompson: That’s right, this is the third and fourth wave, the fifth and sixth wave. Yes. So let’s get to the article you wrote for Atlantic Ocean called, and we’ve already started answering the question, Why Does the Internet Hate Amber Heard? First, describe the nature of the internet’s hatred of Amber Heard. Give me examples. What level of disgust is being talked about here?

Tiffany: Yes. Total disgust. I think what really drove it home for me and made me like; “This is really weird” is that I follow a lot of Harry Styles fans on Twitter and I started seeing them tweeting: “Listening to Amber Heard makes me. sick.” “Amber Heard is the plague.” So it was quite surprising because I thought the language was quite strong and unexpected from them, especially since the Harry Styles fandom considers itself quite progressive.

And then the second thing that I noticed that was really disturbing was about TikTok. there were many teenagers making Amber Heard’s claims from her testimony about specific incidents of her abuse. They were playing on TikTok to make fun of themselves, this way it’s just … You could probably write a thesis on some of these TikToks because there’s so much going on. It’s so weird to see a teenage girl asking her boyfriend to put on a pirate beard to pretend he’s jokingly slapping her in the face.

This section has been lightly edited for clarity.

Host: Derek Thompson
Guest: Caitlin Tiffany
Producer: Devon Manze

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