The seduction of Bad Posts

There is a man with a beard on the internet named David Leavitt. He has over 200,000 followers on Twitter, and according to his bio, is an "award-winning multimedia journalist" with credentials at AXS, CBS, and Yahoo. The tweets below Leavitt's name are typically anodyne -- a whole bunch of resistance-y blood and thunder -- the lionization of Anthony Fauci, the hatred of Donald Trump, and those blurry, anonymously-sourced videos of men without masks at pool parties. On the surface, it seems obvious how Leavitt has leveraged his way into fame. There is a silent internet majority out there who enjoy unscrupulous, irony-free anti-Trump memes, and that reality can be obsfucsated by the far-left apocalyptica in media circles. Leavitt is playing the hits for the many millions of Americans still laughing at Cheeto in Chief jokes -- like the Fat Jewish for suburban liberals. We, on the other hand, are the nerds ensconced in that bottom one percent of social media, listening to bolshevik deconstructionism from a man known only as, like, Waluigi Simp.

Point being: Parroting a lot of tedious Democrat content is a completely understandable way to get famous. There is clearly a market for it, and given the influence of six-figure-follower-count weirdos like Caroline Orr, that Xeni lady, the yoked Krassenstein clan, and the Eric Garland psyop, CNNcore posting has consistently been a reliable way to promote yourself. But that's also what makes Leavitt such an interesting specimen. He aspired to an existence greater than that of a prominent Trump reply guy, and the moralist respect earned from shaming the occasional maskless Florida himbo burnt off too quickly. To truly take his brand to the next level, Leavitt needed to make an extremely bad post, every couple of months.

It began on May 22, 2017, shortly after the horrific bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in England. “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena," Leavitt wrote on Twitter. "The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.” 

At the time, Leavitt had around 60,000 followers. I, like many of you, remember absorbing so much grief and confusion that night, so it was almost a relief that Leavitt surrendered himself as a much-needed villain for a few hours. It was the first time I watched his name get sufficiently scorched on my timeline. Thousands and thousands of replies, some from capital-F famous people who tweet like nine times a year, all taking aim at this willing idiot. The backlash was strong enough to earn an out-of-character writeup at the New York Times. ("Too soon?" tweeted Leavitt, a few beats after his first post.) 

One of the most prominent people who responded to Leavitt's joke was the late Anthony Bourdain, back when Bourdain's Twitter abilities rivaled the Gallaghers in prickly Gen X saltiness. "You sir, are truly a steaming, gaping asshole," wrote Bourdain, which is the sort of thing that would sound incredibly lame and tired if it was coming from anyone but him. A year later, after Bourdain's tragic suicide, Leavitt posted a screenshot of that reply with this: "Selfishly taking your own life and hurting your friends and family makes you the steaming, gaping asshole Anthony Bourdain."

Once again, Leavitt's mentions were showered in the rancor of thousands of prominent internet people. Dudes like Elijah Wood and Daniel Negreanu fired back. The Ariana Grande Guy caught lightning in a bottle again. I am a world-renowned expert on the relationship between social media and the desperate male ego, so I can say with confidence that this was the moment Leavitt cracked the code. Never fully satisfied by whatever the fuck "multimedia journalist" meant, he could now fully inject himself into the action whenever he wanted with brief, hungry twitches of psychopathy. With a massive payload of followers thanks to his shameless aptitude for cruelty, Leavitt had finally conquered that enviable social media threshold; where nobody knows anything about you, other than that you are probably famous for some reason. He could resurface whenever he wanted with another goddamn whopper, egging on the blue-check gentry and random screenwriter dudes to call him a piece of shit, without them fully remembering the many other times they had already done so in the past.

And that is what makes Leavitt's latest entry to the canon such a masterpiece. His other indiscretions could be generously chalked up to hacky comedian instincts or mystifyingly petty Poster's Malice, but in January, he stepped up and flexed some delicious, old-school maniac shit. The tweet is storyboarded into three images. Leavitt is in a Target, holding the packaging for an electric toothbrush. The rack, where Leavitt retrieved the toothbrush, reads "0.01 cents" -- an obvious printing error, to be sure. The next image is of an utterly beleaguered Target manager, glasses teetering off the slope of her nose, which I imagine is the default state one assumes when forced to commune with David Leavitt. The finale is a weirdly cropped screenshot of Massachusetts legislation, stating that any and all items sold at retail must recognize their advertised prices.  

"This @target manager Tori is not honoring the price of their items per Massachusetts law," writes Leavitt, horny for the wave of Charlotte Clymers and Wil Wheatons that will soon be on his tail. He played the game perfectly, and got exactly what he wanted. Birthed through vile mass-murder jokes and tempered by clowning on a dead man, Leavitt had finally discovered his final form; Karening the fuck out online, and enjoying yet another orgasmic flagellation by a caravan of shocked, well-meaning liberals. What a strange dream to dream.

David Leavitt isn't really a journalist. I've never seen his name in print, nor have I seen him tweet out any stories he's written. In fact, according to Muckrack, one of the most recent articles he published has the headline, "Six delicious frozen treats to try this summer." That piece was posted in 2017, on a website called, unfortunately, Luv It or Leavitt. In that sense, Leavitt has a lot in common with the patron saint of Alleged Writers, the testy quote-tweet god Michael Tracey, who owes the entirety of his reputation to the weirdly heated scraps he stirs up with other online men. Like Leavitt, I have literally never seen a Michael Tracey story in the wild, which is weird because he has followed me on Twitter since, like, 2012 for reasons that remain unclear. Both of these men have discovered that nothing a writer can achieve in print will ever eclipse the rapturous, head-spinning high of making a lot of people mad at you online. They've turned my worst fear into a kink and now they're free forever. I'm actually kind of jealous.

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That, I hope, will be the core theme of this newsletter. Posting, and the brain sickness that comes with posting, is one of my prime interests. Good posts, bad posts, cryptic posts, it doesn't matter. I've been on Twitter for my entire adult life, and I'm still absolutely amazed by the platform's ability to convert normal people into walking, talking grievances. How this unique dripfeed of ambient resentment, cuckold-style insecurity, and unchecked leaps of violent ego allows us to develop a vast head-canon of rivalries with people who do not know we exist. How a man like David Leavitt, burnt out on writing blogs about ice cream sandwiches, would attempt to skip the many steps of media schmoozing and brand-building by offering up a cataclysmically bad Ariana Grande take. And most importantly, how his strategy paid off, kinda. It's like that line from Citizen Kane: It's easy to get a lot of followers, if all you want is a lot of followers.

Not everything in this newsletter will be purely editorial. I want to do some reporting here, too. I am a child of the 2000s, and as such I have great nostalgia for the earliest and filthiest blog boom, and the way that era wrote about tawdry newsroom gossip as if it carried the same weight as the Pentagon Papers. There was this idea, in those times, that readers had far more interest in mildly chapped media drama than the average editor accounted for. I suppose that is what I'm counting on; that I am not the only person in this world who has thought long and hard about David Leavitt.

Ideally, On Posting will arrive once a week, but please do not hold me to that too hard. Hopefully, I will regularly be in your inbox with something funny, something interesting, and something slightly mean but in a good way. Until next time, keep on posting.