You're taking Ws, even when you're taking Ls
I used to follow Eve Barlow back in the day. She was a notable music writer who authored a couple of good record reviews, and she bounced around my timeline for a few years before getting cut during one of my routine contractions. You know, where we trim down the fringe characters on our Twitter footprints in order to make the platform more manageable. Barlow seemed to have an exceedingly normal station in the media orbit, reappearing every now and then with a new essay that soaks up enough ambient acclaim to lodge into the algorithm. Her byline, I reckoned, would carry no stigma or denotation, other than that of a capable journalist who worked long and hard to make a name for herself. As a professional freelancer, that type of inert success is extremely enviable; famous enough to secure the bag, anonymous enough that nobody has any interest in forming an opinion about me, whatsoever. What I didn't expect, was this:
That is Eve Barlow on Fox News, Tuesday night, which will (hopefully) serve as the ghastly culmination of one of the more astonishing Jokerfications in recent media memory. If you subscribe to this newsletter you've likely tracked this story, but for the blissfully uninitiated and my mom, Barlow has spent the last few weeks establishing herself as the face of unrepentant, uncompromising Zionism at a moment where American progressives are firmly reconsidering the inveterate dogmas preached about U.S./Israel relations. Again, I have not followed Barlow's career closely, but I was first introduced to her years ago as someone who gets the call to profile Billie Eilish. This new act, where she accuses AOC of promoting anti-semitism or speculates that Twitter might suspend her account for "speaking the truth" or whatever, represented a disorienting pivot. I actually assumed that there must be a different, ersatz Eve Barlow out there that I've never heard of, like a Jon Jones/Jon Jones situation. Barlow, of course, is entitled to her questionable takes, and On Posting is not a venue designed to go long on the dynamics in the region — subscribe to my other newsletter, On Geopolitics, for that — but it goes without saying that anyone endorsing full force of Israeli power at a time of forced evictions and a brutal, dehumanizing blockade should, at the very least, investigate exactly what they're campaigning for.
Clearly, many people have sent those queries to Barlow. On May 25 Barlow penned a canonically weird editorial entitled, "The Social Media Pogrom," where she equates the teeming masses who've filled her mentions tab with the words, "Eve Fartlow," with, well, an actual pogrom. This was the tipping point. The take quickly metastasized throughout The Progressive Internet as a hilariously grotesque example of ghoulish conservative Zionist overreach, especially at a moment where the global citizenship was watching the shelling of the two million detainees in Gaza. Once I saw the words "Eve Fartlow" flash through the trending bar, I knew the metamorphosis was complete.
In the essay, Barlow writes about the work she's lost and the many salutary mutuals who've disappeared over the course of her bluntly public radicalization. I'm sure that's true, but it's also clear that she's quickly replaced them with new allies with a much different disposition. Meghan McCain offered her solidarity, as did Ben Shapiro, a few days before Barlow broke bread with Mark Steyn on primetime. When I last checked in with Barlow's Twitter account, her most recent dispatch read "FOX > Vox." If there was any hope for a return to normalcy — any chance that Eve Barlow would not permanently redefine herself in the official record as a dead-ender — those days have passed. She is deep in the belly of the conservative media extended universe, reaching profound new horizons of the American public, boosting her own prominence well beyond the confines of the humble music writer.
There was a good tweet about all this a few weeks ago. I asked the author if I could cite them and they understandably turned me down, but the gist was that social media, by its nature, allows access to a boundless, self-replicating audience. Any position you dig your heels in, no matter how reactionary or fatuous, eventually finds a slew of cosigners. (A standom, if you will.) They will ballast your posture and proudly affirm your wildest takes, buffering the author from the self-reflexive instincts necessary to retreat and rethink any of their faulty personal conclusions, especially when it's clear that they're alienating others who aren't in the clique. The Twitter apparatus is engineered to reward engagement of any kind, and it's agnostic about the means in which that engagement is ascertained. As we've written before on On Posting, anyone can reach premium clout tiers by turning self-destruction into a personal brand — riding Fartlow to the moon and stars. It is, of course, a symbiotic relationship; those who spend their time online in constant search of the next dunk bounty, and those who graciously open themselves to the dunking. They need each other, in some bizarre way. Barlow has certainly damaged her reputation among the people who tend to read Pitchfork reviews, but enshrining her name in the discourse will be a long-term boon. She'll be raking it in on Substack by the end of the year. You're taking Ws, even as you're taking Ls.
I've been reminded of that lesson over and over again lately. In the last newsletter I mentioned that someone in my online radius has spent the pandemic hibernation redefining themselves as a staunch anti-vaxxer. Everything they post puts the pharmaceutical consortium in the crosshairs, decrying the forces of Pfizer and Moderna for poisoning the masses, and I've watched their small coterie of locals-only followers slowly expand into the four figures — festooned by newly-minted comrades with pen-names like "Vaxfree Steve." Pleas for prudence fall on deaf ears, when you're suddenly pulling 50 hearts a tweet. There is something revelatory about watching the radicalization happen in real time; good old-fashioned human stubbornness tempered by the darkest impulses of the algorithm. Even in the undertow, this machine is designed to single out at least one person who will say that you're right, even as everyone else is telling you that you're wrong.
We could probably be kinder to each other. That's one of the most tired, unenforceable axioms on the internet, but it is undeniably true that our lack of kindness is one of the primary reasons people evacuate into their own enclaves. However, it's also true that our capacities for empathy are understandably tapped after a decade-plus of Twitter and the most concentrated post-reading year of our lifetimes, especially when we're asked to entertain the merits of rigid Zionism. So I suppose the better prescription is even more tired and unenforceable: That we all desperately need to log off before it's too late. Imagine a world where nobody is dying on any hills, it's easy if you try.
Once again, I promise I'm going to start writing these more! We'll start by getting back to a bimonthly schedule. See you guys later in June.