Leading a Horse

I don’t really know why all of a sudden I’m so cut up about @Horse_ebooks not being real. (Yes, in this context a spambot algorithm is real while a person isn’t.) When I first read Dan Sinker’s “Eulogy for a horse” I thought it was a bit over-dramatic, but then I started talking about the whole affair with other people and their grief seeped into me or something and now I’m actually pretty upset about a spambot account on Twitter turning out to be something other than a spambot.

Of course there are plenty of people who don’t care; either they claim to have known it wasn’t real since 2011 (granted, the evidence was there) or just don’t think it’s a big deal.

It’s not a big deal, really. A great twitter account turned out to be fake, and our faith in others shook a little.

But it’s still a shame.

What’s wrong with finding two men in a horse suit

I went back to Dan Sinker’s piece and this struck me as important (as important as any piece of commentary on something that’s not a big deal can be):

Why is it that everything wonderful ends up turning to shit and why can’t unicorns be real and fuck absolutely everything I hate it all.

OK, maybe that last one wasn’t a question.

But still. If this is art, art is about context. And I don’t know that I have enough context to know entirely how to feel.

Because I feel shitty.

And I feel confused about feeling shitty.

Buzzfeed being attached to this—even tangentially—I think plays deeply into that feeling, because that site is first-and-foremost about manipulating the science of clicks and likes, and if this is all @Horse was, then god help us all. But also “Performance art” feels like a cop-out, and the actual performance today—based on descriptions—reinforces that. You can’t just put a placard on a wall and call it art. I mean, I went to art school and so I know that you can, but you’d better back that up with the mother of all context. I don’t have that context yet, so I guess I’m skeptical, and I don’t want to be.

Because while @jitka’s right that the publicity from this will benefit BuzzFeed, a company that’s increasingly throwing in its lot with the radical right, what I’m sad about right now is that the New Yorker’s announcement this morning took away the context that made @Horse_ebooks special. Most of @Horse_ebooks’ most popular tweets are still funny, but the composition wasn’t any better than a lot of funny Twitter accounts, and a lot worse than some. What made @Horse_ebooks tweets so wonderful was the belief that a crummy algorithm designed to churn out text in order to evade Twitter’s spam filters could create such pretty nonsense.

And we lost that belief.

Which is why, even though @Horse_ebooks "got funnier" in September of 2011, earlier tweets from when it was still a real spambot suddenly seem preferable, actually better, because they’re real.