Good artists copy. Lindy artists steal.

Tweets are intellectual property! Yeehaw.

As I’m sure you’ve already seen, Chaos Monkeys-author Antonio Garcia Martinez has called out Paul Skallas for plagiarism. This isn’t Paul’s first time at the plagiarism accusation rodeo, but judging by the response, it may very well be his last.

The last time I robustly mentioned plagiarism, I was flamed to high holy hell—even by people I consider friends. People think I’m too quick to cry, “You’re copying so and so!” or, more shamefully, “You’re copying me!” but fuck it.

I have said it before and I will say it again.

Plagiarism is real, it happens, and it’s ubiquitous, especially in the Twitter-anchored writerly scene. This is a problem that goes much deeper than Paul Skallas, though he is easily among the more egregious of the lot.

Why does it happen, though?

Antonio suggests that this might be a product of remix culture (or participatory culture, fan culture, etc). That’s a sharp observation, and I agree more generally speaking, but that’s not what’s at stake here.

My opinion? I think it’s the product of social climbing being framed as ‘intellectual inquiry.’ All of this stuff starts to make a lot more sense, and become a lot more forgivable, when viewed through the appropriate lens.

Twitter personalities are not public intellectuals, by and large. They’re tastemakers, they’re curators (even of takes!), they’re talking heads, they’re reporters. But they are not intellectuals. Some of them are—sure—but most aren’t. This doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing anything of value. It just means they’re not being labeled correctly.

Social climbing on Twitter has a low barrier to entry once you figure out where the door is.

There are tangible and visible rewards. It’s not just the mythic ‘living off Patreon/Substack bucks’ that people are chasing. It’s about other kinds of access: credibility-by-association, getting to sit at digital cool kids tables by way of exclusive group chats or real life conferences, invitations to write for publications you’ve always respected, and an opportunity to influence culture.

Like it or not, people say ‘lindy’ now. And those people aren’t necessarily “Extremely Online.” Detest these people all you want, but they have an impact, and will continue to.

What’s to account for why Twitter has this much power when clearly not everyone uses it? Same thing that made Tumblr so powerful.

Journalists + fandom = impact. Twitter is home to myriad fandoms (including the Hot Take Fandom!) and it’s where journalists hang out to get stories. If you want your social platform to succeed, you need both of those groups. The ecosystem may not include every person on earth, but includes many of the people who are setting the tone for important conversations.

And that’s my whole thesis, what my whole project’s all about.

As, funnily enough, Antonio and I have both separately noted, we’re already living in the metaverse.

This is what living in the metaverse without an explicit, Second Life-style digital avatar looks like. These impact feedback loops. If you want in, you often have to steal to get ahead.