IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING
In an attempt to finally finish this piece, it’ll be posted incomplete, and finished part by part, day by day. Copy editing will obviously be a little rough till at least Monday.
Note (2016-07-22): After starting this, I pretty much took a hiatus from writing. This post will never be completed, though elements might show up in videos put out by this site.
THE VOYEUR OF UTTER DESTRUCTION (AS BEAUTY) /
THE LOOMING TOWER
Various images of the U.S. Bank Tower, both real and unreal, taken from “Los Angeles 2014 HD”, “U.S. Bank Tower Los Angeles (HD)”, “GTA V Online: Landing a Jet on the Maze Bank Tower”, and Independence Day.
“For years I’ve felt I didn’t know what I was doing; I had to watch my activities and deduce, like an outsider, what I was up to. My novels, for example. They are said by readers to depict the same world again and again, a recognizable world. Where is that world? In my head? Is it what I see in my own life and inadvertently transfer into my novels and to the reader? At least I’m consistent, since it is all one novel. I have my own special world. I guess they are in my head, in which case they are a good clue to my identity and to what is happening inside me: they are brain prints. This brings me to my frightening premise. I seem to be living in my own novels more and more. I can’t figure out why. Am I losing touch with reality? Or is reality actually sliding toward a Phil Dickian type of atmosphere? And if the latter, then for god’s sake why? Am I responsible? How could I be responsible? Isn’t that solipsism?”
–excerpt from a letter by Philip K. Dick, found in The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem
“To be honest with you, when I began researching this topic, I was not entirely sure that there would be enough there to write a whole chapter on. I was also surprised, although, I dunno, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, to find that no one else had ever really done a comprehensive history of internet pornography, as an industry. I guess maybe I’m not surprised, but I dunno. Anyway, this has taken a bit longer than I thought, because it does turn out that the data and other materials, were sortof hard to come by. It seems like this is not something that people consider a legitimate topic for business or industry history, and then of course, the pornography industry itself is more than a little shy when it comes to publicity concerning their business practices. But I did find the overall details I uncovered to be _fascinating_, as a sort of alternative lens through which to study the overall development of the internet and the web.”
—Internet History Podcast: “A History of Internet Porn”, written and hosted by Brian McCullough
I am drawn to simple, lurid plots, which somehow inevitably end up vaster and vaster, seemingly stretching out to engulf the entire substance of the world if one were to draw the lines between all the nodes, if one were to look deeply enough, until one mapped something like the conspiracy of Foucault’s Pendulum, a plot which took place over eons of human existence and animated all of our history. What follows is a far smaller drama than that, yet what I expected to be a small footnote has expanded into an entire world of its own. Only the first paragraph, and I am nearly out of breath, and we have barely started, not started at all. Let me take a gulp of breath and…okay, GO!
“I am so upset about this…can you just see the pain in this poor woman?” said Dr. Drew Pinsky on an HLN newscast the night after Mindy McCready killed herself. Mindy McCready was the former country singer sensation who developed a prescription painkiller addiction, was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after she kidnapped her son in December 2011, two years after which McCready’s boyfriend stuck a rifle to his head and pulled the trigger, and a month after that, McCready pulled the trigger too. “She signed it ‘I hope that you’ll miss me’, and she drove herself out of town,” Mindy McCready sang on “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now”. McCready knew Dr. Drew from her time on the VH1 reality series, Celebrity Rehab, where the formerly famous dealt with their addictions through the help of Dr. Drew. The program would end in 2013 after McCready became the fifth contestant on the show to commit suicide or overdose. “It is that pain in this poor woman, the intolerability of that pain that leads to suicide. This is an egregious situation. It’s awful,” said Dr. Drew on HLN that night. “To me, this is almost death by public scrutiny. People should be ashamed of themselves,” said Dr. Drew on HLN that night.1. There was a concept called “heroing” in the capper community, where you made a big show of your virtue in trying to help people, at the same time that you were actually just manipulating them for your own ends. Maybe Dr. Drew was that kind of hero. “We do have to leave it there, but I just hope as always, Dr. Drew, I just hope that this is a teaching moment, as we’re wont to call it, for so many people,” said the HLN host that night2.
The capper community was a group of predators and extortionists who got underage girls to flash their tits, took screencaps, and then threatened the girls with sending the photos to friends or family – unless the girls did what they called “putting on shows”, which might mean stripping on cam or drinking their piss out of a toilet. One prominent victim was Aurora Eller, who would relate her experiences on The View, and another was Amanda Todd, who would kill herself at fifteen after a sustained campaign of harassment by one man. The capper community shared their pics on the image board Anon-IB, which was the same image board used by the members of #TheFappening ring, which was the group responsible for the massive hack of private pictures of various celebrities.
From an episode of The Daily Capper, a program made by and for the capping community, distributing valuable information, such as the fact that at the time of the broadcast of this episode, the image board Anon-IB was not taking down underage pics.
Images taken from “My Confessions” by Aurora Eller and “Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm”.
This hack was met by a tide of outrage at the violation of the privacy of these women, some of the strongest of which came from the gossip blog Gawker. This was a little surprising, because in the past Gawker had published private and nude pics hacked from the accounts of female celebrities without remorse or compunction, “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” (archive today link), “New Super Dirty Olivia Munn Pics: ‘I Want Your Big Dick Right Here'” (archive today link), “Christina Hendricks Says These Giant Naked Boobs Aren’t Hers, But Everything Else Is” (archive today link), “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee’s Heather Morris” (archive today link).
There were many moments in this series of violations which Gawker would later be so outraged over, and one of the most successful was “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker” which pulled in over 2.8 million clicks for some footage of Gray’s Anatomy star Eric Dane, his wife Rebecca Gayheart, and Kari Ann Peniche, a former Miss United States Teen and Playboy cover girl. Peniche may have ended up working for Michelle Braun, who ran an escort ring of Playboy playmates, marquee porn stars, B-list actresses, and maybe this tape was taken from her by her former roommate and Celebrity Rehab co-star, Mindy McCready. It was one more transgression that you were supposed to have forgotten so that Gawker might be outraged at the transgressions of others. If you didn’t forget those things, they served as a helpful framing for other events. There was this, tweeted out after Amanda Todd’s death, from the subject of several Gawker posts:
(@oliviamunn) October 12, 2012
This was perhaps simple empathy that many felt after Todd’s death; only after coming across these posts, did I think that maybe Munn feel a more specific connection with a girl who’d been bullied by a nude picture of herself. That her Newsroom character then appeared in a scene which is almost a verbatim re-creation of a painful on-air appearance of a former Gawker editor, Emily Gould, might not have been just another day’s work, but may have carried a few drops of vengeful poison as well.
A scene, both in fact and fiction.
This infamous moment was taped the same day that Gould picked out the best comment making fun of Michael Hastings after Gawker published leaked excerpts of a memoir about his time in Baghdad, and his fiancé, who’d been machine gunned to death three weeks earlier. “And the perfect first line for this book is: What can you say about a twenty-eight-year-old girl who died IN BAGHDAD?” was the heartless line which Gould picked out as the premium selection of Gawker commentariat wit.
There is something exhilarating in thia gaudy frenzy – the out of control suicidal country singer, the celebrity escort ring, the celebrity sex tapes, Gawker spits in the face of Olivia Munn, and Olivia Munn spits back. The underground virtual network of self-display, extortion, coercion, and suffering which trapped Eller and Todd blends with our own sordid aboveground entertainments. This hurlyburly transmits an energy like any amphetamine, and only when you slow the tape down and look close does the form change to the plangent: Mindy McCready was a deeply troubled woman who dearly loved her son, Kari Ann Peniche spoke of being molested and raped twice, Scarlett Johansson wept when giving testimony against her celeb hacker, Olivia Munn may have wept at her own exposue, Amanda Todd died, and the war which consumed his fiancé might have finally consumed Michael Hastings as well. Only by slowing the tape down could you see the vital connecting filament, and this gave another sick kind of excitement, the let’s-pretend-we’re-detectives kick, the corpse on the floor as part of a larger tapestry. “Gawking at the Wreckage” focused on Hastings, part one on celeb hacks and the predator capping community, part two the Michelle Braun ring, and this penultimate section looks at one filament which connects to so many things.
THE FESTIVAL OF REASON
Student in the audience: I’d like to know if that cane you have has any mystical significance to you, and I’d also like to know if you think fascism is doing well in America today.
Hunter S. Thompson: Better than ever.
Student in the audience: Is that the cane or fascism?
Hunter S. Thompson: Fascism always does pretty well when people get lazy and pissed off. Almost any solution you come to when you figure, “Oh, fuck I’m tired of that…let’s kill those bastards.” Anytime things get the best of you, that’s a natural drift into a fascistic kind of solution. So in a country where there are no solutions and many problems, I think it has a tendency to adopt fascistic solutions.
–“Still Broke and Not Quite Sane”, from University of Colorado Lecture, November 1, 19773
Supply, succumb, deny – everything.
—“Heretic Proof” by Charlie Sheen
1 From “McCready’s struggles evident in last interview”, first quote comes out of a fragment running from 2:57 to 3:09, second quote is taken from 3:42-3:47. A good background on Dr. Drew is the 2011 profile, “Does Dr. Drew Need an Intervention?” by Steve Mikulan. The disturbing level of fatalities of Celebrity Rehab was investigated in-depth after the fourth death by Maria Elena Fernandez in “Does ‘Rehab’ Help or Hurt?”, and looked into more briefly after McCready’s suicide in “‘Celebrity Rehab’ Deaths: Mindy McCready Becomes Fifth Cast Member To Die (PHOTOS)” on The Huffington Post, no credited writer. A mention of the show’s ending after McCready’s death can be found in “Dr. Drew: No More ‘Celebrity Rehab’ After Cast Member Deaths” by Erin Carlson.
3 Recording can be found at “AntiCurrent Archive Vol 9: Hunter S Thompson- Lecture at Boulder University, 1977” from the blog Rants, Ravings, Gibberish & Jabs by Dr. Josh Roush.