My 72 Hours in a Viral Tweet Vortex: A Diary
February 21, 2020 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Alexis Pereira is not an English teacher. That is important to know up front. But he did pretend to be one on Twitter, for a single joke tweet, which blew up. Pereira reflects back on the brief time between his posting the joke and the Twitterverse moving on to its next war.
posted by Etrigan (59 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ha! His last line in the Vulture article is great.
posted by davidmsc at 6:31 AM on February 21 [18 favorites]


That was a great essay, I was very entertained and enjoyed finding out what the joke was, cause I thought it was real at first too, then I was frustrated by not being able to perceive the joke. But I mean dumbass teachers, doctors & nurses like to publicly belittle the ppl they're paid to care for *all the time*, it's an easy mistake. I do appreciate the joke now. The author is a funny writer and I hope we get to hear more.
posted by bleep at 6:47 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Also 90% of the college papers I got back had at least one of those mysterious question marks and I hated them so much. My writing is so bad you're speechless, you're sitting there mouth agape, pen in hand, you can't even articulate a question or comment? So you just put a question mark? Painful memories.
posted by bleep at 6:51 AM on February 21 [14 favorites]


The twitterverse is like a giant, fire-breathing balrog with no empathy and a 3-day attention span.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:57 AM on February 21 [16 favorites]


Do people not realize that the whole Internet genre of smartass assignment papers/test answers is fictional?
posted by thelonius at 6:58 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


"Each day on twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it."

I'm glad the guy survived his day of being It. I saw the tweet, and since the next generation is full of deadpan performance artists like Anna who came up with Long Chile, I thought it might be real. But then I thought: can the student consent to having it shared, and if so ... And then it entered into the swirling vortex of troublesome things that enter my brain every day, and was gone.

A college professor who thought it was funny debates a Marxist-Leninist writer in my replies about whether satire is permissible. She says fiction is a sign the artist empathizes and understands a subject beyond simple observation, and he says all lies are used to mollify the proletariat.

Tankies everywhere these days, man, I dunno.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:58 AM on February 21 [24 favorites]


(Also, this is why I dread and fear the place and tweet maybe once a year, whereas I am checking it every day to see what Blair Braverman and various museum accounts are up to while I am waiting for @darth to come back.)
posted by Countess Elena at 7:00 AM on February 21 [8 favorites]


Huh. I wouldn't have had any idea whether it was real or not from the context, either, and it would have aggravated me pretty badly because it's not infrequent to see instructors in my corner of academic Twitter grousing about ridiculous student answers. As the tweet is presented, if it had been real it would actually have been a violation of federal US law under FERPA, so that's another big violation from an instructional point of view. If it had appeared to come from someone in my discipline, I would have been furious, too. Even if the student is hilaribad, you do not tell stories like that that might leave identifying marks up for the student.

(And look, hilaribad student experiences do happen. I can think of one particular misspelling that was something of a running joke in my department for like.... three years, and it was totally real. But you do not ever make fun of students where they might see it later and recognize themselves. This is a Cardinal Rule for me, personally, but it's not one all instructors are really taught to internalize.)

As someone who does frequently leave those mysterious question marks on student assignments: it means less that I think the writing is so bad I'm speechless, and more that I'm confused about what on earth you're trying to say. It's not just you, and it's not necessarily a personal attack.
posted by sciatrix at 7:01 AM on February 21 [12 favorites]


At least if it was a comment that said "This is unclear" then I'd have some information, a question mark on its own doesn't mean anything.
posted by bleep at 7:06 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Ha! His last line in the Vulture article is great.

I can't decide if the last line is a deliberate troll, given that Tom and Jerry is an MGM property, not Warner Bros...
posted by jedicus at 7:09 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I can't decide if the last line is a deliberate troll, given that Tom and Jerry is an MGM property, not Warner Bros...

MGM and WB have shared stakes in Fitzgerald Amalgamated Narratives so citing either would have been appropriate to establishe the line of IP rights that justifies an otherwise clearly DMCA-claimable violation of satire law.
posted by cortex at 7:15 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


The beginning of the essay is "In the Looney Tunes cinematic universe..." so it can also safely be a callback to the fake student's mistake.
posted by little onion at 7:21 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


This is how Trump wins in 2024.
posted by sammyo at 7:25 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Could someone post an image of the tweet? Twitter doesn't like my IP looking at tweets, and I decline to make an account to log in and see.

edit: the vulture article has the image
posted by wires at 7:26 AM on February 21


Also 90% of the college papers I got back had at least one of those mysterious question marks and I hated them so much. My writing is so bad you're speechless, you're sitting there mouth agape, pen in hand, you can't even articulate a question or comment? So you just put a question mark? Painful memories.
That's exactly right! I do not have time to scrawl out "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TRYING TO TALK ABOUT," because yours is the first in a stack of over fifty papers and you wouldn't read it if I did, anyway, plus if you did I would get fired, so I just lazily drop a ? in the margin and move on to the next impenetrability feeling as if I've failed you. Repeat approximately three more times for this paper and two to five times for each paper after that. Miss the eclipse because our class is on that night and I know I won't be able to get back in time and of course only half the class shows up to receive their papers scrawled with ?s because they went to the eclipse. Painful memories.

(Concur: That last line is awesome.)
posted by Don Pepino at 7:34 AM on February 21 [30 favorites]


I had a college professor who would write "yuck" in the margin if your sentence was particularly inelegant; it was much less ambiguous than a question mark.
posted by terretu at 7:42 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


As far as the question mark, I usually give my students a list of marks with explanations, and I usually write m? not just a question mark, which stands for “meaning is unclear.”

I mean, at a staff meeting, I really wanted to change it to What’s This For, but for some reason, wtf?! was considered a bit too far.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:42 AM on February 21 [17 favorites]


how funny it would be if somebody wrote about Tom in terms of class consciousness. That's incredibly dismissive. How dare he trivialize the plight of working class cats, coyotes, roadrunners, skunks, rabbits, and other downtrodden victims of the Oligarchy?
posted by theora55 at 7:42 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


I can’t imagine taking the time to find out where he works and how to contact his boss, much less his boss’s boss. Who has this much free time? Surely these people have laundry that needs to be done.
posted by double bubble at 7:43 AM on February 21 [24 favorites]


The first question mark is because Tom and Jerry are not members of the Looney Tunes cinematic universe.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:50 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


How do I go about watching Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, et al. today?
posted by neuron at 7:57 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


he explains that he had to ask because people are calling him asking him to fire me.

I really hate the universe in which we call people and try to get them and their families homeless because someone does something mildly irritating.
posted by corb at 8:00 AM on February 21 [46 favorites]


Good stuff. I can't imagine seeing a funny tweet and then arguing with it.

I've never gone viral to that extent but I've had a few tweets gain some traction. There's an initial rush as The World Finally Recognizes Your Brilliance, then annoyance at all the dudes replying with their own "jokes", then the letdown as the likes stop coming followed by weeks of your mentions telling you that you've been retweeted by dudes with names like "GunsandTrucks" who have 6 followers.
posted by bondcliff at 8:04 AM on February 21 [9 favorites]


I post the tweet with the caption “Teaching my first English course this semester has been rewarding but I don’t know what to do with this student,” making sure to crop it correctly for Twitter, hoping to get a few likes from my friends.

This neatly demonstrates why I hate the way the Internet has defaulted to making everything public, individually linkable, and searchable, with a bonus of social media making it easy to amplify anything. Everything is so easily divorced from context that it’s nearly impossible to write for an audience smaller than “the whole world” without risking misunderstanding.

Twitter is especially prone to this issue due to retweets and the short character limit making it hard to set up context, but I’ve also seen this happen when link-sharing sites find some individual blog post and start picking it apart. “Why did this person write 10,000 words about this and not mention my pet issue?” Well, because they probably expected to write for an audience of 10 people they know...

It will never happen because it’s contrary to business models, but I really wish social media and community sites would start defaulting new spaces to private-by-default. Making an account or subreddit public should have a big warning click-through that you’re risking the Internet at large finding you. It’s part of why I like Slack’s combination of private communities with still making it easy to explicitly invite people to join.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 8:06 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


How do I go about watching Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, et al. today?

Legally? They're streaming on Boomerang.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:14 AM on February 21


The bummer is that the default position I find myself in regarding social media is that if it's not from someone I know IRL or know very well online, it's probably fake. This is probably pretty safe, but it also sort of sucks, because doubting-by-default feels sucky.
posted by jquinby at 8:17 AM on February 21


It’s part of why I like Slack’s combination of private communities with still making it easy to explicitly invite people to join.

Keybase teams currently work this way, as well as having multiple optional levels of public discoverability.
posted by flabdablet at 8:25 AM on February 21


Do people not realize that the whole Internet genre of smartass assignment papers/test answers is fictional?

So this is one of those things that make me feel like a certain bit of my brain is missing, because if I know one of these is fake, I just - can't find it funny. Like, surely the funny in these is that we're looking at something at student actually did that was daft or cutting or sassy or whatever - not that were looking at something a mid-range ad exec wrote in his lunch hour from the pov of an imaginary sassy/etc student? "Wouldn't it be funny if a student had written this!" just doesn't do it for me at all - like a comedy version of those flagrantly made up "my two-year-old turned round and said to me, 'Mummy, doesn't Boris Johnson realise how many vulnerable citizens will be hurt if we leave the EU'" tweets.

Apparently I'm in the vast minority on this, most people think it's fine and I'm a grump. Baffling.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:29 AM on February 21 [14 favorites]


How do I go about watching Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, et al. today?

WB Kids YouTube channel.

All of Earth's media eventually turn up on YouTube. If you're quick you can snag it before the DRM enforcement bots shut it down again.
posted by flabdablet at 8:30 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Paper was terrible and hilarious, some students do write things like this, Twitter is a disaster, and seats should not be reclined.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:35 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Tom and Jerry *are* potentially part of the Looney Toons Cinematic Universe.

Ted Turner bought MGM. He later sold it, but retained the rights to all their old stuff, including their cartoons. Later, Warner’s bought Turner, and still own them.

So by the same logic that decrees the Alien Queen is a Disney Princess because
Disney owns Fox who owns Aliens, Tom and Jerry are now Looney Toons.
posted by egypturnash at 8:36 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


So by the same logic that decrees the Alien Queen is a Disney Princess because
Disney owns Fox who owns Aliens, Tom and Jerry are now Looney Toons
.

Ellen Ripley is the ultimate Disney princess
posted by Ber at 8:39 AM on February 21 [14 favorites]


So by the same logic that decrees the Alien Queen is a Disney Princess because Disney owns Fox who owns Aliens, Tom and Jerry are now Looney Toons.

But are any of them a sandwich? Soup?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:42 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Ellen Ripley is the ultimate Disney princess

Newt does not count as an animal sidekick.
posted by Etrigan at 8:44 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


Never mind all that. How come Goofy can talk and Pluto can't?
posted by flabdablet at 8:47 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


So by the same logic that decrees the Alien Queen is a Disney Princess because Disney owns Fox who owns Aliens, Tom and Jerry are now Looney Toons.. At best that would be a multiverse since they never appeared together in any property.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:48 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Never mind all that. How come Goofy can talk and Pluto can't?
posted by flabdablet


because of some different choices made by their respective moms
posted by COBRA! at 8:49 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Never mind all that. How come Goofy can talk and Pluto can't?
Lots of Disney animal characters have pets, so there must have been like a radiation leak or something?
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:51 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Some animals are more equal than others.
posted by delfin at 9:04 AM on February 21 [10 favorites]




"People took me seriously. That's their problem."
posted by boo_radley at 9:43 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


I thought this was hilarious. Fake or real, props to the student. When I was in college back in the early 80s, one of my classes had what the teacher called "Double Dutch Knockout". He would calculate your grades two ways. One was some combination of the two hourly tests, class participation, and the final and the other method was just the final 100%. He would give you whichever was higher.

The implications of that to a stoned college student was that we only had to take and pass the final to pass the class. After the first hourly test, depending on what you got or if you even took it, the 2nd hourly was either critical or irrelevant. I thought the best course of action was to not study, but show up for the test to see what was going to be on it.

I tried to answer some of the questions, I got a 65% on the test, but there were several questions to which I had no answer. Rather, no legitimate answer. So I drew a picture of a cat for one question and wrote about beer for another. The TA that graded the paper actually gave me partial credit for the cat picture because he said it reminded him of a 3 year old's understanding of economics. The mouth of the cat was the intersection of a supply and demand curve.

I got a 93 on the final.

I can see a student handing in a joke paper. If you are going to do it, make it funny. At least then the teacher won't be wasting 100% of their time. Read 50 papers, and one entertaining one helps.
posted by AugustWest at 10:02 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


But are any of them a sandwich? Soup?

By the way the aliens drool, I'm pretty sure they thought the humans were soup.

And heck, by the end of the movie, a lot of them were!
posted by nickmark at 10:10 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


"... He suggests I not do that again." My one laugh at this whole story.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:18 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


I hate this, for two reasons :-

(a) Trolls will use it as justification. (Someone will threaten to rape someone, and someone will call someone a paedo, and then they will shout 'Buhuh! It was a joke - again! Just like that dude made about the college paper!')
(b) Idiots will 'identify' the 'real' teacher and/or student, and some random person will end up getting piled on with abuse, or on a really bad day someone will turn up with a gun to exact what they consider is justice.

The rule is :- If the rule is 'you couldn't make this shit up', then don't make shit up.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 10:41 AM on February 21


I thought it was a hilarious parody of the bullshit student paper, having both written and graded a few of them myself. That's why I found it funny, even though it's fake.
Heathcliff, Top Cat, Garfield, Sylvester - these are all famous cats, most of them cartoon.
This was perfection. Especially the "most" (comment: they ALL are!) - it's lazy phrasing, a cliche that isn't even correct, the thing you throw in to hopefully sound informed and pad word count. It's a pitch-perfect meaningless filler sentence, wrong in all the right ways.
posted by airmail at 10:56 AM on February 21 [20 favorites]


Don Pepino: I do not have time to scrawl out "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TRYING TO TALK ABOUT," because yours is the first in a stack of over fifty papers and you wouldn't read it if I did, anyway, plus if you did I would get fired, so I just lazily drop a ? in the margin and move on to the next impenetrability feeling as if I've failed you.

My father famously (or notoriously, depending on your perspective) had a set of stamps on his desk that he would use to mark up papers written by grad students and colleagues. At his memorial, a prominent academic research chemist projected an image of the first paper she had ever given him for review and comments. The page was liberally festooned with bright red stamps saying, "BULLSHIT!"
posted by slkinsey at 11:18 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


I used to have one of those stamps. I called it my Stamp of Disapproval.
posted by ChrisR at 11:26 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


But are any of them a sandwich? Soup?

Alien mouth-in-mouth is a sammich, designed explicitly to dunk into the breadbowl soup of the human corpus.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:27 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


The rule is :- If the rule is 'you couldn't make this shit up', then don't make shit up.

I would like to propose this as Cardinal Fang's Corollary to Haddock's Law.
posted by jquinby at 11:47 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


i have submitted some intensely unhinged things to blackboard seconds before the deadline and i support this false student's efforts
posted by poffin boffin at 11:50 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


Never mind all that. How come Goofy can talk and Pluto can't?

Well, there's an official company answer which I'm sure you can google, but if you want the truth, you'll need to consult Professor Blangdon.
posted by juv3nal at 12:22 PM on February 21


Ellen Ripley is the ultimate Disney princess

Newt does not count as an animal sidekick.


No, but Jonesy does.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:51 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


I went minorly viral in the UK a couple of years back, because of a letter I'd sent to The Guardian, about an obnoxious MP's profession of religon, his hypocrisy, and sweet shops.

Was a really interesting experience to see it from the inside out. Day 1 was lots of my friends messaging to say 'I've just seen you here," and "I've just seen you quoted there". Day 2 was lots of strangers messaging me and having to turn off all notifications. Day 3 was everyone at work going...is this you? Day 4 was the BBC phoning me up and asking me if I'd do a radio interview, and another radio station ringing me up and asking me if I would go on live and surprise the MP whilst he was being interviewed.

Then Day 5...it all drops off the edge, for the most part. Life returns to normal.

It still pops up every now and then, maybe every couple of months. Someone retweets it, two and a half years after it originally broke. Someone says 'is this you.' Is all very strange and fascinating, and I hope people are doing some really interesting research projects about the nature and spread of these things.
posted by reynir at 2:37 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


English paper grader here. Mere question marks are fine, as long as the students have a grading rubric. As in ? = unclear. It's impossible for teachers to make fully detailed comments on each paper, nor would we want to. Short comments and even symbols and abbreviations are arguably the best way to give feedback.
posted by zardoz at 2:52 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Another account of going viral on Twitter: I criticized ‘South Park’ for spawning a generation of trolls. And so the trolls came for me.

One thing which both that story and the FPP story feature is people calling the tweeter's place of work to say they should be fired. Which makes me wonder: Is it a new group of people doing it every time, thinking that they're being novel? Or is it the same group of people, no matter who goes viral?

Like... in the FPP case, was it offended English professors, and in the South Park case, offended South Park fans? Or in both cases was it members of some 4chan get-whoever's-trending-on-Twitter-fired subgroup?
posted by clawsoon at 3:30 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


To use MeFi parlance, I will cut off my hand before I set up a Twitter account.
posted by East14thTaco at 6:18 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I hate this, for two reasons :-

(a) Trolls will use it as justification. (Someone will threaten to rape someone, and someone will call someone a paedo, and then they will shout 'Buhuh! It was a joke - again! Just like that dude made about the college paper!')
(b) Idiots will 'identify' the 'real' teacher and/or student, and some random person will end up getting piled on with abuse, or on a really bad day someone will turn up with a gun to exact what they consider is justice.

The rule is :- If the rule is 'you couldn't make this shit up', then don't make shit up.


I mean, both of these things will undeniably happen, but I don't think that means that the rest of us ought to live our lives walking on eggshells, contorting ourselves absurdly just to avoid setting off some random unpredictable lunatic. I think if you're looking for who to blame for trollish or worse behavior I might suggest the perpetrator is the prime suspect.
posted by axiom at 6:49 PM on February 21 [10 favorites]


Huh. I saw a different version of this being passed around (the essay in the image was substituted with an excerpt from Marx). This makes slightly more sense?
posted by eviemath at 6:46 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


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