If they buy it, they break it | Simply Ranked

Plus: SOTY!...? The magic of language, a tired and lazy grift, ending on a positive note, and more.

If they buy it, they break it | Simply Ranked
The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other online things that I cannot stop consuming and how they make me feel, personally.

It begins. Yes, it has, I swear. No, really.

Rank: …1?
Mood: 🏆⁉️

Okay, here we go. It’s so on. Finally! We’ve been waiting to get the conversation started all year. Who will be the one, the best of the bunch, the Top Crunchy Dog? That’s what we’ve wanted to ask ourselves, our friends, and whoever is nearby. But we just haven’t had all of the pieces in order. Usually, we would by now. Or maybe we already do? The evidence just scattered. Piecemeal. Delivered in a way that requires advanced statistical analysis to understand.

So let’s reach across time and space to collect. these. clips. Like Lego or Tri-Force shards, and build ourselves a champion because the battle for Big Beef Bourguignon has begun… in earnest? Admittedly, it’s tough to admit that any one person stands out since there are a lot of people displaying their wares lately.

I mean, sure, why not? Sometimes, the Preeminent Practitioner is decided by intangibles.

Is being talented and French an intangible? Could be! But, I think what we all want to focus on are the known quantities, the quantities that we know (or assume) will be inserting themselves into this yearend hothouse debate on who is the right and true and fair SO—

oooohhhh, yesyesyesyesyes. Cooking with gas, we are. And it has to get hotter, right, considering historical deadlines and all of that? Every year, the authors of the Holy Book name their Annual Messiah by this time next week, which means we should be getting a—

Tease! In which a sister says they are too scared to watch their brother perform their shared profession—

Frightening! (Concerning!) Glorious! But that can’t be the final salvo—

[Insert Tom Knox(?) video part here once live.]

Praise be to our—

[Insert Yuto Horigome(?) video part here once live.]


If they buy it, they break it

Rank: Blech
Mood: 🤕🤢🤮

If you’re a person who spends any amount of time on the internet — from a dangerous amount to a reasonable sum — you’ve probably noticed that things have begun to seem a bit off. While it can be hard to put a finger on it at first, once you see it, you’ll find it almost everywhere you scroll. From the willful degradation of social media platforms, the rapidly declining utility of search engines, to the gutting of media sites by corporate interests that either leave an open, weeping wound in the information ecosystem or a wound that’s been stuffed full of garbage in hopes we wouldn’t notice the rot.

On Monday, Maggie Harrison at Futurism reported that the once-venerable Sports Illustrated had published AI-generated articles and created AI-generated “writers” with fake bios and profile pictures to go along with them. When Futurism asked for comment, Sports Illustrated didn’t provide a response; instead, it removed all of the articles in question. They would later release a statement blaming the situation on a third-party vendor, who they fired, while simultaneously claiming that the articles weren’t actually AI-generated but written by people using “pseudo names,” which they apparently know to be true because that’s what the vendor who they fired for creating the articles with the fake bylines told them.

Whatever the case, this is bleak, to be sure. But, not unexpected, as Futurism would detail, Sports Illustrated’s publisher, The Arena Group, had admitted this was their plan all along.

Abysmal-quality AI content, though, shouldn't be surprising at The Arena Group.

Back in February, when the company first started publishing AI-generated health advice at its magazine Men's Journal, we found that its first story was riddled with errors, prompting it to issue a massive correction.

Before that, when The Arena Group first announced its foray into AI, its CEO Ross Levinsohn promised in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that its quality would be outstanding.

"It’s not about 'crank out AI content and do as much as you can,'" he told the newspaper early this year. "Google will penalize you for that and more isn't better; better is better."

It turns out that their “better” when it comes to AI content is legacy tarnishing trash. Something that many other outlets are engaged in as well, per Futurism.

We caught CNET and Bankrate, both owned by Red Ventures, publishing barely-disclosed AI content that was filled with factual mistakes and even plagiarism; in the ensuing storm of criticism, CNET issued corrections to more than half its AI-generated articles. G/O Media also published AI-generated material on its portfolio of sites, resulting in embarrassing bungles at Gizmodo and The A.V. Club. We caught BuzzFeed publishing slapdash AI-generated travel guides. And USA Today and other Gannett newspapers were busted publishing hilariously garbled AI-generated sports roundups that one of the company's own sports journalists described as "embarrassing," saying they "shouldn't ever" have been published.

If The Arena Group sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same media conglomerate that owns the digital assets of TransWorld Skateboarding, a subsidiary of Men’s Journal. In recent months, I’ve written about TransWorld’s resurrection as a chumbox-style aggregate operation used to feed sites like MSN and Microsoft Start with cheap and easy articles designed to drum up clicks.

This is a company whose whole business model is hollowing out once-beloved institutions; their strategy is that of private equity firms: buy, reduce staff, and reanimate in brand name only. Because a known name to milk is all they’re after. They’re not concerned with the work or “content” that made the brand valuable in the first place, only with using legacy as a siren song to bring readers to their zombie websites so they can squeeze out fractions of a cent in Google Ad revenue.

Which brings us to another familiar conglomerate. The Arena Group licenses the Sports Illustrated brand from Authentic Brands Group, the multi-billion dollar retail and brand management company that acquired DC Shoes and Element Skateboards’ parent company, Boardriders, in September. And much like a private equity firm takeover, DC Shoes has seen a significant reduction in headcount in recent weeks, with Wes Kremer, Evan Smith, Danny Way, and more being let go from their longtime sponsor. Perhaps more tellingly, DC Shoes’ Global GM Corey Long and Global Head of Marketing Michael Minter, who contributed to the shoe brand’s seemingly successful pivot to ‘90s-early ‘00s nostalgia, resigned earlier this month. These developments, an outfit like Authentic Brands or The Arena Group would tell you, are simply “streamlining.”

From hard and soft good brands to media outlets, the fact that nothing is safe from these ghouls has long been an issue and it’s only getting worse. These people gobbling up industry and culture are terminally devoid of care or vision. They rush to fire, fire up AI content, and monetize every last little thing because they do not care about people or how people use their products. Money is the only objective, and they see that as a righteous purpose because what could matter more? That’s all our culture has encouraged despite the ample evidence that blind greed and the drive for constant growth are devouring us from the inside out. So far, all the current “AI” gimmick has done is take another bite, as David Roth would put it in Defector this week.

These powerful people and their weird gilded toys and what they don't care about have become everyone's problem. In the most literal sense, all the noise that these rich, reckless bunglers create makes it harder to know things. Their mess shits up the search engines; their AI spins stupid new lies to life by haplessly plagiarizing and re-plagiarizing itself, eating its own excretions until it is as cocksure, incoherent, and wrong as its apostles themselves.

So you “fell” off a bridge

Rank: Blergh
Mood: 🤔🤢🤮

Sometimes, a subtle twist of language can feel like magic. A spell that adds new dimension and impact to the everyday words we use to express ourselves and bring the world around us to life. However, those twists and tweaks are also used for less noble means. They’re often deployed to obfuscate, remove context, fault, and humanity.

It’s in the way the passive voice can assert that victims of police violence have “died” after “receiving” “bullet wounds” without mentioning who fired the gun that killed them. You see it in Western media’s framing of Israeli hostages as “children” and Palestinian hostages as “people aged 18 and younger” and “prisoners,” even if they’ve been detained without cause for years.

Via Twitter

This isn’t a new practice, of course. It’s been happening for as long as people have been using language. And I’m sure it’s always felt this insidious to the people who understand the tricks at play and that it’s only ever sown distrust in the institutions that choose to employ them. One overlooked aspect of this purposeful puttying over of fact and meaning is how it makes its users profoundly un-self-aware and somewhat hilariously stupid.

Because if you give yourself no choice but to lie and distort truths about subjects that reflect negatively on you or your preferred narrative, you inevitably force yourself to commit to the bit under any circumstance, no matter how ludicrous.

Bro, what?

So yeah, language is magic. It can take you on journeys to new worlds or reveal the vast swathes of callous dipshits who populate your own. Speaking of…

The plan to de-woke skateboarding

Rank: Blerg
Mood: 🥱🤢🤮

Richie Jackson, on the front lines of the culture war.

As the popular axiom states, and as I’ve stated myself multiple times before in this newsletter, it’s best not to “feed the trolls,” especially when it comes to far-right turds like Tim Pool. In Pool’s case, that’s because what he — who ostensibly skates — has been trying to do lately is build an audience of skateboarders that he feels are ready to be courted by his “fight” against, in his words, the “wokeification of skateboarding.” Of course, what he really wants is more people to make money off of via YouTube ad revenue shares, Patreon subscriptions, and product sales.

People like Pool are ideologically hollow and start podcasts with names like The Culture War with Tim Pool because they know it appeals to a certain type of person who is just itching to hand over cash in support of something, anything, that might make them feel affirmed, better, or angrier about a world they refuse to understand and are convinced is collapsing, not because of extreme wealth inequality, climate change, or our governments’ subservience to corporate interests over of its citizenry, but instead due to bogeymen like DEI initiatives and gender-affirming care.

So why pay more attention to this sentient dollop of gruel? With Pool having previously declared that “we are going to take over skateboarding,” I think it’s worth looking at his “strategy” for doing so, as whatever limp attempt he’s making has become more defined over the last year.

All of which starts with the social media bait posts.


This is a simple and effective tactic to provoke attention online that grifters like Pool have employed forever. When skateboarders who rightfully think he’s a bigoted fucking dork engage with and share his posts to dunk on him, it then exposes those posts to more people, some who might not understand what his whole deal is or are sympathetic to his hateful message. It’s easy promotion.

Then there’s how he’s brought pathetically aggrieved figures like Taylor Silverman into his orbit. Silverman came to notoriety in May of 2022 after whining about losing an amateur skateboarding contest to a trans competitor. She would then take her sore loser schtick on the well-worn right-wing media circuit and leverage her transphobia into a media career of sorts, explaining on a recent episode of The Culture War that after doing Pool’s show the first time, she “had no idea Tim wanted me to come and stay, but I came out as a guest and never left.” It’s unclear if Silverman lives with Pool at his weird compound or just works there.

After forcing myself to watch the first 15 minutes of that The Culture War episode, which features her, professional skateboarder Richie Jackson, and Dennis from Chum Media(?) as guests, what’s just as clear now as it was a year ago, is that “fairness in sport” has never been Silverman’s concern. In those first 15 minutes alone, she and Pool both make a point to purposefully misgender trans skaters multiple times, framing them as deviants who are just looking to get a leg up on their competitors — it’s just unvarnished transphobia through and through.

For his part, Richie Jackson, who has been hanging around with these characters for some time now, says his come-to-Pool moment came after he felt “bullied” when he was criticized online for taking a photo with Silverman, lamenting that all of his years of support(?) for the LGBTQ community meant nothing once he decided to pose in a photo with a notorious transphobe. “People are who they are, they think what they think, and they’re allowed to. End of story.” Jackson said about his reasoning for associating with Silverman and being against “cancel culture,” not clarifying that the reason folks were upset with him is that people like Silverman actively dehumanize and demonize trans people, who are a marginalized group that face extreme amounts of violence and discrimination spurred on by people like her.

That would appear to be why Pool has hired Silverman as his (live-in?) transphobia-pundit. Pool has built a significant career out of ginning up and peddling hate for LGBTQ people, migrants, “lefties,” and anyone not politically aligned with his ilk. Then, when people enact violence against the communities he rails against, he actively excuses it, like when he claimed those killed in the Club Q shooting in 2022 brought it on themselves. There’s a steadily growing list of people who’ve committed heinous hate-motivated crimes that are fans of Pool’s rhetoric.

You’d imagine that would make Pool someone Jackson would want to keep away from if he genuinely cared about the LGBTQ community and if he really believes that “we can all get along,” as he says to start the podcast episode (which Pool immediately pushes back on, lol). It should be noted that Pool later reveals that Lauren Southern introduced him to Jackson. If you’re unfamiliar, Southern is a Canadian far-right media personality who made her name producing videos that demonized minorities, denied rape culture, and at one point, she was even involved with a white nationalist group that attempted (and failed) “to disrupt humanitarian search-and-rescue missions for migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Cool company to keep, Richie.

Silverman and Jackson are willingly being used by Pool to help give what he sees as legitimacy to his argument that skateboarding has been afflicted by the woke mind virus or whatever. When Pool tried to explain this dire state that skateboarding is in on his podcast, the best he could come up with was that he’d seen advertisements featuring skateboarders who weren’t doing the most technically or physically demanding tricks, which was the result of what he called “the diversity version of skateboarding.”

It would be easy to point out that the ability level of professional skateboarders is currently the highest it’s ever been, and how skill has also never been the sole thing that makes a professional skateboarder (marketability is what almost always takes precedence), and that all Pool would need to do to realize that is to go to Thrasher’s website or open an issue of Skateboarder from 2002, but that’s not what he’s saying. He’s just mad, or pretending to be mad (it doesn’t matter which), that more women and LGBTQ skateboarders are getting opportunities in the skate industry.

It’s a sad, lazy, contrived grievance used as a cudgel, and it’s, unfortunately, part of a formula that’s worked for him so far. His audience laps this shit up. Now, he’s trying to zero it in on a specific demographic in skateboarding, which brings us to his latest strategic development. Jackson would share on the podcast that he’s been brought on by Pool to help with what he jokingly referred to as “The Better-ics.” Some sort of indoor-outdoor skatepark that will, in all likelihood, be used to create content similar in form to The Berrics. Except, as one can imagine, much worse.

This is fascinating to witness, in a morbid sense, because Pool, like the people mentioned in the topic above, is stuck in a bit. He’s built his brand on hate and fear-mongering, so he has to apply it to everything he focuses his attention on, no matter how much of a misinformed dipshit it makes him look like.

It’s obvious that Pool only has a surface-level understanding of skateboarding culture and its industry, which is why his diatribes and intermittent pandering make little sense. When The Berrics is brought up on the podcast, Pool calls it the industry’s most prominent media entity. Jackson tries to correct him, saying it was “at one time,” but Pool won’t budge and doubles down. No offence to Steve Berra, but both are wrong.

The only thing Pool is right about is that he’ll likely drum up a little money and attention with his foray into skateboarding. He is a grifter who knows his marks, and feigning upset that the world has become ever-so-slightly more accommodating of others is the only button he knows or needs to press.

Ending on a positive note

Rank: 1
Mood: 🥰

Yeesh. Bit of a heavy one this week. Let’s use this moment to decompress and watch a truly uplifting video (via Twitter).

Something to consider: Slow Impact is back! It was great last time around and I would suggest checking it out if you can.

Good thing: Jake Johnson gets the Chromball treatment?! Get yourself the latest issue of Closer for the goods.

Good book thing: Deborah Stoll has a book coming out called Drop In: The Gender Rebels Who Changed The Face of Skateboarding and you can pre-order it now.

Another good thing: Caity Weaver is back doing Caity Weaver things with her profile of “Flo” from Progressive for The New York Times Magazine.

Yes, you may have another good thing: “What Blessing Is This #4: Sarah Meurle” By Kyle Beachy for Village Psychic.

A took long enough thing: “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies.” The obituary that monster deserved by Spencer Ackerman for Rolling Stone.

Until next week… if you decide to do a little at-home workout, maybe some pilates or yoga, and you haven’t done either in a while, just be aware that when you pull your yoga mat out of the closet and unfurl it, you might be disturbing a very large and quite odd-coloured spider who has made your disused station its home. After your initial shock subsides and if the spider is still attached by tenderly crafted tendrils of silken web, quickly open your balcony door and shake the yoga mat until the spider is no longer connected. Then, close the door, lay a hand on the glass, and apologize.

I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I will keep posting about it at the end of the newsletter for the foreseeable future. Apologies. Right, Down + Circle is in stores now and you can also order it from your favourite local bookshop, my publisher ECW Press, or all of the usual devils (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). I think you might like it.

Also, if you like book clubs, you can join the inimitable Ted Barrow in reading Right, Down + Circle on his Berate The Birds Patreon, which you should also subscribe to because it rules. He just finished with the last chapter, so you’ve got a whole companion pod to listen to whilst reading. Ted goes on some fun, interesting detours while reading/talking about the book. It’s a nice time.