Behold the Reverse Idiot Funnel - by Ryan Broderick:
Many years ago, it was common to come across a weird guy’s website. Sometimes it would be about how the earth was flat or how trees aren’t real or how lizard people built the pyramids. When you came across a site made by a weird guy (and they were typically guys), you might have laughed uncomfortably and maybe even emailed it to a friend or two, and then you probably moved on with your life. There were a few message boards in the early 2000s that were particularly good at documenting the internet’s various weird guys, like Something Awful or 4chan, but, for the most part, the weird guys lived off in their digital fantasy land of choice and the rest of us were none the wiser. Around 2012, new, more mainstream parts of the web were being built atop the ashes of Myspace, and they had fancy recommendation algorithms that made sure your grandma wouldn’t accidentally see Goatse. But these platforms had a problem. It turns out that the anonymous chaos of the weirder parts of the internet are actually good for creating content. A totally sanitized web is actually very boring. And so these platforms tried to fix this by signing partnership agreements with news publishers and by fostering a creator class of users who could make and curate content for others. But the problem continued. Squeaky clean creators doing brand-safe content and vetted New York Times articles are not conducive to a good time online. And, around 2013, certain publishers and certain creators started to understand that there was a serious market for taking the weird stuff from the weird guys and bringing it inside the walls of a platform. This was Steve Bannon’s main trick during his time helming Breitbart, but it was equally true for the zillion other websites that would make lists of viral images from Reddit and repackage them for Facebook users. And, over the last decade, this process — finding some idiot who said something ridiculous and aggregating whatever they said into a form that fits a trending algorithm — is now, hilariously, how all of American culture works.