OK, boomers—and by “boomers” I mean anyone over 25 years of age—hear me out. Last night was marvelous, wasn’t it? At around 7:02 pm, US representative Eric Swalwell appeared on Hardball to talk about the ongoing impeachment hearings against President Trump. During his response to host Chris Matthews, what can only be described as a fart sound ripped through the airwaves. The California representative paused, waited for it to pass, and continued talking. It took less than 12 minutes for the clip to appear on Twitter. Amid the drudgery that has transpired during the hearings, it was a godsend to the internet. Levity! Jokes! Flatulence! It almost felt like the good ol’ days.
Yes, I said it, good ol’ days. That’s why it seemed best to deal the OK, boomer joke at the onset. These days, the fun memes aren’t born on Twitter as frequently as they once were—they’re on TikTok now, in other corners of the internet. They make it there, of course, but Twitter is so often the home of bickering about the news—of fighting and harassing other users, of arguing nonstop. Watching the incident tear through one tweet after another was a moment of reprieve, of release. Not since Kendall Jenner made a nightmare Pepsi ad has one incident united people the way #Fartgate did. But, more importantly, it brought them together in a way they realized and acknowledged in the moment.
The reason why lies in everything that happened after the gas was passed. First and foremost, it gave people from every band of the political spectrum something relatively innocuous to joke about. It also had something else the internet loves: a conspiracy. Almost immediately after Hardball ended its broadcast, a BuzzFeed News reporter texted Swalwell to ask if he dealt it. He denied it. Someone running the show’s social media feeds tweeted that it wasn’t a fart at all, merely a mug being slid across a desk. The tweet then linked to a page selling Hardball mugs, so it seemed dubious.
Others weighed in that it might have been a phone vibrating or some other off-camera noise. But, as Twitter shit-starter Chrissy Teigen quickly noted, to explain it as anything other than a fart was simply to ruin the fun. This, reader, is where the true meaning of #Fartgate came alive. Arguing over who flatulated on MSNBC—or whether anyone did at all—isn’t the point. The point is that Twitter used to be about goofing off and making each other laugh. Folks still argued politics, but there were, seemingly, far fewer white supremacists and people calling women fat. There have always been dark corners of the internet, and always places to find light, but in recent years, Twitter has seemed like the dark side. Briefly, last night, it felt like what it used to be.
Too much has happened for Twitter to ever be what it once was. Last night was a gas, but I, fellow “boomers,” know that the moment, this flatus, was fleeting. The difference, though, was that everyone appreciated it while it was happening. It’s now come to a point where life online can be so fraught folks not only embrace moments of joy when they can but acknowledge how few and far between they are. It was a nice moment, even if it couldn’t make Twitter great again.
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social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/fartgate