Internet of Beefs

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Venkatesh Rao:

"A beef-only thinker is someone you cannot simply talk to. Anything that is not an expression of pure, unqualified support for whatever they are doing or saying is received as a mark of disrespect, and a provocation to conflict. From there, you can only crash into honor-based conflict mode, or back away and disengage.

The connection to crash-only programming is more than cosmetic, but it will take some set-up before I can establish the conceptual bridge.

Online public spaces are now being slowly taken over by beef-only thinkers, as the global culture wars evolve into a stable, endemic, background societal condition of continuous conflict. As the Great Weirding morphs into the Permaweird, the public internet is turning into the Internet of Beefs.

The Internet of Beefs, or IoB, is everywhere, on all platforms, all the time. Meatspace is just a source of matériel to be deployed online, possibly after some tasteful editing, decontextualization, and now AI-assisted manipulation.

If you participate in online public life, you cannot entirely avoid the Internet of Beefs. It is too big, too ubiquitous, and too widely distributed and connected across platforms. To continue operating in public spaces without being drawn into the conflict, you have to build an arsenal of passive-aggressive behaviors like subtweeting, ghosting, blocking, and muting — all while ignoring beef-only thinkers calling you out furiously as dishonorable and cowardly, and trying to bait you into active aggression.

Your only other option is to retreat to a shadowy network of private spaces defended by blocks, restricted feeds, secret-group gatekeeping boundaries, and subscribers-only paywalls. A sort of underground Internet that I’ve previously called the CozyWeb." (


Venkatesh Rao:

"The standard pattern of conflict on the IoB is depressingly predictable. A mook takes note of a casus belli in the news cycle (often created or co-opted by a knight, and referred to on the IoB as the outrage cycle), and heads over to their favorite multiplayer online battle arena (Twitter being the most important MOBA) to join known mook allies to fight stereotypically familiar but often unknown interchangeable mook foes. They come prepared either to melee within the core, or skirmish on the periphery, either rallying around the knights riding under known beef-only banners, or adventuring by themselves in unflagged, unheralded side battles.

There is no higher honor for a mook than to be noticed by the knights they fight for. As a result, the fealty of the mook is the currency of the manorial economy of the IoB. Mookcoins are mined by knights through acts of senpai-notice-me. Call it proof-of-favor. And on mookcoins runs the economy of the IoB.

A mook once animated by a grievance is hard to destroy.

Loyalties might shift through knightly sell-outs and betrayals, and mook allegiances might shift individually or en masse in ideologically incoherent ways, but once the psyche of a mook becomes animated by grievance-power, there is no going back. It is an almost irreversible sort of dehumanization.

The more mooks a knight of the IoB can maintain in a stable state of combat-readiness, the bigger a player they are on the IoB. If you are blessed with a better, beefier class of mook in your army, capable of sustaining and dishing out more damage points, they will even win over mooks from adjacent theaters of conflict for you, and perhaps even bait a few frustrated non-combatants (not the same as NPCs, who are in fact a class of combatant present on all sides) into joining the conflict. To the seasoned knight, it doesn’t matter whether a new mook joins on their side or the other side; the point is to grow and sustain the conflict rather than win (more on that later).

And to be a knight, of course, is to have a recognized name, and a storied reputation as a beef-only thinker to be reckoned with; one capable of owning opposed knights (and “absolutely eviscerating” them in strategically edited YouTube clips). Knights might be affiliated with a known imperial banner, or less frequently, freelancers like Taleb (the term freelancer comes from mercenary knights, with no fixed loyalties, in the medieval era).

The centrality of mooks is an important point that is often overlooked (often by knights and mooks themselves) because of the obvious insignificance of any particular mook in isolation. In aggregate, however, mook power is what the IoB is about. If the relatively peaceful web of the 90s and aughts was about civilian eyeballs, the IoB is about mook-on-mook combat clicks, and is now entering its second decade." (