As we enter the 2015 homestretch, publications across the web are busy compiling their year-end lists — the best-ofs, the top-ten thingamajigs, the superlative whatchamacallits. On Twitter, one such year-end wrap-up has entered its final stage. It’s called the Shit Account Tournament and it’s seeking to name, once and for all, the shittiest Twitter account of 2015.
Shit Account 2015 is where people have to make tough decisions. Pharmaceutical profiteer Martin Shkreli or conservative actor James Woods? Gamergate figurehead Adam Baldwin or atheist comedian Ricky Gervais (who is atheist, just a reminder)? Breitbart commentator Ben Shapiro or the Tweet of God, an account which bravely asks the question “What if God … had a Twitter account in 2009?”
It’s also the site of controversy. At least one contestant has been accused of ballot-stuffing, improper vote solicitation, and — the gravest sin of all — being mad online.
This week saw four contestants — the “Fuccboi Four” — duke it out for the final. “I think the Fuccboi Four of @TheTweetofGod, @RealJamesWoods, @CloydRivers and @TherealGeorgeZ [George Zimmerman] is a fantastically diverse mix of shitty,” the organizer told me. “Much like last year, the voters really came through.”
To understand why the Shit Account Tourney exists, and why its polls sometimes receive thousands of votes, it’s important to understand the state of Twitter in 2015. Where infrequent or casual users still use the service to follow favorite celebrities or catch up on news, heavy users — especially those interested in politics — seem to generally agree that Twitter has gotten bad, maybe unredeemably — chock-full of stupid, rude, misinformed, and maladapted people with extremely large megaphones. “The internet is a place where people can get their opinions out easily,” the tournament’s organizer told me yesterday, “and many of these opinions are absolute garbage.”
But rather than force mass eviction, the increasingly loud stupidity on display has become something to celebrate. The Shit Account Tourney was first held last year, its organizer told me, for the simple reason that “there are so many shitty accounts on Twitter.” (The organizer, who tweets from the official Twitter handle, agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity.) The 2014 title eventually went to Chuck C. Johnson, a widely reviled journalist who used his account to harass others and spread misinformation, and who was rumored to have once defecated on a floor in college. His account was suspended earlier this year.
Designating an account as “shitty” is, of course, a subjective evaluation, and as a matter of course Following does not endorse the tournament’s value judgments. But there’s a recognizable pattern among the Shit Account contestants, one that allows us to come up with a working definition of “shitty” for the purposes of the tournament — one that helps describe the kinds of accounts that can make Twitter such an alienating experience.
Many of the entrant accounts belong to notable white males in media. They tend to tweet with an aggressive, no-holds-barred “call ‘em like I see ‘em” mentality, and then can’t quite handle pushback. (James Woods, as an example, notably sued a pseudonymous Twitter user earlier this year for $10 million over claims of defamation; the user characterized Woods as a cocaine addict.) A Shit Account, for the sake of this tournament, belongs to someone who might charge that criticism of them is tantamount to violating their First Amendment rights, or the tactic of someone who has already lost the argument. Most of the blustery personalities in the bracket are conservative, but the idea is that the tweeting style is what determines their shittiness, not their beliefs as such. Pompous liberal Aaron Sorkin role-play account @WillMcAvoyACN ensures at least some bipartisan representation, as does the aforementioned Gervais. Some of them are just bad sports commentators, like Darren Rovell.
Like its predecessor, Shit Account 2015 is being run much like a March Madness tournament, with 60 contenders and another eight play-ins (and an honorary ghost of @ChuckCJohnson at No. 69). “I assembled a ‘Shitty Committee’ of 7 of my followers, and we ranked our top 25 worst accounts on a biweekly basis,” the person behind the account told me. “It worked exactly as the AP college polls work, with 25 points for first place votes, down to 1 point for a 25th. Once tourney time was to begin, we had enough data to accurately seed the accounts.” The seeding does appear to have worked: first-round match-ups included “@DraftKings vs. @Fanduel” and “@MeninistTweet vs. @MensHumor.”
The tournament’s four regions each have their own in-joke name. The Gott Mit Uns (German for “God with us”) region is a reference to the Nazi memorabilia that militant atheists point to whenever someone asserts that Hitler was an atheist; it’s mostly accounts relating to religious figures or relating to religion in some way.
The Maggot region, a “potpourri” of accounts that don’t fit into the other three, “is a play on one of the shitty accounts, @icpchad, who calls everyone ‘maggots’ and blocks them. Chad is a gun nut who has legitimately threatened people’s lives online, and I think he deserves the notoriety of being one of the shittiest accounts online.”
The #i2 region — heavy on men’s-rights activists — takes its name from a hashtag popular among the anti-circumcision crowd.
And last but not least, the Jade Helm region takes its name from the military exercises that sent Texan big-government conspiracy theorists into a frenzy this past summer. It’s vaguely sports-themed:
As in any good tournament, each round — the Shit Sixteen, the Excrement Eight, the Fuccboi Four — has contained a few surprises. Five-seed Donald Trump, for instance, was knocked out by 12-seed Adam Baldwin in the very first round. The tournament is probably making, for now, the best use of Twitter’s new polling feature, a step up from last year’s tourney, which used a Google survey that was susceptible to ballot manipulation.
And, as with any good tournament, there’s been some controversy along the way. Over the weekend, Shit Account alleged that Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos had stuffed the ballot box during his match-up in the Excrement Eight, and he was disqualified. Yiannopoulos had previously exhibited a dogged determination to win the tournament.
Shit Account told me over email, “I was sent evidence via a DM from my friends in which Milo gloated that he was rigging the tournament and wanted to win. I think we’ve seen the aftermath, after we took away the votes clearly submitted by Milo’s shitty followers … There was a discrepancy of about 1300 votes … so we took the appropriate action to remove the extra votes, rendering @CloydRivers [a popular account based on lowest-common-denominator redneck stereotypes] the champion of the #i2 Region.”
In a statement to Following, Yiannopoulos denounced the tournament:
The Shit Account tournament sounds light-hearted, but when you dig in to the Twitter accounts behind the competition, these guys really mean it. They insult and attack people all day, and they’ve been doing it for years. Of course they hate conservatives, and they throw around words like “sexist” and “racist” all day long from behind their pseudonymous nicknames.
Some people get upset at being on the receiving end of this kind of trolling. I don’t, because I see it for what it is: an unintentional compliment and an acknowledgement of my influence and popularity.
“Milo is now beet red and nude online,” Shit Account says, “trying to confirm his supposed ‘dox’ of me … so he can do some shitty smear article on the guy he thinks I am.”
Regardless of surrounding controversy, the Fuccboi Four is about to wrap up, setting the stage for a tense championship round. Twitter has been especially terrible in 2015, so there’s a lot at stake for whoever takes the crown. In addition to having this superlative honor, they also win the Chuck C. Johnson Memorial Trophy.
Best of luck to the competitors!