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The King Of Twitter: Shea Serrano Is Our New Favorite Internet Hero

Creating a super-fun social media summer camp, 140 characters at a time

There are heroes on the Internet. They are hard to find sometimes amidst the trolls and the click bait and all the news about Donald Trump, but if you dive deep enough into the dumpster there are treasures to be found that will redeem your faith in this whole experiment of constant global connectivity. There are people who make you believe in the beauty of community among strangers.


Shea Serrano is one of those people, and his Empire of Personality—built on tweet storming and life logging and culture critiquing—is beckoning you to join the celebration.

If you’re heretofore unacquainted with Serrano and want to experience a concentrated shot of his anti-brand brand yourself, our best advice would be to subscribe to his newly minted newsletter, Basketball (And Other Things). It melds together the most popular cultural touchstones in Serrano’s writing and life (which are basically the same thing): the NBA, hip-hop and action movies of the 1990s.

New editions are sent out every Tuesday at 9 am, and each one has custom illustrations by Serrano’s friend and frequent collaborator, the artist Arturo Torres. He will not accept payment for subscriptions, and the official company policy on marketing is “Ads can S a D.” And what began as a casual endeavor just one month ago meant to keep Serrano sharp and test out material for his upcoming book on basketball has exploded into a near-viral sensation with 27,000 subscribers as of this writing.

“I wasn’t planning on anything big happening,” Serrano says of B(AOT)’s massive popularity (he’s gained 1,000 more subscribers since this interview one week ago). “[Me and Arturo] were working on the basketball book and I wasn’t writing anywhere at the time, so it was just a place for us to put some stuff down and start feeling creative again. It’s basically just a playground and it sort of took off bigger than we had anticipated it.”

The preposterous vertical trajectory of Serrano’s latest venture looks ridiculous in isolation, but within the context of his career it makes almost too much sense. “Bigger than we had anticipated” could be the tagline on his business card. All Serrano ever wanted to do was teach, and the whole writing thing was meant to be a side gig for extra cash. But it became a full-time job when he realized, “Oh, people are going to give me a lot of money to do this, so I’m going to do it while I can.”

This cartoon of Chance The Rapper giving Satan a swirly is from Issue #8 of B(AOT). Image by Arturo Torres.

Serrano started out freelancing for a local Houston paper, then graduated to a position with LA Weekly, where his ebullience and personality driven style got noticed by editors at the journalist utopia known as Grantland. He contributed frequent stories to the ESPN offshoot for more than a year before signing on as a full time contract writer in July of 2015. Three months later, ESPN shuttered Grantland and flung its cadre of ultra-talented, ultra-popular writers out into the internet where they would become star recruits at publications like New York Magazine, MTV News and The Fader.

But while many former Grantlanders have taken new staff jobs elsewhere, Serrano has built up the business of, well, being Shea Serrano. Right before the site closed he was overseeing the launch of his second book, The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed, which he turned into a New York Times best seller through sheer force of will.

Serrano is popular, to be sure, but it’s still a niche kind of popularity. At the time The Rap Year Book came out he had 43,000 Twitter followers (a number he has since doubled), and got each and every one of them on board to help usher in his tiny revolution. He announced giveaways on Twitter, promising trinkets like t-shirts, stickers and packets of Yo! MTV Raps trading cards if followers sent him proof they’d purchased his book.

He even got into a fake feud with the retailer Books-a-Million on Twitter, which he told Wired about in an interview last year, to turn the whole product schilling gig into a kind of game that everyone could participate in. “I was trying to get the writer of Harry Potter to fight with me or whatever, but Books-a-Million was the first time somebody had played back at me,” Serrano said last October. “That’s all I needed to turn this into a real war.” The retailer slashed prices of The Year Book and dared Serrano’s followers to buy them out, which they did. And not just at one outlet either. Serrano’s fans snapped up all 20,000 copies of The Year Book’s first print run before it even came out, some purchasing handfuls at a time to give away to strangers.

This cartoon of two Arnold Schwarzenegger characters fighting each other is from Issue #6 of B(AOT). Image by Arturo Torres.

And when you follow him on Twitter you realize quickly why this community of tens of thousands felt personally invested in helping Serrano become a success. When you see him interact with followers dozens of times every day it’s like being on a massive text thread with a bunch of friends—that you don’t even hate! Months after its release he still does giveaways for people who buy The Rap Year Book, except now he sends swanky bookmarks with original illustrations by Torres. They arrive in envelopes with a return address listed simply as “Shea” and a note of appreciation inside with your gift.

But most of the time it’s not about commerce at all. It’s just about hanging out. Serrano dispenses life advice, takes his followers with him on “shame-food” runs to Taco Bell, posts pictures of his wife and calls her his “favorite super hero,” provides the absolute best basketball commentary available today and shares his family follies (joined by Boy A, Boy B, Baby, Wife, and the dog, Younger Jeezy) with his 80,000-strong community of followers.

He’s also a fount of support for people who see him as an example of a dream achieved, exhorting those who reach out for advice to keep pursuing their passion. In the screaming maw of the internet, Serrano is like that cool teacher in high school who just gets you, and characterizes his generosity with people as a “moral obligation” to help where he can, because he’s been there. Or maybe he’s more like your cool older brother. Or is he your chill friend who always has the best music and casually sage wisdom to dispense? No matter what version of familiar he feels like, the bottom line is that Serrano just seems like someone you want to have around, which might be the best possible currency on the internet.

“It was not a dream of mine to be a writer. I only ever wanted to be a teacher. It was the only job I ever wanted to do. So I want to try and be as helpful to other people as possible,” Serrano explains. “I got an e-mail not that long ago from a guy who told me that he had tried to be a writer X amount of years ago, and after reading through some of the stuff I had written or talking to me for a little bit, he felt, ‘Okay. I’m going to do this. I feel inspired to do this again.’ That’s always the biggest compliment I can get from anybody, is if they feel like inspired to do something new, to try a thing. That makes me feel really good.”

Serrano’s lingering ESPN contract runs out this summer, at which time he hopes “someone will show up with a job offer somewhere.” And whoever is lucky enough to secure him will be inheriting a tribe of somewhere around 100,000 people willing to throw money at him, buy his books and probably do whatever else he asks them to, because when the tide of Shea rises it’s clear he wants all the boats to rise with him.

But until that mystery job comes calling, thank goodness we’ve got Twitter, a little bit of basketball, and a whole lot of other things to keep Shea talking.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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Politics