Julian's Big New Rule for Dunking on the Internet
It's cooler than you think
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Greetings Sternal Journalists,
I think I’ve said this before, but cancel culture doesn’t actually exist. There’s not such thing as getting canceled. It is annoying to me as a semi-professional communicator that it takes up such a big part of societal debates and conversational zeitgeist.
Because it’s bad communicating. People can get fired, people can lose fans, people can lose sponsors, people can lose jobs. People can also have a lot of people mad at them on the internet. The problem is “canceling” refers to both states of being, so it means nothing. Because then people who aren’t yet losing money, fans, or clout get to somehow lump themselves in with the people who have lost those things, and everyone is pouty and whiny and unspecific.
It’s so nebulous that it becomes a thing where anyone who claims they have been canceled is indisputable, and if you try to dispute it, you’re only proving their floppy point. Because all anyone’s really saying when they claim they’ve been canceled is that a bunch of people are mad at them. Which, by the way, has been a legitimate reason to be fired, lose fans, or lose sponsors for like all of time.
Oh, you said something that made everyone at work upset? There’s a decent chance it violated the employee handbook!
So that’s that: canceling doesn’t exist. Cancel culture doesn’t exist.1 I just needed to get that out of the way because for some reason, we all still talk about it.
HOWEVER, dunk culture does exist.
Man, everybody on the internet loves dunking. If you’ve never been on the internet in any capacity, dunking basically means being sassy to someone. That’s really it is. But it is rampant. Left, right, old, young, every other demographic breakdown you can imagine, high brow low brow, and from the highest of stakes to the lowest of stakes!
Truly! In the past week, you’ve seen people dunk on (a) loved ones for their Spotify Wrapped breakdowns, and (b) the Supreme Court for laying the groundwork for the full revocation of female bodily autonomy.
We’re dealing with some tonal range here, is what I’m trying to say. I, of course, am guilty of all sorts of dunking. I love to talk shit about my closest friends. I also love to be catty on my Instagram stories and pass it off as social justice.
The problem is that dunking feels great. And when you feel great, you feel like you’ve done something, like you’ve made a difference. And this is fine when you’re saying one of your friends looks exactly like a DuoLingo character.
But if you’re trying to spread the word about how the Olympic games lead to the militarization of LA’s police force, it all gets fired straight into the echo chamber.
You can blame polarization, you can blame meme culture. But dunking on people takes up a lot of mental energy (these memes don’t format themselves!), it replaces time and effort that could be spent on productive communication, and it kinda makes people feel bad, which is rarely the real goal.
Because, like, sure. Does it bring me a little joy when I imagine Mitch McConnell looking at his phone and being sad because of something on Twitter? Yes. But it doesn’t get him to stop doing the shit I want him to stop doing. Plus, he can imagine the same thing with plenty of people I like and agree with.
We’re all in this disorganized global roast battle where not a lot of people are funny, but everyone cares immensely. It’s destructive.
Which is why I’m proposing we adopt Matrix rules:
If you want to to dunk on the internet, you have to dunk in real life.
Hear me out! Whatever the normal NBA rim height is, you have to be able to dunk on a rim like that (I looked it up. It’s ten feet). It does not have to be good.
Also, this is not a one-time dunk certification. No. Any time you want to be real nasty and snarky to anyone or any institution, you gotta drop a sweet, sweet dunk.
This will have a variety of affects:
It would force us to admit how much we dunk. If this could pass into law immediately, there would be a week where a lot of people would say “Whatever, I didn’t need to dunk on anyone.” And it would take them between 12 and 72 hours to realize just how much of their identity is grafted to the dark art of internet dunking. Some would seek to take the opportunity to better themselves, but we all know only a handful would succeed.
There would be a dunk lull. Because most of the world would realize they need to dunk on people, they would begin to train. People whose career depended on it would get there faster: I’m sure Ben Shapiro and Bernie Sanders alike would hire private trainers. Public parks would be full of Dune nerds chin-to-jowl with Bachelorette recap writers. But while they trained for the real life dunks, the internet dunks would stop. It would basically only be people who are really tall and/or good at basketball who never have to stop dunking. Most of them wouldn’t be funny, and the ones who are would quickly realize in the internet-dunkless world how very much cooler real life dunking is. They could probably make a buttload on clinics too.
I would increase my vertical leap. Look, I wish I could say I would be one of the people who realizes they don’t need to be sassy on the internet, but I know I’d want my dunk privileges for the same reason second amendment proponents want a gun—because I’ve convinced myself I might need to use it against the government one day in a scenario that will likely never come, but if it did, it would not do much (but actually I just think it’s fun). And I have no idea whether I’d actually succeed, but I know I’d be able to jump higher and that would be cool.
Jeb Bush would learn to dunk. This would not be good for the world, but he’s 6’3” and I feel like he’d figure it out. It would look silly and he’s also not that funny, so I don’t think his internet dunks would go noticed. If anything, people would think of them as they made attempt after attempt, formulating the quote tweet for when they could finally dunk on his shitty dunks.
People would dunk less on the internet. Most importantly—as much as I now really kinda wanna see a sloppy, pitiful, strained dunk from Jeb Bush—people would do less dunking. Because I’ll remind you that the rules are that you have to dunk in real life once for every dunk you do on the internet. That means for every tweet, every Instagram story, every Reddit post. And you have to travel to your city’s Julian Stern Memorial Dunk Centers2 and get your dunk verified. And once you’ve got a verified dunk, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself! You might have real endorphins and maybe, just maybe, not need to open your phone to yell at someone who will never hear you.
More And 1 shirts. Last but not least! As people got more into basketball theatrics and were looking for more opportunities to give each other guff, there would be a surge in the long-dormant market for AND 1 shirts. So even if the world wouldn’t be a happier place, there would still be a lot more of this:
And I could live with that. Now! Onto recommendations!
Unread. Podcast. This documentary mini-series starts on a rough note. The host, Chris Stedman, has just learned that his best friend Alex took their own life. But Alex left behind recordings of conversations he had with a friend Alex had met in a Britney Spears fan chat room… who might have been Britney Spears. The four episodes circle around the mystery of “Alice,” the potential Britney in question, but really they paint a portrait of what a special and complicated friend Alex had been to those he was close with, and how they cope with his absence. It sounds sad, and it is, but it’s also equal parts funny and uplifting.
Stath Lets Flats Season 3. Television. I already recommended this when I was watching a pirated version on Reddit, but now it’s on HBOMax and you should watch it there!
Jack Harlow acceptance speech. Instagram video. We all know I love this guy, but seriously, I did not expect him to spend a full minute telling a story about winning his elementary school’s AR Points contest in second grade and reading all the Harry Potter books.
And that is what’s poppin’. With love, I’m Julian Stern signing off.
P.S. I spend anywhere between two and twelve hours a week on the Sternal Journal. If you enjoy receiving it (and are RICH) consider becoming a paying subscriber. For just a few bucks a month, you can provide me with a bit more time to come up with fun topics, poems, and interviews; and you with probably fewer typos.
It’s not a memorial because I’m dead. It’s a memorial because I want everyone to remember it was my idea.