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“RIP Cartoon Network” Hashtag Highlights How Busted Twitter Is

Cartoon Network is fine--well, "fine" like the "this is fine" meme

Twitter’s trending sidebar is no longer–if it ever was–a good metric of a day’s conversation; today, for instance, I’ve got a promotion I can’t be rid of for noted right-wing pseudo-school PragerU. But beneath that, I’ve also got the hashtag “RIP Cartoon Network,” which is full of panic that the beloved animation channel has officially shut down. It hasn’t, though, or not any more than it had already.

The hashtag is an invention of Animation Workers Ignited, which has been raising awareness of labor issues in the animation industry. As part of that, they’ve put out a couple very good and informative videos. The latest is about how animation carried the entertainment industry during the pandemic thanks to its ability to be done remotely, only for animation workers to face layoffs and cuts afterwards at the altar of making lines go up.

“Post about your favorite Cartoon Network shows using #RIPCartoonNetwork,” the tweet reads. While some people, particularly those in the know, fulfilled the assignment by telling moving and anger-inducing stories about corporate greed upending their lives, following the hashtag took me to tons of regular animation fans freaking out that something new had happened to the network, or that it had been officially closed. 

Some of these tweets include Community Notes, maybe the only good feature Twitter owner Elon Musk can take vague credit for, that Cartoon Network has not shut down and citing the Animation Workers Ignited video or news articles about the hashtag. The Ignited account later tweeted, “For clarity, the original Cartoon Network Studios is gone. Cartoon Network still exists as a brand and channel. Outsourcing and corporate mergers have led to less jobs for animation workers.”

I’m not above admitting I went on a small but intense emotional rollercoaster upon seeing the hashtag and was grateful for the Community Notes that set the record straight. And also, while nothing new has happened to Cartoon Network, I wouldn’t call it alive: it’s owned by Warner Bros, who hate everything they own. In 2022, Cartoon Network Studios merged with Warner Bros Animation and saw layoffs and show cutbacks. It vacated its building in 2023. It’s not dramatic to call it a shadow of its former self, the way so many things we once enjoyed are. The Ignited video is very correct that Cartoon Network, along with animation more broadly, is in a bad place and that people should be pissed off about it.

Was “RIP Cartoon Network” a good hashtag to pick? It’s dramatic and prone to virality, so in one way yes. But in another way it highlights one of Twitter’s ever-more-dire flaws, which is how swiftly and widely misinformation spreads on the platform these days. This was always the case, of course, but it feels much worse in the platform’s current landscape of desperation for advertizers, edgelordification, whatever-the-fuck verification signifies now, and pussy in bio. It’s easy for things to spin out of hand, especially when there’s some emotion behind it, with posters responding to other posters in a sprawling game of Telephone. And even with Community Notes, there are less checks to bring things back to Earth than ever, as reputable news outlets flee the platform and paid verification makes it hard to tell who can be trusted. (Remember how long it took us to figure out Noam Chomsky wasn’t dead?)

The hashtag has had the knock-on effect of throwing chum in the water of the SEO machine, as outlets raced to debunk the rumor and get those sweet clicks. (Lest you think this article is part of that: while Aftermath is aware that SEO exists, the odds of Google picking this up are vanishingly low. If you got here from Google, though, please subscribe!) And the hashtag itself is full of hangers-on using it to get eyeballs on whatever their cause or self-promotion grift is.

I’m fascinated by how this little dust-up presents a snapshot in miniature of our current online landscape, though in this case it’s raising awareness of labor conditions and not hate speech. But “good” misinformation is still misinformation. Ignited’s follow-up tweet leads me to believe it was an accident, that the group didn’t think hard enough about how the hashtag could be misread, which is a good lesson in messaging for all of us. But watching it happen reminds me how much less I trust Twitter as a source of information these days, a habit I’m finding hard to break, and a reminder that you probably shouldn’t trust it either. 

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