Top 20 Twitter Discourse Topics of 2020

What a year 2020 has been. It began with wildfires in Australia and a potential war with Iran, and then led into a global pandemic and unprecedented election. Needless to say, 2020 has been full of non-stop news and events. But 2020 has also been full of online discourse, and that’s much more interesting and important. Today, I am going to conclusively rank the top 20 worst Twitter discourse events of 2020. Beginning with…

20: Giant Baby

On April 20th, Twitter user @DuckAlertsNOW tweeted a video of a baby with the caption “is anyone else just absolutely REPULSED by this giant baby” and garnered almost 100,000 retweets. Suddenly the Internet erupted in discussion over this larger-than-average baby. Was the giant baby horrifying or endearing? Is it even okay to make fun of a baby on the Internet? As with all Internet discourse, we never reached a consensus. I have to say, in a year where many people acted like giant babies online, at least this one was an actual baby.

19: Ziad The Activist

On April 10th, Ziad Ahmed (colloquially known as ZiadTheeActivist) posted a TikTok to his Twitter account shaming young people who decided not to vote for Joe Biden. Quotes such as “my QUEStion to you is” and “Who are you serving and who are you helping?” paired with hand motions that would make any Italian uncle proud cemented Ziad a place in the top 20 Internet events of the year. The video garnered mass attention, even permeating the mainstream discourse. Comedian Jaboukie Young-White even parodied Ziad in a now-deleted tweet featuring a high-pitched voice and the hand jive. Users speculated about whether or not Ziad was using a greenscreen in the video to make his house look less fancy and dug into his past. It turns out that Ziad is not new to negative virality, as people realized he had been criticized before in 2017 for woke-posturing his way into Stanford. The Internet even discovered that Ziad’s father was the CEO of Citibank, and that Ziad himself has his own company worth millions of dollars.  

18: Kim Yo Jong, Lesbian Queen

In late April of this year, Kim Jong Un was reported dead after complications from surgery, and it was speculated that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, would take over his role. Though the rumors turned out to be false, it didn’t stop the Internet from going crazy. From fancams, to Azula comparisons, to asking her to kick them in the balls—much of Twitter became Kim Yo Jong stans. This was, however, met with backlash from other Twitter users, arguing that it wasn’t okay to simp for, or even joke about simping for, a “dictator Queen.” 

17: If You Don’t Like Cats, You Don’t Understand Consent

Someone said that someone said cats are a lesson in consent and so many controlling people hate cats because they can’t control them and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

But seriously, what an insane assertion. Thankfully, this discourse was primarily funny instead of dramatic or divisive, probably because no one could take it seriously. And don’t get me wrong, it’s always important to talk about consent, but the idea that people who dislike cats are controlling and abusive made this topic funny enough to get on this list.

16: Charcuterie Boards Are Bourgeois Decadence

On August 2nd, Twitter user @cheesybeaver posted a picture of the charcuterie board she made. It consisted of bread, Marcona almonds, assorted meats and cheeses, some pickles, and jam. Overall I’d give it a 7/10, nothing super special or extravagant. Twitter user @DragonGirl1919 disagreed, quote-tweeting it with, “What rich people eat I guess.” And just like that, charcuterie discourse began. @CheesyBeaver screenshotted the quote tweet, posting a thread justifying the board, saying it was only around $20 for two people, and fed them for two meals. She also explained that she grew up poor and, while she’s currently financially stable, she’s in student loan debt and medical debt that she will never climb out of. It honestly made me really sad that someone felt like they had to share the intimate details of their economic situation for some sliced meats and cheeses. Most people on Twitter, thankfully, came to her defense. Not only are charcuterie boards not signifiers of wealth, or only for rich people, but many argued that charcuterie discourse was a waste of time and created unnecessary division amongst the left. The entire thing was extremely silly. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some manchego cheese to slice…

15: Picky Eater Discourse

Picky eater discourse isn’t new, but it was likely reignited in April when writer Ashley Reese posted a tweet saying that adult picky eaters are a “turnoff.” This is one of the few topics of discourse that have actually, genuinely been divisive. After Ashley’s tweet, other tweets were posted calling her out for ableism, citing the fact that many autistic people have food aversions.

Both sides of the debate seemed pretty equally stacked, with some claiming that adults should be broadening their horizons with food, and others claiming that mocking picky eaters is usually ableism. It certainly seemed like people were arguing over different issues, with many people defending their own picky eating by tweeting about their allergies. I’m…not sure which side won. I think the consensus was that picky eater jokes aren’t ableist, but that it’s also fine to be a picky eater. I feel like I’m letting you guys down by “both-sides”ing the issue, but that seems to be pretty much what happened here! Call me a radical picky-eating centrist.

14: Ghosting Is Rape

I feel like I’m too sober to talk about this one because it’s just so insane, but oh well. Anyway. On November 11th, novelist Heather O’Neill posted a tweet that is miraculously still up about how having sex with someone that you think is going to be a one time thing, but that they think will lead to a relationship, is essentially rape because you’re misleading them. Somehow lots of people agreed with her, however to most it seemed obvious that having sex with someone with different intentions than you doesn’t automatically make the sex non-consensual. At worst, this situation is manipulative, but is likely a miscommunication. It seems a little bit offensive as well to equate actual rape victims with people who had a disappointing one night stand. But  that’s Twitter for you!

13: Exhuming Egyptian Mummies

On October 5th, a video was posted of an Egyptian mummy being exhumed after over 2,000 years. Twitter user @tajmerk then quote-tweeted it with, “We’re trained very early on to think that mummies and tombs need unearthing, but its kind of sad that even in death POC can’t escape the prying and opportunistic advances of white people.” Many people went on to echo this statement, noting how disrespectful it was to exhume a body, equating it to grave robbing, and saying that since ancient Egyptians believed that mummification was the way to the afterlife, modern humans are disrespecting their beliefs and disrupting their souls. People also pointed out that it was hardly unusual for ancient people of color to be treated like artifacts in this same manner.

On the other side, however, others noted that the people exhuming these bodies were themselves Egyptian, giving them a right to study their own culture. Many people also said that we don’t have any obligation to the dead and their wishes, and that this type of history should be studied.

Then, it turned away from “what do we owe the dead?” and turned into “what race were ancient Egyptians?” with many people arguing that while modern Egyptians are mostly Arab, ancient Egyptians were Black Africans. This debate never ends, despite sociologists reminding people that assigning modern American race classifications to ancient people is misguided, and despite many anthropologists and scientists providing actual answers about the ancient Egyptians. The absolute best part of this discourse, however, was when @tajmerk then said “i hope they dig up your meemaw and take her body on tour in another country” Absolutely iconic.

12: Himbo Ableism

“Himbo” is a newer term referring to men who are physically attractive and incredibly nice, but maybe a little bit…dumb. Who doesn’t love a himbo? Well, on June 21st, user Fangirl Jeanne (who is also well-known for her tweet claiming that Joe Biden is queer-coded) posted a tweet claiming that “himbo” is ableist since it fetishizes someone’s lack of intelligence and instills a power dynamic, and that you are then desiring someone with less power than you. She then equated liking himbos to preying on children. Let me remind you; himbos are basically just beefy goofballs who respect women. Needless to say, this take was ridiculed  even on Twitter itself, where power dynamic discourse is wide-ranging and ignited constantly. I’ll get to another example of this later. 

11: Bodega Discourse

I’m going to preface this by saying if you don’t live in NYC, you probably won’t understand what I’m about to talk about. On November 30th, comedian Alison Leiby posted a tweet which essentially translated to “I have never heard of gas stations or convenience stores.” This discourse basically turned into NYC vs. The World, with New Yorkers claiming that there is no equivalent to bodegas in the rest of the country, and everyone else pointing out that yes, actually, there is. People cited 7/11, Wawa, QuikTrip, and dozens of other convenience stores akin to bodegas (and I would add any Michigan party store to the list). I’m not sure if New Yorkers really have their heads that far up their own asses, or if they’ve genuinely never left NYC to have experienced a gas station, but one question still remains: where the FUCK can I buy peanut butter m&ms??????

10: JK Rowling Discourse

Oof, where to even begin with this one? JK Rowling has ruined her own image of herself within the past few years. Though she’s been known for her transphobia in the past, her hate reached new heights on June 6th, when she replied to an article mentioning “people who menstruate,” which Rowling took as a violent attack on her own personal womanhood. She argued that “people who menstruate” is a disrespectful term when she believes “women” is the correct term. People instantly tried explaining to her that not all women menstruate, and now all people who menstruate are women, but JKR was not having it. She then went on a tirade of transphobic tweets, claiming that people were invalidating her experience as a cis woman and ignoring the concept of sex. She then posted an extremely transphobic article called “Anonymous Letter From a Terrified Lesbian,” about a lesbian claiming that trans rights were directly harmful towards lesbian rights. Yikes. People criticized Rowling for using the LGBT community while not being a part of it, to which Rowling replied that a “self-described butch lesbian” friend who definitely exists just definitely called her to definitely shout “FUCKING YES.”

A month after the TERF-tirade, Rowling was one of the 150 signatories of the infamous Harper’s Cancel Culture Letter. For those unaware, on July 7th, 150 famous or otherwise successful people signed a letter condemning the hateful cancel culture that has been ruining their still-very-much successful lives. Signatories included JK Rowling of course, as well as some of my favorite people: Steven Pinker, Matthew Yglesias, and Bari Weiss. The letter was extremely vague and was a confusing mishmish of political ideologies. Though, admittedly, the debate of “cancel culture” is nuanced and deep, the last people I want to hear lecturing me about it are celebrities and established voices. The cancel culture letter could have gotten an entire section to itself in this ranking, but I don’t think the JK Rowling story is complete without including the letter.

This one should go without saying: trans rights are human rights.

9: Liking Short Women Is Pedophilia

I referenced this in the Himbos section, and now it’s finally time. Is liking short women equivalent to pedophilia? This outlandish claim was first posted by @suprnturl on October 22nd, and was later echoed by @mirxclearligner on November 27th. Both posters attempted to further explain that being attracted to a petite woman isn’t pedophilia, but that specifically being attracted to short women was rooted in pedophilia. A shocking amount of people agreed with both claims, claiming that men want to be able to physically overpower their partner, and therefore seeking out short women reinforces this idea. They also claim that society preferring short women over taller women is an attempt to infantilize women, hence the connection to pedophilia. So, while liking goofy beefy guys is pedophilia, liking short women is also pedophilia. The greater debate then turned into a debate about preferences and if it’s okay to have them in general. I’m not sure where that debate ended up, but I’m pretty sure we decided that liking short women is not pedophilic.

8: Fuck Anne Frank

“Fuck Anne Frank” isn’t a sentence I ever thought I would be writing. Or that I ever wanted to write. And yet, this is what my life has come to.

Twitter user @ChiefGaziKodzo sent out a tweet calling Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager who was killed in the Holocaust, a “Becky”,  arguing that American children are taught about a “Becky” instead of learning about indigenous girls, black girls, and Palestinian girls. In the next tweet he also refers to her, to Anne Frank, as a “Karen.”

I want to believe these are offensive trolling attempts, because nobody with a single brain cell would ever think “You know who’s privileged? People who died in the Holocaust.” and I wish I could confidently say they were trolls. The discourse doesn’t end there.

The greater discourse this started was the classic “are Jewish people white” discourse. Twitter user @juche_couture_ posted a tweet explaining that the original tweet wasn’t saying “fuck Anne Frank, the person” but was saying “fuck the white supremacist pedagogy which posits the Holocaust as some unprecedented atrocity in the history of the world because white people were affected — when colonized people have suffered a million holocausts, which have left only billions of nameless bodies in the void. no books. no movies. no histories…”

I can’t agree enough that countless atrocities have been committed against colonized people. However, this argument is the oppression-olympics on steroids. I don’t think I’m out of line to say that what happened to Anne Frank and other victims of the Holocaust was unspeakable and beyond horrific. And ranking genocides seems…insensitive. Discourse about Jewish identity and whiteness isn’t unique to Twitter, and has been happening for a long time. Twitter thought it was time to finally conclusively answer the question, and thus began debates over whether Anne Frank was actually a “Becky” or not. Did Twitter end up answering the question? No. Of course not. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about this one.

7: Warren Holocaust Tattoos

Two Holocaust-related discourses back to back…what were we on this year? This one feels like it happened decades ago, but on March 9th, two ex-Elizabeth Warren staffers tweeted photos of their tattoos commemorating their time on the Warren presidential campaign. However, people were quick to comment that getting a string of letters and numbers tattooed on your body (in what was supposed to be the hex code for the Warren campaign’s official color, Liberty Green) too closely resembled Holocaust tattoos. The staffers ended up admitting that they would cover or alter the tattoos, however the phrase “Warren Holocaust tattoos” will live on forever as one of 2020’s funniest phrases.

6: Bernie Is My Abuser

Taking deep breaths as I type this because I’m still upset about Bernie losing the primary and I’m still upset that so many people wanted so badly to vilify a sweet old man who just wanted to get people healthcare. This discourse comes from the fact that Bernie shouts a lot, which is apparently the worst thing you could possibly do, and practically makes you abusive. Infamous Twitter user @SadyDoyle (who now goes by Jude and uses he/they pronouns) posted a tweet associating Bernie’s shouting with Jude’s own abusive father. Other people joined in in the replies, claiming that Bernie is “triggering” them by shouting a lot. Most people argued that Bernie isn’t shouting maliciously, he’s just an old Jewish man. This then took off from “Bernie is my abusive father” to “Bernie reminds me of my shitty ex-boyfriend” and took other forms as well. It was undeniably a trend throughout the 2020 primary to posit Bernie as a cold, malicious, evil person who angrily shouts and heads a horde of evil male followers. This discourse attempted to position Bernie as an abusive misogynist, much like his Bernie Bros, but instead it turned into a meme. I’m still sad about this, not gonna lie.

Honorable Mentions

Before we get into the top 5 discourse events of the year, I want to give a brief moment to acknowledge the honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut. The year had so much batshit discourse that it’s impossible for me to cover them all while retaining my sanity. Some wonderful topics that didn’t make the top 20 include CHAZ, Jia Tolentino’s parents trafficking immigrants, Joshua4Congress just being…him, Maidboy discourse, “Folx” discourse, public BDSM discourse, more recent Wojak discourse, and even necrophilia discourse. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the deranged and absurd discourse on Twitter made 2020 that much more fun, and thus a little bit easier to get through. Now with that being said, here are the top 5 discourse topics of 2020.

5: White People Pretending To Be POC

There are too many examples of this to count, so I’m going to speak on the trend as a whole instead of any specific example. I want to begin by saying that this is incredibly stupid, and I’m aghast at how many white people have individually decided to cosplay a different race to further their career or get them clout. This trend famously began years ago with Rachel Dolezal, but was reignited on Twitter when former George Washington University professor Jessica Krug was discovered to be a white woman pretending to be Black. There were other people, mostly academics, exposed for what has now been dubbed “blackfishing,” but they all had essentially the same story. Some of them explicitly pretended and claimed to be Black, while others took advantage of their ambiguous appearance and allowed people to assume or claim they were Black without correcting them. Either way, this is definitely one of the worst trends to spark discourse.

4: Women Can’t Be Autistic

This is probably one of the most actually harmful topics in this entire list. It began with an autistic TikTok user posting a video of herself listening to music with headphones, experiencing sensory overload. Someone posted the TikTok on Twitter, and it was quote tweeted on July 30th by Twitter user @s_amememe_, who said, “alright enough is enough, no woman has autism.” before going on to say, “Pretty interesting how every woman calling herself “autistic” has a fine-tuned social understanding of how to act cute and dress well, as well as a standard female’s desire to put pictures and videos of herself on social media.” My FAVORITE twitter user, Anna Khachiyan, then commented, “When women refer to themselves as “autistic” what they really mean is “pathological narcissist with zero maternal instinct but need to devise a way to continue receiving preferential treatment.” Then, twitter user @FredNietzky tweeted, “Women are sociopathicly appropriating autism in the same way that they appropriated “nerd culture” in the 2010s–everything has been hollowed out of its meaning and worn as a skin by women in lieu of actually developing interests or personalities, which is a struggle for them”.

Okay. So I feel the need to start by saying women absolutely can and do have autism, and these tweets are misogynistic at best. @s_amememe_ has blown up for other misogynistic tweets after this, but this was the tweet that propelled him to…infamy? The debate about disabilities and mental illnesses is a fraught one, and is probably most popular with the classic ADHD debate. It’s a known fact that ADHD and autism are under-diagnosed in women due to stereotypes and different ways of expression, yet people still believe women can’t/don’t have autism at all. Autism discourse has taken various forms throughout the year, but this was probably the biggest. This topic also isn’t very funny, but gets fourth place because, unlike things like charcuterie or bodegas, this sparked actual discourse. It was divisive and offensive and just sort of too insane to comprehend.

3: Okie Boomer!

Okie, boomer! Whatever you say, boomer!

When I was doing research from this article, I was shocked to find out that Okie Boomer didn’t happen in 2019, and in fact happened in March of 2020. To be honest, I can’t remember life before Okie Boomer. It’s like she’s always been there—mocking me in a Bernie Sanders crop top. At first glance, it seems like a woman dancing to a goofy song to promote Bernie Sanders isn’t discourse worthy. But you can never underestimate Twitter. The woman, who goes by Neekolul on Twitter and Twitch, was quickly called out for being “cringe”, which prompted many people to come to her defense for making a silly video online. However it didn’t stop there. How could it?

Neekokul ended up sparking a much bigger debate about women acting cutesy or childish in thirst traps, or in a sexual or flirtatious way. This discourse started way back in the day with Melanie Martinez, but got much bigger with Belle Delphine, the Twitch streamer turned musician turned pornstar who is best known for selling jars of her own bathwater to fans. Along with Belle Delphine and Neekokul is Bella Poarch, a tiktoker who is best known for cutesy videos, looking 15 but being 23, and having a rising sun tattoo.

Anyway, this debate had multiple different arguments. Many people argued that these women were intentionally acting childish for sexual purposes, thus sexualizing children and promoting or encouraging pedophilia. Other people argued that these were grown women who should be allowed to have sexual autonomy and weren’t doing any harm in their display of appearances or aesthetics. And other people seemed to argue, “who cares, they’re hot!”

After Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, jokes started flooding in about it being Neeko’s fault for the failed campaign. I think that’s a little unwarranted. Plus, it wasn’t nearly as cringe as Pete Buttigieg’s High Hopes dance.

2: Age Gap

Okay, I’ll admit. “Age gap discourse” could refer to a whole slew of controversies on Twitter. It seems like there’s always at least latent age gap discourse on Twitter. It’s the one constant in this crazy world. Anyway…

The best age gap discourse of the year was when 19 year old Twitter user @BeansHype (now deleted) married an 89yearold man named Lee Hopkins on October 11th. BeansHype (Olivia) shared their wedding photos on her Twitter, and the tweet blew up. Though at first it seemed like an unconventional, yet hopefully harmless marriage, Twitter soon discovered that Lee was a recent widower suffering from dementia, and that Olivia had previously tweeted about wanting to prey on him for his money, including one tweet where she stated she was going to “piss and shit and vomit on [herself]” after finding out how much money Lee had. As if it couldn’t get worse, it was then discovered that Olivia was previously Lee’s nurse aide at a nursing home, and they only dated from sometime in July up until their wedding in October. Many people pointed out that it seemed like she was taking advantage of him, especially with the rushed wedding. Olivia then deleted her account, though thankfully Twitter user @JackWilliamRtF posted a thread of screenshots that is still up if you want to see it for yourself.

I have to say, I’ve been on Twitter for a while now, and have taken part in dozens of variations of age gap discourse. This was, by far, the wildest. 

And finally:

1: Sexual Mutual Aid

If you’re shocked to see Merrick DeVille at the top of this list, you’ve likely been living under a rock. Merrick has arguably driven more discourse than anyone else this year, which is insane considering she only joined Twitter in January of 2020. Her account has recently been deactivated, but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about the #1 discourse topic of the year: sexual mutual aid. For those of you unaware, Merrick DeVille, otherwise known as “socialist gun girl,” is a “model, content creator, entertainer, pole dancer, and aspiring Suicide Girl.” Merrick had previously had a handful of viral tweets, mostly for advocating for people on the left to arm themselves, or from posting sexually provocative images, but sexual mutual aid is when she really took off.

It began on October 11, when Merrick tweeted “How do y’all feel about ‘sexual mutual aid will exist under communism’ as opposed to ‘sex work wkill exist’?” and boy did Twitter tell her how they felt! “Sexual mutual aid” instantly became a meme, with very little actual discussion of the topic. Some people embraced the concept as a great alternative to communist sex work, however an overwhelming majority of people seemed distrubed or confused by the proposal. Someone replied asking “isn’t ‘sexual mutual aid’ just sex?” to which Merrick replied “Yes and no. It needs to be acknowledged there’s weight, service, and sacrifice in willingly engaging in sexual acts w people you aren’t attracted to bc you know it will benefit them and society. It’s sort of dismissive and rude to just phrase it as regular sex.” Merrick then attempted to clarify, saying “Lot of people going ‘well it’s just sex then’, I disagree. Altruistically providing sexual services for people you aren’t attracted to bc you think a communtiy w access to intimacy & release is ideal & healthier than what we have now is more of a selfless service than “just sex.”

Yikes. Merrick’s further justification hinted at this “sexual mutual aid” being used to service disabled people, people with sexual dysfunctions, and otherwise unattractive or lonely people (many people pointed to incels) to provide them with pleasure that would ultimately help society. I’m not going to make a statement on communism, sex work, or incels, because The Evening Look doesn’t pay me nearly enough to do that, but what I will say is that Twitter did…not like this proposition. Merrick instantly became one of the most infamous Twitter users, later going on to cause other unrelated drama. From posting provocatively with her dog, to being accused of non-consensual exhibitionism, to taking nudes during a protest leading friends to think she was missing, to using international conflict to plug her OnlyFans, to…well you get the picture.

I think I can say, on behalf of all of Twitter: Merrick DeVille’s discourse made 2020 a whole lot more fun. Sexual mutual aid was easily the most entertaining discourse of the entire year, and I think we’ll still be laughing about it well into 2021. 

There you have it: The top 20 discourse events of 2020. It goes without saying that 2020 was a beyond shitty year, and I’m hoping that 2021 is better. But I’m also hoping that the discourse in 2021 is just as crazy as it was this year. 

-R. Peggio

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