A requiem for @horse_ebooks

This week marks the ten year anniversary of Twitter's greatest achievement:

Over the last decade since the automated-spambot-turned-performance-art Twitter account @Horse_ebooks tweeted these infamous words, everything has indeed happened so very, very much — thanks in large part to the hellscape of Twitter itself.

Over at The Atlantic, Kaitlyn Tiffany reflects on the strange phenomenon of @Horse_ebooks, as well as the everything that has continued to happen so much:

When the sacred tweet first appeared, it was understood to be the product of an algorithm. The account, @horse_ebooks, had started as a spambot, pulling text from an e-commerce site and posting it as marketing. It developed a following because it was poorly written, and because its random phrases sometimes read like the mystical mumbles of a sleeping fortune-teller. But then in September 2013, just 15 months after "Everything happens so much," fans of @Horse_ebooks learned the truth: The "bot" had, in fact, been dead for years. In 2011, the account had been taken over and turned into a performance-art project run by Jacob Bakkila, and his friend Thomas Bender. Bakkila had purchased the account from the e-commerce spammer, and started tweeting snippets of found—but carefully selected—text from all over the internet, including instructional e-books and scans of public records. Bakkila told The New Yorker's Susan Orlean that he couldn't remember exactly where his most famous tweet had come from, but thought the original context might have been, "Everything happens so much faster when you're retired." In chopping that sentence in half, Orlean noted, Bakkila had made it koan-like. "I was trying to wrest wisdom from these wisdomless piles of information," he agreed.


If @Horse_ebooks did share some real, human wisdom, maybe that's because it had a real, human author. "Everything happens so much" captures the way that horror recurs even as it always feels final. When the Roe decision came down, I was knocked off my feet, even though we knew it would happen and even though it had kind of already happened before, and I was also knocked off my feet that time. The tweet can always be said to describe "this week"; it always makes sense to be "really feeling this today"; and it is constantly the case that it "has never been more true than now."

This article makes me long for those simpler times when Twitter was full of delightful irreverence, instead of just dumpster fires. Even as AI systems become more and more ubiquitous, none of them will ever quite achieve the unintended profundity of @Horse_ebooks. Sometimes it feels like the last time I believed in anything was when I still believed in the mystery and happenstance of that stupid spambot.

The 10-Year-Old Tweet That Still Defines the Internet [Kaitlyn Tiffany / The Atlantic]