“Let’s talk about the internet,” the YouTube celebrity Drew Gooden begins, flatly, in an 11-minute commentary video titled “Arrested for Clout.”
“Remember, like, 1,000 years ago when they invented the internet and everyone was like, ‘This is awesome. The world is changed and nothing but good will come from this’?” asks Gooden, who became famous because of a passably funny Vine in 2016. “And now people just use the internet to get really famous for doing dumb shit? Yeah, I remember that too.” As the video goes on, he becomes upset with people who are so desperate for “clout” that they participate in a viral prank—in this case, licking ice-cream cartons and putting them back in freezers at bodegas and Targets. Gooden singles out one teenage-looking boy for particular critique, noting that he didn’t even put the lid back on the ice cream, and that he is wearing striped pants Gooden finds extremely ugly, and that his boots are also ugly, and that, worst of all, he didn’t even succeed at getting attention. “If he considers the clout he received to be worth spending the day in the police station, he probably got a lot of followers, right?” Gooden asks, preparing us to look, together, at the boy’s Twitter account. “Like, 100,000 or 200,000?” He teases, and we wait. The boy has 8,000 followers, Gooden reveals. Gross!
Gooden, whose video has an elaborate, self-produced Squarespace ad spliced into the middle of it, would never commit a crime for such low returns. “What would you do for clout?” his video asks implicitly, assuming that it’s a question you have thought about and could answer.
The meaning of clout is porous, but the word is everywhere. As of this writing, 1.8 million Instagram posts have been tagged #clout. On TikTok, videos tagged #clout have been viewed 1.5 billion times. (Other popular tags include #cloutchaser, a derogatory term for someone who wants clout too badly, and #cloutcheck, a tag that precedes a boast about owning something expensive or knowing somebody famous.) A whole category of self-help books is dedicated to acquiring and wielding clout; examples include Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content and Clout: Finding and Using Power at Work and Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence.