Gawker is back in the kinder, gentler form of Deuxmoi, an irresistible Instagram account that publishes dozens of crowdsourced blind items a week. There’s no question the account is entertaining, but whether it’s ethical is less clear-cut. Either way, it’s a reminder the future is now.
Deuxmoi, which has more than 500,000 followers, clearly didn’t set out to be the juggernaut it is today. The private account’s most dedicated followers huddle on Reddit and Facebook. It’s been called the Internet’s “Biggest Gossip” and “Best Gossip” by The New York Times and Elle, respectively.
Unlike Gawker, the anonymous woman behind Deuxmoi, who says she’s operating alone, is charitable. She regularly directs followers to various small businesses and causes. She also operates on some informal journalistic standards, like refraining from posting items that could reveal a celebrity’s immediate location or out him. When accusations of particularly egregious conduct are raised, celebrities are not named, but identified vaguely by their status as an A-Lister, B-Lister, and so on.
It works like this: Followers send tips, photos, and questions through Deuxmoi’s various channels, an email account, or Instagram direct message. She posts screenshots of the items to the account’s Instagram story, giving followers plenty of material to click through daily.
The content ranges from celebrity sightings to fan interactions to serious gossip. Just last week, for instance, Deuxmoi posted tips on everything from how an Emmy-winning actor has sex to how James Van Der Beek parked his car on the set of “Dawson’s Creek.” The account has nicknames for celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, referred to as “Headphones Dino Bones” for NSFW reasons, that cultivate a sense of community with followers.
Does Martha Stewart hate bananas? One of Deuxmoi’s tipsters says yes. Others say no. This is a recurring phenomenon on the account. Juicy gossip, like pregnancies, will be fervently reported by anonymous sources, only to be fervently refuted by others. What of the celebrities wrongly accused of slighting fans or bad tipping or general misconduct that nobody defends? What of the exaggerated anonymous tips about celebrity generosity authored by friends or public relations staff?
What of the working people downstream of any given celebrity who might be hurt by a celebrity’s reputation wrongly taking a hit? People share unflattering stories from decades ago that would be impossible to verify by soliciting another side. Some submissions—credibly, in select cases—claim to come from agents and executives and publicists and even celebrities themselves. It stands to reason Deuxmois will be used by stakeholders to spread false but flattering information about their clients.
The heroic Joan Rivers often justified her cutting quips about celebrities by arguing they have money and power and the rest of us should be able to laugh a bit at their expense. They, in turn, should be able to withstand it. Not only is that true, our current celebrity class is overrun by morally bankrupt elites who deserve to be exposed.
Deuxmoi is not a news website. It’s not actually Gawker. Now that we’re all equipped with self-publishing tools, anonymous and unverified information will always spread about celebrities, just as it did by word of mouth and every other method of communication prior to the Internet, although social media certainly can amplify the noise of gossip and even artificially increase its credibility. It’s also not as though Deuxmoi is without precedent—other blind-item websites have operated similarly.
But there’s a reason Hailey Bieber, the subject of a false pregnancy rumor posted to the account, did “FBI”-level sleuthing to figure out Deuxmoi’s identity. A lot of people follow the account, and in this age of reasonably intense media distrust, the distinction between serious news outlets and gossip outlets seems less important to readers.
I love Deuxmoi. I think it’s all fun and games. More amusing than the serious allegations are the many, innocuous submissions of mundane celebrity behavior at the grocery store or movie theater or book signing. But I don’t think entertainment news outlets should cover the account’s rumors without serious verification, and readers should be aware that compliments and flattering anecdotes could well be coming from publicists, directly or otherwise.
The rise of self-publishing is a challenging trend to navigate while grappling with falling trust in media, making projects like Deuxmoi both useful and dangerous. It’s useful to have platforms publish details (about say, Harvey Weinstein) that might get quashed at complicit corporate media outlets. It’s also dangerous to pass along unverified, anonymous gossip that can have real effects on people’s lives.
But, hey, if Martha Stewart harbors an irrational hatred of bananas, I want to know everything.