The U.S. Government's Weirdest Twitter Account Is Postmodern Internet Art


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is a federal agency charged with “protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard.” To that end, the agency also runs one of the weirdest social media presence of any government-run Twitter account.

From its verified account, the agency tweeted an offbeat, if benign, message about poison prevention on Monday

Here is the agency’s current pinned tweet:

The level of irony with which one is supposed to read these tweets is unknowable. The tweets could either be written by a very Photoshop-proficient 40-year-old federal employee or a 23-year-old liberal arts school graduate who listens to vaporwave and has been irony poisoned beyond recognition.

The account features innocuous-looking safety tips and alerts about products that have been recalled:

Interspersed with stuff like this:

I’ve been following @USCPSC for the past few months and am always somewhat unnerved by how the account walks the line between innocent household safety tips and post-post-post-modern memes about replacing your smoke alarm battery. I’m not sure if I like whatever this account is doing, but it feels visionary, somehow. (I’ve reached out to the CPSC’s “social media specialist” and will update this post if I hear back about their process.)

Please read these tweets and share in my confusion:

The account also features the USCPSC’s safety mascot, Barks McWoofins:

Like Schrödinger’s Beagle, I cannot tell if we are meant to think McWoofins is alive or dead. Perhaps he is both at once.

Update, March 20, 5 pm: CPSC social media strategist Joseph Galbo, the man behind the myth, emailed Splinter:

I joined the agency in July of 2016 and one of the things the team discussed early on was how we could do a better job of cutting through the noise online if we adopted an approach that was a little bit unexpected. The message would still be the lifesaving safety information that we need to get to the public, but the messenger would be something they’ve maybe never seen before.
A number of the things we most often post about have deadly serious consequences. Smoke alarms are a great example. We know a lot of people don’t have working smoke alarms in their homes, it be good to have someone reminding you to check them or replace them, it could save your life, but we also know people don’t like it when the government tells them what to do. So the problem is how do you reach people when maybe they don’t want to listen? Maybe with a story — say, a knight who’s having a bad day and decides to do something about these unsafe chairs or a tiny dog who flies around on a smoke alarm and has a large pigeon friend named Chuck– maybe you’ll make it through, and maybe today’s the day they get that smoke alarm working, and maybe it saves their life.

Thanks for all you do, Joe!

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