The Skimm is a great follow if you like your news distilled into nutritionally-vacant lumps of mermaid-hued sugar. The daily newsletter’s founders proclaim, “Reading the news is time consuming; wanting to read the news is a hobby; lastly, not everyone has the time or interest,” and it’s gained notoriety for reducing complex policy issues to vapid millennialisms—see: Saudia Arabia “clapping back” at Iran; “Lil Kim” Jong Un and his “snazzy haircut”; populism as “Hunger Games minus JLaw.”
I follow The Skimm on Instagram for an easy laugh—to see how the news might look if it were delivered by an offensively broad caricature of an entire, chanting sorority. But on Wednesday night, I found myself witness to a quiz—sandwiched between a woman doing squats and a cat blinking—so bafflingly lacking in humanity that even I, a woman who is by now largely rock, found my mouth so widely agape that a community of mice crawled in and established a small commerce district.
“What’s the name of the groups in the Philippines ordered by Duterte to kill people?” The Skimm’s Instagram account holder inquired atop an aquamarine background. The options: “DEATH SQUADS,” and “DEATH CREWS,” both in complementary rainbow ombré. (Seventy-one percent voted for “DEATH SQUADS,” for what it’s worth.) Two questions later: “How much does Duterte pay people to kill others in the name of the drug war?” The answers here: $2,000 or $5,000. (There’s an answer key at the end, in case you care!)
In Slate, Christina Cauterucci called the Skimm the “Ivanka Trump of newsletters,” aptly describing its publishing strategy as such:
The Skimm treats its readers like they’ve never read an article, looked at a map, or accidentally seen a CNN segment in their dentists’ waiting rooms. Its patronizing tone assumes that female news consumers tune out anything of import if it’s not processed through verbal eye-rolls.
The overt condescension—along with vague, meaningless attempts at remaining nonpartisan—of the brand comes into sharp relief when writing about a year in which the most fundamental human rights issues have become political talking points.
But that’s what theSkimm’s six million subscribers want, I guess: news about a murderous demagogue distilled into an inoffensive multiple choice question on the objectively stupidest app. Like that quiz about whether your friend’s dog is a good boy—passively clickable, forgettable, empty calories.