Joseph Saladino – better known as Joey Salads, internet joker – is half naked when he opens the door. I was a little shocked, but I am relieved that this is not a joke. If so, he greeted me with a camera that was right in my face and filmed a surprise vlog for his YouTube channel.
Joey is a notorious creator of content, known for leaking controversial stunts and & # 39; social experiments & # 39; who show themselves and his friends that they can do just about anything to collect attention and opinions. It has worked well for 2.5 million people to subscribe to his YouTube channel. Now he hopes that popularity will help him win a convention seat, promising that his home in Staten Island, New York, will be "Forgotten no more".
A large part of his early content was largely harmless and took place on TV shows such as ABC's What would you do? to teach viewers valuable moral lessons. But as Joey's channel grew, the stakes and the shock value also played a role. He parked his car twice to see how spectators would react. He pretended to kidnap children (with parental consent) and frighten them, hoping that they would learn not to trust strangers. In 2016, Joey's video & # 39; s became increasingly political, useful when support for Donald Trump was winning in the polls. He continues to film himself with the text & # 39; Black Lives Matter & # 39; and & # 39; All Lives Matter & # 39; for supermarkets and attending Trump protests. This content has been migrated from YouTube to Twitter, where Joey has often criticized mainstream media and social media platforms because he is biased towards conservatives such as himself.
But when he opens the door and only wears gym shorts, he apologizes and tells me he cleaned his house before I arrived for our sit-down interview. Before we even get a chance to really speak, he shoots away to take a quick shower and tells me: by the way, we're going to take a tour of the neighborhood instead. Along the way, Joey and his girlfriend Gila Goodman will hand out donation magazines and film for YouTube. He will document the entire campaign.
Joey & # 39; s bid for Congress is atypical, but his reason for campaigning sounds exactly as you would expect a self-described political outsider to say. "I am a very passionate guy. And I feel that I have the ability to actually make changes in the world. So I became very passionate about politics," says Joey. "And instead of complaining all day on Twitter, I would really like to make the leap to actually do something."
That's why Joey has been actively campaigning for the Republican Primary in New York's 11th district for the past two months. He is a content maker with more than 10 million followers on different social platforms and soon combines & # 39; the social media game & # 39; and & # 39; the ground game & # 39; to build a national political profile. Mixing successful playbooks is Joey & # 39; s thing, whether it's on YouTube, performing his various marketing activities or playing politics. His entire campaign strategy, he says, is a carefully composed mix of strategies that belong to the campaigns of Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
After he jumps out of the shower, Joey stores his Make America Great Again hat and prints off his donation leaves. Gila grabs the vlogging camera before we all jump into Joey & # 39; s metallic blue Tesla Model S and go outside. The Tesla is his second car. It is slightly less noticeable than its bright yellow Camaro, which car lovers can easily recognize by its video & # 39; s.
Joey throws on AC / DC & # 39; s "Shoot to Thrill" while we take the driveway and say: "I love cheerful, fast music because I work that way. I am very fast."
And with that, we tour the neighborhood and meet residents – at least the ones Joey checked for his vlog. Just like the music from the stereo, Joey drives fast and recklessly. The car suddenly stops, often my seat belt that cuts into my chest at every traffic light. I'm with you for the ride, and that's how it will be all day.
Our first stop is just a few kilometers from Joey & # 39; s house, a smoothie shop called Baya Bar, where one of his best friends, Steve Centineo, works. Aside from Steve, there is a whole laundry list of Joey's friends and family we will meet: two friends Joey helps sell a restaurant, his mother's friend, a fan he met at the gym, and his first boss who is a popular local pizzeria. Joey is not afraid to tell me that he has to collect donations from just about everyone. He is a grassroots, a campaign with social media, but he also hopes to get support from the Republicans in the New York establishment.
He didn't start badly either. Last month, Joey was photographed with a Republican political adviser and infamous nasty cheater Roger Stone during a fundraising campaign in New York to cover the legal costs of Trump's former legal adviser. On platforms such as Instagram, where Stone was not banned because of racist or sexist comments, he has become an extremely extreme martyr.
Joey says Stone became known for his campaign after a friend, who happened to be a Salad fan, told him all about it. I ask if he thinks Stone would support him. "I think so," Joey replies. "I don't know if that's something he's currently dealing with because of what he's dealing with." (Stone was indicted earlier this year by Robert Mueller, Special Counsel for various crimes, including witness manipulation and obstruction.) But approval from Stone, says Joey, would be "huge" for his campaign. Stone didn't respond The edgeRepeated requests to confirm his familiarity with the Salads campaign.
Joey is looking for an office at a time when the Republican Party is divided over its future, a war that has been going on since Trump was founded. The party fought for a long time to reach the youth vote, and after the election of Trump, popular right-wing internet figures found a home in the Republican party, often with the inclusion of young followers. Some republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), are starting to stalk the conspiracies and untruths that are spread through those side figures. It is clear that the party is still shifting, but it is unclear where it will land. Joey hopes to push it in his direction.
As we drive into Baya Bar, Steve greets Joey and Gila with a chocolate / peanut butter protein shake, knowing his buddy will enjoy it. & # 39; Joey is my best friend, & # 39; Steve tells me, handing over the drink to his friend. "About five years ago I didn't do very well in life. And if it wasn't for him, where I am now would not be possible." After he worked as an HVAC technician and never left his parents' house , Steve moved to Los Angeles to live with Joey and make video talk videos, the carefree lifestyle of influencer during three years of life.
"I would trust Joseph all my life, literally, because I have it. For three years my life was in his hands," says Steve. "He showed me time management, set priorities and everything I need to know for things I learned. Everything I do now is all because of him." Steve says he will soon open his own Baya Bar franchise in Miami, and he assures me that without Joey & # 39; s help, he can still live with his parents and work a dead end.
"If I become president," Joey says, "(Steve is going to be) secret service because I need someone who would really take a bullet for me."
Joe & # 39; s former boss, Frank van Domenico & # 39; s Pizza, glows with pride when he sees Joey walk in. Frank tells me how hard Joey sold pizzas at the age of 16, adjusted the service of the restaurant and forced them to work more efficiently. "Good boy," says Frank. "He is a man, but a great boy."
"People would like to stop here a lot, stop for a slice. I would just eat pizza here. Kids would walk by. They would stop here and take a picture," says Joey. He may not know what a secret agent might be service qualifies, but he understands the basic principles of campaigning: "People talk. So when someone sees me: & # 39; Oh, I saw the YouTube video with lying salads around. Who is that? "And they would look it up."
Driving around, I notice how much Joey & # 39; s campaign looks like a repeat of Donald Trump & # 39; s, but on a much smaller scale. Of course, part of this is intentional. Joey knows how and why the Trump playbook worked to get the man to choose, and he thinks he can turn NY-11 red again by implementing it himself.
& # 39; Salads & # 39; is perhaps not a name that is synonymous with high-rise buildings and hotels, but like the president, at first sight Joey is the portrait of success – a sort of success by the way. He is a world-famous YouTube star who earns enough money to drive at least two beautiful cars without beating the bank. He is a symbol of the millenialist "bustle" culture, an entrepreneur with a global profile who holds on to what he claims to be more than $ 100,000 marketing deals with influential brands. He dates to Instagram models and social media stars, and even if he is not in the lead role in network reality shows such as The intern, he is a new media icon in itself, on YouTube, something that is much more impressive for young people. He lives the dream on his own terms. And he wants to help you too, because according to Joey, with a small direction, one day you can be just as successful as he is.
"I'll give them advice that is worth a million dollars," says Joey. "I will advise them that companies pay me literally tens of thousands of dollars to give them." What is that advice? Unclear. Salads say it is proprietary.
All this success has not come without controversy. Joey agrees, refuses & # 39; politically correct & # 39; and lives for & # 39; owner of the libs & # 39 ;. It is a big part of his appeal and the involvement he gets for often painful, transphobic and racist tweets, memes, and pranks that have only helped him gather an eight-figure follower, an audience that he hopes he can vote in votes .
In a video with nearly a million views from March 2017, he is dressed like a Nazi, with a swastika bracelet wrapped around his upper arm, wandering around in a pro-Trump rally and asking participants if they support the Nazis. The goal was to tell the & # 39; story & # 39; Joey says that the & # 39; mainstream media & # 39; had insisted. "CNN told me that we are (Nazis & # 39; s)," he tells a family at the meeting. "It's the regular media. I thought we were all Nazis." Screengrabs of that joke follow Joey everywhere on the internet, but they don't torment him, he says. Popular figures such as art critic Jerry Saltz and former Democratic president-presidential candidate 2020, Rep. Eric Swalwell, tweeted the photo "out of context", as Joey likes to say, to condemn him as a Nazi.
How do you feel when someone requests that photo again?
& # 39; I just think that guy is an idiot because he's spreading the wrong information, & # 39; Joey says. "When you return and you discover the context of that photo, you will realize that I am not really a Nazi."
So you don't really hate when people use it?
"No," Joey says laughing. "I actually prefer it because it's part of the meme, and there's a lot of writing. And I think part of the meme is," Haha, look at these idiots promoting a fake photo. "It's clear that the photo is not fake, but the context behind it that they use is fake. It's like, & # 39; Ha. Another celebrity fell for it. What an idiot. & # 39; "
As we leave Baya Bar, a group of teenagers attempt to bring Joey down, waving him from the outside of the smoothie shop. & # 39; Gila, assume, & # 39; Joey demands. "This is good optics."
Joey is a hometown hero on Staten Island. Online he is a joker who pushes the boundaries of everything he can say and place. Over the past few days, he has prompted his audience to follow him across all platforms, fearing that his Twitter account will be banned as part of an as yet unproven Republican theory that Silicon Valley liberal-leaning companies are trying to censor their censorship . speech. It is a great trick to lay the foundation for an incoming (or perhaps ongoing) cultural war. It is also a smart marketing technique to increase its reach of social media.
Conservative bias is yet another example of right-wing conspiracies bubbling into regular political discourse. Shadow prohibition was once only discussed in extreme right-wing internet circles, but it is quickly driven through the information pipeline and out of the mouth of established politicians.
Twitter "SHADOW BANNING" prominent republicans. Not good. We will investigate this discriminatory and illegal practice in one go! Many complaints.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Now platform bias has become an important battle cry and a powerful campaign message for conservatives. Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, has held hearings and derailed any tech policy discussion in Congress, whether it is terrorism or data privacy, by Republican politicians who are angry about censorship. It is no longer just calls for action. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced legislation that would remove the largest legal shield of a platform, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, if a platform did not agree to filing audits that demonstrate that it is unbiased. In the one-year issue, what was once a marginal idea that was limited to extreme right-wing circles on the internet culminated in an important regular political issue.
Joey sees how this information pipeline works and he plans to take advantage of it. 4chan users, bored with boring politicians and carefully constructed messages, were attracted to Trump in 2016. He was unconventional and easy to dig through. If they were chosen, trolls were sure that Trump would shake up the whole political game: the "swamp" and the "political correctness" imposed on them both online and in real life. This sad irony flowed from channel communities and to the broader ecosystem of social media such as nuclear waste, so that every piece of traditional campaign campaign and marketing is tarnished with "meme magic".
From racist and transphobic zones to placing his penis in a hot dog sandwich and drizzling mustard on it, Joey seems to get lost in the influence that all views and involvement of social media entail.
One of the most flagrant & # 39; social experiments & # 39; that Joey drew was published in October 2016, just a month before Trump officially won the elections. In it, Joey leaves a car with Trump stickers and flags in what he calls a "black neighborhood". As he opens the video, Joey says, "You may have seen on the internet and through those polls that many black people don't like Trump and in some cases they don't like his supporters." A title card appears in the video suggesting that 30 minutes have passed and shortly thereafter a group of black men disappears. They destroyed the vehicle and smashed the windows with pipes and stones.
"As you can see from this video, the black community is very violent towards Trump and his supporters," says Joey at the end. "When I was filming this video, there were people out the window shouting & # 39; F Trump & # 39; and after filming, I spoke to some of the spectators who were black and said they & # 39 ; low key & # 39; Trump supported, but they & # 39; are afraid of the recoil of their community. "
The video went viral. Of course it did. It confirmed the racist beliefs of so many Trump supporters. It was linked on the Drudge report and has received more than 2 million views in total. But it was all fake. Shortly after the & # 39; social experiment & # 39; was posted, a video appeared on Twitter in which Joey came out as a fraudster, showing that the black men were lurking in the video while shooting himself in front of the camera. Influential YouTuber and podcaster, h3h3Productions & Ethan Klein, interviewed Joey after the event, and begged him for an apology. He eventually apologized, but not before apologizing for his behavior.
"I just see them as videos & # 39; s going up with numbers coming in," Joey says, suggesting that he has not taken into account the cultural impact that a video like this could have on his audience and YouTube as a platform .
Joey talks about that video today and tells me: "I was stuck in that YouTube mindset. If you are doing it full time, you lose a lot of control." He continues: "Sometimes you don't realize what you're doing because you're so in the camera You are so in your lifestyle and every aspect that is captured, and you lose sight of reality because you get stuck in your own world. "
Joey shows some regrets, but not much. "That was definitely a learning experience," he says. & # 39; I mean, the Nazi photo, I don't apologize for that. & # 39;
Do you hope that the "meme magic" we have seen with Trump will also help you to be elected?
"That's the way of the future," says Joey. "Memes are the most effective form of advertising." He is not wrong. When brands don't place half-hearted & # 39; watch & # 39; ads in our news feeds, their social media accounts are filled with meme-y content. For example, Arby & # 39; s social media editors like to put trending subjects and figures on napkins with the restaurant's namesake sauce. SunnyD participated in the existential sadness of millennials and tweeted: "I can't do this anymore" last February. It was supported by the support of a clique of other brands, such as PornHub and MoonPie, who were ready to wipe away the tears of the sugary orange drink.
But there is a dissonant in whom Joey is in person and the mask he puts on the internet. In 2017, he was again brought into the h3h3Productions platform to talk about his past and his career as a YouTube joker. He seems shy and quiet. The Kleins investigate why he films the regions he does, most of them fake and cheeky. Specifically, Ethan Klein asks: "What is your passion for the kidnapping problem?"
"It gets a view," Joey replies. "It's all about the views."
YouTube algorithms encourage this behavior. The more scandalous the content, the more clicks and views and the more money jokers and video makers like Joey make. Platforms are slowly implementing new rules, but enforcement is spotty. From the moment of publication, Joey still runs the racist Trump car joke video on his YouTube channel and benefits from it. Ads are placed before and after the video.
Joey is a marketer and it is clear that he understands how important messages are. And with memes and Twitter clapbacks, he can post quick, easily digestible campaign messages with a simple image that is overloaded with text or a quick quote tweet that defrauds his political opponents. Democratic state of Staten Island, Rep. Max Rose, has even noticed Joey's abilities City and state"If he wasn't such a blatant xenophobic, I'd consider hiring him. He's a good marketer!"
He went on to say: "Unfortunately, we do not hire all of those racists."
After dragging through the district for almost three hours, Joey brings me back to his house with Gila. When I leave, she comes hugging and Joey walks me to the door. In a few days he will receive his first major campaign event, a speech for the New York Young Republicans Club (NYYRC). He tells me that this is part of the & # 39; ground game & # 39 ;, the handshaking game. He fits, dresses his hair back and puts on his politician's mask.
The speech is one of Joey's first major campaign events, in which he tests whether his social media and brand awareness fit together politically.
Two days later, nearly 130 young Republicans displaced the top floor of Jack Demsey & # 39; s in Manhattan, prior to the first round of Democratic presidential primary debates. Joey will give one of his first speeches to the crowd, explaining why social media is so important to his campaign and why he is the one who should represent Staten Island in DC.
The attendees are mostly young and well-dressed, sporty MAGA hats and Trump Pence shirts while laughing and socializing around the bar. The New York Young Republicans are a close-knit group and one of the most active chapters in the country. They are here to watch the first round of the Democratic presidential debates, willing to "boo" the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, and call a racist Native American "war cry" when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks.
Joey & # 39; s campaign leader, Vish Burra, is the vice president of NYYRC. The position is partly why Burra is so well-known in the established republican scene. Members are often depicted with Republican politicians such as NYC City Minority Whip Joe Borelli and State Party Chairman Nick Langworthy. But Burra also understands how powerful social media and right-wing internet pundits are. The NYYRC had recently addressed extreme right-wing talking head Jack Posobiec to their club, and Burra has also helped organize Mike Cernovich & # 39; s Night for Freedom event over the past few years. (Joey has now personally interviewed Cernovich for his second channel too.)
"They are conservative influencers, not traditional influencers. People listen to them, especially those with political interests," says Burra. "That's the new limit we're starting at, and I think Joey will be the one showing that."
Shortly before the debate begins, Joey walks to the top floor of the bar to talk. He wears a gigantic smile, shakes his hand and strikes his back as he interferes with the members as he approaches the microphone. "Many of these Boomer republicans doubt me," he says. "Too many old-school republicans take control of this party. They don't understand social media. That's why you get AOC in power. She indoctrinates the entire youth in her foolish, left-wing ways because she can reach eight and ten year olds. & # 39;
Joey & jokes focused on public figures from AOC to David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, are greeted with a roaring applause. And while Joe walks across the street to find room to meet members, he is overwhelmed by participants of all ages who are willing to donate to his campaign.
Joey is the first big YouTube character who goes to the office and it is unclear whether his effect will translate into voter turnout. What is clear is that he has excited the entire social media ecosystem (positive and negative) about a small, highly controversial district in New York City.
While Joey is shaming, Burra explains Joey & # 39; s call to members – the social media game and the ground game. Towards the end of the night I ask Burra how Joey relates to his most important opponent, Nicole Malliotakis, a well-known republican and current assembly worker from New York.
"It could be perfect, but you can destroy it perfectly," says Burra. "If you are all lily box, if I throw a small dot on you, everyone will see the dot. Joey, on the other hand he is full of spots. He is interesting. It is very, very difficult to destroy interestingly, and that is what we bank on. "
He has been hard on Malliotakis on social media and often calls her a "total joke" or "the girl" in a contemptuous way. It is another Trumpism, which casts powerful women such as E. Jean Carroll and Megyn Kelly as opportunists. Malliotakis carries out a traditional campaign in which newsletters are distributed by lawmakers who support it, such as the former presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Malliotakis has strength in the party, and she is the clear forerunner at this point in the election cycle.
If Joey doesn't win? Well, he has a backup plan. "I have this other political app that we are doing. We are going to sell it to other political campaigns. We will try to use my campaign as the example. "He can't give me too many details, but he says he wants to be the one who triggers a revolution in the party. Again, he talks about the" ground game "and the" social media game. "
Joey wants the Republican party to use the internet differently: post more like Posobiec, tweet more like Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk. Win or lose, Joey wants to be the man who shows right-wing politicians how to grow their followers.
"Even if I come within one term," he says, "I want to be the man who comes in and teaches everyone," That's how you do it. This is how it should happen. ""