Some Philadelphians have disagreed with Mayor Jim Kenney because of his policy. Others may now be doing the same because of his cheesesteak order. But it’s the photos people are really mad about.
On Friday, for National Cheesesteak Day, the city’s Twitter account commemorated the event by tweeting Kenney’s alleged cheesesteak order: American cheese, onions, and ketchup. Questionable, but to make matters worse, it was accompanied by photos of an unidentified hoagie monstrosity — we hesitate to call it a cheesesteak, and the mayor’s office later confirmed it’s not — topped with pickles, banana peppers, and a thick drizzle of fire-engine-red ketchup.
Within an hour, the tweet garnered more than 53,000 views and a number of enraged replies. But we’re not buying that these photos are honest.
While we can’t say with certainty, between the poorly composed photos and the city’s repeated use of the smiley face emoji, this looks to us like a classic case of rage-baiting.
What is rage-baiting and what does it have to do with cheesesteaks?
Rage-baiting, also known as rage-farming, is a common practice on social media where content creators publish things that will intentionally make viewers mad. Typically, the goal is to earn virality because, let’s face it, when people are mad about a tweet or a video, they share it.
On TikTok, known rage farmer Ryan Gawlik would purposefully call espresso “expresso” or bite into a whole KitKat bar without breaking it with the goal of boosting his engagement. It’s become a lucrative move for his career, he told Insider.
In the food scene especially, deliberately bad and gross takes are popular. Like tabletop nachos. Or, more recently, a “scratch-made” pasta made from blended boxed pasta that prompted outrage.
The city’s tweet, we suspect, is no different. When one user replied, “This can’t be real,” the city’s account replied, “😬,” best known as the “grimacing face,” a yellow face with clenched teeth meant to express nervousness or awkwardness.
The photos are also especially gross, almost resembling something from the popular Boys Who Can Cook Instagram page — a meme account that posts photos of intentionally bad-looking meals — or hearkening back to 2013 when Martha Stewart got roasted by online viewers for her ugly food photography.
It’s worth noting that the Philly account’s food photos appear to be originally sourced. A Google reverse image search couldn’t track down another place they had been published. Meaning someone in the mayor’s office may have actually made that meal — yikes.
The photos don’t match Kenney’s usual order
Some lightweight social sleuthing was able to quickly corroborate the fact that Kenney does have a true taste for the American, onion, and ketchup combo. His press team later confirmed the same to The Inquirer. He also recommends the Trainwreck Cheesesteak at Becks Cajun Café for a less traditional order, a spokesperson said.
But he’s never ordered pickles, raw tomatoes, and whatever else was piled on in those pics.
In fact, the mayor posted a tweet from his own account about National Cheesesteak Day with an ostensibly normal-looking cheesesteak (though he did opt for ketchup) being assembled at Reading Terminal Market and then making its way to his desk.
In 2018, Kenney tweeted about a trip to Max’s where he got American cheese, onions, and — not ketchup, but hot sauce. Acceptable!
What is the city saying about its tweet?
On Twitter, the city’s account admins are committing to the bit — and they’re using a lot of GIFs in the process.
But when asked by The Inquirer about the photos, a spokesperson admitted they weren’t of a cheesesteak at all, but a loaded steak hoagie.
“[A] steak hoagie with the works (the order featured on the City of Philadelphia Twitter account) is not for everyone,” they said in an email. “But that’s the beauty of the cheesesteak — you can make it your own!”
When pressed as to why they would post photos of a steak hoagie on National Cheesesteak Day other than to rage-bait, a spokesperson didn’t immediately respond.