Hipster Runoff was a one-man blog that ran from 2007 to 2013, specializing in sardonic criticism of culture and music. Beloved by internet readers and hated by its high-profile targets, the site mysteriously went down in 2012, and although it came back for a while, it never quite recovered and was eventually sold.
The mystery of Hipster Runoff’s original downfall might be solved, however, as Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, recently claimed she hacked the site and destroyed its backups after photos of her at a party appeared on the site and went viral.
In 2012, Hipster Runoff ran a photo of Grimes kissing another woman, which she claims was leaked. This apparently pissed her off enough to attack the site and shut it down, she said in an interview last month with Vanity Fair.
“Back in the day, like before the woke era, I actually got canceled for this,” she said in the interview, referring to the photo. “I was trying to be like, all integrity, and start my career, and it was like ‘Grimes Gone Wild’ or something, and it was just this like, super wack, mean story, and it was like this meme which was going all over the internet,” she says. She’d just released her breakout album Visions a few months prior, which won a bunch of awards.
Grimes claims in the interview that a friend, who worked for a video game company, helped her issue a DDOS attack against Hipster Runoff (a method for overwhelming a website’s servers with fake traffic until it stops working) and “basically blackmail them,” she said. “We were like, we’re not gonna let you put your site back up until you take the story down. And he did in fact take the story down, and it was like, my coolest hacker moment.”
Whether or not the photos were actually “leaked,” as she claims, is unclear; infosec professional Jackie Singh wrote in a blog post about her recent admission that the photos may have first appeared on a NYC photographer’s popular party-pictures website (which published an accompanying glossy photo book).
After the site went down, former Motherboard editor-in-chief Derek Mead interviewed “Carles,” or Carlos Perez, the man who ran the site. “My hosting company and support team say that there are signs of foul play on the server, and some of the last actions before it crashed are very suspicious,” Carles said at the time. “My server disk has crashed and remote backups were sabotaged.” He said he had his suspicions about who might do this (a scorned musician or band, maybe, he thought) but wouldn’t speculate publicly.
Hipster Runoff straddled an online era between Something Awful’s obnoxious homebrew snark that was hard to look away from, and TMZ’s shitpost journalism as a profession—the dawn of the professional blogging complex—that could get you into serious trouble if you pissed off the wrong people. A few years later, in 2016, Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker over publishing of his sex tape bankrupted and essentially ended the site as we knew it. In hindsight, this was Hipster Runoff versus Grimes, just on a much bigger scale.
The fact that Grimes can bring this up 10 years later, and couch it in the ideas of anti-wokeness and cancellation, is absurd. DDOSing someone is a federal crime, as would be destroying their property in the form of erasing backups—but she’s well beyond the statute of limitations. She’s comfortable talking about it now because she wasn’t “canceled” for anything; she’s sitting in front of a camera talking to one of the biggest culture magazines in the U.S., which broadcast the photo again in this video interview. Since 2012, she went on to make several more critically acclaimed albums, walk red carpets, have kids with the world’s richest man, and get profiled endlessly by the country’s biggest media outlets and magazines. A “leaked” photo of her having fun at a party didn’t ruin her life, but her revenge plot did take down a pretty good website.
After Hipster Runoff went offline, Carles wrote for Motherboard for a few years about the media industry under the name Carles.Buzz.