The same could be said for any online media, from news articles, to videos, to social media posts. There are outlets and people that are worthwhile taking the time to listen to, be it because they’re factually accurate or have a fresh analysis or opinion on a certain topic. But there are a number of outlets with the sole purpose of propagating lies and inaccuracies, mostly for the sake of profit. Videos, however, are a powerful way to get a message across.
Admittedly there is another case of wanting to share a quote but being unable to remember where it came from, this time on procrastination: “If you’re going to procrastinate, do it productively.” This can take many forms, a common one being what two of my friends do and proceed to clean the house. But I am, for good or ill, a fan of YouTube, and probably too often find myself going there when I should be focused on other tasks.
There is a way to make YouTube a ‘productive’ form of procrastination, however, and that is by watching videos with educational value. In my case, perhaps something relevant to my degree wouldn’t go amiss, but I tend to watch philosophy and history videos, some of which have the added bonus of being videos debunking the aforementioned fallacious personalities. It almost feels likes a guilty pleasure, learning something through the calculated take down of another person’s incorrect arguments and making your own judgements on the whole situation.
An example I’ve mentioned once before on this site is a Swedish channel called “The Golden One”, whose ideas are so easily debunked that they hardly warrant mentioning – if not for the fact that there are indeed people who watch and believe them. One of his recent videos blamed the Dayton and El Paso shootings on mental illness, the “West’s” perversion of masculinity and depriving men of goals to strive for, and the ‘left’. Never mind the rampant gun culture in the US, or the manifesto the El Paso shooter released online directly quoting Trump’s rhetoric about saving the country from an invasion.
Or the fact that the masculinity, mental health, and video game scapegoats are completely unfounded. Sure, no one who carries out such a devastating attack is ‘alright’ in the head, but to put the burden of their actions onto those suffering from mental illness is pathetic.
But there are people who will lap that up. This is where channels like YouTube become two-sided. One on side, you have people who legitimately want to try and inform and teach others what they know, and on the other, misinformation is a means to an end – did I mention that The Golden one, and a number of others like Paul Joseph Watson, InfoWars, etc. all have products to sell you? You too can avoid being a beta-cuck by buying over-priced shit from a deluded internet personality. The channel PragerU (Prager University) goes a step further, claiming to be a ‘university’ with ‘courses’ that are merely 5-10-minute videos overflowing with trash. But the prestige of the word university attached to misinformation seemingly tricks people who believe it into thinking their ‘facts’ are legitimate, just suppressed.
The question can be easily turned around though – how do I, and others, know that the channels we watch are in fact good? Could we not just be victim to our own elaborate echo chamber, simply taking a different perspective? Well, if you follow the right people, not really. I will unashamedly mention a couple of my favourites here, for various reasons:
- Philosophy Tube: an excellent channel dedicated to, obviously, matters of philosophy. While most of his stuff is related to philosophical ideas in an educational way, when he does express political views or put across his stance on something, it is almost always backed up not by opinion, but with (to borrow Ben Shapiro’s favourite quote) facts and logic. Whether you personally agree with what he’s saying or not, you can’t deny the legitimacy of his positions.
- Shaun: most of this guy’s videos that I watch are response videos to things other people have posted. He very carefully dissects the arguments and facts presented by people like Lauren Southern, Paul Joseph Watson, Stephan Molyneux, etc., quite often even using the sources those people cite against them. Even if those other channels use legitimate sources, the distortion and wild leaps in logic are worthy of an Olympic gold; it also makes it easy to debunk when their only justification is the ‘left’ or ‘cultural Marxists’ are to blame (my piece on historical revisionism was inspired by a video by Molyneux where he accused the vaguely defined ‘left’ of rewriting Western history, while he unironically proceeds to spend hours doing just that to push his own views). Again, whether you agree with the political views of Shaun’s channel, you cannot fault the amount of actual research that went into his videos.
As described by many before me, and surely many after me, a lot of the channels spewing misinformation do not need to rely on the truth to sell their content (and merchandise). Their target audience isn’t people who are looking to learn, but who are looking to be outraged, looking to validate their misconstrued version of reality. A recent Paul Joseph Watson video that tried to prove that Trump was not at all racist proceeded to take clips of Bernie Sanders and AOC so out of context that it is startling people don’t see through how manufactured the videos really are. But because Sanders and the ‘Squad’ are the ‘enemy’, because that’s just what they know, the misleading portrayal of those figures is seen as truthful.
An aside, to explain the above: a clip of Sanders saying, “you would think that you’re in a third world country,” was used to prove Baltimore’s decrepit state, even though no context was given to the clip. Yes, Bernie was talking about Baltimore – in 2015, and in a way that was trying to bring attention to the fact that in the wealthiest nation on earth, there were cities like Baltimore that had been forgotten and downtrodden. But PJW fans didn’t get that – Bernie must also be racist because he happened to agree with Trump (or was it, Trump repeated a similar line to Sanders’ from 4 years ago with incredibly different and loaded rhetoric, targeting a black leader in the process?).
In the other clip, AOC was shown be ‘losing’ an argument with who I believe was a former ICE official of sorts – the man’s position is irrelevant. But even without context, that clip is self-explanatory – AOC is citing International Law when she says people seeking asylum are not breaking the law, and she gives up after this elderly white guy repeats the same line of “they’re illegal” about three times. That’s not ‘losing’ an argument or being wrong, that’s just the audiences’ utter lack of knowledge about International Law.
So, the point of this – not really a major one to be made, I guess, other than to just be careful about where you source information. If you believe an outlet is wrong, why, how can you prove that? Flip that around – if you believe an outlet is right, why, how can you prove they’re right? The key is that you shouldn’t automatically disregard the views of various channels – some are brilliant, some are distasteful (to put it mildly) – but to critically analyse them and be able to explain why you believe one is right or wrong.
YouTube is a wonderful place for some productive procrastination – just don’t fall into a web of lies while you’re there. (Again, concepts here apply to any medium, including news articles.)
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