It’s been a while since I did a video that’s just talking so I’m writing down some thoughts to use for such a video. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while but a few things have happened recently that I want to talk about. YouTube has always had a reputation for having the worst commenters and it seems like the most unhinged people on the internet are still thriving on YouTube.
So far the winners are Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) and people pushing the lie that cannabis cures cancer (let’s call them CCCs). I predicted Richard Dawkins fanboys would be as bad but it appears I owe an apology here because while there were a couple of idiots they pale in comparison to those other groups. In fact, one of the biggest idiots to respond to my Dawkins video was anti-Dawkins. It’s important to acknowledge when you’re wrong and I was largely wrong about the Dawkins supporters.
I feel like explaining why I’m so brutal with stupid commenters. YouTube is a brilliant medium for sharing your views, video is a really effective way to engage with people and make it feel like a conversation. Conversely, a comment thread is a terrible way to have an argument. If you want to make one point and get my response, that can work. But when people disagree with me that’s rarely the way they behave. They simply won’t shut up. And 9 times out of 10 what they comment is utter rubbish. Four categories in particular that I won’t waste time on:
- People who state the complete opposite of the truth as a “fact” (e.g. climate change deniers). There is absolutely no point in engaging with people like this. When someone can aggressively assert an easily provable lie as the “truth” there is no way forward. Conspiracy nutbags fall into this category as well.
- Really hateful commenters (bigots of any stripe). I simply refuse to give these vermin a platform.
- People bringing up something I have directly answered in the video as if I hadn’t answered it. Repeating the answer never gets through to them.
- People who assert that I said something I clearly didn’t (or people who want to tell me what I think or what I am – reality be damned). I know what I said, what I think and who I am. I don’t need some random idiot who knows nothing about me spouting rubbish driven by their own prejudices.
In short, it’s a waste of my time and creative energy. Every minute that one of these emotional black holes sucks up is one more minute I don’t have to develop entertainment for everyone else. How tolerant/intolerant I am of idiot commenters tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum depending on my mood but my response is always about preserving my own sanity. Nobody else gets to dictate how I live my life and how I choose to protect my sanity. No amount of petulant (and incorrect) whining about “censorship” will change that.
In a different setting (say, face to face) I’m willing to engage in a conversation with someone who has radically different views to mine *if* they’re willing to treat it as a conversation. If all somebody is going to do is dig their heels in and keep shouting their opinion without taking in anything that’s said in response then it’s waste of time talking to them. And that’s the problem with comments threads – they lack the subtlety of an actual conversation and trying to develop an extended discourse this way is far too time consuming and all too often a complete waste of time.
My recent exposure to MRAs made me feel like it was the “old days” on YouTube again. I hadn’t attracted that much hate from worthless losers since I used to go after racists and self-proclaimed Nazis. I didn’t realise there was still that much troll activism on YouTube (hooray for sheltered hetero white guy experience). Then came the CCCs. They are so tied up with selling snake oil cures that they remind me more of a cult. MRAs might be losers but I really, really hate these vermin seeking to profit from the suffering of others with their totally bogus “cures”.
Seeing the cult like behaviour of CCCs reminded me I’ve always thought it would be really easy to start a cult on YouTube. The cult of personality definitely exists but I mean a full blown cult, with a leader and slavish followers. I remember a guy from the early days of YouTube who I thought was on course to do this (not going to name him). He was basically immature, self-absorbed, and had that annoying trait some drug users have of deluding themselves that they are deep and original thinkers while talking rubbish. Unfortunately he was good looking and could speak in a way that was quite compelling to some impressionable people. He started to get quite dangerous as he was talking people into not taking their medication (for everything from mental health to cancer).
He ultimately faded away but he was the first YouTuber I saw that made me consider how easy it would be to move from being popular to actually exerting control over people and starting your own cult. I’ve consciously shied away from this sort of behaviour (telling people what to do) but all it would take to start building a cult is to speak with a compelling voice and lure people in by saying things they want to hear. Oh, and a complete lack of human decency.
Of course I could push the conflict with people like MRAs and CCCs for my own gain. Now I’ve found how easily they take the bait I could rage on them regularly just for notoriety. Or maybe go for some old school YouTube Drama and start a beef with a well-known neckbeard who isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is. But honestly, I don’t think I can be bothered. That’s never been my motivation. When I’ve gone after particular groups of people it’s been to get something off my chest and provide a bit of entertainment while I do it.
The biggest challenge to me has always been to be internally consistent or to put it another way, to stay true to myself. I’m quite conscious that some people would have trouble seeing that and accuse me of being a hypocrite but I can’t bring myself to compromise my own ethics to make other people happy. I always think very carefully about what I say before I say it (even if some people would argue I don’t) and I’ve never regretted anything I’ve said in a blog or a video. Well, not much.
It can be quite a challenge to keep to that standard but I’ll keep trying.