To main heading
Headshot of Patanjali Sokaris

Pondering the universe


YouTube – a creative wasteland

YouTube is very popular, but it seems to be filled with much dubious content.

There are many good videos, including many how tos that help us do things ourselves that we would otherwise have to pay others to do. There are also many, like Tom Nicholas, Innuendo Studios, Shaun, Unlearning Economics, BadEmpanada, Zoe Bell and Salari, who produce quality video essays where they take a lot of effort on obviously low budgets to inform and educate us on topics that we would otherwise have to spend an inordinate time ourselves. They help expand our awareness without trying to suck us into some selfish emotional honey trap.

Forget the content, just subscribeβ–³

A sign of desperation is a presenter spruiking for subscriptions before showing any content.

Ever gone to a website and before getting any chance to read anything, a popup box requests registration. Unless having previously visited the site and been very happy with what it offered, there is absolutely no reason to provide personal details before getting a chance to actually determine whether the site is trustworthy and useful enough to bother registering with. This is exactly the sort of lack of consideration that turns people away from a site.

The YouTube equivalent is the prompting for subscribing and receiving notifications before ever having a chance to see if the content is actually worth doing that for. Pretty well any YouTube user knows how to subscribe and get notifications because they have already done it at some stage, so it is not like they don't know what to do. This is just superfluous and gratuitous self-promotion with absolutely no benefit to watchers. Hopefully more people will just immediately stop watching so that these channel owners learn that worth must be proven in order to get viewers to trust them enough to want to subscribe.

Related useless activities are waffling on about one's personal reasons or feelings or launching an ad before revealing any of the content. The opportunity window for getting people to stay engaged is about 10 seconds. Don't waste it on irrelevancies or ads that are just a distraction for the viewer and more likely to turn them off. Just because other channels do it doesn't mean that it works.

Ignorance as a virtue – reaction videosβ–³

A particularly lazy form of video producer is those doing their reactions to somebody else's work.

The format for these videos is pretty simple: they play someone's video to completion, occasionally pausing to add a couple of their thoughts before returning to passively sit there in silence and watch it like we are. The basic premise upon which this format is based is that they have never seen nor heard the video before, and so their reactions are supposedly genuine.

We are supposedly being given an emotional window into their being witness to something amazing that they were ignorant of, but that we know and love, and thus are attempting to engage us in some sort of illumination ceremony centred on them. This is their plan to emotionally engage with us.

This is so bad on many levels:

  1. aExtremely lazy content production
  2. bBlatantly selfish emotional manipulation
  3. cAlmost no added new intellectual property provided
  4. dPurloins a complete existing work of creative intellectual property.

Some of these content rip-off con artists even claim fair use in their total appropriation of someone else's work. Fair use is meant for the purposes of review, evaluation or even parody, but in all cases, it is meant to only allow the minimum portions of a work necessary and appropriate to illustrate the points being made by the appropriator. It necessarily needs to be a small part of a new work, and thus definitely not the total basis for adding spurious and spasmodic commentary.

This is extremely lazy and exploitative appropriation of another's work, with no significant value-added for a viewer other than a brief sense of emotional connection before realising the con taking place. These videos are total exploitation of both the original artists and the new viewers. Don't indulge these cheap con artists!

Now, there are many who do provide in-depth analysis of other's works, but some lament having to be wary of using too much for fear of being caught out by YouTube or the copyright holders of the original works. Perhaps they ought to focus upon making original works of their own instead of over-relying upon usurping others for one's livelihood.

All this highlights two problems with the current economic systems. One is that the economy is not really geared to supporting people creating their own content as they feel forced to scrounge existing content in order to timely make content that they can monetise. The other side is that copyrights are far too long, compared to patents, and so lock up the collective of human accomplishments purely for selfish exploitation well after the amount of time the original creators really needed to make a living out of their work.

That does not really excuse those lazy content creators, but like most widespread problems, they came about because of systemic exploitation by a few powerful and influential people to favour their own wealth and aggrandise their own importance. Until we deal with the corruption and manipulation at the core of exploitation and inequality, those at the bottom rungs of society will continue to have to eek out an existence from whatever they can, even if it aggravates us.

I can do that!β–³

People who have watched videos on topics they are interested in sometimes think they can they could be spending their time doing the same thing.

Video production requires a lot of skills, and when done well can make it seem effortless. That seems to give some people the idea that they could do the same. After all, how hard can it be? What we see when they begin is overlong videos full of poor scripting, many distractions and often lack of focus by the presenter.

People have got to start somewhere, but a modicum of preparation and attention to the narrative would have led to vast improvements. The problem is that many don't seem to have the awareness or inclination to make any improvements. They may get a small following which may just make them think that they don't have to change anything, which means they don't bother to learn what may make them better communicators.

These are people who have turned an interest of theirs into a channel, but they are not really grounded in the nuances of their interest, and so don't evolve to learn more or improve their production and presentation skills to help their viewers get more out of their topics. They are personable, but not communicators, and so spend more time in chat-like meandering dialog rather than knowledge transfer.

These are not malicious people trying to subvert us, but they are bordering on incompetence, both in their subject matter and presentation. It is very easy to lose interest in them, but not until after having spent time indulging them, only to find they are a waste of time compared to those who want to do better. Fortunately, after having watched a couple of such people, it is easier to spot others like them soon after their videos start.

Shaggy-dog yarnsβ–³

What seems like it might be an interesting story is a long drawn out video yarn with lots of stock footage.

While from different channels, the format of these videos is the same, with a voiceover narrating a story while accompanied by stock footage. The voice is trying to make us feel the story, but after enduring the 10 minutes or so of the yarn, the feeling is that it could have all been told in 30 seconds, at a stretch. The stories just aren't worth the wait, especially with multiple parts covering the same points.

Reaching the end of any of these feels like the time was wasted, just because the boring voiceovers, while trying to make the incidents they are describing sound interesting, have gone on for so long that the end always seems such an anticlimax. There are never any actual videos or pictures of the real incidents or people, just a parade of stock footage that doesn't even have any continuity with the story other than being suggestive of the emotions that the voices are trying to convey.

It only takes a couple of these to recognise the vocal droning and thus stop them to avoid feeling abused timewise. These seem like they are made up stories disguised to sound like they are about real situations, and nothing is ever presented that can be used to verify any of them. Fake stories with fake emotions.

Stop shouting!β–³

Many internet behaviours can be attributed to the dominance that US culture has in setting internet trends. One of these is shouting to create interest and attention.

It doesn't seem to be enough to just speak, but the habit of speaking loudly and fast seems to have spilled over from US comedy into US internet presentations, as if such modes of talking will make the topic more interesting. It seems as if they are assuming their audience is on valium and needs a pep up to pay attention. Unfortunately, some commentators from other countries have started using these annoying speech modes that only detract from being able to listen to what they have to say without feeling bombarded.

Serious topics do not need US comedy techniques to spur interest. Using them will only undermine any rational thinking about the topic, but then rational thinking may not be the aim. Such techniques are more conducive to creating an emotional response, which would indicate a need to push an agenda by overtaking and blowing up their viewers' rational response ability to weaken their resistance to the agenda. Of course, anyone who does not like shouting will turn off pretty quickly, leaving those more susceptible to making decisions by such wow-factor antics.

We are beginning to see a lot more videos from people who do not speak English well enough to narrate their videos, so they just show what they are doing. It is such a relief to not have any banter but just to see them do their stuff. This has so much less distraction. The only problem is if they have loud music which then becomes distracting.

There are plenty of quieter and more rational presenters with presentations that help the understanding of their topics. Steer clear of the shouters!

While on the topic of loudness, many not used to mixing audio seem to be relying on the meters when working out what levels to have music. Because music used for backgrounds or non-speech portions is often compressed compared to speech, and thus has high average levels, it can sound much louder than talking which is mostly spikes of sound with quiet in between. This has the effect of overpowering the voice, or music in non-voice sections sounding too loud. Watch the meters to make sure that there is no over-loading, but listen to what music sounds like in the mix. Often, lower is better!

Demolition derbyβ–³

The word demolished, often in all uppercase, is used to imply that the video will completely undermine the validity of its target. Wishful thinking!

The premise underlying this is that debunking the rational basis of the target idea or person's point of view is somehow enough to bring them down in the eyes of their viewers, and by implication, the wider public. This harks back to the expression the pen is mightier than the sword, as if mere words are enough to effect great changes. This ignores that those words, even though they may have changed peoples' minds and beliefs, will not have tangible effects until those people back them up with their own actions en masse, often with the threat of coordinated violence.

Words are merely the expression of an idea, but that idea needs a whole lot of subsequent actions to implement it, and each of those will have their own challenges, and resistance from those who disagree. Without successful implementation outcomes of all those follow-up actions, the idea has no lasting effect. Touting the words does not do anything other than inflate the utterers sense of importance. Believing that the words have had any effect on their own is delusion. Great ideas do not become that until uttered repeatedly by a great many people over a long period.

To make words have an effect, they have to inspire others to change their beliefs, so much so that they will find ways to make sustained changes in their habits that will change their lives and those of the people around them. Living an idea is hard work because it involves a myriad ongoing decisions to stick with the idea over competing interests and stresses. That involves sacrifice, and that challenges resolve.

The mere suggestion of some sort of victory in the title to a video doesn't cut it. Victory can only be uttered when an idea has been fully implemented and has popular support as such. Without that, it is fantasy. Of course, using the word demolished is just click-bait to create inflated view numbers. If the talking head in the video actually knows what they are talking about, the use of the word in the title sells them short because it belittles their message, which can never fulfil what the title claims. Better that they sack their title writer if they want to have credibility.

Political videos – a group pile-onβ–³

There are many channels devoted to putting a political spin on events reported by mainstream media.

In these videos, we have a main presenter who outlines the main point of a news item or article, and then proceeds to put their spin on it, often quoting from it. That is followed up by one or more people adding their own spin to it. This then generally results in a free-wheeling conversation laced with ridicule and other snide remarks.

This format follows the format of a lot of TV morning shows where the presenters basically drown a news item in irrelevancy and spurious comments until it loses relevance. In the end, these TV shows and YouTube channels serve to subordinate the news in favour of promoting their personalities, turning important events into a look at me competition.

Ironically, these YouTube channels denigrate their source mainstream channels for pushing their agenda and propaganda, yet ignore how much they rely upon showing that content verbatim while earnestly pushing their own agenda and propaganda. A hypocrisy-fest all round!

Unfortunately, it is the combination of spin and personality indulgence that undermines any real value from these channels. In the end, they don't provide any lasting value, but become a source of dissatisfaction and resentment. Steer clear of them once having realised how little value they provide. Their only redeeming grace is that they do expose some interesting content from the mainstream media, but it is best to just watch those bits and skip through the rest to avoid the spin and keep a sense of perspective.

Parasites on insecurityβ–³

It is natural for a visual medium to end up being focussed on physical appearance, but YouTube is over-endowed with all manner of parasites that prey on other's inscurities.

Between self-help gurus that only seem to be helping themselves, vacuous commentators on rich peoples' lives, and get-rich quick schemers, there are so many that are trying to pressure people into seeing their lives as a failure if they are not focussed on making lots of money and spending it on goods and services to make them look good.

This is a recipe for cultural suicide as it only sees people as either exploitable or exploiters as the only two valid identities. There are no grey levels or accommodation of people having other priorities in life. To the exploiters, the prize is to rise to the top of the heap to be an uber-exploiter.

Of course, all this is sugar-coated as some alpha fantasy of natural order, which was based upon research done in 1947 by Rudolph Schenkel on wolves at a Swiss zoo. The so-called alpha males were those who dominated all others and so defined the effective hierarchy of the zoo pack. This research came to be translated into humans as a reason why males were naturally inclined to dominate, and any attempts at changing this was undermining the male psyche.

However, when Rudolph started studying wild wolves, he learned that there were no alpha wolves terrorising the rest, but caring males that looked after their families. This was such a revelation to him that he disowned his previous research as it was based in what wolves did when confined and under duress.

Unfortunately, the myth continues to be used as a justification for selfish domination and wealth accumulation, with the constant exhortation to be greedy providing the stress to keep the myth going. Justifying dubious means with dubious ends does not end well for those involved. With so many millions caught up in the fantasy that most cannot achieve, the sick game will take a while to play out.

Of course, there are a whole lot of others who want to parasite on other peoples' insecurity and those are the right-wing political pundits that will spin lies, racism, rabid conspiracy theories and other white-supremacist, misanthropic rubbish to foment dissatisfaction into anger and other irrationalities. They try to sound intellectual, but it does not take much fact-checking to see through their ruse. Steer clear to keep sane, otherwise a deep rabbit-hole awaits!

The basic lesson here is that we should define our own identity, in our own time and pace, and not rely upon those who are caught up in myths for life advice.

Rat-race entrepreneursβ–³

A lot of people are promoting how to get out of the rat race by ..... running faster in the rat race!

These videos will start with all the valid criticisms of what is bad about living and working in today's societies, with their emphasis on conformity and consumerism. Yes, it is all true, but then their solutions are to set up our own business and be a boss rat. Having the same expansionist goals as all the rest caught up in the rat race is not escaping the race but feeding the same delusion of freedom through gaining plenty of money.

The premise of the videos is that all it takes is obeying a few simple rules and success is assured. The main competition in the arena is those who are ruthlessly exploitative and have amassed plenty of money. Very few people are actually suited to such a predatory role, so most of those who try to put any of the prescribed rules into practice will likely fall short of the drive that is required to be successful in such a competitive environment.

The whole idea does not scale, as then there would be less people to exploit on the way up, both in being the workers in building up the enterprise and being consumers of what it produces. We don't escape the rat-race if we rely on its methods, rules and mechanisms. This is the delusion. We, and everyone coopted into what we are doing, is subject to the same stresses that everyone else is. The real cause of the rat-race stress is having the goal of domination and success. If we have the same goals, we are fully-fledged runners in the race.

Of course, the goal of all these videos is to feed the delusion of success that allows those who buy in to the hype to be exploited. This is just more pyramid belief schemes that rely upon the gullible to fund them. The only real way out of the rat-race is to let go of the goals and focus upon what actually brings a measure of happiness and contentment. These are not actually dependent upon money per se, but just require putting our thoughts to them and allowing them to permeate our consciousness. Then we only need to work enough to do that, and experience the resultant freedom from stress.

Atheist fundamentalistsβ–³

There are a lot of people on YouTube that are enjoying using their supposed intellect to discredit religious people, especially Christians.

Underpinning a lot of modern Western culture is Christianity, as it could be easily focussed on exploitation and subjugation of much of the rest of the world. That is mainly because it has a fairly simplistic narrative that lacks the introspection that its other contemporary religion Buddhism has, and so could be used to readily weaponise its adherents against others, in much the same way its sister religion of Islam has been.

Furthermore, Christianity inherited a far more simplistic doctrine in Judaism than Hinduism from which Buddhism was born. Much of the real science the west inherited was from the Hinduism of India, and certainly in cosmology and mathematics. The mechanics and timeline of the Hindu creation story align much more closely to the modern scientific understanding of the origins and life of the universe than the Judaeo-Christian-Islam one does.

So, into the vacuum of deep introspective thought that a lot of Christian dogma unfortunately relies upon, comes atheists, who, with much of the same self-righteousness and self-referentiality, daringly dismantle some rudimentary Christian low-hanging intellectual fruit, thereby showing off their intellectual prowess as if that is enough to justify their own bigotry.

Unfortunately, such atheists do not try to turn their so-called intellectual prowess onto examining the fundamentals of their own beliefs, which seem to be based upon the unproven contention that god doesn't exist because some people have some dubious ideas about what god is. It is a sort of I'm better than you because you're an idiot line.

The real issue to prove or disprove is whether there is an overriding will and consciousness that is driving the universe, and doing such things as crashing galaxies into each other on purpose, and if it is, what is that purpose. The level of cosmic understanding required to make a definitive ruling on such a question is probably well beyond the intellectial capacity of those who confidently proclaim such a consciousness doesn't exist because some people on earth believe it is focussed obsessively upon responding to their whims and token gestures.

In a way, such minor intellectual pursuits are a training ground for the development of mind, but to no avail if it results in those undertaking it thinking they have arrived at some enlightenment through it, and thus do not evolve their thinking beyond it into the realms of higher mind.

Experts in useless thingsβ–³

Fiction is entertainment, but there are many who feel a need to provide in-depth analyses of it as if it is real.

Fictional writings and movies can affect many, and so discussing those effects can be beneficial in understanding how they create those effects and what that indicates about our psyches and culture, as Tom van der Linden does with some of his excellent Like Stories of Old videos, and Jonathan McIntosh does in several of his Pop Culture Detective videos. But that is not what this section is about. Instead, it is about people trying to analyse the fictional characters and plots as if they are real, and what that might mean about their psyches.

Our educational systems are predicated upon teaching us about the real world and how to understand it, but also about how to manage it. In understanding systems, we can manipulate them to achieve our goals, and so hopefully improving our lives, though increasingly we are seeing the downside to over-exploitation of nature and people that is leading us to the brink of extinction.

However, applying such rigour to analysing what other people have made up as if they are real is a dubious waste of time, just because made-up stuff doesn't have to obey the laws of nature or even be coherent. Searching for causal relationships across the discontinuities inherent in fictional characters and plots is likely to produce false deductions.

Storytellers are fallible and not all-knowing. They will have only covered what is sufficient to produce an illusion in the minds of their audience. In movies, it is the production designers who flesh out the visuals with the on-camera details that makes the audience willing to suspend disbelief in the illusion. The illusion is broken when we see what really went into producing those details.

Studying the real world is not trivial, and can involve a lot of time and money, especially if it requires specialised instrumentation and skills in designing experiments and analysis of the resulting data. Conversely, studying things that don't really exist doesn't require any of the expense and probably few of the deeper analysis skills, as applying the latter will too quickly discover the myriad of discontinuities, misalignments and mismatches to reality.

But all this is of no concern to those who have so immersed themselves into the illusions, and have a similarly inclined audience, that they carry on as if what they are doing is somehow a worthy endeavour, and will lead to some state of enlightenment for their audience. Or they could be of the exploitative cynical type that sees an opportunity to draw people into their sphere of influence.

Now all this would be just a bunch of people pursuing a distraction from the difficulties of their own lives if were not for the rising belief in bat-shit crazy conspiracy theories that are obviously not real, yet have adherents that are willing to commit physical violence upon those that don't believe them. A lot of the conspiracy theories rely upon supposed causal relationships that just don't stand up to any sort of rational analysis, yet so many are willing to accept them as true, despite contrary evidence.

Indulgence in the fantasies of a fiction writer of entertainment is one thing, but losing the ability to recognise that it is fiction is what leads many to being drawn into the lies that are supposedly reality, which, in the midst of a pandemic, has resulted in massive losses of lives as those people refuse to see the threat to themselves but also the threat they are to those around them.

This is another YouTube rabbit-hole that is best left alone. Read the books or watch the movies, but don't get caught up in useless discussions about them. They really don't have any meaning too far beyond the sentiments that they might tap into. If going to spend any time discussing them, it is better to study why they affect us, rather than the details of their content.

Even the better video channels cited can be a rabbit-hole because they also have an over-emphasis on the video products being seemingly more important to analyse than their producing cultures. The problem is that those products cannot represent the whole of a culture, both because their makers had their own biases, and the medium cannot capture all the significant aspects. Coupled with the biases of the channel makers, that results in at least two sets of filters through which the underlying cultures are viewed, leading to a distorted picture of those cultures if other views are not sought.

In other words, works of fiction tend to be aspirational, much like the so-called historical records that paint a rosy picture of the victors and detract from the losers. Studying such works may be useful, but not if trying to find what life was really like at the time. They are myths, and we know that most myths are just wishful thinking that indulging to any depth will not produce a lot of worthwhile knowledge, much less wisdom.

This is why forensic evidence is sought for clarifying the narratives written by those who documented their own cultures in the past. People embedded in a culture are often blind to many aspects of it, usually through a combination of their own biases due to their position in it and willful ignorance because they don't want to know anything about nor publicise what might lead to the undermining of that position.

The other side of fiction is where characters or situations from it are used as examples when analysing types of people or situations in the real world. This is faulty use of fiction for exactly the same reasons as above: fictional characters are not real people and totally lack the comprehensive and coherent backstory that real people have. A reason even some reputable presenters may use such fictions is because using real people may have legal consequences, but then such use devalues their presentation unless they are using superficial characteristics for illustration only and not analysis.

While a popular series, like Star Trek or The Simpsons may indirectly reflect what is going on in society, being interested in what their take on particular topics is is similarly dubious. These are not authoritative, and opinions or treatment of topics expressed in them are reflections of what the show runners and writers thought might be interesting to their fans. That is, it is opportunistic commentary rather than something to be taken seriously, especially years later. They are designed to make the plots seem relevant without actually meaning anything. These are not documentaries citing real facts.

True believersβ–³

Many people are dedicated to a cause, and like to proselytise their beliefs as is they are the answer to the world's problems.

There is nothing wrong with promoting what we believe in, but carrying on as if they are perfect is delusion. For most, beliefs evolve as we gather experience. When circumstances challenge our beliefs we can choose to find a way to incorporate the reality presented to us by modifying our beliefs, or we can double-down on them and reject the challenge as invalid. This is what has happened with a lot of conspiracy theories. Ignoring reality in favour of our delusions.

When presenters really believe in what they are saying, whether it be politics, religion or some other ideology, they will present it as if it has no downsides, and that strictly following the precepts expounded will overcome any difficulties encountered. In their worldview, there is no compromise or recognition of any realities that may contradict the beliefs, despite some big elephants that choose to differ!

What happens is that all their videos are peddling the same dogma. There is no evolution or adaption to changing circumstances. Each video is another exercise in using the dogma to explain some other facet of life or the world. In their view, all problems come down to us not following the dogma. That is a one-size-fits-all type of thinking, and the world is full of 8 billion ways of thinking, many of which will be better tools for life for us than what these true believers are peddling.

With these videos, there can be a lot of learning, but eventually the fixed format and dogmatic presentation grate enough to give them a miss.

Right-wing racist misogynistsβ–³

There are several white males who extol the virtues of white males and decry the so-called debilitating effect of feminism.

It is clear that these influencers are trying to attract disaffected emotionally and intellectually immature males because their content:

  1. aContains multiple misogynist and racist terms.
  2. bInvites emotional agreement with the above statements.
  3. cContains faulty reasoning.
  4. dCites references that supposedly support their arguments but don't.
  5. eMakes statements that are supposedly factual but are lies or misrepresentations.
  6. fDraws invalid conclusions from what they and their references state.

The clear agenda for these influencers is to emotionally entrap males who feel let down by life and try to direct their frustration and anger at immigrants, women and so-called social justice warriors who they claim are out to rob them of their freedom. They never point the finger at those of wealth who are actually creating the conditions that diminish the ability of those men and the detracted groups to control their own lives. The likes of Stefan Molyneux, Sargon of Akkad/Carl Benjamin or Black Pigeon Speaks/Felix Lace are just pretty well making up rubbish and trying to pass it all off as intelligent arguments.

These racist misogynists are misanthropes trying to use pseudo-intellectualism to distract men from being able to properly perceive the reality around them. They are pied-pipers of delusion sabotaging a generation of men to create the opposite of the freedom they are feigning to promote.

There are some other YouTubers like Ian Danskin/Innuendo Studios, Shaun or Hbomberguy/Harris Michael Brewis, that valiantly try to debunk the dubious facts and arguments of these false intellectuals, and may succeed in deterring a few from falling prey to these predators. Unfortunately, I suspect that the great majority of those who are going to listen to any of the obvious rubbish of the misogynists all the way to their dubious conclusions will be too far down their own rabbit-hole to respond to the properly reasoned arguments of the debunkers.

The latter two YouTubers now seem to be directing their efforts elsewhere. Danskin's videos deal more with the general methods used in right-wing propaganda rather than the inane uttering of individuals. A lot of the racist and anti-feminist ranters are gamers who came to prominence with Gamergate. Similarly, their antagonists are also gamers, but they chose to undertake the debunking of the rants. The latter are still gaming so a lot of their output is non-political game commenting and so will need to be sifted through if their topics are not of interest.

Gamergate was the hate campaign directed towards some female gamers who pointed out the sexual stereotypes – both female and male – almost universally used in games. Games forums became especially toxic to women and any men who sided with them. It attracted many white male supremacists and is credited with being the precursor and training ground for the modern social media assaults by white supremacists now backed by conservative action groups.

PragerU debunkersβ–³

PragerU is a right-wing fossil-fuel sponsored channel peddling lies and propaganda, so of course it is easy to debunk, but is it worth it?

PragerU is a professionally-produced video channel featuring many prominent right-wing media personalities presenting their take on many issues in society. Their funding comes from fossil fuel interests and so would be expected to be biased towards such interests and conservatism in general. While certainly reflecting those views, it almost entirely lies about reality, or misrepresents alternate viewpoints. It is a propaganda channel that certainly shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone who prides themselves on their thinking ability.

Given its obvious dubiousness, the channel seems to have a small cottage industry of those who want to take the time to debunk its clearly bogus arguments. Perhaps it presents a challenge for those wanting to exercise their reasoning faculties, rather like budding atheists swarming over Christianity trying to debunk its many logical inconsistencies. However, unlike the latter, PragerU isn't a bunch of writers trying to put their own spin on a teaching, but a concerted effort by one person to mislead the already mislead even further.

Dennis Prager is not trying to enlighten anyone, but to drum up support for conservatism with all the counter-humanitarian sentiments it can muster, and using every dishonest and deceitful means available. It is pure propaganda without remorse. It seeks to suck in those who are feeling lost, but only to smother them in self-deluding platitudes. Other than being an example of the insidiousness of propaganda, the channel does not deserve to be given any attention. Let it subside into oblivion, away from the minds of those who want a better life for themselves and the earth.

Bandwagons of misunderstandingβ–³

The Dunning-Kruger Effect has many videos devoted to it, but many don't seem to understand the research behind it, so becoming examples of it.

In 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kruger released some research they did on how university students rated how well they performed on some tests compared to how well they actually did. Except for the very top performers, most overrated how well they performed, and more so the worse they performed. What many presenters imply when discussing this effect is that the poor performers are largely deluded about themselves.

What is clear from the original graph is that while lower performers were more confident of their abilities, all participants never thought they were better than those who did do better. In other words, while most had an exaggerated idea about their performance, they were not deluded into thinking they were better than those who performed better. They were still aware of the reality of their performance in relation to others. This is shown by how the perceived verses actual performance graph had a positive fairly-linear slope, with no negative slopes or abrupt discontinuities that would indicate a reality disconnect.

Unfortunately, some who thought they have understood the research results have become living examples of the effect themselves. For them, discussing the effect is relevant to discussing people believing in non-fact-based conspiracy theories, even though the research does not indicate that the effect is in any way relevant to the cognitive disconnect required for believing in such theories. They are overestimating their ability to interpret the research, though some are deluded over how relevant it is to their arguments.

The original research measured those in a learning environment, which tends to be more eclectic and fact-based than the insular information environments that many conspiracy theorists inhabit. This means that there is likely to be significant factors in the latter group's environments that make it difficult to simply extrapolate the Dunning-Kruger research into an explanation for their beliefs. Extrapolation relies upon a quantitative continuity between the two states under consideration, but delusion may well involve a psychological or rationalisation discontinuity that precludes its use.

Genuine researchers will generally enumerate the limitations of their research and what areas might need further research. This is why it is better to go back to the original research and its conclusions and limitations before being drawn into diatribes about the applicability of it to some current societal problem. Many try to misrepresent selective data from legitimate research as some sort of authority for creating cultural schisms, hoping that people don't check what the research actually states. Don't buy into such dubious click-bait by those desperate for some content to boost their social media popularity.

See The Irony of the Dunning-Kruger Effect for a discussion of the effect, its misinterpretations, and what is wrong with the exaggerated graph commonly used to illustrate it.

Sneaky seguesβ–³

Ever been watching a video and then been caught out when realising that it is now an ad? Sneaky!

It is deceptive to not clearly delineate advertising from editorial content, and are illegal in some jurisdictions. So segues that seamlessly join them together may be something to brag about (looking at you Amy!), but actually do nothing for the reputation of a channel. While some cultures celebrate such hustling, many from others are put off by it. It is unfortunate that channel operators cannot get enough funding to not have to rely upon such advertising. Advertising detracts from the purpose of a site, especially if it is not related to the content.

Some More News uses a thick red border during the ad segments together with chapter markers around them. These devices are very helpful to easily skip such segments, though they could do the same with another colour to delineate their stupid attempts at humour. Annoying humour can be just as distracting from the purpose of a site, if not more so, than advertising.

Everybody has an agendaβ–³

People don't produce videos without wanting viewers to do something, even if it is to watch more of their videos.

There used to be a magazine called Ramparts which had long articles that would provide a lot of history, facts and background about a topic, only to be finished by what seemed to be another writer adding several paragraphs that pushed a strong political agenda. Does that ending mean that all the pages before it were tainted or worthless and so should be discarded? No, but perhaps just the ending propaganda. Such articles can be the basis of making one's own decisions, but only if the factual content can be readily separated from the ideological.

There are many video journalists, as mentioned at the top of this article, that provide a lot of food for thought, but we can see that they have an agenda, or at least a political undercurrent. However, while noting the agenda, their material still has merit of itself, and is thus worthy of indulgence. We come away richer in our understanding without having to take on all that they say.

Then there are the slickly produced, big-budget propaganda videos, mostly with right-wing think tank backing, that are heavy on agenda yet almost devoid of facts. These are fairly blatant attempts to subvert our thinking into accepting beliefs that actually work against our wellbeing. What they present can sort of sound reasonable, but only if any deeper thinking about them is avoided. These are to be avoided because they are often just filled with lies or misinformation purely to reduce resistance to their backers' exploitation of society, its institutions and people.

In the knowledge realm, a video's worth seems to be in inverse proportion to the amount of money spent producing it. As people become popular on YouTube, they become the target for companies and organisations that have products, services or ideologies to peddle. Once they have taken the money, their production values often improve substantially, but they start avoiding certain topics or any criticism of their sponsors, making their videos far less useful as sources of factual information and more like infotainment.

YouTube has become the platform of choice for visual presentations, but we must use discrimination in what we take to heart, as there are many who are not wanting the best for us, despite what they say. Fortunately, there are many presenters that can enrich our lives with thought-stimulating presentations, and they can make the sifting through the video trolls worth it.

Why YouTube?β–³

Why would people want to plant their face in front of others in the vain hope of being successful?

This section was prompted by the Break Bread video by F.D Signifier, where they discuss the difficulty of black people getting traction on YouTube, especially in relation to the group of white content creators known as breadtube, a potpourri of leftist long-form video-essay talking heads. It was well done, and so I do not have anything meaningful to add about it per se, but it did make me think about the deeper motivations people might have for creating content on YouTube.

YouTube is a Google property and for other than short-form video fluff, it is the only real game in town. For those who just like to publicise what they are doing with their hobby, it is the platform of choice. However, for many it represents an opportunity to break out of the hum-drum or stress-treadmill of working for someone else, and that ramps up their expectations of what they want out of their efforts considerably. While many who started earlier usually didn't start out with that intention, but with the gathering of subscribers, the money-source possibility seemed more real.

More recent creators have seen how lucrative it can be, and so started up with the expectation of it being their main source of income, even if the majority might actually come from their Patreon subscribers. Unfortunately, most will fail, not only because there is a lot of competition, but their talents will likely not be up to the task, as getting video presentations right requires a lot of skills. For many, the slow rate of gaining subscribers will not keep up with their expectations, and they will give up.

This sort of failure rate has its parallels with small businesses, where all those same reasons apply. However, YouTube is worse, because while normal small businesses can often limp along for a while because the commercial environment is usually regulated and supported by governments, YouTube is a law unto itself, and channels can be demonetised at a moments notice or a change in the algorithms may rank a channel down. This is the downside of relying upon a single source of income. Any Patreon income is usually going to be tied to success on YouTube.

YouTube is generally best suited for extroverts, as there is a requirement of being willing to be the centre of attention. After all, it is basically an entertainment medium where most are skimming for interesting stuff to kill time with, so if not into being a performer, success is very unlikely. While writing might be more suited to introverts, there are limited opportunities for making a sufficient living out of it, even if it requires a much lower level of multi-skilling compared to video.

To be really successful on YouTube, the rate of content creation has to be fairly breakneck, which is why many are choosing content that is more ad-hoc, like reaction videos or live chat-streaming, rather than long-form video-essays that require a lot of time-consuming preparation. The chat format also promotes a higher degree of para-social dependency which increases subscription rates but often become fairly toxic.

If maintaining integrity is important, then consider not taking any form of sponsorship, as it will require compromising integrity. Sponsorships are subject to contract and those will generally have provisions about what can be said about the sponsor, whether they have a right to approve types of content, how often they have to be mentioned, and how long the arrangement will last. Such provisions will definitely affect the content, what topics are off-limits, and give the perception, if not actual, of partiality, all of which may negatively impact integrity. Ultimately, integrity can only be maintained if supported by a source of income that doesn't care about what content is created.

In all, YouTube may lead to worse mental outcomes than working a normal job. It is wise to have eyes wide open before starting a video career with high expectations. Perhaps treat it as a hobby from the start, taking the pressure off to be successful, taking time to hone skills doing content that provides a measure of satisfaction in itself, rather than a means to an end. Look at success as a bonus. That may mean working for someone else, but life might have a better and more fulfilling balance.

The question is really about how rich do we really have to be? Compared to many hobbies, making videos is not very expensive, so a high income may not be required, allowing working less and enjoying life more, by indulging in being creative for its own sake. We don't have to put ourselves on a stress-treadmill just to avoid another. Choose the balance that feeds both the body and mind.

  • β€’Comedy, or stand-up misanthropy?
  • β€’News is entertainment
  • β€’Video streaming
  • β€’Contact   Glossary   Policies
  • β€’Categories   Feed   Site map

  • External sites open in a new tab or window. Visit them at your own risk.
    This site doesn't store cookies or other files on your device, but external sites might.
    Help   Powered by: Smallsite Design ©Patanjali Sokaris