Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stuff That has Nothing to do With Wikipedia: The Politics of YouTube

This is a story about a video-streaming/video-storage website (Internet people call it "a platform") that became popular, was bought out by Google, grew even more popular, and then a section of the video producers ("content creators") and the commenters noisily went insane. Some of it had to do with Anita Sarkeesian and GamerGate, some of it with a resurgent feminism during the Obama years and the "mens' rights" backlash that came with it, some of it with this march to the Right that happened in the last few years of the Obama administration.

An Anti-History of YouTube

You can go to Jimbo's Jungle to find an actual history of YouTube, but literally it was just three employees of everyone's favorite buggy cash-transfer website PayPal creating the YT website while working in a jury-rigged office above a sushi restaurant and a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, and Chad Hurley were able to get "angel investors" to pay for their idea, and Jawad Karim appeared in the first YouTube video, shot at the San Diego Zoo.


That video appeared on the site in April 23, 2005. We bring it up because notice that Karim and his cameraman (high school buddy Yakov Lapitsky) are at the sort of place families go and where home movies are shot - it's one of my beliefs about the founders of YouTube is that they didn't understand just what sort of AV stuff would get put on the site. Early on there were no time restrictions, so one maniac spent hours uploading the Coleman Francis clunker The Beast of Yucca Flats in March of 2006. Why? Because the version that ran on Mystery Science Theater 3000 was under copyright.

And that was during the early period, before Google bought the platform in October of 2006, cut down the upload time for videos down to ten minutes (something that did not go away for years), and before the ads began showing up on videos. Of course the site grew by leaps and bounds before Google took it over and it grew even more under the Crayon G, which allowed the site to diversify: parts of it are a video junkdrawer of high-school and college basic videography and animation class projects, some of it is (obnoxious) combat footage left over from the US occupation of Iraq, some of it are entire movies illegally uploaded, parts of it are utterly bizarre crap, and then there are the one-person-talking-into-a-camera "channels" focused on a number of topics (Jim Sterling's "Jimquisition" video-game reviews are a good example). That's what allows YouTube to be political beyond the clips of news shows, late night talk shows, and recordings of speeches - just ordinary people talking about politics, and it has been fascinating to see that change over time.


Phil Mason (aka "Thunderf00t") has gone through a long transformation from "atheist fighting YouTube Creationists" to "angry man ranting on YouTube about Anita Sarkeesian" - and let it never be forgotten that Phillip E. Mason is a working scientist who has published papers. So I don't know why he was wasting time on YouTube. Pretty much there was a war on YouTube between the Fundamentalist Christian Creationists and the atheists/pro-science crowd during the final years of the tottering/slowly imploding Bush II administration, provoked by all the faith promotion done in George W. Bush's first term, and shored up* by movies like Idiocracy (2006) and Religulous (2008). It didn't help that there was a general belief that 20th Century Fox "abandoned" Idiocracy upon release by under-promoting it and not having a critic's screening. But back to of his first set of videos was titled "Why do people laugh at creationists?" and in it he went after then-topical Creationist Kent Hovind, aka "Dr. Dino":

In fact the "creationists" videos are still coming and he is now up to forty-five of them. Below is his newest, ranting about Ken Ham's Noah's Ark theme park:

Where I first heard about Thunderf00t was his war with a wannabe Fundamentalist preacher/Creationist called VenomFangX (Shawn Karon, a Canadian [!] of all things), which was an extremely complicated multi-year street fight where Karon would pull DMCA takedowns of videos, be pimp-slapped by Mason and a fellow Briton named dprjones (himself running a war against that faith healer/late-night cable TV shyster Peter Popoff) plus other now-obscure YouTubers like FactsvsReligion. Here is VenomFangX doing an awful Heath Ledger Joker impression because that was the then-current way YouTube dipshits told people off:

Thunderf00t has an entire playlist of how Shawn Karon was browbeaten into submission and forced off YouTube (of course, just like Peter Popoff, he returned.....because he was too smarmy to be a used car salesman). And that was the second time VenomFangX was kicked off YouTube. Here is PhilHellenes lecturing Shawn Karon's father (just because he could):

I could also mention the series of videos Mason did with Creationist Ray Comfort, but that would drag us further off target. What dragged Phil Mason into the crazy world of GamerGate was the onrush of accusations in the Obama years that some of the big names in organized atheism/"Freethought"/skepticism liked being cads with any women who showed up to conferences, including "The Amaz!ng Meeting"** (now-defunct) run by the James Randi Educational Foundation (not doing too well itself). Also you have the wonderful Islamophobia of Richard Dawkins (and he managed to drag in the 2009 Rebecca Watson "Elevatorgate" issue as well) which first exploded onto the scene in 2011. (Watson wrote about the incident in 2012.) Thunderf00t decided to blame the entire debacle and the long aftermath of blogposts, email chains, and online video with his own take....which was to pull a Julius Evola and double down, claiming that is the feminists that are wrecking the show (and he did a series on it, of course.)

Above is the first of seven videos....before that he was involved with PZ Myers' FreethoughtBlogs website, and that fell apart. So whatever it was that pushed him down that path, he has decided that this is the way to go, even though we are sure it's costing him at work. Meanwhile former (erstwhile?) partner in crime Dick Coughlin recently spent an hour ripping it all apart:

Where it all started to go under was March 2013, when he made the video below, giving vent to the subjects he would spend the next four years and counting ranting about: Anita Sarkeesian, feminism in media, and why it's all a scam or intellectually vapid or scientifically vapid or Something. (You figure it out.)

He now has seventy-five videos on this one subject and Sarkeesian is part of all of them. I could give a long, rambling explanation for why Thunderf00t does what he does, but a British man has done a better job than any I could do:

Thank you, Harris Bomberguy! We'll see him again in this, don't worry.

I would like to state that, while I was not a fan of Phil Mason, seeing his ability to reason rot like an egg in broken refrigerator has been utterly horrifying. This is what happens when ideology replaces critical thought and obsessions outstrip balance.

Jason Pullara

Also known as "LordKaT", Jason Pullara first came to my attention years ago, when he had a show called "Until We Win" on the Internet review aggregator site Channel Awesome (formerly "That Guy With the Glasses" - a reference to Doug Walker, the sweatshop site owner). At the time (2007-2011) Doug and his brother Rob Walker were getting as many YouTube reviewers as possible to come over, transfer their videos to, and "get exposure."*** Pullara was just one of those people, and unlike most, he ditched his show to do internet streaming, usually talking to people on Skype (he calls it LordKaT Live!). I'm not a fan  of these videos, mainly because Pullara occasionally belches into the microphone. Here is the old version of LordKaT playing the Nintendo version of Ghostbusters on an emulator (it's a re-upload from a fan):

Here he is a few years later on his stream, ranting about Noah "TheSpoonyOne" Antwiler. Spoony was the reason I stumbled on this ghetto Twilight Zone of online "entertainment" - he hosted Brad "The Cinema Snob" Jones' videos for a short time while Jones was setting up his Cinema Snob homepage because Jones had been booted off YouTube for a copyright strike (the jagoffs who own Nailgun Massacre didn't like his review). Spoony predated Channel Awesome slightly with videos, though he had written for the role-playing game magazine Knights of the Dinner Table before that. LordKaT is mostly ranting about Spoony's comedic screaming of "BETRAYAL" over a new version of XCOM at E3 2010 (it's a videogame convention; XCOM is a game series), and somehow that kept Jason Pullara from meeting a game developer he wanted to pitch ideas to (because he wanted to leave the reviewing ghetto and make games instead). He also mocks Antweiler's semi-standup that he did for fans at a convention. It's all very petty, and you get to hear an hour of it.

Here is his YouTube channel; he has now decided to change the name of his show to Drop Dead Cynical, but we're not interested in that. Here he is this Spring ranting abut Brianna Wu's fundraising for her Congressional run, which he thinks is a scam. (Brianna Wu was/is one of the targets in GamerGate.)

He also spent time in 2015 riffing on Doug Walker's semi-failed gameshow Pop Quiz Hotshot. He also ranted about Walker complaining about getting a DMCA copyright strike in January 2016. The reason why I bring LordKaT up is that he went for GamerGate in a big way:

If you do a search for GamerGate on Pullara's channel, you get a long list of videos; some of them have GamerGate in the title, some are tagged that way. And the more thoughtful parts of Youtube are noticing, such as this Dan Olson "Folding Ideas" video from October 2014 (skip to 7:05 to see Jason Pullara named alongside people like Davis Aurini and Phil Mason):

....And that's as much as I am willing to write about LordKaT.

The Amazing Atheist

Thomas James "TJ" Kirk III, aka The Amazing Atheist (RationalWiki overview; Encyclopaedia Dramatica semi-satirical takedown) is, like Phil Mason, one of the older YouTubers still working on the site; he started in 2006. In the 2007-2008 time period if you typed "atheist" the choice was either him or Pat Condell ranting in an unfinished room of his house (or was it his garden shed?) At this point TJ has thousands of videos out there, many of them mirrored by fans because the originals were yanked by YouTube, and you can watch him in almost real time shift from from Libertarian to moderate liberal Democrat all while still denouncing feminism. Here is a video that was the basis for a remix video that was part of the old ED article on Kirk:

That was from some time in 2008 or 2009 because he's talking about the Great Recession before he coins the word the video is known for, "nigggot" which he wanted applied to fans of Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus or the fandom of the entire Cyrus family, he wasn't sure.

The Amazing Atheist early on got into a lot of online arguments, including with Pekka-Eric Auvinen, the Finnish teenager who later carried out the Jokela High School shooting in Finland in 2007. Auvinen was Sturmgeist89 on YouTube. Shades of Pat Condell, TJ Kirk did an angry response video in his garage, a video that TJ Kirk flagged so that remote playback on other sites is impossible (you can do that as a YT channel operator).

From 2009 to 2011 he also made videos for TGWTG/Channel Awesome under the name The Distressed Watcher; his show was called Trailer Failure and he ranted about movies. They were all on Blip and some of them were mirrored (by fans) on YouTube, like this rant about Kevin Smith's nullity of a film Cop Out. He talks about what happened to his show in the video below:

 When the Paul Feig version of Ghostbusters became a massive online shitstorm last year, TJ Kirk was there every time it got slightly interesting. And when the movie hit video, he and his friend Paul Zego did a running commentary in the style of a reaction video where the movie ran in a small box in the corner, but they did it on Vimeo to try to dodge the copyright 'bots, and they charged three dollars to see it. That video has vanished, though I did see a copy on YT (also since vanished) and they were mostly smoking dope and commenting on how the lighting was wrong for a horror comedy. Below is the only online proof they made the video:

I think it is obvious that TJ Kirk will be making videos on YouTube until he dies or the site dies, whichever comes first.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a human face ranting on YouTube—for ever.” 

I am certain the YouTube addicts are wondering why Sargon of Akkad and Mr. Metokur weren't mentioned, and the reason is that they are the foreseeable future of this style of online AM talk radio. Also, they both give me hives.

Here is more of H. Bomberguy talking about the related Pick-Up Artist movement which runs alongside the Men's Rights movement that overlaps with GamerGate. If you skip to 7:58 you will get to see Dan Olson recount how he infiltrated a Roosh V forum meetup in Canada. Below is a video H. Bomberguy did on Carl "Sargon of Akkad" Benjamin:

Finally, this:

And yes those goofy hats actually existed, but you can't buy them now:


* There was this general sense that Bush II was sucking us into a Second Coming for the Moral Majority, 1980s abortion protest politics fused with the patriotic fury unleashed after September 11, 2001. It fell apart pretty quickly after Hurricane Katrina, the numerous failures of the "Global War on Terror", and the Wall Street collapse of 2007.

** We had to get that ephemeral MastCell connection in there somehow, not that he had anything to do with Rebecca Watson, Michael Shermer, et. al.

*** People were not paid by Walker - they were paid through which let ads run so the videos could be monetized. I still do not understand the Walkers' business model, though the rumors of their on-set behavior during the making of their bad satire "film" Kickassia (2010) have been hilarious to read. (Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug says they are lies. Delicious, delicious lies.)

Before the Lolcow people complain, yes we know that Thunderf00t has a Kiwi Farms messageboard thread, and that the one for The Amazing Atheist is longer because it's years older.

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