Some other night at 3am while browsing YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping or writing, I came upon the above video and watched it multiple times in a row. Each time I watched it, this feeling in my chest grew. At first I thought it was love and laughter, but then it turned into sadness and worry. I will call this feeling a Peace-in-the-Middle-East-itis that ultimately left me with a low opinion of myself, one that described me as a naive and ridiculous person. Because you know, that inexplicable desire for global peace, the one all beauty contestants are mocked for expressing? Yeah. That. It’s so silly to even think about these things as it is far outside my area of expertise… but I went with it, as a thought exercise. How could the West effectively help solve the “ongoing crisis” that is the Middle East? What I came up with was a Middle Eastern Union.
I realize Israel probably won’t go for a plan like this, but let’s suspend disbelief and pretend they would. Actually, no, let’s just keep them outside of it for now, as well as Egypt.
The MEU could work like our democratic system with two “houses,” one house where every country gets one vote (representative, etc), and one where every country gets votes (or representatives) based off GDP. (Think “bicameral” like parliament or the US congress) The MEU doesn’t even need to be bicameral, they can just do this GDP thing. Countries with higher GDP get 2 votes, as opposed to lower performing countries who get 1 vote. (The map below is from 2007 and very out of date, and does GDP per capita… but I am using it because it is a good visual aid for you dear reader. Nominal GDP map of 2014 is here, GDP per capita from 2012 is here)
In recent days, I was asked by editors at Motherboard to review a science documentary. The PR pitch for the film seemed interesting enough, however, upon watching the whole documentary, I found myself caught up in a moral dilemma of the feminist type. Why? Because the documentary, female-centric in story and production, was terrible.
The email, more or less, that I sent my editor about the documentary:
The documentary didn’t focus enough on the science which was by itself quite interesting (this genetic disorder disproportionately affects Puerto Ricans, for ex) with the film opting instead for a human interest angle that was barely relatable. There were few emotional moments that connected with the viewer. The interview subjects themselves were a bit derp (overweight, unattractive, elderly, lacking eloquence or all of the above), and the awkward hokey music that played over their camera time didn’t help at all. They said their life sucked, but I as a viewer was never shown any substantial example of how their life sucked. I was bored and disinterested throughout. The animated story in the very beginning of the doc was the best part.
In addition, the documentary did a poor job of explaining the science. I was confused over whether or not the drug on clinical trial was approved by the FDA, and then later, why it was not approved. The film mentions at the end the same drug was approved in India, Europe and Japan but never explains the politics or why this is the case. I realize this was because they were trying to focus on the people, but the people were not as interesting as the science or the politics behind the science.
I generally rate Motherboard documentaries as a 8 or higher (out of 10)….I would put ______ at a 4.
I opted to not complete the assignment. I could have written something positive about the film despite not enjoying it or finding it sharable, but I found this option just as morally wrong as publishing the negative review. True, the negative review would have led to more publicity for the film, and this team of film-makers, but I don’t believe all press is good press when you are dealing with sexist environments like those found in filmmaking in general as well as documentary-filmmaking.
The documentary filmmaker, a lady scientist, had received awards for her work on PBS and such a decade-plus ago, so I was surprised by how not enjoyable her latest project was. It’s almost like she can’t compete now, in this age of everyone-is-a-filmmaker-on-YouTube. It might have been good enough for PBS in the 1990’s, but not now.
This whole personal dilemma of mine reminds me of Buzzfeed getting press last fall for their decision to not write negative reviews. The rebuttal to their “no negative reviews” position came from Gawker, of course, who argued news outlets are not supposed to be extension of publicists and PR firms, (a laughable position when you look at sites like TechCrunch and PandoDaily). This argument is fundamentally true, news outlets are not supposed to be beholden to publicists by any means, but I don’t see the merit in smacking down an older woman in a tough field for delivering a shitty product.
Is my thinking wrong here?
In the past week, there have been two heavily publicized instances of little girls stabbing their loved ones in the name of Slender Man; the first being the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged last week as adults for stabbing their “best friend” last year, the second a 13-year-old in Ohio who tried to stab her mom while wearing a white mask. The media has tripped over themselves trying to explain Slender Man, and inadvertently (or purposefully) demonized Creepypasta, unsupervised Internet usage and online culture. Even those outlets that did not demonize these suspects still failed to properly portray the reach of Slender Man and the stabbings in context of the Slender Man community.
Like all killings the media takes a shine to, a large roster of armchair psychologists have come out of the woodwork to bloviate on Slender Man. Everyone, including those not qualified, especially those not qualified, are theorizing on online culture while completely glossing over the community aspect of a phenomenon like Slender Man. Folks that are qualified to write about online culture, like this lady at the Washington Post, this lady at the Verge and this gentlemen at the Awl (not linking to said trollish article), have also massively fumbled to explain these stabbings in context of the community. (Why the Verge is linking to the awful tone-deaf Awl piece is beyond comprehension, but that’s a post for another matter.)
So here’s the first thing wrong with all this Slender Man stabbing coverage: the absence of Pew Die Pie and adequate mentions of Slender Man in video games
Why is top YouTube celebrity Pew Die Pie important? Well, a large portion of his fan base comprises of girls in the same age range as the little girls stabbing their loved ones. Teens and tweens don’t watch TV as much any more, they watch YouTube and play video games. Pew Die Pie’s main claim to fame is his Slender Man videos and many little girls got into Slender Man because of his charming accent, golden locks and good looks. My now-13-year old brother used to complain all the time about how all the girls in his class are obsessed with Pew Die Pie, and subsequently Slender Man because of Pew Die Pie. My evidence is anecdotal, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the case of the Wisconsin girls, they cite and favor video game lore; they want to go to Slender Man’s mansion, which only exists in the video game. A video game made popular by Pew Die Pie.
The little girls first tried to stab their friend in a public restroom, then in the woods. Both scenes, of Slender Man catching up with you in a public restroom and in the woods, happen in the first episode of Pew Die Pie’s Slender Man video series. Is Pew Die Pie responsible for the stabbings? No, of course not.
In the case of the 13-year-old girl, her mother mentioned her daughter plays Minecraft, and the ultimate bad guy in the game is Enderman, a creepy figure the creator of Minecraft admitted to being inspired by Slender Man. Is Minecraft responsible for the stabbings? Again, no, of course not, but yet again every outlet has failed to mention the Slender Man-inspired monster in Minecraft.
The second thing wrong with all this Slender Man coverage: it glosses over the role of the community WHICH NOW INCLUDES THE PRESS in perpetuating the Slender Man myth.
Think of Slender Man as a community art project, where for years now adults, teens and tweens have been fabricating fake news articles, photographs, and even video games and comics, about Slender Man, this all-powerful, all-knowing spectre-monster with long arms (shaped like claws, or tree branches, or tentacles depending on the artist) that mind controls and kills people. When these two Wisconsin girls say they wanted to honor the Slender Man myth, to make him “real” and prove the “skeptics wrong,” it sounds more like they wanted to participate in the community by creating the most credible news article about Slender Man ever. They didn’t want to make him real by doing another photoshop, that’s already been done. So how do you make the most credible news article about Slender Man? You actually go out and make Slender Man happen in a way the news can cover.
Not only that, but these two little girls then gave their best friend the ultimate Slender Man experience by becoming Slender Man for her. It’s sick and it’s twisted, but if we are charging them as mentally fit adults we can’t say they didn’t know the line between reality and fantasy because mentally fit adults do know the line between reality and fantasy. Unless, you have two girls purposefully blurring the line between fantasy and reality in order to contribute to this online community producing Slender Man lore. Slender Man wipes memories and mind controls, remember, which is convenient for all three girls then, including the one in Ohio who say she doesn’t remember anything after trying to stab her mother.
The Wisconsin girls completely changed the meme and contributed significantly to the Slender Man community/phenomenon with their attempted murder, and by doing so in this way, have completely changed the narrative of Slender Man lore. Slender Man used to just be a fantasy. Now he is a reality. He is a reality because anyone can become a proxy for Slender Man if he or she wishes. This is evident in the stabbing of the 13-year-old girl who tried to stab her mother. Three little girls have now stabbed two people in the name of Slender Man, not in a fan fiction or in a video game, but in very, very real life. Like all things digital these days, these girls got instant feedback for it too. And not just from online.
The Verge almost got this right, when they quoted psychologist Peter Langman:
Online communities may provide stronger reinforcement than other forms of media, Langman says, because other people are providing feedback.
Any media outlet that reports on this story and fails to mention that they as an outlet are now contributing to the Slender Man myth, is laughably ignorant and dangerous. The press does not exist in a vacuum. The press cannot blame CreepyPasta and memes but not blame itself or Pew Die Pie.
In fact, the primary driver of the Slender Man myth is no longer Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, CreepyPasta, reddit, 4chan or Something Awful, but the press itself.
“I want to both have sex with her AND strangle her to death. But in which order…?”
The response? A few joking replies and little else. Not a single person objects or scolds the users. No one even clicks the “dislike” button on menace8012’s comment.
The incident is evident of a larger trend on YouTube, where sexist attitudes towards women run unchecked. It’s not just the trolls or haters in the comments section of videos; YouTubers have cyberbullied women based off their appearance since the site’s inception.
Menace8012’s comment, and the community’s response (or lack thereof), may seem extreme to the casual YouTube community safarian, but it also perfectly portrays why so few women have found success on YouTube. Many women on YouTube try to avoid this negative sexist environment by cloistering themselves in the beauty section of YouTube, but that does little to combat the anti-women sentiments running rampant throughout the rest of the site.
Like rape apologist ideology, YouTubers who silently upvote, or in this case “like,” menace8012’s comment are implying iJustine deserves the threats and derogatory comments she gets, daily, because of the way she looks and dresses. Sometimes in her videos, the blonde, blue-eyed and pretty iJustine wears a tank top and lip gloss, and that little bit of sexuality occasionally sends both genders into a sexist frenzy. Read the rest of this entry »
I present you with a comment, from the YouTube community, that I ran into the other day:
TL;DR -> it makes AdSense obsolete.
I tried to sell a story on Subbable earlier this week. Oh gods how I tried. ReadWrite, the Guardian’s tech section, even Variety… but I failed to generate interest, and/or communicate just how drastic of an impact Subbable can have on the YouTube space, business-wise.
To most of the press, Subbable appears as a gentle, crowd-sourced monthly pay-what-you-want subscription platform funding web shows that already exist. Doesn’s seem that disruptive, until you consider the allure of YouTube. The heart of the indie YouTube dream is being free, or at least above, corporate influences. If successful, Subbable could potentially do away with the advertising/hit-mining rat race on YouTube. Hank Green doesn’t exactly say this in the video introducing the platform, but he might as well.
In a private chat, I got Green to elaborate:
“Advertising values all kinds of content the same, but different kinds of content delivers different amounts of value to users. We want there to be a system that rewards the creation of stuff people love, not stuff that people will spend three minutes watching when they’re bored.”
Subbable — which is unaffiliated with YouTube — changes the YouTube money-making game because it emphasizes community and a supportive fan base over viral hits with fleeting popularity & large monetary payoffs. It’s a slow, steady win as opposed to that big payday. (It’ll be interesting to see how the addition of Minute Physics, Wheezy Waiter, and Andrew Huang next week on Subbable will play out. )
Green never came right out and said this during our chat but it got me thinking: if a content creator worked it out with his fans, he or she could essentially never bother monetizing their channel…EVER. There’s literally no reason now to go through Google corporate to make money. Their high ad cut and ad sales team are already alienating users and businesses, so why bother with that hot mess? You don’t.
I, for one, still believe in that YouTube dream.