Comment Conflict – Trying to set an agenda with new media

For many 20-30 year old westerners, Youtube has essentially replaced television.

It’s mostly a consequence of the modern world. Nobody needs a TV to work, but thousands need a computer. It’s faster, possible to find specific videos, and less expensive to stream shows on a computer or just use Youtube and ignore physical televisions entirely.

Adding to this is the huge number of programs that have set up channels where they post memorable moments from television, and often have dedicated social media officers with a proper understanding of their online communities. Take the uploads of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – whichever intern is in charge of that Youtube account understands that they’ve spawned an entire community with its own culture in the comments section. It’s not exactly a complex culture with a history or traditions, apart from screaming ‘NINOOO’ every so often, and it’s mostly based on memes, but it’s a shared collection of information used to interpret a part of the world nonetheless.

The channel for one of the many ubiquitous British panel shows, Would I Lie to You?, is similar, except instead of including wry references to the comments section they just respond overtly to comments and create content based on what people want. It’s the next era of television – audience receptivity created by an online environment. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happened to many other staples of culture. The news, for instance, in a very obvious way. Music (think of the conversation around Kanye West’s Life of Pablo before it was released.) Instant responses mean instant changes all across the board. As a culture we’re just going to continue slowly discovering what we can do with it – I’ve already talked about some of the potential before.

Television is a form of legacy media at this point. Feedback is something networks are addicted to, because they can sell it to advertisers – and online feedback is more specific, faster, more plentiful, and often entertaining. Think of the average modern comments section.

There is a darker side to all this, and unfortunately it’s related to politics – that great cesspool of constant back-and-forth invective-spewing where no evidence from either side can ever be good enough to convince the other.

Youtube is left-leaning, and there’s no disguising it. Take the heavily moderated ‘#MoreThanARefugee’ video published by YT Spotlight last month.

It’s basically a collection of paid actors trying desperately to legitimise the current trend of mass immigration into Europe. You’ve got the usual collection of characters – the mother with children, the old man, the people with personality, skill, talent and respect…excepting of course the fact that most immigration nowadays is single men in their 30s who don’t care about integration or Western values and they’re mostly immigrating for economic reasons.

The community absolutely hates this video. Wholesale. Every single comment is anti-immigration and the top comments have changed drastically every time I’ve gone to look at them – about seven times since it was published a month ago. Some qualifiers: When reading the comments, I clicked ‘Read More’ about three times every time. I have never read the same comment twice. They constantly change. It’s obvious they’re being deleted. Every comment is some variation on the following:

  • Anti-immigration sentiment/various sentiments to the right of the video – which is to say, everyone from egalitarians and classical liberals to literal nazis
  • Requests for Youtube to stop deleting commentary
  • Requests for Youtube to stop removing dislikes – one commentator stated he had to dislike the video four times and the action was simply erased each time.
  • Ironic shitposting from the alt-right/Kekistani crowd

For a video with 16 million views and no positive comments, 442 thousand dislikes as of the 11th July is a little low. The real number is probably in the millions. It’s so obvious that Youtube is meddling with statistics and presentation behind the scenes, and that they’re of course heavily left-leaning – take a look at the video content itself. Keep in mind that most refugees are middle-aged single men. Britain has let in thousands. They can’t go a fortnight without an attack. Poland has let in zero. They haven’t been attacked by Islamic forces for about a thousand years.

If Youtube were challenged by a legitimate competitor it could easily be coerced to adopt an actually fair policy rather than the current status quo of disgustingly obvious bias. Vimeo and Dailymotion just don’t cut it in terms of users or viewers. If they did, or if another competitor appeared (unlikely – remember Taleb’s comments on long-lasting staples of culture) Youtube and other online video hosts could easily become almost like TV networks. It only came about 11 years ago – we’re still in the early days here. I hope.

It’s an unusual situation – so many people rebelling against the medium they use and yet refusing to leave it. Perhaps that’s just because of Youtube’s age – 11 years of videos is a lot of content to collect if you want to migrate, after all, and it’s not exactly a majority of Youtube complaining here. It’s a few million people. There seems to be raging (if you believe the comments) a sort of battle between the users and the moderators; only the general direction of the culture can determine who ‘wins.’ Very interesting.

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