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Friday, January 31, 2014

Why is YouTube so vile?

When I call YouTube vile, I refer to the comments, not the videos. In truth, though, the videos themselves can be quite disturbing. If a movie critic refers to "the goriest, most disgusting, most obscene film ever made" -- look it up on YouTube: The horrid thing will probably be on display for the edification of eight-year-olds everywhere. Although I've never typed the words "real death" into the YouTube search engine, I can guess what the results would be.

But the true subject of this post is the commentary one finds on YouTube. As everyone knows, any given "conversation" on that site will combine the vapid and the toxic in roughly equal amounts. These relentlessly offensive and ignorant offerings put the First Amendment's elasticity to its most extreme test.

Right now, a lot of people are talking about this Cheerios ad which ran during the Super Bowl. That commercial may be the most innocuous thing ever placed before human eyes. Nevertheless, this wholesome depiction of a mixed race couple caused much of America to go bonkers.

Why do so many obnoxious cranks feel obligated to spew their poison all over YouTube? One can find stupid, insane, bigoted and hideously misspelled commentary all over the internet, but YouTube forces one to confront stupidity, insanity, bigotry and bad spelling in their most concentrated forms.

Of course, most other websites have moderators. That's a key difference. YouTube has no moderation, no standards, no referees. YouTube transforms everything into sewage precisely because it is a place of almost-perfect freedom.

Freedom, it seems, is a paradox: The greater the freedom, the greater the chance that we will mire ourselves in muck. We think of regulation as that which chains us and freedom as that which snaps the chain. But in truth, both total freedom and total regulation offer manacles.
Here is an actual YouTube discussion in which I was involved. The video (at was footage of Robert Kennedy decrying “mindless violence.” The video was augmented with background audio of Buddhist monks chanting for peace.

Here is the commentary:

Mikefan09: “turn off that background shit so i can hear my hero fuck sake”

Me (Trojan Joe): “How can you use the terms 'hero' and 'background shit' in the same posting? That 'background shit' is a Buddhist chant, friend. For 'fuck sake,' evolve.”

Mikefan09: “dear faggot fatherfucker, fuck u. fuck that bullshit spoils the video. grow up monkey mind.”

Desertdude1234: “Your hero would look at you with despair and bitter pity you cunt chill out.”

Mikefan09: “not really motherfucker he had a temper u knw. now go back to sucking your dad off bitch!”

The Huffington Post has already taken steps to curb anonymous postings; now it's YouTube's turn. Of course, democracy needs mechanisms for people to speak out without fear of reprisal; but like you, Joe, I spend hours of my day moderating a forum, and in my experience, online anonymity is used for hateful purposes more often than it's used for good.
That's the kind of shit I expected from a cunt like you, TJ.

When I graduated from Harvard Law School, part of the ceremony, which had been used for over forty years by then, was a quote from my grandfather, "You are ready to aid in the shaping and application of those wise restraints that make men free." That's what libertarians don't get: without rules, there is only chaos. And what authoritarians don't get: the rules have to be fair.
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