Hey, don’t look at me like that! I know it’s a stupid title, but it was the first word that came to mind .
Wait a minute…
There’s a place on the internet called r/BreadTube, and no, it has nothing to do with baguettes.
Not a single word in this post is about BreadTube, but let’s pretend it is for now. “Okay, what the hell is BreadTube?” Glad you asked.
In practice, the sub is a safe place for ‘leftists’ (socialists, social democrats, Marxists, Leninists, anarchists, etc.) to type words at each other over the interwebs. Discourse is typically based on discussing leftist YouTube videos (shocker). For example, there was a heavily upvoted video about some ‘bad politics’ in the newest season of Stranger Things . Also prevalent on the sub are leftist takes on ‘relevant’ cultural topics. If you haven’t noticed, the BreadTube community is highly political. I mean, they literally define themselves by their politics. Yes, a pun. In as charitable a way as possible, you will also find regular bashing of perceived enemies of the leftist movement. There are many people there who spend a great deal of time riling themselves and others up over the latest ‘fascist’ activity. There is also constant infighting as everybody seeks to enforce social taxes on others.
Some people would have started describing BreadTube with a steelman—explaining what it is in theory. I’m not a fan of this, more on that in a later post. For present purposes, steelmanning BreadTube would explain its goals in theory, but from the wrong perspective. It is a characterization from the outside—we want to know how it looks from the inside. How the BreadTube community sees itself. Look, here’s a picture:
And here are some rules that, as with all subreddits, the moderators definitely follow:
They have a funny little phrase for your browser tab:
No, that wasn’t an isolated instance, here’s from their little scrolling pictures.
It seems they want to remind you that BreadTube is better than YouTube. The comment sections are also reflective of the community’s self-image. Quick! Here’s a shitty collage:
Fun fact: the above comments were all pulled from the same post . Interesting usernames and a few of the comments being ‘not even wrong’ aside, I think you get the picture.
 Though, if I hadn’t pointed all this out, probably nobody would have made the connection.
 My problem isn’t confined to leftists finding ‘problematic’ politics in art, it’s with the politicization of art as a whole. But that’s for A Future Post™.
 I’m definitely painting a not-so-pretty picture here, which may not fairly represent the BreadTube community. In fact, I know it doesn’t (map vs territory, fitting a narrative, etc.). I invite you to look at where I pulled the comments from and BreadTube itself to form your own opinions.
Here are some observations about how BreadTube sees itself:
1. Under-doggery: BreadTube is “against the prevailing winds of the internet.” See also: somewhat cherry-picked comments above. “Under-doggery” is a key characteristic for almost any mass movement. What do the members of the movement see themselves as ‘under-dogs’ to, exactly? Jung’s ‘Shadow,’ the ‘Dark Other,’ SSC’s ‘outgroup.’ An unholy, invisible Enemy that all actions of the movement are directed against. This consistent belief in an all-powerful Enemy cultivates fanaticism. Since this Enemy’s strength is always overestimated, reactions to the Enemy’s actions are always overreactions. For example, a professional sports team wouldn’t go all-out against a grade school team (there are exceptions to every rule). However, if someone believes that [fascists/socialists/any-ists] are taking over the world, their ideals absolve them of responsibility (I need to stop this at any cost!), and they can justify some extreme behaviors. I’ll let you draw the real world connections.
2. High quality content: “well-researched” is in BreadTube’s description and rules, the sub is explicitly only for “high-quality” content, and it has a ban on clickbait. Given the complete lack of research standards and some of the content that makes its way onto the sub, “well-researched” is borderline masturbatory. I’m glad that they at least draw the line at ‘memes.’ As for “high quality”, ehhh. BreadTube is miles ahead of most of YouTube because most of YouTube is fucking garbage. I’m not even sure where I’d rank BreadTube’s quality in comparison to supposed ‘alt-right’ YouTubers. For example, many videos made by Sargon of Akkad (who prefers gender-neutral pronouns) videos are zir in front of a camera talking about stuff ze finds infuriating enough to make money off of. Zir takes on media often slowly twist into riling people up against SJW global domination, but then ze’ll randomly have some half-decent videos. “So, you’re saying they’re all equal?” Unlikely, but the discrepancy in quality isn’t exactly night and day. Besides, that’s missing the point. Every community believes their creators make quality, well-researched content. This perspective may have little to do with the actual quality of the content, by whatever standard. It has more to do with this: if you content is high quality or well-researched, it’s probably because you agree with it .
3. Distinct from the ‘rest’: related to the above points but an important distinction. BreadTube sees itself as “youtube, but good.” It is described as a community for the “new wave” of creators who make content that “goes against the prevailing winds of the internet.” They’re not like the rest. They’re special. They’re correct. They’re on the right side of history. Look, all people are the same in thinking they’re different. We need to believe that somehow our actions and ourselves are meaningful. This grandiose lie might just be what keeps us all going. Cease believing at your own peril.
I’d argue these characteristics aren’t particularly unique to BreadTube. BreadTube just has its own distinctive flavor.
“Why are you picking on leftists?” Funny enough, I’m not. I just have a few things I want to say and BreadTube serves as a nice springboard given its audience’s believed immunity to [redacted] closely resembles the mindset of my target audience .
It’s important to keep in mind that people on BreadTube aren’t [evil/irrational/dumb]. In fact, I’d wager many of them are quite intelligent, which makes them an excellent example. Being smart may have its perks, but it clearly doesn’t stop people from being sucked into the nearest mass movement, nor does it stop people from spending too much time consuming content that strongly validates their current beliefs. Oh, but don’t worry, reading this is different.
Something to note: BreadTube is rapidly growing. I know this because [argument from statistics] and also every time I take a screencap of the member count it’s outdated in a week. The community already exerts an enormous amount of pressure on YouTube, and I don’t see its influence diminishing anytime soon. Let’s (accurately) liken YouTube to another battleground in everyone’s favorite culture war. It’s not immediately clear who’s going to win, except it is, which is why I’d bet on the Bread.
Another note: I’m not here to debate leftist ideology, there’s already plenty of people doing a terrible job of that. Not to mention, 1) Why? What’s the point? I’m sure there’s an analogy there, something about shouting into a void, 2) I’d rather not add more fuel to the culture war, and 3) I try my best to avoid tearing away what little meaning people have left in their lives without offering something meaningful in return. That is why I’m writing about something actually important: YouTube videos. More specifically, I’m going to spend the next [number] words waffling on about the role branding plays in the relationship between content and consumers.
To guide you through the following sections: keep in mind that BreadTube community members see themselves as 1., 2., and 3., and so they will seek out content that affirms this self-image.
 Not exactly the Book of Revelation here, even to those who aren’t familiar with cognitive biases. However, the concept is important enough that I’ll stress it anytime I get the chance. To those who are familiar with cognitive biases: now you’re free from bias, right?
 Who is my target audience, again?
Lots of people think branding is basically advertising except, somehow, like, a little different. Lots of people also think they aren’t readily fooled by advertising, and by extension, branding. After all, you know when you’re looking at an ad. They’re so obvious, right? Ads are so blatant, and you wouldn’t buy something just because you saw an ad for it. Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to ‘do your research.’ Y’know, compare different products and pick the best one for your price range. Or maybe check the reviews for a movie before deciding to watch it. Consumption may be broken down into how you spend your money but also how you spend your time. This ‘research’ is typically done before purchasing something, but that comes after deciding that you must buy [thing], which is preceded by assuming that what activity [thing] is used for is a good use of your time.
I… have a lot to say about all this. To avoid the scope of this post growing cancerously out of control, we’ll be focusing on how branding can be used to loosen consumers’ wallets in regards to how they spend their time.
Branding refers to the way something is shown to people. It is the creation of an image by release of information. Smart branding involves the careful control over what information is being conveyed to the audience. This ensures that they see a specific image, and hence, respond to the content in a specific way. “Right, but you wouldn’t do that to me!” Sure.
Look, here’s someone who knows what they’re talking about:
Ads do not try to sell you a product, is Mad Men canceled yet? On that now unwatchable soap opera Creative stays up all night eating chinese and trading tag lines, trying to capture the essence of the product. Essence of the product– for whom? In fairness, back then there was only one TV and one wallet per household, so demos tended to be a little more broad, by which I mean women. Fair enough, and not anymore. Now ads target a specific demographic, and tailor an aspirational message/image for that demo on which is piggybacked whatever product paid for the take out. THE PRODUCT IS IRRELEVANT. Write it down on a sticky note next to A-B-C, it will help.
In this sense, branding is what connects the product to the aspirational image, the identity. It easily skirts around people’s common defenses to advertising because people think advertising is selling a product, so they assume ads that barely show the product are just ‘weird’ or ‘dumb.’ They don’t understand that what advertising really sells is the identity, and makes you believe that owning their product is a necessary step to achieving said identity. Advertisers will target a specific demographic with an image to aspire to, then sell the signifiers of an identity as the actual identity. This is what leads people to buy a brand new BMW when they can barely afford it. They aren’t buying a new BMW because they’re wealthy, they’re buying a new BMW because they desperately want something to identify them as wealthy. “Hey! Some people just like BMWs!” Yeah, must be for their excellent reliability and low cost of maintenance. What causes people to ‘just like’ things?
If you don’t believe me about branding, it’s fine. Maybe it sounds like a bit of a stretch, your business course that you paid too much for gave you a different definition of branding, etc. Of course my definitions do not fully encapsulate what branding is, I alluded to this with the title. My point is that the new ways branding is used is more important and you should care about these new ways more. Look, here’s some further reading, it takes extra effort but you’re the person who puts in that extra effort, right?
Let’s talk about leftist YouTube channels! Try saying that at a party. Actually, that could work in some places. Either way, I’m in for the results.
This piece will be mainly focusing on ContraPoints, PhilosophyTube, Jack Saint, and Lindsay Ellis. “Hey! Lindsay Ellis isn’t a BreadTuber!” Oh yeah? Perhaps not one of the most talked about on BreadTube but she is certainly loved there. Also, she used the word ‘problematic’ unironically, what else do you want from me?
I recognize that BreadTube isn’t completely representative of these YouTubers’ audiences. BreadTube has much stronger views than your typical ContraPoints watcher. You can thank the homogenizing and amplifying effects of subreddits for that. This knowledge in no way dissuades me.
If you want people to watch your YouTube video, you only have a few ways to transmit information about your video to prospective consumers. One of the most important ways is the video title. And boy oh boy do I have a lot to say about how BreadTubers title their videos. Recall that one of the defining characteristics we pointed out about BreadTube was that they see themselves as ‘high quality content.’ Note that the appearance of high quality content is different from actually being high quality content. Now, I don’t have a YouTube-video-quality-ometer handy and I would highly prefer not to get into the discussion of what is and isn’t good content. So for now, let’s focus on whether the content appears to be of high or low quality.
Here are the titles of ContraPoints’s last four videos:
I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’m picking up on some patterns here.
All the videos have subtitles! The first part of each title is brief—just one or two words. And these words are pretty vague. Potential consumers are not given too much information. They need to watch the video to find out what it’s about. Notice that all the words are neatly capitalized . Elegant. Professional. Quality. Pirsig would be proud.
After is a ‘|’, which I don’t believe is a regular part of speech. This provides a clean divide before the next part: ‘ContraPoints.’ Including her channel name is not just redundant—it shows that this is not just a YouTube video, it’s a ContraPoints video. Recall that BreadTube subscribers identify themselves as being apart from the rest of the YouTube peasantry. Natalie is helping them out by showing she’s not just another YouTuber. Look. She’s a creator. She’s ContraPoints. Adding to this: Natalie is front and center in every thumbnail. Not plain-Jane Natalie, but dressed-up Natalie. She is showing the audience not just herself, but her great costumes (read: high production quality). The thumbnails add to the image that tells consumers: “hey, this video is high quality. You are someone who watches high quality content, right?”
The horse is nearly beat to death, so I’ll finish off with some homework for the readers. Look at the video lengths. These are telling. What do they say? First hint: remember how BreadTube (part of her audience) sees itself. They’re not people who watch five minute clickbait videos that don’t have any content. Second hint, which, if you’re YouTube savvy (not something to put on your resume, please), you won’t need: the video lengths are connected to something else and it’s all over the description.
 There’s probably a better way to list just the titles.
 “Wait, do you have something against capital letters?” I’m going to tell you ‘yes,’ but the answer is actually—well, you’ll connect the dots.
Let’s shift gears. Here’s how other BreadTubers brand their videos.
Seems familiar. I actually think the only good thumbnail of these is the one for the Steve Bannon video, but Olly already has the same title structure and the high production value (read: appearance of high quality) down pat.
Now for Jack Saint:
Jack Saint is an interesting example because he has less subscribers than ContraPoints and Philosophy Tube, so he hasn’t quite optimized his titles and thumbnails to the same degree. His thumbnails are so blatantly over-edited to parody the rest of YouTube thumbnails. See: observation #3. This is clear to many of his fans, but the satire may not be recognized by non-subscribers. Funny enough, satirizing the ridiculous click-baiting of other YouTube videos doesn’t distinguish you from the pack anymore because everybody is doing it. I like when things come full circle.
Here’s the fun thing: he switched his titles to include the ‘| Jack Saint’ not too long ago. “They’re learning!” Seriously, though, they are. It’s not like he just decided to include his name with the exact same ‘|’ before it on a whim. And once Jack Saint understands that aspirational branding brings in more clicks than overdone satire, he’ll switch the thumbnails too.
Branding on YouTube is not just limited to the titles, thumbnails, video lengths, and descriptions. For brand-conscious creators, it carries into their videos. Uninteresting example, ContraPoints videos maintain the appearance of high quality content through high production value. “… so, you’re saying having good production value is bad?” No, I’m just saying it plays right into the image BreadTube has for itself. BreadTube community members see themselves as people who watch high quality, leftist content that goes “against the prevailing winds of the internet,” so creators make content specifically tailored to that aspiration. By now, I’ve beat that drum to death. But that’s all boring and low hanging fruit, here’s where the fun begins:
In some of her older videos, ContraPoints used to film herself in front of a bookshelf:
From afar, it just looks like a bunch of random books, but if you pause one of her videos and look closer, you will notice that she had some Smart People books on there. I spy Adorno, Foucault, and Nabokov. Yummy. She even had the front cover of Critique of Pure Reason facing the camera. “Look how well-read she is!” Whether or not she is, who’s to say, but to her audience, it sure appears that way. And hey, maybe filming in front of her bookshelf was the best place in her home, and maybe she can’t put books away properly and just happened to have Critique of Pure Reason on the shelf like that beforehand . I’m not saying she spent 3 hours obsessing over every detail in the shot, but for someone as image-aware (read: brand-conscious) as ContraPoints, I highly doubt filming in front of her bookshelf was random. I mean, she has a framed picture of Anita Sarkeesian (sigh) prominently facing the camera. But that’s beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether anything is intentional or not. Obsessing over intent is a distraction because regardless of intent, the appearance remains. Branding is inevitable.
The best part of this is that many of the book titles aren’t easily readable. Imagine being a normal person (but don’t strain yourself doing so) who is watching this video. During the video your eyes lazily glance around the screen. “Huh, books.” You move closer to the screen to read some of the titles. You don’t recognize many of them so you decide to look some of them up. “Whoa, that Consciousness Explained one talks about some really complicated stuff.” Then you look up another. “Damn, I didn’t realize she was so intelligent.” Suddenly, ContraPoints’s points (ugh) seem a lot more convincing.
This is one of the cleverest tricks not in the book. If the titles are too readable, their placement becomes a tacky argument from authority and a fairly unsubtle brag about your big reading brain. Too far and you’ve missed your mark: “Natalie likes reading too! My favorite author is Nora Roberts.” The titles need to be just illegible enough that the viewer has to work to decipher them. There is a bias where people think that the more energy they expend for information, the more true they think said information must be. After all, look at the work you had to do to obtain it! The typical viewer isn’t aware of the books ContraPoints reads, nor what significance they hold. They must find that out for themselves. And for the lesser-read viewer, the required energy input is greater, as is the resulting impression from the findings. “Hey did you know that [person] is actually really smart? No, I’m serious, I was looking around last night…” See also: digging 10 years into someone’s Twitter feed to uncover their ‘true’ self.
If you want to get meta, things get real fun. You are reading this post, but can’t make out any books from the authors I listed. You look up the mentioned ContraPoints videos to check for yourself. You see the books on the shelf, as I had said, and think: “wow, this blogger was right! Those books are on the shelf!” Then you continue reading the post, but with a new sense of –
This fallacy involves the belief in proportional dividends—that effort invested must be rewarded with proportional returns. In respect to finding ‘truth’ specifically—the belief in proportional enlightenment. This is the tomb raider descending into the deepest depths of the crypt, evading all the guards, avoiding all the traps, and finally reaching the last sarcophagus. The raider then finds [thing] and then believes [thing] must be worth a lot of money. After all, why would they go to so much effort to hide it there?
At the risk of tipping my hand, I’m going to accuse most people in the world of falling for this, but especially r/TheLastPsychiatrist. I mean, just look at this take on the Gillette ad by u/HaveIsOnly:
Hot take: Complaining about toxic masculinity is actually slut shaming. Let’s run with that.
From a game theoretic perspective, promiscuous women make it more difficult for low-value women to attract long term mates. Women are supposed to have leverage over men as the gatekeepers of sex, while men (if they are breadwinners) are the gatekeepers of commitment. Both sexes have their ace, and withhold and parlay it into a mutually profitable relationship.
Party whores break the meta because now women can’t gatekeep sex. Especially high-value men will have lots of easy sex thrown at them. This seems harmless, but consider the reverse. Image yourself as a man trying to entice women with your stable income. Except it turns out there’s dudes who will give out $1000 bills no strings attached just because it’s fun. So the women you’re trying to entice with your $ can just go get $ whenever. Now your plan is shit on. You have no value.
Of course this doesn’t happen in real life. There’s no birth control analog for money. But women who fuck lots of strangers for fun are ruining it for the Plain Janes by throwing free sex at their potential husbands. Now also imagine that PJ isn’t very attractive and has low self esteem and…
It’s so subtle you almost miss it. So fucking subtle. It took me way too long to write this post.
It goes from: “men shouldn’t value women for sex” to “men shouldn’t value sex from women”. Boom. That’s how the “toxic masculinity” narrative is actually about slut shaming. This ad proves it. The ad is saying that to sluts have no value to Real Men. And when sluts do their thing anyway, they’re evil because they’re complicit in toxic masculinity.
Don’t get me wrong—I think this is a really interesting take, and I find a lot of good discussion on r/TLP. I’m not trying to ‘gotcha’ the entire sub—that would be arrogant and ignorant. However, the fact that this is the highest upvoted comment on that post just goes to show what content many people on that sub value. They hold true in their minds that the farther you look into something, while still putting together a
coherent convincing take, the more true said take must be. Conflated with the appearance of greater ‘truth’ is greater importance. I’d levy this same criticism at post-something-ists and armchair internet psychoanalysts. This endlessly-fractalizing quest for truth rests on two assumptions: 1) Whatever you find deeper down must be more true, and 2) truth is important. With the example of ContraPoints’s bookshelf, we showed that regardless of the validity of these assumptions, this mindset can be taken advantage of. Further, digging so deep for ‘truth’ means that you’re now focusing on minutiae instead of broader implications.
Solve the secret puzzle and you’ll always find an answer. However, it’s exactly the answer you were looking for and it wasn’t put there by you.
Things that aren’t blog posts that touch on this: House of Leaves and Under the Silver Lake.
 A reader kindly pointed out that ContraPoints changes the book facing the camera between videos, so she likely had Critique of Pure Reason turned out to reflect the content of the video: “Why I Quit Academia.” Normally, I am more than happy to admit to a mistake, though I would leave the text unchanged, flaws and all, as I find editing the text afterward a little dishonest. However, this particular error only emphasizes my point as it led me to consider the meta branding of her video.
Let’s talk about Lindsay Ellis’s branding because I find it eerily reflective. I’m sure someone is reading this looking for spilt blood so here’s me delivering in a way that makes it look like blood isn’t being spilt.
Lindsay Ellis’s branding is not as strong as that of ContraPoints, the current branding Queen, but I’d like to focus on Ellis because she demonstrates the utility of branding one’s actions as ironic through the use of lampshading. Ellis does this frequently and it’s actually pretty hilarious once you start noticing it.
Next example needs some context. Apparently the last season of Game of Thrones was horrendous so people and their unwavering loyalties took to the interwebs to rant about it. There, they could feel a sense of relief as everybody else agreed with them, ensuring them that yes, they were right to be angry and they were not alone. Luckily this only lasted a month or else the whole internet would have drowned in its own froth. Now, these people needed a way to channel their frustrations, and what better way to channel their rage than to watch hours of YouTube videos saying exactly the same thing? How cathartic. Now, this presented an incredible opportunity for YouTubers, all of whom wanted to get in on that gravy train. Some saw their subscriber counts jump up massively. Who knew profiting off the cultural zeitgeist was so lucrative? That talking about what everybody else is already talking about could be so profitable? That making content specifically designed to milk people’s frustration yielded such incredible returns? Obviously I find this more than a little gross.
Anywho, Ellis was no exception. Problem being that people like Ben Shapiro had already jumped on the hate-train, and Ellis didn’t want to be associated with that. A large and rather vocal portion of her audience leans left, and they may have some issues with her joining in on the festivities. But Ellis is pretty crafty, so she figured out a way to get a piece of the pie. Here’s the thumbnail for her Game of Thrones video:
Damn, I “guess” she just needs “to talk about Game of Thrones.” Hate when that happens. I mean, you just have to, right? Y’know, you just gotta. Oh, and did I mention her GoT video will be a two-parter? Sigh. “So you’re saying people can’t talk about what’s relevant?” Well, yes and no. I’m upset at what’s relevant, and no matter what you say about something, you are agreeing beforehand that it is important to talk about. So even if I want to talk about how we shouldn’t talk about the latest Disney movie because I think they’re bad art and I’d rather have the cultural conversation centered around [anything else], I am admitting them into the cultural conversation by talking about them in the first place. It’s quite the bind.
Anyway, the title of Ellis’s video spares her from accusations of jumping on the unstoppable hate-train. It’s quite clever. If Ellis had just made the two videos on GoT, then her audience, people who identify themselves with creators they see as ‘above’ the clamoring hordes of YouTubers looking to cash in, may have questioned the motives behind Ellis’s content. But by Ellis demonstrating that she is still ‘above’ this practice by signalling she is making the videos ironically, she is absolved of any such accusations. With her impunity, she is then safe to make two GoT videos, each likely getting over one million views, bringing her new subscribers and patrons.
This works both ways. Since Ellis branded the videos as ironing, her audience is able to watch videos bashing GoT without feeling like they are joining the hordes of angry peasants mad at their show. They retain that feeling of being ‘above all that’ through the creation of an ironic distance. This is the same thing as enjoying certain movies or music ‘ironically.’ If anybody questions your taste, you tell them that you “just like it ironically” to create a distance between yourself and the things you like. You are signalling that [thing you enjoy] doesn’t actually reflect who you are. This is how you can listen to Taylor Swift without being a ‘person who listens to Taylor Swift.’
YouTubers have a little place on their channels where they are able to endorse other channels they want to promote. You can change what the label says. Here’s what Ellis put:
Again with the lampshading. Calling actions what they are and then doing them anyway earns you a free pass because irony. Ellis is still endorsing channels, she is still taking the exact same action.
Last example. Ellis made a video called “YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)” about how YouTubers create personas just for YouTube that appear ‘authentic.’ That is, they do their best to appear down-to-earth, to appear like they are normal people too, just like you
and I. However, these personas are distinctly different from themselves in real life, and hence, inauthentic. I talked about the possible utility of this in my first post, but I’m not focusing on that aspect today. In the video, Ellis called out some YouTubers would were more blatant in their attempts to come-across as ‘authentic,’ and went into why they would do such a thing in the first place. In the process, she revealed to her own audience the dissonance between her YouTube persona and herself.
Now, strap yourselves in because shit’s about to get meta. My question to you is: after the audience learned that the Lindsay Ellis they knew was, in fact, not Lindsay Ellis in real life, and was actually a persona created for YouTube, how would they, the audience, react to this? Well, I can tell you one thing: they sure weren’t rioting in the comments. Here are a few seemingly woke responses:
These comments show that people understood the video. They made the connection that YouTuber Lindsay Ellis was not person Lindsay Ellis. But it’s not like people were shocked by this reveal or felt betrayed by her after watching the video. In fact, this probably made her audience like her even more. “Wow, it’s so authentic to admit you’ve been faking it the whole time!” With this video, Ellis also safe-guarded herself against people finding out about her ‘true’ self and reacting poorly. Now if somebody says, “hey, I met Lindsay Ellis in real life and she was nothing like she is on YouTube,” somebody will use the word “obviously” and point them to this video. Lampshading to brand your actions as ironic is very powerful because it serves to mask underlying actions.
There were many replies to Jeet Joshi’s comment. Here’s one that was particularly interesting:
That’s the point. You can’t “trust” any media in an absolute sense. It’s about engaging your critical thinking, and I personally would rather have something like Lindsay’s channel here, where she is presenting it as a job and not pretending to be a “slice of life” than some crap that’s really another form of “reality TV”. So no, don’t trust anything absolutely. But think about the content, how accurate or useful that is, and whether the presentation is trying to imply something else, and how manipulative that might be. There’s always a degree of manipulation, and that’s what needs to be balanced against the content.
This is exactly the type of person the video was for.
We showed how Lindsay Ellis made herself appear more authentic to her fans in a very meta way by pointing out that the Lindsay Ellis fans saw was actually a persona created for YouTube, and not her regular self. “Oh, so by pointing all that out, surely you must be authentic, right?” Well, let’s go back in time. First section: “Not a single word in this post is about BreadTube.” This is one of those smug statements cultural critics will use to give the appearance that there is actually ‘more’ to the picture and they know what that ‘more’ is because they are temporarily withholding it from you. I said this post was about branding—what do you think I’ve been doing this whole time?
If I say, “don’t trust a single word in this post, I lied to you 38 times,” I will still appear authentic through my admission of inauthenticity. Even if I explain the very ways I purposely branded myself in this article to look a specific way, I will still appear more authentic as a result. It’s quite a conundrum. Now after saying that, I won’t point those instances out, you have to find them yourself. The thumbnails might be a good start. However, I will tell you that I have written this in a specific way and spent time thinking about how I wanted to be perceived. I mean, do you really think the self-awareness mixed with a pinch the personas of [whomever I read] was an accident? Criticizing r/BreadTube and r/TLP, communities which are made up of fairly intelligent people? That wasn’t for me, it was for you. I know a lot of self-proclaimed rationalists get off on seeing people torn down, just so long as it’s done under the illusion of ‘good faith.’ This is the same as when the BreadTube community watches ContraPoints and Philosophy Tube respond to the alt-right. For example, ContraPoints made a video on climate change where she responded to a hypothetical climate change denier/apathist. ContraPoints isn’t ever going to seriously change her stance on climate change, but the video makes it appear that she seriously considers opposing viewpoints. I’ve read enough comment sections to know people love watching Wrestlemania, they just need it to not look like Wrestlemania. This is why hbomberguy, another popular BreadTuber, titles his video debating flat-earthers: “Flat Earth: A Measured Response” and not: “flat-earthers are fucking idiots but you’re not here’s why.” hbomberguy’s audience members aren’t flat-earthers, they’re leftists. They’re there to see blood spilled but they don’t want to be seen as bloodthirsty. See also: the Peterson-Zizek debate.
I’ve spent enough time reading TLP to know his audience gets the warm fuzzies whenever he “shows” those “idealogues.” TLP had a tight control over his branding, but that only means he controlled what information was sent, not how it was received. It’s hard to help people if they get a sick sense of satisfaction when you point out that a Guinness ad was for ‘beta-males’ or when you say “The Hunger Games Is A Sexist Fairy Tale. Sorry.”
“Hey, not every [member of group] is like that! They aren’t there just to watch intellectual gladiator fights!” You’re absolutely right, but if you’re going to counter trends with exceptions I’m not going to take you seriously and nothing will change. Not society, not the world, and definitely not you. Smart People are exceptionally good at coming up with defenses for change, one of the best I’ve seen is that they confine lessons from examples to the only context of the example. Let’s refer back to my previous example about people buying new BMWs because they want a symbol to show, to themselves and others, that they are wealthy. The Smart Person knee-jerk response would be: “well, I don’t buy new BMWs to signify me as wealthy, so surely I don’t engage in these behaviors at all!” It’s so hard to direct criticism home instead of having it be deflected in a “well, that’s not word-for-word about me, so…” sort of way. Okay, another example. The BreadTube community spends a ton of time watching and discussing YouTube videos about leftist ideology. Past some point, and it’s not just the flip of a switch, people watching those videos already know and readily agree with most of what’s being said. They’re no longer there to better themselves or learn more, they’re there for the entertainment (read: the affirmation). Again, the immediate Smart Person response is: “well, I don’t spend hours a day watching leftist YouTube videos, so guess I’m off the hook, nice!” Okay, but what do you do with your time instead? Where is your energy going? What are you consuming?
This isn’t meant to be a half-earned ‘gotcha,’ it’s just that if you spend much of your free time reading blog posts with ‘incredible’ insights about the world, you feel that the quality of the insights justifies the expenditure of time. This may or may not be true, but the point is that these blog posts are branded for people with exactly that mindset.
The scope of this essay is getting out of control. Sorry, my bad, etc. I’ll wrap it up.
Earlier, I mentioned how lazy psychoanalysis over the internet can be exploited. You psychoanalyze someone through their work, ‘figure out’ that they “show obvious signs of self-hatred,” or “probably voted for [candidate],” but if the content creator understands even a little bit of this, they can use it to their advantage by guiding your analysis to find something they want you to find. See: ContraPoints’s bookshelf placement. “Hey, constantly worrying about people psychoanalyzing you is telling, too!” Yes, and who made it appear that they were “constantly worrying”? Branding fools those playing checkers, and easily fools those who think they’re playing chess. Relevant.
You may then ask: “oh no, how do I stop falling for branding?” The answer may surprise you. You don’t. “Wait, what?” Seriously, it’s impossible to never be tricked by it—that’s borderline definitional. Besides, you are always just another demographic. “Hey! I’m not just a demographic!” Ah, yes, put this one into the ‘believes they’re not just another demographic’ demographic. However, you can change the degree to which you fall for it. First strategy: pay attention to your initial reaction to the dressing. That’s probably how you are intended to feel. For example, ask: “why does [thing] want me to react this way?” One personal example for me was with hating on The Last Jedi. I thought it was bad art (still do), but this blinded me to content creators wanting to rile me up even more so I would want to watch more of their videos to fuel this feeling. That is, until I started asking myself: “why is this telling me to be so angry?” If you make one change after reading this post, make it asking that question.
Second strategy: focus on the actions. What does the branding hide?