Are Marvel films “cinema”? (And a long rant about snobs)

 

Yes, they are. And yes, I am late to the party.

My short answer should be the end of the story. But, I can’t help myself from ranting and letting cretins ruining my days.

Yes, it is “days”. Plural.

On Facebook, a land where intelligent discourses thrive, I made posts on multiple pages and groups on why I disagree with Scorsese, Coppola and their defenders.

Surprisingly, my comments were more well-received than I expected. It feels nice to know I am not alone with my frustration.

Unsurprisingly, I also encountered detractors -two to be exact- and their overall counter argument is something I have seen read and heard before. Yet, it still manages to ruffle my feathers.

Basically, they told me that instead of being “unfairly dismissive”, I should eat the “humble pie” (one of them said that exact term), acknowledge that my taste is shit, acknowledge that my opinions regarding cinema are and will always be inherently less worthy than the ones regurgitated by award-winning directors and acknowledge that I am being pretentious for thinking mine can be better than theirs.

Five reasons why it is a bullshit argument.

Reason one:

Awards are not always what we think they are.

They do not always indicate appreciation of merits. They can also be used as indicators of how much certain individuals and their creations are beloved by the establishment.

You cannot expect me to believe they are always about merits when James Cameron’s Avatar, a film which success was entirely dependent on special effects and 3D theatre presentations, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Reason two:

It advocates status-worshipping.

Surely, if one wants to determine the merit of an opinion, the most important thing is to analyse the reasoning and evidences being used instead getting fixated on how much the establishment loves the opinion maker.

It is not anti-intellectual to simply question the so-called experts. If anything, it ensures they are being held to the highest standard.

Oh, and if you encounter the “Marvel films are not cinema” remark online and you don’t know who said it, you would not assume it was made by intellectual adults hardened by life experiences.

No, you would assume it was made by immature and pretentious snot-nosed teenagers who think their tastes are the most sophisticated ones.

In fact, it is way less understandable when a adult does that. You would think life experiences will make her/him more mature and reasonable.

Speaking about pretentiousness…

Reason three:

Those two snobs don’t know what pretension is.

I don’t have my own personal definition of what cinema is as I choose to stick with the most objective one available: the production and distribution of films.

As much as I despise films like Michael Bay’s and Batman vs Superman, I have to acknowledge them as parts of the cinema, just like my favourite films are.

It is arrogant for anyone -Scorsese and Coppola included- to think their subjective definitions of certain words are the only right ones.

They are trying to convince us that their unsound and petulant remarks are more profound than they really are. They are trying to convince us that among billions of human beings living right now, people like them are the only ones who “get” cinema.

In short, they are fucking pretentious.

I, on other hand, try my best to be as objective as possible by not letting my hatred of certain works hinder my judgement and by not pretending my taste is best.

One of my detractors also nitpicked about my wording. He said it was pretentious of me to use the word “one” as a pronoun.

When one realises one does not have any good comebacks, one can simply retaliated by splitting hair in front of one’s opponent.

Reason four:

They insist on thinking in boxes.

It has been ingrained in their minds that loving films like Marvel’s is an absolute sign of mediocre taste. As I can enjoy them, they perceive me as thoroughly unsophisticated.

But, I also told them about my love of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, three directors who are frequently considered as among the best by film snobs.

So, if one takes their words as the truth, it means I have a really good taste in cinema.

Well, not to my detractors.

Even with my repeated claims that I love those directors, my detractors kept pretending I could only love Marvel and Marvel only.

Their black and white mindset cannot comprehend how one’s taste in anything can be difficult or even impossible to pigeonhole.

If they immediately acknowledged my love of those directors, they would have to accept that tastes can be complex. But, as they insisted on thinking in boxes, they ignored my statement and kept claiming their non-existing aesthetic superiority.

One of them eventually did acknowledge that I am a fan of those directors. But, even then, it did not stop him from using the condescending tone.

For him, it does not matter if most of my favourite films are arthouse. Love just one Marvel film and I will ruin the whole batch.

He probably thinks taste is literally measurable… like a literal, physically-embodied chemical which can literally be poisonous.

They actually make me proud of myself for having unpredictable and relatively complex taste.

Yes, I used the word “complex” to describe myself.

Reason five:

Where is the fucking humble pie?

If they wanted me to eat the bad-tasting yet nutritious humble pies, they had to painstakingly make one for me.

Instead, they took a huge dump on the dining table and claimed their faeces is the humble pie; the refusal to consume is a sign of one’s infantility.

When I kept refusing to do, they started shoving their faeces into my mouth. Unsurprisingly (and ideally), I retaliated by throwing their shit back to their faces.

When they showed no signs of stopping, I started to take a dump myself and do the same thing.

Interestingly, when I said the arrogance of snobs put off others from even considering to try something highbrow, my detractors dismissed it.

They said it never happens and I am just making excuses for people to be comfortable with their aesthetic mediocrity.

Except, it does happen all the time.

I have seen people defecating on certain works even though they have yet to experience them. The behaviours of the fans are considered more than enough to determine the quality of those works.

I have seen people hating on Harry Potter, Steven Universe and anime solely because of their toxic fandoms. And yes, I have seen people hating on fine arts and quality entertainment because of the exact same reason.

Yes, what I just said are anecdotes. But, at least, I tried to make my claims sound more believable.

My detractors, on the other hand, didn’t make the efforts. Instead of trying to give me evidences to counter my claim, they simply dismissed it.

If anything, the (thankfully not literal) excrement fight I just described above actually supports my claim. The evidence that is against them was displayed right on their screens.

Their arrogance begets my arrogance.

How can they expect me to eat humble pie when they have never eaten one themselves?

—-

Yes, I know I should not let their snobbery ruined my days. I also hate that I ended up resorting to arrogance as well. Even though I am way more reasonable than those two, I believe there is no winner in this fight.

But, cultural snobbery has been frustrating me for years because of the disservice they have committed against the masses.

I would love for films like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman’s to be even more popular. I would love them to greatly influence film industries in the incoming years.

I would love if the creative industries of the incoming years allow idealism, artistry and experimentation to thrive more.

I would love if the masses are starting to think more critically about the entertainment they enjoy and stop associating popularity with quality.

But, thanks to those snobs, my desires will always be make-believes.

Thanks to them, the masses will keep on associating mindless escapism with “humility of the ordinary people” and intellectually-inclined admiration with “vanity of the elites”.

Those beliefs are obviously not true. The presence of humility and vanity does not correlate with one’s standing in a society. But, as those snobs prioritise their egos over actually enlightening others, they unwittingly perpetuate those falsehoods.

They shoot my feet, accuse me of committing self-harm, shoot their own feet and accuse others of violence.

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A childhood treasure I didn’t know having

When I was a toddler, I remember watching feature films from those gigantic laser discs and one of my favourite films to watch was Disney’s Fantasia.

The original one, NOT the so-so sequel.

Back then, I didn’t try to comprehend the plots. I was simply mesmerised by the beautiful colours and shapes, adorned with harmonious classical music. It felt like I was watching a magically-animated painting, accompanied by a live musical performance.

Along with my beloved encyclopedias, I credit the film for making my childhood a colourful and vibrant life chapter where even the sky was not a limit. It felt like every inch of the universe was worthy to unearth.

When I started attending primary school, VCDs had become widespread. I started to watch more movies on the smaller discs and I started neglecting their bulkier predecessors. So, between pre-school and adulthood, I forgot about the existence of the film.

Yikes.

I managed to watch it again when I was eighteen. As I already started becoming a snobby cultural critic, I started to appreciate its merit.

Even though I don’t think it was an extraordinarily groundbreaking film*, it still effortlessly stands out among many Hollywood flicks. To this day, I am still surprised that one of my childhood favourites is of high quality. Most of them tend to be shit.

And, because of its uniqueness, it shapes my taste in the arts and entertainment as an adult.

Magically, absurdly and subconsciously realistic

The segments that feature abstract animations are my very first exposures to abstract art. Now, I am one of those weirdos who genuinely enjoy staring at abstract paintings.

I don’t care about the lack of coherent narrative. As long as the combination of shapes and colours impress me, I will consider the paintings beautiful regardless.

I also have to credit it for inspiring me to love surrealism and magical realism, making me attracted to the weird and inexplicably fantastical.

Nowadays, some of my favourite films include ones with strong metaphysical themes and/or ones that portray the inexplicable. They include Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and The Shining and much of Andrei Tarkovsky’s works.

While Fantasia is of neither genre, its sublimely fantastical depictions of natural phenomena certainly help opening the path.

And it is certainly metaphysical.

Unhinged sophistication

When I listened to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring supposedly for the first time, it felt like an inexplicable surge of nostalgia ran through my veins, as if I had heard it before. It turned out I had: it is one of the soundtracks of Fantasia!

My early exposure to the modernist composition possibly influenced my taste in classical music. I prefer the more stylistically-eclectic and/or “unhinged” newer works -like ones by Stravinsky (obviously) , George Gershwin and John Cooliged Adams- over the older ones, many of which I find a bit too saccharine.

In fact, I now love to complain about how films, especially fantastical ones, are too dependent on cliche-sounding orchestral music and are too afraid to utilise more ambient, more eclectic and more “untraditional” compositions.

The lovely dread

Chernabog is probably one of my first exposures to “scary entertainment”, even though I was never terrified by it. Again, I was too busy mesmerised by the beautiful animation.

Beautifully haunting and sinister animation, showcasing something one can describe as a symbolic representation of the dark side of humanity.

As an adult, I have a weird thing for entertainment with ominous atmosphere, as in you feel scared even though nothing scary is happening on-screen. You know, actual horror instead of cheap jump scares.

I am not a fan of the show Criminal Minds due to its dehumanising depictions of mental illness sufferers. But, I do love the episode where the heroes unwittingly cooperate with a police station where virtually every officer is corrupt; it genuinely feels like they can be ambushed at any time. It feels like real life horror.

Horror is not about what you explicitly show, it is about the feeling of terror you induce on your audience.

Connecting non-existing dots

Admittedly, what I just said do sound far-fetched.

It is indeed absurd to claim one feature film dictates my entire taste as an adult. There are many things that can be taken account as the influencing factors.

As I hinted in the beginning, I also read encyclopedias frequently as a young child and some of them not only discuss “weird” paintings and sculptures, they also display the photos. Basically, they partook in the exposure.

One of my favourite musicians is Chrisye, an Indonesian Pop singer whose early works reek influence from Genesis -a Progressive Rock band- and the band’s genre does sound “unhinged” to the “untrained” ears. After discovering that particular musical style, I ended up craving for more “weird” sounds.

And those films that I love, I also have to credit my time wasted on Wikipedia and my Media Studies classes as contributing factors; I would not have heard of Andrei Tarkovsky if it wasn’t for the former and I would not have watched a single film from West Africa if it wasn’t for the latter.

My love of ominous entertainment may also be rooted by many years of watching horror films and eventually ended up frustrated with the excessive amount of cheap jump scares, craving for actual feeling of terror.

Oh, and don’t forget about my personality. Our personalities not only dictate how we interact with each other, they also dictate what we love and hate.

I am a weirdo and have been called such since forever.

Therefore, my current taste can still come to being even without Fantasia in my life.

But, still…

As I said before, the film is a huge part of my childhood. While it is clearly not the only factor that shapes my taste, it certainly is a major one.

It certainly accelerates its formation and it certainly aggravated its potency.

Without the film, it would probably take me a much longer time to love the things I now love.

*I refuse to call Fantasia a groundbreaking film because I don’t think it is.

Yes, it certainly has a relatively unusual approach in regards to moving image narratives and may be unappealing for those who want more glaring expositions, who think escapism equals quality and who cannot give more damn about visual artistry.

But, if you dig deeper into the history of cinema, you would see there were already ground-breaking cinema movements -like surrealism and Italian futurism- that predated the film’s existence.

And works of those genres are bizarre and incomprehensible for the masses. Not matter how weird Fantasia is, I still think it is relatively comprehensible.

If anything, its audio and visual aesthetics were already conventional at the time of its release.

The risk-taking was indeed high. But, it was not that high.

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Do I regret my ‘useless’ degree?

The answer is no.

Yes, it does not help me in my job search. It barely teaches me any practical skills. It is not rigorous with its theoretical education. I wish it is both a vocational and liberal arts degree.

But, thanks to my media studies major, I now possess a relatively high level media literacy. While it is too low for my liking, it dramatically increases after I started my media studies education. As a result, in my personal life, I am the least gullible person around.

Admittedly, I still fall for fake news on some occasions. But, to my defence, I fall for fake news reported by the mainstream media which have sleak and professional presentations. The people I know, on the other hand, will easily fall for articles which utilise clickbaits as headlines and over-dramatic language in the content, lack any proper citations and, in some cases, include blatantly-photoshopped images.

Those same people also easily fall for those arbitrarily-sad, tear-jerking and pseudo-inspirational content, whether on the internet or on TV. Also thanks to my education, I now take heed of the sappy or ‘uplifting’ background music, the unnecessarily lavish visuals and the flowery language. If those sad stories and inspirational words are given raw and unpolished presentation, they would not have the same emotional potency. In fact, their lack of depth would immediately expose itself. Nowadays, such content no longer moves me. It only nauseates me.

I also no longer easily fall for any rhetoric (well, most of the time). Acknowledging that people lie to and deceive each other seems to be a common sense. But, in reality, we still take other people’s words for granted, especially when they are public figures. We often vote for politician NOT because the actual substances of their words and NOT because their track records, but because they keep appealing to our emotions.

I also have another reason, a strange reason, why I don’t regret my university education: learning.

It is strange because I am someone known for his poor academic performances. I always have a hard time finishing assignments and I often get low grades; high ones are anomalies. Overall, it is a miracle that I finished primary education on-time.

But, I had so much fun absorbing every bit of information. I sincerely enjoyed reading the pages of the library books and academic papers I managed to get my hands on. I sincerely enjoyed immersing myself in research findings and complex theories. I never had any academia-related enjoyment prior to my university years.

I blame the lack of enjoyment on the over-emphasise of rote-learning, the lack of encouragement to read and do my own researches, the fact that I have to take classes I have no interest in and my teachers made no effort to make them seem worthy to learn about.

It is a contrast to my higher education in which reading and researching were compulsory, rote-learning was virtually non-existent (at least, in my chosen discipline) and, because I chose my own major, I did not have to take many classes I had no interest partaking. I enjoyed learning when I was a university student because that is how learning should be!

The purpose of learning is not about receiving information for granted. It should be about the adeptness to gather new information and determine its validity by scrutinising the sources, the reasoning and evidences. It should be for the sake of being enlightened and not expecting any tangible or shallow rewards.

It is not to say higher education is not susceptible to indoctrination. It is, especially when religion and politics are involved. But, considering how the learning process is executed, gullibility and irrationality are inexcusable. I am thoroughly disappointed by the severe intellectual dishonesty of some of my fellow university graduates.

I also have to credit my university education for increasing my nerdiness.. After reading quite a handful of genuinely interesting papers and library books, I end up even more interested in the liberal arts.

I never knew that one could observe human beings through abstract lenses, beyond the surface of their observable behaviours; it gives me an entirely fresh approach to how I tackle my surrounding.

Are those lenses practical? No, they are not necessarily so. But, they do turn me into a more contemplative person; with the risk of being seen as ostentatious, I even dare to say they make more spiritual.

Consequentially, I also end up searching for more academic papers, despite the fact that it has been a while since the graduation day. I used to hate reading them. But now, I read them NOT because I want to be a researcher and am intending to publish my findings, I read them simply because I want to!

Overall, I become a significantly better individual.

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How NOT to introduce people to new cultures

No, I am not basing it on my real life experiences. I am too much of a hermit to directly immerse myself in different cultures, too much of a hermit to even bother interacting with fellow human beings.

And yes, instead of writing about how to introduce people to new cultures, I prefer to write about how NOT to. I am so easily drawn to negativity.

My thoughts are based on what I have observed on Youtube videos and their comment sections. Buzzfeed videos produced years ago still linger in my mind because they featured American reactors of foreign dishes who were often lambasted by the comment sections not only for their ‘disrespectful’ reactions, but also for their limited tastebuds. But, I was more annoyed by the commenters than I was by the American reactors. Still am.

Years after discovering Buzzfeed, I found Simon and Martina who made videos about their life in South Korea before moving to Japan. They often took a very contentious tone when speaking about South Korea which angered many Koreans and Koreaboos, ignoring how the couple still emotionally-attachment to the country even after leaving it.

Right around the same time, I also discovered Englishman Chris Broad who initially made sarcasm-laced videos about some basic information about Japan. Then, as his career progresses, he makes more travelling content. Despite being grumpier and more sarcastic than Simon and Martina, his honest assertions about the country he lives in somehow feel less contentious than the couple’s regarding Korea. But, he is not without controversy, which I will discuss it later.

Through Simon and Martina, I was introduced to Josh Carrott AKA the Korean Englishman; took me a year to check out his videos. Unlike them, he almost has entirely positive view of South Korea. I am usually suspicious of anyone who have utterly positive opinions about anything; it often comes off as insincere. But, with Josh, I don’t have that problem at all and I will also explain why later.

I also have to mention Life Where I’m From, a Youtube channel run by Canadian Greg Lam who documents the life in Japan. While the Chris Broad and Simon and Martina occasionally make videos that can count as documentaries, Greg is the biggest documentarian among them.

Not only he interviews significantly more individuals, he is also a lot more methodical on which information he wants to display, on how he obtains it and on how he presents them; he also sees entertainment values as supplementaries. As a result, he does a great job in destroying negative stereotypes about Japan while simultaneously putting more attention on the downsides of life in Japan. He does a better job in portraying the country with nuances than many of those so-called journalists.

Now, to the reason why you clicked in the first place.

For me, before you even consider introducing people to new cultures, you should NEVER do the following:

Use stereotypes

We all know bigots love to use stereotypes. But, the thing is even people who claim to be ‘tolerant’ and interested in other cultures fall for them as well; instead of using negative stereotypes, they use the positive or neutral ones.

Yes, they are not negative. But, they are still stereotypes. They still see their fellow human beings as the ‘others’ who are devoid of human intricacies. It is still dehumanising.

Excluding Josh Carrott and Buzzfeed hosts, the aforementioned Youtubers frequently described how Koreans and/or Japanese people behave and, on a surface level, the descriptions do sound stereotypical.

But, if you listen closely, they actually debunk some of the stereotypes and reveal things we never expect from either nation. That’s because the descriptions are NOT based on hearsay, they are based on said Youtubers’ personal experiences interacting with the actual people!

Unlike stereotypes which are entirely simplistic and rigid, human beings are complex and unpredictable creatures who will never fit into any preconceived moulds, no matter how much you force them. The more you know them, the more you feel guilty about ever forcing them in the first place.

While he describes Japanese people as generally unassertive and shy, Chris Broad also had an easy time making his Japanese friends and colleagues -some of whom were older than him- eagerly learn English profanities; he knows that Japanese people are human beings, NOT ‘cute, cuddly anime characters’ as he put it in a subsequent video. In fact, his friend Natsuki has no qualm about doing antics publicly (e.g. dressing and acting like Zorro) and approaching a complete stranger just to befriend him/her, which was how the two met.

One of my favourite Greg Lam’s video is The Rules That Rule Japan, which title is self-explanatory. To summarise it, Japan is ruled by written and unwritten rules that seemingly contradict each other and, depending on which rules, the breaching is not always considered a faux pas. Basically, if you want to know how it is like living in Japan, you’ve got to live in Japan.

And it is not just Japan. Virtually every country on earth also shares similar situations regarding rules. Mind you, Japan is a very homogenous country and yet it is a very complex society to break down effortlessly. Now, just imagine breaking down more populated and more diverse countries like my home country Indonesia. If a country’s description feels so simple, then it is very likely infiltrated with inaccuracies.

A year after leaving South Korea for Japan, Simon and Martina made a video titled Japan or Korea: Did We Make The Right Choice? in which they expressed their preference towards Japan as a place to live. They were honest and uninhibited with their criticism about the living conditions in South Korea. But, it seems people don’t even bother to watch until the end.

The couple also explicitly made a disclaimer about how they were speaking from their own personal experiences and acknowledged that others might have diverging impressions about either country. Many in the comment sections, presumably both Koreaphobes and zealous Korean nationalists, ignore the disclaimer and thoughtlessly spew their dogmatic vitriol.

They intentionally ignore the video’s nuances just for the sake of affirming their versions of ‘reality’. They also ignore that Simon and Martina still see South Korea as their second home; even Simon said randomly meeting a Korean person in Japan made him feel at home.

Thanks to Chris Broad and Greg Lam, my interest in Japan actually increases and thanks to Simon and Martina, I have actually become interested in South Korea. My interest increases and emerges NOT despite of the scores of scathing tones, but because of it.

The imperfection makes both countries feel more real and human. The older I get, the more I actually find absolute positivity nauseating.

Be extreme

… And my hatred of absolute positivity is the reason why, as I mentioned before, I hate those who made negative comments on Buzzfeed’s food reaction videos more than their trashy American reactions.

For those commenters, NOT liking the dishes was not an option. They believe the reactors HAD to like them! For them, not liking those dishes was akin to spitting on their faces. They genuinely remind me of over-zealous fandoms.

Correct me if I am wrong. But, those reactors volunteered to be in the videos; basically, no matter how unrefined their behaviours were, they were willing to try to new things and that is something we must appreciate! To this day, my willingness to try new things is still too minimal.

I previously mentioned Josh the Korean Englishman whose (seemingly) absolutely positive view about South Korea does not put me off; nowadays, anything that seems will immediately put off. I believe it has something to do with how he expresses his love of Korea.

Some of his videos can be summarised as ‘foreigners (mostly English) trying Korean foods’ and those foreigners are not only honest about whether they like the foods or not, they sometimes make jokes about them… and you know what? Josh was not offended at all!

He does not care whether they love the food or not, he just wants to share an aspect of one of his beloved cultures. If anything, his passionate yet civilised tactic actually works! His friends end up appreciating Korean culture. Even his mom and his best friend’s father, whom have been repeatedly described as ‘very English’, also end up appreciating Korean culture!

But, even if you are not a hostile, you should be methodical in how you introduce a certain culture. Don’t go straight to the ‘weird’ stuffs.

If you want to introduce someone to Japanese cuisine, don’t go straight to sushi, sashimi or natto. Not every country in the world eats raw meat and foul-smelling, fermented soybeans. Take it easy and go with tempura and ramen first, which I know will make easy starts as fried foods and noodle soups are common all over the world.

If I were tasked to introduce Indonesian cuisine to foreigners, I would consider their backgrounds. If they are of East Asian descent, I would start with Chinese-Indonesian dishes. If they are of South Asian descent, I would start with gulai dishes which are considered as ‘Indonesian curries’. Unless the foreigners are from other Southeast Asian countries, I would think twice about starting with Sundanese and Javanese cuisine due to them being almost entirely indigenous.

If you go extreme -whether in how you behave or how you determine the starting points-, you would deter others from being adventurous.

Be arrogant

I do believe the ability to appreciate different cultures is a sign of sophistication. But, I still think there is no excuse for self-conceit. Our relatively broad cultural palates exist because the cultural exposures we have experienced…

…And those exposures exist because of our fellow human beings. You would not be as sophisticated if it wasn’t for them.

I used to be smug about my cultural sophistication. I was able (and still am) to appreciate the both foreign cultures and the distinct regional Indonesian ones, particularly in the forms of foods and music. But then, I realised that my tastes in both have something to do with me being a citizen of Indonesia, a culturally diverse country that also willingly accepts foreign cultures; I have lived in the Greater Jakarta area, which is unsurprisingly diverse, and my hometown Batam has not one but five dominant ethnic groups and is located near Singapore and Malaysia.

When it comes to my music taste, I also have to credit one of my music teachers and my mom. My teacher introduced me to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was my gateway to more complicated music and my mom had the 1999 version of Badai Pasti Berlalu CD, which was my gateway to quality Indonesian pop.

My relatively-sophisticated taste is a product of my socio-cultural environment and I can confidently say the same thing can be said about yours… and Josh Carrott’s.

His attachment to Korean culture was born out of his sense of isolation as the only British student in an international school in China. It was the Korean students, the school’s main demographic, who took care of him and consequentially exposing him to the culture. If they didn’t do so and/or he decided to transfer to an English boarding school, he would not have his dual Korean-English identity. There would be no Korean Englishman!

In the case of Simon and Martina, Chris Broad and Greg Lam, it is different from Josh’s and mine. Their appreciation of foreign cultures emerged or increased after they moved abroad; Greg moved because he is married to a Japanese citizen while the others decided to teach English as a foreign language. Without their decisions which require them to leave their national and cultural bubble, they would not have the cultural sophistication they have now.

And because our experiences have definitely happened to other human beings, it is very reasonable to assert that we are NOT the only ones who possess cultural sophistication.

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Once again, I have to remind you that I have never done anything that is remotely similar to what those Youtubers are doing. I am basing my words on my observation of Youtube’s content.

Yes, I do not have any peer-reviewed studies supporting what I am arguing above. But, let us use common sense here: do you seriously think hostility, conceit and the tendency to stereotype are desirable traits in an individual?

Whether you believe it or not, those traits are off-putting. Embracing even just one of them means you are repelling others from liking you; the only ones you attract are those who share your repellent quality and are also avoided by more well-refined personalities.

If people are disgusted by you, how do you expect them to love what you love? If anything, not only others won’t end up loving what you love, they will end up hating it. It does not matter whether it is of good quality or not.

You, the enthusiast, are seen as a representative of the thing you love. Because you are such an abhorrent individual, many will assume the thing you love is equally abhorrent. I mentioned ugly personalities attract each other and it seems some people believe the same principle applies to non-living entities as well; many people thought the extremist tendency of Steven Universe fandom manifested the show’s poor quality, despite having never watched a single episode.

Yes, it is fallacious to deem something solely based on the behaviours of its enthusiasts. But, it is also wrong to carry ourselves so dementedly, we present outsiders an extremely distorted view of our fellow enthusiasts and, most importantly, the thing we love.

We love it so much, we make others hate it.

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Now, those of you who are not guilty of such abhorrence may think I am making a big deal out of nothing and I am like a cat fighting his own reflection in the mirror; admittedly, I can be that neurotic and I have lost count how many mirrors I have smashed. But, if you have ever interacted with your fellow human beings online and offline, you would acknowledge that common sense is not common.

If you watched Buzzfeed videos many years, you would remember how malicious the comment sections can be against the hosts simply for not liking certain dishes. Even if you were never interested in such content, I am sure you have interacted with fandoms who think they can abuse anyone into loving their beloved idols and works of entertainment.

The idea that common sense being common is an exaggeration.

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Tradition: a misguided argument against mandatory hijab

Yes, it is indeed a widely-used argument. But, believe it or not, popularity does not and will never determine rightness. A million people can be wrong. Well, ‘wrong’ is too broad of a word; ‘ignorant’ is more fitting accurate.

I hate it when ‘traditions’ are used as arguments against novelties. If I ask you to define the word, you would probably answer it as ‘old’ things; my dictionary defines it as things that have been around for many generations. The more I think about it, the more I don’t see how any of those definitions support the arguments.

Old things used to be young. Being passed from one generation to another means there was a starting point. Those definitions insinuate that traditions started as novelties which existence were initially opposed by the reactionary voices in their respective societies, insinuate that novelties will become traditions later in the future.

Of course, one may also argue novelties must be conceived within our own borders. We should never let foreign powers dictate our identities and we must always thrive to be ourselves. If you are an Indonesian Muslim, why become an Arab? But, too bad humans don’t live in vacuums.

Of all the things we consider as traditional to certain places, lots (and, depending on your backgrounds, probably the majority of them) are “foreign”. The traditional food we eat and the traditional arts we pretend to care about would probably would not exist without outside influences.

If you think your country is unique, just remember it is not the only one that has Mother Nature in its mythology, not the only one that has flutes and drums among its traditional music instruments and it is certainly not the only one where cheese, noodles and fried battered foods are traditionally eaten.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I can use my country as an example.

This land of Austronesians (and Melanesians as well) has been influenced by foreigners since forever. Mie ayam, nasi goreng and pangsit would not exist without the Chinese. Sindhens, gulais and Garuda would not exist without the South Asians. Keroncong, tanjidor and pastel would not exist without the Portuguese. Klappertart and kastengel would not exist without the Dutch. Nasi kebuli and martabak would not exist without the dreaded Arabs. Apart from the English loanwords, our national language is also laced with Indian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and, yes, even Arabic ones.

Islamic extremism is indeed something to be fearful about. But, it is pointless to fear Arabisation when some of our supposedly beloved ancestors ‘endured’ it and, in fact, had their identities enriched thanks to it.

Okay, it is a very simplistic statement. Foreign influences can both enrich and devalue our heritage. It depends whether the existing traditions are ‘improved’ or wiped out entirely. But, in the context of the previous paragraph, I solely use the word ‘enrich’ because some Indonesians don’t realise that their so-called beloved heritage has Middle Eastern influences in it.

Should I also mention that Islam is a religion of fucking Middle Eastern origin? I mean, if they really fear Arabisation, why don’t they ditch a religion that uses Arabic as its fucking liturgical language and start practicing animism like their ancestors did?

In case you haven’t noticed, I draw a strict line between Arabophilia and Islamic extremism. The former is an entirely secular endeavour while the latter often goes along with the embrace of Arab culture… or to be precise, what they feel is Arab culture.

In reality, there is no such thing as Arab culture, only cultures. Plural. A country is considered ‘Arab’ because it uses literary Arabic as its national language, NOT because of its cuisine, clothing, arts and brand of Islam. The Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Gulf and the Levant are culturally and religiously distinct from one another.

If you actually learn the basics of Arab cultures, you would realise those Muslim extremists have little knowledge about the traditions; if they really are into them, they would wear agal, eat hummus, drink Arak, watch MTV Arabia, do belly dancing and, you know, actually speak Arabic as their fucking first language!

And, just like the Islamists, many moderate Muslims also know nothing about Arab cultures. They see long white garments and hear Arabic-sounding words and they think the Arabs are invading! While I am with their anti-extremist stances, I despise how they use this crisis to justify their anti-Arab prejudice.

Moderate Muslims constantly claim they are against prejudice despite their blatantly prejudiced attitudes.. How can you defend yourselves from your barbaric enemies when you keep pointing the guns towards your feet? How can you fight the epidemic when you falsely see yourself as immune?

Also, those people forget how Indonesia is being infiltrated by contemporary western cultures which have done a great job wiping out our traditions. While the west is indeed more free than the Arab world, the double standard is too infuriating for any reasonable humans to ignore.

And I haven’t talked about the misogyny yet.

The title of this article clearly says ‘mandatory hijab’. I believe the amount of exposed hair and skin is none of our business. It is entirely up to them if they want to wear shorts and show their cleavages. If the sight of skimpily-dressed women is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Your problem, not theirs!

And the same thing can be said about hijab.

Unless the women are involved in activities where covering up can possibly result in bodily injuries, the amount of covered hair and skin is also none of our business! It is up to them if they prefer to cover their hair and skin. If the sight of ‘modest’ fashion is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Once again, your problem, not theirs!

There is a frequently-touted rhetoric that hijab is inherently oppressive which means literally every hijabi is an oppressed, rescue-worthy woman and banning the garb is the only mean to do so. This so-called expression of feminism champion women’s rights to wear anything they want… by taking their right to wear anything they want.

Such rhetoric is often divulged either by westerners or Uncle Toms who romanticise the west. I have never heard it being embraced by my fellow Indonesians and, frankly, I am not surprised. Unlike westerners who champion oppression of women under the pretense of feminism, Indonesians never bother to do so.

Heck, they even never bother utilising the anti-extremism pretense. Indonesians, including the ones who identify as moderate Muslims, are very open about their misogyny. They are proud of their endeavours of championing subservience among housewives and holding women to higher standards of sexual mores than men… and they are certainly proud of their shaming of women who cover up and refuse to fulfil the ‘traditional’ dress codes.

No, I don’t think Indonesian moderate Muslims are as bad as the extremists; the former certainly have stricter morals than the latter. Between those two factions, taking sides would not be much of a dilemma. But, both still have some things in common with each other and anti-feminist approach to life is certainly one of them. They are holding the country back from becoming more civilised.

To summarise my rambling…

Using Arabisation to justify one’s anti-hijab sentiment is uneducated, prejudiced and misogynistic.

Uneducated because it falsely thinks humans live in vacuums and pretends that intercultural interactions is a recent human phenomenon.

Prejudiced because it is an excuse to dehumanise the ‘others’.

Misogynistic because it is used to shame women for refusing to dress ‘traditionally’ and preferring to dress like ‘foreigners’.

You geniuses will never be the ones who defeat extremism and you certainly will never be the ones who advance women’s rights.

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How to ‘feel’ powerful?

*puts on a mask*

Yes, I said ‘feel’. Let’s face it, you know you are not powerful and will never be so! You will always be a pathetic bottom dweller that the upper dwellers will feast on! That’s a sad fact you have to accept!

But, that doesn’t mean you cannot ‘feel’ powerful. You can induce the feeling by fooling others and yourself about your make-believe power. Of course, I am talking about being a bully.

Before becoming one, you have to choose your victims. It always depend on where you are.

When at schools, you can pick on students who are poor, physically unfit or just plain different. When you see yourself as a member of society at large, you can pick on the ones who belong to marginalised groups like women, the poor, racial minorities, religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities and refugees. Basically, choose ones who most likely will not be protected by the authorities.

After you have determined your potential victims, you can start bullying them. Immediately, you will feel like a much more powerful! And trust me, you would not be the only one who senses your actually-non-existing power.

Indifferent bystanders, bullying apologists and even your victims will acknowledge its existence. In fact, the more your victims’ powerlessness intensifies, the more they will acknowledge it!

Oh, and apologists are your best friends! Not only they will defend your right to bully because they don’t see anything wrong with the bullying, they will also condemn or even punish your victims for having the dignity to fight back! Trust me, those apologists tend to be influential wherever they are. Their words are often taken for granted.

But, even if you don’t have apologists to back you up, rhetoric can be your weapon. You can defend yourself by slandering your victims.

Tell everyone that the weird kids in school will grow up as serial killers!

Tell everyone that the gender and sexual minorities are perverts who want to molest our children and/ recruit them to their perverted lifestyles!

Tell everyone that the poor are the ones who hold the economies down because they are greedy animals who oppress the rich!

Tell everyone that empowering women and members of the minorities will lead to men and members of the majority becoming second-class citizens!

Tell everyone that refugees are nothing but a bunch of cowardly rapists and ISIS, MS13 Trojan horses!

Tell everyone that your victims, NOT you, are the ones who commit atrocious acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings!

Trust me, there will be people who take your words for granted.

And yes, it is that easy to feel powerful.

*takes off the mask*

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A message to ex-fans of The Rewired Soul

Let me start with welcoming words:

Cut your fucking bullshit.

You may think by unsubscribing from Boutté’s channel, you have never validated his toxicity. Well, whether you believe it or not, you had done it.

Not only you enjoy watching him bullying other content creators, you even partook in the activity! You saw him as nothing but an angelic figure whose heart was entirely pure, whose actions were anything but wrong. You demonised his victims for having the guts to defend themselves from the malice and you demonised his critics for defending them. In fact, you were willing to send the SWAT teams to anyone who dared to speak against your prophet.

By partaking in the abuse, you felt like you were doing something for the greater good.

And that ‘nice’ feeling ended when commentary channels started ganging up on him; you were suddenly aware of the toxicity and regretting you were fans of his. But, because of what I just said in the previous paragraph, I don’t believe your realisation and remorse are thoroughly sincere.

How the fuck did you fail to see the bullying right in front of you? Were all of your senses impaired or something? Did you think bullying is an entirely physical act? Or maybe you were dupable enough to easily fall for his phony ‘mental health advocacy’ rhetoric and you thought intentions were everything? While they are in the realm of possibility, I also have a more contentious hypothesis: it is hard to hate the snake in front of you when you are also ones.

Why would you hate it, anyway? Doing so yourselves means you have to hate the snakes in you. Deep down, you are probably glad commentary channels were the first to call him out; that way, you don’t have to embrace contemplation. You don’t have to condemn yourselves for the poisonous human beings you are.

Oh, and don’t forget some of you unsubscribed from him NOT because you were repulsed his abusiveness, but because he lied to YOU. Your standard of morality is so low, you determine a person’s moral integrity NOT by how he/she treats his/her fellow human beings in general, but only by how he/she treats YOU.

Someone or something is a problem only if he/she/it affects your negatively. If not, you wouldn’t see him/her/it as a problem and you would look down on or even berate anyone who does.

The only ex-fans of TRS I truly respect are the ones who are willing to admit their lapse of judgement and their participation in the maliciousness instead of claiming sinlessness, are ones who quickly took heed of his venom-spewing once it surfaced. I have never encountered the former. But, I have encountered the latter lots of times in Youtube videos’ comment sections.

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My thoughts about Trevor Noah

Okay, I should mention the controversy regarding his anti-Semitic jokes. While I do agree jokes don’t always represent a person’s true character, those Jewish jokes are particularly hard for me to handle.

My problem with them is not because they were crude, but because they were not expressed in any appropriate contexts; I have no problem if they are done while playing Cards Against Humanity or the joker mockingly portrays an anti-Semite. So, even though I don’t think Noah is an anti-Semite, I also cannot defend his jokes. I am also not surprised Comedy Central defended him. But, he did have an unlikely defender.

The chairperson of South African Jewish Board Of Deputies.

I can’t say if other South African Jews shared her sentiment. But, she did defend him by saying it was his style of humour and he was just being playful. The fact that a Jewish individual who led a Jewish organisation defended crude Jewish jokes seems mind-boggling to me.

This case convinces me that while there is nothing inherently wrong about getting offended by jokes, we should never do so on the behalf of others; our feelings are ours. Let the actual targets of the jokes decide whether they are offended or not.

The criticism against his past jokes is valid. But, there are other criticism that, to this day, I still find stupid.

First and foremost, some fans of the old Daily Show find Noah not funny. Obviously, not finding someone funny is not a bad thing; humour is subjective after all. But, instead of trying to be actual critics by pointing out the actual flaws in his humour, many prefer to use the ‘my-taste-is-better-than-yours’ argument.

Well, those particular people also have this way of discrediting Noah: just point out that he does not write his own materials! Of course, the method is stupid in so many ways. Not only it inherently does not prove his unfunniness, it shows how they know nothing about him and the entertainment industry.

Trevor Noah is not just a random South African dude Jon Stewart randomly picked. Before The Daily Show, not only he already had an established career, TDS was not even the first American show he had appeared on; prior to his ‘tenure’, he already had years of experience creating his own jokes. When he becomes the host, he is indeed assisted by a team of writers. But, he still writes his own jokes, nonetheless.

Those detractors also don’t realise virtually every scripted entertainment TV show in the US has a team of writers. So, if they really believe what they are saying, that means they believe every late night TV host in the country, including the beloved Jon fucking Stewart, is a talentless hack. Do they seriously think those TV hosts can long monologues almost daily… just by themselves? They are not Gods, they are human beings. If they try to do that, I am sure they would rage quit in less than a month.

If anything, I believe Noah performs much better without the writers. His scripted TDS performances often feel stilted and fail to encompass his trademark intercultural dynamism. The scripts fail to embody his personality. For me, his best performances are his solo stand-ups and his Between-the-scenes videos.

In the latter, not only he has proven himself as skillful in making jokes on the spot, he is able to engage with members of the audience and answer their impromptu questions intelligently and articulately. As much as I love Jon Stewart, I think Noah beats him in those departments.

Now about Noah being a foreigner…

His critics believe his status as a foreigner supposedly can make him emotionally detached from issues affecting Americans. On the surface, the concern seems valid; it is indeed very hard to get passionate about the plights of places you were not born and raised in.

Hard, but not impossible.

Just like Americans who have become invested in other countries’ problems (to the point of being proud interventionists), non-Americans like myself are also preoccupied by America’s internal issues. While the sympathy can be misguided or provoked by gross misinformation, its ability to transcend borders has been proven from time to time.

Americans should also be aware of their status as the world power (never mind Beijing catching up quickly). Like it or not, the world stage constantly focuses its many spotlights on America’s best… and worst. Like it or not, the world knows more about America than America knows about the world. If America can destroy other countries by installing dictators that serve its own national interests, foreigners have the right to join its domestic conversations.

I also believe Noah’s status as a foreigner can be a plus point. Many citizens all over the world, not just Americans, feel invaded when foreigners trespass the conversations. The feeling of being intruded is understandable. But, if we want the conversations to move forward and possibly reaching substantial solutions, we must be perceptive. We must lend our ears to dissenting yet reasonable voices.

And, like it or not, they include ones of well-informed foreigners.

If their words anger us, we should ask ourselves: are we angered by their falsehood or are we angered by their truthfulness? That depends on what kind of citizens we are. If we are ones who believe in our countries’ so-called flawless and inherently moral foundations, then it is obviously the latter.

Speaking for myself, I am strongly benefited by the consideration of foreign perspectives. They gave me lenses that I never knew existed, let alone I could utilise. Thanks to them, I learned something negative and positive about my home country that I had never realised before: while Indonesia is way more tolerant of bigotry than the US is, its embrace of diversity (when occurs) is also more sincere and less likely to be inflicted by feelgood tokenism.

And, if they are willing to listen, Americans can also learn a lot from well-informed foreigners like Trevor Noah.

In one Between-the-scene video, he noticed how South African police officers were more likely to see themselves as citizens with higher civic responsibilities than their American counterparts, who tended to see their badges as tickets to infinite amount of unaccountability.

In another Between-the-scenes video where he got a scathing letter from the French ambassador (who had so much time on his hand, it seemed) for declaring Africa the winner of the world cup, he observed how the US gives rooms to hyphenated identities while France only tolerates ones entirely derived from the la Métropole.

(I also have to add that France looks down on its own regional accents and is very eager to bring its own regional languages, which are not intelligible to French, to extinction; if anything, France seems to derive its identity almost entirely on the Parisian one. Correct me if I am wrong).

His words functioned as reminders to his American audience. They must remember that the police’s job is to protect us, NOT to oppress us. They must acknowledge that inclusiveness, NOT enforced homogeneity, is what makes America admirable on the world stage, it is what makes America great in the first place.

Okay, one may argue hiring him in order to add foreign perspectives is unnecessary; they could have chosen Canadians Jason Jones and Samantha Bee and Brit John Oliver as they also have the ability to add some. But, their backgrounds would not make much difference.

While Canada is an Anglo-Franco country, both Jones and Bee are Anglo-Canadians and they are very much almost indistinguishable from their cousins down south. Oliver is from the UK, which is another Anglo-western country that has been maintaining a strong alliance with the US for many years and sharing similar stances regarding international affairs.

Compared them to South Africa, a country which heritage is not only influenced by the diverse Bantu cultures, but also British, Dutch and Asian ones. Not to mention Noah is a biracial man who grew up under Apartheid and, apart from English, is able to speak Afrikaans -the descendant of Dutch-, German -the native tongue of his Swiss father-, and five Bantu languages.

If either Jones, Bee or Oliver was promoted instead, the shift in the show’s angle would not be as global. It would still be America-centric.

Almost every time I encounter criticism of him, the so-called critics love to make a big deal out of his nationality and act like their taste of humour is objectively the best in the universe. Almost every time, the criticism is far from actually constructive.

I consider myself a fan of his… and yet, I am able to bring myself to criticise him. I have a distaste for his past, edgy jokes and I think him labelling Antifa as ‘vegan ISIS’ shows how he still falls for false equivalences; I am open to being exposed to more of his flaws. But, the ‘haters’ did a horrible job of critiquing him.

If anything, they make me love him even more. If they never pointed out about him having a team of writers behind his back, I would never realised how good of a showman he is. If they never made a big deal out his nationality, I would never see it as an advantage his colleagues lack.

Okay, I make it sounds like all of his critics are just haters; I have no doubt reasonable ones who can provide constructive criticism also exist. But, somehow, the ones I encountered online were indeed just mere haters. If I explore more internet trenches, I am sure I would actually find good reasons to dislike him as a comedian, reasons why he is a horrible successor of The Daily Show.

Hours after I finished the previous paragraph, I just realised I did have encountered a good critique regarding the appointment of Trevor Noah, in which he is compared with Bassem Youssef. Some people may call the comparison unfair. But, I have to acknowledge it has some validity to it.

While Noah’s humour was already laced with cultural commentaries prior to TDS, I would not call him a political comedian; Bassem Youssef, on the other hand, started his entertainment career as one and he had to flee his homeland because of it. Unlike Noah, who was mostly a stand-up comedian, Youssef had made two political comedy shows when he was still in Egypt. While both have cited Jon Stewart as an influence, the latter would have a much easier time being his successor.

Oh, and Youssef is also a foreigner. He would also be able to bring a much more global outlook to TDS.

I do think Noah does a great job hosting. But, I also understand why some people think Youssef is a better choice.

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Is Pewdiepie a member of the alt-right?

The answer is a definite no. If you actually watch his videos that are used as evidences by the media against him, you would know he was (and still is) being smeared.

Felix ‘Certainly-Not-Hitler’ Kjellberg

The video Fiverr video was never meant to be hateful. He found the idea of paying people to do anything for five dollars was ridiculous; when he paid the men to hold the ‘Death To All Jews’ sign, he did not expect them to actually do it.

In fact, he was horrified when they actually did. I know because I actually watched his reaction; contrary to popular belief, he was certainly not delighted and he was certainly not bursting into a laughter. He realised that he had just committed a horrible recklessness.

I also don’t get why people think making Nazi jokes makes one an actual Nazi. It is not. Call me heretical, but I believe jokes can be just… you know… jokes; they are not always representatives of the jokers’ actual viewpoints. If that’s the case, then Ben Fritz, the Wall Street Journal reporter who smeared him, is also an anti-Semite for making Jewish jokes as well.

Oh, and the allegedly anti-Semitic channel he was giving shout-out to, I cannot say if it really was considering I have not watched a single video. But, if the Youtuber behind it is indeed just a giant edgelord who love making edgy jokes, then it is not a channel that promotes anti-Semitism.

The ‘Bros’

Regarding the mosque shooter who said ‘subscribe to Pewdiepie’ before committing his horrible acts, many argued he mentioned the meme (as the Pewdiepie vs T-Series ‘rivalry’ was and still is raging) just to bring more infamy to himself. But, even if he was a sincere fan, I still don’t believe Felix is at fault here.

Not only he was quick to condemn the violence, he also has a history with condemning the irrational branch of his own fandom and that makes him hated by his ex-fans; he is one of those Youtubers who no longer appeases to fans. He is certainly different from Trump, who is not only willing to condemn violence done in his name, but also has called his Neo-Nazi supporters ‘fine people’.

He also condemned his fans for being racist against Indians just because the T-Series channel is from India; he even countered the racism by having a charity livestream where he and his not-racist fans donated to Indian children. He has been making charity livestreams for years, which, of course, the media love to ignore and are more interested in his income.

Ben-Ben

People are also mad at Felix for featuring Ben Shapiro in one of his videos. Well, I am personally annoyed because I see him as an insufferable pundit who certainly does not care about facts despite claiming to do so; Felix certainly could have chosen a better public figure. But, does this count as a promotion of the far-right ideology? No, it doesn’t.

One thing for sure, while he is indeed very conservative, Shapiro is also a critic of Donald Trump -the alt-right’s favourite politician- and he, an actual Jew, has experience anti-Semitic abuse from actual members of the alt-right. He is certainly not one of them.

Also, Shapiro was not given a platform to spew his political beliefs; he was there just to review memes. Felix is not one of those Youtubers and journalists whose intention to expose far-right individuals is not accompanied by intellectual rigour and willingness to drop their own ideological propensity, resulting in recklessly giving the extremists unchallenged platforms. Never mind far-right politics, Felix never gives one to its more moderate counterparts.

The n-word ‘oopsie’

Well, he did use the N-word on a gaming livestream and I cannot defend that; it was wrong for him to do it. But, I disagree the usage of any slurs instantly makes one bigoted; it may also means one is a reckless edgelord and he is certainly one. Not to mention he used the N-word against a fellow player whose race was unknown; he dropped the word purely out of frustration.

And I think his apology video is excellent. While Felix said it was not that great, people praised him for not making the video unnecessarily long, going straight to the point, owning up to his mistake and acknowledging his inability to learn from past controversies. Even to this day, I am still unable to make such sincere apology.

Thot thot thot thot thot

Oh, and don’t forget the misogyny accusation because he called Alinity, a female Twitch streamer, a ‘thot’. While he indeed called her such, he did not do so simply because she showed her cleavage; he called her a ‘thot’ because she attracted viewership by using nothing but her sexual appeal. So, like it or not, she is a thot.

Her defenders also ignore this one fact: Alinity copyright struck Felix’s video, despite him not breaking any copyright rules, while she was on her livestream with a fucking smirk on her face. Basically, she was not psychologically hurt by being called a thot; she was just using the situation to steal another person’s income and she even openly admitted she had abused the system many times. To this day, it is sad she is still being defended by people whose only source of info is that slanderous Vice article.

Her defenders also ignore ItsSkyLol, another female Twitch streamer who not only defended Felix, but also vented about how Alinity and her likes provoke horny male viewers to watch female streamers and expecting them to be their personal sex toys. If anything, Felix respect women more than Alinity’s defenders do.

The missing data

There is one 2014 episode of his now-defunct podcast where he was horrified by the rise of a racist and homophobic party in his home country of Sweden. But, sadly, that particular episode has been made private on Youtube and the entire podcast series is missing from SoundCloud.

For some time, I thought the missing episode would be enough to convince the more reasonable branch of his detractors that he is not a racist. But, not only the episode was created five years ago, some of the criticism against him is unfortunately valid.

When the ‘haters’ are right

Like it or not, arts and entertainment do have real-life implications.

Both, especially the latter, either affirm already-established societal beliefs or tell us to embrace certain beliefs, especially regarding gender, race and religion. They can be a force of good. But, we know damn well they are a bad influence most of the time.

I am all for edgy jokes. But, I also believe there is a time and a place for everything. Felix is a white Youtuber of western-upbringing who lives in the west, a part of the world where far-right politics is on the rise. Is it really wise of him to make Nazi jokes for the sake of being edgy?

Apart from the Christchurch terrorist (whose status as an actual Pewdiepie fan is doubted by many), I have not found a single evidence where Felix is admired by Neo-Nazis (unlike Trump who is beloved by them). But, just because he is not their favourite Youtuber, that does not mean he can’t be.

Just like how making ‘racist’ jokes (mind the airquotes) does not make the jokers racist, I also don’t think loving the jokes make us racist as well (and I wish SJWs should learn nuanced thinking). But, it also does not mean actual racists won’t love the jokes.

Why wouldn’t they? The content of the jokes clearly indulges their racism. In fact, I am sure they are glad the certain public figures make ‘racist’ jokes, especially when they are made for the sake of being offensive and lack some satirical elements.

And, in this era, Neo-Nazis are already politically empowered by the likes of Trump holding government positions. The last thing we need is for them to be culturally empowered, for them to believe the entertainment establishment tolerate their ideology. Eventually, they will be even more immensely motivated to spread their extreme ideology to the numerically-abundant impressionable individuals.

That’s why I also don’t have any good rebuttals when Oliver Thorn of Philosophy Tube implicitly call him the most famous Swedish Youtuber who spreads anti-Semitic messages. Twice, if I remember correctly.

Oh, and as a non-Jew, I don’t have the right to decide whether Jewish jokes are offensive or not. The only ones who do are the Jews. They are the actual targets of the jokes. While non-Jews can voice their opinions as well, we certainly don’t know how it feels to be Jews and we certainly only speak for ourselves.

Replace ‘Jews’ with other groups of people and my statement still stands.

What IF he is a racist?

Well, just take a look at those far-right politicians. Trump’s minions deny he is anything but a petulant, Nazi-tolerating and misogynist bully, despite the abundance of incriminating evidences in the forms of videos and his own tweets. Jair Bolsonaro’s minions deny he is anything but a misogynist, racist and homophobic dictator-wannabe who wants to destroy the environment, despite the fact it is the reason why he was famous in the first place!

And the same thing can happen to Felix’s fandom.

While I admittedly still fall for fake or patchily-reported news, I have learned to accept my idols as flawed human beings by rejecting their divine status. So, despite my fervent defence of Felix, I believe he can be (can be, not is) a horrible person and I have to brace myself if (if) he is revealed as a horrible human being; the earnestness of his words can be corroborated on the way he speaks, another thing his detractors willfully ignore.

But then, I am speaking for myself. We all know how fandoms behave. In spite of Felix’s increasing maturity over the years, some of his fans still defend him with such zeal no matter what, even if he is a (hypothetical) Neo-Nazi. And the media are not helping either.

They have been either petty or slanderous against him (and Youtubers in general) for many years. When they are not busy spewing pseudo-progressivism, they are too busy focusing on his wealth and implicitly encouraging their undoubtedly more traditional viewers/readers to despise the man who makes a living out of a so-called ‘not-real’ job. The media seed contempt among the minds of many Youtube fans.

And the contempt provides fans ammunition to attack the media. Every single Youtube news reported by the media will be disregarded as ‘fake’, regardless of their accuracy. Not only the media’s endeavour to get rid of their biggest industry rivals includes shooting their own feet, they will sway Youtube fans away from acknowledging potentially harsh truths about their idols.

If (if) Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie explicitly and unambiguously expose himself as a white supremacist and the story is picked up by the media, many on Youtube will never believe it.

Why should they believe the same entity who is infamous for spreading falsehood?

Conclusion

We can learn two things from this:

First, when one is a public figure, be careful with one’s actions and words. Like it or not, one will be seen as a role model by some members of the masses. Individuals have definitely become better or worse, thanks to their role models.

Second, a journalist must take his/her title seriously by actually embracing objectivity and pursuing truth. He/she must learn that having agendas like ‘looking progressive’ and ‘getting rid of the competitors’ does not make one a journalist. It makes one a pundit. An insecure one of that.

Okay, I make it sound like Felix and the media are equally in the wrong here. While I do criticise him, the content of his videos has become less recklessly edgy and more well-thought-out. He actually has made efforts to become a better, more responsible public figure. Compared that to the media.

At first, they tried to discredit him by pettily focused on his wealth. When that did not destroy his career, they took advantage of the rise of far-right movements by slandering him as a fervent supporter. None of them have yet to apologise and, every time they make a slanderous report of him, they also make sure their viewers/readers remember his past controversies.

Basically, not only they don’t have any guilt, they will keep doing it until they have reached their end goal.

And yet, they have to gall to be angry when the public call them ‘fake journalists’.

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American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims: kindred in their love of not-moving-forward

I can easily draw parallels between the western far-right and Muslim extremists and I have been doing so for years. But, it took me a long time to also notice the parallels between American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims.

As an Indonesian, I definitely choose the moderates over the Islamists. If I were an American, I would also definitely vote blue over red. But, that does not mean I am ideologically in tune with them. I am siding with them simply because they are the most progressive members of the establishment.

But, they are certainly not the most progressive people in their respective countries.

Frankly, I see them as nothing but reactionaries who are delusional enough to believe in their values’ mightiness in countering extremism, not realising it arises despite theirs are still entrenched in the mainstream psyche. Instead of allowing themselves to think critically, they are too busy patting themselves on the back that they don’t realise how their values are also problematic.

In Indonesia, the still-powerful and Sunni-based local version of moderate Islam does not allow the country to give room for the sacrilege; basically, non-Sunni branches of Islam, atheism, liberal interpretations of Islam and scepticism regarding the necessity of religions are big no-nos.

It also motivates people to support governmental interferences of religious affairs, making the government the only entity that can ‘validate’ and ‘invalidate’ religions; as a result, Indonesia is and has always been a religiously discriminatory country where we only officially recognise six religions, none of which are indigenous, and every citizen is obligated to choose one in our official identification.

This version of Islam is also socially conservative. While Indonesian women are very empowered for the Muslim world standard, moderate Muslims still don’t believe in complete gender equality. It also fails to discourage racism among its adherents; that’s why our Malaysian cousins have better race relations. Oh, and it also cultivates cis-heteronormativity, successfully instilling and retaining homophobia and transphobia in our collective psyche.

From my perspective as a citizen of one of the most diverse countries in the world, American Democrats’ embrace of diversity is still plagued with insincerity; more of than not, their inclusiveness has been nothing but feelgood, piegon-holing tokenism. They emit the illusion of complete acceptance.

Don’t forget that, contrary to popular belief, most Dems are actually neo-liberals, just like the Republicans are; the self-proclaimed socialists (even though they are more accurately described as social democrats) are a minority among party members. Obama ruled for two terms and the Dems won the 2018 midterm election in sixteen US states and territories. If they are really socialists, shouldn’t the US become more hostile against corporatism by now?

Do I think moderate Indonesian Islam gives birth to Islamic extremism? No, I don’t. Do I think American liberalism triggers the existence of far-right extremism? The answer is also no. If you want people to blame, blame it on those ultra-orthodox Muslims and Republicans for constantly making excuses for the extremists. I have to acknowledge that moderate Indonesian Muslims and American liberals still have a shred of human decency in them.

But, we should also acknowledge that both beliefs do have things in common with the zealotry they are enemies with. Inevitably, their dominance won’t stop the harmful values to seep in to the mainstream psyche.

It also does not make sense to fight a toxic ideology with another ideology that also share some of its toxicity. That’s like believing eating deep fried vegetables instead of fried chicken and potatoes will greatly improve one’s health. More nutrients, but one’s arteries will still get clogged anyway.

If we want to fight Islamic extremism and the far-right, we should never put moderate Muslims and American liberals on the front lines. What we need is individuals who are not only willing to fight, but also willing to ditch the emotionally-comforting status quos which clearly set us back from moving forward.

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