How to report problem countries

Obviously, every country is a problem country. And yes, including the so-called number one country, the so-called United States of America.

In this context, I am referring to countries like Iran and North Korea which are known for their severe human rights violations and have been extensively and negatively covered by foreign (mostly western) media.

  • I hate sugar-coating. I believe exposing the factual negative aspects of certain countries is not inherently hateful; there is nothing wrong about sticking to the truth.
  • But, it can be hateful when we insist the coverage must be entirely negative and are offended by the idea of showcasing genuine positivity because we want to keep affirming any prevailing preconceived notions.
  • I first noticed this when I watched the North Korean episodes of Departure, a traveling TV show which focuses less on the destinations and more on the journeys; they received backlashes for allegedly spewing pro-North Korea propaganda.

    Correct me if I am wrong. But, from my knowledge, a country’s propaganda should brag about its non-existing divine perfection and work as the ruling government’s ideological mouthpiece.

    Departure does none of those things.

    While the hosts did not mention the human rights violations of the countries they visited, they also never tried to paint them in an entirely positive light.

    The show is entirely non-political. The hosts only care about exploring nature and interacting with the locals; the latter is the theme of the North Korean episodes.

    If anything, I believe the show does the ordinary and unprivileged ordinary North Koreans a great favour.

    Because of the lack of political agenda, the white Anglo-Canadian hosts had no problems interacting with a group of East Asians who grew up isolated from the rest of the world. The resulting interactions were wonderfully wholesome.

    The episodes do not depict cultural clashes, they depict people who enjoy each other’s presence despite the linguistic and cultural barriers.

    They depict humans who see each other as fellow human beings.

    But, some people didn’t like it. They believed the only way to give the North Koreans a favour was to focus entirely on the system that oppressed them.

    I disagree with that belief.

    North Korea is not just an obscure country that most people haven’t heard of; they have, albeit sometimes mistaking it for its sibling down south. Because of that, negative media coverage is not only common, it is over-saturated.

    The over-saturation results in the dehumanisation of the North Korean people. Let’s face it: most of us don’t see North Korea as a country where fellow humans live, they see it as a giant oppressive machine that must be destroyed at all cost.

    And, whether you believe or not, this kind of dehumanisation already has a negative effect on the state of humanity.

    It is not a secret that many people, especially neoconservative westerners, support invasions of repressive countries like North Korea without any regards of innocent casualties; I mean, if they really care, they would not get aroused by the idea of violent invasions and would not perceive any innocent casualties as mere “collateral damage”.

    While I don’t pay as much attention to it, I also notice the same thing with how western media treats Iran.

    The humanisation of the Iranian people is way more well-received. But, unfortunately, the demand for dehumanisation prevails among the politically-outspoken degenerates.

    Many still refuse to see Iran as a place where humans live… which is why, just like in the case of North Korea, they are not hesitant to support violent military interventions against it.

    I do have my own solution to deal with this problem. But, not only it is made by a non-expert, it is also rather tricky to implement.

    If a country has been almost entirely negatively reported by foreign media and you want to make a documentary (or something similar) about it instead of a normal news report, there are two things you can do.

    The first thing you can do is to cover positive things about said country and tell the world its previously unknown faces.

    And when I say “positive”, I mean genuinely so. They should be based on facts instead of the political establishments’ rhetorics. You have to make sure the presentation of positivity does not paint the country in an entirely positive light.

    Youtuber Louis Cole AKA FunForLouis made a series of vlogs of him and his friends visiting North Korea. Even though I was never subscriber, I was intrigued…. and was quickly disappointed.

    Obviously, I should watch the sequels as well. But, in the end of the first video, he said North Korea was not as bad as people claimed simply because he and his friends were greeted with a touristy welcome; at that moment, he seemed to perceive a choreographed performance as an excellent representation of the reality.

    I was already repulsed about those overtly-polished Youtube vlogs. Cole’s ignorant comment only intensified my repulsion.

    Departures has proven that, if you use your brain a bit more and don’t easily fall for deceptive veneers, you can shed a positive light on an oppressive country without becoming its government’s propaganda tool.

    But, if you are reasonable iffy about making positive coverage and still prefer to do a negative one, I have a second tip: find a fresh angle.

    If you keep repeating the same real life horror stories, the only thing you would be good at is affirming simplistic prejudgements about North Korea and discouraging outsiders from humanising the victims due to the lack of nuances.

    I think the Youtube channel Asian Boss does a great job in getting the fresh angles. Instead of treating their North Korean interviewees as propaganda tools to exploit, they treat them as individuals with human stories to tell.

    As a result, not only it results in ethically-dignified documentaries, it also unearths surprising facts about the country they are defecting from.

    For instance, even though the consumption of foreign media is prohibited in general, I did not know that consumption of South Korean media will result in more severe punishments than the consumption of western one. It confirms one of our preconceived notions…. but, in a rather complex way.

    I specifically said this tip is only for those who make documentaries and the likes and NOT for journalists who solely make daily and relatively short reports.

    Why? Because it is obvious that my tips, especially the second one, require in-depth analyses and cannot be simply done in less than a day or even a week.

    Well, they can. But, the results would be sloppy.

    Okay, I am aware of how horrible my suggestions are; not only I have zero experiences in the media industry, my words are not precise and technical enough to be practically useful. Heck, even if I am a highly-experienced professional, my suggestions would not be the be-all and end-all.

    But, even then, the unreliability of my tips does not mean the media industry is perfect as it is. Every person with functioning brain cells knows mediocrity and lacking integrity are embraced as virtues.

    Public discourses about the ethics of depicting authoritarian countries are almost non-existent and, for reasons I have mentioned in this essay, it is something to be reasonably angry about.

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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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    Two steps to recognise ‘fake news’

    *puts on a mask*

    Step 1: You have to be a member of a cult.

    This step will be easy to overcome if one is either a deeply-bigoted individual who is desperate to find a leader to worship OR a deeply-impressionable individual who will easily fall for the rhetorics of dishonest and manipulative public figures. If you are both, it would be even easier for you!

    If you are neither extremely prejudiced nor excessively impressionable, you will never be a cult member and you will never be enlightened enough to go to the next step.

    Step 2: Just simply find, read and watch the news.

    Once you have become a cult member, your mind will do the work for you.

    Any news reports that intertwine with your and your cult leader’s beliefs will elicit strong emotions. If they bring you joy, the stories are real. If they bring you anger, they are false!

    Yes, I believe the only way to determine a story’s accuracy is how positive or negative our emotions are!

    Facts aren’t real because you cannot feel them. But, do you what is real? Emotions! Why? Because you can feel them! Determining what is real and what isn’t through the act feeling is common sense!

    Don’t let those intellectuals poison your innocent minds with facts! Only privileged, ivory tower retards think facts are the truths! Humans who live in the real world know damn well emotions are the truths! They know emotions are their Gods!

    Okay, I did say that you have to finish step one if you want to go to step two. Well, it is not entirely true.

    Being bigoted and/or impressionable is enough to make you worship emotions. Obviously, you don’t need to be a cult member to accomplish step two. But, being one sure helps.

    *takes off the mask*

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    My thoughts about Geography Now

    As I am an Indonesian, it is not a surprise the first video I watch from this geography education channel is the one that encapsulates my home country; it was suggested to me probably because I searched for videos of foreigners trying Indonesian food. But, thanks to that one video, I ended up on a Geo Now binge and I almost watched every video on the channel in less than 48 hours.

    As you can immediately tell, I am deeply impressed by the channel!

    Okay, admittedly, there is one potential flaw: I have mixed feelings about how it depicts conflicts. Paul and his friends will take the roles of individual countries or sectarian groups and they will start ‘bickering’… which look very childish and comical.

    Of course, it can be problematic as it seems to belittle the actual resulting deaths of said conflicts. But, at the same time, the petulant depiction is also fitting considering how clashes often occur simply because of ridiculous reasons, like our inability to deal with inconsenquential human distinction. I know I am reading too much into this as I am sure Paul also cares about the entertainment values. But then, I believe authorial intentionalism can be dismissed when a work has unintended effects on the audience.

    Some viewers are starting to feel the channel has become more cringeworthy to watch due to its jokes. I am not on board with this criticism because I think the older videos are even more so with their poorly-delivered jokes. Nowadays, not only the performances have greatly improved, the humour has also become more self-aware; it depicts Paul as a shamelessly ‘punny’ person and, to a lesser extent, a big fat know-it-all.

    I am also not on board with the criticism regarding the involvement of his friends; they believe having another on-screen personalities really ruin the channel. For me, their presence increases the dynamism. Besides, literally since the first episode, Paul has been receiving help in the post-production process! While the channel is indeed his brainchild, we must also acknowledge its collaborative nature. It is literally called Geography Now, NOT The Paul Barbato Show!

    Mispronunciation is also a recurring theme/joke in the channel; in some cases, he never bothers to even try pronouncing foreign words and opts to speak gibberish or call certain individuals as ‘this guy’ or ‘this *insert occupation here*’. While some may perceive it as disrespectful, I perceive it as refreshing honesty. He acknowledges his linguistic limitation and, whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are too lazy to pronounce foreign phonology accurately! As someone who calls himself The Stammering Dunce, I cannot fault Paul for this.

    Also, when he knows how to pronounce certain foreign phonology, especially one from the languages he has limited proficiency in, he will try his best; some people still deliberately mispronounce foreign words and names despite knowing how to do so properly… probably because they are hypocritical pricks who can’t care less about embracing other cultures and yet they get mad when foreigners mispronounce their names and languages repeatedly.

    Unsurprisingly, just like any media outlets in existence, the channel cannot escape the criticism regarding informational inaccuracy and omission. But, even then, Paul does not seem to receive a barrage of hate in the comment sections… and for good reasons.

    When he omits certain information and/or gives the wrong one, it is because of honest mistakes. He tries his best to produce relatively short yet very concise videos to the point where he literally forgets to include common knowledge; even his China episode fails to mention the Great Wall! There are no indications of him having any political agendas. He fulfills his promise to be as objective as possible; his Rohingya crisis video is a great evidence of this. Oh, and he uses Flag/fan Friday and Filler Week videos as corrective and supplementary components. He is cognizant of his own oversights.

    And that’s not his only ‘secret’ for success.

    Another important factor is his love of travelling. You know, the real act of travelling! Instead of being content about ‘experiencing’ the foreign lands by falling for the plastic charms of tourist traps, he prefers to taste how the locals live! That, I assume, encourages him to drop his own preconceived notions when researching for new episodes.

    He also has a diversity of sources. Besides the scholastic ones, he also takes input from his viewers whose home countries will be covered soon… and I really love this approach!

    Whether we like it or not, even with academic rigorousness, those scholastic references can still be prone to informational deficiency and cultural propensity. While the words of his viewers are purely anecdotal, they can provide vantage points that are raw and unobstructed by any methodical filtration. Of course, thankfully, he also strictly distinguishes which info is academic and which isn’t; when he cites anecdotes, he will explicitly present them as such! I believe this route leads him to destination success!

    The materials are relatively meticulous and compact while maintaining some level of relatability to the average people who lack any ‘scholarly’ disposition. It is scholastic enough that some teachers actually play his videos in their classes, scholastic enough to convey the defects of the enquired countries… while still ‘populist’ enough to please some flag-wavers and over-zealous foreign cultures enthusiasts.

    Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about the Indonesia episodes.

    One criticism I have is how he described Indonesia as a marriage of the Middle East and Southeast Asia that results in many babies. While it is not inaccurate, it is far from complete.

    Islam -the biggest religion in the country- is indeed from the Middle East, some regional cultures do have Arab influences and our national language does have Arab loanwords. But, some of those regional cultures also have South Asian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences, our national language also has Sanskrit, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese loanwords, many government institutions use Sanskrit mottos and the Indonesia is a former Dutch, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, British colony. But, because of our mostly Austronesian roots, we are still more similar to predominantly-Christian Filipinos than we are to the predominantly-Muslim Middle Easterners.

    Paul mentions how most Indonesian mosques do not have the typical domes. In reality, most of them actually do. The ones who don’t were mostly constructed before the 21st century, designed with traditionally-influenced architectural styles. Back then, most Indonesian Muslims were less likely to equate Islamic identity with the Middle-Eastern one.

    Paul also does mispronounce Indonesian pronounciation. But then, as I said before, learning foreign languages is difficult… and the majority of Indonesians, even ones who are not raised with ‘regional’ cultures, have a poor comprehension of our national language. So, him pronouncing ‘C’ as ‘K’ instead of ‘CH’ should not be a biggie.

    And those are the only flaws I can think of in his Indonesia videos. I believe he does a great job in unveiling the intricate foundations of my motherland.

    He showcases how the country is so diverse that the biggest and second biggest ethnic groups comprise about forty percent and fifteen percent of the country’s population -respectively-, that anti-Chinese sentiment exists here (albeit he said it briefly), how Islam is practiced differently in Indonesia from the one in the Arab world -especially regarding the rituals-, how Indonesian Papuans are extremely distinct in many ways from the rest of their fellow countrymen, how the government only recognises six religions and how our national symbol is of Hindu origin despite being a predominantly-Muslim nation! Oh, and I think his description of Aceh as the black sheep is very fitting!

    When it comes to international relations, he showcases how our relationship with Saudi Arabia is very horrible, how we and Malaysia are frenemies (due to our cultural similarities and differences) and how we have a surprisingly good relationship with Japan (despite the history)!

    And those short descriptions alone easily defy how most of us perceive Indonesia!

    On one hand, it is certainly not a peaceful and tolerant haven many people love to advertise. Indonesians are still very racist, especially against every person of Chinese descent. We are still religiously schismatic to the point we disenfranchise adherents of indigenous beliefs by not officially recognising them as legitimate religious groups!

    But, on the other hand, Indonesia is certainly not a carbon copy of Saudi Arabia and many Indonesians detest the idea of becoming Saudis! Aceh, one of the thirty-four Indonesian provinces, certainly does not represent the entire country! The citizens, especially the Muslim ones, are extremely diverse and any generalisations about them (which I admittedly still make from time to time) can be easily and deservedly labeled as shallow or even outright dehumanising!*

    (*Yes, I know one cannot generalise even the most homogenous collective in existence. But, I do believe generalising a very diverse society is considerably more intellectually dishonest than generalising one that is significantly less so.)

    I should also commend him for his dissections of the bicolour flag and the coat of arms. While the Hotel Yamato story has become a legend here, I did not know red and white represent the duality of nature in Austronesian mythology, ancient Indonesian Hindus also used red-white flags and teaks leaves and mangosteen rind were used as red textile dye!

    I also didn’t know the number of feathers in our version of Garuda represents the date of Indonesia’s independence day! He is one of the handful of foreigners that have educated me things I genuinely didn’t know about my own homeland!

    Overall, I believe Paul Barbato is a successful educational Youtuber. He has a firm grasp on the (often-needlessly) complicated domestic and international borders, he has a firm grasp on the (often-preventable) sectarian conflicts, he can be more knowledgeable about the enquired countries than their citizens do…

    And, most importantly, he unveils how each of the world’s sovereignty constantly defies our racial, cultural, political and religious preconceived notions of them.

    In spite of his rapid-fire and comedic performances, he still manages to demonstrate how humanity is not what most of us think it is… and judging from his videos’ comment sections, there are others who agree with me.

    My suggestion for him is to expand his scholastic references; maybe add peer-reviewed academic papers into the mix! Knowing the nature of academic journal, it can be more burdensome for the production. But, I am also confident it can also bring an even greater depth to the content!

    Postscript:

    There was a criticism of his Eritrea episode in which he supposedly ignores the country’s human rights violation. The thing is… he never does!

    In his summary of individual countries’ history, he often mentions their authoritarian leaders and historical violent events. Again, as I said before, the unintentional omission of information regularly happens as he tries to create relatively-short yet concise videos!

    Maybe the critics hated how Paul did not spend the entire episode talking about the country’s human rights violation. Why should he? His channel is called Geography Now, NOT Human Rights Now!! His job is literally to teach geography, to summarise individual territories of the world, not to be a white saviour!

    Besides, he will not talk about human rights violations in great details unless he comprehends the intricacy of each individual case; again, I have to mention his Rohingya crisis video! He is not one of those pseudo-activists who think human rights can be discussed simplistically!

    I was planning to put this section much earlier. But, I called it off because I take this a bit too personally. The first time I watched the video, there was literally only one comment that criticised Paul for supposedly ignoring Eritrea’s dark reality (albeit with many likes). When I watched it again, the comment was gone. And still, that comment bothers me to this day!

    I don’t know why. But, I am annoyed every time someone says the only appropriate way to chronicle certain countries is to babble about their human rights issues! Maybe it has something to do with their insistence to demonise the places they hate and yet know little or nothing about!

    I wonder if Paul is annoyed by this as well. In the first Iraq episode, his friend Keith portrays a character who is agitated that Paul does not go straight to babbling about terrorism. Even though I cannot be sure about his motivation to incorporate the character, I am glad he did. It feels like a not-so-subtle middle finger to those white saviours.

    Once again, there are times when one can dismiss authorial intentionalism.

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    Flatulent musing: does the information in data storage operate its own metaphysical anatomy?

    (LOL at the title! As if I have never done such thing before…)

    Going straight to the point, the answer is: yes, it does.

    When I say data storage, I am alluding to any entities that store information. Paper, wood, stone, magnetic tapes, optic discs, flash memories, anything! When I say ‘information’, I am alluding to not only numerical data and objective facts, but also hypotheses, lies, emotions and even fictional worldbuilding!

    If the ‘info’ does not confine itself to a definite time, space or mindset, then I think its actuality is solely corporeal; its size is strictly limited by the tangible containment. But, if given its own temporal, spatial and contexts, the ‘info’ may also belong to an entirely metaphysical realm; its size is unaffected by the size of the containment.

    What counts as temporally, spatially and mentally unspecific ‘info’? For me, it includes mathematical formulas, empirical facts, trivial opinions and theories. ‘Clear sky is blue’ irrefutably counts as an empirical fact. ‘Blue cheese is disgusting’ irrefutably counts a trivial opinion. What about theories? Aren’t they just theories?

    Contrary to popular belief, a theory is not a speculation. In natural sciences, it is an elucidation of natural phenomena which has gone through a multitude of rigorous scientific scrutinies. In social sciences and humanities, it is a mindfully-constructed paradigm that bequeaths us a frame of reference about human phenomena which intangibility hinder us from definitively deciphering them. Just like mathematical formulas, they are the foundations of human knowledge. Timeless and unbounded by fixed settings.

    Now, what counts as temporally, spatially and mentally specific ‘info’? For me, it includes conjectures, hypotheses, histories, memories and fictional worldbuilding.

    Even though they look indistinguishable on the surface, hypotheses and conjectures are actually distinct from one another. The former are well-thought-out, based on some evidences, used to commence further enquiries and, ideally, free from biases. The latter, on the other hand, are entirely affected by personal biases and often senselessly treated as absolute closures.

    Both, however, are similar in that they take aim at natural and human phenomena which are always time and space specific. But, considering how hypotheses are integral aspects of knowledge exploration, they have a place in the physical and metaphysical worlds. As conjectures are not concerned about amplifying our horizons, they only belong in the metaphysical world.

    I put histories in this category because not only they are bound by time and space, they are also influenced by how historians and so-called historians interpret the evidences. Whether the interpretations are sound or shamelessly one-sided, they are inherently influenced by our ways of thinking.

    I am not sure how I should categorise numerical data, falsehood and emotions. Numerical data, despite being mathematical, is also bound to specific time and places. Falsehood and emotions, despite being intangible, are directly affected by how we perceive reality.

    Okay, I know I sound inconsistent this whole time. I keep claiming how ‘infos’ that are not restricted by space cannot be metaphysical. Basically, I sound like I am making an antithesis to my own (so-called) hypothesis. I may as well claim cheese is not dairy because its main ingredient is milk.

    Of course, I have to remind you, dear non-existing readers, and myself, a forgetful pseudo-intellectual, that my absurd postulation is comprehensible in the context of data storage. That is the main source of pretentiousness here and I keep stalling from talking about it. Now, I will discuss it by using examples:

    Example 1

    Let’s imagine you have one thick book and one small flash drive. The book is the complete issue of War and Peace while the drive has the digital copy of the entire novel. Obviously, one is physically bigger than the other. But, metaphysically, they are of similar dimension.

    The novel itself contains a world of its own. It portrays the 1812 French invasion of Russia through the author’s own perspective (who interacted with the people who actually lived through it), it is loaded with philosophical discussions and it has hundreds of characters, each has the ability to his/her unique individual sub-story. It is one gigantic metaphysical world to offer.

    A physical book needs over a thousand pages to chronicle the story. A digital copy can be saved inside a digital storage slightly bigger than a medicinal capsule. It shows no matter how big it is, if the technology is adequate, it can fit into even the smallest storage.

    Example 2

    Now, imagine we have two sheets of A4 paper. Obviously, it is impossible to determine which is physically bigger. But, we can determine which one is metaphysically so.

    If one sheet contains nothing but mathematical formulas and the other contains a statistical study, the latter is obviously bigger. Mathematical formulas’ universality do not make them solely attached to certain worldly occurences and therefore, they do not bring any metaphysicality with them.

    Every statistical study is inevitably attached to the specific occurrences each of them is established from. Everywhere they go, those studies bear incorporeality that represents those occurrences. If each statistical study covers one million lives, then one sheet paper that contains the study has bigger metaphysicality than a million sheets of C1 papers that offer nothing but formulas. Oh, and don’t forget the possible biases of the researchers who probably skew their samples.

    Even when two ‘info’s have comparable physical weights, the density of their content makes their metaphysical weights drastically differ from one another.

    Example 3

    It is similar to the previous one. Yes, there are more. Just grin and bear it.

    You are holding one of your school year books (just pretend I know the typical content of year books). It includes one class photo that features you, your classmates and one of your teachers and thirty of individual photos of each student. The class photo has more metaphysical weight than all of those individual student photos combined.

    Those thirty photos represent thirty stories, one for each student. That one class photo represents more than thirty one. Besides the ones from individual students and the teacher, we should account stories of interpersonal relationships of its occupants.

    By himself/herself, the teacher adds thirty interpersonal stories; I mean, he/she is the teacher. Then, assuming each student interacts with at least one classmate, they add thirty more. So far, the photo already has ninety-one possible stories.

    Even some loners such as myself were able to interact with at least three classmates in each class. Obviously, most students in the photo would interact with more than three. It is conceivable the number of interpersonal stories may surpasses nine hundreds.

    Oh, and I am grossly incompetent in mathematics. In all likelihood, your own calculation is more precise than mine.

    Example 4

    Just imagine there are one relief, one painting and one photograph in front of you. Each depicts a city’s bustling daily life. Which one has the biggest metaphysics? The answer is it can be all three. Each represents the creator’s personal bias about the city.

    But, sculptures and paintings depict their subjects decoratively, unlike photographs which depict theirs in a true to life manner. Shouldn’t that mean photographs don’t have strong metaphysics? Well, they do have it if they are shot artistically.

    Just like sculptors and painters, art photographers also have methodical, creative processes and clear visions about what their works should be about. They determine the camera angles, the lighting and the colour palettes. In the end, artistic photographs are also deliberately created to suit their creators’ biases. If the photographers are not artistic, then it is a different story.

    Considering how casual photographers’ sole agenda is to capture the moments, the resulting photos only exhibit real life stories. They are devoid of any deliberately-placed slants. They don’t have biases to strengthen the metaphysics.

    Example 5

    Let’s just say I have two flash drives. One is filled with two of my best college papers: one is for an Indonesian studies class and the other is for a philosophy one. The other drive is filled with personal, pontificating writings AKA most my blogs which there are over a hundred of them. Which drive possesses the bigger metaphysicality? It is the one with my college papers in it.

    My college papers obviously discuss about real life issues. But, both are also studied through contemplative lenses. The thing about academic philosophical analyses is not only I have to propose well-reasoned, consistent and concise thoughts, I also have to take other individuals’ thinking in consideration, especially ones published in academic journals; if I know what I am doing, they can prove my thoughts’ intellectual validity.

    A large chunk of my Indonesian studies paper, which discusses the collective mentality of Indonesian Muslims, is a critique of a published scholarly article which conclusions I fervently disagree with. While I commend his denouncement of extremism, I also condemn the author (such a harsh word, I know) for his black-and-white taxonomy of Indonesian Muslims and his anti-liberalism apologetics. This paper of mine contains the thoughts of not one but two individuals.

    My philosophy paper has even a bigger metaphysicality. It discusses the pros and cons of refugees acceptance. Again, besides containing my thoughts, the paper also includes the thoughts of other individuals, seven to be exact; they consist of two media scholars, one sociologist, one moral philosopher and three ethicists who have interest ‘global ethics’. Their sound contributions to the discussions have the potentials to be the solutions for said crisis.

    In total, those two papers alone represent the minds of nine different individuals. My tirading essays, on the other hand, only represent the mind of one single person. They are only concerned about manifesting my thoughts and feelings, unconcerned about others’ in fear theirs will be deviant against mine.

    In the end, my college papers have wider metaphysical horizons than all of my personal essays combined.

    Conclusion?

    Well, not only I am far from ready to be a scholar, I am certain I have made every person who read this article in its entirety ends up hating certain words like ‘metaphysics’, ‘metaphysical’, ‘info’ and ‘thoughts’.

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