What non-Harry Potter fans don’t get about Rowling’s transphobia controversy

The transphobes think her detractors are just random haters who always join any hate bandwagons. The pro-trans group think her defenders are either transphobic Harry Potter fans or zealous fanboys and fangirls who always defend their idols even when they are wrong.

Both sides are right; some people love joining hate bandwagons and many Potheads are indeed a bunch of sentient diarrhea (remember how they treated Katie Leung?). But, they are only partially right. In reality, many of her detractors are also her own fans.

Well, more like former fans who hate her while still loving her works. We hate her because she loves preaching about acceptance through Harry Potter and yet she ends up as a well-known hate preacher. We believe she must be held accountable not only for her bigotry, but also for her hypocrisy.

For many fans, Harry Potter inspires them to be more accepting of fellow human beings regardless of the trivial differences; in fact, a “study” (which must be taken with grains of salt) even claimed that reading Harry Potter decreases our chance of becoming bigoted.

Obviously, it is ludicrous to think works of art and entertainment can single-handedly mould our worldview. But, they certainly can be inspire us to think and feel in a certain way. It is remarkable if you actually know how Potheads perceive the series throughout the years.

It is a popular belief that Potheads started criticising Rowling when she mindlessly extended the worldbuilding through her bizarre tweets. But, their criticism against her and her works had been ongoing for much longer.

In the late 2000’s or early 2010’s, I loved browsing the internet for Harry Potter-related blogposts and sites. Not only I gained more facts about the HP universe (as I still haven’t read the first three novels and I might miss certain details), I also gained more perspectives about it.

And that was when they pointed out the problematic aspects of the series. Hogwarts’ disregard of its students’ welfare (e.g. having Snape ‘teaching’ his students), the mocking depiction of Hermione’s elf-right activism and the nonchalant depiction of love potion AKA magical date rape drug, just to name a few. That was one of my first exposure to critical analyses of entertainment.

Either those potheads got inspired by the moral gist of her works despite the complication OR they were already more progressive than Rowling ever was. Both make sense to me.

It is very easy for us to overlook problematic elements when they are small details or are subtextual; we may take heed of them long after we get the overall moral messages. While it is not always the case, it shouldn’t be a suprise that the younger generation is more progressive than its predecessor.

What’s the point of my babbling?

I do acknowledge that Harry Potter fandom has venomous individuals among ourselves; some undoubtedly defend Rowling’s transphobia (and, again, remember how they treated Katie Leung). But, we should also acknowledge the Potheads who are not only more enlightened than she is, but also have been scrutinising her works long before it was cool to do so.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the potheads, the backlash against her wouldn’t be as severe and, if it wasn’t for non-fans chiming in, the support for her wouldn’t be as strong.

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The real American power…

… Is actually soft.

I am referring to the concept of “soft power”, by the way. And no, I am not sorry for that shitty introduction.

I keep seeing and hearing comments made by zealously patriotic Americans about how their beloved country is respected by the world because of its hard power.

It is true to a certain extent. If you are one of those non-Americans who easily fall for American exceptionalism and who love jerking off to images of real life violence which America is responsible for while simultaneously getting unprotected, rough butt sex from America, you would drool over its hard power.

But, most non-Americans aren’t like that. When their governments do bow down to the US, they do so out of not wanting to get screwed on the world stage and NOT out of genuine respect.

Basically, projections of hard power, more of than not, are a form of bullying. Bullying with dire global consequences.

But, do you know what people all over the world love? American culture.

Experts of international relations have been arguing how affinity to foreign cultures will lead us to have more positive views of their countries of origin.

And because of my own life experiences (which I have to assert as entirely mine), this is something I am not surprised about.

Despite their constant criticism (bashing) of the USA, many of my fellow non-Americans (in this case, they are mostly Indonesians) can’t get themselves to wish literal death upon the country.

And they all have one thing in common: they openly enjoy American culture.

Apart from buying foods from American fast food restaurants and cafes, they go to cinemas mostly for Hollywood flicks, pay for cable TV to Hollywood TV shows and pay to attend concerts of American musicians.

How about the propaganda present in Hollywood films?

From what I notice, even some of the most dimwitted folks I know can easily acknowledge the propagandistic content of their sources of entertainment.

They know that they don’t easily fall for the infamously shameless American propaganda and they also feel Americans can entertain the world like no others. That’s why they are relatively unperturbed about it.

Me personally? A bulk of my favourite entertainers and artists are Americans; without them, I would have nothing but contempt for the United States of America.

Oh, and I should say ordinary Americans also contribute to their country’s positive image.

The last time I was surrounded by Americans, it was almost two decades ago when I visited the US as a young boy. I don’t remember interacting much with the locals.

But, if one sees the anecdotes posted by many non-Americans online, they frequently perceive the Americans as friendly, easy-going, open-minded, educated and charitable people and often seen as the antitheses of the US government (somewhat debatable).

The more negative anecdotes are often the results of interacting with the stereotypically jingoistic, war-mongering, fear-mongering, bubble-dwelling and proudly anti-intellectual Americans.

You know, Americans like Donald “Make America Great Again” Trump.

Americans who think their Godawful, alpha-wannabe attitudes will gain them genuine respect from the world.

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Different types of Hasan Minhaj haters

Yes, I am going to talk about his haters before I talk about him because of two simple reasons: 1. I am not done analysing him; 2. His haters are annoyingly hilarious to behold.

Now, where do I start?

Well, so far, I can place them into three separate boxes: Pro-Duterte Filipinos, pro-Modi and anti-Modi Indians and anti-Zionists, some of whom may be Muslims.

Those Filipinos accuse him of trying to make their country look bad and India looks good in comparison. They also accuse him of trivialising the deaths caused by drug dealers and gang members.

Those Indians accuse him of being a Pakistani agent and an Islamic extremist apologist. The Modi detractors among them think he makes the BJP even more powerful.

Those anti-Zionists accuse him of not making an episode on Israel simply because he fears the pro-Israel US government.

Some of the anti-Zionists also think he hates his fellow Muslims because he has shat too many times on his fellow Muslims.

If you actually know him, you would know how stupid those accusations sound.

Those particular Filipinos probably think his Indian lineage proves his anti-Filipino and pro-India biases.

Not only it is racist, they also willfully ignore that he has talked more about India in his show than he has about the Philippines.

I also don’t know how they think “tarnishing” their country’s international image instantly makes India’s looks good. Unless you have lived in both countries, you would NEVER instinctively compare the two with each other. They neither share the same roots nor they are physically side by side. And they certainly are not major rivals.

He also has made episodes (plural) about sleazy pharmaceutical companies and the acts of violence committed around the world. He would be the last person to be apathetic about violent drug dealers.

Pro-Modi Indians consider the combination of his anti-Hindutva stances and his Islamic background as a sign of his tolerance of Islamic extremism… even though his very first episode is about Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of Islamic extremism.

Anti-Modi Indians blame him for boosting BJP’s popularity right before the election… instead of actually blaming it on the Indians who are either supportive of the party or silent of the problems it poses. Blame the turds, NOT the ones who want to flush them away.

Some Indians (I don’t know if they are pro or anti-Modi) also accuse him of being a Pakistani agent…. and their only “solid” evidence is his green and white hoodie he wore in the Indian cricket episode.

That evidence is so ridiculous, I pray it is just a joke instead of an expression of sincere idiocy. Knowing humans, there is a high chance of it being sincere.

Anti-Zionists think his silence on Israel is a sign of his cowardly submission to the US government… ignoring that the US government is the government he condemns the most; even his Saudi Arabia episode includes condemnation of the US government.

It has been clear to me some of them are Muslims; they hate how he condemns his fellow Muslims a bit too often. Yes, he does shit on his fellow Muslims.

But, he condemns those who commit religious extremism, which is a fucking good thing to do and you have to be an asshole to believe otherwise. He is unlike those so-called “reformers” who willingly throw their fellow believers under the bus just for the sake of being “palatable” to western reactionaries.

If anything, he is all about empowerment as he often talks about American Muslims (and minorities in general) overcoming societal discriminations; his Netflix special heavily focused on this matter.

—-

Obviously, my categories are grossly simplistic and inadequate. If I even bother to scroll down the comment sections more, I would have more well-thought-out categorisation.

But still, I am surprised about the dearth of American right-wingers and Pro-Bolsonaro Brazilians on his videos’ comment sections.

It is surprising because he often condemns the policies proposed and enacted by the GOP (even though the Dems are not spared from his condemnation) and he has made a video about the Brazilian Amazonian people, who loath Bolsonaro; many anti-Bolsonaro videos on Youtube, including John Oliver’s, suffer from unfavourable like-dislike ratio.

This is not my first time witnessing a public figure’s detractors spewing accusations that are baseless and at odds with each other. But, this is the first time I am mindful of how pronounced the contradictions are.

The fallacies are more frequently used while the prejudice and the ideological zealotry are more shamelessly naked. His haters are followers of the global trend.

Even though I am not done with my “analysis” of him, I can confidently say one thing:

The fact that he has ruffled the feathers of many parties and causing them to react irrationally shows he has done a really great job.

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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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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.

…..

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.

……

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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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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Why The Rewired Soul’s popularity is not surprising (for me)

I first heard about The Rewired Soul, real name Chris Boutté, when Bobby Burns had become a persona non grata in Youtube community; I did not watch any of his videos as I thought he was just another commentator who was disappointed in the young and talented Youtuber’s demise.

I started to know about his true nature when Primink made a critical video about him. I do think Primink screwed up by citing Kati Morton as a good therapist just because she is licensed; her appearance in Shane Dawson’s Jake Paul series clearly shows how unethical she is. But, in general, he was right about how Boutté’s lack of integrity.

I tried to watch any of The Rewired Soul videos and I couldn’t finish a single one. He, a someone without the credentials, does try to represent himself as a therapist, albeit implicitly. He does disregard the importance of informed consent. He keeps diagnosing his fellow Youtubers despite their plea for him to stop; he is literally harassing them!

By the way, I am describing his actions in the present tense even though he is on a break. Why? Because his now-deleted apology video where he played the victim card and the fact that he started to take a break after his own fans turned against him show how he has yet to express genuine remorse. Also, the fact that there will always be people who love what he is doing means he has no incentives to change.

For me, his popularity is frustrating, disturbing yet not surprising.

For one, I also love to ‘diagnose’ complete strangers, like Youtubers. To this day, I still believe they possess certain traits they hide from the public, despite me not having solid evidences; because of that reason, I only talk about them in private chats with my friends.

You may think I am just projecting myself onto others and that is a valid thing to say. But, others are trying to do the same to me and, unlike me, they are actually proud of themselves for doing this.

People whom I have never opened to constantly try to convince me what they think of me is accurate when it is mostly not and, every time I try to rebuke them, they try to convince me I am in denial. Whether I interact with them in the physical or virtual worlds, the less they know me, the more aggressive they are.

Yes, they are just my anecdotes. Unlike a certain political figure, I don’t think data is the plural of anecdotes. But, I can point out to cases where we harass public figures by forcing them to ‘corroborate’ falsehood about their personal lives.

Shawn Mendes has been forced to admit his homosexuality by people who lack any evidences. If we go to the world of Youtube, many fans insist that certain Youtubers, like Dan and Phil, are indeed gay and in same-sex relations with each other, again, by people who lack evidences. And those are just two examples.

On what can we blame this blatant breach of personal boundaries? I believe the problem lies on the delusion of bonding.

I was raised in a society where relationships were judged solely by quantities, not by the qualities and I have no doubt many societies are also guilty of the same sin. Apart from the demonisation of introversion -which is a completely valid personality trait-, one side effect of such societal ‘quirk’ is many people I have met pitifully believe more interactions equals greater intimacy; they cannot comprehend how idiotic they sound.

Of course, that is how relationships are in the physical world, where the delusion can easily take shapes due to the direct contacts. But, I also believe this can also occur even when no interactions ever occur.

Just admit it: you feel connected to certain public figures because you read their books, you listen to their songs or you are ideologically in tune with them; I am still guilty of such sin. But, the thing is I actually acknowledge it is just a feeling!

Many still believe feelings are facts. We feel we are a part of our idols’ private lives; not only we feel entitled to be included in them, we also feel entitled to our own so-called ‘facts’ about them. And it is not just fans. Even haters and ‘neutral observers’ also have such sense of entitlement’, just because they watch, listen to and read about those public figures.

When I watched Primink’s scathing video for the second time, I finally took heed of this screenshot he took when he argued with Boutté:

“So if you had a depressed friend, you wouldn’t recommend they try therapy?”

Friend. Boutté tried to present himself as a ‘concerned’ friend to Trisha Paytas, Bobby Burns and any Youtubers whom not only he has never interacted with, but also has publicly bullied. He is either delusional or pandering to his delusional fan base; in the light of the recent exposés where he is exposed as a scammer, I am more inclined to believe the latter.

But, whether he is genuinely delusional or not, it does not matter. His online persona condones the delusion of bonding which makes him alluring to ones who clearly suffer from it. Based on what I said earlier, I believe those individuals will always exist.

If he continues to defecate the same toxicity as before, his videos would still be watched by said individuals. If his career ends forever, others would be readily available to take over his place. So, not only I am not shocked by his popularity, I also would not be surprised if he can successfully pass his psychologically-hazardous baton to other content creators.

My belief in the existence of such delusion grows slowly over many years. The more I interact with my fellow human beings and the more I delve into the world of Youtubers, the more I believe in its existence. The screenshot taken by Primink really cements it.

Oh, and I have to say I am disappointed with PsychIRL regarding this. I respected her as an intelligent and level-headed commentator and I still do. But, instead of grilling him, she just let him used her channel as his additional platform; she let him use her video as a free advertisement of his channel.

Anyone who were not stupid enough to fall for his ‘compassion’ rhetoric would immediately see how toxic he was and Donna of PsychIRL is clearly far from stupid. It seems her embrace of civility can also be a weakness, as shown in this case.

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Casualties of feel-goodism

I have my share of experiences dealing with creatures whose only objectives in life is to feel good and feel good only. You know, the ones who refuse to have a grip on reality, the victims of ‘positivity’. Now, I am going to waste my days by writing shits about them!

Victim number one

January 6, 2017. Pewdiepie, AKA the Swedish kazoo kid, uploaded a video that tackles the infestation of ‘forced positivity’ on Youtube. He admitted how he manufactured ‘happiness’ for image sake and he regretted such sinfulness. He also expressed frustration with how his fellow Youtubers exploit ‘happiness’ as a part of their brands.

He claimed ‘forced positivity’ made him feel worse as it did not allow him to comprehend his negative emotions; he stated the only way to solve a problem is to deal with it, NOT to run away from it!

(Side note: ‘forced positivity’ is a redundant term as I believe ‘positivity’ itself is an entity born out of force. But, I will retain the redundancy for this segment as it is the exact term Pewds used.)

The reception was universally positive. For some time, he provided the community a thought-provoking topic of discussion. Judging from the positive comments in the comment section, it seems this video is a reason why Pewds turned into a much more respectable content creator.

Then, there is that one commenter.

Despite my insistence how ‘forced positivity’ sounds conspicuously dishonest, he/she was firm with his/her belief that it is beneficial to our psyche! Then, she/he gave me multiple links which he/she claimed supported his/her argument. I clicked them and they lead me to actual academic papers!

At that moment, I was ready to be proven wrong! I was ready to have my firm, strongly-ground belief to get debunked by peer-reviewed researches! It also didn’t help Pewds only cited one article which itself was just an interview piece! I read the papers carefully….

… And quickly realised how fucking dumb I was for letting him/her tricked me! From all the papers he/she showed to me, none of them mentioned ‘forced positivity’!

The research regarding how optimism can benefit patients’ health said nothing about ‘forced positivity’! It said nothing about hospitals forcing their patients to be ‘happy’! In fact, it is very obvious how they already had a jolly disposition prior their sickness!

The research regarding helping students with their emotional problems also did not mention ‘forced positivity’! In fact, its proposed solution was to help them confront their negative emotions and understand why they experienced them in the first place! That’s literally what I said! That’s literally what Pewds fucking said!

This commenter was either a delusional doormat or an arrogant shrimp brain who thought he/she could make me tremble in fear by simply sharing academic papers, too arrogant to realise some of us are willing to read them thoroughly!

Of course, realising his/her bullshit was exposed, he/she retaliated brutally… by simply accusing me of being in denial and that was it. He/she said words no more and deleted the entire thread!

I am confident to say I won the debate. Not only I had proven how my opponent’s evidences did not back him/her up, I also showed how they gave him/her the finger and backed my argument and Felix’s instead!

In my life, I never expected I would humiliate someone like that.

Victim number two

Now, moving on from an honest content creator to the dishonest ones.

I would not single Prince Ea out as the only internet personality who love to exude feelgoodism. But, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest sinners.

Besides making his fans feel good about themselves for simply listening to his sugary, meaningless words, he also loves being a hypocrite who preaches about not having fragile ego and then proceed to get butthurt when fellow content creators called him out and spewing harm by telling depressed people all they have to do to force happiness onto themselves! Yes, he is one of those arseholes!

And yes, I have interacted with a fan of his. But, the interaction was too short and insignificant; so, I am not going to focus on him/her. Instead, I am going to focus on an apologist of Instagram travelers.

I never paid attention closely to any of them until Cody Ko made a video in which he criticised them for deceiving the public regarding the true nature of travelling… and life in general. He was put off by the mawkishness and the deceitfully ‘beautiful’ imagery. While they are clearly not Prince Ea, they sure are in the same league as he is!

Then, there came a commenter I would name as Mr. Apologist from now on.

He condemned Cody for being a cynical hater who unfairly accused all travelers of deceit and who just wanted to squeeze the happiness out of everyone by dismissing the ‘soul-stirring’ messages. He accused Cody of hypocrisy because Cody himself is a regular traveller who uploads travelling content to his own Insta account. He thought demanding those content creators to reveal their sources of income is unreasonably invasive. Heck, he even thought Cody was mean-spirited for mocking others who were different from him!

Now, I will disjointedly dissect his statements.

I believe it is unethical of public figures to not disclose their finances. I actually used the word ‘transparency’… which admittedly sounds lame; unless your opponents are as pretentious as you, citing big words will never get you anywhere in a debate. But, thankfully, another commenter made a more sharp-witted argument.

He/she asserted how mentally-exploitable fans will be swayed to do anything to fund their trips, even if they have to sell their cars and houses, not knowing anything how their idols make a living for themselves! For some us, it is too plain obvious (I hate myself for not making that argument)!

But then, your beloved idols are always right; if they tell you travelling is the only way to enjoy life, you better fucking believe them! This problem is exacerbated by the syrupy messages, which a lot of us still fall for.

‘Chase your dream!’. ‘Live your life!’. I don’t know what wisdom people like Mr. Apologist saw in those inherently-meaningless words.

Everyone has a dream! But, like it or not, real life is a bitch and most of our dreams will never come true! Like it or not, doing routines is also living the life; routines can help us to reach destination success… or, at least, avert us from reaching destination failure!

It seems my mere mentioning of the word ‘routines’ triggered him badly. He started to claim Cody’s refusal to not talk about the downsides of routines was a sign of bias. I mean, seriously?

Considering how modern humans constantly complain about how life-sucking routines are, that would be idiotically redundant! In fact, the banality of routines is the reason why people like Insta celebs are famous in the first place; their lives are presented as anti-routines! Mr. Apologist might as well demand people to talk about how salty salt is! Oh, and he also accuses me of bias.

What kind of bias do I have? He never answered, despite my persistent questioning. He believed my so-called bias prevents me from seeing how horrible Cody Ko really was, how he was the person he condemned, how he was the real bad guy here!

Well, let me see…

While Cody is indeed a frequent traveller, he never uploads any deceptively beautiful photos and videos, he never insinuates travelling as the only way to appreciate life, he never preys on the emotional fragility of his fans, he is transparent about his source of income, he never spews meaningless ‘inspirational’ words and he certainly never scams his fans like Crea Tyler did! Oh, and about his bullying of others…

There is a difference between bullying and poking fun of others. It is evident by how some of his so-called ‘bullying victims’, including Jay Alvarez himself – one of those Insta travelers – , reacted positively to his videos! Every time Cody makes fun of someone, he always does it humorously and he always has good reasons to do so!

I am all for being one’s self as I have been personally benefited by it. But, at the same time, Cody’s so-called ‘victims’ produce cringeworthy content; they are either different just for the sake of it or they make sincerely harmful contents which any impressionable human beings should never watch!

People who belong to the first two categories cannot expect others to not laugh at them. The ones who belong to the third should be harshly condemned for their toxicity! So, not only Cody is not a bad guy, he is actually one of the good guys the world needs!

Mr. Apologist also knew Jay Alvarez responded positively to the mockery. But then, he proceeded to baselessly speculate that Cody would make a second video about his target and continue the non-existing drama. I said ‘baselessly speculate’ because the speculation was indeed baseless!

In the Tiny Meat Gang podcast, he mentioned Jay’s positive reaction… and that was it. He never made a second video about him; there was no drama between the two! But, Cody did make two more videos about Crea Tyler. Why? Because, unlike Jay, Tyler literally scams his own fans!

To make my conversations with Mr. Apologist even weirder, he also claimed to be a regular traveller as well. The fact that he was one is odd. Even travelling with the help of travel agencies still has many downsides, let alone one where we have to do everything by ourselves! It is either he lied about being one or he was just a fanatic member of the cult of ‘positivity’.

His devotion to ‘positivity’ not only encourages him to be delusional about the activity he supposedly had immersed himself in, but also to slander every single person who dares to snap him back to reality!

I initially wanted to suggest you to watch Cody Ko’s videos and see for yourself. But, if you already possess a mentality similar to Mr. Apologist’s, you would instantly side with him and condemn Cody and any other well-meaning commentators for being hateful individuals.

Casualties number mycountryreligionperfectifyoudontlikeitleavediehurrdurr

Unlike the previous casualties, these ones are a lot easier to identify. All you have to do is to point out the deep-rooted flaws of their respective – and beloved – groups. The sight of foam forming on their mouths is 100% guaranteed!

Defensiveness is the most common reaction. They always feel personally abused by any condemnations targeted specifically at the extremists! They will try to downplay the threat, accuse the ones who fear extremism of being alarmists and proceed to accuse the ‘others’ AKA marginalised groups as the dangerous ones! And their delusion does not stop there!

They also love attacking the mainstream media for spreading lacking journalistic integrity. I do agree media outlets constantly spread fake or sensationalised stories and hire personalities who constantly blur the lines between journalism and commentaries. But, we know damn well those are not the reasons why they hate the media!

They hate how the media constantly report stories of real widespread violence committed by their fellow ideologues, instead of focusing more time on exposing numerically-less significant violence committed by the ‘others’!* They hate how the media refuses to affirm their delusional worldviews!

They are so fucking delusional, they think the only fundamental goal of media outlets is to be their personal propagandists, to make them feel good about themselves and world they live in!

(*Side note: All acts of violence are bad, no matter how widespread or isolated they are! But, if one wishes to determine which pose the biggest threat and which are signs of deep-rooted societal problems, one must choose the ones that occur on an almost regular basis!)

From my personal experiences, those piles of pig dung often include nationalists, believers and even religious nationalists. Because of their abundance, I constantly encounter them both online and offline. But, I won’t discuss individual confrontations in details; I am already on page four and I am itching to finish this essay soon!

Oh, and some of you, my non-existent readers, may wonder why I consider those people as ‘positivity enthusiasts’ instead of fanatics. On the surface, claiming it is all about feelgoodism does sound too far-fetched. But, dig deeper and it would make more sense.

When one (accurately) labels someone as a fanatic, it means he/she has an absolutely unquestioning love for certain things by believing in their non-existing perfection and by always feeling good about them!

If one dares to point out the glaring imperfection, he/she would be infuriated by one’s refusal to let him/her feel good about the things he/she loves! He/she believes depriving him/her of ‘good feelings‘ is one of the greatest sins ever committed by mankind! Literally worse than any murders!

I don’t believe positivity is the root of fanaticism, which surely is a tangle of abstract intricacies. But, I believe it is a symptom everyone must be alert of.

How I deal with feelgoodism

Admittedly, I was also a victim of it and I always thrived to feel good about everything. Then, surprisingly, I grew up! I still don’t know how I escaped the fool’s paradise. But now, I have set up some preventive measures.

If certain messages bring me a mystifying surge of high spirits, I should never let my guard down; they may contain beliefs which equate happiness with delusions. But, at the same time, I should refrain myself from cynicism (easier said than done); the wholesomeness may also be genuine.

If the messages not only make me excessively feel good about myself, but also compel me to look down on others whom I impulsively perceive as ‘unenlightened’, red fucking alert!

I should avoid those messages at all cost and I should be wary of individuals who vomit and cuddle them! I sound like I am overreacting. But, I am sure you agree sitting high and mighty among the clouds is a vice anyone should never fall for.

Oh, and instead of ‘positivity’, I prefer to use these alternatives: hope and contentment. The former believes the storms will surely pass. The latter believes we can enjoy life despite the storms. Both believe happiness does not mean disregarding the dark clouds lingering above us.

While far from perfect, the methods I use have brought me a greater sense of self-awareness. They compel me to acknowledge how much of a delusional, self-righteous dickhead my younger self was.

Even though I still tumble to the realm of chimeras and piety from time to time, I become better at fleeing it thanks to those methods.

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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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