Reflection #2: The Lament of the Leftist Vulgarisers

Mo Black
Mo Black
Nov 11, 2019 · 14 min read

Hey, it’s Mo Black, and I’ve got some things I want to get off my chest.

(Photo by Andre Mouton from Pexels)

If you’re wondering why this is called Reflection #2 it’s because I wrote Reflection #1 on Medium. If you’re reading the reading the transcript on Medium, which of course you are you’re right here, there should be a link right after this paragraph.

I am legitimately the dumbest motherfucker around.


So I wanted to talk about this some more:

Don’t leave just yet! This essay isn’t about Contrapoints, I promise. We’re done talking about Contrapoints. It’s okay.

What I want to do instead is take this a bit more meta, and focus on BreadTube, content creation, and my experiences being completely new to all this and trying to follow along as best I can.

For a little context on that piece, I… didn’t put a lot of effort into it. At all.

Let me explain.

I was basically on Reddit consuming Contra drama, and it frustrated me how everything seemed to be about getting Contra specifically to apologize, getting Contra specifically to fix everything wrong with BreadTube. There were a lot of people who, rightfully so, had different complaints about BreadTube. Most of all, non-binary people often stated that they didn’t feel represented by BreadTube, this movement that was supposed to take on the Right, effectuate social change, and help them feel included. I’d be the first to agree that a lot of times I don’t feel like I fit within BreadTube as a social space, especially since the people that we idolize and the people that we almost worship aren’t doing their part in making sure everyone’s voice gets heard.

I got frustrated enough with the conversation that I started ranting about it to my friend. I more or less came to the conclusion that all of these problems are capitalism. My friend agreed, we figured it was pretty obvious. But if it’s obvious, why weren’t people acting like it?

So I sat down that night. I spent like an hour or so writing down all my thoughts. Slapped a nice thumbnail so everyone knew what was going down. Gave it a catchy title too. I spent the next morning editing it and I scheduled it to have it published in the afternoon. I could only post it when I got done with classes towards the evening. By then, it had already made its first few laps around the Internet. This essay was far more engaging than I’m used to. I got a lot more positive feedback than I’m used to, and also a lot more criticism, which was interesting.

So here’s the thing.

I appreciate all of you who read it, liked it, followed because of it (there are quite a number of you, proportionally speaking), but just look at the statistics for my little take on drama. Medium gives its writers all this data as part of the platform.

From left to right: views, reads, read/view ratio, fans

Now compare it to this essay, that I spent like 1–2 months writing, researching, and perfecting.

The later talks about things that are important. Or rather, things that are important to me. How media commodities sexuality and relationships, how some media can drive vulnerable people to become more lonely, and how anime specifically sells you sexism to make a profit through waifus, among other things.

In a couple of hours, a brainfart I had while browsing Reddit on the toilet was more successful than the entire lifetime of the most high-effort content I’ve posted to the Internet until now.

So in conclusion: I can milk BreadTube drama for clicks. It’s really easy.

It’s not something that everyone can do too well, exactly. But I seem to have the writing style for it, and a knack for coming up with the kinds of takes that draw attention.

I could sit down, shove my thermometer right up BreadTube’s asshole and figure up what people are talking about, what they’re going to talk about next, and I could keep that going forever. As long as I don’t give the game away, chasing drama is, statistically speaking, far more likely to lead me to numerical success than writing the things I actually care about. Not saying I’d have a million subscribers if I just did drama, but the drama path is objectively far easier.

Medium and YouTube know this. They want me to realize this and they want me to pick the other path. Even the way these platforms present this information is sending a signal.

It’s this dynamic that I want to get off my chest.

Why do art at this point?

Why put effort into things when success is in no way tied to effort or quality?

Why fight the pressure I feel by my own platforms to write what I care about when clearly the “best” choice is to prioritize what generates traffic and revenue.

Going back to Holy Shit, Contra Said a Thing! Well, Guess I Better Singlehandedly Solve BreadTube (I’m sticking by my promise that we’re not here to talk about Contra, I promise). What’s the big development in BreadTube drama that’s followed since I published it? What’s everyone talking about right now?

It’s cancel culture.

Cancel culture this. Cancel culture that. Blah blah cancel blah.

Mad respect to Peter Coffin though

Angie Speaks did a video, then Peter Coffin did their take, then Gutian did like two vids back to back on it. This is the wave. This is where the market is.

Everyone’s eager to know why the Left is so willing to cancel people. Why does this keep happening?

I have an opinion on it. I could publish a piece on cancel culture too. I could open up Medium right now and type into the editor and come up with a cancel culture hot take. It’d probably go something like this.

Cancel culture seriously does not exist.

Obviously harassing people off the Internet is traumatizing and beyond not okay. What the Internet did to Contrapoints is not victory, it’s a disgrace. But that’s not “Left-wing cancel culture”. That’s Twitter culture. That’s Internet culture. This is just what happens.

Why is it that when the Right goes after journalists and content creators, when they smear game developers, when they harass actresses and directors, why is it that when the Right does this to anyone who does or says anything mildly progressive in center-Right spaces, no one calls this cancel culture?

But then when the Left and liberals do the same thing, that’s cancel culture. That’s a problem. That’s the thing we’re hand-wringing (or whinging, I kinda mixed the two on accident) about. That’s proof that the Left is just too sensitive to get anything done. Why?

It’s because the current iteration of cancel culture is a framing device the Right uses on the Left to attack anyone Left of center as a whole. It’s a tactic that the Right uses to present the Left as unreasonable, overly hostile, overly sensitive, and puritanical.

I’m not saying that there aren’t sensitive, unreasonable, hostile, and puritanical sections of the online Left. I’m not saying that harassment isn’t real. I’m saying that the rate at which these things occur are not fundamentally different than the rate at which they occur on the Right.

I review anime, it’s kinda what I do. Whenever an anime has any sort of positive representation of women that’s not sexualized or pandered to the male gaze, a lot of those creators get cancelled.

When Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had some of its lines changed from Japanese to English to avoid some of the more weird and sexist elements of the show, the people who worked at Funimation and were in charge of the changes got cancelled. They got harassed. There was another Funimation anime too that had the same thing happen to it and the reaction from anime fans was exactly the same.

They broke the bubble of the Right that exists in anime. People got triggered because someone decided that maybe anime should stop being so gross for like five fucking minutes.

Why is this not cancel culture? But something happened to Contra. That’s cancel culture. Everyone hold the fucking phone it’s time to talk about cancel culture now.

It’s a double standard that benefits the Right. It masks what the Right does as neutral and normal but presents the Left as insane.

And the fact that we have people who I respect like Peter Coffin buying into the idea that there’s a specific problem with the Left harassing people and being puritanical and not allowing a difference of opinion… that’s super frustrating.

So that was like, what? 500 words? I could take that whole rant, flesh it out, make it into a Medium essay and publish it. You never know what’s going to be successful when you put it out there, but I’ll bet it wouldn’t do half bad when it comes down to it.

That’s kinda my problem here.

If I were to do that, if I were to chase the numbers and the metrics like this, I’d stop being an artist in any way I’m satisfied with. I’d stop being an educator. I’d just be a capitalist. I’m concerned about my market, my brand, my social capital, my followers, my credibility. Eventually, enough people would trust me. They’d trust my takes. If I decided to be open enough, we’d start to develop some parasocial relationships too.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with BreadTube criticizing itself. A space for BreadTube drama should probably exist (that’s what criticizing Contra in a healthy, non-harassing kind of way was supposed to be). Again, though, that’s not praxis.

When I published Holy Shit, Contra Said a Thing! Well, Guess I Better Singlehandedly Solve BreadTube, a lot of people @’d me in the comments like

Hey, I noticed you said BreadTube isn’t praxis. But then you recommended reading books. Books are buying things! Isn’t that not praxis now too by your own logic!?

I’ll admit that I did a bad job of addressing this potential criticism in the first piece. Partly because it’s an incredibly dumb argument to make sorry not sorry.

The reason why passively consuming BreadTube isn’t praxis, but reading a book could be, is that, while academics have financial incentives and aren’t completely immune from the effects of capital, but these pressures are far more reduced than in the case of BreadTubers.

When you’re an academic, you’re back at the very least by an institution. Sometimes, you’re backed by public funding. Or you’re professor with tenure and you’re backed by some kind of financial stability. That’s not something most BreadTubers can claim. Academics can publish whatever they think is important, and all they really need to do is convince a committee, which often has the same interests of discovery and knowledge building, of the same thing.

But for BreadTubers, there’s no one to convince. We’re just posting stuff online, and we’re just hoping that the curators, or, in YouTube’s case, the algorithm, picks our stuff to show people. We’re hoping that the nameless, faceless forces of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, spread our work around.

Those platforms, unlike a publicly funded research institution, are not interested in promoting the most important or most interesting ideas. They’re concerned with one question and one question only: Is this bringing more users to my platform? Yes? Or no?

That’s the thing. These pressures aren’t exactly intuitive to people who haven’t tried it themselves. I know I didn’t get it until I first started worrying about how to get more people to read my Medium stories. It had to happen to me for it to get it.

When you start posting stuff online, you slowly realize all the subtle ways these platforms dissuade you from doing art, dissuade you from doing the things you want to do, dissuade you from doing the things that you think are important, and nudge you into the direction of making content in the places where you’re already sure there’s a market. Where you already know people will by into your premise, your format, and what you have to day.

I run a single publication on Medium, Mo’s Home for Treatises and Hot Takes.

The fuck is a Treatise?

Well, in my context, the idea of a Mo Black Treatise is inseparable from anime. I’m not writing a fucking 12,000 word essay on something that isn’t anime, light novel, or manga. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future, but for now that’s how it is.

My specialty is reading an anime and giving a deconstruction of it. That’s what Real Women Don’t Love You but Your Waifu Will Stick Around Long Enough to Make a Profit is about.

So if that’s the case, why am I aligning my content with BreadTube?

AniTube (anime YouTube), exists. They have a market. They’ve Digibro, Best Guy Ever, Mother’s Basement, Gigguk, they’ve got Sydsnap.

They’ve got a lot of good and neat content creators.

So why am I here and not there?

I did the obvious thing. I took my work, I took my essays, and I presented them in anime circles. I tried to style myself after a lot of the bigger AniTubers. Actually, a lot of my writing is more or less based on Digibro’s long-form anime rants.

I don’t agree with Digibro politically in the slightest. His takes are kind of wack. My content is probably equally also based on Oliver Thorn and Lindsay Ellis.

Radioactive take

But the caustic, smug nature of my writing is a lot because I know people like Digibro make it work.

I tried to take that format in written form, and I tried to sell it to various anime communities online.

Nowhere. That shit went nowhere. And you wanna know why?

It’s not because I can’t write (though, I can always improve). It’s because AniTube as a market is too reactionary. AniTube is not ready yet to accept SJW, Leftist, and socialist anime analyses. It’s just not.

There are a couple of Left-wing anime creators, but they exist in their own bubbles, entirely disconnected from the rest of AniTube.

So what I did is I switched markets. I switched from the AniTube market to the BreadTube market. And there’s nothing really wrong or nefarious about that. I just want people to realize that that’s what’s happened. A lot of people think of BreadTube as if it’s fundamentally different from AniTube, or whatever market PewDiePie effectively runs, or the market for YouTube make-up tutorials, or YouTube self-help. These are all the same thing. That’s why just being a datapoint in this market will never be praxis.

I learned a French word the other day, I’m pretty proud of myself. It’s vulgarisateur. Un vulgarisateur is someone that vulgarizes. That’s what the French call people like Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Lawrence Strauss, and all these people that take quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biology, and any other complex scientific subject and make it more accessible to a wider audience.

All these people are important. Bill Nye is important. NDT was important but there’s a good chance he sexually harassed someone so. Michio Kaku is important. Brian Greene is important. I loved all these guys as a kid.

But, watching a bunch of Bill Nye videos, or reading Michio Kaku’s latest book… those don’t make you qualified to teach a science class. It makes you more informed, and it makes you entertained, but not qualified.

In the same way, watching a bunch of BreadTube doesn’t make you qualified to do praxis. You need either a) practical knowledge that comes from staying informed enough to vote, or helping other people vote for the right candidates, or trying to unionize your workplace, or joining an organization, or making your own content (seriously a lot of people missed this point the first time around. Vulgarizing is praxis, even if being vulgarized isn’t). Or you need b) the complete knowledge that comes from the books and papers you choose to read.

You need a way to stay informed outside BreadTube. The reality is, this market dynamics that I’ve tried to document here mean that there’s always going to be another Contrapoints. There are always going to be a time when some of these people have blind spots and fuck up in big and obvious ways. There are always going to be topics that are super important and relevant to the real world that won’t show up on BreadTube because the market isn’t ready for it yet.

You don’t want to rely on what the market is or isn’t ready for to find out what you want to learn about, what’s important to you, or how you can make your corner of the world a better place.

BreadTube is for sure a good place to start. Many content creators, like PhilosophyTube, will leave their sources in the description. Read them from time to time if you like a video.

But as long as you treat BreadTube like what it isn’t, it will fail you. If your main vehicle for social change was being subscribed to Contrapoints, then you’re not changing anything. At the end of the day it’s the same point, but the experience of having that first essay end up as successful as it was gave me new vocabulary to make that clear.

Thanks for reading! The next essay is coming our soon. I finished the first draft already.

It’s gonna be fun

It’s 19,800 words so fuck me up the ass. It’s gotta get edited, and then I have to record it, edit the video, do the subtitles, and translate the subtitles into French. On top of that I need to do well in class so we’re at least a week out if not more.

Follow me on Medium, subscribe to my YouTube channel, Patreon and all that good stuff. I’m trying to find a way to consolidate all my content, so that if you just want “all things Mo Black” you follow one thing. But I’m not sure what the best way to make that happen is. So for now, just follow me on YouTube and Medium.

So, yeah.

See ya 💕

Mo Black

Written by

Mo Black

Leftist. Media analysis, fiction, and the art of writing the perfect story. YouTube:

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