It’s always interesting to see what it takes to go big on YouTube. In my second critique of the YouTuber Kraut, I analyze his biggest video ever, “Trump’s Biggest Failure”. This thing has racked up over four million views over the past five years. Kraut is very skilled at his medium, and is very intelligent. But I think it’s very telling that his most successful video, by a factor of four or so, is so very standard in its views. It’s more compelling and fun in its presentation, but this video on China is basically a Pentagon briefing or a Cable news special in its content. I wonder if there’s a broader lesson there?
I hope you enjoy this latest “YouTube Drama” video. Stuff like this keeps the channel ticking over so I can produce less popular but more worthwhile content.
This is exactly the sort of video I’ve always wanted to do. I believe history should have some passion behind it. That’s the best way to teach it. The point of this series should be becoming clear. My hope is to tell the modern history of Yemen, and do it in such a way that it sticks with people, by drawing firm connections between what’s happening now, and what has gone before. I’m pleased with how the series has gone so far, and I’m excited to complete it, and finally move on to other projects I’ve been delaying for too long. The hope is that now that I’ve done this once, I will be able to repeat the trick for other countries in the region more easily.
Some produced videos take a long time to germinate, this one did not. This script crystallizes a concern I’ve been struggling to express for a couple months now. Sure, the United States has thrown a lot of money at the Ukraine problem, but do we have a strategy? Do we have one at all? I don’t doubt that there are capable people in the Biden administration who could execute such a strategy. In fact, they proposed one, not formally, but with their initial actions, that looks a lot like what today’s video demands. Unfortunately, they were too easily dissuaded from it. In the coming months we’ll begin to hear more about how the world’s options are hyper-inflation and starvation for the poor or some kind of Ukrainian surrender to Russia. But we have, and had more choices than that. As today’s video points out, all this horror could be a great opportunity… but I’m afraid we’re letting it pass us by.
I have been working on this one for years. For years I have said that this channel is about politics and history, but with this series I would like to make that more real. In three (or maybe four) videos, my hope is to cover many of the high and low points of the past 500 years of Yemeni history, while also providing an in depth, informed take on Yemen’s current status. I think today’s video is a good start. Wish me luck!
I think it’s now safe to say that my “YouTube Drama” experiment has been a rousing success. I took this past month off, and I was surprised by how little the traffic dropped off without new videos. I didn’t drop below 1,000 views a day until the very end of the month, and it was my video critiquing the YouTube channel Whatifalthist that drove the majority of the traffic. It zoomed past the 25,000 view mark I had set to produce a sequel. That 25K makes it my most viewed video in two years. So with my first produced video back I’m starting out with a part two on whatifalthist. Rest assured, I intend to alternate more serious content with YouTube diss tracks going forward, but it’s clear that the diss tracks are what is driving the channel’s renewed growth.
Ray Dalio’s book on the changing World Order has been universally praised since its publication. I fear that may be because nobody has read it.
So far it seems like my “drama” videos have been more successful when they go after folks who are native to the app rather than establishment figures. Ray Dalio happens to be both. He’s one of the most successful Hedge fund investors of all time, and he racks up tens of millions of YouTube views. Here’s hoping this video is successful. Reading his book was a bit of a chore.
I feel like I’m weirdly a lot more optimistic about American power today than most of the US media is. Today I lay out why I think that may be. The US is reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as some inexplicable horror, another step back towards history’s chaos, and another sign that the American world order is falling to pieces. As more of a cynic, and a student of foreign relations, my sense is that the US world order has been falling apart since at least 2003. What Russia has done in Ukraine, is give us a second chance. By conclusively setting himself up as a more destructive and dangerous actor than the US government, Putin has given the US world order a new lease on life.
What’s vital in this moment is that we seize that opportunity. Europe is now back on our side in ways it hasn’t been for two decades. What we should do now, is try to win over the rest of the world by improving our relations with old enemies that no longer matter. To it’s credit, the Biden administration is already trying to do this with Iran and Venezuela. Unfortunately, they are being blocked by their efforts to do so, and not just by Republicans. I think it’s a failure of understanding. US government and media don’t understand just how bad the situation was, and how valuable a window Russia has given us. Today’s video is my attempt to explain the situation.
This isn’t really a Russia Ukraine video. But it’s certainly been prompted by that horrific event. Washington, DC got this one right, and I got it wrong, not expecting Putin to be this stupid. But I think the exultation we’re getting from a lot of pundits today is misplaced. Some see this as a Pearl Harbor moment, hoping that it will wake the US public from its slumber, make us forget the past 20 years of imperial mismanagement, and fall in line behind the same clowns who brought us the current dismal global situation. Needless to say, that’s not my take. I do see hope here though. Russia has proven itself to be thuggish, and surprisingly weak. The situation we have now, a real fight, might finally convince Washington, DC to engage in a little prioritization. The United States is actually a very capable and impressive country. This moment could cause us to do better. In today’s video I use a similar video from British Imperial history to talk about how.
It’s more than a little absurd that I have to comment on another YouTuber’s work to get videos watched on the platform. But after the success of the Kraut and Whatifalthist critique videos, my best and 2nd best performing videos of the year, I think it’s a pretty unavoidable conclusion. Luckily this month one of the biggest news and politics YouTubers, Johhnny Harris has weighed in on Russia and Ukraine, and I have a few quibbles with his approach. So with today’s video I manage to smack two birds with one stone, hopefully satisfying the algorithm, while commenting on most US coverage of Russia by proxy, through Johnny Harris. Going forward I think it probably makes sense to try to do one of these “YouTube Drama” videos a month. I hope you find them worthwhile. The Whatifalthist video uploaded two weeks ago has brought me back to traffic numbers I haven’t seen in two years. I hope to use the numbers to hit the audience with some Yemen coverage soon…
A number of months back I ran a poll asking which of a selection of geopolitics YouTubers I should do a review of. I was surprised to see Whatifalthist win the poll dramatically. The few videos of his I had watched had struck me as inoffensive and vaguely amusing. Having now done a deeper dive, it’s clear I was missing a lot. This kid, and I do mean kid, I think he’s like 22, does delightfully nerdy deep dives on European history, but his takes on countries and events outside of “Western Civilization” are sometimes… problematic. As I looked into it further, I was surprised to find that he has a lot of the same educational gaps and right wing ideological hang-ups that I did when I was 22. It’s an odd artifact of our age that he is working out his ideas with an audience in the hundreds of thousands. I don’t think he should be pilloried for it. This was an interesting video to write. If I were criticizing someone with serious institutional backing, or over the age of 25, I think I would have been a lot harsher. But this kid literally seems to have grown up on-line, starting a YouTube channel half his lifetime ago to answer fun nerd questions. I’m not sure I got the balance right. Let me know what you think.