I think about history a lot. And when historians look back to the beginning of this century, I’m beginning to get the sense that the only story they will be able to tell is one of US imperial consolidation. This could easily be just one part of a three-parter, but I don’t think I’m going to bother to tell the other parts of the story, because they are adequately covered elsewhere. Most know that US oil and gas is now dominant in the world, and that the US dollar is stronger than it has ever been. But few understand how much our own foreign policy disasters cleared the way for that dollar and petro-supremacy. With today’s video I lay that out…
This one was a bit of an ordeal, honestly. A full 30 minutes of produced video, which is only part three of four, got a bit daunting. Every step of the way was a bit of a struggle. I hope it’s worth watching. Heading back to do more YouTube Drama before I attempt “Yemen vs. Empire” Part 4.
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.
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.
This video is another attempt to shake up the style a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve done an all visual video, and this one almost qualifies. I’ve noticed that a lot of the successful geopolitics videos on YouTube tend to be lighter on the speaking in person, and heavier on the storyblocks and animated maps. Storyblocks is a stock video website I’ve been subscribed to for about six months now. It’s a cheap service, and you get what you pay for, but it’s a fun way to build a video. The selection is limited enough that after going through the library, I am beginning to see the same clips over and over in the work of my competitors. I think I have a few more rudimentary animation skills than a lot of the other geopolitics YouTubers, and I think I mixed animated graphs well with the storyblocks clips. Let me know what you think!
You may notice that today’s video looks a little different. I don’t know why it took this long for me to do this, but this weekend I finally signed up with Storyblocks, a company that provides stock footage. In recent years I’ve become more and more concerned with keeping my videos within the letter of copyright law. I didn’t realize until this afternoon how limiting that was. Back when I started out I just grabbed whatever from wherever, with the certain knowledge that nobody would ever come after an obscure channel in Turkey. But in 2017 I started being a lot more careful. I’m very grateful for what I’ve learned through that process and the skills I’ve built…
But man today was fun! With Storyblocks it feels like 2014 again. They’ve got a clip for most anything I want to talk about. I was aware of this flexibility as I finalized the script, and I think it allowed me to put something together that’s a little freer, and maybe even a little bit funny. Anyway, today is the most fun I’ve had editing in ages, and it’s the first of the new “long form” videos that I’m actually proud of. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…
This one was a lot of fun to make. Early on in this channel’s history I played around with scripted skits a bit more, and it was fun to get back into it. I’ve long been incredulous about the way that China-US relations are covered. US media seems utterly incapable of looking at things in their proper context. It seems obvious to me that China is heading in the wrong direction, and US media loves to document that. Where most US news sources fall short, however, is in explaining why China has turned a bit nuts. There’s a very involved history of US antagonism that led us to where we are, and China’s actions, while horrific, aren’t really an effective counter to anything we have been doing. I don’t want to excuse China’s behavior, but I don’t think we should obscure the US’s part in it.
I’ve made videos covering this material before, but I thought it might be fun to do it what I hope is a more breezy and amusing scripted format. What if we re-ran the past ten years of US China relations, but with China as the more powerful party rather than the United States? Today’s video is a thought experiment, and an experimental video as well. Let me know what you think!
It’s amazing how little investment the US has in the priorities of our allies. It’s well established that our foreign policy establishment is utterly incapable of seeing anything from the perspective of any of our “adversaries”. This would be a tremendous problem if the United States were actually in anything like a real competition with anybody. The dumbest actor in a contest rarely wins. But it’s not a contest. At this point, we’re so much more powerful than any of our opponents that it just doesn’t matter (leaving aside moral questions). What we should be doing, in this waning, but still present historical moment, is building up our position with allies, and working to stretch this sweet spot out as long as possible. We’re doing the exact opposite of that, of course.
A system that wants to stand the test of time needs to be aware of, and at least not obstruct, the wishes of smaller members of that system. As today’s video illustrates, we’re not doing that. Our oldest and strongest allies in Europe have opted to kick off the “New Cold War” by committing to an investment agreement… with China. This should be a wake up call. I doubt it will be.
One of the best things about doing commentary on YouTube is the feedback. Tuesday’s video is the second installment of my series on Algeria. It covers a lot of the same territory as my first video on Algeria, which was mostly just an appreciation of the country’s amazing history. But by posting that first video, I got a ton of comments that helped to guide some reading on my part, that helped me form more confirmed opinions on the country and its history. Tuesday’s video has gotten some very flattering appreciation. A handful of Algerian commentators have pointed out that my coverage is worlds better than any other English language source. This is less a celebration of my work than an indication of how bad US coverage of the country is more generally. I read two books, one of which I don’t find particularly trustworthy, and read about 1,000 YouTube comments, half of which were one sentence critiques of my figures and my neglect of the Berber population. With just that, I was able to do a better job talking about the country than almost any English language journalist. I’m kind of proud of that, but it’s also pretty sad.
All that said, while I’ve gotten a few very positive comments on this video, I’ve gotten many more that are pretty negative. Now that I’m diving deeper into the politics of the country, and making opinions, I’ve triggered a negative reaction. But I take heart from the fact that most of what people are complaining about is my read on the politics of the moment, and what people think of the current president. Nobody is complaining about my take on the history leading up to this year anymore. And with my next video on Algeria, probably a year or so from now, I’ll be able to incorporate criticisms of others. Iterative analysis. I like it.
With today’s video I try something new. Most of my video scripts come to me more fully formed, in a rush of inspiration. With this “Avoiding the British Empire” series, I’m trying something more ambitious. The first 9 episodes of the video series are meant to work with each other, building the case, and helping viewers arrive at a picture of the world that grows with each installment. The series is meant to be greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure this has been entirely successful. I tend to focus on making discrete points and individually successful videos. My writing process is like that as well. This series is the first I can think of, where multiple videos started out as “Oh, I need to do this in this video”, rather than as a loose collection of thematically related issues. Many of the videos in the series predated the over-arching series structure. Today’s video did not. What do you think?