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.
I have been reading a lot about China lately, and the more I read, the more disturbed I get about the way Taiwan is currently discussed in the United States. For half a century this topic has been understood as the mother of all red lines when it comes to US-China relations. That is no longer the case for discussions in the United States. I am pretty sure it’s still a massive red line for China. Uncharacteristically, I now do think there is a chance of war between the US and China. But because of US aggression, not US withdrawal…
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!
Trying out a new format today! Folks may have noticed that traffic has been declining a bit on the channel. I’d been wondering about this for a while, but over the holiday season I did a deeper dive, and decided to figure out why. The simple fact seem to be that YouTube’s requirements have changed. It’s true that they are less likely to point to controversial topics from small channels, but my videos are no longer algorithm friendly in a more important way as well: They’re just too short.
People may prefer short videos, I certainly do. But YouTube wants people to watch for longer. Long established YouTuber Veritasium maintains that you need to have an average watchtime of around 8 minutes for YouTube to get excited about putting your video in front of more people. Can’t get to an 8 minute watch time if most of your videos are under 8 minutes long, as mine are. So, with today’s video, I’m switching things up a bit. I’m trying to mix the produced videos with more improv-ed riffs. Let me know how you think it’s going!
It’s amazing to me how much of the Security/geopolitics conversations happens around stuff that will never matter. The Pentagon and their pet think tanks and congresspeople are pushing the “New Cold War” with China because they know that it will keep the money rolling in. But it really doesn’t make sense. All the defense related crap we are buying will be superseded or sunk within the first month or so of an actual shooting war with China. Nobody really knows what such a war would look like, but it’s obvious to me that most of the trillions we spend on weapons will be wasted.
What I have done this week, and with last week’s video, is try to talk about areas of competition that actually matter. Diplomacy, Business, and the degree to which the rest of the world is still willing to put up with US hegemony are vastly more important factors in the resolution of this competition than almost anything that will happen in the South China sea. It’s the management of these other competition spaces that will determine whether war with China happens in the 2030s, the 2130s, or not at all. The Big Tech companies are another one of those great benefits, like the peace dividend at the end of the cold war, that we in the United States may be in the process of wasting. We should maybe spend a billion or two thinking about these companies strategically, among the trillions we’ll spend on useless weapons platforms. Today’s video is a place to start.
Today’s video covers the India-China border dispute, which has gotten significantly more serious over the past 48 hours. I don’t have much to contribute to what’s happening on the ground, even the real reporters are having difficulty figuring that out. But the fact that China is embroiled in this lethal border dispute indicates a serious problem for the country.
China has missed an extraordinary opportunity. Now that I think of it, so have the Russians, the Chinese, and anybody else who has been set up as an enemy of the United States. Before this year he still had his defenders, but in June of 2020 there are few people who dispute that Donald Trump is the dumbest, weakest, and easiest to bribe president in US history. Yet after three and a half years of Trump’s time in power none of these legendarily so threatening actors have managed to do much at all to advance their interests. China, supposedly the country ready to supplant us, has managed to dig itself a massive hole geopolitically and financially. It’ almost as if we’re spending too much money on our military…
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?
One of my favorite things about my YouTube Channel is the comments section. The MFF comments defy the stereotypes. It’s a really pleasant environment, where people actually deal with issues, and often add to my base of knowledge. We’ve got our share of racist trolls of course, it’s Youtube after all, but even they engage positively now and again, and nobody pays them much mind when they are trolling. I spend a lot of time in the comments, and I consider the experience very rewarding. The same, alas cannot be said, for the comments section to this video on our concentration camp era.
There were plenty of stand outs, but it was really sad to see a lot of people retreat to their foxholes. I think this video is pretty important, and I think the parallel it draws between the world’s three most important countries is worth thinking about. Unfortunately the comments are full of Americans, Chinese, and Indians bitterly denouncing the idea that their country could ever do wrong. It was especially sad to see folks who are delighted to engage with my critiques of the US shrink away from criticism of their own countries. Most of my regular commenters didn’t fall into this, but a few of them did. Makes me sad. Though actually I suppose it’s an indication of our common humanity too.
I put this video into my “We need a globalist party” playlist. The playlist is an old idea I need to revive. The fact is that our three 20th century titans will need some restraining, and as my comment section indicates, they are unlikely to do it to themselves. In the mid 20th century institutions like the United Nations had a real moral authority that they could use to motivate grass roots shaming of great power crimes. That ability to hold the great powers to account has faded away. We probably need it back.
The question asked by this video may seem ridiculous, or even horrifying. The United States has waged a relentless war on Muslim countries for two, based on the terrorist activities of a few individuals and ideologies that were just as much inspired by the US intelligence community as they were by any religion. From Iraq, to Yemen to Somalia and Libya it’s a pretty horrifying legacy.
But it could be so much worse. In this video I argue that the Devil world-wide Islam knows is vastly preferable to the devil it does not know. Both China and India have demonstrated in recent years that their approach to their own Muslim minorities is awful. As their power grows this treatment will extend to Muslims worldwide. In the months since I made this video, this has only gotten more apparent, with India’s new repression of the Muslims of Kashmir, to Modi’s (very related to Kashmir) growing closeness with the most repressive elements of the Israeli government.
At the end of today’s video I allude to a very basic principle that shouldn’t need explanation, but kind of does. Put simply: Conflict is bad. It’s not always bad, of course. Competition can be tremendously helpful. It can inspire us, and help us achieve new and better things as a species. My hope is that China and the US will be goading each other on for centuries, out to Mars and beyond. But this healthy competitive process can be corrupted.
There are a number of relationships, that the US government carefully maintains, that have fallen into permanent disrepair. Healthy competition has devolved into useless dick waving contests, and pointless geopolitical chess games that kill people. The US-Iran relationship is the classic example, North Korea is another. The greatest tragedy of this decade is the fact that another relationship, between the US and Russia, has fallen into this pattern as well. Relationships can have virtuous or vicious cycles going on, and relations with all these countries are quite vicious.
I tend to blame the US for this, but it does take two to tango, and there are hardline elements in all our manufactured enemies that help to keep the vicious cycles going. And it really is a collaborative effort. Iran’s theocratic regime can’t exist without the US defense industry funded war-mongering think tanks and politicians, and vice versa. We have gotten to a deeply sad point where the only people who have trusted expertise on these issues are perpetuators of the vicious cycle with Iran. Figuring out how to unscrew those relationships is one of the missions of this channel. But it’s far better to avoid starting the disaster in the first place. It’d be really good if we could avoid getting into an Iran style vicious cycle with China. Today’s video on the Uyghurs ends with that plea.