“I wouldn’t label Tana a racist. No, not because she’s a crusader for Black Lives Matter—I wouldn’t deem her a racist because I don’t know what’s in here (points to heart) or what’s in here (points to head). But the fascinating part about all of this is that she won’t offer me, or any of you guys, the same level of respect.

(…)It’s important to remember if you ever mistakenly identify a word as “off-limits”, no words are off-limits—you’re allowed to get offended by the words and say “Oh, I didn’t like that very much”, but for you to come at the person and say “You’re a bad person for saying this, you’re racist for saying this”…at the end of the day, everything’s a choice. Black people can choose to get offended by Black slurs, Asian people can choose to get offended by Asian slurs, White people can choose to get offended by Black slurs, and Tana Mongeau can choose to get offended by Black slurs. At the end of the day, it seems like White people are really just trying to “make up for all of the torment that we’ve inflicted on Black people”. Well, keep at your crusade; I’m going to continue to act like they’re normal human beings.”

iDubbbz, Content Cop – Tana Mongeau, 2017

Hi there, 49 GB here. Assuming you’re familiar with where the above quotes come from, you can probably guess what I want to discuss today; I’m still undecided on whether or not to share this publicly or keep it a bit more private since it’s abnormally political in nature compared to my usual subject matter, but I still feel that it’s something worth discussing—not because I’m necessarily interested in soliloquizing to you about my political beliefs (which I have mentioned in the past are relatively moderate in nature), but instead for a philosophical reason. So, some context; a little less than a week ago now, the moderately famous (once absolutely massive at the peak of his popularity) YouTuber iDubbbz issued an “apology” video touching on a number of various subjects, and mostly revolving around the nature of content he had made in the past. I will not claim to have been a major iDubbbz fan—I’ve honestly watched very little of what the man has actually made in either the golden age of his past or the stagnancy of his present—but I did still enjoy some of his old content, primarily the “Content Cop” video series. This is actually pretty important to what we’re discussing, since the Content Cop videos in particular are the primary thing which iDubbbz himself attempts to disavow and apologize for in his apology video. I only really dove into this particular internet drama and understood all of what was involved within it just earlier today before deciding to write this little opinion piece, and at first I assumed when hearing about it from my sister that the apology was a blanket one covering all of the old “edgy” content that iDubbbz used to make during his prime, and while that still is a topic of discussion the primary thing which he specifically tries to disavow his Content Cop videos for is “harassment”.

Now, criticism is not harassment. That much is something I believe in deeply as a critic myself. But could you argue that some of what is said or done during some of the Content Cop videos goes beyond being simple criticism and becomes harassment? Sure; I don’t think anyone would argue that, for example, telling someone to kill themselves is “critique”. It is not my intent in writing this to play defense for iDubbbz—a person who I have little to no connection to or important history with, and as of now cannot support in the present—and it is a very unhealthy thing to blindly agree with the famous people whose content you enjoy and make idols out of them. I have mentioned before that I hold great respect and admiration for critics and entertainers like TotalBiscuit, AngryJoe, and JoshStrifeHayes, but that does not mean I take everything they say at face value. It’s very common that you will often agree with the opinions of those who you respect and admire, but it is extremely important to recognize the reason those opinions are being shared with so many people is not to tell them what to do and how to think, but instead to make them personally think about the subject matter, to offer a perspective on it. That’s what I’m trying to do; to inform you, to make you think for yourself and consider what I have to say without blindly accepting it as the truth. I believe in the intelligence, the goodness and the integrity of people—therefore, I do not have to command you to behave in the way I want you to behave, because I know that your goal is to do whatever you believe is right; and that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what I want to talk about today, the reason why this opinion piece is actually being written.

Empathy. What is it really? You can claim to understand what someone else is feeling or thinking, but the very simple truth of the matter is that people are not mind-readers; nobody can truly know anyone else in their totality, and it is up to us as individuals to decide how we perceive everyone and everything around us. This is something that I personally struggled with as a child—the feeling that “nobody will ever understand the ‘real’ me”. It’s common for young people to think this way, and the reason is one of mistaken truth—the fallacy that in order to connect meaningfully with another person, they have to “understand” you. When I was young, I genuinely believed that was true; and it destroyed me. I saw everyone around me as being insincere, saw myself as being insincere, and assumed that I would never be able to find this mythical so-called “true” friendship and human connection that I was supposed to. If that sounds familiar, there’s a reason for it—it’s the exact same “true love” fallacy that I constantly work in all of my writing to dispel. The two are nearly identical, and the reason for it is because love is not something you only feel for your romantic partner, it’s something that you feel for all of the people you truly care about—your friends, your family, your pets, your significant other, it doesn’t matter. I personally do not pursue a romantic relationship because in truth, I already have that which I would want from one; genuine love and trust for someone I’m always happy to be around, with whom I can share absolutely anything at all without worrying. So with all that said, does empathy even really exist? Do I believe that it does? Actually, I do. Think about it like this; when you see somebody crying and start crying yourself, that’s empathy. But you’re not literally feeling what they’re feeling; rather, you’re letting your perception of that person influence the way you’re feeling. I have said in the past that patience and understanding for the viewpoints of other people is a learned skill, not a talent, which is super relevant here—reality is not objective, it is subjective. There is no way for us as individuals to say the way in which anyone else experiences the world is definitively wrong, and there is no way for us to say to them that the way in which we experience the world is definitively right. But many people do so anyway, because they are so thoroughly convinced that there’s no possible way they could be wrong based on the way they’ve lived and the rationalizations they’ve made about the world around them. That’s only natural; we can’t see the world through another person’s eyes, so it makes sense to assume the world everybody else sees must be the same. I consider myself to be a logical person—if someone tells me that birds are drones, the earth is flat or modern day infrastructure is a byproduct of my overactive imagination, I can comfortably say that they’re deluded. But there’s a difference between what the world is and what people see it as; a big one. Were that not the case, philosophical debates like these would be pointless.

When you genuinely empathize with another person, you’re doing so not because you can truly understand what it is they’re feeling or what it is they’re thinking, but instead because you can take an experience you’ve been through or a feeling you’ve felt and relate it to theirs; in our day-to-day lives, we project ourselves upon literally everyone we meet and interact with all the time, and that’s not an inherently bad thing! In fact, it’s the reason why self-love is so important—I can tell you based on my own personal experience that to hate yourself is to hate the world and everyone in it, too; it’s the very root of misanthropy. At the end of the day, the only person you can truly know, and therefore the only true anchor you have to compare everyone else in the world against is yourself. But you see what just happened there? In an attempt to help you form your opinion on what sort-of person I am, I took what I personally see as being a formative part of my childhood and opened up about it to you. The key to connecting meaningfully with other people is not to assume they either can or can’t understand your position inherently or instinctively—instead, it’s the willingness to share yourself with them, to recognize that even if they can’t know your thoughts or feelings, they can still care about you and can still be meaningfully interested in hearing about your experiences. It’s to trust them. Trust in the goodness of other people.

“Kelsier shrugged. “I think… I think given the choice between loving Mare—betrayal included—and never knowing her, I’d choose love. I risked, and I lost, but the risk was still worth it. It’s the same with my friends. Suspicion is healthy in our profession—but only to an extent. I’d rather trust my men than worry about what will happen if they turn on me.”
“That sounds foolish,” Vin said.
“Is happiness foolish?” Kelsier asked, turning toward her. “Where have you been happier, Vin? On my crew, or back with Camon?”
He knows the answer to that. Vin didn’t reply.”

Sanderson, 2006, “Mistborn”, p.285

To me, that’s what empathy is; the ability to feel something on somebody else’s behalf more than simple pity. Not literal understanding, but trust in the idea that what another person is going through is comparable to your own personal experiences, and trust in the notion that you are fundamentally the same. Not so long ago when, for the first time, I experienced the death of a loved one as an adult, one of the realizations I came to was that no matter what you do or how thoroughly you try to contextualize and come to terms with death, it’s still inherently sad. That to me—the fact we will shed tears for those facing that which in its very nature is unknowable—is telling of the fact we can truly feel for other people without the ability to completely understand them.

So, making a hard turn back into the subject matter here, why is any of this relevant to iDubbbz? Well, when I first heard about all of the drama going on, I reacted to it in the way you might expect; “I’m not sure exactly what he’s apologizing for, but I figure he’s probably a decent guy at his core.” I said that (or something akin to it at least), and I still believe it. That’s empathy; a genuine belief that when you get right down to it, iDubbbz is no different than I am, and no different than you are. It is the natural tendency of most people to point the finger at someone for doing something they believe is wrong and say “You’re a bad person for doing that.” That is the opposite of empathy, and it is incredibly easy to do without even realizing what it is you’re doing or that you are doing it, especially towards people you don’t know personally—even I do it sometimes for reasons that in the moment seem justifiable. Take my review of Domestic Girlfriend for example, where I blast Sasuga Kei as being a shitty person—given the opportunity to present a more balanced take, I’d say instead that I don’t actually believe Sasuga Kei is an inherently bad person, but instead a very misguided and deeply troubled one. Trust is not inherent, because it’s not a logical way to survive; distrust is logical, because moreso than anything it’s about survival. Fear and ruthlessness are practical, and kindness is not. I grew up a self-proclaimed “realist” who assumed he fully understood the realities of life other people were “blind” to, but grew to realize later on that my perception as to what constitutes “reality” was both flawed and heavily subject to change; trust might not be the logical way to survive, but it’s certainly a logical way to be happy. The primary reason why I believe all this is especially relevant to iDubbbz is that during his apology video, he makes the statement that only within the last couple of years has he “gained the ability of empathy”. I don’t believe that’s true. I believe that iDubbbz has been tricked both by others and by himself into believing that it is—and there’s a specific reason as to why I believe the way I do.

Now, first and foremost, when I say this, I am not implying that iDubbbz is incapable of empathy. It’s the exact opposite; I am implying that I believe iDubbbz has been capable of empathy from the start, and seems not to understand now how empathic he was actually being. One of the specific videos he disavows and apologizes for during his apology video is the Content Cop he released criticizing Tana Mongeau, mostly because of that video’s commentary about slurs and the power over us we give to specific words, and partly because of his “harassment” of Tana Mongeau. He apologizes specifically to Black viewers and “minority groups” for “forcing them to put up with” the video. And look, I don’t agree with everything that is said or done in that video. I don’t agree with implying that Tana Mongeau should kill herself, for instance. But I also don’t think for a second that iDubbbz genuinely wishes or wished that Tana Mongeau would end her own life, because I think that at heart, he’s a man of character. Nothing makes this more clear than the way in which during the aforementioned video, he highlights Tana’s hypocrisy, moral grandstanding and total lack of empathy for other people. He makes a point out of the way in which Tana deceptively, manipulatively tricks others into believing that she’s fighting for a righteous cause, then uses her so-called righteousness as an excuse for doing despicable, unconscionable shit; like, for instance, saying that she would be genuinely happy if iDubbbz killed himself, vilifying his entire fan-base and labeling all of them racists. I don’t know about you, but that seems like the categorical opposite of empathy to me; and in the very same breath he uses to denounce Tana Mongeau specifically for her lack of empathy for others—her inability to assume anything but the worst of them based simply on the YouTube content they enjoy or the particulars of what they say—he espouses that he doesn’t actually believe Tana is a racist, that he can’t know what’s really going on in her mind and wants to give her the benefit of the doubt. Further still, he makes the assertion that to assume someone is a terrible person solely based on them saying something you personally find offensive is wrong, and that at the end of the day, the most important thing is to treat people like people and with respect as opposed to vulnerable, pitiable victims of circumstance who require the majority’s protection. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a little thing I like to call empathy.

In researching all of this, a common argument from those defending iDubbbz has been that “people change and grow.” And you know, that’s true. It’s something I agree with. But it’s also missing the point; growth is subjective. Maturity is subjective. It is up to the individual to decide what change they’ve undergone over the course of their lifetime has been positive; what does it actually mean to them to be a mature adult, and what do they consider as being childish? iDubbbz seems to think he was childish in his criticism of Tana Mongeau, and I don’t think that’s true. What he’s doing now though? Personally, I believe that is childish. It seems from my perspective that he has regressed into a less confident person, and while he might believe in what he’s saying, that is not indicative of how right or wrong those beliefs are, or where they originated from. This isn’t about the age of edgy internet humour or the debate of whether or not it’s funny or okay to use slurs for comedic effect, it’s about a man who has been gaslit by others and is gaslighting himself into the false belief that he has “grown” into a better person and cast off the shadow of his old, “evil” self. It’s about a man who in the act of labeling his old self and his past actions as unconscionable has abandoned empathy for his own audience and assumed instead that they are terrible people for liking the old videos that he made. Are those the actions of a matured person? Is that the mindset of a better man?

We could sit here and discuss the exact contents of these old videos we’re discussing at length if we really wanted to, but I think the point has been made. Honestly, this is a really sad situation; it’s upsetting to hear this man speak about how he has “gained empathy” because at its core, what he’s doing is self-flagellatory. You can tell he’s genuinely beating himself up over all the imagined wrongdoings he has committed, and despite the fact I’ve never been a huge iDubbbz fan or anything of the sort, it’s honestly still heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking to think that the man doubts the goodness of his own heart, it’s heartbreaking to think about the numerous great people who have looked up to him potentially doubting the goodness of their hearts, and it’s heartbreaking to think about the hateful, accusatory people who have ultimately gaslit iDubbbz into feeling like he was an irredeemable villain. Stepping back and examining it all in its totality, I wanted to write this opinion piece because despite what iDubbbz says now, he has not gained empathy; he has tragically abandoned it. He assumes that he must behave in a specific way and avoid saying specific things so as to become and prove that he is a good person, and that other people must do the same; otherwise, they are “no better” than he once was. Well, as iDubbbz once said himself, he can feel free to keep at that crusade; I’m going to continue acting like we’re all normal human beings regardless of our political bents. Love you all, I’m gonna go grab something to eat.

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