site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of April 10, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Mr Beast’s Trans Debacle

Mr Beast is the Gen Z entertainment celebrity of note. Calling Mr Beast the PewDiePie of Gen Z would be underselling him. His 25-minute Squid Game YouTube video received 400 million views, which to put in perspective is 5x the total viewership of the Seinfeld Finale. His Tik Tok has 80 million followers, his most popular “YouTube short” has 650 million views, etc. He is more popular than what the average millennial or older would think (I fall into this cohort). When he visited a mall in my state to sell his burgers (one of his successful business offshoots), the line extended miles and made the news. Mr Beast has a childhood friend group with whom he makes videos. The rapport between the friends of the group, what might be called the “vibe”, is a crucial ingredient to Mr Beast’s success. They were, like many friend groups containing boys in America[*], all male; the pure boyishness was a major draw for his success.

This year, one of the “cast” members of the Mr Beast enterprise transitioned into a woman. (For brevity, I will just call the member she and a woman.) Chris, who had a child and went through a divorce, has transitioned in full. She is wearing dresses on video and taking HRT. If you were to plug Chris and Mr Beast into Google News, you would have no idea how the viewers have responded to this change. But plugging it into Tik Tok (the premiere Zoomer app) gives a different story.

The response among Gen Z has been overwhelmingly negative. When I checked last night, 8 of the 10 most watched videos for the search “Mr Beast” were a negative reaction to Chris’s transition, the total view count of which was more than 80 million. The comments overwhelmingly negative. A typical comment section looked like this, sometimes with more than 25k comments. The commenters chant “Mr Beast 6000 coming out”, referencing Mr Beast’s oldest YouTube channel known for political incorrect humor. The consensus among the fans is that the transition has ruined the group’s rapport and that Chris has got to go, but that hands are tied because she is transgender. On the latest (secondary channel) video for Mr Beast, the comment section is censored and moderated so that the issue can’t explicitly come up. The commenters instead spam “we want to see more Chandler and Nolan”, cleverly emphasizing their disinterest with Chris by omission. The fans on Tik Tok are trying to find any clip they can to get Chris cancelled, with one finding a video of him saying the N word and another digging up an anti-Islam tweet from 2017.

There are a few things to explore here.

  1. Tik Tok is the last remaining “Wild West” internet platform. Low censorship, low “authority-boosts”, and high anonymity allow for majority discourse like in the old days. It would be hard to gauge the fan reaction without looking at Tik Tok, which (conveniently) is the app that most of his fans use for socializing and discussion. This illuminates how manipulated platforms like YouTube and Twitter are, both because of censorship and because of cancellation fears.

  2. The younger generation appears to be immunized against the transgender movement. The boys do not buy it. Mr Beast is a litmus test because he has a large, diverse fan base in Gen Z, the majority of whom use Tik Tok and have Mr Beast content algorithmically fed to them. These Tik Toks are as close as we will get to a “youth vote” on the transgender issue. They not only don’t buy it, but they think it is immoral and noxious.

  3. Mr Beast is in a pickle. He became popular, partially, because of the authenticity and joy of his friend group. The discomfort involving the transition is palpable in the latest video. Body language, rapport, banter, and general “vibes” have ruined what led children to watch his content. He is the most data driven creator and knows this. He has previously mentioned that he edits out sneezes and coughs because it loses retention, and I believe once mentioned that adding a girl to reaction videos negatively reduces engagement. Alas, he can’t come out and fire the transitioned member without losing corporate sponsorship and reputation. He is stuck between losing popularity among his fans, or losing support among the progressive power structure. He is also losing support from parents who don’t want their 8-year-old watching a transgender. There’s also the moral issue of supporting a friend post-divorce.

Seeing TikToks with likes in the hundreds of thousands lamenting Chris' transition or gleefully noting MrBeast's obvious discomfort with his lifelong friend in their recent video is quite the vibe shift. I'm not sure what's more surprising to me — the reaction itself or it being allowed to exist on a big platform. The censorship of the last 5 years has become so normalized to me that I'm taken aback when I see genuine anti-trans posts break 100,000 impressions without being mopped.

As for the reaction, as others have noted, millions of zoomers have a strong parasocial relationship with this band of male friends. Chris' transition and the awkwardness it injects into their dynamic is palpable. These people may not be anti-trans, but they certainly don't like what transitioning has done to their favorite creator's content. For many people whose exposure to transgenderism has been filtered through sympathetic lenses — popular media or news about transgender oppression — this may be their first genuine glimpse at the uglier side of it.

Chris was a well-adjusted chad who had a wife and infant child, and broke it off to become this. Many 20-something men would literally kill to have half of what Chris had— looks, respect, wife, and child. If throwing those things away to start HRT and live as a woman is what makes Chris happy, then for many it may for the first time really call into question how far their preferences differ from the cultural values that produced this outcome.

I don't really buy into there being a corrective "pendulum" when it comes to most progressive positions, but with the trans stuff it really feels like people are getting sick of it. Recently it feels like every week there is some new story that comes off quite badly for transpeople. The shooter targeting Christian children highlighting the militant anger of many transpeople (no demo fedposts online harder than they do), Dylan Mulvaney going mainstream/being sponsored by an all-American beer brand, and now this.

If you're a normal person growing up in America your default social position is likely live and let live. The tales you grew up reading and watching promote understanding, tolerance, and not jumping to conclusions with regards to unfamiliar cultures or lifestyles. The villains in your childhood tales are the intolerant, traditional, and quick to judge. Many are inclined to apply this rule to transgender people, and it is easy to say at a distance. It's someone else's life, let them live it how they want since it doesn't' affect me.

This isn't a bad rule to live by compared to many others. But it doesn't always play out as well as in the stories and many are beginning to realize that. Many who are fine in theory with transgenderism don't want to see it pushed in their media, for example. Pushing it to children is a bridge too far for many. It wouldn't be so bad if it just meant that your daughter cut her hair like a boy and grew out of it in a few years, but that practice may lead her to being pushed towards a suite of medical interventions that you can't take back. If tolerance means letting activists evangelize irreversible chemical treatment to minors, to your kids, over platforms like discord that you may not fully understand?

At that point, you might be fine becoming the villain. As Huck Finn said:

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:"All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up."


That feels like where the post should end, but I said that I was surprised that the "MrBeast 6000" TikToks were allowed to stay up this long. I want to talk more about the platforms, but it feels like it belongs to a different post. Musk buying Twitter feels like a big narrative break. It's the wild west on there once again with accounts being restored and allowed to say things that would have been an instant ban anytime in the last 5 years. The Twitter Files show that much of the online consensus of the last five years was enforced from the top down by federal agents working closely with private institutions.

It makes me wonder what the cultural landscape would look like if not for the top-down smothering of right-wing content. What would Adult Swim look like had they not followed external pressure to cancel MDE's World Peace and Sam Hyde had been given access to that audience for years? Hell, what would Reddit look like if it hadn't nuked the growing far-right subreddit dedicated to the same show, or pulled out all the stops to block /r/theDonald's expansion?

If you look at the Twitch debate scene, it's almost all between varying shades of liberalism and leftism. This isn't necessarily due to these views being more popular, but by who has been allowed to grow their platform without interference. Hasan Piker is allowed to have sponsorships and remain on Twitch despite his views being as radical as Sam Hyde's. The smothering of right-leaning content is artificial and enforced by pulling levers from the top down. But there is a genuine market for it and the people who can articulate conservative thoughts in an interesting way, and it's been suppressed for years. If one side has corporate approval and the other side gets blocked from payment processors, of course there is going to be a disparity in whose ideas are currently more popular. There are many ideas that would sweep through the mainstream if they weren't constantly pulled out by the root.

Activists know this which is why the knives have been out for Musk since the purchase went through. Substack seems to be in the crosshairs as well now. I can't blame the activists for doing this; they understand how power works and are willing to use it to prevent competing power structures from taking hold. Who knows who will come out on top in the end? Smart money may be on Musk being forced to fold, but he seems quite sick of being told what to do by them and may stick to his ideals. If so, I wonder what things will look like 10 years from now.

I don't really buy into there being a corrective "pendulum" when it comes to most progressive positions, but with the trans stuff it really feels like people are getting sick of it. Recently it feels like every week there is some new story that comes off quite badly for transpeople. The shooter targeting Christian children highlighting the militant anger of many transpeople (no demo fedposts online harder than they do), Dylan Mulvaney going mainstream/being sponsored by an all-American beer brand, and now this.

Every year, there are a thousand 'controversial news stories'. Let's say a third of them are progressive, and a third of them are conservative. If you mostly look at the conservative ones, it's easy to think 'every week, there's some new story that comes off quite badly for <my side's issue>'. And let's say 3% of the population switches teams per year, 1.5% left to right and 1.5% the reverse. It's easy to observe a steady stream of people entering your group, or public conversions, and think that 'people are becoming more conservative'. But, of course, these coexist with the other direction - tons of stories about ebil transphobes or conservatives becoming progressives.

So, yeah, dylan mulvaney, trans shooter, trans chris. But there's also homophobic shootings, saudi oligarch kidnaps trans daughter from US, trans daughter commits suicide, big protest at tennesse capitol about transphobia, etc.

That feels like where the post should end, but I said that I was surprised that the "MrBeast 6000" TikToks were allowed to stay up this long

social media censorship has always been incredibly inconsistent and poorly-run!

For the twitch debate scene - like 50% chance i'm wrong here but iirc Twitch censors right-leaning views way more than other platforms. There are a lot of very popula conservative debaters and video essayists on youtube.

I'm not sure what's more surprising to me — the reaction itself or it being allowed to exist on a big platform.'s a chinese platform. Their algorithm.

Could be they are engineering a vibe shift.

Would be odd for Leninists, I guess.

Their content moderation team in the U.S. market is based in California and will promote and censor things in accordance with Californian values. I've followed conservative accounts on there that kept getting banned whenever they hit a certain follower threshold. On the other hand, their site recently highlighted several trans creators to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility.

From the second link:

Working with me and my team throughout this process will be an outstanding group from the global law firm K&L Gates LLP, including former Congressmen Bart Gordon and Jeff Denham, who bring excellent expertise in the technology sector. The external team that we've brought on for this project will collaborate with our internal US management team to work on several key initiatives:

-Create a committee of outside experts to advise on and review content moderation policies covering a wide range of topics, including child safety, hate speech, misinformation, bullying, and other potential issues.

In its domestic market China has a much tighter leash on what TikTok can show its users, of course, but in America TikTok's social positions are the standard progressivism you will see promoted by any other major American company. If China is putting its thumb on the scale for the U.S. moderation team to engineer American social discord, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the chaos created by Musk simply halting most censorship on Twitter.

and will promote and censor things in accordance with Californian values.

The old Chinese joke about 'Cultural Revolution now being in America' comes to mind.

They probably think they can't make it any worse, is my guess.

chaos created by Musk simply halting most censorship on Twitter.

The kind of 'chaos' created by Twitter is no longer more censorious against people who aren't seriously left-wing is the desirable kind of chaos. You want that.

Perhaps the Chinese learned from the French, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

I once was in a Philosophy class with a (female) teacher who brought up trans children as an example of a social issue worth considering the pros and cons. It was fairly relevant to the course content, I remember.

There was more negativity than I expected but there definitely seemed to be a gender divide. The men were mostly against it but gave their opposition in a muted, lukewarm way. I pointed out that we live in Australia where, in most states, it's a criminal offence for people to give a tattoo to someone under 18. On the basis of consistency alone, I implied trans kids should not be a thing. The teacher indicated that it could be reversed later on, which is technically true I guess. Some things can be reversed, at a certain cost in time and pain and energy and lessened development. Tattoos can also be reversed, though it's not easy or cheap. I got the impression that she was in favour, though unwilling to abandon objectivity. The others who supported it tended to be female.

If you look at the Twitch debate scene


Twitch is where Vaush came from. Somehow this guy has a position of influence, despite being incredibly cretinous.

He reasons about real life violence from Marvel movies:

He backflipped from 'rape and sexual assault of women is such an important, underappreciated issue that society tragically ignores' to 'bullshit, she's lying, Muslims would never rape white women in Australia' in real time. This isn't just standard politician inconsistency but completely refusing to believe evidence after it disfavours his cause - in a matter of seconds. (broken link, can't seem to find the original again)

Twitch and streaming generally has been an absolute disaster for political commentary.

The last video you linked is showing as private to me.

It was probably the same video as discussed here:

I'll transcribe (most) of it for sake of discussion:

Vaush is commenting on a video of a group of women talking their experience with sexual assault.

Vaush: “Do you think it speaks to the fact that we have a rape culture, when we put six women in a room to talk about #MeToo and they've all been raped and they all can barely choke out a coherent sentence. Do we think this perhaps maybe slightly speaks to the fact that there is a problem? [..] Almost every female friend I have has been the recipient of sexual assault or violence or rape or whatever at some point in their lives. It's such a common thing. 1 in 4 is probably understating it significantly. I wouldn't be surprised if the rate for sexual assault on women over one's lifetime is as high as 1 in 3 or 1 in 2, we just don't know, because nobody fucking reports! Because reports aren't being taken seriously! That's what #MeToo is about.”

Woman on the video: “...but things impact you in bizarre ways. Because the perpetrator wasn't white, and because he was part of a certain religion...”

Vaush: “Wait. Are we being real?”

Woman: ”And the police were basically like, we can't, because of cultural differences, which I don't feel like is such a great...”

Vaush: “What? Bullshit! Are you fucking kidding me? Did she turn her fucking rape confession into how the rape-fugees fucking Ahmed and Mohammed raped her and the police were like, uh, we can't prosecute brown people. Bullshit! Bullshit!”

In his defense, he didn't say he thought the woman was lying, or that Muslims never rape white women, but he said that connecting her rape story to refugees/Muslims was “bullshit”. I do agree he is hypocritical, but that's because apparently he doesn't want people talking about rape at the hands of Muslim immigrants, even when it was allegedly grounds for the police to dismiss her report, but presumably he would have had no problem if she had described her abuser as a Catholic priest, or a native white man, or any other group that is deemed okay to hate, even if it's not relevant to the story.

I've not watch all that much vaush, only more than a couple minutes linked form elsewhere on one occasion and I got the impression he was attempting to hypnotize me, he has a way of just repeating the same basic assertion in tons of different ways over and over again and just strongly implying this is making his argument more robust and not just more repeated.

Oh, I copied it from an older comment where I said the same thing.