Bo Burnham vs. Jeff Bezos - Video Essay
August 20, 2021 4:27 PM   Subscribe

2.5 Hr SLYT. This video essay discusses intimately how we interact with social media, memes, and how it influences society and politics.
posted by bbqturtle (32 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Now the song (pt 1 and pt 2) is stuck in my head again, thanks a lot :p
posted by subdee at 4:32 PM on August 20

posted by subdee at 4:32 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm 30 minutes in and this is going places.

Thank you for posting it!
posted by simmering octagon at 4:53 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]

For those who may have missed Metafilter's coverage of Bo Burnham's Netflix special "Inside":

- Original Fanfare thread
- Rhaomi's massive link-filled breakdown of the entire special
- F.D Signifier on Bo Burnham's Inside and "White Liberal Performative Art"
posted by gwint at 5:03 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm 30 minutes in and this is going places.

It doesn't stop doing this for the whole length. I'm incredibly surprised at the depth of this video.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:12 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

It's very good, and presents a great deal to think about. I'll probably replay it at least once.

However, given everything that's discussed in the video about the pathologies of social media, I found the inevitable "subscribe, like and follow!" pitch at the end extremely disorienting.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:04 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]

I'm watching the video [at 47 min right now] and I just want to say, he's modeled his hair on Freakazoid!.

Based on this rant, that's not entirely inappropriate.
posted by hippybear at 8:34 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

Oh good, "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product" appears.

MF makes itself known!
posted by hippybear at 8:44 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

Their dissection of memes as being the expression of deep truths spread in populations, disguised as jokes... is really accurate from what I have seen.
posted by hippybear at 9:27 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this. It'll take me a while to finish this one, but I watched this essay about Miraculous, and it's really great. I like their style a lot.
posted by Gorgik at 9:41 PM on August 20

CJ the X is phenomenal. Check out his first several vids, particularly on objectively bad art. Really sharp. Youtube needs way, way more shit like his.
posted by nushustu at 10:08 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]

Okay, so, as an Old, I found this very long essay from a Younger very informative, and it gave me a lot to think about.

A big payoff message at the end, but then at the end all that happened was the presenter doing self-examination in a weirdly performative way?

I guess... maybe... that's the generational divide? Or maybe the irony? Or maybe the unperceived irony?

Anyway, I did the Whole Thing, and it was worthwhile, and I recommend others watch because where you think it's going, it won't go, and then it will go 5 other places, and at the end, you've quite a bit to think about.

The "generational divide" between him, born I guess in the very late 90s, and me, doing online communication through BBSes in the early 80s and then on the precursor of "the internet as we know it" and then following it into there (for all its good and bad) feels really obvious to me. Like, a lot of the things he's talking about, I learned, but I wasn't raised on it from pre-speech, so it's been easy for me to sweep much of it aside.

I had peers who are immersed into their eyeballs, and coworkers younger than me who couldn't breathe if their phone wasn't charged. This 2.5 hours helped me contextualize that a lot from the outlook of an early internet person examining something made by another internet person in the context of the person who has become The Internet Person.

Thank you. My brain will chew on this for a while..
posted by hippybear at 10:18 PM on August 20 [10 favorites]

kliuless, with all due respect, those kinds of articles isn't really what this video essay is about. It's about how the internet is part of where your soul is. And how phone addiction and the Internet isn't a simple problem/simple solution for people raised in it. And how bo Burnham is the first to talk about it in a meaningful way. And how it's going to get worse. It illustrates these concepts really masterfully.
posted by bbqturtle at 3:59 AM on August 21 [5 favorites]

There is a danger in creating a giant link dump to go with a 2.5 hour video you haven't watched.
posted by hippybear at 6:29 AM on August 21

Thanks so much for posting this.

Through a snafu due to the global chip shortage, I wound up without a phone for almost a month early this summer. The first night was very hard, but now I see it as a blessing. I went from looking at it constantly, to basically never except to check for messages. I leave it on my desk at night.

I still have too much of my soul inside the machine. I mean how many thousand words have I written over the last 13 years on this very website that I've leaned on as a friend in hard times? I don't know what to do about that, but I'll have to think about it.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:59 AM on August 21 [3 favorites]

Yeah, that main link is great, at least to the half way mark, don't distract from it with add ons. It deserves it's own space and covers more than enough ground to warrant a range of thought that can get lost in an avalanche of posts, which kinda speaks to some of the issues the video raises.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:55 AM on August 21 [1 favorite]

I'm an hour in and this is utterly fantastic. I don't agree with it all but it's thought-provoking and is positioned as a (mostly) healthy questioning of things that feels necessary.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:05 AM on August 21 [3 favorites]

This is the best video essay I've ever watched! It is super captivating as a fan of Bo Burnham and also socialism, also this person has good informed opinions. Thank you for posting.
posted by neon909 at 6:21 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]

Paused @ 1:00.

Profit does not equal value.

I was not born into this. I was born in a world where cotton was picked by hand, and Superman changed clothes in a phone booth. (If you don't know what a phone booth is, ask google for some photos.)

I traded the safety of seclusion for the anonymity of the herd. The anonymity of the herd gives me better odds. My son doesn't see it this way. I tried to tell him. To illustrate my point, I made the following observation. "Look," I said, extracting my Social Security card from my wallet. "See, say right here, 'Not to Be Used For Identification.'"

He turned the card over a few times. "Sez what where?"

"Lemmie show you," said I, snatching the card from him. I scrutinized the card. "Um, I'm pretty sure it used to be written on this card."

I don't think he heard me because he was looking at some pics on his iPhone. His wife. She was texting him from the supermarket. Does he want her to buy some tri-tips for the barbecue this weekend?
posted by mule98J at 6:35 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]

Just made it to the end. This was really fantastic and gave me a lot to think about. I’d love to think that the answer to the very real problem he (and Burnham, and others) have articulated is more long form and more discussion, but as another Old, I vividly remember how after 9/11 people were genuinely talking about it signaling the death of irony and a return to sincerity, and well, nope. I’m not sure most people ever had the attention span for long-form discussion, and even if they did that ship probably sailed with MTV, if not Sesame Street.

But I’m all for it if he’s right, and I’ll back any solution over wringing my hands helplessly (and I just watched the whole 2.5 hours) (in pieces over last night and this morning), so…?
posted by Mchelly at 7:31 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]

I found this to be one of the most interesting and articulate pieces on the internet. But… as noted above, the closing like, support, etc. stuff made me start to question what I saw. There was a lot of talk about “performance” in this piece. Was what I saw just a performance? We’re the words just a script? Burnham and CJ the X are both performers. There is a difference between being concerned and performing as a concerned person. As CJ seemed to be saying over and over, to be on the internet is to perform. The medium is the message. Maybe both Burnham and CJ are just performing philosophical War of the World broadcasts.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:57 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]

I think the weakest part for me is the conclusion with CJ talking about how it relates to him, and the conclusion about how it all relates to his audience. But, like, I guess I am his audience so it does relate to us.

Regardless of the weak conclusion still very enjoyable and it best describes generational differences vs everything else.
posted by bbqturtle at 9:09 AM on August 22

I think the difference is, and he touches on it - and he shows interview footage where Burnham addresses it as well - performers (at least adult ones) understand that they’re giving a performance, they understand that they’re likely to fall into parasocial relationships and patterns with their fans, and they understand that they need to find a way to negotiate that balance with how they live as a person and as a media-performed entity. But kids today who are raised with living in a shared world as being a constant performer, as always having to negotiate how much of yourself to put on display and how to interact with the people who judge or ignore or interact with that display before you can truly understand the ramifications, are a different story. I know that the moral “won’t someone think of the children!!!” argument is generally suspect, but I think here it’s a fair point.

If his point is to support more long form, asking people to like and subscribe to his channel as an endorsement of or commitment to more long form might actually be very clever.
posted by Mchelly at 9:14 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]

This absolutely hit the spot. So much to think about.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:48 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]

This is the best video essay I've ever watched!...start to question what I saw. There was a lot of talk about “performance” in this piece. Was what I saw just a performance?...I think the weakest part for me is the conclusion with CJ talking about how it relates to him

I think there's an opportunity missed here to learn more from Dave. A lot of the earlier unpacking of how we're internalizing these technological developments towards transhumanism along with the unhealth from the power imbalance these also transhuman corporate actors are laying on us and our children seems like a hard and complex struggle. It seems like exactly the kind of struggle that someone who has done decades of agricultural work might have some instructive lessons on. No, obviously not as a subject expert on 21st century communication dynamics, but on the mode of work it takes to claw back against such a thing.

It seems like it would take commitment, long term planning and a strong attachment to the underlying motivations in the face of more hedonically curated options.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:33 PM on August 22

However, given everything that's discussed in the video about the pathologies of social media, I found the inevitable "subscribe, like and follow!" pitch at the end extremely disorienting.

I've seen every other video CJ has done. This disorientation is on purpose, as he doesn't do it in his other videos.
posted by lesser weasel at 9:43 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]

lesser weasel: Agreed, plus his made-up sponsor read set to a heavily-used piece of royalty-free music makes it even more parodical. Though the ending totally threw me off too at first.
posted by EmperorOozy at 7:03 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]

Lorde speaks to a lot of these themes in this NYT profile.
posted by hippybear at 9:45 PM on August 23

I finally had time to watch this tonight, with my partner who's a longtime Bo Burnham fan. My summarized reaction for social media is:

Q: Should I watch a 2.5 hour video essay about a 1.5 hour Netflix special?

A: Yes, because it’s not only about Inside; it’s also about the state of our souls in the age of the Internet.

Also, it’s about a youtuber who decided to watch Inside (and every special Bo Burnham has ever made; and the two movies he directed; and every interview he gave on the press junkets for those projects) in order to make fun of it, but ended up as a convert instead.

This is now the third time I've heard a version of this story - 'I watched it so I could have content to take apart for my followers, but it was actually good' - and I'm wondering if this is a common experience for the under 25s.

A lot of this, I knew already, though there's enough conceptual connecting and research here that there will probably be something even you, wise metafilter reader, didn't know. For me that was the section on algorhythmic sorting where the industry insiders explained that it's not that the AI recommendation engine makes tailored recommendations for you, specifically but that they use the huge dataset available to them to guess which proven rabbit hole is the most likely to appeal to you personally, and try to guide you towards it. BTW for me this rabbit hole was the Kpop videos, thank God it wasn't the extremelist politics.

But it makes me really feel better about the state of everything to see younger people getting this emotional about the need to turn off the meme brain and really discuss in longform. And as discussed above, the scrolling list of patrons at the end, the exhortation to like and subscribe, to follow on twitter and instagram, to sign up for Skillshare, and to support the creator on patreon for behind the scenes extras was extra jarring coming right after that grand conclusion to the video.
posted by subdee at 10:31 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]

God i sound so smug, delete me...

Anyway, the way this essayist goes off on a tangent on transhumanism & capitalism & the backlash against this and then back around to the analysis of the song “Jeff Bezos” and brings it all together was great.

Another thing that stood out to me was the section on algorithmic sorting where the industry insiders explained that it’s not that the AI recommendation engine makes tailored recommendations for you, specifically but that they use the huge dataset available to them to guess which proven rabbit hole is the most likely to appeal to you personally, and try to guide you towards it. BTW for me this rabbit hole was the Kpop videos, thank God it wasn’t the extremelist politics.

But I was already thinking about these topics, because just earlier today an article on almost this exact same idea about the need to put some controls on AIs because they are extremely invasive and not all that smart was recommended to me, via an algorithm (Pocket).

Here’s a non-paywalled version:

In this case it worked perfectly, I enjoyed that article. But this almost never happens. I’ve had an account since 1995 and the joke the entire time, I mean literally the entire time, has been that the recommendations are shit. (They’re still shit by the way; I just checked.)

CJ the X isn’t the first to point this out, but still interesting to see it acknowledged so openly by tech industry folks that the recommendations work, not by figuring out what you might actually want to watch, but by suggesting the things that everyone else wants to watch.

Right now there are... who knows how many rabbit holes/categories, identified by these datasets? But if the process continues, maybe those dozen categories will collapse down into 8. Then 6. Then 2...
posted by subdee at 11:24 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]

This was great. I have no idea why I decided to click on a link to a YouTube video by someone I've never heard of, supposedly about someone I've never heard of, but it's now two and a half hours later, despite having just come off a twelve hour night shift, and doing another tonight. I should've been asleep an hour and a half ago.

Goodnight! Or good morning? Whatever, I'm going to go to bed now...
posted by Dysk at 12:34 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]

I don't agree that the solution to the right wing meme machine is for the left to only do longform discussion, in fact I think that's been specifically identified by analysts as the reason we lost the 2016 election.

What I think is that you need to use a variety of strategies that engage people where they are. Fans of the WWE for example, there are very intellectual fans who don't just know all the plotlines, but follow the business decisions that lead to those plotlines. And then on the other end of the spectrum there are people who think it is real. But the point is there's a way in for every person at every level of intellectual engagement.

That and actually having something real to offer are how you build a broad movement.

Passionate young people emotionally telling other passionate young people about the need to discuss and read is a very good thing though.
posted by subdee at 9:28 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

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