There is no hatred more sublime than the kind you share with others. This is true of the worst and best hatreds, but when that hatred lies between the political and the aesthetic, what some people might call “taste,” you really find that hatred is meant to be shared. Everyone hates cancel culture until the person being cancelled is someone they are already critical of; then it’s the bliss of the Queen of England dying all over again. Humans want to be understood more than we recognize, and that’s the feeling you get when you share in hatred. This past week, we’ve been delighted with the potential “cancellation” of two of the biggest YouTubers, Dhar Mann and MrBeast.
What do we hate about Dhar Mann and MrBeast? The view from the surface does not make it obvious to everyone. Their content is designed to be wholesome, to be fun, to teach good lessons and even restore faith in humanity. I think, to varying degrees between the two, that they are at least somewhat genuine, they believe they are helping improve the world and doing good things towards that aim. Dhar Mann puts it proudly on his banner “We’re not just telling stories, we’re changing lives.” Many stop there in their observations, but many don’t, and herein lies the controversy.
MrBeast first made a name for himself oscillating between extravagant displays of decadence and philanthropy; however, it is his unique fusion of the two that inspires our hatred. It is very business-as-usual for MrBeast to turn a backyard swimming pool into a giant bowl of cereal, but then turn around and make up for this absurd act by giving away thousands of dollars, parking lots full of cars, stores full of merchandise, etc. This isn’t different from the regular philanthropy I hate so much. The capitalists regularly turn their backyard pools into giant bowls of cereal, and those same decadent billionaires also do huge amounts of philanthropy because it is good for business. MrBeast just puts them in the same place for us.
It’s MrBeast’s latest, “1,000 Blind People See For The First Time,” that achieves the perfect marriage of decadence and philanthropy, and thus makes me angrier than ever. Not just because 1,000 people who are blind due to cataracts that could be easily repaired should not exist, not just because it’s titled in a misleading way (the vast majority of cataract patients have had vision, no one is seeing for the first time in the video). It makes me so angry that so many people genuinely cannot understand, it makes me misanthropic. I have long accepted the existence of MrBeast’s content; what I can’t accept is that a great number of people, perhaps most people, are just incapable of seeing his latest video as vile propaganda because they cannot separate it from personality.
Dhar Mann makes noxious content. Unlike MrBeast, there is little entertaining or fun happening here. These low-budget videos are centered around the most vulgar forms of cruel optimism. The videos are short, to exploit the briefest of attention spans possible while still maximizing ad revenue, and each tells a moral story, often about overcoming some kind of bully. The message is “positive” and motivational. Whether it be a conflict between the protagonist and a peer, a boss, a parent, a teacher, a co-worker, differences of power are mostly invisible, occasionally appearing only to reduce their problems to “being mean.” Other YouTubers and streamers react to his videos, not because they are good, but because they are good fodder. Dhar Mann is not fit for human consumption; he’s more like livestock feed. Most people come across him the way I did, from someone else reacting to his channel.
I was not aware my hatred of Dhar Mann was so ubiquitous. That was, until this week, when Dhar Mann actors took to protesting outside Dhar Mann studios over low pay and poor working conditions. There was always something so disingenuous about Dhar Mann’s stories, the experiences were always plastic and fake. The irony creeps the more that you learn about Dhar Mann’s videos. He has 8 videos about “mean bosses” underpaying and bullying their workers. In nearly all these videos, the worker “overcomes” their boss by either starting their own competing business, or getting a more prestigious job with a competitor. The actors in his videos are not taking his advice and are fighting back together. One of Dhar Mann’s oft-repeated slogans is “what happens in the dark, always comes to light,” and this week it is coming to light just how terrible he is.
Some have pointed out the repetition in Dhar Mann’s video titles, many of which end with some form of “what happened will SHOCK you” and “he lives to regret it.” This is a feature rather than a bug. Positive-thinking and motivational messaging starts to look the same because it is essentially the same denial of the truth over and over again. It is only by drilling them into our heads that they have any staying power. Motivational, positive messages appear on the walls of breakrooms at work and halls of schools because we require persistent reminders of some objet petit a outside the mundane cycles we’re trapped inside.
Despite my undying hatred for Dhar Mann, it isn’t personal. I don’t think Dhar Mann is ironically a terrible boss because of some defect of his character, but rather because he’s self-interested in being terrible; he didn’t create that, he just lives in it. It’s not personal with MrBeast either; both he and Dhar Mann aren’t ingenious any more than they are genius, they exist because there is a market for their content. If not them, it would be the next person in line. That which we hate is not a “who,” but a “what.”
Classes don’t have the same relationship to decadence. When we’re at the table together, they don’t get to laugh at the joke with us. What is transgressive to one is decadent to another. Decadence for us is sidewalk slammers, ramen, lung cancer, “quiet quitting” and the great resignation. For them, it is turning pools into bowls of cereal, or Andrew Tate’s thirty-three cars. The NEET’s drive towards the comforts of idleness is really not the same as that which the grindsetting “mission driven entrepreneurs” aspire to. I confess to bias here.
Unfortunately this kind of cheap optimism will continue to sell. I predict that MrBeast has already rebounded, or that the current controversy didn’t really do much but boost him overall. MrBeast is set to become YouTube’s first billionaire, if he hasn’t already. Dhar Mann might simply fire his non-union contracted actors; he refused to meet with them and could replace them, but he’s a little less likely to recover. He also could simply go on as if nothing happened and I would imagine he’ll at least try. However, Dhar Mann is a “serial entrepreneur”; his YouTube channel being just the latest in a line of profitable businesses. He can afford this and most anything else that can be thrown at him. Hatred is all we really have for now, and it feels awfully good to finally share that with people.