To Shill, Or Not To Shill…

It is a sad fact of life that most people wear at least two faces; while one face is carefully constructed and maintained for public consumption, there is another that is strictly a private matter.  Nobody is immune, but not everyone’s intention is evil.  Some people simply want to keep sensitive matters private, and are sincerely embarrassed by their own dirty laundry.  There are, however, those people who construct public images for profit, and profit alone.  In some cases, the profit might be social status, in others, it might be financial, but regardless of what the profit is, it is still profit.

The ‘person of many faces’ is not the topic of this entry, however.  What I am concerned about is the proliferation of talking heads who are heaping up Patreon profits by riding the storm of political right-left tensions.  Some of them, such as the university professor in the screen-shot below, fell into internet fortune almost by accident.  In this case, the individual got into trouble with his employer over the use of gender pronouns, and suddenly the radical right got wind of it and made him into an overnight sensation.  A Globe and Mail reporter did what could loosely be called a ‘hit piece‘ on his rise from obscure professor hawking a writing program, to internet heavy-weight, in which the reporter mentioned that he now makes $30k Canadian via his Patreon account.

This was his response:

Screenshot j peterson

I will admit that I initially felt a degree of sympathy for the man.  That, however, was only in the early days of his crusade.  I am deadly opposed to being forced to use silly non-words in order to describe people.  While I accept the usage of the now common ‘Ms.’, I do remember when it was first invented, and I do remember how silly the whole thing was.  In other cultures, such as the German one, ‘Frauline’ is no longer used when addressing any adult woman, regardless of marital status.  Its usage has been relegated almost elusively to that of denoting an underage girl.  ‘Frau’ is now used for both married and unmarried women.  In the French culture, in Quebec at least, ‘Madam’ is used in exactly the same way as the German ‘Frau’, while ‘Mademoiselle’ has likewise been relegated to the underage crowd.  No fuss.  No commotion.  Just a simple solution to a modern problem.  Problem solved.

The English-speaking world would have done well to have followed  the German and French examples.  Unfortunately, the English-speaking world being what it is, the powers-that-be had to make things complicated in a big way.  We are now facing the same thing all over again, and it may not be long before such detestable words as ‘zhe’ find their way into common acceptance.  We can ignore it, we can go along with it, but in the end, only time will tell if this new scourge has any more staying power than the expression ‘I dig it’ had.

All of that is to say that, while I did sympathize with the man, I stopped sympathizing when I saw how he started working his followers in order to extend his fifteen minutes of fame into something more substantial.  That made me uneasy.  Something rang false.  Then came the article, with points galore that he could have fairly contested, and what did he choose to do?  He corrected the reporter on how much he is actually earning, which happens to be almost double the amount she quoted.

His mask slipped, albeit briefly, and revealed something ugly underneath.  The thing that it revealed was a man willing to ride the wave, and shill for a political stance, because suddenly he became someone special, and was making a lot of extra bucks, too boot.

Meanwhile, his ‘followers’ praise him bigly, and feed his ego largely.  For him, it is a win-win situation, and as long as he can keep whipping them up, he can continue growing his audience, his fame, and his fortune.

But, slap my ass and call me ‘Sally’, if he is still sincere in what he has to say.  I’d be willing to bet that he isn’t the quiet, soft-spoken professor he comes across as on YouTube.

I should add that I don’t know the man, and do not know anyone who does, so I can’t say what he really is like in his everyday life.  There is, however, another university professor – this one from Montreal – who is also stirring things up for the profit of his own ego, and possibly his pocketbook.  He choose anti-Muslim sentiment as his stepping-stone to internet adoration, and is now the darling of the anti-Muslim conservative Canadian and international right.  He comes across as a jolly bon-vivant, and his followers routinely post adoring comments, telling him what a wonderful person he is.

This gentleman, admittedly, has some grounds for his hostility, due to his background and life experiences.  Unfortunately, to package personal rage as political truth is quite a leap, and I cannot condone validating other people’s hysteria by feeding into it, which he does.

Yet, again, I got the niggling impression that the man was not what his YouTube persona made him out to be.  I wondered about this.  I thought it over.  I sent a text message.  The answer I got back was, ‘euwww’.  In fact,  ‘euwww’ was mentioned twice in the same text reply.  The second ‘euwww’ was a summation of the opinions of my contact’s colleagues who also know the man.

This theme continues wherever you go on the internet.  Pundits present one face, and gullible idiots fall for it.  I could come up with a long list of wanna-be philosophers, purveyors of ‘alternate’ new sites, supposed reporters and thinkers.  It’s all the same.  Adoring followers emptying their pocket-books into their idols Patreon accounts, while their idols feed into the fears and prejudices of their fan-bases in order to squeeze out more.  Then, when the hour-long rant against cholesterol and how mega-fast-food chains are killing us for profit is over, and the camera is finally turned off, the internet idol heads straight out to McDonalds for a big, greasy hamburger, with a side-order of super-sized fries and a milkshake.

The moral of this story is: you don’t know who these people are in real life, or what they are really like _ as one YouTuber, I believe it was T.J.Kirk (the Amazing Atheist) straightforwardly pointed out about himself.  But, unlike T.J. Kirk, many of these people want you to believe that they are exactly what and who they tell you they are.  They get off on your adulation, as well as your donations.  While they may have started out as sincere individuals, they have consciously made the choice to shill on behalf of a political or social agenda because it makes them important people on the internet.  Their ego and their wallets are what’s talking now.