Saturday, December 2, 2017

Captain Disillusion chose the blue pill

Captain Disillusion is one of my all-time favorite YouTube channels. He specializes mainly in analyzing and debunking online videos depicting seemingly extraordinary events (such as UFOs, ghosts, viral videos presenting belief-defying acts of skill, and so on.) He does this by acting a fictitious role, often with copious amounts of humor. The production quality of his videos is quite high (and have got better and better over the years). His videos are very informative, enlightening, and entertaining. He doesn't publish videos very frequently, but every time he does, it's a real treat.

To my recollection, during the whopping 10 years he has been making YouTube videos, he has never delved into politics, or made any sort of sociopolitical comment, or taken any stance, or any sides. Of course I have only watched his videos and nothing of his other online activity, but at least deducing from his YouTube channel, he has been keeping away from making political comments of any kind. He seems to have liked to keep away from those things, and concentrate on making entertaining and informative videos about hoaxes and special effects.

That's actually something I like and admire in a skeptic. I don't actually care which side of the political spectrum they are, or how extreme they may be. If they produce quality content, and keep their political opinions (regardless of what they might be) out of it, that's A-ok by me, and in fact a quite desirable trait.

Recently, however, he gave a speech at Skepticon Australia 2017, which seems to have changed this.

At first the presentation seems quite enjoyable and humorous, and it feels like he's going to say something informative. It's presented in a very self-deprecating manner, making light of him supposedly being so "awesome", yet then presenting some flaws and mistakes he has made over the years, like for instance making a factually false claim about how magnets work, and so on.

Overall, the speech doesn't actually seem to have any point, nor is it all that informative after all. It doesn't actually present any information, or anything useful (it doesn't, for instance, debunk any viral video or the sort, even though he briefly presents a few clips). It appears to be more of some sort of comedy sketch than anything else, without any actual point.

(In this light, in fact, and a bit in retrospect, it actually feels a bit like virtue-signaling. The sort of the wrong kind of self-deprecation, where the "comedian" is not so much making jokes, and instead he's trying to virtue-signal to the audience. "Look, I am flawed and I'm not afraid of showing my mistakes. Look how good of a person I am. I'm the bigger person and I can admit my mistakes. Please admire me.")

Anyway, that's besides the point. If he wants to make a self-deprecating comedy sketch, that's completely fine (even if it feels a bit virtue-signaling in retrospect). I don't mind.

What I do mind, however, is that he seemed to break his unstated neutral stance on the current sociopolitical climate and, at least seemingly, he had chosen the so-called "blue pill" of the current social justice divide. (And, in fact, I got the strong feeling that he did this as yet another form of virtue-signaling to his audience.)

The first slight sign of this was when he presented as one of his "mistakes" showing, among other people, the photo of Anita Sarkeesian at the beginning of one of his videos as examples of "annoying people on YouTube", for which he got some flack from YouTube commenters.

He still presents this in a rather ambiguous manner, as in, he doesn't make it completely clear whether he's just being humorous here, or if he's actually apologizing for this "mistake". He presents it more as if that's indeed the case, but it's still a bit ambiguous. It could also be that he's just making a comment like "how could have I known this would stir so much controversy?", without actually taking a stance one way or another on what Sarkeesian's opinions are.

But then he pretty much removes all uncertainty by presenting a small sketch where he quite directly and unironically calls several known anti-SJW skeptics "asshole skeptics". Included were people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the YouTuber Sargon of Akkad. While still maintaining a modicum of ambiguity, I nevertheless did not see anything in that segment that would indicate that he wasn't completely serious about calling those people "asshole skeptics", clearly referring to their anti-SJW stances. His use of "asshole" seemed to be completely serious, regardless of the humorous tone of his entire speech. I didn't see even a hint that he was not serious about calling those people that.

And the thing is, that part, which took like a minute or two, was completely superfluous. If it had been removed from the speech, absolutely nothing of substance would have been missing. The part was completely extraneous. It didn't even tie in with his theme of having made mistakes, or anything. It was kind of completely superfluous and out-of-the-blue. But for some reason he had to include it, he had to virtue-signal to his audience about it, and break is 10-year-long unstated neutrality.

I must say, I'm quite disappointed. As said, I don't really mind what his political opinions are. I liked him for his content, and I liked the fact that he kept it separate from his politics, and never mixed the two. But he had to virtue-signal; he had to take a side; he had to insult the "wrongthinkers" in front of an audience. And for what? Nothing. There was no need. He could have just as well left that part out, and nothing of any substance would have been missing.

I just hope this doesn't become a pattern. I'll still check his future videos, but I hope he doesn't start infecting them with the regressive leftist social justice ideology. I'll let this one speech be, and continue following his channel as normal, but the very second he makes a new video where he starts spouting SJW ideology, or attacks people because of their "wrongthink", I'm done. I don't have the patience for that kind of people.


  1. His speech targeted skeptics as a whole, since the group has gained an "asshole" perception. He's seeking a reformation where skeptics can call others out while being humorous to them, so that we can be more effective at changing minds, rather than an echo chamber marking others as enemies.

    Sargon is one of the worst offenders, who purposely drums up hatred of SJWs, rather than opening communication channels of reasonable dialogue.

    I do wonder for what reason he included Sam Harris, though we have proof of issues with Sam's arrogance like his failed dialogue with Noam Chomsky.

    1. I may well be wrong about what he actually was trying to communicate (as said, it was really ambiguous), but that's not the impression I got.

      He started by (kind of) apologizing for bunching Anita Sarkeesian into a group of "youtube troublemakers" without knowing who she really was. He left it quite ambiguous whether he was indeed seriously apologizing for a true mistake (although he was talking about mistakes he has made), or whether he was just making light about the controversy that her inclusion in that two-seconds clip caused. But I got the feeling that he was indeed apologizing for having made an actual mistake in doing so.

      Then in that subsequent segment about "asshole skeptics" he conspicuously included only famous anti-SJW people with large followings. I found especially Richard Dawkins being included to be particularly egregious, given how nice and intelligent of a person he is. It appeared to me that the only reason he was included in that segment was because of his anti-SJW comments he has made.

      If he had included people like PZ Myers and Richard Carrier (both of whom are arguably a thousand times bigger assholes than Dawkins has ever been), *then* it would have been clearer that he was being more neutral, and poking both sides of the divide. But he didn't. And that gives me the strong impression that he has, indeed, swallowed the "blue pill", so to speak.

      And as said in my blog post, that short segment was completely superfluous and added absolutely nothing to the speech. It didn't really even contribute to anything. It could have well been left out, and nothing would have been missing. He deliberately wanted to send a particular message with it.