SHADOWLANDS WITH DOUG LAIN
Joshua Citarella: (00:00)
Okay. Cool. I see your audio showing up. Doug. Thank you for joining me.
Douglas Lain: (00:12)
Thanks for having me.
Joshua Citarella: (00:12)
I'm a great fan of your YouTube channel, your writing, and we're gonna talk about your recent possible shadowban.
Douglas Lain: (00:22)
Okay. Yeah. I'm, I'm looking forward to that. I, uh, uh, I think of it more as, um, as a moment where the channel was put into jeopardy altogether rather than just suppressed. But I think it may have been both, because we, we've got a community standards warning on the YouTube channel a while back and finally got it lifted, but yeah. And during that time afterward, during that time, after we got the, uh, the warning until we got lifted, we went through a period where the number of views we were getting every day and the new subscribers went way down, well, below-
Joshua Citarella: (00:58)
Douglas Lain: (00:58)
... norm, but to say coincidental with that was a change in how often I was posting YouTube videos. And so it could have been not related to anything algorithmic. It could have just been, I wasn't putting out the critical-
Joshua Citarella: (01:13)
Douglas Lain: (01:14)
... cuts videos as often. Therefore, everything went down. I don't know.
Joshua Citarella: (01:19)
Well, that's, that's part of what I'm discovering in this work, myself and some friends at the New Models podcast are trying to investigate some of these topics of shadowbanning of pseudo institutional spaces that are popping up. We're all refugees from the art world, um-
Douglas Lain: (01:35)
Joshua Citarella: (01:35)
... and, and newly producing content and crowdfunding rather than working with institutions and collectors and what have you.
Douglas Lain: (01:43)
Joshua Citarella: (01:43)
So the topic of shadowban is very interesting. I've been trying to talk with certain people and it seems, um, similar to what you're describing. Everyone seems to be shadowbanned or knows someone who is shadowbanned, and then... Okay. So give me the analytics, like what is happening to your account and people are... Oh, well, I, I don't have analytics enabled. Um, I'm just getting less likes or it seems that shadowbanning is maybe a piece of internet folklore. Some of these things are easily verifiable, but, um, it's, it's very murky. So what I wanted to do, uh, this afternoon as we're talking, is go inside, look at these analytics, see how much traffic you actually lost.
Douglas Lain: (02:23)
Okay. Let's, let's do that. Um, so let me, the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go to the content page here. I've got the dashboard opened up for Zero Books, is YouTube channel. And we're gonna try to remember just when I posted the video that caused offense, which was, um, about the great reset. Although it was not actually, uh, pushing any conspiracies, uh, about the great res- reset. In fact, it was really about an American, uh, leftist critic named Christopher Lasch, who has been dead since 90s, but it was okay. It was November 24th.
Joshua Citarella: (02:59)
Douglas Lain: (02:59)
Okay. So to start with, I'll just tell you a few things about what's going on with our channel now. Um, last month we got around 2,500 to 2,800 new subscribers in the month. We get around 7,000 views a day, fluctuates, but the average is probably around eight and nine to 10,000 views, something around that on average. But the flat line... If the downslope would be around 7,000, when we don't have a new video out. So right now we have around 1,659 new subscribers in the last 28 days. So like 28 days ago, roughly would have been, been around 2,500. We've dropped by a thousand subscribers now. The difference is that a couple of things happen where, which pushed our subscriber rate up, where it had been down to less than a thousand for a month.
Douglas Lain: (03:53)
So I went on Cum Town and, um, I, uh, also interviewed Slavoj Žižek. Both those things, one after the other, pushed our views up, pushed our subscriber rate up. Now it's been a while since I've had a video that cracked more than 20,000 views, it's like the last one I did that did that believe it would have been on the Adam Curtis video, I put out. Yeah, it was, that was February 20th. So that one has right now, 25,000 views. Generally speaking, the Critical Cuts videos are our most successful videos and the interview videos are far less successful. That's not always the case, obviously, like, Slavoj Žižek was an exception. Richard Wolff was recently on the channel and that was something of an exception, nowhere near as big of, of an exception as uh, Slavoj Žižek video.
Douglas Lain: (04:46)
But, Richard Wolff wins, cracked 10,000. The, the goal that we have is to hit 10,000 or more with every produced video that is not just an interview video. The Critical Cuts videos takes about three days to produce from initial script writing to final edit and that's... And you can see that, um, if you watch them consistently, you can see, I think the rush-
Joshua Citarella: (05:12)
Douglas Lain: (05:12)
... usually towards, towards the end of the video. Like at first it's pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop up. And by the last five minutes, it's just these long cuts.
Joshua Citarella: (05:20)
Douglas Lain: (05:20)
If I'm tired, uh-
Joshua Citarella: (05:21)
Douglas Lain: (05:22)
Joshua Citarella: (05:23)
But one of the, one of the um, the PSYOPs that you get when you look into these YouTube analytics really deeply is that they give you stats about how sticky your content is. And people generally watch for the first 30 seconds, and then it dramatically drops off.
Douglas Lain: (05:36)
For our channel, our videos, a Critical Cuts video, will probably get about seven minutes.
Joshua Citarella: (05:44)
Douglas Lain: (05:44)
Five to seven minutes of, as the average. So we have pretty good watch times. They did-
Joshua Citarella: (05:49)
Those are very good in terms of YouTube stats. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (05:52)
Yeah. Uh, but that's because we have a core audience and, right now that enjoys the content. Um, uh-
Joshua Citarella: (05:58)
Well, that's, that's one of my questions. Is that, uh, it seems to be that the drop in traffic is difficult to untether or untangle because you're doing, um, maybe you're hitting audience saturation during the lockdown. Maybe it's new content, maybe streaming just doesn't perform as well as compared to the prescripted, edited videos. And-
Douglas Lain: (06:22)
Joshua Citarella: (06:23)
Yeah. But it does also seem extraordinarily suspicious that you would get this strike and then your traffic would go down. So one is very tempted to think that, um, the thumb was on the scales for a certain period of it. Do you have-
Douglas Lain: (06:35)
Joshua Citarella: (06:36)
Do you have a tight window where your traffic went down?
Douglas Lain: (06:39)
So yeah, let's see if I can remember when it was, the ban was lifted. Because I know it was, um, the November 20th at the-
Joshua Citarella: (06:47)
Douglas Lain: (06:48)
... it wasn't really a ban. It was, um, a content warning. So we had, we had violate the community standards and receive the warning. And if we did it again, then we would actually be punished. That was the idea. Up to, and including being thrown off the channel or thrown off YouTube altogether, that, if we got it, if we did it again. It wasn't, it, it could have been a myriad of consequences, but that was one of them that would have been on the table. So I, I, I wanna say, the way for me to find out when it was lifted is to go back through Twitter because I, um, tweeted (laughs) at the YouTube team.
Joshua Citarella: (07:22)
Douglas Lain: (07:24)
I finally figured out to do that. Like in January.
Joshua Citarella: (07:27)
That seems to be the way people do it. Yeah. They put out... You know, this guy, um, Kavernacle, he's one of these bread tube guys. He got demonetized a few weeks back and you like have to make a video. You have to mobilize your followers to be your advocate against like the YouTube, uh, bureaucracy or, or, uh, I mean, essentially we're talking about someone who in, in the way I imagine this taking place is like, it's a precarious worker in Manila who views the page for 15 seconds and hits like yes or no and they are so incredibly overworked and don't have the time to like really break down the context of all the things. So you put up a clip of Alex Jones saying misinformation about, uh, uh, the pandemic or whatever. And they're like, oh yeah, flag this one onto the next.
Douglas Lain: (08:09)
Right. Yeah. And so we appealed it too, you know, and then, uh, in the automated way and got rejected through that appeal. And it was only when I thought to tweet at team YouTube rather than at the main YouTube account, um, that I started getting a response and it was, and that had happened after I had gone on Cum Town. So I was just trying to reach a mass audience or something like a mass audience and the Cum Town audience's not being particularly e- exclusively. Anyway, leftist thought was a good place to go to, uh, I'm gonna just say it was January. Like it was-
Joshua Citarella: (08:44)
Douglas Lain: (08:45)
... January. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (08:46)
Yeah. It's maybe tempting for us to think that, uh, something like Cum Town is a giant platform, but in the scope of YouTube, just enormous channels that produce like clickbait content that is like nowhere in that, uh, ecosystem or, or whatever. So, um-
Douglas Lain: (09:01)
Yeah, no, I know, it was compared to us a bit.
Joshua Citarella: (09:05)
Douglas Lain: (09:06)
And also just on Patreon in terms of podcasting-
Joshua Citarella: (09:09)
Douglas Lain: (09:09)
... there, they earn out, uh, towards the top of the, you know, earners on Patreon. They make-
Joshua Citarella: (09:15)
That's what's so funny about Patreon though, is that there's no, like there's no recommendation algorithm. Like it's all parallel.
Douglas Lain: (09:24)
Joshua Citarella: (09:24)
You would think, you would think Patreon just, you know, have their own bootstrapping entrepreneurial wisdom. Like they would suggest like, oh, here's three other frequently overlapping Patreons, or podcasts, you might be interested or something like that, but I don't know why they haven't done that. Sorry, that's a digression. Let's not-
Douglas Lain: (09:39)
Yeah. Yeah (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (09:40)
... let's get back to the, uh, the analyitics.
Douglas Lain: (09:43)
Okay. So, I just wanna go to November 20th, they're up to January 20th. Okay. In that period of time, we had 341,000 views overall and, uh, watch time of 57,000 hours. And we had, we gained, so that's over several months, right? November, December and January, now two months.
Joshua Citarella: (10:08)
Just so I have the dates here. Are, are we talking, it's November 24th to January 20th or-
Douglas Lain: (10:13)
November. November to, I put down November put down November 20th to January-
Joshua Citarella: (10:16)
Douglas Lain: (10:16)
... 20th. But it really was probably more like January 9th because that's where I see a spike. Uh-
Douglas Lain: (10:21)
Um, so anyhow, anyway, if it, if it was correlative, it would have been around January 9th. So, uh, anyhow, that was about 1,300 subscribers per month and not twen- not per 28 days, but per, per month. And after that, so I'm gonna go back and change the custom feed,
Douglas Lain: (10:45)
So those numbers, the 340K views, 57,000 hours is in the period where you were, uh, uh, deprioritized potentially.
Joshua Citarella: (10:55)
Douglas Lain: (10:55)
Joshua Citarella: (10:57)
Douglas Lain: (10:57)
Joshua Citarella: (10:58)
Douglas Lain: (10:58)
Yeah. Right. And I, and I don't think I've ever really made a huge claim that that was what happened ex- exactly. Although I've, I suspected it. Right. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (11:07)
Hmm, hmm. Yeah. Everything, everything allegedly, we should say.
Douglas Lain: (11:09)
Joshua Citarella: (11:10)
Yeah, yeah. We're just that, we're asking the question because we, we literally don't know. So nothing here is definitive. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (11:16)
So I'm gonna put this through to, from that point till today, to January. Yeah. January till today. And that from January to today, we've got, um, 411,000 views, 75,000 hours and um, around 4,000 new subscribers. So 3.9.
Joshua Citarella: (11:37)
So just, just for a comparison here, we were looking at a two month period, November to January and then January to March, uh, we're looking at a similar window.
Douglas Lain: (11:47)
Similar, uh-huh (affirmative).
Joshua Citarella: (11:47)
Right? Yeah. Because we're recording just for, um, for continuity here on March 17th. So it's, it's almost about the same. Uh, and it seems like it's pretty significantly higher. Uh, I don't know, off the top of my head, but it, it 25% higher? Um-
Douglas Lain: (12:04)
Joshua Citarella: (12:04)
Is it something like that?
Douglas Lain: (12:06)
Yeah, something like that.
Joshua Citarella: (12:07)
Okay. But that's not totally outside the realm of possibility, but it is-
Douglas Lain: (12:11)
Joshua Citarella: (12:11)
Douglas Lain: (12:12)
Yeah. Well, you know, and I'm hoping... Here's what I'm, I'm thinking actually, is that, um, I may have been, okay, I don't think that there's a button at YouTube that they pressed to shadowban-
Joshua Citarella: (12:26)
Douglas Lain: (12:27)
... a channel. I think that there are, uh, uh, is a complicated algorithm that looks at a variety of things to determine how often you should be suggested, uh, on the channel. And so for, for most YouTube, YouTubers suggested views are a really big deal. And-
Joshua Citarella: (12:49)
Douglas Lain: (12:50)
... we had a period of time a couple of years ago where we were getting a lot of suggested views. It was how the channel grew from, uh, uh, just over a co- a thousand or a couple thousand subscribers to over 10,000 in a very short amount of time. And-
Joshua Citarella: (13:06)
Uh, sorry. What was the, what was the period in which you had that growth spurt?
Douglas Lain: (13:11)
I'll look, I'm gonna look at the lifetime.
Joshua Citarella: (13:14)
Because you're, you've been, you were early, like you were on the ground floor.
Douglas Lain: (13:18)
We started in 2016, making it uh, this channel, but it really didn't start, start until January of 2017 or a little after. And it was when I started to make videos about Jordan Peterson that suddenly (laughs)-
Joshua Citarella: (13:36)
Douglas Lain: (13:37)
... had a big growth. Um, and I did that-
Joshua Citarella: (13:40)
Well, that's (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (13:41)
... pretty early. Um (laughs)-
Joshua Citarella: (13:43)
But that's true. That's true. Yeah. I mean, look, so like on the Twitch channel previous to this, I mean, it must've been what? Like three months ago, something like that. We did a combined, probably 70 hours of streaming meticulously combing through (laughs) every channel of bread tube. And the overwhelmingly (laughs), uh, uh, clear trend is that everyone has an SEO optimized refutation of Jordan Peterson. So-
Douglas Lain: (14:09)
Joshua Citarella: (14:10)
... it's, it's not surprising that those perform really well. I mean, he is just-
Douglas Lain: (14:15)
I think that was early to that.
Joshua Citarella: (14:19)
... an anomally.
Douglas Lain: (14:19)
I, I, I think I will pull the first people to create a anti Jordan Peterson, YouTube video. And I didn't do it because I thought it was gonna... I swear. Okay. I'm not just tryna be a hipster here.
Joshua Citarella: (14:25)
Douglas Lain: (14:26)
But I, I, I, I did it because I, someone had shared a video of him with me on Facebook. Uh, someone who I like and, and, um, who actually works at Zero Books as a reader had shared it to me as an example of how there's a problem on the left and where, where, you know, as an example, like the rad libs going crazy, um, and there were these transgender activists yelling at Jordan Peterson and I looked at it and said, "Yeah, he looks like the more sane person here." But then I looked at Jordan Peterson a little bit and realized, oh no, this guy is a reactionary actually. I mean, not the worst kind of reactionary. But he's, you know, he looked very, it's very least, a very conservative figure and he deserves to be criticized, maybe not by, in this way, that's happening in this video, but he deserves to be criticized and critiqued.
Douglas Lain: (15:15)
So I made a video about him, and he was, you know, probably as those things go is one of the more sympathetic critiques, is like, yeah, Jordan Peterson, he's speaking to something he's, he's addressing a real problem in the culture probably. But, and then, you know, he's all, he's wrong about Marxism and everyone should read capital volume one, um, (laughs) [crosstalk 00:15:37].
Joshua Citarella: (15:36)
Only, only one (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (15:38)
Yeah. That's right. Volume one. Because that's the one I know. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (15:41)
Douglas Lain: (15:41)
Uh, volume one.
Joshua Citarella: (15:42)
Yeah, I mean. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, that's like, I feel like you were early in on that. Um, I've, you know, I, I carry on an art career. I also write about these things sometimes. Now I produce content as well, but I've always thought of your channel as an example of successful left-wing counter messaging because, uh, too often people just see the ground. Yeah. Yeah. It's really important to make that a contested space. Uh, that being said, Jordan Peterson now in the scope, uh, compared to 2016, that is one of the healthier outcomes. He's always challenging you to get into that. There's no fixing it. Uh-
Douglas Lain: (16:19)
Joshua Citarella: (16:19)
Douglas Lain: (16:20)
I'm not, I'm not actually, I'm not, I don't hate Jordan Peterson. And I actually, I mean, one of the reasons I did a video about him originally was because just on a kind of aesthetic level, I liked him.
Joshua Citarella: (16:31)
Douglas Lain: (16:31)
Like I thought he was... I, I noticed that someone else pointed this out later on, but like the people who liked Jordan Peterson were maybe likely to like Slavoj Žižek too.
Joshua Citarella: (16:40)
Douglas Lain: (16:42)
And as, and uh, so there was, um, a kind of approach that you had that was a little folksy and he seemed like he was willing to break with taboos and say things that maybe were out, outside the norm and all that. So I, I, I didn't dislike him like off the bat, but I just realized, so I listened to him. Yeah, no he's leading people to an apolitical individualism and he really does have a conservative position overall, like, but in any case he was worthy of crit- critique. And most of all, he was worthy of, of critique because of his anti-Marxism, which I think was leading people to be, um, apathetic politically like, uh, the idea that every individual should first and foremost be concerned about succeeding as an individual rather than working to change society.
Douglas Lain: (17:29)
That's, that's gotta go. That ideas is, is backwards, I think. You, you, you can't, you have to do both. And I think that the conclusion of Peterson as a threat to the left was this Peterson, Žižek debates.
Joshua Citarella: (17:42)
Douglas Lain: (17:42)
Because, because I thought, Žižek did a good enough job of humanizing the left in that debate and showing Peterson to have very severe limits...
Joshua Citarella: (17:53)
Douglas Lain: (17:53)
... and its intellectual ability. Is not, not, in his knowledge, in his base of knowledge. And I thought that was a really good outcome for the whole thing. Peterson's back now. But I think he may be a severely diminished figure [crosstalk 00:18:05].
Joshua Citarella: (18:05)
Yeah and, and I think when you're humbled like that, it's, uh, it's difficult to mount to comeback. It's not outside the realm of possibility, but it's-
Douglas Lain: (18:12)
Yeah. I mean-
Joshua Citarella: (18:12)
... it's difficult.
Douglas Lain: (18:14)
His persona is not, is humble in a way to start with, so he could, but the easy answer to him as well, you're a self-help guy who, you know, almost died and (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (18:25)
Yes, right (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (18:25)
Joshua Citarella: (18:26)
Right. Yeah. Yeah. Kind of (laughs). So [crosstalk 00:18:28] feeding.
Douglas Lain: (18:29)
And if you-
Joshua Citarella: (18:29)
Can I ask you about, uh, Žižek though uh, in, in, because I'm trying to weigh in my head, these two periods, these two, uh, uh, the control variable, and then the potential deboosting deprioritization or whatever.
Douglas Lain: (18:42)
Joshua Citarella: (18:42)
Um, and I'm trying to factor into, you know, approximately, I haven't done the math, but like a, a 25% drop or something like that. That includes getting, you know, one of the most successful public intellectuals now on your channel and also the appearance on Cum Town. So-
Douglas Lain: (19:02)
Joshua Citarella: (19:03)
... adjusting for that-
Douglas Lain: (19:04)
Well, looking at the, the interview with Žižek came after, uh, the, the lifting of the ban. [crosstalk 00:19:10]. I mean, after the lifting of the community warning, which we're assuming correlates to some sort of shadowban, right? So for the sake of argument. So that factors in, it did come in after factors into the rise, for sure as does the, appearance on Cum Town factor into the rise. So again, it's not clear that what accounted for it was some change in the algorithm.
Joshua Citarella: (19:35)
Hmm. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Douglas Lain: (19:36)
And I would say we are now sloping back down and it's certainly not because of any community standards, uh, warning because we don't have one. So one of the things about this is that YouTube as a content creator, you mentioned it like why doesn't Patreon have something like its own algorithm to recommend, uh-
Joshua Citarella: (19:55)
Douglas Lain: (19:55)
... the, the Patreon, Patreon pages to people. The fact that YouTube does means that you can go through what looks like a shadowban, simply when the algorithm changes.
Joshua Citarella: (20:06)
Douglas Lain: (20:07)
People who did real well with long form content, hmm, uh, or who with short videos say, Mike do much more poorly after they change the algorithm to emphasize watch time or if they're now emphasizing shorts, people are doing, making shorts are gonna be getting lots more views and it will seem like old channels at worst. Very successful are suddenly shadowbanned. So I, I suspect that's a good portion of the things that look like shadowbanning aren't. But I also think that you're told when you've have community, when you violate a community standards and you're being suppressed, they'll, that will be, they'll, they'll tell you directly on YouTube that, that, that's happening. Like you can't upload, or you can't do live streams or anything that.
Joshua Citarella: (20:49)
Douglas Lain: (20:49)
Joshua Citarella: (20:51)
Well, that's. Hmm. Hmm. Okay. So I think, uh, that's, that's what happened in, uh, your experience for sure. Some of the meme accounts that I've been talking to, obviously these platforms are not really comparable, but seemingly Instagram just, uh, turns off the faucet every now and then-
Douglas Lain: (21:07)
Joshua Citarella: (21:08)
... on a lot of these accounts. So-
Douglas Lain: (21:09)
Joshua Citarella: (21:09)
Douglas Lain: (21:10)
No, I, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, I think what's going on there is different than what's going on on YouTube, really controlled, very, very, very controlled kind of content recommender. Like if the first-
Joshua Citarella: (21:24)
Douglas Lain: (21:25)
... I saw a video, um, where the guy drew a glacier and s- you know, an, uh, an iceberg and, um, said, you know, uh, on YouTube, you you're just seeing the tip of the iceberg only with a real iceberg, that would be far less ice underneath the surface and there is with YouTube. There are billion per hours of stuff-
Joshua Citarella: (21:44)
Douglas Lain: (21:44)
... that no one ever sees on YouTube. So it's only the algorithm that puts, that creates this visibility for content at all. Um, otherwise, if you're just, if you were just brand new, without some outside viability and some outside fame to direct people to the YouTube channel-
Joshua Citarella: (22:02)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Douglas Lain: (22:03)
... you would just posting. The YouTube channel itself would never, you know, drag you up to the surface. And except for the way, the algorithm responds to, to views that do come in based maybe on searches or something like that. So like for the Jordan Peterson thing, people were searching for Jordan Peterson.
Joshua Citarella: (22:22)
Douglas Lain: (22:23)
Our YouTube videos got recommended and then they were recommended and then viewed long enough that YouTube itself started recommending them. And that's why we grew.
Joshua Citarella: (22:33)
Yeah. Yeah. It's um, I think with a channel of your size, I was gonna bring up, um, churn and audience saturation. I don't think that you're, over-saturating your audience because that, it's, it's really such a wide spread. It's not like something really niche and narrow that it's much more likely that it's an algorithmic change. And that is totally opaque. I was going to meetings for a tech socialist group in NYC here for a while, and one of the political demands that they floated that was discussed, but never really, I think, considered a thing that you could seriously implement would be algorithmic transparency on some of these platforms that if, uh, I imagine for you, YouTube is a portion of your income. For me, Patreon is a very significant portion of my income.
Douglas Lain: (23:22)
Joshua Citarella: (23:23)
And, um, when those algorithms shi- shift it could be, you know, oh, you just, uh, got your wages docked by 20% this month. Like, wait, what? How did that happen? Like when, um, when did I sign off? Or I guess that's the terms of service.
Douglas Lain: (23:36)
So but, let me ask you something about that. And so, do you feel like when your views decline on YouTube or on Instagram or anywhere that, that immediately translates into a decline in support on Patreon?
Joshua Citarella: (23:50)
Well, the, the (laughs) this is the trouble too, because, um (laughs), as soon as I got shaw-
Douglas Lain: (23:57)
[crosstalk 00:23:57], we brew on patron-
Joshua Citarella: (23:58)
Douglas Lain: (23:58)
... during our decline.
Joshua Citarella: (24:00)
But that's, that's the thing because the patrons really care. So they're gonna hang on that extra month until you're out of shadowban. So you have to-
Douglas Lain: (24:07)
Joshua Citarella: (24:07)
... counterbalance these things. That's really-
Douglas Lain: (24:08)
Joshua Citarella: (24:08)
It's maddening, you become so paranoid, um-
Douglas Lain: (24:11)
Joshua Citarella: (24:12)
Yeah. Yeah. But I, I, I would say that I'm now totally, uh, terrified to post anything and I'm very conservative. I mean, I was real, I was really shit posting, flying close to the sun and, and all sorts of-
Douglas Lain: (24:25)
Joshua Citarella: (24:25)
... of crazy things on Instagram. So it's, to some degree it's understandable, but I would have appreciated a warning at the least, you know, because-
Douglas Lain: (24:33)
Joshua Citarella: (24:34)
... it's a perverse incentive structure, is the other thing because you have to optimize, do you wanna basically ride as close as you can, to the terms of service, do you know, edgy types of stuff to attract views and, and, uh, controversy marketing and this kind of thing. Um, so they're incentivizing you to misbehave and then punishing you (laughs) for when you actually do it. And it would be maybe really helpful to have just like very clear demarcations of what is over the lines of the terms of service. Um, friends of mine from the art world, Eva and Franco Mattes, uh, worked with the journalist Adrian Chen to, uh, find out some of these things. This is back, uh, years ago, it might've been 2015 or something like that.
Douglas Lain: (25:18)
Joshua Citarella: (25:19)
And they posted, um, I think I can say this (laughs). Uh, as part of their artists talks. So I th- I don't know if they've recorded it anywhere, but I'll, I'll, I'll just relay the story here. Um, they posted ads on Craigslist to hire content moderators and, um, you know, all of these people work for a third party companies is they clock in for whoever, whoever Google of YouTube of a million different people. They often don't know what platform they're working for.
Douglas Lain: (25:46)
Joshua Citarella: (25:46)
And they started these conversations. They later revealed that they were artists and they weren't actually hiring people to do content moderation. And then they asked them to anonymously submit the PDFs that explicitly outlined the terms of service for these various pages. And seeing those, they turn them into wall works and, uh, um, sculptures that hang on the wall of an art gallery. And it was like really clear, like if it's 30% of a nipple, or if it's, uh, you know, this type of a suggestive image and they give you visual references, this is inappropriate, this is allowed, but it seems like that I'm, I'm, I'm tempted to, uh, to ask for those things. I don't know, maybe when, maybe someone has to go undercover to actually get the PDF from Instagram or YouTube or, or somebody.
Douglas Lain: (26:33)
Yeah. Well, I think recently on Facebook and Twitter and pro- probably Instagram, which is just Facebook, right?
Joshua Citarella: (26:41)
Douglas Lain: (26:41)
Um, uh, there has been a change in, uh, in terms of service or what would, would be acceptable because I've noticed a number of leftists getting suddenly banned, uh, on, on Facebook, particularly because, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm on boomer book as a 10 expert, but, you know.
Joshua Citarella: (26:59)
Douglas Lain: (27:00)
Um, I'm still stuck on, on Facebook. But yeah, yeah, I, I definitely knew it would be worthwhile to demand transparency, especially of those kinds of social media outlets and with YouTube. I think that maybe they can't tell us every bit of how the algorithm's working. I wonder if there's, even if it's possible for a single person to know, you know, I can maybe needs an AI to figure out the AI, but they can certainly tell us more about the kinds of changes they're making and why when they, when they make them. They let us know when watch time was becoming a bigger deal, but they probably didn't let us know beforehand. They let us know after. And I think a lot of changes, so many changes go on every day that a lot of those changes are just, they go by without any note.
Douglas Lain: (27:46)
I, I also know that on YouTube there's been changes so that if you're doing alternative news, you're not gonna get, come up in the search, just like on Google. You're not gonna come with-
Joshua Citarella: (27:56)
Douglas Lain: (27:57)
... up and search first. You're more likely to get a warning slapped over your video, uh, than if you are from CNN or some mainstream news source. And yeah, I almost feel like what we're witnessing is a slow closure of these kinds of venues and spaces and the, the narrowing of, of what will be acceptable or what can be monetized certainly in these places. And like, um, substack has been com- is coming under attack from the New York Times lately.
Joshua Citarella: (28:29)
Indeed it is, yeah.
Douglas Lain: (28:31)
And uh, you know, I wonder if they're gonna go for Patreon next. Although patron has already had its a couple of rounds of being pushed to throw people.
Joshua Citarella: (28:41)
That was the origin of some of these debates of Lauren Southern and uh, it's going down being banned in 2016. And-
Douglas Lain: (28:48)
They got rid of a lot of fetched related stuff too off of Patreon at one point, didn't they?
Joshua Citarella: (28:53)
Oh, did they?
Douglas Lain: (28:53)
Can I remember exactly. Maybe I'm misremembering. But I thought there was a time where on Patreon you could go like and get erotic comics or maybe even nudes or something. And, and that got pushed off the, off Patreon.
Joshua Citarella: (29:04)
Oh okay. Yes, I do remember. Yeah. Yeah. It's very fuzzy. But I remember hearing about that.
Douglas Lain: (29:08)
Joshua Citarella: (29:08)
I mean, I think, I think in the case of, uh, substack, you've no doubt seen this thing, the super follow feature that's going to be introduced to Twitter.
Douglas Lain: (29:17)
Joshua Citarella: (29:17)
All of these platforms are going to make some type of a scramble to basically prevent people from hopping onto other platforms or, or bringing their talent elsewhere. But it doesn't, it doesn't necessarily seem like, I think we're just too far gone. I think we're too far gone for it. Yeah. But so the, the wager is going to become like big picture here. What is the left wing political speech that we would like to preserve? You know, because when these really bad actors from the right get deplatformed like (laughs), well fuck them. Uh (laughs), I hate those guys. Uh, but-
Douglas Lain: (29:52)
Joshua Citarella: (29:52)
... but I do wanna preserve political speech. So it's, it's a fine line of like, when is that threshold cross that you have to defend your political opponent to preserve it for yourself in this type of arms race. Um, but it's, I, I feel like we're at that point now where a lot of these guys are demonetized or gone, or...
Douglas Lain: (30:08)
I was always a free speech absolutist on this front, like when Alex Jones was deplatformed, I was against it. Do you know I, I, I, I didn't like Alex Jones. And even though I thought he was like a dangerous person, I mean, if he had been found guilty of defamation from the parents.
Joshua Citarella: (30:25)
Oh God. Yeah. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (30:27)
Um, if he'd been found guilty of that and been barred from creating future content or, or had to pay out or been made bankrupt by it, I would've been fine with that, but for these private corporations to decide that he was suddenly beyond the pale kind of on a whim, I thought that it was a dangerous sign and that we were, that was too much power for these institutions to take.
Joshua Citarella: (30:50)
Well, it's, it's dangerous. But um, I mean, do you, are you an absolutist? Absolutist. Like, I mean, how (laughs), how far is absolutist? It's like a unilateral, ISIS on YouTube. Like there is some limit to it, right?
Douglas Lain: (31:01)
Right, right. Obviously, but I'm like with Noam Chomsky. It'll put, so it's like with YouTube and Instagram and Facebook, it's all a little difficult because on the one hand you don't want to demand that the, all these platforms just get filled up with porn. Right (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (31:16)
Right, right. Yeah (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (31:18)
As you know. [crosstalk 00:31:18], for total free speech. You're gonna, it's gonna get inundated with.
Joshua Citarella: (31:22)
Yeah, just race to the, [crosstalk 00:31:23] to the bottom yeah.
Douglas Lain: (31:24)
... and all of these things. So you want them to be able to have some community standards and some, to be able to curate the content, to fit the platform. Right. So already you're giving away the idea. This is truly just open for any shit you wanna post. There's gonna be some community standards, but when it comes to... There's gonna be some platform specific standards too. That's fine. But when it comes to big open platforms like YouTube or Facebook or Twitter to be censoring political speech based on it being, not, you know, not based on its nudity or so- uh, some sort of obvious community standard around defensiveness, but based on just it being the wrong speech, like let's say it's Holocaust denial.
Douglas Lain: (32:13)
If you're gonna get rid of that, which is not illegal in this country, in the United States, then I think you're beginning to tread into an area which is really a problem unless you're broken up. Unless you're not, not, not blocking the space. I mean, if there were, if there was left-wing YouTube that only took left-wing content and was like edited-
Joshua Citarella: (32:38)
Douglas Lain: (32:38)
... that people would choose what was posted there, I would be fine with that, right.
Joshua Citarella: (32:43)
There, I mean, there is left on YouTube, but the network effects are just not there, right? Like that you could go to means TV or something like that. And you could watch like, I don't know, 14 hours of video or something (laughs). [crosstalk 00:32:53].
Douglas Lain: (32:54)
Joshua Citarella: (32:55)
Douglas Lain: (32:55)
That's on YouTube, but YouTube isn't left-wing.
Joshua Citarella: (32:58)
Douglas Lain: (32:59)
But like if it was truly like a, a, a channel that if it had its own identity at YouTube, when I think of YouTube, I think of, you know, liberalism or I think of whatever their political viewpoint would be, like an opinion-based platform. And you go there just the same way you pick up a magazine and no, and ahead of time-
Joshua Citarella: (33:19)
Douglas Lain: (33:19)
... I'm getting a left-wing magazine, I'm getting a right-wing magazine, I'm getting a general interest magazine. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (33:24)
And there might be a few channels or contributing authors, but you have a general sense of... Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (33:29)
And that will be [crosstalk 00:33:30].
Joshua Citarella: (33:30)
Can I ask you though. So I'm, I'm, this is, this is what I'm, I'm curious about. Because I, I tasked myself with talking to a left-wing channel that had been deboosted, deprioritized, mysterious shadowbanned, uh, whatever that is.
Douglas Lain: (33:43)
Joshua Citarella: (33:43)
And then I've been looking, uh, I've been messaging people and trying to find out like, okay, who actually has this happened to? Like, I know what happened to me. I know what happened to Brad. We're both politically left-wing, but the stuff we were posting was not like explicitly left-wing political speech. We didn't get shadowbanned for saying that like people should organize their workplace, for example.
Douglas Lain: (34:06)
Joshua Citarella: (34:06)
And in, in the example of, uh, your experience, what you got flagged for that allegedly or may or may not have contributed to a decreased amount of traffic to your channel, it was a clip of Alex Jones. So a- again, the question for me is still up in the air of like, okay, these really bad actors from the right, to like haha fuck them, like get them off the platform. But you know, should we be free speech warriors defending the left-wing political speech if four years after 2016, nobody has actually been, uh, uh, the platform for it, like excluding an example of like your, you know, an antifa guy throwing a firebomb or something like that. Like obviously that is over the lines, but-
Douglas Lain: (34:48)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.
Joshua Citarella: (34:48)
... what is the general left-wing speech that we're tryna protect? Is that really in danger?
Douglas Lain: (34:53)
Well, crime think was removed from Facebook and the people who got removed from, um, Facebook that I know were not quoting Alex Jones. Um, and I don't even know it was, if it was the Alex Jones clip or something I said in the video that got it removed or the topic of reset. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (35:09)
Douglas Lain: (35:10)
I do know that I have never, ever been censored because I said something like, uh, Marx was right. We need a working class revolution to change this country and the world. No one is, you know-
Joshua Citarella: (35:19)
Douglas Lain: (35:19)
That's not gonna get suppressed in this country on those platforms now. But on the other hand, if you can't quote a right-wing thinker, even to critique him, then you're limiting left-wing-
Joshua Citarella: (35:33)
Douglas Lain: (35:33)
... speech right there, because you're not allowing the dilectical approach to understanding politics to proceed. You're just saying, here are the dogmas. We can't think them through, um, by, by looking to the opposition. like you can't quote William F. Buckley and you know, without [crosstalk 00:35:50].
Joshua Citarella: (35:49)
Douglas Lain: (35:50)
... is gonna happen. But so, so on the one hand, I do think that even if it was just right-wing channels that primarily got hit, it would still be worth protecting the right to speech on these platforms from a left position, even if we worked the immediate victims of the, of, of the suppression. I do think also though, and I don't know, specific examples on YouTube except, you know, the surfs just kept getting demonetized. You should talk to them.
Joshua Citarella: (36:19)
Did they really [crosstalk 00:36:20]. Okay.
Douglas Lain: (36:20)
Yeah. The surfs just, every once in a while their channel will be completely removed and then they'll go to, um-
Joshua Citarella: (36:26)
On YouTube or on Twitch?
Douglas Lain: (36:27)
Joshua Citarella: (36:28)
Douglas Lain: (36:28)
Joshua Citarella: (36:29)
They're mainly set up on Twitch though.
Douglas Lain: (36:31)
Yeah, I know. Yeah.
Joshua Citarella: (36:32)
Okay. No maybe because it's because they get removed (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (36:35)
Well, they, they, they started on YouTube then they discovered that Twitch streaming was easier and more lucrative. So they went (laughs) to Twitch and, uh, and then, so they've been up, but now that you they're on both. Their Twitch stuff-
Joshua Citarella: (36:47)
Douglas Lain: (36:47)
... it's reformatted for YouTube and that's where they've been removed as far as I know. And probably again, it may have been in this, in those cases that they had a video up where they were making fun of. Some right-winger, but they, they got flagged. I also think though that they were maybe removed for bullying. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (37:06)
Well, I've heard that too. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:37:09] If you're criticizing, it's, uh, you're cyber bullying I know (laughs).
Douglas Lain: (37:12)
Joshua Citarella: (37:12)
Douglas Lain: (37:13)
[crosstalk 00:37:13]. you know, white people suck that might be racism.
Joshua Citarella: (37:15)
Douglas Lain: (37:16)
[crosstalk 00:37:16] get you thrown off. Um, uh, also like I, Emmy Teres, I don't know if you know who she is.
Joshua Citarella: (37:23)
Of course. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (37:24)
She, she's on po- she does a podcast called What's Left. I'm not a huge fan. Uh, I, I've been, I've known her since she was on, uh, Adam Proctor show. Um, before What's Left, um, dead, pendants, the dead pendant society. Um, again, I'm not a huge fan of her. She is kind of controversial. Um, I don't hate her the way some people do, but I, I, you know, I, I don't think everything she's doing on Twitter is worthwhile. Let's put it that way, but she was thrown off Twitter for saying quote, Elizabeth Warren needs to be beaten.
Joshua Citarella: (37:56)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that is, um, right. Uh, that specific example. Uh, so I'm (laughs), I'll preface this her, I'm not a fan of her stuff either, particularly, but that is a very bad faith application of the terms of service, because in the context of the thread, it was something like she needs to be beaten electorally, and then it's a misreading or something like that.
Douglas Lain: (38:17)
Joshua Citarella: (38:17)
But so, in that specific example, one is tempted to think that there is some type of an internal rating system that when you fly too close to the sun, too many times, you know, it's like, uh, uh, internal strikes or something like that.
Douglas Lain: (38:32)
Joshua Citarella: (38:32)
So maybe it wasn't that specific tweet, but it was that there was a bunch of, uh, double entendres in the past. And they're like, all right, that's one too far. We're gonna take you off this platform.
Douglas Lain: (38:43)
Joshua Citarella: (38:43)
[crosstalk 00:38:43] she' s still on Twitter is my understanding.
Douglas Lain: (38:46)
Yeah well. She's not on Twitter as herself, but I think she's on [crosstalk 00:38:50].
Joshua Citarella: (38:51)
Right, right. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (38:52)
Yeah. I mean, I mean, Alex Jones would not be allowed to do what she's doing.
Joshua Citarella: (38:56)
Right. Right. Um-
Douglas Lain: (38:58)
So she's not been banned the same way that, uh, Jones is, or Trump has been now.
Joshua Citarella: (39:02)
Douglas Lain: (39:03)
Joshua Citarella: (39:04)
Well, I mean, I'll sa- I'll say this. I like, I like, um, some of the episodes that they do, uh, I think Angela is very interesting. Um, I'm glad that that discourse is out there and I very often disagree with the tweets that she puts on Twitter, but I appreciate the conversations.
Douglas Lain: (39:21)
And Angela [crosstalk 00:39:22]. Is Angela, um, Nagle um, uh-
Joshua Citarella: (39:24)
I, Well, they've done a number of episodes, um, that it was listening to when I was in my mom's basement, uh, a couple months ago. That's a different (laughs) channel.
Douglas Lain: (39:31)
Joshua Citarella: (39:31)
That's a different arc of the show. So I, I have an adult apartment now. Um, I don't live with my mom anymore.
Douglas Lain: (39:38)
Joshua Citarella: (39:39)
But, uh, I was listening. [crosstalk 00:39:39]. That's the, that is the ideal target demographic of-
Douglas Lain: (39:43)
Joshua Citarella: (39:43)
... Aimee Terese which is, um, an angry white man who has disenfranchised with the left, who lives with his mother. That's, uh-
Douglas Lain: (39:49)
Joshua Citarella: (39:49)
That's it right there.
Douglas Lain: (39:50)
Joshua Citarella: (39:51)
Um, but I, I appreciate that as a countervailing force to a lot of the other, um, uh, pop- popular left-wing conversations, but let me, um, if I can steer us into, uh, a slightly different topic here, because-
Douglas Lain: (40:03)
Joshua Citarella: (40:04)
... I wanted to throw a few more things at you. We're trying to be conscious of our time here.
Douglas Lain: (40:07)
Joshua Citarella: (40:08)
Um, I wonder if absent of the analytics and your channel, uh, uh, age range and, and brackets and that kind of stuff. Who do you have in mind when you're making these videos? Are you, are you posting them thinking of, I mean, some of them are literally conversations that you had on left book. Are you thinking of politigram, when you write these scripts, you know, who is the Zero Books reader that you have in mind?
Douglas Lain: (40:33)
That's a good question. Um, well we have the audience that we know is out there and that we know has certain interests, we've done some analysis of it. And so like I do want to get them to click early on every video, because the sooner the core audience responds to a video and a thumbnail, the more the algorithm will respond and the more it will be pushed to the bigger-
Joshua Citarella: (41:00)
Douglas Lain: (41:01)
... audience. So I do think about that, although I probably don't think about it in terms of the audience members, themself enough. I used to work, um, uh, as a content creator for like a law firm and things like that. And I had meetings where we would sit down and go, who's our client? You know, and, and draw pictures of different kinds of clients. And I've had a similar meeting now, like last month we went through and did the same thing for Zero Books and it was kind of a funny situation. Um, so who do I think of as our core audience? I think of them as mostly white, um, mostly young, possibly graduate students or grad, grad school, dropouts, um (laughs), you know, or college educated, but thinking, and haven't gone to grad school yet, you know, might be one day headed there are interested.
Douglas Lain: (41:57)
Um, people who watch ContraPoints, you know, pro- probably who listened to Chapo. Those are, that's our core audience and it's unfortunately very male and I don't, you know, I'm not doing much to try to correct that at the moment, although I am trying to get honest, to be less white. Um, but uh, you know, not like I wanna get rid of the audience we have, but to add more people of color into the mix.
Joshua Citarella: (42:26)
Well, if I can, if I can just throw something in here to your favor, is that specifically on YouTube, in the last few years, there's been an incredible lack of messaging for young white men who are sucked down these right-wing rabbit holes. So-
Douglas Lain: (42:38)
Joshua Citarella: (42:38)
... your channel is very effective in debunking those talking points. In the example of Jordan Peterson, we laid out and yada, yada.
Douglas Lain: (42:43)
Right. Right. Yeah. And because that's why we started that really did build up an audience of all kinds of people. And also-
Joshua Citarella: (42:50)
Douglas Lain: (42:50)
... you know, I'm a white Gen Xer, it's not a white guy Gen Xer, it's not too surprising that I relate to that kinda audience. Um-
Joshua Citarella: (42:58)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Douglas Lain: (42:58)
I have three sons and, and a daughter, so the majority of the kids I've raised are, are boys and, you know, it's just, yeah. Uh, but yeah, so that's who I think of first, like what kinds of things would left book be interested in if it still existed?
Joshua Citarella: (43:14)
Douglas Lain: (43:16)
It's something I'm thinking of. But then when I actually think about like, what am I gonna write? What's, not just what's gonna be in the thumbnail or how am I gonna frame this, but what I'm gonna write, it's usually just, what am I confused about? What am I trying to figure out in the terms of my hopefully deepening understanding of the struggle for socialism. And so, uh, you know, sometimes those myths completely, uh, because what I'm obsessing about is not what everyone's thinking about. Like, you know, what is the relationship between early 20th century technocrats and socialism as we've, versus broadly understood, you know, how, how are they different? That's probably not what most people are thinking about and that-
Joshua Citarella: (43:59)
I don't know, it sounds great to me. That's (laughs). It sounds interesting.
Douglas Lain: (44:01)
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Joshua Citarella: (44:02)
Um, but let, let me ask you, so, uh, uh, Lash is an interesting character. Um, you did a while ago, um, segwaying from Lash, Lash, I think are specific millennial phenomena and a social media phenomenal. What have you. Um, you did a video about Max Stirner, Max Stirner, um, burgeoning, uh, left-wing avatar around 2017-
Douglas Lain: (44:26)
Joshua Citarella: (44:27)
... uh, in contrast to Pepe at the time ancient history but, um, needless to say, there was a tremendous amount of youth enthusiasm about Max Stirner.
Douglas Lain: (44:37)
Joshua Citarella: (44:37)
I did a talk at left forum in 2019 with a number of friends. And there was a, I think, I think (laughs) she was 17 or something like that. Her parents had brought her. And, um, she came up to me afterwards and was talking about Max Stirner. So, uh-
Douglas Lain: (44:50)
Joshua Citarella: (44:51)
Needless to say that is a, a politigram-bait.
Douglas Lain: (44:54)
Joshua Citarella: (44:55)
I wonder if not represented in the analytics, but, um, I know there are young people in the, you know, under 18, zoomer age brackets who are middle schoolers, high schoolers who are avidly consuming this stuff.
Douglas Lain: (45:09)
Joshua Citarella: (45:11)
And I don't think they're being represented in the analytics. I don't know why, but Max Stirner would seem to be a, a play to invite those people into the channel. Is that, am I misreading that?
Douglas Lain: (45:20)
Yeah. Max Stirner, Max Stirner is kind of, no, I don't think you're misreading that. Although, look, that was a decision that was made, not the level of the YouTube channel, but on the level of publishing. Because the other thing we do is we decide what books we're gonna publish. Right.
Joshua Citarella: (45:32)
Douglas Lain: (45:33)
And will, and that will send the, the video channel off in certain directions because books come up, we have to promote them. We promote them through the channel. So the Max Stirner video was directly in response to the needing to publicize the book that we published on Max Stirner which did real well. Um, and probably if I, you, I, if my response to Max Stirner wasn't just to repeat verbatim, Marx's critique him. Um, I would've-
Joshua Citarella: (45:59)
Douglas Lain: (46:00)
I would've done more but with that. Um, so sometimes my own biases gets in the way of marketing. Uh, although the other thing that drives the content I create, I should confess this is that when a book sells more than 500 copies, we, we do another round of publicity on it. And I often enough will pick those books to mention on the channel, which is why Capitalist Realism is mentioned almost every month.
Joshua Citarella: (46:24)
Douglas Lain: (46:24)
Joshua Citarella: (46:25)
Wait, I was gonna, I was gonna ask you, um, where should I send the invoice for all of these memes we've been making?
Douglas Lain: (46:30)
Joshua Citarella: (46:32)
I don't know if you, I don't know if you've seen, but our discord has produced probably a hundred Capitalist Realism memes in the last year.
Douglas Lain: (46:38)
Yeah (laughs). Yeah.
Joshua Citarella: (46:39)
So I'm, I'm sure, I'm sure that's, what's selling all the books. It's not that it's a great text and it's very popular ready. It was the meme bootstrapping that really did it.
Douglas Lain: (46:48)
Yeah. I'm sure it is. And what you should do is send that bill to the Fisher estate.
Joshua Citarella: (46:53)
Douglas Lain: (46:54)
Uh, uh, um, no, I, I, uh, so I am big fan of that book and it, it, you know, the thing about Fisher's Capitalist Realism from my perspective is that as a book it's worth reading, it's definitely got a lot of, uh, interesting ideas and it was critically important, but as a meme it's even better.
Joshua Citarella: (47:13)
Douglas Lain: (47:15)
Um, and, and (laughs) and that, what I mean by that is capitalist realism, the phrase, capitalist realism, the idea, it really can just lead to any, into any kind of ant- anticapitalist propaganda you wanna make. And so I find referring to Capitalist Realism at the beginning of the video and then talking about whatever project is on my mind is really easy. I don't have to sit down-
Joshua Citarella: (47:40)
Douglas Lain: (47:41)
... and reread Capitalist Realism and represent, uh, his ideas when I, when I talk about capitalist realism. And that's also why I think the book is so successful. It's because it is a meme. It is, you, you can't pick it up and it, and it reflects a general attitude rather than a very, very specific critique.
Joshua Citarella: (48:05)
Douglas Lain: (48:05)
But I, I think the, the real book of his, I think, uh, develops capitalist realism in a way that's deeper and, and, and really more useful possibly overall is, Ghosts of My Life, which I think says, um, uh, more about, uh, the static nature of society and all dealing is after Trump. It seemed like Mark Fisher's day might be done too, because he felt like he was talking about this neoliberal moment as permanent. And like something we couldn't break through that we couldn't break from within capitalism, that this was what capitalism was now, was this neoliberal reality. And then Trump came into the picture and the new nationalism came forward and, and, um, the neoliberal order started to disintegrate, but what was making it disintegrate where movements from the right.
Joshua Citarella: (48:51)
Douglas Lain: (48:51)
And so, but in fact, you know, Trump was more of a neoliberal [crosstalk 00:48:57].
Joshua Citarella: (48:59)
He was. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (48:59)
... than, than anyone thought he would be and Biden is back, you know Obama is back in a way and neoliberalism is back. Um, so-
Joshua Citarella: (49:06)
Well, let's not, let's not.
Douglas Lain: (49:07)
I think [crosstalk 00:49:07]. Unfortunately Fisher is gonna keep being relevant (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (49:09)
(laughs), unfortunately. Unfort- Yeah, yeah that's funny. Um, I mean, I think, uh, I wouldn't, I wouldn't count, uh, our neoliberal chickens before they hatch, so to speak. I think that, um, four years from now, or three years of nine months or whatever it happens to be, uh, we could be in a horrific situation in the, you know, the, the neofederated patchwork of, uh, Tucker Swanson Inc, or something like that. And, uh, people will be like, oh yeah, we are definitely not neoliberalism anymore. Um, yeah, in terms of, uh, Ghost of My Life Fisher works on a level where you're able to take this affective cultural layer and then kind of lift up the veil for, for a moment.
Douglas Lain: (49:49)
Joshua Citarella: (49:49)
Um, and it's, it's a very effective on-ramp and I think that's why the meme is so successful as well, especially in the context of counter messaging that I've sent the book to a number of very right-leaning young men who read it and they're like, oh, this guy is totally right. He's really, he's based, he's sick, you know.
Douglas Lain: (50:06)
Joshua Citarella: (50:06)
Uh, so they're, they're very much into it. And it's, um, it has the, this rare ability that is able to refine a sentiment into a political critique, which is, uh, seemingly very simple, but it's actually quite rare.
Douglas Lain: (50:19)
Yeah. I think that you're absolutely right. And that, and that's, that's another thing that I hope that the Zero Books brand overall occasionally is able to replicate that we are able to like, um, work on the level of both affective kind of cultural significance and then get to a critique from that. And that, uh, the impression I want people that encountered the channel for the first time to have is that this is a group of people. This is a channel that's putting forward irreverent, but maybe a little heady content that, uh, but we're not gonna be scolding anyone.
Joshua Citarella: (50:56)
Douglas Lain: (50:57)
Right. And then after that, it's like, then, then I want people to walk away saying, oh, wow. The world I'm living in is riven with problems that have never quite been overcome that, from the inception of modernity, we've had this struggle to transcend capital, to transcend their own, their own terms of our society. And when I'm participating in that critique, I'm not just being, you know, a guy who says, "Fuck you, dad." You know.
Joshua Citarella: (51:27)
(laughs). Right. It's your idea.
Douglas Lain: (51:28)
Joshua Citarella: (51:28)
Douglas Lain: (51:28)
You know, I, I, I can actually say, "Hey dad, I understand what you're going through, but you didn't get there." Looks, let me look at, you know, do an eminent critique. Let me see what dad was trying to do and do it better. That's the way to really kill the fathers but to, to overcome-
Joshua Citarella: (51:43)
(laughs). [crosstalk 00:51:44]. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm glad we're gonna end on a note that, um, Marxism is about being at your dad and having blue hair and uh, septum piercing or something like that.
Douglas Lain: (51:55)
No, it's not, it's not about that. [crosstalk 00:51:57].
Joshua Citarella: (51:55)
Douglas Lain: (51:58)
You can, you cannot be mad at your dad and still be a Marxist, and my own son, I hope (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (52:03)
Douglas Lain: (52:06)
I'm knocking on steel instead of what, but, uh, is that, it is an, is an example. I mean, I was dragged to a park in Portland where the Pacific Northwest co- uh, communist group was meeting for the first time. And it was being organized by my kid. And there was a bunch of people, there were all in there. A bunch of white guys mostly, there were some other races there too, but there were mostly white guys, definitely all guys, um, uh, showing up to stand under a, a canopy in the park while it was raining and discuss the future of their communist reading group in Portland. And I looked around and said, "The- these are Zero Books, readers, and viewers. This is exactly, we're-
Joshua Citarella: (52:44)
Douglas Lain: (52:45)
... waiting (laughs).
Joshua Citarella: (52:47)
I feel like I follow [crosstalk 00:52:47]. a dozen of them on politigram.
Douglas Lain: (52:49)
Joshua Citarella: (52:49)
Douglas Lain: (52:50)
Joshua Citarella: (52:51)
Um, let me ask you, because we're, we're almost at the time here.
Douglas Lain: (52:53)
Joshua Citarella: (52:53)
Um, do you have any, uh, future upcoming content that you wanna plug? Any, anything to throw out there before we sign off?
Douglas Lain: (53:02)
Well, I, Okay. When will this be coming out?
Joshua Citarella: (53:06)
I'm gonna take probably, uh, two weeks to do due diligence on what numbers we can publicize. Probably put it out on the, maybe the first, um, yeah.
Douglas Lain: (53:17)
Okay. Well, okay. Well, there's someone who I've been working with. Who's probably gonna, who's definitely writing a book for us, who I haven't made any official announcement about. You know, he told me that he'd had me, have the first chapter to me by the end of February and that we can make an announcement then. I figured the beginning of April is long enough that I'm going to go ahead and say, "Matt Christman is gonna be writing a book for Zero Books. Is gonna be called The Hold of Fail Horse. So you're getting a scoop. And if, and if, if it comes up before, we've actually officially announced and before I've gotten everything from Matt. Well, so be it.
Douglas Lain: (53:52)
Um, but that's, that's a big deal for us. I, uh, I'm a big fan of Matt Christman I, I'm a fan of Chapo. Uh, the other thing is that I think eventually, maybe starting in April, I really wanna focus on the grundrisse, uh, and do a series of videos, um, about the ideas that would be in, in Marx's grundrisse, and, um, uh, grundrisse. Uh, I I'm terrible. Uh, I, I read these things and I have to, before I do the videos, I have to try to learn how to pronounce things [crosstalk 00:54:23].
Joshua Citarella: (54:22)
It's... (laughs). It's a good barometer for how, um, how much of a nerd someone is of like-
Douglas Lain: (54:28)
Joshua Citarella: (54:29)
If you say Walter Benjamin or Vaulter Benjamin, like-
Douglas Lain: (54:34)
Joshua Citarella: (54:34)
Like mean like the fucking Benjamin people know, know. Get out of here.
Douglas Lain: (54:37)
No I'm not, I'm not one of those. Um, so in any case, I wanna do a deep dive into political economy or continue it and develop it. So the YouTube videos that I'll be creating will most likely if I do what I am planning, have that, that aspect to them. And we're working overall on making the channel more accessible as an explainer channel and less reliant on a long form interviews. Not that we're gonna get rid of all the interviews, but we want to create content that, uh, explains the left to new viewers. And also great thing about creating that kind of content is that it makes the people who are producing the content, rethink their own positions and clarify those questions for themselves.
Douglas Lain: (55:22)
So that's, um, something that, uh, we, we should be doing in the, in the months ahead. And of course, if I can, I'll try to get back on Cum Town again.
Joshua Citarella: (55:31)
Douglas Lain: (55:32)
Joshua Citarella: (55:34)
That's a nice way to think about it. That's, um, there's, what I imagine is like a small group of Gen X people rethinking, um, their experience with the left and then kind of passing it onto to, to younger viewers and, uh, yeah, maybe people like me who never made it to grad school. I was rejected from three grad schools, by the way, just-
Douglas Lain: (55:52)
Joshua Citarella: (55:52)
... just, yeah. So as [crosstalk 00:55:54]. And they, they were all like MFA, so.
Douglas Lain: (55:56)
We're Millennials and Gen X.
Joshua Citarella: (55:58)
Douglas Lain: (55:58)
Uh, at Zero Books. We've got two Millennials now and two Gen Xers. So Derek Martin and myself were the spectrum of Gen Xers and then Ashley Frawley and, and Jean Babylon are the two Millennials. But I wish I get a zoomer on staff. And I'm sorry to hear you were rejected from grad students, grad school, which, which ones were you rejected?
Joshua Citarella: (56:18)
Don't, uh, don't, don't worry about them. I'm doing better than all of them. And, uh, a lot of them knew my name when I went to interview. And I've, uh, uh, I'm certainly not, butt hurt about it at all. As you can tell from the tone of my voice. Um, yeah, I was rejected from, uh, the MFA program at Yale, at Columbia and at Bard, which are, you know-
Douglas Lain: (56:35)
Joshua Citarella: (56:35)
... the best MFA programs you could go to.
Douglas Lain: (56:37)
If you're gonna be rejected somewhere, that that would, you know, those are the places-
Joshua Citarella: (56:40)
Douglas Lain: (56:40)
Joshua Citarella: (56:43)
Yeah. Yeah. Anyway. Anyway sorry, this is, this is not about uh, it's not about me. It's not a therapy session here. Um-
Douglas Lain: (56:47)
In the late nineties. I applied to and got accepted into the New School's, um, MFA program in creative writing. And oh, by the way you told me at the outset that you were a fan of my writing, what have you read? I just wanna touch that.
Joshua Citarella: (56:59)
Bash Bash Revolution.
Douglas Lain: (57:01)
Yap. Right behind me. Ya.
Joshua Citarella: (57:02)
Douglas Lain: (57:02)
Um, so, uh, yeah, so I got into the New School's, MFA program, creative writing, but didn't go because I already had two kids at that point and moving to New York with a family-
Joshua Citarella: (57:14)
Douglas Lain: (57:14)
Uh, and going to the New School when I didn't have any financial aid or anything was just beyond me. But, um, so yeah, there are different ways of getting rejected. You can get accepted and rejected at the same time, which, uh... But I've always regretted not going to the New School because, um, you know, it has a pretty good reputation on all that, on the left, particularly.
Joshua Citarella: (57:33)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I guess the, I, the idea is to fail up and, um, yeah, yeah. Make your own way [crosstalk 00:57:41] outside of the institution. Yeah.
Douglas Lain: (57:42)
[crosstalk 00:57:42]. I immediately sold my first short story after deciding not to go to the new school. Right, so, so-
Joshua Citarella: (57:47)
Douglas Lain: (57:47)
... my first professional sort of story. It sounds like you got rejected from Yale, but now soon enough, you're gonna create your own digital version of that institution online.
Joshua Citarella: (57:55)
Douglas Lain: (57:57)
[crosstalk 00:57:57] and figure out how to be not be shadowbanned.
Joshua Citarella: (58:00)
(laughs) Ideally, ideally.