The ads promising "no hidden agendas" and "pure American journalism" are brought to you by a pro-Trump, Chinese cult
Have you seen the weirdest ads on YouTube?
No, not those awful soap commercials, where the guy gets gakked with green goo, or even the "What does it take to be a Shen Yun dancer?" ads (though we'll get there…). No, the weirdest, most upsetting ads on Youtube are the ads for the Epoch Times promoting conspiracy theories and conservative propaganda.
If you watch political content on YouTube—and especially if you clicked on some faux-conservative parody videos on April Fool's (God help me…)—you've probably seen a lot of these videos starring a bookish, business casual, politically-engaged all-American man...but with a slight Slavic accent. He praises Trump, attacks Hillary Clinton, and schools his girlfriend about the timeline of the coronavirus all while promoting a great deal on a monthly subscription. Best of all, he promises that The Epoch Times can tell you "what's really happening, without any spin, no hidden agendas, and no false narratives."
Epoch Times Promo www.youtube.com
The ads are directly targeted at your pro-Trump uncle who thinks of himself as an intellectual but gets all his information from Facebook. In fact Epoch Times was one of the key promoters of Donald Trump on Zuckerberg's platform, until their ads for "Pure American Journalism" were banned last summer for violating Facebook's transparency rules. But what makes these ads so weird (other than the fact that the newspaper is distributed for free in major cities) is that your uncle would never suspect that his new favorite "unbiased" news source is a propaganda wing of the Falun Gong cult.
Founded by Li Hongzhi in China in 1992, Falun Gong—also known as Falun Dafa—involves a set of spiritual beliefs and physical exercises closely linked to Taoism and Buddhism but with some added bonuses. For a start, their reclusive leader Li Hongzhi claims he can levitate, turn invisible, and walk through walls. He lives on a secure compound in upstate New York and promises that aliens walk among us and the end times are imminent—that all communists will soon be going to hell. So, that's fun.
The organization is also behind media company The BL and Shen Yun, the performing arts group that puts on epic dance performances recounting Chinese history (from the cult's perspective). Shen Yun also had a prominent place in YouTube ads before live performances were shut down—which may be why the Epoch Times has taken over in recent months. While there is no official affiliation between the Epoch Times and Falun Gong, their ties are well documented, and the source for "Pure American Journalism" relies largely on a network of dissident writers within China—which actually sounds cool until you find out about the whole cult thing.
Considered by the Chinese government to be one of the Five Poisons—the primary threats to their societal control—the cult grew rapidly in China throughout the 90s until the ruling Communist Party decided to crack down on them in 1999. Since that time Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted and imprisoned within China's borders, and there is evidence that hundreds of thousands of them may have been killed to supply China's unrivaled organ transplant system—with wait times measured in days rather than months.
Epoch Times Promotion 2020 www.youtube.com
Given the horror of this real-life organ harvesting conspiracy, it may not be surprising that the cult's newspaper—founded shortly after the persecution began—has fully embraced wild conspiracy theories, including QAnon, "Spygate," anti-vaccination propaganda, and most recently "The Mysterious Origins of the CCP Virus" (AKA COVID-19). And given the fact that the teachings of Falun Gong include the idea that homosexual acts are sinful and that heaven is divided by ethnicity...it honestly makes perfect sense that they have chosen to align themselves with far-right ideologies in Europe and America. They are counting on politicians like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen to go to war with the communists in China and bring on armageddon.
With the way things have been moving lately—with Donald Trump and many of his followers adopting wild anti-China conspiracy theories—they might just get what they want.
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
25 years ago, pop stars and rappers were were expected to stay in their respective lanes. But Mariah Carey proved that hip-hop and pop were a match made in heaven—changing popular music as we know it.
Hip-Hop is pop—not in sound, but rather in terms of influence and authority.
Certainly pure pop—pasteurized and whipped into its ultimate peak in the early 2010s—is still breathing, though despite its name, the genre's reign as the chieftain of popular music has ended.
Drake and Bad Bunny are as much of pop stars in 2020 as Carly Rae Jepsen and Kesha were in 2012. Spotify reports that, at this very moment, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" is the most-streamed song in the United States. Immediately following that is trap-pop cut "Mood," a TikTok-famous summer bop by 24kGoldn and Iann Dior, two of many rising zoomer rappers who have embraced Hip-Hop's guidance in most melodic forms, like trap-pop, emo rap, alternative hip-hop, and pop-rap. And if that's not enough to give Hip-Hop a throne, Nielsen Music has confirmed that eight of the top 10 artists of 2020 so far are, of course, rappers.