Culture Feature

15 Years Since Its First Video: How YouTube Has Changed (for the Worse)

The platform has shifted dramatically from its humble, open origins

On April 23rd, 2005, YouTube Co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the very first video to the fledgling platform.

An 18-second clip of the young entrepreneur entitled "Me at the Zoo," the video is short, simple, unfocused, and innocent—like most of YouTube's content in its early days. As mundane as it is, its value as an artifact of online culture has garnered it over 90 million views to date.

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In the 1930s radio had been around for a few decades, but it was only just becoming commonplace, and it was still an exciting new technology that was rapidly connecting the world and contributing to social and political change. In the US, radio was defining President Roosevelt's man-of-the-people image, with his inviting and personable fireside chats. In Europe, however, radio's effect was amplifying a much more virulent form of populism.


hitler and mussolini


Fascism was finding its voice. The blended pride and humiliation of national ego, and the simultaneously mocking and fearful portrayal of the weak and terrifying other, were tapping into impulses that were deeply human and capable of immeasurable cruelty. But by the 1950s, the world had adapted to its new interconnectedness, and it seemed certain that we had left true fascism behind for good. It wasn't until recently, with a new technology to connect us more than ever, that the cycle returned and society began finding its way back to those ancient and ruinous tribal divisions around the world.

This is the what comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his portrayal of Borat in the film of the same name, and for his cutting political series Who Is America?, was speaking to on Thursday night. He was giving a speech at the Anti Defamation League's International Leadership summit, when he said that "all this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history."

borat joke


The incredible communicative power of the Internet has the potential to unite us with the kind of populism that brought us the New Deal—or indeed the Green New Deal—or to divide us with a new era of fascism and hate. If CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Jack Dorsey are unable or unwilling to face the tremendous responsibility this power places on their shoulders, we must either wrench this power from them through any regulatory means at our disposal, or face devastation that may well exceed the ravages of World War II.

Culture News

"Macaulay Culkin" is Macaulay Culkin's New Middle Name

After polling fans on his website bunnyears, the actor announced "Macaulay Culkin" beat out "Publicity Stunt" as his new legal middle name.

"Macauley Culkin" is Macauley Culkin's soon-to-be middle name.

On Christmas Day, the actor took to Twitter (his handle is @IncredibleCulk) to announce the winner of a contest in which he'd invited his fans to vote for his new legal name: "My new middle name has been chosen. You voted and the winner is clear. In 2019 my new legal name will be: Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin. It has a nice ring to it (if you like my name)."

The contest was run on the actor's website, which he describes as a hybrid of Goop and The Onion: bunnyears: Macaulay Culkin's gentle internet hug. The post reads: "My middle name is something dumb. Larry? Orange? Honestly, I can't even remember it. So I asked you all to send in some better options so I can go down to the courthouse and explain to a judge why I need to change my middle name to something cool."

bunnyears


After what appear to be over a hundred thousand votes (which on Culkin's tongue-in-cheek website could be arbitrary estimates), he appeared on Jimmy Fallon to announce the five finalists: Shark Week (which he's never seen), Kieran (which his brother, Kieran, suggested), The McRib Is Back (excellent), and Publicity Stunt (far too meta). He vowed that he was "seriously" going to change his name, promising Fallon he'd return to show him his new ID.

When Fallon asked his thoughts about "Macaulay Culkin" as an option, the actor imagined the perfect scenario, telling Fallon, "So if somebody comes up to me at the airport and says, 'Excuse me, are you Macaulay Culkin?' I go, 'Well, Macaulay Culkin is my middle name.'"

Culkin is well-acquainted with publicity stunts, though it might be more accurate to say that he mocks publicity stunts by being so overt about them. For instance, in a wildly successful Google commercial that debuted less than a week before Culkin's Twitter announcement, the 38-year-old actor reprised his role as 10-year-old Kevin McCallister. The one-minute long commercial re-enacts iconic moments from Home Alone if Kevin had Google Assistant at his disposal.

Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant youtu.be

In an appearance on Ellen earlier this year, he told Degeneres how as an adult he's thankful for his early work, stating, "I felt like some kid worked really really hard and I inherited all of his money...It allows me to treat everything like a hobby." He announced the launch of his podcast Bunny Ears, in which he and a co-host "talk about things, and stuff, and stuff," all saturated with the same irreverent tone used on his website cheeky enough to ask fans to re-name him.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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