YouTube is probably the greatest anthropological project ever launched. It has managed to expose the multitudes of the human condition more than any other medium ever created, and allowed people to express themselves in more diverse ways than at any point in history. This weekly column is an outlet for me to share with you some undiscovered gems, as well some very well-trodden gems, and discuss just what it is that makes the chosen accounts so intriguing.
WHAT: Compilation videos of confrontation and anger.
HOW MANY SUBSCRIBERS AT TIME OF WRITING: 87,394
WHY SHOULD I CARE: Unlike most of the channels featured on this column, HateNation is much of a muchness. It is nothing special. It's hasn't even been going for very long – it started in October 2015. Yet in that short time it has amassed almost 100,000 subscribers, the first great milestone of any YouTube channel's career. But what is it? To put it simply, it is videos of people getting into arguments.
I used to frequently visit a website called WorldStarHipHop, but I had to stop because the constant imagery of people getting their heads stamped on made me sad in my heart. It really was just a barrage of shirtless kids in dusty ochre parks in sunburnt areas of America battering the shit out of each other, not knowing when to stop. But it was addictive viewing. It gives you a kind of hot, prickly thrill to watch someone get punched in the face so hard that they're incapable of standing. You get it from any kind of confrontation, really – it doesn't have to end in a bloody nose and a delirious search for the nervous system. This is where HateNation does it well.
Angry neighbours, angry exes, angry neighbours second edition, bikers versus angry people – it's all semi-unjustifiable rage levelled at people who are kind of just trying to get on with it (aside from the golfers, who are being justifiably trolled into incandescence). They all, of course, hate being filmed. No one likes being filmed. The silhouette of someone holding a their phone camera up is one of the most irritating things about modern times. Ever seen a photo of someone taking a selfie? Or seen footage of people filming something en masse? It's maddening. Worse if you're the subject. But it's good to capture these moments, because when you're in them you're transported to another dimension, your brain changes modes.
It's a little of that frisson of rage that makes people watch these things; the shortness of breath, the sweaty pangs, the instantaneous moralising, the wish to step in, to be the hero. They make us want to get involved, have a slanging match, to get angry. But being angry all the time isn't healthy, and neither is watching video after video of the worst of human nature. Yet it is so moreish. You can fall into a hole of watching 'karma/instant justice' videos, men trying to rob handbags and getting run over, someone trying to diffuse a fight and ending up winning it. It plays into our most basal instincts, like watching a soap populated by cavemen.
Even the horrid name, 'HateNation', in block capitals as a watermark on all of its depressingly toothsome videos, is indicative of our collective desire to watch things burn. To watch people blow up, spray the camera with spittle, to lunge and leer forward. It's the realest form of reality TV, visceral capsules of anonymous pugilism, and I can't get enough.
Much like my teen obsession with death and murder, I need to wean myself off these confrontational videos. They're bad for me. They're bad for you. But they're important to observe from an anthropological perspective. What makes people switch? How can we prevent ourselves from bum-fighting each other into extinction? Perhaps it starts with observing why old men get so upset when kids skateboard near them, or drive motocross bikes around their houses, or really do anything that isn't preparing them a throne of sudoku puzzles and tapioca. It's the tiny divide between old and young that seems to be the wellspring of most of these. You don't see a lot of 30 year-olds in the videos. Maybe that's the sweet spot of life. Not young enough to be bolshy and irate all day, not old enough to have complaints coming out of every orifice. Jehovah's Witnesses believe people reach their mental and physical peak at 30, they age they will stay in the paradise. Maybe they're onto something.
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