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We’ll call it “Youtube Madness.” It’s a malady you’ve seen before if you’ve spent any time on this video-sharing site. With smartphones now dominant in the market and wireless Internet connections more available than ever before, documenting your life in 15 minute increments is a conceit as close as the wireless device in your pocket or purse. The phenomenon of the “viral video” – in which a particularly interesting, funny, horrifying, or otherwise noteworthy video clip mints online celebrities – is one outgrowth of this accessibility to widely propagated, user-created video content. YouTube Madness is another.

YouTube Madness is a function of the ability to publish and disseminate your opinions. Because YouTube is a video site, literacy is not a requirement. The individual need only talk into the soulless eye of a webcam, sharing his inner wackdoodle with whomever stumbles across his uploads. Once, the madmen among us were reduced to printing tracts or self-publishing books. Today anyone can have a book published and made available at online bookseller sites. A few years ago, these folks had to pay large sums of money for “vanity press” publishers to print and bind their books, whereupon the unstable authors were given large boxes of books to keep in their garages and sell from the trunks of their cars.

Completely unhinged people live and work among us. Have you ever heard of David Icke? Mr. Icke has written and published an entire series of widely available books detailing the secret conspiracy to rule and run planet Earth by reptilian aliens who (apparently) live at the core of our world. No part of that is made up. Books like Icke’s are published by and referenced countless times every night “Coast to Coast” is on the air. If you’ve never tuned into this popular call-in radio show, you’ve no real understanding of how much untreated mental illness pervades our society.

Callers to the program speak blithely of the many times they’ve been abducted by aliens, of taking part in conspiracies to traffic drugs into the United States as part of covert CIA operations, of ancient prophecies they are convinced signify the end of the world – and anything in between or in the periphery of this insanity. Listen to this show and you will realize that many of your neighbors simply are not right in the head. Do a little digging and you’ll find that many of them have YouTube channels.

How many of them, do you suppose, are dangerous?

Just as you’ve probably never considered the crazy people in your neighborhood, you probably haven’t stopped to consider how many of them might commit murder. Yes, once in a while, one of these monsters among us will actually get to the point of realizing his innermost demons. Mass stabbings, mass shootings and other acts of violence are frequently the result. When the police analyze the social media accounts of the perpetrators – often long after civilians have found, copied, screen-captured and otherwise uploaded images from these same accounts – it is no surprise to anyone that such people have uploaded multiple vague threats and references to violence.

The forensics of crazy people have changed considerably as we’ve taken the Internet for granted in our daily lives. Where once we might find a diary or a Unabomber-like manifesto scribbled in notebooks left behind by a deranged lunatic, we now need look no farther than their Facebook walls. On occasion, the lunatics even update their social media status while engaged in violent crimes. Can the live-tweeting of a mass shooting be far behind?

One of the areas of conceit that is particularly conducive to YouTube Madness is martial arts. You probably know that it is possible to earn a rank, such as a black belt or an instructor certification, from a reputable instructor. You may not know that a great many people use YouTube to manufacture identities for themselves as martial artists. They invent schools. They invent ranks. They go on YouTube and film themselves performing techniques badly, building their fantasy world, counting on the viewer’s ignorance and loudly denouncing or blocking any criticism they receive.

As the body of their video library grows, so grows the degree to which they themselves believe the identities they have created. YouTube has, in fact, several self-made martial arts celebrities, the credentials of whom don’t withstand critical analysis. Yet the “martial artists” in question continue unimpeded.

Some of these people have snapped. Some of them will eventually spiral so deeply into their madness that they commit violent crimes … and then doubtless chronicle their legal troubles on YouTube.

Surely it is insanity, it is madness, to go online and demonstrate self-defense techniques you are performing poorly or that you have made up yourself. Clearly it is madness to proclaim yourself a teacher, a “black belt,” or any other person of distinction when you have not earned such credentials. Without question it shows a deranged disregard for the well-being of any who might emulate you when you claim to be someone you are not – while imparting methods that could get someone hurt or killed in a real-life physical altercation.

Is murder at the hands of such a person unthinkable?

There are hundreds, thousands, of these madmen across YouTube. You will find them in every field of human endeavor, from martial arts to scrapbooking, from auto repair to gourmet cooking, from art to music to literary criticism to philosophy and politics. No matter the subject, somewhere on YouTube there is a large body of fakes, frauds and freaks who, no matter how deranged they seem, no matter how disheveled they look, no matter how unconvincing their performances are, nonetheless have subscribers and followers, friends and allies. The most insane and absurd of the YouTube madmen form little support groups and speak out in support of each other. And that is the lesson, the caveat emptor that applies to all consumption of publicly uploaded video:

There is no stopping the networking of like minds, even when those minds are cracked.

 

 

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