Stoic Punk or: Why You Should Stop Giving a Shit About YouTube Comments

Tomorrow’s events:

  • Where is God Now? Fugitivity as a Theo-Politics of Encounter in Times of Trouble w/ Bayo Akomolafe. September 8th. 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • Using Street Epistemology During Culture War 2.0 w/ Anthony Magnabosco. September 8th, 2020 @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • How to be a Metamodern “Thought Leader” wtf w/ Jason Fox. September 8th @ 8:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

Newly posted events:

  • Raw Mortality w/ Cody Taft, Isaias Ardaya, and Manus Duplessis. September 13th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • Conscious of Selfish Genes and Meme Machines w/ Susan Blackmore. September 24th @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • Liberating Structures w/ Keith McCandless. October 1st @ 8:00 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • Concept Unfolding w/ Nicolas Benjamin. October 6th @ 6:30 PM ET. RSVP here.

  • The Dark Stoa: Weaponized Witches w/ Patrick Ryan. October 30th @ 8:30 PM ET. RSVP here.

An event to get excited about:

  • Post-Script: Toxic Masculinity? w/ Buster Benson and Jon Davis (War Elephant). September 14th @ 6:30 PM ET. RSVP by clicking the image below.

The Stoa and Letter continue their collaboration with the Post-Script series!

Select letter exchanges that happen on Letter will have live follow-up conversations via The Stoa. On September 14th Buster Benson and Jon Davis from War Elephant will have a discussion on toxic masculinity. Here is there original exchange:


September 7th, 2020

I am going to invite Nassim Nicholas Taleb to The Stoa. He is my kind of Stoic and I sense I would vibe with him. I wrote about “Talebian Stoicism” in a previous entry. The argument I made there is that Taleb’s ostensible asshole game should be reframed as a gift. The gift you get is the opportunity to practice your Stoicism. 

If you do not accept the gift for what it is, and take it personally and get triggered, then to use Talebian speak: you are a loser in virtue. Yeah, I know, this is probably stretching it and I am being maximally charitable here. Feeling into his asshole game though, he does not strike me as cruel-hearted, like Steve Jobs' asshole game reportedly was. Nassim strikes me as a deeply honorable guy. 

He obviously gets peeved at people. One thing which peeves me is people complaining about things that seem silly to complain about, like my decision to disable comments for The Stoa’s YouTube channel. Maybe I should not get peeved by this though. I will process my peevishness here, and I will state my position on why I disabled the comments, but I will apply the “principle of charity” first and write about the benefits I perceive of having them enabled.

Enabling YouTube comments gives people a sense if they should watch the video or not. I am told a habit people have is scrolling down to see the comments first, in order to see if the video is worth watching. The other benefit is that it gives people the opportunity to share their thoughts. Some people cannot make the live sessions, or do not want to make them, but still want to be engaged in the content. 

The theme I see here: make the videos more accessible, which in turn helps more people view them. A win-win situation, right? I do care about accessibility issues, but I do not care about what seems to be (and this is where I stop being charitable) entitled online consumerist behaviour. Stoicism is not about making things extra easy for you. I will launch into that rant in a moment but I will first explain my position as to why the comments are disabled.

The first point has to do with the culture war. I see no other platform having the full-spectrum of memetic tribes being represented. Most platforms seem to interview thinkers within the same ecology of thought. Audience capture is probably the reason for this: the phenomenon where the platform or personality evolves to become what their audience likes, which in turn influences guest selection. 

I am attempting to do something different here, and I am trying not to chase after the likes. As you can see from past guests and upcoming ones, they are all over the political and philosophical spectrum. We got some wild names nobody else would touch. John Zerzan, anarchist and primitivist ecophilosopher, and former confidant of Ted Kaczynski himself, is visiting the day after Alexandr Dugin, who has been labelled as a Russian ultranationalist, and “Putin’s brain.” Now that is pretty fucking wild. 

Culture war noise usually happens in asymmetrical communicative channels such as YouTube, and for whatever reason YouTube comments get especially nasty. All these different memetic tribalists will be drawn to the same YouTube channel and they will see their sworn ideological enemies there. That is asking for culture war noise. Disabling the comments helps prevent that.

The second point has to do with the “broken window theory.” For the first couple of videos I posted on YouTube I left the comments enabled. Right away bots started commenting, and people started saying nasty things about guests. I know people who run popular YouTube channels, and they put a lot of effort into pruning their comments to get rid of things like this. 

If the comments were enabled and I did not prune them, the essence of the broken window theory would come true: signs of bad behaviour will encourage further bad behaviour. Disabling the comments helps prevent that. 

The last point has to do with the mystery. I wrote about the minimum viable spectacle approach before and it feels like I wrote the following a hundred times already, but I have a desire to write it again: The Stoa is not a fucking YouTube channel. I want to give the bare minimum memetic artifacts I need to give to the spectacle, to encourage viewers—the ones who are called by the mystery of this place—to be called away from their consumerist ways, and actually visit.

So that’s that. There is another thing going on here though, and I will refer to it as being Stoic Punk. The Stoa has been having wonderful people support it through their effort, either through our current facilitators or “Sensemakers in Residence,” but on the administrative side, this is still mainly a one-man operation.

I am not a marketer, or a video or podcast editor, or a customer service representative. Given this, you are going to get shitty audio quality, or spelling mistakes on the website, or lamely written event descriptions, or worse, mistakes in actual event times. This is what being Stoic Punk is all about: giving you the opportunity to practice your Stoicism.

The trade-off for this sloppiness is volume, and experiential value. The Stoa is providing an incredible amount of volume, and the focus here is on the live experience, of being in The Stoa itself, which is not the same as watching or listening to a session. Having low production value for the spectacle, almost as a form of anti-marketing, makes it inconvenient to “the consumers,” which filters them out.

Now I love sister platforms like Rebel Wisdom and Future Thinkers, they have great content and run a very slick operation. In contrast, The Stoa is not about running a slick operation, at least not at the moment. It is better to think of The Stoa as their scrappy brother, who has some of that fuck you thumos, and who hornily flirts with all the memetic tribes. The Stoa may not have the subscription metrics as some of these platforms, but I have no issue in pulling the same caliber of guests. 

People have been telling me that they “feel” something is different with The Stoa, and this is the feeling I am betting on. I am betting on you feeling into the daemonic energy going on here, which is the same energy that comes online when you feel most alive, because this is exactly where life is. 

While I am happy to be your Stoic Daddy, I am not here to paternalistically guide your experience, and nudge you towards a storyline. I am discovering the story with you, word by word.


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