Just a quick warning: this video contains
lots of footage of a guy getting hurt by various animals. If that sounds distressing to you,
feel free to skip it. Reading Ayn Rand: Huh, I thought people with
disabilities did deserve rights, but it turns out they– Hello! This video is probably a mistake. Section 1: Introduction – A puppy that nobody
loves There’s this YouTuber called Coyote Peterson,
and I’d like to talk about him for a bit – so I will. I mean, it’s my video. So yeah [GROSS MOUTH SOUND] who is Coyote Peterson and
what does he do? Well, he’s a nature filmmaker who travels from
place to place making videos about creatures that he finds interesting, and occasionally,
as part of ongoing series, he gets stung, bitten, or pinched by bugs, fish, crustaceans
and other creatures people usually avoid for exactly that reason.
I’d like to state before I start that I really like Coyote. I think he’s great.
His enthusiasm is infectious and he really knows his stuff and it just comes across that
he really loves animals and bugs and nature. He has fun catchphrases and he doesn’t swear
or get mad even when he’s in pain. I first discovered Coyote with his video STUNG by a COW KILLER! literally an hour after reading news about Cow Killer Ants, because it was
suggested to me, because of the algorithm (praise the algorithm). The video begins with
him holding a Cow Killer or Velvet Ant, which is actually a flightless wasp apparently,
close to his arm using forceps and then getting stung. It immediately flashes back to show
the buildup to the sting. Enter Coyote’s first catchphrase: “I’m Coyote Peterson
and I’m about to enter the sting zone with the Velvet Ant”. What follows can only be
described as the purest form of entertainment. A grown man is shaking and writhing in pain
while saying things like “Oh my gosh guys this is super bad” and “Oh wow, Oh wow
okay” and otherwise trying to relate the experience live to the audience, and then
at the end he says this beautiful cheesy outtro line “Be Brave. Stay Wild. I’ll see you
on the next adventure.”
The next video suggested by the algorithm (praise the algorithm) was STUNG by a TARANTULA
HAWK which again, was a bug I had only just been reading about the day before. I had been
reading that a biologist had recommended that should you be stung by a Tarantula Hawk, the
best course of action would be to just “lie down and scream”, so uh, yeah. I do want
to see Coyote Peterson get stung by a Tarantula Hawk wasp. “I’m Coyote Peterson and I’m
about to enter the sting zone with the Tarantula Hawk”. Unsurprisingly enough what Coyote
does after getting stung, is lie down on the ground and scream. “Be Brave. Stay Wild.
And I’ll see you on the next adventure.” I knew I’d been given something magical
and I immediately watched just every Coyote Peterson video I could. I’ve seen Coyote
enter the sting zone, the bite zone, the pinch zone, the chomp zone and the spine zone. I
kept asking out loud “Who is this idiot? Why is he doing this?” I had so many questions.
Who was giving him the money for this? Why would he put himself through this? How had
I never seen this before? Why does he call himself Coyote? A coyote is just a puppy that
nobody loves. Actually, this is kind of apt, because Coyote
is really cute and charming, but if he weren’t kind of annoying too, it would probably be
really hard to watch him get stung and bitten and pinched by all these different creatures.
However, I think there’s something deeper going on here, so I’d like to examine what
exactly is the appeal of Coyote Peterson. You see, after watching what I’ll group
together to call his “pain zone” videos, I went on to watch him rockpooling and finding
a 2ft long enormous black sea slug. I watched him handling an octopus, and then feeding
a galapagos tortoise. Of course I like watching nature documentary content, and Coyote is
really charming and fun, and even though it was a joke I already feel bad for calling
him a puppy that nobody loves, because I love him and clearly so does everybody else. Section 2: Why we want to watch Coyote Peterson
suffer Schadenfreude is such a well-known phenomenon,
that I honestly probably could have satisfactorily written this section by just saying “schadenfreude”.
However, I want to look at this a bit more. Another popular video series I have been suggested
repeatedly is Price Points by Epicurious. In this series, an expert will try to guess
which is the expensive something and which is the cheap something. For example a coffee
expert will try two coffees and tell you which is the expensive coffee and which is the cheap
coffee. Along the way, the expert will explain the processes and inside knowledge of the
product as part of their deduction. Despite the educational content of these videos,
the real appeal is, again, schadenfreude, the pleasure in seeing someone else suffer.
Unlike Coyote, these experts are not suffering physically, but the appeal of the video from
the thumbnail is that they might suffer socially. They will make a claim based on their expertise
and despite their expertise they could be wrong, which would be embarrassing. Neuroscientists
have shown that social pain – such as having your feelings hurt, being embarrassed or being
proven wrong – is processed by the same parts of the brain as physical pain.
The difference between Price Points and Coyote’s “pain zone” videos is that Coyote is making
the videos himself and Epicurious is hosting the experts on. This means that while Coyote
is offering his own suffering as the allure of his content, Epicurious is treating the
experts in a somewhat hostile way, at least in the marketing of the video.
From the point of view of the “pain zone” videos, Coyote is a charming host who for
some reason has decided to get stung and bitten and pinched a lot. He has to be charming because
it’s his content and he wants to be liked. Because of this, you develop attachment to
him as a character over time, and you feel drawn to watch his videos about other things,
videos where he doesn’t get hurt. From the point of view of Price Points however,
the experts are there for two contradictory reasons – to inform and to suffer. The suffering
is the appeal of the video, but the education is the content of the video. I think for me
at least, this is why I like price points less – the experts aren’t set up to be liked,
so I don’t feel an ongoing attachment to the people giving me the information.
The thumbnails of the Price Points series are deliberately put together, in my very,
very professional opinion, to make the experts in the videos look like pretentious dickheads.
This builds them up as characters that we would like to see suffer, and then the premise
of the video introduces the possibility of seeing them suffer social pain.
They are experts, and you know that because the title says so, but if they guess that
edible lube A is more expensive than edible lube B and they’re wrong, they’re going
to suffer and you’re going to enjoy it, and their deep knowledge of what makes a high
quality consumable aphrodysiac lubricant isn’t going to mean shit!
This is where they are similar to Coyote, who has an enormous knowledge of animals,
marine life and insects. He’s an expert (and he dresses just like Crocodile Dundee
so you know that he’s an expert), but if he’s stung by a Tarantula Hawk, that knowledge
isn’t going to do much for him. He’s going to have to lie down on the ground and scream,
just like anybody else. Section 3: Creatures of habit Another reason Coyote Peterson’s videos
have been great to watch is their dependable content. Each video fits the same template
pretty perfectly, and I’ll lay it out for you here. Sorry Coyote, for selling your trade
secrets away. At the start of the video you will see a short
clip of the thing that you came to the video to see, followed by a drumming track played
over an animated title sequence. Next the video cuts back in time either to Coyote talking
to camera or narrating, explaining where he is and what he’s doing. He will give you
some facts about the animal that is the feature of the video and by about two thirds of the
way through you will be brought back to the point you saw at the start. If it is a “sting
zone” video he will mention the “bullet ant challenge” and if it is a “pain zone”
video generally, he will say “I’m Coyote Peterson, and I’m about to enter the [pain]
zone with the [name of animal]”. He’ll then give his reactions to whatever situation
he is in, and then wrap up by saying “Be brave. Stay wild. See you on the next adventure”.
Magic. Another series of videos I’ve really enjoyed
thanks to the algorithm (praise the algorithm) is the Sharpest kitchen knife in the World
series by a channel that I only just found out was called Kiwami Japan while looking
that up, and up until now I’ve just been calling “knife guy”.
In this series, the knife guy makes knives out of various different materials, including
but not limited to kitchen foil, cardboard, wood, rice and jelly – yes, jelly. Even though
the processes for making the knives vary a lot, in a way these videos are even more dependably
repetitive, because at their core only two things happen in every video: Knife guy makes
the knife, and then he cuts things with the knife.
These videos are so appealing, to me at least, because although I love to make stuff, and
watch videos sometimes to learn how to make stuff, I know I will never make any of these
knives. I am not watching these videos to learn, I am watching them to stave off boredom.
They are comforting, and safe, and I know exactly what I am about to see when I click
on Sharpest ice kitchen knife in the world. The appeal of repetitive content can also
be a trap for its creators – repetitive content is comforting and good to half watch, lazily,
in the background. This means that viewers don’t necessarily get invested in the content.
I certainly like knife guy and I’m impressed by him making the sharpest pasta kitchen knife
in the world, but if he got a new job and didn’t produce videos anymore I wouldn’t
be heartbroken. What makes Coyote’s “pain zone” videos
different, despite their formulaic setup, is that they are based around investment in
Coyote as a personality. The more of them you watch, the more you care about Coyote.
In a strangely meta moment, Coyote’s cameraman Mario revealed in one video that he had had
a T-Shirt made that said “Coyote R U OK” because that’s what he said, word for word,
in every single video, right after Coyote entered the sting zone. We are often creatures
of habit, but sometimes those habits can act as feedback loops that drive us in one direction
or another. This is the way that most YouTube personalities build their channels – they
create masses of formulaic content so viewers can get used to them and find them comforting
and safe. The genius of Coyote’s pain zone, is that
investment in his wellbeing, rather than simple tolerance of his existence, is the basic requirement
of watching. After all, schadenfreude may be a powerful draw, but if someone appears
to be really truly suffering, in a lasting sense, the pleasure that can be derived from
it dissipates quickly. In other words, we want to see Coyote suffer just a little bit,
and then we want to ask “Coyote, R U OK?” That said, I don’t think that genius is
entirely intentional, because if it were, it would be a very cynical reading of what
Coyote Peterson is trying to do. I just can’t interpret Coyote that cynically, because every
time I look at him I see a little kid wearing a wide-brimmed leather hat, sitting an inch
away from the TV, watching Steve Irwin or David Attenborough.
So to understand why these videos are made we’re going to have to get right inside
them. We’re going to have to enter the sting zone. Section 4: Entering the sting zone Why would we watch someone put themselves
through pain so excruciating the only advice for it is to “lie down and scream”? Why
would we want to watch that again and again? Is there a reason to watch that beyond sadistic
desire to watch someone suffer? I want to offer a more positive look at this series.
I want to see what we can get out of the Sting Zone which is a bit more positive.
When I see the thumbnail to a Coyote Peterson video – before I’ve seen him get stung – I
want to know what it’s like to get stung by that insect. It’s not like I want to
get stung, but I want to know what it’s like. I have a curiosity, like an itch. I
want to know how bad it would be. Hearing a description isn’t enough, reading about
the biology isn’t enough. For some reason though, seeing Coyote get stung, seeing him
tense up and sometimes yell and use his phenomenally mild swears… yeah that does it. After I
watch one of those videos I’m not curious anymore. There’s no part of me left that
might see a cowkiller ant in the wild and be legitimately stupid enough to think “they
say it’s really painful but how painful is really painful”?
This isn’t just my reading of these videos by the way. Coyote only has one sponsor on
his videos, and it’s a sting pain relief product targeted at Americans who might get
stung by your average yellow-jacket wasp. They didn’t commission the series, they
approached Peterson after he made himself pretty well-known, but it’s honestly pretty
reassuring. If Coyote Peterson says it helps a bit to use that product after he gets stung
by the tarantula hawk, then yeah, I’d probably get that product if I thought I was in danger
of yellow-jacket stings. I like it as well because the only thing I’ve
advertised in my videos so far is Fidgeters, the fidget toys I make myself at home, and
I only ever intend to advertise things that I’ve made. I find Coyote advertising sting
relief not too far from that. Even before he got the sponsor though, Coyote
Peterson included in these videos a level of educational content and advice that is
really valuable. He says in almost every video that these insects only attack if they’re
aggravated, and that if you see one in the wild, you should just “admire it from a
safe distance”. I think that’s another way those videos
are better than other kinds of obvious, repetitive media like them. Coyote is educating people.
He’s showing people why they don’t want to get stung by these insects, what they can
do if they are, and letting them know they probably won’t if they aren’t massive
jerks. Section 5: Carl Carl, if you’re watching this, thanks for
watching 4 sections of hardcore Coyote Peterson analysis. I know you don’t have the best
patience for YouTube videos, so it means a lot to me that you stuck it out to the end,
champ. On July 13th this year, Donald Trump, the
billionaire that lots of white people in America voted for in order to protect against corporate
interest in politics, visited the UK. His visit was protested by over 100,000 people
in London alone, and more across the country. Two of those protesters were us, myself and
Natalie. Now it’s time to introduce a new character
to the story. Also at the protest was Sargon of Akkad. Wow, that’s a pompous name…
Also at this protest was Carl Benjamin. Carl is a YouTube personality who used to
be quite relevant, starting with gamergate, and then with the wave of anti-feminism, but
basically stopped mattering after the main surge of gamergate was over and lots of gamers
went back to their regular lives. Back when he was famous, he took part in a discussion
with Richard Spencer, the Neo-Nazi, in which he made Spencer look really smart and well-informed
and basically gave the guy a share of his audience. He also took part in a debate with
an academic feminist, Kirsty Winters, in which he got completely hilariously demolished.
When Carl takes part in well-moderated debates he just embarrasses himself, because he can’t
use any of the tactics he’s learned to instinctively reach for.
More recently though, Carl joined UKIP along with some other right-wing YouTubers in an
attempt to radicalise their fanbases. The fact that he is an active member of UKIP,
more than anything else, is why I was quite annoyed to see him being interviewed by the
BB-fucking-C at the Trump protest. The BBC tries to do what it considers to be
balanced journalism. Their approach to this is to always show an alternative to whatever
they’re showing. If they have a left-winger, they need to have a right-winger on. If they
show you Coke, they also have to show you Pepsi. Now, UKIP and UKIP members officially
make a lot of noise telling people that they aren’t an inherently racist party, but,
the protest was an anti-racist protest, so I’ll let you make up your own mind about
what the BBC thought they were doing by interviewing Carl.
Let’s be clear. Carl isn’t a politician, he isn’t a political expert or a great thinker,
he’s an edgy shitposter. His current shtick is that he’s read Starship Troopers – the
book that got adapted into a movie which is basically a satire of it because it’s more
or less just fan-fic for Nazis – he’s read that book and he’s telling everyone that
he thinks their society is perfect. [ Dig up quote – He’s telling everyone that this
is a picture of a great society – SERVICE GUARANTEES CITIZENSHIP!] I honestly can’t
tell if he’s sincere or if this is a complex meme-strat in service of making everyone think
he’s just a fucking moron? I don’t know Carl, I can’t see how this benefits you
at all. Well that was his most recent moment in the
spotlight anyway, until right at the last minute while making this video he went on
a podcast and said that [LONG SIGH] age of consent should be on a case-by-case basis.
Anyway, when I saw Carl at the protest, I was pretty annoyed, but I mostly felt that
it’s best to just ignore him. After all, most of the stuff he does nowadays is just
trying to claw back the attention he used to have.
I thought it would be best to ignore him because I’ve seen him argue before. He argues in
tremendous bad faith – or as my french friend says, “bat face”. I’ve done a bit of
debating, and what bat-face arguers like Carl do is basically the polar opposite of real
debate. I’ve also, as I said, seen him debate and he just made a huge tit of himself. [explain
with graphic] As a point of interest, in case you don’t think he argues in bad faith,
you should check out his stream from right after the protest where he stood for hours
defending Trump because, in the stream he says to a live question that he only supports
Trump “to trigger the libs”. He’ll use a series of leading questions
“wouldn’t you agree that this” or “don’t you think that that” in order to lead people
to the conclusions he’s trying to make them draw. If you try to point out what he’s
leading you towards, he’ll deny it. He’s not in the business of discussing ideas, he’s
in the business of repeatedly stating a set of beliefs for the people watching on his
livestream. Why do I say all this, you ask? Well, because
I’ve watched a really good series by Innuendo Studios titled “The Alt-Right Playbook”.
The series goes over the strategies that the alt-right – oh, sorry, alt-centrist? Classical
liberal? I can’t remember which one Carl is identifying as nowadays – strategies people
like Carl use in order to stop people listening to people on the left and reaffirm their ideas
for their fans. You probably know where this is going at this
point, but I went to argue with Carl. Honestly, the biggest part of it was a dumb sort of
curiosity. I knew Carl was going to be better prepared with studies he’d misread and cherry-picked
statistics to quote to back himself up, I knew exactly what he’d do to win the argument
for his viewers, but a dumbass part of me thought “I know they say getting in a bad-faith
argument sucks a lot, but how much is a lot”. I really did know exactly what he’d do,
but that curiosity is a powerful itch. The bad-faith strategy that Carl uses most
is the Motte and Bailey, also called the bait and switch. In this strategy, your bad-faith
arguer will take a premise that everyone agrees on (that’s Carl’s leading questions) and
build on top of it a statement or claim or even just implication that is total nonsense,
despite being appearing superficially connected. If the person they are talking to rejects
their premise, they are totally flummoxed. For example, when I talked to him he asked
me “is there too much immigration in the UK?”. News around immigration, even the
most progressive news, at best plays the defensive on this issue, explaining why immigrants aren’t
as bad as you think, which is why my answer “immigration is a good thing” really caught
him off guard. When he couldn’t gain a foothold in order
to ask his series of leading questions, he changed topic in a way that’s almost comical.
He abruptly shouted “so, ISLAM.” When he started asking his leading questions about
islam, I could see he was trying to lead the conversation to the conclusion that muslims
shouldn’t be allowed into the UK. I pointed that out, he denied it.
At some point in there he made the astonishing claim that 200 million muslim are radical
terrorists hell-bent on destroying the west which… if there were 200 million people
all ready to fight and die for any ideology, that war would be over already. What a weird
fucking thing to say. At another point, he claimed that immigrants
depress wages, which as I’ve pointed out in a previous video, is one of the talking
points a couple of steps up the ladder of the white-genocide conspiracy theory. [expand
on this in vid] He generally got a lot louder and angrier
talking to me than he did talking to other people, and I think that’s probably because
I let him know that I knew what his game was. I called him by his name and I talked into
his GoPro, and I was pretty visibly disappointed when he asked his leading questions. I think
he knew I knew what he was doing, and he kind of hated it.
There’s a bit before I started properly talking to him, when he was still arguing
with someone who didn’t recognise him, where I let her know that he was a member of UKIP.
I knew so well what he’d do that when she turned around and asked him if it was true,
and he said “A proud member of UKIP” you can actually see my mouth moving in time with
his words. I mean you can kind of see it. It’s difficult because I’m 6’3” and
he’s a bit shorter so at that point my head was mostly out of frame.
I’m not trying to say that I won this argument by the way, I’m just trying to explain that
I had knowledge about this particular thing before I went in, and it didn’t do much
for me. After this shitty, embarrassing argument, I wanted to lie down on the floor and moan
loudly for a while until the toxins left my body.
I need to explain this better, and to do that I need to take a bit of a detour, and look
at the worst Coyote Peterson video ever made. Outside of his Pain Zone videos, Coyote made
a video called Beard of Bees GONE WRONG. In the video, Coyote has shaven off his usual
adventurer stubble and he’s going to put on a beard of bees. He’s expecting to get
stung a couple of times, but he’s not expecting what happens. For some reason the bees start
stinging him over and over and over and over. They’re stinging his lips and his eyelid
and his face is starting to swell. He has to shake them off and run, and as his face
distorts with stings he has to say, through swollen lips “Be bwafe. Ftay wiwd. I’ww
see you on the next adfenchu” This video sucks because Coyote isn’t expecting
to get stung. When I say it sucks I mean that it illicits a totally different response from
me as a viewer. It isn’t a morbid fascination, it isn’t scratching that curious itch. It
sucks and I hate it. If bees had tiny bee GoPros and a YouTube
channel, and they uploaded this video, they could probably title it “Leftist SOYBOY
Coyote Peterson stung by RATIONAL Bees” and all the fans of bees would fucking love
it. All the Coyote Peterson fans would hate it because it would be proving how useless
his bee-knowledge is when he isn’t expecting to get stung, and that same social pain I
talked about before, the pain of being proven wrong, would drive them away from it. It would
make them feel terrible, even though Coyote’s bee-knowledge wasn’t really proven wrong
here at all. If anything he shows he knows how the bee pheromones work, and he knows
how to shake them off, but nobody can say that he won that round. That video is clearly
Bees: 1, Coyote: 0. What I’m trying to say here, really, is
to learn from my experience. Don’t get stung. What I mean by that, is don’t go on a bad-faith
arguer’s platform and play their game. If you know some lazy shithead in real life and
you want to argue them go ahead. If you can bring them into a moderated debate with you,
go ahead. When Carl debated Kirsty Winters, he got burned to the ground and she salted
the earth so nothing would ever grow there again.
Trying to change people’s minds isn’t getting stung, but playing their game is,
and it sucks. If you see a Carl Benjamin in the wild, admire it from a safe distance.
It won’t sting you unless you aggravate it.
Be brave. Stay wild. I’ll see you on the next adventure! Outtro:
Apologies to Kristi Winters, whose name I got wrong repeatedly in this video, like an
idiot. I’d like to thank Hann the Mann who makes the music for Curio, as well as various
friends and family, and a couple of my left-tube colleagues who checked through and helped
to write this essay. Thanks most of all to you, the viewer, for watching this video all
the way to the end. Especially thank you for watching all the way to the end if you’re
a fan of Carl’s. Like, why are you here? This channel is where I argue that Bloodborne
is anti-capitalist propaganda. You think I’m joking but that’s an actual essay I’m
writing. Anyway, this video was a bit heavy for me
so I’m gonna do something non-political next time and talk about Fargo. If you really
really liked this video and want to support Curio there is a Patreon and a ko-fi, or for
regular updates you can follow me on twitter. I’ll link to Carl’s stream in the description
for full context, but I don’t really recommend you go watch any of his videos, they’re
a bit boring. You’d be better off checking out Coyote Peterson’s channel, which I’ll
also link to. Bye for now.