When Shane Dawson would post a new “conspiracy theory” video on his YouTube channel, all of his followers would rejoice. What secret plot would the now-fallen content creator reveal next? The online world shivered with anticipation.
These days, those positive feelings toward Dawson and his work have made a complete 180 — conspiracy-themed uploads included. Of course, viewers had an adverse reaction to some of the fringe theories themselves, but they were also turned off by their offensive nature.
Dawson’s “conspiracy theory” posts reflect a more significant societal issue involving the harmful dissemination of misinformation. The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative defined misinformation as “false or inaccurate information, especially when it is deliberately intended to deceive.” Although Dawson’s intentions with his conspiracy theory videos remain unclear, the masses continue to find him guilty of spreading detrimental falsities — and rightfully so.
His 2019 upload titled “Conspiracy Theories with Shane Dawson” covers a hoax claiming that the Rothschild family used a space laser to engineer the 2018 California wildfires.
On the car ride toward the affected, burnt-down neighborhoods, Dawson asks his friends, “How does every house on the street catch fire except for one? What does that mean?”
Dawson consistently states that everything he covers is just a theory, but the two-year-old post shows him and his peers questioning whether those theories could be true. Later in the video, the YouTuber also provides visual footage from news outlets and other theorists to support these claims.
“If you look at overhead footage of the neighborhoods that were affected by the fires, you’ll notice that the houses are all burned to the ground,” Dawson ominously notes. “But then there’s trees and mailboxes surrounding them, untouched.”
Recently, hundreds of Dawson’s former fans have responded very negatively to these uploads, some even calling it anti-Semitic. Honestly, I think the public has correctly assessed the theory.
Zack Beauchamp from Vox explained that bigoted conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family controlling the world have frequently surfaced in the past. He added that the “space laser” falsehood stands as “the latest in a long line of conspiracies about the Rothschild family, and those conspiracies are always, at root, anti-Semitic: Since the 19th century, people have used claims that this one particular wealthy family controls the world to cast aspersions on Jews in general.”
In summary, the theory blames a racial group for an environmental health crisis. Because public figures like Dawson continually perpetuate the “space laser” hoax, life becomes increasingly difficult for marginalized groups. Additionally, such blaming allows for general health problems to progressively worsen.
Even when Dawson publishes his conspiracy-related posts with good intentions, they can produce unintended negative consequences. Thus, the hurt experienced by his past audiences is understandable.
Dawson’s “conspiracy theory” videos also court controversy because of the mega influencer’s inadequate sourcing.
His “MIND BLOWING CONSPIRACY THEORIES” upload investigates the idea of “predictive programming.” As explained by The Ohio State University, the term alludes to a “theory that the government or other higher-ups are using fictional movies or books as a mass mind control tool to make the population more accepting of planned future events.”
To support his case, Dawson merely references a random YouTube page that published a post titled “Predictive Programming 9/11” — a video that only received about 300 views before it was made private by the platform. The entity behind the channel appeared to have no meaningful background or knowledge of media.
Dawson can deflect responsibility and shift blame onto smaller, less-reputable figures all he wants. Truthfully, he directs a bunch of baseless nonsense to his army of 20.2 million subscribers. On top of that, most of his fanbase consists of young, impressionable teenagers, and Dawson most certainly knows that.
Presently, their brains are in the early stages of developing some of their central beliefs in life. Dawson cannot simply spread misinformation to his fans and walk away — the internet needs to hold him accountable for the careless comments he continues to make.
In a Twitter response to commentator Philip DeFranco, Dawson said that he knew he was walking the line with both YouTube and advertisers when posting his “conspiracy theory” videos.
The disgraced celebrity acknowledged that he understood why his content gets demonetized, “but [he does] feel like more advertisers should get on board w/ edgier stuff.” Dawson added that if YouTube wanted a Netflix demographic, then “it needs edgy content too.”
it’s hard cause i knew that it wasn’t gonna be brand friendly at all and i totally understand my stuff getting demonetized sometimes. but i do feel like more advertisers should get on board w/ edgier stuff. if youtube wants a netflix demo i think it needs edgy content too.
— Shane Dawson (@shanedawson) February 1, 2019
Unfortunately, Dawson’s tweet glossed over why the video-sharing website sometimes rescinds monetary support from his channel. Of course, YouTube does not catch every instance of misinformation, but it certainly tries to improve its credibility.
Last October, the Google-owned company updated its hate speech policy “to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.”
As said previously, Dawson probably does not aim to harm any minorities. However, the YouTube star’s transmission of such objectionable, silly theories can significantly harm his immature following and lead them to adopt similar — and even more dangerous — ideologies.