MrBeast AKA Jimmy Donaldson, the world’s most popular YouTuber, recently sponsored cataract surgeries for 1,000 people who were blind or nearly blind and then went on to find himself in the midst of a controversy. Sounds counterintuitive, right? In reality, the social media ‘discourse’ around the YouTuber hinges on a valid criticism of capitalism that seems to be masquerading as random acts of charity.
Twitter - Rich people should help others with their moneyMe - Okay, I’ll use my money to help people and I promise to give away all my money before I die. Every single penny.
Twitter - MrBeast bad
— MrBeast (@MrBeast) January 30, 2023
Millionaires, They’re Just Like Us
Each of MrBeast’s incredibly elaborate videos takes a significant investment, matched by no one else in the field. Speaking to YouTubers Colin and Samir, MrBeast revealed that his finances run on the principle of reinvestment, where what he makes from one video is channeled into the next one. He told Colin and Samir that each of his videos, on an average, is an investment of at least half-a-million dollars. In the process, the YouTuber incurs significant losses. For instance, his video where he gave away houses made him back less than half-a-million dollars.
MrBeast’s mother is the one who looks over the business side of things and might be considered the more frugal one, while the YouTuber himself operates on a principle of a much more relaxed “just keep going" vibe. Why, then, the criticism?
In his own defence over the curing-blindness video, MrBeast wrote in a tweet, “It did raise awareness and get tons of people talking. Also what profits? The average MrBeast video lost $1,500,000 last year lol".
People who have amassed so much wealth so as to have raised eyebrows have a history of insisting on a ‘self-made’ persona- think Elon Musk or the Kardashians. They claim to be crusaders of hard work and persistence, when in reality, they sell nothing other than the tired old American Dream.
The criticism against MrBeast comes from the same place where criticism against philanthropy itself originates. Acts of charity perpetuate the same structures of capitalism that necessitate them in the first place. Benevolence can never be radical, even though many of MrBeast’s fans would like to make a hero out of him.
On Raising Awareness
Ophthalmologist and surgeon Jeff Levenson, who collaborated with MrBeast for the cataract surgeries, connected MrBeast to SEE International, a nonprofit which helped him reach even more people, till 1000 surgeries were performed for people across Jamaica, Honduras, Namibia, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Kenya. It goes without mentioning that such acts of charity are arbitrary and cannot hope to bring about any systemic change, no matter how much “awareness" is raised.
We have the cures to many diseases, but the issue we run into is that when corporations can profit off of people's health, they lobby the government to make sure that treatment is never made free.This is what people mean when they want "nationalized healthcare". pic.twitter.com/poOrhf0E4D
— ostonox (@ostonox) January 30, 2023
What the Mr beast thing is telling me is that so many people would miss a point so hard that if the Hunger Games were real you'd be praising the rich people for giving people the opportunity !!! instead of asking yourself why the games are wrong in the first place— Rinna ️⚧️ (@RinRinYikes) January 31, 2023
mr beast is a prime example of how philanthropy as a concept exists purely to provide legitimacy to millionaires. why is it okay for a random individual to control such vast assets? nobody elected mr beast. his money should belong to the people, so they can do whatever with it. pic.twitter.com/UtFlug43Tf— gryphoneer (@OneRadChee) February 1, 2023
the entire mrbeast discourse in one picture pic.twitter.com/ET82ooF9AX— Hurt CoPain (@SaeedDiCaprio) January 31, 2023
What has made people even more suspicious of MrBeast is the performative aspect of his videos. They are clearly designed to trigger sentiment, like the thumbnail showing him smiling next to a kid for whom the world has just gotten brighter. This is where the argument of exploitation comes in; the people whose eyesight was restored were obviously going to consent to the procedure, but it’s fallacious to suggest that exploitation can only occur in the absence of consent.
the inherent evil of rich people aside, he’s a bad person for this thumbnail alone lol https://t.co/gNzWm2I2X8 pic.twitter.com/gEGQGXQaNN— ♀️ (@cooIboobs) January 31, 2023
In MrBeast’s support, people have argued that he has created a self-sustaining system that allows him to “do good things".
> do good thing good thing costs a lot of money to make it happen need money after spending all your money on doing good thing post about good thing so people can give you more money to do more good thing what is the issue here— ms. blue sky ️⚧️ (@lobster_dev) February 1, 2023
Granted, some rich people are better than other rich people- MrBeast is evidently not in the business of accumulating wealth in the way that Elon Musk is. Yet, the issue with this line of reasoning is in the fact that MrBeast’s videos are going to keep making random acts of charity profitable. At this point, it might as well shed the ruse of charity and call itself what it is: profiteering, earning inflated accolade for selling something that should have been freely available in the first place.
The entire ethos of YouTubers and other social media influencers exists to perpetuate capitalism with all its cultural and social limbs. Marx is probably turning over in his grave after learning that people were expecting a whole lot better of a guy called MrBeast.
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