YouTube is America

November 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

YouTube is a wonder of the modern world. It’s a stroke of genius, a constantly morphing art, and an conglomerated exhibition of both the fantastic and the mundane. But the really interesting thing is how it is just another way in which American citizens exercise their first amendment rights. The U.S. was founded in part to build a nation which allowed, valued, and encouraged free speech and entrepreneurship, and thankfully that hasn’t fundamentally changed too much these past 224 years. Immigrants came to America in centuries past to start new lives; in the land of the free, a farmer could become a stock broker and a slave could become an Olympic champion.

That rags to riches storyline has manifest itself once again, this time in the binary world of one’s and zero’s. Ladies and gentlemen, meet YouTube: the online worldwide video blog where you can star in your own video for the viewing pleasure of all mankind. Or you could post a cartoon. Or a song you wrote. Or time-lapse photography or song lyrics or videos of your break-dancing toddler. Most of the time, a few videos per week go viral and the rest remained unnoticed except by their creators. But every once in a while, some skinny teenager videotapes himself singing songs and playing the piano in his bedroom and a few years later he’s the youngest performer ever on Comedy Central and his video has 13 million views.

It doesn’t matter who, or where, or even what you are; on YouTube everyone — with a computer, internet connection, and a webcam, that is —  has a fair chance. And this is how YouTube is like America.

Don’t misunderstand this post to mean that YouTube represents all that is free and good and beautiful. YouTube is what you make it and how you use it, and it can be a black hole of a time waste and a source of lots of nasty stuff. But after sifting through the raunchy material and pointless garbage, YouTube’s true assets can be mined. It’s microphone for the unheard; it’s a gallery for artists and a respite for the lonely; it’s a voice for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to be heard above the roaring 21st century. YouTube is a gateway, the Statue of Liberty for cyber-America symbolizing that here, at least for now, you can be, say, and do whatever you want. Three cheers for the Red, White, and BlueTube.

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