The Appeal To Celebrity Fallacy

“An appeal to celebrity is a fallacy that occurs when a source is claimed to be authoritative because of their popularity” [RationalWiki]

Today I was greeted by this Discord ping:What I want to talk about is only very tangentially related to what you see above, and the result of some shower thoughts I had after reading that. I did not watch the video, and I do not intend to, just like I haven’t watched most of DarkViperAU’s “speedrunner rambles” or most of his other opinion/reaction videos about a multitude of subjects and personalities. My following of these YouTube drama episodes hasn’t gone much beyond reading the titles of DVAU’s videos as they come up on my YouTube subscriptions feed. What I want to talk about is precisely why I don’t watch those videos and why I think that many talented “internet celebrities” or “content creators” would be better off not making them, and/or why the fans who admire them for their work alone would be better off ignoring that type of content.

OK, I was planning on writing a much longer post but I realized that my arguments would end up being read as “reaction videos and YouTube drama are bad and you’re a bad person if you like them”, which is really not the argument that I want to make here. Instead, let me cut straight to the chase:

Just because you admire someone’s work very much,
that doesn’t mean that you must admire its creators just as much,
nor that you should agree with everything they say
(nor that everything they say and do is right),
and the high quality of some of their work does not necessarily make them quality people nor makes all of their work high-quality.

This is one of those things that is really obvious in hindsight. Yet I often find it hard to detach works from their creator, and I believe this is the case for a majority of people, otherwise the “appeal to celebrity” fallacy would not be so common, and there wouldn’t be so many people interested in knowing what different celebrities have to say in areas that have nothing to do with what made them popular and successful in the first place.

This is not a “reaction/opinion pieces are bad” argument. If someone’s most successful endeavor is precisely to be an opinion maker, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t be cherished for that, and their work celebrated for its quality. But should you not like their work, you’re still allowed to like them as a person, and vice-versa.

DarkViperAU is an example of a “newfound internet celebrity” I admire for much of their work but who is progressively also veering off to a different type of content/work (of the “opinion making” type) which, if I were to pay attention to it, could greatly reduce my enjoyment of the parts of his content that I find great. For me, the subject of today’s ping on his Discord was a great reminder of that, and sent me off in a bit of a shower thought journey.

While I am not fond of end-of-year retrospectives – calendar conventions do not necessarily align with personal milestones – 2020 was definitely the most awkward year in recent times for a majority of the world population. It was an especially awkward year for me, as among many other things, it was when I fell into what I’d describe as an “appeal to a celebrity’s work” fallacy. I initially believed I’d really like to work with people who make a project I admire very much, but over the months I found some of their methods and personalities to really conflict with my personal beliefs, and yet, I kept giving my involvement second chances, because I really felt like the project could use my contribution.

In the end, there’s no problem in liking an art piece exclusively because of its external appearance, even if you are not a fan of the materials nor of some of its authors. And if you think you can improve on that piece of art, expect some resistance from the authors, keeping in mind it might fall apart as you attempt to work on it. Sometimes making your own thing from scratch is really the better option: you might be called an imitator and the end result may even fall short of your own expectations, but you’ll rest easy knowing that you have no one but yourself to blame.

On a more onward-looking note, I wish you all the best for the years to come after 2020. I have a new Discord server which, unlike the UnderLX one, is English-speaking and not tied to any specific project or subject. My hope is to get in there those who I generally like to talk to and work with, so we can all have a great time – you know, the typical thing for a generalist Discord server. I know this is an ambitious goal for just yet another one of these servers, but that won’t stop me from trying. My dear readers are all invited to join Light After Dinner.