The Principle’s Office: How to avoid falling for fake nice guys like David Dobrik
What makes a “good guy?”
Is it the fact that he is polite? Is it the fact that he gives away Teslas? Is it that his boyish giggles make him appear non-threatening?
People are so shocked that YouTuber David Dobrik has enabled disgusting behaviors such as sexual assault and the general mistreatment of those involved in his vlogs, but I have to ask: What kind of stuff did people think he was up to to begin with? Has David Dobrik ever shown the public that he is willing to stand up for what is right even if it conflicted with his career or bottom line?
I’m not here to rip Dobrik apart specifically, although he does make for nice clickbait. Rather, I want to talk about the archetype of person that he represents to the public eye. I think that it’s time we talk philosophy and ask ourselves “What makes a good person” or at the very least, what does not.
Anyone can look like a decent person from afar. Whether it’s a YouTuber or your neighbor, anyone can throw around enough pleases, thank yous and G-d bless yous to convince you that they generally do the right thing. For that reason, I am not big on words in assessing character.
Using Dobrik as a case study, there are a few talking points that people reference when discussing all the good he has done. First, there’s the fact that he gives away Teslas to his friends like they’re Tic Tacs. While doing so provides a net positive outcome to all those involved, I do not think it speaks to how good of a person Dobrik is himself.
In my books, what makes a person good is how they act when the kinder course of action directly conflicts with the actor’s own self-interest. Goodness that speaks to one’s character demands self-sacrifice.
There is nothing more self sacrificial in giving away a Tesla for a YouTube video than there is in investing heavily into production costs on a movie set. Both improve the quality of the work and are investments that will likely have handsome returns. It’s a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t make you a nice person (though some more utilitarian-leaning students and philosophers may harshly disagree with me).
I personally respect people with a strong moral character. Before the anti-cancel culture troglodytes come for me, I want to clarify that this doesn’t mean public figures are never allowed to mess up, grow or redeem themselves. But the way I personally navigate these YouTube streets is by asking myself if I’ve ever seen a certain creator stand up for what they believe to be right at the potential expense of a few career points. If they have, then I am more inclined to trust that they are a good person and more likely to be disappointed at any profound moral blunders of theirs.
The reason that I think self sacrifice is a good metric for kindness is because, if you’re lucky, life is going to inevitably hand you over some opportunities to be a bad person and gain from it. In the same fashion that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, I truly believe that you’re only as nice as your behavior in situations that make unethical choices the most tempting — in situations that make you the most morally weak.
I have placed Dobrik in the category of non-self-sacrificial, not only because of the many testimonials that paint him as such, but mostly because of his lack of controversy in the name of the greater good despite being the king of YouTube for a sizable reign. He’s never sat down and ruffled any feathers for something in the name of ethics.
I am weary of a person like Dobrik, who (until now) had a squeaky clean reputation, in life but specifically online. If we agree that certain, if not many, normative behaviors are unethical, then it makes sense to be suspicious of people who defend and embody those norms a little too hard — so hard that they’ve never really deviated from those norms before. This sentiment is only amplified by the online context of Dobrik’s situation, given that we have always known the entertainment industry to be chock full of morally bankrupt practices.
I am not trying to say that in order to be trustworthy in the public eye you need to be controversial. But I do think that if you’re a vlogger trying to promote your lifestyle, then you should at least stick your neck out to promote a good one, even if it affects your bottom line. We’ve never seen Dobrik do that before, and that’s probably why so many were convinced he is just a typical good guy who doesn’t get into trouble.
I am tired of people falling for such shallow “good person” acts. It should take real sacrifice and meaningful action to be considered a “good guy.” The squeaky clean act is bullshit and I am over it.
I’ll end with a saying that has served me with a lot of guidance in analyzing situations like these: believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.
Julia Leb is a junior writing about philosophy, politics and social issues. Her column, “The Principle’s Office,” runs every other Monday.