The peculiarity of Beau of the Fifth Column

If you want to persuade someone, generally you have to look a lot like someone you are trying to persuade.

You’d like to think that we’d be all Vulcan and clinically analyze the facts, but in general you need to be a scientist for this to work. Even a lot of scientists have their own biases. Which is why watching vlogger Beau of the Fifth Column at work is pretty interesting.

If you are trying to slip through someone’s radar, a bald white guy with a wild red beard and a baseball cap seemingly glued to his scalp is likely to do it. One look at Beau (real name Justin King) and you would be forgiven for typecasting him as a redneck.

And in a way, it’s true. Beau lives way out in the wilds of Northern Florida somewhere. He exhibits many of the attributes you would expect of rednecks. He owned guns until a few years ago. He’s a big believer in self-sufficiency. He’s not a fan of big government and believes that local community networks are the way to really change society, doing it from the ground up. He’s hardly pretentious. He never appears in a suit. He won’t trim his beard. He usually won’t change his Curious George patch Velcro-ed to his hat, other than to turn it upside down from time to time if he’s saying something in jest.

He almost always films his YouTube videos from what looks like a large shed adjacent to his house. The camera seems to be bolted into place. Behind him is a set of unadorned shelves. If you watch him enough (as he tends to put out a few videos a day) you almost get excited when a new item appears on the shelves, which almost never happens.

Beau slips around your defenses in other ways too. The going way to get attention online these days is to be self-righteous and yell a lot. Beau is just the opposite. He’s so low key and inoffensive that he sometimes comes across as a slovenly Mister Rogers. He often won’t tell you exactly what he wants to say. He alludes to current events but won’t explain them.

He doesn’t quite smile, but he doesn’t quite frown either. He never raises his voice, at least on camera. He doesn’t tell you what to think but does allow you to ponder his points, which comes from many years in military and security related businesses. I assume somewhere along the way he made a comfortable fortune because aside from any YouTube revenues he doesn’t seem to do anything for money and apparently he has a wife and five kids. Vlogging seems to be his full time occupation.

The general impression that Beau makes is that he’s deeply intellectual and grounded, but not anxious to advertise it. Unlike Mister Rogers, he treats his viewers as thinking adults, not like children. This tends to make him relatable. By avoiding pushing people’s buttons, it’s not hard to find him engaging and interesting. You might say he’s the anti-Alex Jones.

So Beau never appears pompous, at least on camera, and always seems inoffensive: factual but pleasant. His particular bent though appears to be foreign policy, a topic that puts most people to sleep. But Beau is likely to engage you on it, and he’s been particularly engaging since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war as he takes you through a lot of grounded research on intelligence, foreign policy, how militaries work and the power games played among larger and minor powers.

If you watch Beau for a while you might figure he’s actually a closet liberal. Really, it’s hard to tell. By some accounts, he’s an anarchist. If so he’s a very peculiar anarchist because for all his beliefs in local change and building power from the ground up, he also grasps the larger meta issues.

It’s pretty clear, for example, that he doesn’t think a free market is going to bring us affordable health care and that capitalism is going to save us. He seems to be a peculiar hybrid of liberal and libertarian. It’s just that one look at that face and you can’t help but think “redneck”. But after watching Beau for a while you realize you’ve opened a really interesting box, just not a Pandora’s kind of box. Beau is who he is and believes in being respectful, honest and grounded. He’s very clearly not a racist and is deeply troubled by the racism, sexism, classism and other-isms rife in our country today.

With 700,000 followers and growing he’s built perhaps the most unique niche on YouTube. While there are some things he says I don’t agree with, he’s pretty much impossible to dislike.

I don’t think he’s on the radar of the Alex Joneses of the world. Perhaps he should be because he’s a direct threat to their viewers, if they stumble upon him. In his own way, Beau is persuading a lot of people, and his followers are donating a lot of money to his charitable causes. If anyone can change the toxicity rife in our nation, it may be Beau, one video at a time, posted from the back of his shed.

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