A young dude from Greenville has, like, 13 billion video views on YouTube
This week's grab bag includes Mr. Beast, a vanishing town, and a frightening shortage at Bojangles.
Don’t Fight Me, Bro
Hey! Remember last week, when I said I’d pose a question to you all and then share your replies early this week? Well guess what, I did not anticipate the overwhelming response to that question. I asked you for the best North Carolina towns for fightin’, and you all gave me 73 different towns. That is … a lot, and requires deep data analysis with, you know, graphs and spreadsheets and maps and stuff. So, I’ve decided to upgrade that to a full-blown Important Newsletter™, which means I’ll write about it later this week.
Never Heard Of Mr. Beast? Congrats on Being Old/Blissfully Offline
A few months back, when I was still working for Our State magazine, I got an email from someone who was asking for my help to get in contact with someone I’d featured in one of my podcasts. These requests aren’t unusual, but the person reaching out was working for someone I’d never heard of before: Mr. Beast. I talked to her on the phone for a bit, and she explained exactly what Mr. Beast was: A YouTube channel run by a young guy from Greenville, North Carolina that did really big stunts, and had given away a lot of money. I went and watched some of his videos, which, no lie, were absurdly entertaining. Each one had tens of millions of views. Tens of millions! I feel like I am someone who has his finger on the pulse of a lot of things — how do you do, fellow kids — but here was some guy that was relatively closeby doing something incredible that had flown completely under my radar. Even then, I’d underestimated just how big of a deal Mr. Beast was. He’s the most subscribed-to creator on YouTube, with 91 million total followers and 13 billion video views.
I say this because today, Mr. Beast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, got a New York Times writeup by Taylor Lorenz. There’s nobody better at translating what the young’uns are doin’ online than Taylor, and this is one among many stories about how modern entertainment is being totally re-imagined, via TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and so on. All of this is happening totally out of sight of us olds. It’s incredible, really.
It is fun, though, to watch what happens when Mr. Beast shows up somewhere in North Carolina, to the bewilderment of the locals. Like back in November, when he took over the Burger Boy in Wilson and temporarily converted it to a fast-foot joint that paid people to eat there.
For another stunt, he also bought up every billboard in Greenville. I would love to know how much of the Eastern North Carolina economy is being propped up by Mr. Beast.
Of note: The producer I talked to said the most important thing about ANY YouTube video is the thumbnail. She was also inquiring about this episode of Away Message, where I took an elevator to within 100 feet of the top of a 2,000-foot-tall television tower. As of yet, I haven’t seen that tower show up on Mr. Beast’s channel but, you know, give it time.
A Sign Of The Apocalypse
There are an alarming amount of shortages happening right now. Rental cars. Semiconductors. Housing. Lumber. But folks, when some Bojangles’ ran into a shortage of supremes recently, I sat up and took notice.
Bonus: The bank in my small little town just closed for a few days and didn’t say why, and then just said it was a computer problem. So, uh, there.
Finally, Someone Figured Out A Way To Make Money On The Internet
Did you know that Disaster Girl, the 4-year-old devilishly smiling at the camera while a house burns in the background, is from North Carolina? Also, did you know that she’s now a senior at UNC and just made a ton of money by selling off her meme as an NFT?
This genuinely warms the heart. The internet is a place where you can lose control of your image quickly and permanently, and it’s great to see someone at least get something back from that. Even better when that something is $430,000.
Bladen Gonna Bladen
I finished “The Improvement Association” last week, a podcast that takes a close look at politics in Bladen County. If you don’t recall, that county was the site of one of the largest cases of voter fraud in recent, which caused the 2018 Congressional election between Mark Harris and Dan McCready to be thrown out. The interesting thing here is how little the reporter, Zoe Chace, focuses on that actual fraud case that got headlines, but instead goes deep inside the mechanics of how local politics work. It’s a fascinating listen about a usually overlooked corner of North Carolina, and it’s only five breezy episodes long.
Also, you should pre-order this book about the Bladen County case from my friends Mike Graff and Nick Ochsner.
The Incredible Vanishing Town
If you’re only just now hearing about the town of East Laurinburg, then too bad, it’s probably going to go away. It’s not, you know, being consumed by the sands of time or something, it’s in the process of having its town charter revoked because there’s really nobody running anything there. One detail that stuck out from Colin Campbell’s reporting for the News & Observer:
On a map, East Laurinburg almost looks like a neighborhood within Laurinburg. It was incorporated as a mill town more than a century ago when Waverly Mills opened a large textile mill there.
The textile company sought that status to avoid getting annexed by Laurinburg (and its property taxes), while it paid the costs of government services. Residents of East Laurinburg only started paying property taxes once the mill shut down. The mill has since been demolished, and today the town consists mostly of two churches, a convenience store and modest homes.
Taxes. It’s always taxes.
By the way, the smallest town in North Carolina that I’m aware of was Spencer Mountain in Gaston County, population 2, where a pastor was the mayor and his wife was the city council. The town charter there was temporarily suspended about five years ago until the population could go back up.
“Temporarily.” Got it.
And Now, a Message from BIG PLANT
A chicken in every pot, and venus fly traps in every median:
Seriously, venus fly traps are only native to a small area around Wilmington, so I think oughta show them some love and plant them all across the state. What could possibly go wrong?
See you all later this week. As always, leave a comment or forward this to a friend.