Ugandan Anti-Gay Speech, Star Wars Kid and the Importance of Context

Whenever I watch a weird or funny viral video, I always want to know the full story behind it — even though, sometimes, the big picture makes the video a lot less amusing. Take, for example, how on May 24, a clip from the season four premiere of the Current series Vanguard was uploaded to YouTube (s GOOG) by user dudeuter. The excerpt features a Ugandan anti-gay activist graphically describing sexual acts between two men, albeit without much accuracy. Dudeuter subtly titled the clip Eat Da Poo Poo (as you might guess, the clip is fairly NSFW).


The clip went viral and in the last two days has been picked up by Videogum, Perez Hilton and other sites — it now currently has over 525,000 views on YouTube, and has led to a wide range of online mockery, including dance remixes, the first of which was created by DJ Horsey Horse.


What this raises for me, though, is the intriguing question of context, and how it affects our enjoyment of these sorts of “found” virals. Take for example one of the first Interweb stars, the Star Wars kid. Watching this young man goof around with a lightsaber is fun and funny, but it is less fun and funny when you learn that the star, 15-year-old Ghyslain Raza, dropped out of school and ended up in a psychiatric hospital after it spread like crazy.


Raza’s doing just fine now — according to Cinematical, he’s completed his law degree and is now the president of a society preserving the cultural heritage of his Canadian hometown. But it still casts a pallor over one’s enjoyment of this video.

Meanwhile, Eat Da Poo Poo in its original posting contained no context from where it came from, thus making it easy to giggle at — because, sure, it’s hard to take a grown man saying “The poo poo comes out and then they eat the poo poo” seriously.

But the full Vanguard episode from which it comes, Missionaries of Hate, is a serious look at the anti-gay movement spreading across Africa, especially in Uganda — where being gay may become a crime punishable by life in prison or death, if legislation currently in play passes. The Eat Da Poo Poo clip, which can be seen in context below beginning around 16:18, comes from a press conference held by Pastor Martin Ssempa to encourage support for that legislation. Funny, right?

Current’s response to its content being spread around without its consent has NOT been to issue takedown notices. Instead, it’s asked those who have uploaded the clip or written about it to add a link back to the full episode (yes, even the dance remixes).

So far, most of them have done so (Perez Hilton being an exception), thus meaning that the organic popularity of Eat Da Poo Poo is helping to spread Missionaries of Hate in full. Which serves both sides of the equation — Current and the creators — and allows those watching to get additional context along with their chuckles. In the long run, that’s a good thing. Even if it does kill the joke.

Related GigaOM Pro Content (subscription required): The State of Social TV