Laughing Baby vs. the YouTube commenters.

Culture and technology.
April 16 2008 1:23 PM

Laughing Baby vs. the YouTube Commenters

A battle of Internet good and Internet evil.

(Continued from Page 1)

Sounds like: Laughing Baby's cackle is compared to smoker's cough, an old man laughing, Conan O'Brien, the guy in Saw, "Chucky and Exorcist combined," and Joe Pesci.

Predictions: Laughing Baby will ... be a 350-pound American, grow up to be a cheerful person, be the next Jim Carrey, have a great personality, be a "freaking awesome person. maybe annoying at times. but freaking awesome," be a comedian, be a rapist or something, be an actor, be a politician, be a zookeeper, find a cure for cancer.

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Sell-out advice: Laughing Baby should be on America's Funniest Home Videos. Laughing Baby's laugh should be sold as a ringtone.

Look at me: The slightly craftier spammers offer praise for Laughing Baby before plugging their own videos. This guy had the best pitch: "if you have 14 seconds. I have a life changing video on my profile. (you will never forget it until the day you die, and maybe even after that)."

Mean: The occasional commenter will get provoked by all the cute remarks and say that Laughing Baby has a "bigass forehead" or that he'd like to see Laughing Baby laughing "while engulfed in flames." These comments typically set off little wars, such as, "Don't hate on the baby," "You obviously have no life and no children," and so on.

Religious: Some commenters speculate that Laughing Baby might be the voice of God. I assume this is not meant literally, but rather that Laughing Baby was sent to YouTube by God to make us all happy. One commenter suggested that Laughing Baby "must be a jewish baby" (because he has a sense of humor?), while others assumed he was Buddhist, while still others asked that Allah make him a Muslim.

Insane: "Retarded human infant!!! I will destroy you all!!!!" and "Imagine the US president being honest like this baby—the world would be more peaceful, I think!"

After reading a few thousand comments, they begin to fade into similar patterns: cute, cute, cute, evil, spam, I think the baby is ugly, How can you think that!, cute, cute, I want to have a baby, cute, baby is high, look at my videos, cute, just like my kid, cute, LOL, cute, cute, etc., etc. It's soon overly clear that the comments aren't a conversation or debate. Laughing Baby has become an Internet monument, and posting a remark is like tagging your name on the Statue of Liberty.

Still, there is one meaningful debate that can be gleaned from the tumult. There are those who complain that Laughing Baby is a pointless waste of time, while others respond that happiness is made up of small, simple pleasures like the laughter of a little boy. It's a debate that speaks to the essence of YouTube itself. Do these little video distractions buoy our spirits and connect us to our fellow humans, or are we frittering away our time and talents with two-minute diversions? Do we laugh at the Laughing Baby, or is the Laughing Baby laughing at us?

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.

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