Modern academia is a wasteland. For years, the real peer review Twitter account broadcast for all the terrible dissertations and works of PhDs across America. It was not just the social sciences, but the social sciences were an especially useless source of published papers. The realms of sociology and anthropology were full of autoethnographic works. These PhDs were poor students. In order to get their credential, they turned to evaluating their life experiences within their ethnic grievance study. Like other subjects, real work is being done outside academia. In an amateur fashion, Andrew Callaghan with his Channel 5 News (previously all gas, no brakes) is doing the anthropological work these academics avoid.
Callaghan and his two man tech crew travel America, finding the weird and the mainstream but odd cultures and tribes of America. These produced segments edit down hours of footage into ten or twenty minute videos that distill the crowd he approaches in the moment. There are nuggets of comedic gold within each video. Anyone watching will laugh at least once. By allowing his subjects to ramble on in interviews and letting the camera just capture the scene, Callaghan shines a light on the increasingly dysfunctional nation we inhabit. It is possible that by eliminating bullying, avoiding confrontation and pulling back from public spaces people have not heard negative feedback about their strange thoughts and habits. They are empowered to be wild and not realize they are.
VICE did a short documentary on Callaghan. He is open about it being gonzo anthropology. Callaghan went to college to become a journalist but chose not to become a local tv anchor. His education and training come in handy as he puts on the faux persona of a local tv reporter covering whatever event he arrives at in his ill-fitting suit and camera crew in tow. The VICE doc is useful as Callaghan separates himself from the Daily Show or Borat vibe where he is not mocking his subjects but giving them airtime to explain themselves. Curious thing he uncovered was in his return to Talladega video, he has clear video that shows how “Let’s Go Brandon” began. It clearly was not that chant, but the actual “Fuck Joe Biden” everyone with ears could hear. That section of rowdy fans need to be seen to be believed.
His videos do not have uncovered truth bombs like that in each release, but they do reveal truths about the state of the nation. Americans are looking for answers. Americans are not healthy, whether physical or mental health. More Americans are interested in seeing buttholes or showing their buttholes. Any American who looks quirky or unique is just wearing their subculture’s uniform. People are searching though for truth, experience, anything to feel alive. Institutional knowledge is discredited via institutional actions, and the people are hungry for answers. People are hungry to belong. At the many conventions he visits, these subcultures are fully fleshed out with vocabulary, in-jokes, hidden knowledge only they know, and of course, economies.
Everyone has a hustle. It is off-putting how many people refer to their cards, their website, their social media and their brand. Everyone has become a brand, even the fringe of the fringe. People may have had a quirky hobby or peculiar subject matter expertise a generation ago, but now the interest or hobby has become their identity. It becomes their lifestyle and means of income. A generation ago a convention might have had multiple genres or subjects under its roof, but now each interest can have its own convention. Big or small, they all rent a hall. It cuts across race, region or gender. Everyone does it.
Everyone in America raps. At least once a video, someone will be spitting bars. They will rhyme at a Phish concert, a rap festival, a Flat Earth gathering or a UFO convention. Everyone raps. The Flat Earth raps might be the best Callaghan has captured, no disrespect to Chet Hanks. Some have soundclouds to promote, but some use rap for exchanging information and expressing ideals. Rap is the lingua franca of the America Empire. All races and both genders will drop lines given the chance.
Callaghan has now branched into interviews, with the aforementioned Chet Hanks as one subject. Hanks appears wired at the start of it, and then he comes down and is more with it. Chet Hanks comes across as living a Hollywood movie starring himself, the son of an A+ movie star, who goes crazy from the attention and acclaim that comes with modern celebrity… but because of his dad. It is not a drama but more a black comedy as the rage and frustration with the situation is just beneath all his lines to Callaghan. Hollywood might reject such a script as too cliche, yet Chet is living it. It is entertaining. Callaghan also interviewed the January 6th Shaman. No one in right wing online media has done so, but Callaghan has forty-five minutes with the Shaman. There are sad moments and some off the wall moments, but you come away knowing this man should not be in jail. He needs help. He needs a functioning society, too. Callaghan’s minimal training and outsider approach allows him to get more out of his subjects. Looking age sixteen with acne and an oversized suit might be disarming for these subjects.
Callaghan’s videos are entertaining but also a sad window displaying the American soul. One might view it as a carnival mirror, but this is real America. This is the America that NBC News or academia will not touch. These small subcultures are not so fringe when you see the individuals in the videos. They are everywhere. Some have a cult-like vibe, and others are just interesting things that allow misfits to feel like they belong. Like and Subscribe to Callaghan’s channel, but pay attention to the everyday Americans out there looking for answers.