YouTube Is Scaring Me To Death

By Peter Gerstenzang

Usually, when I wander over to YouTube, I’m looking for diversion, some distraction from my day-to-day troubles. But in recent months, they’ve started posting really disturbing ads with the videos. Which promote everything, from the upcoming Apocalypse, to the problem of having to re-use catheters. Which actually makes The Apocalypse sound like a day at the beach. When did this haven of rock ‘n roll become the place that makes you wonder if you’ve got diabetes, toe jam or a problem with your uterus? Even if you’re a guy?

I first encountered this frightening phenomenon when I went to play Bob Dylan’s “Tell Me Mama”. Across the bottom of the screen were the words, The Four Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack. As the music played, I clicked on this, suddenly sure I was experiencing the first two. Three, if you count listening to Bob. I was confronted by seniors describing burning in their chests, pain in their arms, shortness of breath. Okay, I’ve had those symptoms too, but only on the Ted Nugent channel. When the song was over, I freaked. And called my doctor to ask him to check my pacemaker. He said that would be impossible, since he’d never actually installed one.

Equally upsetting, was the ad at the bottom of The Sex Pistols’ “Holidays In The Sun”. It was for Nordstrom’s. This store figures you’re going to listen to the raging, nihilistic Pistols, then order elegant luggage? Where on earth does one of these things follow the other? Except in the Book of Genesis.

As I searched YouTube for my favorite songs, the ads grew evermore depressing. There were The 7 Warning Signs Of Cancer – which I hoped was an edgy new Indie band. An ad for pills that could help you urinate with more force if you needed to. And pills that could stop you from urinating altogether, if you were sick of the whole thing. Ads for The Lifestyle Lift. Which, apparently, raises your chin, but has no effect on your social life. Next, an ad bordering Fallout Boy’s, “Grand Theft Autumn”, which promised to laser tattoos off. And how to donate them to poor people who can’t afford tattoos.

I was bummed! I was tired of looking for my favorite songs, only to be confronted by the most disgusting stuff imaginable. And that doesn’t even include Meatloaf’s pitch-challenged version of “America The Beautiful”. Was I going to have to skip the YouTube experience completely?.

Luckily, it didn’t come to that.

It seems with all the ghastly ads attached to videos, there was one surprising exception. Pasted across one by The Velvet Underground. Knowing how old their original fans are, I figured it had to do with a policy covering final burial expenses.

But, no.

Instead, this screen sported a come-on for “Lovely Ukrainian Brides.” At first, I thought this might be the name of a Goth band. But, it was an ad for guys tired of striking out with American women. And who wanted to strike out with women from The Eastern Bloc. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the most romantic idea. But compared to cancer and arteriosclerosis, it was a freaking Candygram. I didn’t click the ad. Although I might someday. I listened to the Velvet’s song. And smiled. Maybe because this ad showed me YouTube isn’t just a gruesome repository of creepy and hateful sentiments. Nope, that’s Hank Williams Jr.’s page. Instead,  it made clear, that in the video universe, like everywhere else? Pretty much everything, even when it comes to music, is relative.