five minute crafts is a russian content farm

by elizaligon

Established in 2015, the online media production company TheSoul Publishing has been posting DIY videos under the name “5 Minute Crafts” to YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. While some of these so-called “hacks” could be considered useful, others are failures or even threats to individual safety. Many of these dangerous videos would only entice children or complete idiots. They are one of the largest channels on YouTube. All of the content of 5 Minute Crafts is produced with the intention of garnering and retaining viewership. Why does 5 Minute Crafts want our attention so much? And who is behind these bizarre videos? 

Futile, sometimes even dangerous do-it-yourself missions are thinly veiled behind thumbnails decorated with bright colors and clickbait titles. They often promise a series of “Hacks You NEED to Know” or “AMAZING/GENIUS/COOL/CRAZY Hacks,” few of which seem to actually work.  The videos rarely have any voiced instructions, just background music as a series of strange acts are performed before the viewer. Repetitive actions, actors, and music lull the viewer into a serene state, until they are (potentially) snapped out of it by the realization that the product is scientifically impossible.

Often, attention is captured precisely because these videos are so bizarre; they will be reposted with a comment about how “cringey” or “peculiar” the video is. Still, these videos and their producers purport to offer crafts, tips, and hacks to an unsuspecting audience. 

One notable video suggests to the viewer that they can make cotton candy at home, out of caramel. The video shows a set of beaters and caramel being drizzled over them. Now. Those of you who know anything about cooking– and many of you who don’t– may realize that caramel is created by applying intense heat to sugar and liquid in order to form a syrup-y base. After having undergone this transformation, the caramel holds more heat than boiled water. So it’s definitely a bad idea to pour caramel over a set of beaters because a person could receive severe burns. Does 5 Minute Crafts forewarn its viewers of this risk, taking the opportunity to educate the audience in both chemistry and gastronomy? Certainly not. 

sam stillman

TheSoul Publishing owns and operates the YouTube and Facebook pages of 5 Minute Crafts. Records show that TheSoul Publishing began in Russia in 2004. Aside from 5 Minute Crafts, TheSoul Publishing owns approximately 140 other YouTube channels and over 70 Facebook pages. They have become the third largest production company in the world, outranked by Disney and Warner Media. TheSoul Publishing is owned by Pavel Radaev and Marat Mukhametov, Russian content creators whose company is now based out of Cyprus. During the summer of 2017, TheSoul Publishing gained over 2 billion hits. In the summer of 2018, TheSoul Publishing opened up an American branch of its production company.

Is there nothing suspicious about a Russian company, based on an isolated island, selling seemingly useless “hacks” to American audiences? Should American viewers be worried about the influential power of 5 Minute Crafts? One spokesman for TheSoul Publishing had this to say:  “Simply because a company has roots, international offices, and/or diverse global employees outside of the U.S., one should not jump to conclusions or automatically make assumptions that there is a hidden agenda. To be clear, TheSoul Publishing creates fun, non-political oriented content that is enjoyed by an incredible amount of fans globally.” This spokesperson went on to say, “Our impressive organic growth and positive viewer reception is very exciting. As we continue to produce entertaining videos, our fans can look forward to even more likable content that they’ve come to highly enjoy.” All of this seems pretty Fuckin Sus if you ask me. Especially if you read that back in a Russian accent.

If they do not exist to produce useful videos to make the lives of their audiences easier, what is it that 5 Minute Crafts is trying to accomplish? 

Aside from producing lighthearted videos about crafts and hacks that do not actually work, TheSoul Publishing also creates political historical videos, which are just as befuddling and inaccurate as their hacks. These videos show extreme sympathy towards Russia, often to the point of rewriting history to misinform the public. In one example, a video posted to the account SmartBanana says that Ukraine is a part of Russia. It’s not. (The video has since been removed.) 

On a similar note, the company posted a video including this heavily sanitized version of the USSR and World War II under Josef Stalin: “The second leader after Lenin’s death was Josef Stalin. He started to recover the country after the revolution. Josef reformed the country. He took the wealth from rich people and the property from the middle class and united all of these people with poor ones in the collective farm and the collective property. Russian Robin Hood—bang! Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941. It was the beginning of the second World War. Russia was not ready for any wars at the moment, so Hitler hoped to conquer Russia in four months. As naive as Napoleon. The USSR joined the allies. The Soviet Union militaries came to Berlin and beat it. The facism of Hitler was defeated on the second of May 1945 during four years of war, the Soviet Union officially lost twenty-seven million people. Many cities were destroyed. Recovery from the war was very difficult for both people and country.” 

What could this company have to gain from a series of inaccurate and sometimes dangerous videos which hold American audiences captive?

In 2018, TheSoul Publishing bought pro-Trump Facebook advertising, which must have cost them a pretty ruble. No social media platforms have spoken out against 5 Minute Crafts, and news sources are just as hesitant to print about the Russian social media invasion. Often in reference to the videos, terms like “bizarre” are used instead of saying uhhhh “dangerous” or uhhhhh “socio-political interference” ?

Has 5 Minute Crafts subdued our sources of information? Perhaps, but really this is nothing to be worried about. 5 Minute Crafts is an online media service which provides life hacks and other entertaining content to its global audience. There’s nothing dangerous about it; in fact, 5 Minute Crafts has improved my life tenfold. Check it out some time! Also bow down to our communist overlords and the second USSR 😉

Categories: April 6 2021, eliza ligon, side bar

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