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The socialist left goes after Mr. Beast

Critics of Jimmy Donaldson show their true character with an attack on generosity

Jimmy Donaldson speaks at the Kids Choice Awards 2022 after winning the Favorite Male Creator award. Wikimedia Commons

The socialist left goes after Mr. Beast
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You probably don’t know who Mr. Beast is, unless, well, you have a middle-school or teenage son. The YouTube star, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is the platform’s most successful creator ever, having amassed 131 million subscribers and earned a whopping $54 million in revenue last year. His videos, which mostly feature harmless stunts and generous giveaways, regularly get between 70 and 100 million views.

To get an idea of the size of this audience, the Super Bowl in 2022 was seen by an estimated 99 million viewers. This is an average video for Mr. Beast. A top-rated cable news show might be thrilled to reach 4 million viewers, a mere fraction of the audience YouTube’s most popular entertainer receives every day. If you don’t know who Mr. Beast is, ask your kids. They know him.

And yet, despite providing mostly harmless, wholesome entertainment for young kids—my own teenagers among them—Donaldson finds himself in hot water, not for a moral or financial scandal, but for the social media crime of caring too much. His latest video features him paying for cataract surgery for 1,000 people who couldn’t afford the operation.

“Unfortunately, nearly half the population with curable blindness doesn’t have access to this surgery, so I wanted to provide this to as many people as possible,” Donaldson says. The doctor who performed the surgeries told The Today Show, “There’s a 10-minute surgery that can eliminate blindness, so there’s no reason that half of all these people should be blind.”

When you watch the video, it’s hard not to be moved by the images of people experiencing sight for the first time. This is in line with the YouTube star’s stated mission to give all of his money away before he dies. He’s helped tornado survivors, given thousands to the homeless, and even has a channel devoted to his philanthropy. And yet, Mr. Beast finds himself at the center of a social media storm because his generosity offends some online scolds.

Only in an upside-down culture such as ours is the act of giving money away to those who are genuinely in need considered a bad thing.

Some used the occasion to make a case for socialized medicine, decrying a system that features rich people helping the less fortunate. Others saw his actions as only performative. Apparently no good deed goes unpunished. Donaldson’s only response was a bemused comment on the irony of it all:

Twitter - Rich people should help others with their money Me - Okay, I’ll use my money to help people and I promise to give away all my money before I die. Every single penny. Twitter - MrBeast bad

Only in an upside-down culture such as ours is the act of giving money away to those who are genuinely in need considered a bad thing. And yet apparently for the would-be socialists online—none of whom seem to be giving their own resources away to fund surgeries for blindness—it’s the very achievement of success that is the crime. Even though Donaldson has pledged to give away all of his money in his lifetime, the fact that he earned in the first place is unforgiveable. And since meeting human needs, according to this ideology, should only ever be done by the government, all philanthropy is bad.

But alas, not everything has to be sized up this way and churned through jaded political lenses. This is a cynical way to live. Instead, we might be grateful that on a platform that is often a cesspool of moral filth, in a world where celebrities often use their platforms for nefarious or selfish ends, in a world where the powerful exploit the poor, here is a young man who not only produces wholesome content but uses his wealth for good. Scripture tells us “blessed is the one who is kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:21).”

I’ll admit, I’ll never quite understood the appeal of the entertainment genre Mr. Beast has mastered, but my kids love watching and I don’t have to worry about them being corrupted when they press “play.” I can’t say that about a lot of online content. So maybe we could take Mr. Beasts charity at face value. Maybe we could stop the nitpicking and be thankful for a cultural icon who makes headlines not for his vulgar exploits but for his generosity. Maybe we would be moved to make our own acts of compassion, starting in our own communities.

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.

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