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Oliver "Olly" Thorn is a British philosopher, actor and leftist Youtuber. In 2013 he created the channel Philosophy Tube to, in his own words, "give away my MA in Philosophy free to people who don't have the opportunities for learning I've had".
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During the channel's early history Olly operated using a standard "talking head" format using a simple webcamera and microphone to discuss topics of philosophy, often by tying the works of a famous philosopher to another topic (such as video games, certain shows and the nature of things like fanservice), gradually entering more into the domains of political philosophy and current events during 2015 and onwards. Beginning in 2018, Olly began experimenting with making more longform thinkpieces with sketch/comedy interludes from an actual studio akin to similar YouTubers ContraPoints and H.Bomberguy. These longform videos come out monthly and represent most of his current output.

Philosophy Tube makes heavy use of Socratic exercises, often inviting the viewer to approach the subject of the video from the subject's standpoint and providing insights into the philosophical arguments for and against, as well as occasions where the logic of those arguments do not necessarily follow, as well as a recommended reading list and episode sources in the text box beneath the video. In his current incarnation Olly also makes heavy use of comedy through taking up roles and viewpoints through fictional characters: these characters tend to either be an Affectionate Parody of existing people, or outright roles instead of identities (such as "The Cosmonaut", "Yer Dad" or "The Travelling Salesman").

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Some tropes you'll find in his videos include:

  • Affectionate Parody: The character Ian Drivel, a parody of Australian Youtuber Marcus Dibble, who ends up making an internet callout to Immanuel Kant for being a huge racist. Olly's first act once he exits the character is to apologize both to Marcus and to the entire nation of Australia for his atrocious accent.
  • Answer Cut: In the Steve Bannon video, although it easy to miss the first time round. After Olly asks if anyone smells gasoline, we get a shot to the arsonist reading a paper.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • According to his Marxism and Witchcraft video, Olly doesn't believe in God. Or magic. Or astrology. Cue Gasp!! and booing.
      "Do not '@' me, astrology twitter; this is the pettiest hill I will die on!"
    • The content warning for the Men. Abuse. Trauma. video says that it will contain discussion of "Suicide, Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Shrek".
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  • Author Appeal: During the HBO's Chernobyl and Personal Responsibility episode, he goes into a digression about how he thinks the casting of the HBO Chernobyl series is fantastic and how subtly effective it's actors are. As an actor himself, Olly has a lot of both professional and personal interest in the craft of it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In Climate Grief he comments (referencing a hot take about hormone replacement therapy that went memetic in 2019) that trans people may find it hard-going After the End, because of the lack of...synth music and flannel shirts.
  • Blue Blood: Zig-Zagged. He's apparently descended from one of Charles II of England's (many) illegitimate daughters, but part of the point in his discussion of the British monarchy is that Blue Blood does not, in fact, make him any more or less special than anyone else.
  • Brain Uploading: Discussed Trope in "Can you upload your mind into a computer?"
  • Brains and Bondage: He has made jokes about the handcuffs used in "Youtube: Art or Reality?" having been used for sex, which he later confirmed in a livestream, and he holds up BDSM gear as a joke in "Steve Bannon or: Why Do We Build the Wall?"
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: A unique variant, possibly crossing over into Casting Gag. Olly as Tom Gently claims that "the left" has never in its history quoted a black feminist, never goes the extra mile. But the sole exception to him is "Philosophy Tube...but he won't come on my show, he won't debate me."
  • Call-Back: In the video "Brexit: What is Democracy?", Olly is wearing what appears to be the same suit and tie he wore in "Why Does Britain Still Have A Queen?", only burn, torn and disheveled.
  • The Cameo: He frequently makes use of fellow Youtubers as voiceovers or walk-on cameos, or references their work (and is used by them in return). Natalie Wynn and H.Bomberguy are the two most common ones (the latter frequently showing up to co-host his mail streams), but other guests include Mike Rugnetta, Maria Watanbe, Mexie and Peter Coffin.
  • Carpet of Virility: He has one, as seen in his shirtless scenes.
  • Cerebus Call Back: The cosmonaut outfit Olly wears in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth comes across as a fun costume added for theatrical purposes, until Olly reveals that he imagines himself as a cosmonaut whenever he is considering self-harm or suicide.
  • Corpsing: As a trained actor Olly is excellent at performing the most ludicrous lines in a completely serious tone ("The Philosophy of Anime" is full of this), but occasionally corny lines makes him break down. He leaves those outtakes in for comedic purposes.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When discussing Jordan Peterson, he describes "12 Rules for Life" as "a popular self-help book", and "Maps of Meaning" as... "also a book".
  • Democracy Is Flawed: "Brexit: What is Democracy" is devoted to deconstructing the philosophy behind democracy and its flaws before ending on a note of reconstruction, adding that knowing the flaws of the system can be important in order to understand what it gets right.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Inverted with The Travelling Salesman. The entire point of the character is to gradually show the viewer how fascist talking points can be hidden in plain sight while slowly gaining the trust of its target audience.
    "So, fire is a metaphor for fascism, obvs — the point of the Travelling Salesman is to show that villains like him aren't always obvious. All the techniques I talk about in the video, he then uses — he's very charming, he makes you feel special, (...) he appeals to traditional values like trust and freedom — and all the while he is the arsonist."
  • Domestic Abuse: Discussed in the "Men. Abuse. Trauma" video, alongside the accompanying trope of Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male and the difficulty some men have with speaking up about their abuse.
  • Fake American: Invoked briefly in "Artists & Fandoms", where Olly mentions "American Standard" is an accent commonly taught in British acting schools while demonstrating it. He points out that, to an American ear, the "American Standard" he was taught doesn't sound quite right, but to most British ears it's enough to signal "this character is American".
  • Fan Dumb: Also discussed in-universe in "Artists & Fandoms", when he talks about various forms of extreme fans, including those who become stalkers towards their favorite creators.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Discussed Trope on a few occasions, most notably in the "Solitary Confinement" video which includes a number of eye-watering accounts (some of them first-hand) of what months of total social deprivation can do to people.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: Used by The Devil in the "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life". Crosses over with Snakes Are Sexy.
  • Femme Fatalons: The Devil also wears vicious stiletto nails.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • At times there are jokes that appear briefly such as in "HBO's Chernobyl & Personal Responsibility" when an online article by an American think tank employee is shown the words "freeze frame joke" and "hidden gags" are in the titles of the other tabs.
    • Another example shown for a longer duration is in "Abortion & Ben Shapiro" where other YouTubers are referenced through the framework of showing a fictional YouTube video from the previous character Ian N Drivel with the references as suggested videos.
    • In The Trouble with the Video Game Industry in a part of the video with a returning character from Elon Musk fictional news articles appear for a few seconds.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The YouTube subtitles are sometimes used to comic effect, including commenting on the music ("<ABSOLUTELY FERAL TRUMPETS JUST HAVING A FUN TIME OF IT>" at the end of "Men. Abuse. Trauma.", for example) or adding flavour (in "Why Does Britain Still Have A Queen?", Olly's dialogue while playing the role of someone trying to make feeble excuses for the wealth of the monarchy eventually just devolves into "<Centrist nonsense continues>").
  • Goal-Oriented Evolution: In Charles Darwin Vs Karl Marx, he explains why this does not happen in reality and also discusses why Social Darwinists and eugenicists believe this.
  • Gratuitous French: A lot in "Antisemitism: An Analysis". The episode introduces Mademoiselle Y, a French character that often spouts French phrases every now and then. This is fitting since the episode makes multiple references to French history and philosophy. The episode starts with a recapitulation of the Dreyfus affair, a French political scandal where a Jewish man was unfairly convicted and sentenced for treason, and it's one of the biggest scandals regarding antisemitism and miscarriages of justice, and later, heavily references French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's critical essay "Anti-Semite and Jew".
  • Guyliner: Used in "Witchcraft, Gender and Marxism" and "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life". Olly is also pretty open about wearing basic foundation for his videos and has made a livestream of him trying on makeup.
  • Hate Dumb: Brought up in-universe during "Artists & Fandoms", in which he discusses how Fan Dumb can quickly morph into this under certain circumstances, such as when obsessive fans become invested to the point of feeling personally betrayed by their creator over a Felony Misdemeanor to the point of sending death threats.
  • Hate Sink: The Arsonist, also known as the traveling salesman, is portrayed by Olly as embodying, to him, everything wrong with modern-day ultraconservative worldviews as well as representing a cautionary tale of how vulnerable people are towards far-right and fascistic ideas. In Steve Bannon, the Arsonist is used by Olly to highlight how the far-right uses superficial charm and exploits down-to-earth rhetoric to turn people against anti-racist and anti-fascist activists and light matches (a metaphor for committing hate crimes) with the arsonist. Further videos such as Abortion & Ben Shapiro and Climate Grief reveal that the Arsonist was responsible for burning his wife to death when she had an abortion and that the Arsonist believes that draconian forms of population control directed against immigrants and refugees are totally justifiable means of fighting climate change.
  • Homage: Several:
    • In The Trouble with the Video Game Industry Olly dresses up like Jim Sterling's Jimquisition persona while blasting his theme music as a nod to how much of Jim's work he's using as sources and building upon for the video.
    • Steve Bannon introduces the Travelling Salesman aka The Arsonist, who's based on the villainous characters from the play The Fire Raisersnote . It features a cover of "Why We Build the Wall" by Anais Mitchell, which puts the song in a whole new context.
    • The framing of Youtube: Art or Reality? is based on the play "The Pillowman" by Martin Mc Donagh.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: According to Word of God the entire "Steve Bannon" episode originally sprung forth from the fireman being "anti-fire", which in Received Pronounciation sounds exactly like "antifa".
  • Kill It with Fire: The villainous Arsonist in the "Steve Bannon" episode, the 'fire' here being a metaphor for fascism.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "Darwin vs. Marx" Thomas Malthus is mentioned as noting that humans rely on the "two fs", food and...mating.
  • Loony Fan: Discussed well into in his "Artists & Fandoms" video, describing six different kinds of over-the-top fan (with illustrations) that he finds crosses a line. One that he goes into particular detail about is the Stalker with a Crush who sometimes try to lie about knowing his work on dating apps or try to sneak into his dressing room during live performances.
  • The Mentor: Olly claims Mike Rugnetta was this to him. Not only was Olly inspired to get into Youtube by Mike, but Mike was also the one that introduced Olly to the works of Karl Marx.
  • Motivational Lie: Discussed as part of his "Is it Ever Okay to Lie?" video on Kantian ethics.
  • Mr. Fanservice: He's a very, very handsome man who occasionally gets his shirt off. Has said in "Artists & Fandoms" that he genuinely enjoys being desired.
  • No Fourth Wall: His YouTube: Art or Reality? video, which features two cops questioning Olly, fully aware they are in a video made by Olly.
  • The Oner: Olly's background in theatre has given him the skills necessary to perform lengthy scripted videos in a single take. While not the only example on his channel, "Men. Abuse. Trauma" is particularly noteworthy; it starts out with him talking about how Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit is written as a single, uninterrupted scene, and the video itself is not only done in a single 31 minute take, but even includes an off-camera costume change. On top of that, filming it only took two takes!
  • Out, Damned Spot!: In Elon Musk, Pontius Pilate is re-imagined as a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-type 'comprehensive designer' who has a breakdown trying to get the blood off his hands for killing Jesus Christ (a metaphor for the inadvertent harm brought by consumer capitalism, even when used by liberal personalities).
  • Percussive Therapy: Mentioned during "Men. Abuse. Trauma." After moving out of the flat he'd shared with his ex-girlfriend, Olly ended up demolishing a wardrobe he'd built when they both moved in with his bare hands. The ex is later revealed to have been abusive, with the implication that the wardrobe story was an unconscious example of this.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: Invoked by Olly as an explanation for some people's fascination with the British monarchy in Why Does Britain Still Have A Queen? It's more this than a Celeb Crush because while the royal family are comprised of actual people, the desire for them is more about the constructed idea of the royal family than anything else, and the only thing special about them is attributable to that construction.
    Olly: I hate to say it, but your waifu is trash.
  • Running Gag: During his "Witchcraft, Gender, & Marxism" video, Olly will preface a statement with the opinion that "[people from left-wing associated subculture here] aren't 100% right about everything", only to immediately find himself getting phone called and embraced by a famous person from the right known for criticizing said subculture.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • Much like ContraPoints, whenever Olly brings up himself or his previous work it tends to be in a jokingly unflattering light. During the "Brexit: What Is Democracy?" video he describes his last video on the subject as being made by "a spotty twink with a terrible haircut".
    • Olly also makes frequent digs at his own personal identity of a Marxist, at one point having a fake breakdown over feeling nationalistic when people say "God Save the Queen" during his video on the subject.
    • When he brings up Plato's philosopher-kings in the "Brexit: What Is Democracy?" video, he snarkily observes that Plato seems to think that all the problems in the world will be solved if everyone just listened to him...
      Olly: You'll be starting a Youtube channel next!
    • Olly has dunked on both Bertolt Brecht and Jean-Paul Sartre for mixing theater with philosophy, which, of course, is exactly what he does for a living.
    • When noting that comedian Stewart Lee uses a lot of Brechtian theatrical techniques as an example of Brechtian techniques being used outside a strictly Marxist framework, Olly sheepishly adds that this is probably why a lot of struggling younger comedians trying to break into the industry try to rip him off while barely holding back giggles. Cue the inevitable clip of a younger Olly doing exactly that.
    • In "Beauty in Ugly Times," Olly waves off attempting to do a literary analysis of Lolita because, in his words, "I am a himbo."
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: In Men. Abuse. Trauma., he starts the video in a Superman t-shirt, with his chest puffed out for most of it. When he breaks down discussing the nature of his abuse and the camera turns away to show his recording space, then turns back, he's in glasses, ill-fitting white shirt, tie, and blazer, and is sitting in a chair.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Occasionally wears suits in his videos.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • He has done a couple videos with his shirt open or off, but the best sighting to date comes from Witchcraft, Gender & Marxism, in which he gradually takes off his shirt and rubs fake blood all over himself and grabs a sword to look like a barbarian while warning his viewers to not use what he is saying to justify transphobia, as discussion on the socioeconomic aspects of womanhood "can get pretty barbaric pretty fast."
    • In the Jordan Peterson video, he played the Devil while wearing only a crown, some horns and a pair of large black wings.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During his early videos, Olly would consistently refer to the text box under the video as "the doobly-do".
    • The star at the end of the Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth title is a reference to David Bowie's , an album that Olly listened to a lot during the making of the video, which had echoes in the cosmonaut and conversations on death.
    • The detectives in his YouTube: Art or Reality? video are named Ellis and Strucci, after Lindsay Ellis and Shannon Strucci, two YouTubers who had both earlier done videos on parasocial relationships (seen here and here, respectively ) .
    • During his "Steve Bannon" episode Olly explains how Julius Evola referred to himself as "not a fascist, but a super-fascist" during a court case in 1951, before suddenly adding that "YOU'RE NOT DEALING WITH AN AVERAGE FASCIST ANYMORE, KAKAROT! I HAVE REALIZED THE LEGEND!", both lines originating in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    • Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life opens with a quotation from Mephistopheles in Marlowe's Faust.
    • He references Julius Evola's focus on "transcendentally" justifying his bigotry by mentioning that certain outfits aren't "TRANSCENDENTALLY BISEXUAL" in Queer✨.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare:
    • Given that Olly is a professional actor (and also British) he tends to pepper his videos with Shakespeare references, even entire videos. "Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth" opens with a reference to Hamlet, and "Marxism and Witchcraft" begins with parts of the witches' incantations from Macbeth and ends with one of Prospero's speeches in The Tempest.
    • After his Men, Abuse, Trauma video, he did a weekend-long charity livestream where he, along with several collaborators, read through the entire collected works of Shakespeare, reasoning that virtually every human emotion is contained somewhere therein.
  • Smart People Speak the Queen's English: Olly is actually Geordie, but speaks in RP in all his videos (though mostly because it's just plain easier to understand if you're not British).
  • The Social Darwinist: This trope is discussed in the video "Marx vs. Darwin". Amongst other parts, the video points out that Darwin's descriptive terms for evolution in On the Origin of Species were used prescriptively by Spencer to create this trope, as well as by Galton to create the field of eugenics. He notes that Spencer's ideas actually predated Darwin's work, along with those of Thomas Malthus. Both claimed aid to the poor should be stopped as it would only cause overpopulation (Malthus added a theological side, since he was a minister). Malthus claimed this population growth would outstrip food supplies (which has been disproven). Karl Marx and other left-wing radicals who held much the opposite views also praised evolution though, feeling it vindicated their views. They all held that evolution always led to improvement (an error as well). However, he also notes that views of eugenicists varied widely, while it also still exists (contrary to popular belief-mainly used against prisoners or trans people). While he is a Marxist, Olly also admits some Marxists endorsed eugenics as well.
  • Stiff Upper Lip:
    • In contrast to Hbomberguy, Olly prefers delivering his material in a calm, dispassionate newsreader tone. He even lampshades and partially deconstructs this trope in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth, pointing out that a certain disaffect is part of the British national character and may not entirely be a good thing when talking about attitudes towards getting help for mental illness.
    • Invoked in Men. Abuse. Trauma. by him speaking as he does in his normal videos for about half the length of the video, then the back half is him speaking in a much more down-to-earth, calmer tone.
  • Sudden Musical Ending:
    • Beginning with the Elon Musk episode, Olly began occasionally ending episodes with musical numbers, usually covers produced by himself.
    • While it was announced, the credits of the video on Steve Bannon feature a stunning cover of Anais Mitchell's "Why We Build the Wall". Combined with the imagery, it is breathtaking.
    • The Jordan Peterson video ends with a cover of the Hoosiers "Goodbye Mister A".
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: A common narrative device, with Olly often using two or more characters to deliver different perspectives or storylines before weaving them together in the finale.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: "Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth", often just referred to as the Cosmonaut video. It's widely considered to be one of the best Philosophy Tube videos.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The Devil in the "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life".
  • Wham Line:
    • From Olly's interview with himself in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth.
      You have to tell them about somebody who tried to kill themselves, and who isn't insane and who is still alive. You have to tell them what that's like.
    • Another, from earlier in the video:
      Dr. Rosencrantz: Why are we talking about the Jews of Masada?
      The Cosmonaut/Olly: Because, Dr. Rosencrantz, I don't wanna talk about myself.
    • I understand how you feel.
    • The post-credit line of the Steve Bannon video: the Antifa symbol, along with the tagline "DO NOT PLAY WITH MATCHES".
    • In "Abortion & Ben Shapiro," he describes why the "argument from disgust" doesn't work, describing in visceral detail the story of a lung transplant he had witnessed, where a young girl with a degenerative lung disease received donor lungs. He then predicts the sort of argument Ben Shapiro might make and follows it up:
      "And Ben Shapiro might say, 'Well, different kind of surgery! An abortion ends a life, whereas an operation that saves somebody is obviously beautiful.' But I didn't say that she survived."
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    • The "Steve Bannon" video is one to the German-language Swiss play Biedermann und die Brandstifter/The Fire Raisers (and lampshaded as such in the video's intro). Both video and play use arsonists as a metaphor for something else, and how normal people can get suckered in by rhetoric into aiding and abetting.
    • The "Philosophy of Anime" video is a reference to the Lasagna Cat video "07/27/1978". Olly pinned the comment "now where could my pipe be?" with a link to the video just to double down.

 
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The Arsonist

The Arsonist is portrayed by Olly as embodying, to him, everything wrong with modern-day ultraconservative worldviews as well as representing a cautionary tale of how vulnerable people are towards far-right and fascistic ideas. He uses superficial charm and exploits down-to-earth rhetoric to turn people against anti-racist and anti-fascist activists and light matches (a metaphor for committing hate crimes) with the arsonist.

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