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As the culture continues to rapidly descend into a mournful state and we collectively lose our minds, we have developed a high tolerance for idiocy. The extent to which intellectual buffoonery is on display is really quite something. Add the paranoia of those who think they are always under threat from Nazi boogeymen and you have the recipe for quite the daily spectacle on the Internet. For some, being a paranoid imbecile appears to be the best insurance against the apparent “far-right uprising.”
“Far right,” “Nazi,” or “fascist,” all of these are thrown around in steady rotation in the absence of argument. In personal interactions such as those in a classroom or the casual bar discussion, one can more easily cope with being on the receiving end of a rhetorical onslaught. This is because it means that the person doing the mudslinging has no idea what they’re talking about, and are in desperate need to portray their opposition as beyond the boundaries of reason. We can accept the stupidity of our classmates and neighbours in these settings and get on with living; however, when the falsity becomes the pretext for governments, big tech, and major political activists to censor discourse, it becomes a much more pressing problem that requires our attention.
Claims—usually made by conservatives or libertarians—of certain ideological bias on YouTube are often met with scoffs from left-leaning activists. Hell, some of these activists are convinced that YouTube facilitates the far-right revolution they say is transpiring before our very eyes. Fumigating these platforms of the devious Fourth Reich agents is a moral duty, lest idleness allows time for new Buchenwalds to be constructed by the Ben Shapiros and Jordan Petersons of the world.
Enter this century’s Simon Wiesenthal, Carlos Maza, who has made waves over his Herculean action against Steven Crowder, the “Nazi” commentator and comedian. The delightful Carlos was incensed by Crowder’s rather derisive rebuttals to his insights like how conservatives are the true ventriloquists behind the media agenda, and the usual banalities on the gun debate. Sure, we can debate if Crowder’s descriptions of Carlos (“lipsy queer”, etc.) went too far, but Crowder is a comedian, and sometimes, comedic language will be repulsive. As Andrew Sullivan put it, you need to “butch it up,” dealing with insults is one of the many tribulations of life. Carlos couldn’t abide this, though, and has launched a malicious campaign to ruin Crowder, describing his rhetoric as harassment. It managed to achieve the demonetization of Crowder’s channel instead of outright banning it. Carlos wasn’t satisfied by that consolation, and lambasted YouTube as an enabler of far right trolls and bigots. The depths of delusion are spectacular.
But this is no surprise coming from Carlos, who is a classic case of radical activist posing as journalist. He has long believed in “deplatforming” those he regards as right-wing extremists, and has worked to rid the scene of whoever he thinks fits the description. So this is all in a day’s work for him.
Fortunately for Comrade Carlos, the New York Times has just vindicated his travails. This past weekend, as many should know by now, it published a report by Kevin Roose with the title, “The Making of a YouTube Radical.” Intriguing it is, since from the title one may gather that this will offer a glimpse into how radicalism spreads on the Internet and has ruinous consequences for the public. In actuality, it is a sanctimonious screed masquerading as objective reportage about the popularity of certain YouTubers. Barrett Wilson provides a good breakdown here of the mainstream/independent media dynamics at work in this masterpiece of journalistic indiscretion. It’s a terrific simulacrum of the parochialism that informs how the mainstream media thinks of what constitutes “radicalization.”
Though Roose speaks of how YouTube is a “godsend for hyper-partisans on all sides,” the article’s intent is to document how people discover “far right videos” (because the only radicals are on the right) and get red-pilled—or “brainwashed”—into converting to a “right-wing” position on issues like multiculturalism and feminism.
The article tells the story of the hapless Caleb Cain. Cain, a 26-year old college dropout, began as a liberal “who cared about social justice, worried about wealth inequality and believed in climate change.” But around 2015, he had a change of heart when he began consuming thousands of videos on YouTube by commentators such as Steven Crowder, Sargon of Akkad, Lauren Southern, Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, and even Philip DeFranco. Cain was inveigled by what he saw as exclusive or “forbidden” knowledge, and became addicted to those who were challenging the prevailing orthodoxies. This resembles most accounts of one’s conversion from the modern left to a more centre-right or strictly centrist position.
The entire article is designed to show the problem of people disabusing themselves of liberal viewpoints and embracing the radical “far right.” It is vague on what it means to be far right, but argues there is an effort by “right-wing” YouTubers to take advantage of the algorithmic trends to make their “inflammatory messages” a lucrative enterprise. Oh, is there? (This thesis has been debunked.) And to whom exactly does this description apply? Gad Saad expounding upon the problems of radical Islam? Lauren Southern discussing the real problems with mass migration? Joe Rogan having Douglas Murray on for a podcast? Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson engaging in a dialogue on hierarchies and the nature of being? The article mentions how Cain engaged with the views of white nationalists like Jared Taylor on certain channels, but the premise implies that those figures mentioned above are an introduction to views one adopts during an ideological journey in which the final destination is white supremacy.
One telling section that might illuminate the author’s conception of what it means to be far right is one in which he explains Cain’s ideology. Cain “never bought into the far right’s most extreme views, like Holocaust denial or the need for a white ethnostate,” Roose explains, but “far right ideology bled into his daily life.” How so? Because Cain began to identify as a traditional conservative who was “committed to old-fashioned gender-norms,” “dated an Evangelical Christian woman,” and “fought with his liberal friends.” Well, then I suppose Cain was truly hot stepping towards the frontlines and would have reported for duty in Richard Spencer’s Gestapo. All jokes aside, this bespeaks the perilous misunderstanding— either purposeful or not—of conservatism by the left that contends that the ideas of William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, and Heinrich Himmler all have a common source. “Far right” is being deployed as an all-encompassing label that suggests conservatives—or anyone that could be considered aligned with them, like those with heterodox ideas—are at least the gateway to extremist horror.
Such a misinterpretation does not augur good online discourse since it cheapens the real problem of far right extremism that needs to be addressed; which is easily distinguishable from the contemporary conservatism exposited by Tories and Republicans. For one, Holocaust denial and the need for a white ethnostate aren’t just the “more extreme views” of the far right, they ARE the far right. These views have manifestly nothing to do with modern conservatism or classical liberalism. In their belligerent ignorance, activists and those in Silicon Valley implicate conservatives or libertarians in an emergent far right, setting conditions for censorship of views they think are contributing to its development.
The article’s conclusion is also very telling. It comes off as a happy ending wherein Cain has finally cured himself of his “far right” neurosis and returned to an enlightened left-wing position. This came about by consuming a comparable amount of videos about Marxist economics, liberals who “debunk” Lauren Southern (his fascist crush), and others determined to really counter the “alt-right position” on YouTube. I guess congratulations are in order, Mr. Cain. You’re a better man than me, clearly.
Given the article’s focus, it illustrates a belief that radicalism is largely a problem of the right, while the extremist elements of the left are basically ignored. Additionally, this evokes the enervating question of when the left goes too far. Marxism parallels Nazism in its malevolence, but someone dogmatizing on YouTube about the capitalist cockroaches likely won’t spark the same panic over a radical left that there is over a far right that inspires smear jobs like this.
In fact, the NYT has a long history as a messenger of radical ideologies going back to Walter Duranty’s deceptive reporting about the glories of life in Stalin’s Soviet Union. They’ve kept up the tradition this week with a column claiming we should raise our conscience and move away from morally bereft capitalism towards a “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” where “technological changes serve people, not profit.” Is this absolutely mind numbing? Yes. Could it possibly radicalize people by NYT’s standards? It could indeed. But don’t count on those in the mainstream to wax poetic over the dangers of a coming Communist Revolution anytime soon. Because rest assured, those mutinous little “right-wing” YouTubers providing an alternative to such malarkey are the real threat.
The question of radicalism will continue to flummox the minds of many, and needs to be contemplated in a punctilious manner. There is a real far right and a radical left that need to be understood, but a myopia clouds the judgment of those tweaking the algorithms only to cleanse our heads of those blasted “right-wing” ideas to prevent radicalization. This is a “radicalization” about which they have no clear answers or understanding, and their uninformed perspectives leads to unnecessary censorship and viewpoint discrimination. I advise them to educate themselves before they continue a campaign of smears and clampdowns against those whose only crime is diverging from the politically correct consensus. We’re not all “far-right radicals.”