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In recent days, the Vox Adpocalypse has been the talk of the internet.
For a quick recap; Vox video producer Carlos Maza tweeted at YouTube to remove conservative creator Steven Crowder from their platform, YouTube looked into the matter and determined Crowder did not violate their code of conduct but eventually demonetized Crowder anyway.
Most have been quick to call out YouTube for their supposed anti-conservative bias, seemingly following the trend of anti-conservative bias as Twitter and Facebook.
While Silicon Valley has gone out of its way to silence conservatives on their platforms, at its core, it isn’t about Steven Crowder’s belief in a free market, Gavin McInnes’ traditionalism, or Milo Yiannoupoulos’ critique of feminism.
The core of this issue is not a political battle, but a battle for the soul of the internet.
In 2016, movie critic Doug Walker, better known as the Nostalgia Critic, started the “Where’s the Fair Use?” campaign, highlighting his channel’s unfair silencing based on false copyright campaigns from Hollywood studios. His videos often contain deep criticism of Hollywood projects and public figures.
Walker’s story is that of the prototypical YouTuber.
Walker began making low-budget videos in 2007, got popular, and began making a living off of his videos. The videos Walker was making differed greatly from anything one would see on television and his writing much different than anything one would read in a newspaper.
Walker was low-budget and alternative; the formula that built the early YouTube stars who in turn built YouTube into what it was by the turn of the decade.
However, as YouTube grew, bigger, established, mainstream companies began to understand that YouTube was the platform of the future.
As the 2010s progressed, the direction of YouTube began to shift away from the independent, alternative creator and towards the corporation; snippets of late-night TV, snippets of news from television, and, of course, proxies; channels who appear to be independent but in reality are backed by corporations, such as Vox is to NBC Universal, which NBC Universal is to Comcast.
The pinnacle of this mainstreaming was reached in the toppling of PewDiePie; an independent, alternative creator who skyrocketed to the highest subscription count on the whole site. PewDiePie was the embodiment of the old YouTube ethos. He was a guy with a camera making videos. However, in 2018, a coordinated effort among the mainstream media emerged to slander PewDiePie as a Nazi.
As PewDiePie was under fire from the ultimately unsuccessful line of attack, the true final blow was landed; T-Series, a Bollywood music corporation, began to surge and eventually took PewDiePie’s title as the highest subscribed channel on the site. For the first time in the history of YouTube, the highest subscribed channel was a corporation.
YouTube’s motives, along with the motives of Facebook and Twitter for that matter, are clear, and they have little to do with politics. These sites want to be mainstream.
YouTube wants to be the new television while Facebook and Twitter want to be the new newspapers. They seek to scrub every last bit of originality and alternative culture in favour of corporate acceptance, turning the once-promising bastions of the glory and freedom of new media into the same boring sludge as old media.
Forget Steven Crowder, Doug Walker, or PewDiePie, YouTube wants to become the site of HBO’s, NBC’s, and ABC’s backwash.
The old guard of media have seen people like Steven Crowder drink their milkshake in terms of cultural relevance and they have had enough.
They will continue to push until they have restored their monopoly on news and entertainment. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley is more than happy to comply in return to be let into the establishment country club.
Google has a clear vision of what YouTube should be and battle lines have been drawn. Not between conservatives and liberals, but between corporations and any creators who don’t conform to their mainstream mold or otherwise stand in the way of their vision.
This is a conflict between the independent creators that built the internet and the elitist, old school, old media corporations and their Silicon Valley collaborators looking down their noses at them.
What the internet will see in the next decade will be its equivalent of the fall of Rome.
YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter will become shells of what they were in their inception, slums of mainstream content, overrun by corporations peddling vanilla content for mainstreamization.
The viewers of these sites will splinter, expect more CRTV-type sites, and the alternative content that YouTube once championed will be forced into the margins of the internet. New sites that respect independence and alternativity, like TikTok, will gain traction.
People of different viewpoints will be forced into their separate corners of the internet and polarization will grow exponentially.
Rome is falling, and it’s time for everybody to put their feet down and demand that the internet remain a place of independence and alternative culture not the corporate mainstream.