Shout out to Something Awful forum poster SuperMechaGodzilla, who, in 2013, posted a Communist analysis of the film Prometheus, and basically radicalised me on the spot”. This was the answer of Harry Brewis (Hbomberguy) to the question on how he was introduced to leftism. With such a starting shot, the Politics in the Age of YouTube event on the past Tuesday 29th of January chaired by ICL Labour Club’s President Ansh Bhatnagar was anticipated to be quite a wild ride. Him and three other fellow YouTubers debated for two hours on current politics, philosophy, and the mechanics of video making.
“Conservatives seemed quite hip when I was young. I used to be an AnCap before moving well to the left.” remarked David Jacobs (BadMouseProductions) to the same question. Indeed, each of their paths towards leftism were quite different. In the case of Oliver Thorn (PhilosophyTube), it was radicalisation by “an unironic Marxist academic.”
The conversation then moved to the reasons why they had decided to start making videos. “Instead of posting hot takes on Twitter, I decided to make something and contribute to the conversation”, stated Angie (AngieSpeaks, prefers to go by her first name). “There’s a section of the LefTube community oversaturated with content that focuses on making fun of reactionaries. I wanted to go a bit beyond that.” Brewis also weighted in: “People have to change their own minds and the best thing you can do is giving them encouragement to do so.”
“Not everyone can make YouTube videos. The creators are disproportionally white cis males, and minority voices are very uncommon. There’s also the fact that its is very American. I would love to hear perspectives from other countries, though in many cases there is a language barrier [that makes the conversation harder].”, said Thorn. Brewis was very hopeful in the power of this new media channel as a tool for the empowerment of leftism: “If Left YouTube had been present 4 years ago, we may had had President Contrapoints [a famous YouTube creator that has done many videos on politics and gender] by now.” Angie was also keen to share her experiences in the platform: “One of the great things is that, nowadays, there’s a very big community of creators and subscribers that can provide feedback to your content. They can tell you when you have made a bad take, especially in videos with controversial topics. I had a recent experience with this, and people were very constructive, except for a couple of people that came after me surprisingly viciously.”
One of the main topics discussed was the state of trans rights in the UK. Brewis famously did a day-long Donkey Kong stream to raise funds for Mermaids, a trans-supporting charity that has been relentlessly attacked by transphobes in social media. Why is there such a backlash in this country against trans rights? “England is uniquely TERFy. Maybe because there’s a tendency for middle class, white, centrist feminism in our media.”, was the perspective of Thorn. Brewis’ reasoning was similar: “It’s the tabloids. Every opinionator there thinks themselves as vaguely progressive, and when they find an issue they do not understand they have to have a take on it. Mumsnet is a very British place. In England you have former comedy writers screaming all day about the matter.”
And where is the movement heading to? What plans do our creators have for the future? “I am going to keep making weird shit. My content has started being noticed by mainstream media, so there’s a bit of space for growing from here.”, said Thorn, who has been profiled by The Atlantic and The New York Times. “I hope the LeftyTube communities matures and gets rid of some of its more shitty habits. I would also like to see a bigger challenge to the liberal hegemony left of the centre.”, remarked Angie. Jacobs was also positive about the future, though much work still needs to be done: “We need to capture the narrative, ensure that ours and other yet unheard voices are effectively heard. We are the future. It is a gradual process.”
The event finished with a Q&A round with the audience. Hot topics like gun control were discussed. Three of the guests happened to be quite in agreement in their position on the matter: “Gun control has the effect of disproportionally affecting minorities first. I am in principle pro-gun, though I understand the controversy with that. Gun control was first instituted against the Black Panthers.”, answered Jacobs. Angie built up on that argument: “If I lived in America, I would own a gun. Institutionally violence is disproportionally directed against People of Colour.”. Brewis nodded in agreement: “It would be very nice if there were no guns at all, but in reality there are. I am with Angie, I hate guns, but if I lived in America I would definitely buy one. Nonetheless, it is a complicated issue.”
It was quite a popular talk, judging from the fully packed room, one of the lecture theatres in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building. Imperial students seem to be growing more interested in politics, but will the trend hold? We in the Felix Politics section very much hope so!