Saturday, 8 April 2017

YouTube Apocalypse - Time to Bite the Bullet

Kafka has Nothing on us!
If you subscribe to anyone on YouTube, you've no doubt heard of the mass demonetizations that many YouTubers have sustained over the last few days.  This happened as a result of lost advertising revenue stemming from moral panic over "hateful" content.  I discuss the matter in somewhat more detail here.  This has decimated revenues for many channels, with some losing virtually everything they make from adsense, Google's advertising program for content creators on its host sites.

The evidence is that there's no real ideological agenda behind who's being shut down and who isn't.  Left leaning channels such as David Pakman and Kyle Kulinski's Secular Talk have been particularly hard hit.  So this doesn't appear to be an SJW hit job.  David Pakman does, however, raise the specter of a channel "black list" - entire channels that have been demonetized, ostensibly due to their featuring any kind of potentially controversial content.  Pakman's description of YouTube's decision to cave into hysteria rather than stand up for itself and its content creators would be comical if this didn't present an existential threat to a huge variety of alternative voices to capital's mass media narrative.

Moral panics aren't unique to the social media age.  They are a recurring phenomenon in the western world.  And presumably the eastern world also.  What is important to remember is that the subject of the panic need not be completely fabricated.  Threats are often real, but overstated.  More crucial are the incentives that actors in media, law enforcement, public advocacy and so on have in generating public fear and hysteria.  Perhaps some of you will remember one or more of the following:

  • Anti terrorism panics following 9/11.  Exploited by President Bush to erode civil liberties via the Patriot act and get America bogged down in petrodollar warfare in Iraq.
  • Violence in video games, as promoted by conservative attorney Jack Thompson, back in the 1990s.
  • Related to the above, sexism in video games, as promoted by YouTube commentator Anita Sarkeesian.  This resulted in a counter-panic over alleged feminist and SJW infiltration of video game journalism and geek culture more generally.  Ongoing.
  • Satanism in popular culture back in the 1980s, and Satanic cult activity more generally.  Ranging from backwards masking on heavy metal albums to role playing games.  I personally have fond memories of this one, as I was a fan of heavy metal and dungeons and dragons back in the late 1980s.  I use the term "fond" facetiously.
  • Just say no to drugs!  1980s to present day.
  • Anti Communism.  The red scare (1920s), McCarthyism (1950s) and the revitalization of the cold war in the Reagan era (1980s).
  • Anti Fascism.  The brown scare (1940s), anti militia fears, especially following Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990s, and present day, leading up to and following Trump's election.
  • Rape Culture.  Present day.  Leftist versions of this focus heavily on college campuses, but would have us believe that rape and violence against women are sanctioned in western society. Right leaning variants focus on immigrants, especially Muslims.  Rape is a terrible thing and should not be trivialized, but as with most moral panics, those aggressively pushing either rape culture narrative have an agenda that goes deeper than protecting the public.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.  America, leastwise, has had a paranoid and puritanical streak almost since the beginning.  Not long after getting off the boat at Plymouth Rock, the puritan descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims were hanging witches at Salem.  Since then, it's been recurring cycles of similar kinds of things.  Present day social justice issues such as white supremacy and patriarchy tap deep into the national psyche.  Always, it seems, there are enemies in our midst.  Sometimes, there really are, but for the actual threat to be equal to the hype is vastly the exception rather than the rule.

The upshot of all of this, for now at least, is that a vital source of alternative media is threatened, and those who would see this alternative preserved are now going to have to put their money where their mouths are.  This means supporting the patreons and other fund-raising efforts that socially minded YouTubers are, by necessity, engaging in.  Truth is, we've had a free ride for too long, perhaps.  Were you to get similar information from a magazine or newspaper, you'd be paying for it.  Either through the purchase of individual issues or periodic subscriptions.  The support options for the patreon accounts of the YouTubers I support are much less than the cost of a newspaper, in any event.  

Plus, there's the age old truth that he who pays the piper gets to call the tune.  The more YouTubers rely on corporate support via advertising, the more corporate their content will inevitably have to be.  The less reliant our favorite independent voices are on this revenue stream, the more independent they will be.  Besides, wouldn't watching YouTube videos be more enjoyable with fewer ads in them? 

Do this as much, or as little, as you can afford.  If you're tight for cash, I get it.  I've chosen to support Secular Talk, Sargon of Akkad, TJ Kirk and Kraut and Tea, all of whom produce (in my opinion) good material fairly consistently.  For under twenty bucks a month, all told.  Less than my alternative media habit cost me back in the 1990s.  Perhaps YouTube will get its act together and not be quite such a bunch of old church ladies about this whole matter, and some semblance of reason will be restored to its advertising scheme.  Even should that happen, however, I would hope our favorite YouTubers will have learned a valuable lesson about diversifying their revenue sources.  I would still urge even nominal support levels.  

As a bit of an aside, Samizdat Broadcasts - the sister YouTube channel to this blog, does not have a patreon, does not use advertisers, is not monetized and does not generate revenue.  Not yet, anyway.  

But I would appreciate more subscribers.  Hint.  Hint.  <grin>


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