I wanted to take the opportunity to write my observations on the usage of YouTube over the past couple of years and how, through my selections of content, YouTube has gradually dragged me into alt-right video content creators.
That YouTube uses algorithms to determine my interests and queue additional videos is not a surprise. What is a surprise, is how areas that I’m interested in seem to be populated (at least as far as YouTube appears) by alt-right voices.
In my quests to find videos on topics, I have found misogynists, racists, and aggrieved white males that somehow feel put upon by “SJW”s or women, or minorities or liberals for *gasp* expecting that people behave decently.
There have been a number of videos which made points that I found interesting or which I agreed with, which then suddenly veered into misogyny, or libertarian theology or other alt-right fetishes, and I’m left feeling dirty for having been there.
It’s frustrating, because some of these videos are fairly intelligent, and if not for these huge failings, I believe many of them would stand well in public discourse.
This leaves me with three conclusions:
1) We (or I) share many thoughts and opinions with those for whom I feel ideological disgust. This implies that there is more common ground than at first would seem on many issues. Perhaps people of these stripes can be reasoned with, if we are able to work around the limitations of their bigotry.
2) The folks who come from that side of the aisle are not necessarily the crazy morons we so often see them portrayed as. This means they are far more credible, and therefore dangerous, than we might otherwise appreciate. The fact that they are able to create informed and well thought out arguments only means that those who agree with them for their views on women, for example, will see them as credible in other areas of discourse. Ideas of bigotry and hate spread more easily when the sources of these ideas can couch them in “reasonable” language, and are respected as “thought leaders” by their viewers because of the intelligence of their other arguments. Even if these content creators only have a few thousand viewers, that’s a few thousand minds that are being encouraged to think in these terms.
3) Because of the aforementioned points, YouTube is spreading hate speech.
How can we respond to this? I’m not sure. There are a stunningly large number of small content creators that lean in this way. Some, I think, are innocent in their attitudes, unaware of the problems with their thinking. Others I’m sure are agenda driven, and purposefully push these ideas.
Since the beginning, my experience with the internet has been that it is largely white, male and young, and often full of self-righteous and aggressive behavior. Trolling has always been endemic. The further the internet has strayed from academia, however, the further the trolling has fallen from any actual intellectual basis. Intellectuals have been replaced by people looking to reaffirm their biases and self-sort into groups that agree with one another. Instead of sharing ideas, it has become an echo chamber for each balkanized group. And because the bigots can now openly espouse their ideology without intellectual challenge, they have become more powerful.
Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images. Standard License.