The mainstream media’s attack on independent creators is intensifying. In a stunning piece of un-journalism, The New York Times has gone all-in on the Vox Adpocalypse. Kevin Roose’s “The Making of a YouTube Radical” takes advantage of a patsy—a “college dropout,” Caleb Cain. His entire YouTube-viewing history is laid bare in an effort to illustrate that people are stupid and The New York Times isn’t.
Roose’s take is that a gun-owning yokel from America’s fly-over country watched conservative, edgy, alt-right videos and became “radicalized” as a result. His awakening came through watching progressive videos and now he’s feeling better. It’s mind-numbingly stupid and unworthy of The Grey Lady.
Roose has made Cain the poster boy of people too stupid to make your own choices. The entire article is just anecdotal evidence with zero scientific rigour behind it. In fact, Roose relies on the moralism of discredited pseudo-scientist Becca Lewis to bolster his claim that YouTube radicalizes. Lewis’ assertion that YouTube is a hotbed of right wing “hate” was debunked by software engineer Mark Ledwich in 2018.
Tim Pool breaks down the NYT’s article in an excellent new video. Pool explains how the opening graphic which features various thumbnails depicting Cain’s YouTube viewing history is actually a digital blacklist of sorts. The thumbnails include some far right or alt-right commentators, but it also includes perfectly mainstream cultural figures like Jordan Peterson, Milton Friedman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Philip DeFranco. As the reader scrolls down, the images disappear. It has the feel of the NYT’s “most wanted” thought criminals. (If they had their way, all of these competitors would disappear.)
Roose also makes a point of mentioning that Cain frequently watched “videos by members of the so-called intellectual dark web, like the comedian Joe Rogan and the political commentator Dave Rubin.” The guilt-by-association game is strong in this one. While Rogan, Rubin, and Peterson are used to slanderous insinuations, DeFranco is new to this game.
He was naturally upset:
Cain, who, in his search for attention, has turned himself into human putty at this point, agreed:
As Pool says, the inclusion of DeFranco is hardly a coincidence. It’s a roadmap for future defamation based on “legally protected insinuations:” “The New York Times never said Philip DeFranco is alt-right. ‘No! It’s just an image! We never said that!’ Now you can absolutely claim there’s an association [with the alt-right]. It’s an opinion. But from there it will continue to escalate until a year from now they will say, ‘Philip DeFranco is alt-right.’”
We already know this to be true because it’s happened to Jordan Peterson, too. Peterson survived, and I’m sure DeFranco will too. Their fanbases are simply too large and their connection to their fans is too meaningful. (Pool points this out by making a distinction between “reach” and “influence.” Effective YouTubers have influence; The New York Times has reach.) But many of the smaller creators and content providers won’t be so lucky. They won’t survive the purge.
Zach Goldberg’s research illustrates that the media is more complicit in the “radicalization” of people than YouTubers, and Pool points that out as well in his video response. Goldberg tracked The New York Times’ use of social justice buzzwords from 1990-present. His results show that the use of terms like “diversity,” “inclusion,” “whiteness,” “privilege” etc., skyrocketed since 2013 and are now at an all-time high. It’s shocking to say the least.
As Pool notes, YouTube does not have “direct share metrics,” so YouTubers can’t manipulate their audiences in real time the same way that, say, The New York Times or Vox can by using direct share metrics and injecting their content with social justice jargon. My colleague Libby Emmons and I spoke about this phenomenon in a recent article called “The media tries to change your language to manipulate you.“
Quillette Canadian editor Jonathan Kay quipped that this NYT article reads like “the Christian social panic around heavy metal in the 1980s, or one of those 1930s PSAs that shows a fresh-scrubbed girl using marijuana (YouTube) and before you know it, she’s listening to jazz music (Joe Rogan) and turning tricks in an opium den.” He’s right. They are trying to use panic to seize cultural power.
Mainstream media outlets are dying, and this is one of their last, desperate gambits. They will continue to smear ordinary citizens and independent journalists in order to claw back the cultural territory they have lost to the people. It doesn’t matter to them how many lives they ruin along the way.
The New York Times, Vox, BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, will all insist that you are not smart enough to make your own choices. They must make them for you. They want to replace the people you like (people like you) on YouTube with themselves. After all, they are “authoritative.” They know what’s best. Traditionally, this has been their role. But as they capitulate to scare tactics and moral policing, they lose their jurisdiction.
Cain explains to Roose that “YouTube is the place to put out a message. … But I’ve learned now that you can’t go to YouTube and think that you’re getting some kind of education, because you’re not.”
The irony here is that since this new purge of content and content creators, many high quality educational videos have actually been removed from the YouTube platform. The New York Times and their mainstream peers don’t want you to get an education unless you’re getting it from them. In fact, their future depends on you not getting one from anyplace else.