The Slow Rise of Leftist YouTube


#1

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you may have noticed that the recommended videos section on a given piece of content (political content of any sort most often) you’re watching can often be an absolute mess filled with reactionary videos, Jordan Peterson lectures, and feminist cringe compilations. It’s long been noted now that the site in general heavily favors and presents predominantly right-wing (often far-right) content to the average user.

The reasons for this can be debated, with the most nefarious being that YouTube’s staff just really want people to see this particular thing, but the more likely answer is that many of the channels that churn out this sort of content are older, deeply entrenched and, frankly, quite popular, leading to them being automatically favored by whatever totally fucked algorithm YouTube uses to manage this sort of thing. Sargon of Akkad, the Amazing Atheist, and Thunderfoot are all examples of this, creators who have channels at least 5 years old and who’s anti-feminist and generally “anti-SJW” rhetoric gained them quite a lot of popularity, surging during gamergate. These types of content creator have a rather tight-knit community, often featuring in each other’s videos, and their viewers and fans are devoted enough to flag en masse any sort of left wing content on the site, harass and intimidate those creators, and generally contribute to an environment that can be very hostile for progressive voices.

But I don’t just want to talk about those sorts of channels. I’d like to hear more about those progressive voices on the platform in the background for years, and the slow, steady, and understated rise of leftist creators trying to carve out a space on YouTube and offer up alternatives to watching Anita Sarkeesian takedowns and “Epic Feminist Meltdown” videos all day. A few of my personal favorite channels are:

Three Arrows: Does incredibly thorough research and frequently debunks dangerous right wing arguments and talking points. His videos delve deep into complicated historical topics that people love to lie about and skew to try and prove a point. A relatively recent channel, posting it’s first video only 7 months ago and gained a popularity boost after one of his works was pulled after being flagged by a wave of reactionaries which resulted in other like minded channels posting this same video on their accounts in solidarity. Absolutely worth watching anything on his channel, it’s all fantastic.

Shaun; perhaps gaining the most exposure for a couple videos breaking down why CinemaSins is absolute trash, Shaun has quite a few others talking about the rise of blatant white nationalism on YouTube and elsewhere hiding behind the veil of “skepticism”, and often formats his videos as a response to a prominent reactionary, and then uses that as a jumping off point to talk about the topic at hand in a broader way. Also, quite funny.

So, at the end of this super long post, I ask: Do you have any other progressive content creators you can recommend? Will we see an inevitable surge in leftist voices on social media sites run by apathetic tech bros who couldn’t care less about moderating their platforms in a decent way, or any way at all? How do progressive communities and creators deal with the threat posed by overzealous reactionary viewers working to dismantle any and all resistance to their preferred creators?


#2

Mexie. Mexie’s videos are fantastic.


#3

I just watched her newest video on violence recently after someone gave her a shoutout on Twitter (I think it was Shaun actually now that I think about it) and it was great! She seems to fit the bill for what I’m talking about, a relatively new channel with a modest amount of subscribers, but who’s carefully researched content has the potential to garner a ton of support. Just a matter of gaining more exposure for small channels like that which is why I hope the few larger progressive voices can assist in getting channels like hers a bigger following.


#4

The podcast she co-hosts, Vegan Vanguard, is worth checking out as well. Really great discussions on there.

Really hope left tube picks up and is able to help people view the world more critically.


#5

H. Bomberguy has been producing fantastic videos for a while now, many of which are focused on criticizing far right YouTube (Similar to Shaun), and all of which are entrenched in his leftist leanings.

While she is certainly not without her problems, Contrapoint is another great leftist YouTuber who has been only getting better with time.


#6

Contrapoints has probably some of the best videos I’ve ever seen on YouTube (The West, Jordan Peterson, and the Incel ones in particular are excellent) and her humor, style and background in academia come together to make some really accessible and engrossing deep dives into tricky subjects.

As you noted though, the main reason I am a bit hesitant to enthusiastically recommend all her work is, as I understand it, a lot of her content that concerns topics regarding trans issues occasionally receives, let’s say, mixed reception from some people in LGBTQ circles. It’s not really something I can speak to or about personally, but the criticisms are of course valid. That said, I agree that as a whole she has stepped up the production values in a big way and honestly she’s one of very people I’m super excited to watch 20+ min videos by. She’s really presenting things in a way few other creators could pull off.


#7

I can tell you from personal experience she annoys a LOT of transwomen I know. It’s mainly because she says and does some really questionable stuff at times, like when she tried to appropriate the T-slur all by herself despite that not being at all how slurs are actually appropriated. She’s basically the one major transwoman who talks about trans issues on Youtube with a significantly non-queer audience, and there’s a lot of people who feel she’s handling that position really poorly.

Personally, I was frustrated with her signing up for a public debate with a known bigot who was using her as a publicity tool, but what I mentioned here is the most I know. She’s fine otherwise, I’ve cooled down over that shitshow being my introduction to her.

And since H. Bomberguy was brought up, I would like to point out there are two things about him that bug the crap out of me (even though I am otherwise a pretty big fan). 1) He somehow mixes together death of the author and auteur theory together in some of his critical reads in a way that makes almost no sense. He mainly does this on twitter, but his CTRL+ALT+DLT video bugged me because the way he worded his points almost made it sound like the comic artist was being awful and terrible on purpose to be satire when he was really trying to communicate that the comic is a great example of the major problems of gaming culture, which I suspect confused his entire point among some audiences.

As for 2), he doesn’t seem to know how to talk about sex, my mind instantly going to him desperately trying to defend himself for liking Ladykiller in a Bind. This bugs me way less because he usually doesn’t explore subject matter like that often, but it sticks in my mind because there’s a whole discourse of LGBT+ stuff he clearly doesn’t know how to engage with,

That’s all mostly nitpicks but they’re little problems that have kind of buried themselves in my brain.


#8

Yeah, I’m going to echo some frustrations with Contrapoints (and maybe youtube in general???). I think she’s done a good job with production values, at least RE: costumes and lightning to give herself a unique look. But ultimately, I don’t think Contrapoints knows when to stay in her lane? With her last video, the Aesthetic, Contrapoints centers and focuses on view points that are very invalidating towards trans women who don’t pass, and non-binary people. And then, while defending her video, said that trans men don’t experience mysogyny? I mean???

Ultimately, while Contra’s best videos are good, a lot of times she thinks herself an expert in areas where she isn’t, and I honestly think it does a lot of harm.


#9

WAIT WHAT!?!?!?


#10

Forgive me, the thread was deleted and I didn’t screen cap, but there are a ton of threads on twitter from trans men responding about why this view was so bad an harmful.


#11

Does Lindsay Ellis count? The majority of her work is more focused on pop culture, but she leans left from what I can tell. I love her transformer series, where she reinterprets the transformer franchise, somehow, within the frame work of a socialist/feminist/genre lens. It’s neat to watch her dissect these terrible films in a way that I’m pretty sure NO ONE with her degree would ever attempt.

I haven’t watched all of her work, but she’s on PBS now and talks about literature. Here’s her vid on Marxism and transformers:

Side note: I forgot, Lindsay and Contrapoints are friends, so Contra is featured in her videos from time to time, including this one. I know there are some people who find Contra a bit problematic, so I thought I’d just warn ya’ll.

Her video on Pocahontas is also one of my favs:


#12

Transitioning in the public eye is never going to be easy, especially with some of the worst human beings eager to “recruit” you (in various ways - that Singal is a chaser and can be nice in 1-on-1 interactions is part of why he is dangerous, especially with his platform). It often means making mistakes in public; not to excuse clear issues (as mentioned, the recent example of ignoring how trans men experience misogyny while also infantilised by the same transphobes who can appear to be singularly obsessed with trans women) but to note the pattern’s connection to how people are held up as exemplar of transness (when the very opposite of an elder whose understanding has had time to solidify).


#14

I’m sure many saw Cameron Kunzelman’s recent piece about it:

But it’s a good recommendation (which seems to generally be Left-leaning Youtube, if possibly not within the specific movement known as “LeftTube”) that fits here.


#15

This a good topic and You Tube really is a space where the left needs a larger presence.

So here’s a link to a video by Alyson Escalante https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLzZ-H4tpBM . Her channel is fairly new (this is her first video) and I found out about her from an episode of revolutionary left radio where she was a guest.

Anyway she is a very smart a well read Marxist-Leninist who also isn’t focused solely on theory or stuck in sectarianism. The video is about climate change and imperialism. How capitalism is not gonna save us but only itself (the capitalist class) and how the formation of dual-power within the capitalist system can create a survivable future for the masses.


#16

probably a channel that people haven’t seen before is Film Critters. they have a few bits breaking down classic media (their fight club video essay does a great job queering the film up) and do a great job diving into the analysis. I’d definitely recommend checking them out!

this might be more of a reach, but I feel like Vic Berger’s work might fit in here as well? I think a part of that youtube culture are videos that are a bit self-indulgent, and his videos really go above and beyond on the surrealism of it all. they don’t have a strong message at first, but leftist values really shine through.


#17

I’ve really enjoyed Big Joel’s output over the last year or so, particularly his recent essays over The Red Pill documentary


#18

I’ll go along a toot the horn of Innuendo Studios and his “debating the alt-right” video series which is very very good and interesting.


#19

While his older stuff is very cringe inducing and his newer stuff is very heavy I’ve been watching Philosophy Tube a bunch.

HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE CONTENT WARNING about his second to last video about mental health and suicide.

While this is maybe problematic because I haven’t had the opportunity to research the dude that deep there is the Channel Chomsky‘s Philosophy that is just Noam Chomsky talking about Anarchy and American Imperialism for hours on end.


#20

I was going to suggest Olly’s videos. I really appreciate what he’s doing and the themes he’s tackling.

Recent ones I like are this exploration of the effects of solitary confinement on mental health

and this very hopeful one on why he believes leftist ideas will win out in the end.

E: don’t let the Corbyn thumbnail turn you off if you dislike him, that’s not what the video’s about.


#21

Innuendo Studios has been doing great stuff recently. I can’t necessarily speak for his older videos as I haven’t really watched much of them, but The Alt-Right Playbook is a great dissection of how the alt-right operates and Bringing Back What’s Stolen is a deep analysis of women in action movies, using Mad Max Fury Road as a the main talking point. Both video series are well worth watching.