Twitch Streamer Destiny and an Economist Debate Capitalism, Achieve Nothing

Twitch streamer and philosophical gadfly Steven “Destiny” Bonnell II spent 90 minutes of his day on Wednesday debating the merits of capitalism and socialism with noted economist Richard Wolff. Thirty-five minutes into the “debate” and the pair were arguing over the basic definitions of capitalism and socialism—economic systems whose relative merits and performance they were supposed to compare. It was not how either party had said they wanted the conversation to go. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jg8x77/twitch-streamer-destiny-and-an-economist-debate-capitalism-achieve-nothing

That was painful to read, just from the secondhand frustration of trying to debate someone who is clearly not arguing in good faith. I think most leftist folks have experienced the “well what about China and the Soviet Union” bullshit when trying to say, hey maybe workers should get paid sick days.

But it’s nice to see this outlet being officially referred to as Waypoint again. The green and white W rides again!

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Debates are a waste of fucking time. I don’t think I’ve ever left one feeling like I gained a new perspective on a topic.

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Ok? I just listed it as an example, I wasn’t positing as a thing that they said.

I’m glad Hasan is just having fun RPing in GTA while Destiny debates the ethics of racial slurs or whatever he does nowadays

My hot take is that debate streamers were and are a mistake and have had a not-insignificant impact on eroding the quality of discourse. I’m all for taking back the public sphere but infusing it with the immaturity of a Twitch stream is terrible, full-stop.

I don’t think we can stop the debate streamer wave, and I’m glad that there are political streamers that are more in line with my views. But even if I can agree with them, I still think they’re all clowns, more or less.

Destiny has made a career out of being obnoxious. Whether you agree with him or not (though I suspect we have a significant bent towards the latter), he is a troll. He’s a fast-talking contrarian, more interested in owning with facts and logic than he is in generating productive conversation. He’s said as much himself. He’s not incapable of having a productive conversation, but he hasn’t fostered a public image that exactly encourages it. (The fact that the comments on the video I’m seeing are all about “Wolff talks too slow lol” is indicative of a lot) And as a guy who more or less generated the debate streamer category, I think it’s safe to say that he has had a negative impact on discourse and frankly? He doesn’t need any more attention than he already’s got

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Not sure if this is a hot take but, I discovered Wolff because of this debate. I was introduced to new leftist theory through this debate. I dislike debate bros, and dislike Destiny himself. But debates like this one (professional expert vs popular idiot), at the very least, serve to introduce people to new ideas and concepts. Destiny already had people’s attention, being a very popular streamer, but Wolff? A lot of people found out about him through this debate. That, at the very least, is one good thing that came from this.

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These quotes read like every sociology lecture I sat through where some obstinate undergrad tries to argue with the professor about social constructionism not being real and people needing to just work harder.

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I’m Not Sure Why This Is A Thing Part 43807

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Perhaps someone here can help me- in college I remember reading an article (chapter from a book?) about how television invalidates experts because people who have spent their whole lives studying only get 2 minutes in front of an audience with hosts who don’t understand and what a hurdle it is in communicating to others. I think it might have been Baudrillard?? Any help here would be appreciated.

I got reminded about it from this article- Destiny is an entertainer, not an intellectual.

Edit: I was able to login to my old Canvas, it’s called “On Television” by Bordieu, I probably summarized it horribly, but worth a read (I’m going to reread it). Destiny is still an idiot

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The only useful debate I can think of in recent memory has been the Zizek - Peterson one in as much as it had clear ramifications for Peterson and his standing among a fairly significant chunk of his fanbase. That debate was a shitshow and obvs Zizek is bad in a lot of ways but it still exposed Peterson as being incredibly out of his depth on one of the main topics he’s been cited as a supposed expert on.

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Why give a clear grifter like destiny air to breathe. He has proven many times over that he is an ally to nobody but himself. He’s a racist ableist clown.

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Very general question that I am unsure has an answer: who exactly is the audience of a Twitch or online debate personality like Destiny? Like how old are the people who watch? Are they high schoolers or something? I am in my early 30s so maybe this a sign that I am really falling behind the curve on culture but the idea of watching some Internet personality debate is just beyond me.*

*Unless they are some sort of recognized expert in the field or have some sort of credentials… a degree, published work, etc… does that make me a snob? Like is Destiny or other stream debaters known for reading theory and putting in the academic work? This article really suggests this person has, at best, read a series of Wikipedia pages.

Anecdotally, I know quite a few people in my age group (late 20s/early 30s) who enjoy political streamers - though I don’t know anyone who likes Destiny, since he’s a terrible person. I imagine they attract a teenage audience too, especially on Twitch.

I’ve only ever watched a couple of these internet debates, and they were a few years ago so perhaps the vibe has changed, but I’d generally consider them more “political entertainment” than academic. It’s more like Bill Maher’s schtick, or when Jon Stewart would argue with Bill O’Reilly on his show.

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I think people like Destiny make a virtue out of not reading the theory or doing any academic engagement.

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Was going to follow-up with “then what’s the point of holding yourself out as a debater on these subjects” but I have been online too long to ask such a foolish question.

That’s an interesting comparison and one I hadn’t considered. On the one hand, great that there are more outlets available than Maher and The Daily Show; on the other, really not great if the alternatives seem even less substantive than the forerunners (and that bar is pretty low).

It’s kind of fitting to bring up Jon Stewart given his famous appearance on CrossFire (here’s the full clip). In this case, he’s criticizing the specific partisan politics of the pundits. I feel like frustrations with the US media apparatus were kind of the central themes of his run on The Daily Show. Obviously, Stewart was part of that apparatus as well and was not “clean of this”, and within this interview he himself defers to “well, we’re a comedy show!”, but I do think it’s a really interesting moment and said a lot about the status of US media at the time. (I wonder if Stewart has read any Chomsky or Althusser… probably not…)

On the note of Destiny and debate streamers, I think there’s the same issue: “this isn’t debate, it’s theatre”. Political streamers, whether they know it or not, are engaging in a particularly theatric epistemology. There have always been people who do that. But that doesn’t make me hate it any less.

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I don’t really care for public spectacle debates like this (Only one I could stomach was the famous Chomsky -Focault one from the 70s, but that was on an entire different level, because both were academics deep into their stuff). Some people might get introduced to interesting people, so I guess they’re useful for some.

About Richard Wolff I can only say that he’s useful as an introduction to the critique of Political Economy, but unless you are satisfied with some version of co-op led market socialism, his pov has to be overcome.

Destiny is a boring joke. There is nothing more to say imo.

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So there is a podcast from a New York Times tech reporter Kevin Roose which touches on this topic. In one of the episodes, Kevin speaks with a former alt-right aligned individual who has since become more left-leaning after questioning his sources. One of his main influences for the transition was due to watching “debates” on youtube. He cites Destiny as one of the more important figures to his transformation.

What’s telling is that Kevin Roose sort of digs at him to have him admit that all he cares about is the theatre of these debates. The guy admits that part of his enjoyment of the streams come from the host taking down whoever his guest is. He loves when Destiny “owns” his guests by citing whatever random wikipedia page he is scrolling says. His main enjoyment is the theatre–the political theory is a distant secondary enjoyment.

Long story short: the people who watch Destiny are the same types of people who watch Ben Shapiro. They do not care to get involved in the discourse. They just want to be told what to think.

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That absolutely nails my gut feeling about this sort of “Ben Shapiro – but on YOUR side” performance. I guess if the target audience for this thing is just going to be told what to think by Ben Shapiro otherwise, it’s better that they be told what to think by someone on “the left”, whatever that means. But on the other hand, you can’t rely on somebody like that for anything anyway.

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