Reading the report “Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Far Right on YouTube”
“For a short time on January 4, 2018, the most popular livestreamed video on YouTube was a broadcast dominated by white nationalists. More specifically, it was a stream by YouTubers Andy Warski and Jean-François Gariépy, facilitating a debate between a white nationalist and a libertarian. The debate topic was scientific racism, which they refer to as “race realism”—a contemporary incarnation of the long-standing claims that there are measurable scientific differences between races of humans. Arguing in favor of scientific racism was infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer, known for having popularized the term “alt-right.”1 Ostensibly on the other side was Carl Benjamin, a YouTuber who goes by the pseudonym Sargon of Akkad. During the broadcast, the debate became the #1 trending live video worldwide on YouTube, with over 10,000 active viewers. The archived version of the broadcast has been viewed an additional 475,000 times.
This debate is part of a larger phenomenon, in which YouTubers attempt to reach young audiences by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment. An assortment of scholars, media pundits, and internet celebrities are using YouTube to promote a range of political positions, from mainstream versions of libertarianism and conservatism, all the way to overt white nationalism. While many of their views differ significantly, they all share a fundamental contempt for progressive politics—specifically for contemporary social justice movements. For this reason, I consider their collective position “reactionary,” as it is defined by its opposition to visions of social progress. United in this standpoint, these YouTubers frequently collaborate with and appear with others across ideological lines. Together, they have created a fully functioning media system that I call the Alternative Influence Network (AIN).”