Justice is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

One man’s radicalization is another man’s rehabilitation.

The New York Times’ recent piece on rehabilitated white nationalist Caleb Cain breathlessly describes his foray into right wing YouTube as if he was a spellbound zombie conveyed along by mysterious algorithms

These interviews and data points form a picture of a disillusioned young man, an internet-savvy group of right-wing reactionaries and a powerful algorithm that learns to connect the two. It suggests that YouTube may have played a role in steering Mr. Cain, and other young men like him, toward the far-right fringes 

But there is cause for hope, according to the Times

It also suggests that, in time, YouTube is capable of steering them in very different directions.

The article goes on to describe Cain’s deprogramming by an internet-savvy group of left-wing ideologues manipulating powerful algorithms. Justice doesn’t allow for self-awareness.

Mr. Cain also found videos by Natalie Wynn, a former academic philosopher who goes by the name ContraPoints. Ms. Wynn wore elaborate costumes and did drag-style performances in which she explained why Western culture wasn’t under attack from immigrants, or why race was a social construct… 

Ms. Wynn and Mr. Bonnell are part of a new group of YouTubers who are trying to build a counterweight to YouTube’s far-right flank. This group calls itself BreadTube, a reference to the left-wing anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s 1892 book, “The Conquest of Bread.” It also includes people like Oliver Thorn, a British philosopher who hosts the channel PhilosophyTube, where he posts videos about topics like transphobia, racism and Marxist economics.  

The core of BreadTube’s strategy is a kind of algorithmic hijacking. By talking about many of the same topics that far-right creators do — and, in some cases, by responding directly to their videos — left-wing YouTubers are able to get their videos recommended to the same audience.

Good luck with that, as they say.

The ACLU and its media allies are trying to take YouTube over entirely from its creators, from its audience, from YouTube. They’ve lost the platform, and, probably related, the platform has become the last haven of genuine political discourse. It’s as if, in banning nationalist dissent everywhere else, they herded it onto YouTube; chasing it off of YouTube leaves it with no effective platform, shunted into little narrative reservations where no civilized person might be troubled by its savagery.

Not only does the left’s argument not inspire, its customary advantages don’t work on a free YouTube. It is (or was) democratic, it empowers the common man, costing virtually nothing to get started; it’s global and grassroots at the same time. An unfettered YouTube is everything the left claims to want, and they want nothing to do with it.

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