On the topic of celebrity drama, I follow the YouTube channel The Needle Drop, run by music critic Anthony Fantano. Fantano claims to be the most relevant music critic on the planet right now, and given his million subscribers, it may even be true. I have discovered a few great artists through him, and have even linked to him a couple times from here.
Recently, the Fader published an article that claims that Fantano has a lesser known channel that panders to the alt-right. If you want to see a shorter and more neutral article, I also recommend this article on Junkee.
As a follower of Fantano, most of the accusations seem unfair.
First, some background. Anthony Fantano has at least three YouTube channels. theneedledrop, with a million subscribers, publishes music reviews and a few thinkpieces. fantano, with 180k subscribers, publishes mostly reactions to music industry news. thatistheplan, with 400k subscribers, publishes meme stuff. Or it did, before it was taken down.
I didn’t know what was actually on thatistheplan, because I only followed the other two channels, and blocked thatistheplan practically immediately after it came up in recommendations. I found it exceedingly obnoxious, although that isn’t a strike against it. Plenty of YouTubers make content that I am not interested in. Anyway, Fantano took thatistheplan down, saying YouTube policies were preventing him from monetizing it, and it wasn’t worth the drama.
What I am more familiar with, are his serious channels. And while he tries not to let his political views affect his music reviews, it’s not as if he never talks about politics or race. Most of the music he talks about is hip hop. Politics and race are things that come up.
Here are some examples, which I select not to make Fantano look good, but showcase a broad range of things that will help the reader judge:
- He explains why he never uses the N word.
- He criticized the grammies for their “urban contemporary” category grouping together musically dissimilar Black artists.
- He criticized writers who treated Tyler the Creator’s coming out like a troll.
- He argues that White people can certainly enjoy Jay-Z (and I wrote a critique of one of his minor points).
- He criticized an article accusing alternative rock of being too white.
- He criticized Amanda Marcotte for arguing that the Beatles made rock into a male thing.
- He strongly criticized InfoWar’s Paul Joseph Watson for hand-wringing about culture. (Although, I’m mystified by his comment at the beginning saying he follows PJW?)
The overall impression I have is that he isn’t perfect and gets things wrong. I think he has a tendency to highlight the most ridiculous SJW views as representative. But I agree with most of his main points, and he seems fairly progressive.
I did look at a couple thatistheplan videos mentioned by The Fader. There’s the parody of Hopsin fans, which includes a joke about suicide. My main reaction is that the whole video is completely opaque, thick with references I don’t understand. The suicide joke appears to be in poor taste, I’ll grant that, but it also seems to be a reference to something. And then there’s the parody of XXXTentacion fans, and I don’t even understand what’s supposed to be objectionable about it. Is it the part where he makes fun of XXXTentacion fans who defend XXXTentacion against sexual assault accusations? That’s not objectionable, it’s whatever the opposite of that is.
Here’s how it looks to me. Fantano makes his views clear on his serious channels. As for his meme channel, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. So why would I take the meme channel as evidence of Fantano’s character, when there is much clearer evidence available on his serious channels? “It’s just a joke” isn’t a very good defense, but “Here’s my larger body of more serious work conflicting with how you understood the joke” seems pretty decent.
The more troubling criticism is related to his associations with alt-right youtubers. In 2015, he had Sargon of Akkad as a guest of his podcast. He also hosted Sam Hyde, who made “comedic” threats of violence towards a specific woman. In 2016, he appeared in a collaborative video with The Amazing Atheist called “Questions White Men Have For SJWs“.
Fantano made a video responding to The Fader. He explains some of the context and motivations behind the memes. He points out that in the Sam Hyde interview, Fantano was not egging him on, but rather, awkwardly attempting to rein him in. The recording clearly supports this account.
On the other hand, his best defense for associating with Sargon and The Amazing Atheist is that they’re not alt-right. But I mean. They’re still terrible people. Can we all agree that the alt-right are terrible enough that “not alt-right” is hardly a defense? And if we stick just to things Fantano himself said, and ignore anyone he’s ever associated with, there’s still the “Questions for SJWs” video. So, he doesn’t understand what safe spaces are, and asked SJWs to drink bleach. Yeah…
To be clear, these are all minor criticisms in comparison to the ones originally made by The Fader. And I’m not sure anyone who cares will read this and change their mind, or that any of the points are important enough to even change people’s mind about. Sigh, I guess I’m just venting.