Emphasis on sad. I’ve been a fan of her work for years and years, and quite abruptly she has completely flipped from an ally and supporter of social justice to someone who is more concerned about defending harassers. It’s a terrifying reversal: how can somebody so completely change their perspective, and worse, how can they switch from a white hat to a black hat? Katelyn Burns has a very good summary, it’s especially useful because there are a lot of obscure alt-right YouTubers I’d never heard of before explained and defined.
How did she switch sides? It’s a familiar story to anyone who knows anything about religious cults. She got love-bombed. It was especially effective against someone who has a long history of empathy and willingness to listen to anyone.
In a series of videos, Green revealed that her shift was a result of “red pilling,” the term for a twisted Matrix-inspired recruitment process coined by men’s rights advocates, pick-up artists, and the “alt right.” The process involves a recruiter who attempts to position white supremacists as oppressed truth tellers while spinning phony racial and gender science as “free speech” that’s being trampled on by feminists and the political left.
I also learned something about YouTube.
Lindsay Amer, a queer YouTuber who has experienced response videos firsthand, explains:
“You see these anti-feminist YouTubers who gain hundreds of thousands of followers in under a year. I think there’s a lot of money in anti-feminism. The content is really easy to make and it doesn’t have to be high quality. Someone can just turn on a camera and rant and say something controversial and know that it’s going to get a ton of views. I see people who recut my videos with their bullying commentary added.”
Troublingly, up until recently, such videos were not only supported by YouTube, but incentivized. Because response videos are so easy to make, it was easy for reactionary YouTubers to churn out a lot of content, which YouTube then prioritized in an algorithm that favored prolific output, high view counts, and abundant comments — even if those comments were toxic. Gaming the very closely held secret of the YouTube algorithm became a de facto path to internet stardom, and the format was perfect for response-video creators. Even after changes to their algorithm in December of last year, YouTube has continued to discourage vloggers from preventing harassment — according to Amer, when users disable comments and the sidebar for other suggested videos, their content is less likely to be promoted by the algorithm, and their view counts plummet.
I had no idea. A couple of years ago, I shut down comments to my YouTube channel because I was seeing the opposite of love-bombing — I was constantly getting hate-bombed. The comments became useless because the swarms of anti-feminist trolls would barrel in and rage about feminists and throw in buckets of incoherent abuse no matter what the topic was…and there were multitudes of downvotes that would automatically appear within minutes of an hour-long video. Not only is there a simple-minded formula for gaining avid followers, but those same simple-minded, avid followers become a tool you can use to suppress other critical points of view.
YouTube is broken. It’s still broken. I don’t think Google is incentivized to fix it, either, and it’s become a reactionary breeding ground for assholes who don’t need to provide substantive discussion to become popular — they just need to repetitively echo the same hatreds over and over, reaffirming the prejudices of the lowest common denominator. As Anita Sarkeesian accurately said,
“You make your name on YouTube by making these dumbass videos that just say the same shit over and over again. I hate to give you attention because you’re a garbage human, whatever dude.”