Though I have long and volubly condemned all forms of “web life,” I sheepishly confess to having recently loitered with intent on YouTube—regularly with my Irish friends Gemma O’Doherty and Rowan Croft (Grand Torino), and once with the legendary Stefan Molyneux.
In most of these conversations, we discuss the consequences of demographic crisis, enforced mass migration, and the destruction of Ireland by an incipient totalitarianism masquerading as liberalism. I don’t sign on to the conventional understanding of the term “conservative” and still less to “right-wing”—let alone “alt-right” or “far-right.” Such terms, now heavily weaponized, have become meaningless in a world in which all “isms” become “wasms” and in which we battle for the mere survival of concrete thought. But these new platforms do separate us from those dominating the media conversation throughout the West.
Mainstream journalism passes itself off as hosting neutral democratic discourse, when in fact it promulgates a darkening ideological program with no interest in democracy at all. It is fascinating that the Internet, which has so often seemed an instrument of unmediated decivilization, should yield an antidote to this incipient totalitarianism. For some time, mainstream media outlets have been looking askance at the YouTube phenomenon, grumbling about how “the right” dominates this powerful instrument.
Nearly all the YouTube stars have little difficulty owning up to the appellation “conservative” or “right-wing.” I’m thinking of Paul Joseph Watson, Jordan Peterson, Blonde in the Belly of the Beast, Dr. Steven Turley, Amazing Polly, and the aforementioned Stefan Molyneux. These people are criticized for fixating on immigration, political correctness, and the defense of “patriarchy,” but mostly they speak common sense.
What is called liberalism is not much cop on YouTube. As Steven Turley puts it, Twitter is “basically a secular-liberal echo-chamber that preaches to the choir and throws out old, tired euphemism and trite little hashtags that die out as quickly as they arise.” YouTube videos, on the other hand, connect with the concrete world and its allegedly “populist” inhabitants, offering a viable alternative to flat-earth TV and the empty sloganeering of the Twitterati. It is the perfect mechanism for the semi-amateur, the citizen journalist, the free-flowing conversation, the graphically-illustrated analysis, the lecture, the speech—all the olde-worlde-y formats that everyone thought had been killed off by the network culture.
Two years ago, vice.com featured an article by Tom Whyman, titled “Why the Right Is Dominating YouTube.” “So the left have the tweet, and the right have the solo rant to camera,” Whyman observed. “This would, in a way, be fine—except that it turns out the solo rant to camera is a vastly better way of converting people than the tweet is.” A few months later, the New York Times analyzed the same phenomenon: “For the Far Right, YouTube Has Become the New Talk Radio.” The author, John Hermann, concluded that just as AM radio favors “right-wing” commentary, so also with YouTube. The format suits the style of the “monologuists, essayists, performers and vloggers who publish frequent dispatches from their living rooms, their studios or the field.”
Hermann was correct: Talk radio and the YouTube video are mediums conducive to discursive exchange, to a flowing style of conversation that reveals deeper undertows. But in my opinion, the word “civilizationalism” better describes what the YouTubers actually do: Seek to expose “liberal” misuse of public communication channels to topple the totems of the civilization that has nurtured them.
Left-wing liberal discourse seems to be shrinking under the weight of its own spleneticism. Twitter and Facebook have long offered pseudo-liberal ideologies the opportunity to expand the reach of their power and influence, but now the toxicity of their tone and venomous incoherence has caused a contraction of attraction and connection. Leftism increasingly seems like a series of incoherent rules defined by victim-pleading and political correctness.
In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Sir Roger Scruton compares the language of the modern left to the Newspeak devised by George Orwell in 1984. Scruton traces Orwell’s creation back to the sloganeering of the French Revolution, and later the pre-Bolshevik era Russian intelligentsia and Socialist International of the late nineteenth century. In such quarters, slogans were essential to stigmatizing dissidents, revisionists, deviationists, and the like, and their success convinced communists that it was possible to alter reality by coining new phrases and words. Repeated use of “crisis of capitalism” could bring down an economy; the repetition of “democratic centralism” could insinuate that dictatorship was not in fact dictatorship; the call for “the liquidation of the bourgeoisie” could conjure the targeted person out of his or her human body, thingifying and isolating him. “Newspeak,” writes Scruton, “occurs when the primary purpose of language—which is to describe reality—is replaced by the rival purpose of asserting power over it. . . . Newspeak sentences sound like assertions, but their underlying logic is that of the spell. They conjure the triumph of words over things, the folly of rational argument and also the danger of resistance.”
Scruton describes the process whereby words invite us to see someone as an enemy, an untouchable (“homophobe,” “racist,” and “white supremacist” are contemporary examples). Confronting someone as a human being entails giving that person a voice, which means seeing words as tools of negotiation, agreement, or disagreement. “I make remarks about the weather, grumble about politics, pass the time of day”, writes Scruton, “and my language has the effect of softening reality, of making it pliable and serviceable. Newspeak, which denies reality, also hardens it by turning it into something alien and resistant, a thing to be ‘struggled with’ and triumphed over.” Ordinary language “warms and softens; Newspeak freezes and hardens… does not merely impose a plan; it also eliminates the discourse through which human beings can live without one.”
With mainstream media increasingly featuring these tendencies, it is not surprising that the “YouTube right” has become the new mainstream. Steve Turley has noted that more people now congregate around YouTube channels than around mainstream outlets. YouTube has become a sanctuary for those pushed out of culture by identity politics and the tyranny of omnipotent victimhood (increasingly termed Cultural Marxism). Those lacking the stomach for the complaints of the new victim class have fetched up on YouTube, and built a bridgehead against the further onslaught of the new barbarians.
YouTube, which started in 2005 as an independent video hosting company, was acquired by Google after less than two years. Until recently the brand seemed immune from the totalitarian impulses of its parent company, offering a platform to the voices of those behind Trump and Brexit and, more recently, the gilets jaunes, forces that confront the ugly undersides of globalism. Lately Google has been waking up to the error of handing such a gilded weapon to its sworn enemies, and has begun systematically censoring such voices, often on the basis of sneaky demonetization and spurious copyright claims.
Some are already preparing alternatives for the day when Google will pull the plug on the so-called “YouTube right.” The most promising of these new platforms appears to be Bitchute, described by its founders as a way to avoid hard censorship and demonetization by established services. This step is probably essential to completing a revolution that thus far has endured as a cuckoo in the nest of its enemy. Soon it will be time for the new civilizationalism to build its own nest.
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of nine books, and a playwright.