Last summer, the New York Times published the article, The Making of a Youtube Radical. It featured a user who was inculcated by the reactionary content on Youtube and his time watching radical leftist content on the site. The article raised mainstream attention towards the radicalization of viewers on online platforms. All eyes are now on these online spaces as they have become battlegrounds for contrasting political ideologies that will be a deciding factor in political movements around the world.
Political content creators that were once a part of niche, insular communities are now in the limelight. With a whole year ahead of all of us, let’s take a look at progressive content creators who are aiming to make the world a more accepting and informed place. Many of these creators have been on the platform for a while, but started making politically charged content in the face of the massive influx of right wing content during the mid 2010s. Borrowing the format of these right wing creators, many leftist Youtubers created reaction videos and video essays to counter the reactionary base on the platform. A loosely associated group of content creators now go by a moniker “breadtube,” whose name is an allusion to the famous anarchist text by Peter Kroptokin, The Conquest of Bread. The following creators are a part of the larger leftist community on Youtube and Twitter and have an interesting backlog that will entertain and enlighten viewers, hopefully making the year a little more bearable.
ContraPoints is one of the most popular channels within the breadtube collective. The host, Natalie Wynn, is a transgender woman who covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from philosphy, politics, sexuality, and gender identity. She is known for her video essays that contain beautiful costumes, aesthetics, and engaging cinematography. She plays multiple characters in many of her videos, often using them to explain different opinions and views. Wynn started the channel when she was a philosophy grad student in the midst of the GamerGate scandal, which prompted a steep rise of rightwing content on youTube.
Wynn has created numerous, highly regarded videos on internet culture, covering topics typically deemed too obscure and niche for a mainstream audience. Her most popular video on Incels thrusted the group and term into the public eye. She was also one of the first voices to critisize Jordan Peterson and discuss popular memes that make light of transgender people in popular media. Her latest video, Cancel, explores cancel culture and her experience being the subject of a movement on Twitter to “cancel” her. Removing herself from Twitter and making a staunch stance against the popular leftist groups has put her in an interesting position. The future Contrapoints videos will definitely provide interesting and thought provoking content.
Kat Blaque is one of the earliest queer figures on YouTube and has one of the oldest channels on the platform. Blaque is a black transgender woman whose content covers a wide range of social justice topics through a unique, intersectional lens. She has years of experience dealing with trolls and critics through her contribution to different social justice movements, making her an important voice in online leftists spaces and a target by others.
Her content is the bread and butter of Youtube styles, with her talking to the camera in vlog-esque videos. She is an active collaborator with many different YouTubers and has contributed to many different websites including Everyday Feminism and Huffington Post’s Back Voices section. Never afraid to speak her mind and always releasing fresh new content, Kat Blaque is great for viewers interested in learning about different topics through her multifaceted approach.
Oliver Thorn, host of Philosophy Tube, is also associated with breadtube. A thespian and philosopher, he discusses a wide range of topics through a philosophical bent. Similar to ContraPoints, Thorn also uses interesting set design and costuming to create elaborate metaphors for his videos. In his video Sex Work, Thorn dresses up as a magician and uses illusions to help explain his views and research regarding sex work around the world.
Thorn’s channel was never an overnight sensation, instead steadily increasing in viewership over the years. This is one of the reasons why Philosophy Tube’s backlog covers the most diverse topics with incredible attention to detail. His most popular videos discuss the philosophy behind Antifa, his personal experience with toxic masculinity, and the issue with the gaming industry. Philosophy Tube is a great source for well researched, intelligent content.
Hbomberguy is by far the funniest and meme savvy of the breadtube channels. The host, Harry Brewis, has video essays on video games, films, and social justice. One of his most viewed videos is his take on the Dark Souls gaming franchise, but he has more notoriety as being a part of bread tube with his pointed content, such as his video on climate change denial.
YouTube gaming culture accounts for a big chunk of viewership on the site, with many gaming communities being breeding grounds for the alt-right pipeline. Oliver Thorn explains this pipeline best, “Nowadays we recognise that there’s potential for young white guys to be radicalised towards the right-wing from that starting point: there’s a pipeline on YouTube from atheist content to antifeminist content to anti- “SJW” content to white nationalism.”
Hbomberguy’s gaming content is entertaining and engaging, and is now reaching a lot more impressionable male gamers than ever before. While his content may be niche for some, he deserves credit for diversifying the political views within the YouTube gaming community and upending the radicalization pipeline. Even if gaming is not your thing, you may still thoroughly engage his content. Congresswoman Alexeandria Occassio Cortez definitely does, which is why she dropped in one of Hbomberguy’s gaming livestream and discussed trans rights with him.
Lindsay Ellis is another veteran of the platform. Starting out as Nostalgia Chick, a part of the That Guy With the Glasses (now Channel Awesome) youtube collective, she rebranded and started doing much more serious and nuanced film reviews on her channel. She is also a frequent collaborator with PBS Digital Studios where she talks about literature. Her videos cover topics such as Fair Use laws, the ethics of satire, and how corporations manufacture authenticity. Her film reviews are also very engaging, with her Disney videos being incredibly well researched.
Not a stranger to covering controversial topics, her film reviews go above and beyond to cover social justice issues as well. Her review of the Hobbit trilogy featured her traveling to New Zealand to talk to numerous actors and filmmakers in the area about how the actors union was passed over by the New Zealand government for the filming, effectively passing anti-union legislature. Lindsay Ellis is by far the best film essayist on the platform and I highly recommend you check out her channel.
Some More News
Cody Johnston is a comedian who ran the webseries Some News on Cracked.com. Some More News is the revival of the web series and covers concurrent political topics and other newsworthy events on the bi-weekly show.
The show is a farther left-leaning satire news show in the same vein as The Daily Show. Johnston covers popular contentious topics delivers hard hitting satire through his thoroughly researched videos. Johnston collaborates with another ex-Cracked comedian, Katy Stoll, on the accompanying podcast, Even More News. They delve further into many of the topics discussed in Some More News and also discuss breaking stories through their free form podcast. Both members also work with another Cracked veteran, Robert Evans (creator of highly rated historical podcast Behind the Bastards), on the podcast Worst Year Ever. The podcast, much like this listicle, attempts to inform and entertain viewers for the year 2020.
Based in New Jersey, Vickram Singh is a staff editor for Honeysuckle Magazine, where he runs his column: Raised by the Internet. He is also the Editor-in-Chief for The Medium, the satirical newspaper at Rutgers University, where he currently studies.