Is Steven Crowder actually demonetized on YouTube?
It’s hard to tell. Carlos Maza, a former Media Matters activist and current bad actor at Vox, decided that he had heard quite enough from the Mug Club proprietor. He launched a campaign to de-platform Crowder, compiling a video of Crowder’s “bullying” and rallying his journalist buddies to make it go viral.
At first, it looked like YouTube wouldn’t bend to Maza’s pressure campaign. In a threaded reply on Twitter, they explained that while they didn’t agree with Crowder’s speech, it wasn’t a terms of service violation. Maza and his buddies were not fans:
Then, within 24 hours, YouTube reversed themselves; saying that Crowder would in fact be demonetized. Then, a few hours later, they reversed themselves again; saying that Crowder would be re-monetized, so long as he removed one particularly pointed shirt from his merchandise store.
How is Maza, an activist at a totally disreputable media outlet, able to leverage his power and have YouTube running scared?
Maza’s pressure campaign has caused plenty of collateral damage, catching Ford Fischer and others in a widespread demonetization.
This episode raises at least two interesting questions.
First, how is Maza getting away with his shenanigans? Maza advocates political violence against conservatives almost as a matter of routine. How is he able to do that – and then turn around and demand that a conservative influencer be de-platformed for “bullying” – with no one in the media calling him out for it?
Second, why is YouTube being so fickle? YouTube’s market position is dominant; by some measures, they have 75% of the online video platform market. How is Maza, an activist at a totally disreputable media outlet, able to leverage his power and have YouTube running scared?
PEASANTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE RUDE
This phenomena may seem novel; a journalist is, on the one hand, calling for the assault and battery of conservatives, and on the other, demanding that a conservative commentator be unpersoned for being mean to him.
Maza is a member of an aristocratic class. It’s perfectly legitimate for him to call for assaulting “far-right” peasants.
In societies throughout history, the following dynamic is common.
Aristocrats may be rude to other aristocrats.
Aristocrats may be rude to peasants.
But peasants may not be rude to aristocrats.
Under our system, de facto, Carlos Maza is perfectly within his rights to demand that conservatives have milkshakes thrown at them. Steven Crowder, conversely, cannot insult Carlos Maza. Thus, Maza has more power – and privilege – than Crowder.
“But,” you say, “Carlos Maza is just a Vox talking head! What power does he really have?”
Well, for one thing, Maza’s social location gives him unique power. Being gay and Latino would have been “axes of oppression” – in high school. In the 2019 media environment, they are sources of cultural power. Those who criticize him for those traits can be deplatformed.
Further, his career as a progressive journalist gives him power. A truly nuanced intersectional analysis of Maza would account for his ability to unleash the entire mainstream against Steven Crowder. Truly “marginalized” people cannot do that.
Maza is a member of an aristocratic class. It’s perfectly legitimate for him to call for assaulting “far-right” peasants. Crowder is, in this analogy, a “peasant.” He cannot insult Maza; that offends the established order.
UNDERSTANDING ARISTOCRATIC POWER
Every aristocracy has a source of power; otherwise, they could not maintain their class privileges. Previously, progressive journalists’ power was rooted in the ability to extract a humiliating public apology (hat tip to Matt Taibbi). But with the mainstream media losing credibility among conservatives, they had to change their approach. Now, their source of power is their ability to bully corporations into de-platforming unapologetic conservative influencers.
Journalists can control the news cycle, and inflict serious PR damage on recalcitrant companies.
And bully corporations they can. Progressives dominate the mainstream media outlets in this country; from all the major broadcast networks, to two of the three cable news networks, to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every other major print publication.
And on Twitter, the center of the modern digital public square, progressive journalists are quite literally given a special privilege: the blue checkmark. Collectively, these journalists can control the news cycle, and inflict serious PR damage on recalcitrant companies. So when journalists speak, companies listen.
SOCIALLY MANDATED INTOLERANCE
What to do about this? Many recommend boycotts, but getting a critical mass of conservatives to boycott is always a challenge. Moreover, because our blue-checked aristocracy controls the media outlets that would amplify the call for such a boycott, its odds of success are slim.
…our blue-checked aristocracy controls the media outlets that would amplify the call for such a boycott, its odds of success are slim.
Here at Human Events, though, we’re not afraid to wield government power. And the Civil Rights era contains some lessons on how to deal with aristocratic bullying campaigns.
Imagine, if you will, that you owned a motel or a restaurant in the Jim Crow South. Odds are, your business isn’t killing it. America as a whole was much poorer in the 1950’s, and the South was then, as now, relatively poorer than the rest of the country. Under those circumstances, if you were a rational restaurant owner, you weren’t really in a position to be turning business away.
So why would you discriminate against black people, when you were desperate for money?
Certainly some business owners were racist enough to want to turn away business, but the problem was deeper than that. Racism was deeply embedded in the Jim Crow South. There were many racist whites who wouldn’t consider staying in a hotel that served black customers; the dynamic resembled the “untouchable” caste dynamic in India. Those whites were powerful enough to make defying them economic suicide. As a result, businesses had to fall into line with the prevailing Jim Crow orthodoxy or go bankrupt. The “aristocrats” of the south didn’t want integration, so there was no integration.
PEER PRESSURED MONOPOLIES
In 2019, our blue-checked aristocrats are trying to wield their power to keep the new “untouchables” off of social media platforms.
Monopolistic companies pay attention when the progressive journalists complain. Peasant complaints, on the other hand? Easily ignored.
Granted, there are key differences between the economic position of monopolistic social media platforms, who have mostly escaped competition, and restaurants that were truly at the mercy of their racist customers. The pressure that our media aristocrats can bring to bear on the platforms is less economic than social.
All of these platforms are headquartered in Silicon Valley, a deeply progressive area. All of the executives live in the area. Most are liberal. If their companies defy the blue-checks, they won’t go bankrupt. But they will have to deal with an immense amount of negative PR. They’ll have to deal with internal discontent within their organizations, which are staffed top to bottom with progressives. They’ll have to deal with the opprobrium of their friends, who will wonder why they haven’t banned that nasty Youtube star who insulted the friendly Vox journalist.
As a result, these monopolistic companies pay attention when the progressive journalists complain. Peasant complaints, on the other hand? Easily ignored.
THE SOLUTION: PLATFORM ACCESS AS A CIVIL RIGHT
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 solved the boycott problem in the Jim Crow South. Once it was implemented, if a racist white person went to a hotel and yelled at a hotel manager for accommodating black customers, the hotel manager could simply point to the civil rights laws and tell the customer to get lost. After all – there was nothing the hotels could do. They had to serve black people.
This is more than a way to protect conservative speech; it’s a way to free social media platforms from aristocratic influence.
These businesses were liberated by their constraints. Because they were prohibited from discriminating, they could serve everyone, and increase their bottom line. It was the racist customers who truly “lost” under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not the common carriers.
If we make platform access a civil right, Carlos Maza and his fellow aristocrats can whine and bleat all they want about how a conservative has been mean to them. None of it will matter. Companies won’t indulge them, because indulging them would be against the law. This is more than a way to protect conservative speech; it’s a way to free social media platforms from aristocratic influence.
YouTube’s social media team shouldn’t be freaking out over whatever Carlos Maza says, because a bad actor like Maza shouldn’t have any real power.
And he won’t, if we fight.
Will Chamberlain is a lawyer and the publisher of Human Events.