Sargon Of Akkad, Anita Sarkeesian And Culture War Politics On YouTube

I find the phenomenon of vlogging, that is internet video blogging, a fascinating one. It takes a certain type of individual, part-performer, part-narcissist, to be a successful “YouTuber” or “content provider” (a much abused term). This is not to dismiss or denigrate the work that such people produce. Far from it. I follow and admire a number of YouTube channels, many of them reflecting the enthusiasm and knowledge of just one extrovert person. My personal subscriptions on the website cover a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to photography, and I usually watch these on my mobile devices when away from home. I’m happy to admit that this is a medium of commentary that I would almost certainly fail at. Despite a background in IT, I very much prefer the written word, or the pithy Tweet, and would be deeply uncomfortable with anything else. Hence my respect for those who are prepared to step in front of the camera (and usually behind it too).

Many observers of internet fashions and technologies would argue that blogging, in the traditional sense of the word, has become very much a minority interest among “opinion makers” and “influencers” (ugh!). There is little “fame” to be gained in the daily grind of writing, especially well-honed and researched writing, while bite-size videos are relatively easy to produce (though, of course, some creators do much more than that). For those seeking transitory fame and fortune, YouTube has become a well-trod path. While successful blogging rarely produces enough money to be self-financing, successful vlogging can be quite lucrative. Even a moderate list of subscribers and viewers can generate surprisingly large sums of revenue, in the low hundreds of euros per month. Enough to supplement one’s income or to replace it altogether if you achieve online stardom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this has had a deleterious effect on the medium. Some YouTubers have become incentivised to court controversy knowing that it promotes their “brand” image, bringing in more eyeballs and more revenue. There are several well-known professional contrarians on the Google-owned platform who have a habit of generating highly offensive clickbait while behaving in a reasonable manner elsewhere. Of course many people almost subconsciously adopt an over-emphatic persona when it comes to offering online opinion, one that is somewhat at odds with their real world behaviour. I have fallen into that trap myself with some of my more tongue-in-cheek or spur-of-the-moment articles, or where I have failed to give adequate space or time for my thoughts before publishing. However, poor judgement or an exuberance of anger is quite different from the cynical exploitation of other people’s concerns and fears.

Inevitably political blogging has also migrated to these new platforms, especially – it must be said – on the conservative and libertarian side. There are a surprising number of hugely popular YouTube channels based in the United States of America which are almost wholly dedicated to the country’s domestic “culture wars” debate. Indeed many of these channels function as drivers of the debate, or at least in its online manifestation. In recent years America’s simplistic contest of right-left ideas has begun to take root in Europe, particularly in Britain and Scandinavia. However, even in Ireland, I have noticed a number of prominent, politically engaged users on Twitter and Facebook adopting the fiercely partisan language of US “campus politics”, often to hilarious effect. Reading young Irish internet users complaining about the censorious behaviour of “Social Justice Warriors” or railing against “white male privilege” on this island territory is almost beyond satire. The temptation to reply, “Cop the fuck on!”, is a serious test of one’s patience.

All this aside, I enjoy watching some of those who espouse the arguments of the alt-right or its sympathisers on various YouTube channels in the US and United Kingdom. If you approach it in a certain frame of mind they can be somewhat entertaining, like poor old Glenn Beck during his hyperbolic heyday at Fox News. Likewise some of their far left opponents can be equally as engaging, albeit in a less straightforwardly offensive manner (though the arcana of “SJW”  terminology can resemble an online course in particle physics – which I’ve done). Unless you are plugged into this fractious world of competing ideas and personalities it’s easy to pass it by.

Quite honestly, most of the YouTube debates, of videos and counter-videos and counter-counter-videos, can be categorised as navel gazing on an epic scale. It is a collection of self-identifying, self-contained communities at war with each other. This is battle where the leading champions are on near-intimate terms as only true enemies and online stalkers can be. However, for all the force and bluster, much of it is glaringly unimportant, and of so little consequence in the real world (beyond a few colleges in the United States) that one is astonished that the participants would think otherwise.

Interestingly, and another surprise, one of the most popular Irish-related YouTube channels is Computing Forever, a technology and social commentary site, with an emphasis on the latter. It is relatively well-produced for all its egregious nature. While the man behind the pseudonym, Dave Cullen, would probably place himself in the “classical liberal” camp of fellow-travellers like the UK’s Sargon of Akkad, his opinions seem not too dissimilar from those of the American ultra-rightists. Among his more recent videos has been an interview with Justin Barrett, the leader of the minuscule National Party, and a paean to the infamous British street thug Tommy Robinson, titled “Tommy Robinson is a British Hero”. Cullen ticks most of the boxes when it comes to the further reaches of the conservative cause, featuring discussions on immigrants, Muslims, feminists and so on. It is pretty risible stuff and a lot less fun than most (who at least have swivel-eyed lunacy in their favour).

A taster of what you are missing, or not missing, can be found in this Joe Rogan interview with Carl Benjamin, the eponymous Sargon of Akkad. It’s fascinating stuff, though perhaps in the nature of a petri dish beneath a microscope. Benjamin recently had a run-in with Anita Sarkeesian, the heroine or villain of the Gamergate controversy depending on your point of view, and his attempt to persuade Rogan that his attacker is a modern-day Lady Macbeth is pretty hilarious. Over all, he fails to reproduce the occasionally foul-mouthed patrician tone of his YouTube channel, although even there the mask slips more often than not.

Have a watch or listen and let me know what you think. The attempt by both host and guest to disparage some men as effeminate buffoons or disingenuous sexual predators because of their feminist sympathies is quite intriguing. The argument among the alt-right more generally seems to centre on the belief that men who support women’s rights as a cause in and of itself are either “uggos”, “faggots” or “rapists” (as an American email correspondent once put it to me). That, I suspect, is deeply indicative of how many in the far right view the fairer sex, a projection of their own inadequacies or sociopathic tendencies.

Personally the ranting and raving of YouTubedom makes me glad to be an old-fashioned blogger. More power to the written word!

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11 comments

  1. Anita sarkeesian? Isn’t she that twit who thinks women are being persecuted on the internet? I wonder if she has a boyfriend? Lol. Tommy Robinson is hardly a street thug. He is one of the few people in England confronting moslems on their rape and terror attacks. Very brave man. I am amazed he is still alive. The pro moslem british state tried to set him up to be killed enough times.

  2. Reading young Irish internet users complaining about the censorious behaviour of “Social Justice Warriors” or railing against “white male privilege” on this island territory is almost beyond satire.

    Fuck! Are there actually people in Ireland who do this?

    I mean…words fail me!

    The theory of “white male privilege” is facile enough in America, which I say as a leftist. And when you take the most cursory of cursory looks at the history of Ireland vis-à-vis British colonialism and “privilege”…well, those Internet users need their heads examined!

  3. Robinson’s parents are both Irish. On this island there’s some history of people who became “more Irish than the Irish themselves” in their desire to assimilate. Robinson is an insecure overcompensating person of limited intelligence and little empathy who has a pathological need to attack others, rather like the homophobes who disguise their insecurity about their own sexuality with public displays of hostility and intolerance to others. He is more English than the English, though the true spirit of the cultured English is, to coin a phrase, “Down with that sort of thing” (which is why it resonated).

    More time is spent on porn in redneck conservative states in the US and we have and endless succession of “wide stance” and other incidents among the political and religious authoritarians who want to police how others live. Robinson is just another obnoxious ignorant bully.

    1. Tommy’s time in Luton woke him up to the evil of islam. If you think islime is tolerant and peaceful you are the ignorant one. I have great respect for Tommy confronting moslem rape gangs. Cowards and hypocrites on the left would never do that in a million years.

    2. Agree with most of that. Whatever points he has to make, perhaps fair ones for all I know, are obscured by the fascistic associations. I know he plays the working-class, “I’m not educated like you”, card a lot but that can only excuse so much. An Irish person praising him as a hero is ridiculous considering his ultra-nationalist credentials. He belongs in the pariah company of the DUP.

      1. just wait til islam starts to dominate or terrorise Ireland. you will wake up too late that Tommy Robinson was right.

  4. I think you don’t need to quite apologies so much for sympathy with these “far-right” lunatics. You know, a lot of them are sounding more reasonable by the day. Make what you will of SJW culture, but it needed to be spoken out against. And it is very much on it’s way here. Get ready to talk about your white privileged if you don’t want to be kicked out of whatever’s left of the left. We are just a few years behind the latest forms and fashions abroad, as usual. Very easy to be “progressive” and “anti-racist” and all that stuff people are unceasingly identifying as these days, being open and all that nice stuff, but it’ll be different when the entire make-up of your national identity is taboo to even mention and you’ve to move aside for other cultures. We can laugh and say the Brits deserve it but we will all pay the consequences. Nothing brave about talking social justice propaganda. Cullen and his ilk may never be able to get a normal job just because they shared these “far-right” opinions. If you don’t agree with unlimited immigration and white priviledge and the rest of this jargon you are far-right. Simple as. I think it’s good you are at least encouraging your readers to look into differing opinions though.

    1. Well, for sure there are extremists on both sides, though I find my “own” leftists rather easier to deal with or tolerate than their rightists equivalents. Naturally, I suppose.

      Yeah, I very definitely oppose the whole thought-bubble thing. I follow several unionist or right-leaning figures on social media. How else would you know what the “other side” are saying? 😉

  5. Sargon feels “abused” because Anita called him a shithead and a garbage human and then proceeds to make umpteen videos about his hurt feelings. Sargon needs to grow a pair, and fast, or go outside once in a while, as Joe Rogan suggested. Normal people don’t care about this.

    1. Very true. The “YouTube community” is a bubble unto itself, more so than most other social media platforms. The arcane terminology doesn’t help either. I noticed that Sargon is still playing the innocent even though it’s obvious that he and his crew went to the convention to stage a stunt of some sort. The mock cries of hurt are pitiful.

      Most shameful of all, an Irish person is part of the alt-right scene, however loosely defined. Imagine being that unaware of one’s own national history?

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