Facts about YouTube

From a new and very important paper by Kevin Munger and Joseph Phillips from Penn State:

The most extreme branches of the AIN (the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite) have been in decline since mid-2017.

However, the Alt-Right’s remaining audience is more engaged than any other audience, in terms of likes and comments per view on their videos.

The bulk of the growth in terms of both video production and viewership over the past two years has come from the entry of mainstream conservatives into the YouTube marketplace.

…despite considerable energy, Ribeiro et al. (2019) fail to demonstrate that the algorithm has a noteworthy effect on the audience for Alt-Right content.  A random walk algorithm beginning at an Alt-Lite video and taking 5 steps randomly selecting one of the ten recommended videos will only be recommended a video from the Alt-Right approximately one out every 1,700 trips.  For a random walker beginning at a “control” video from the mainstream media, the probability is so small that it is difficult to see on the graph, but it is certainly no more common than one out of every 10,000 trips.

That authors suggest (p.24) that if anything the data suggest deradicalization as a more plausible baseline hypothesis.

Of course this is not the final word, but in the meantime so much of what you are reading about YouTube would appear to be wrong or at least off-base.


One wonders what effect the arbitrary and selective (along partisan lines) demonetization and shadowbanning of accounts has on "radicalization".

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The infamous Thiago Ribeiro troll?

I have a feeling that we have many "observers" of the alt-right in this very comment section... can any of them comment on deradicalization trends?


My observation is that much of the alt-right’s content creators hit a wall after Trump was elected. They were lost. Then a lot of them had to shift gears and play defensive, which isn’t attractive to new eyeballs.

It’s important to recognize Gavin McInnes and his large role in all of this. The man was the most talented of these creators. His comedic instincts, cultural understanding and years of experience in the advertising world made him a pretty huge force. He was the introductory figure for a lot of people.

Today, he has been totally defeated. He never really had any longevity in the first place. Much of his strength was in his self-destructive style. Today he’s basically self-destructed. The Proud Boys was a colossal failure brought on by his substance abuse problems and the alienation of his previous mainstream Hollywood social circle. He became a role model for young men willing to push away others. He built that club because he wanted a taste of the old coke fuelled days of Vice when there was big money to be made in his “style”. He watched his former Vice best friends become billionaires turning his irreverent voice into a Buzzfeed clone.

Personally I watched his show (while working) back on Compound Media everyday, like, from the start. I watched the Proud Boys come to life in real time. I’m no alt-righter but I’m willing to admit I’m a “contrarian hipster”. I grew up reading Gavin here in Canada back when Vice was largely all written in his voice. It had a huge impact on me. I’m pointing this out because I really don’t think there were a lot of us normies tuning in back then. I’m also a former broadcaster so it really was just very interesting to watch for me. A friend and I were both tuning in and discussing it. We saw the train wreck coming. We knew that if what he was doing took off it was going to attract a lot of dumb dudes who will never appreciate what we at the time considered a pretty fascinating & sorta tragic performance.

In the early Compound Media days his racism and misogyny really did feel like they were part of a daring new style of absurd discourse. You could laugh off the bad stuff and find a little nugget of critique that hooked you in. For example, does the left’s approach to blacks actually further oppress them? Is there such a thing as the soft bigotry of low expectations? The alt-right to me wasn’t anything I was interested in being part of but it did have a sort of therapeutic quality for a white male leftist who was feeling pushed out of identity politics.

Anyways, I’m starting to ramble here. Black Lives matter was also a pretty big turning point there in pushing people to the alt-right.

I think the point I’m trying to make here is that there is no profit in political opinion. You need a talented coke head with a strong marketing resume to really float that stuff. Content creation is hard. Beyond politics, being funny is hard work. Creating consistent 10 minute videos that are engaging and tap into the culture is very hard.

Look at Crowder. He might be the closest thing right now to fill Gavin’s shoes and the man is just out of touch. He’s not punk and the alt-right is strongest when it is punk rock. He’s clearly an Adderal man which will never compare to the right mix of coke and booze.

My prediction is that we won’t see an alt-right with muscle again until another Gavin comes along. I don’t think it’ll happen. Punk is a special force and you can’t fake it.

Others who are smarter than me are calling this paper in to question:

"If you look at Appendices A (pg. 45) and B (pg. 49) of the 2018 paper which lists the channels that are considered to by part of what's called the AIN (Alternative Influence Network) you get people like Sam Harris, Tim Pool, Joe Rogan, and Dave Rubin."

None of these are right wing. Joe Rogan FFS? He just had Bernie Sanders on. Tim Pool is a Occupy wall street guy.

I suppose it depends how you define "right wing". Sam Harris has been embraced, much to his chagrin, by anti-muslims and those against the so-called social-justice warriors. While he is not right wing by your standards, perhaps, he _does_ have at least some percentage of his base who self-identify as such.

Joe Rogan has had Sanders on his show, but also Alex Jones, Jordan Petersen, Gavin MCinness...

To say they don't have exposure to and influence on right wing viewers/listeners requires some semantic gymnastics.

I guess that makes Bill Maher an alt-right then. What did they do in the study? Ask the New York Times who is alt-right? If Peterson is considered alt-right then the term has absolutely no meaning at all.

What Angela Merkel is saying now would have placed her in the extreme right wing if she had said it three years ago.

If you are basing conclusions based on these ridiculous semantics that have no basis in reality then the whole study is a waste of time.

Radicalization means what? Antifa? Right wing Militia? Or is it simply having opinions that horrify the average New York Times reader? Feminists who are horrified by men showing up in their spaces, like rape call centers are called alt-right.

I'd chalk this up to a serious mistake made by someone who took what is written in the legacy media as useful. Don't.

I don't know why you have a bone to pick with me. I'm simply describing the authors' definitions. I'm not _saying_ anyone should be considered right wing, conservative, alt-right, etc. I'm describing the fact that the youtube content authors listed are, in some contexts by some right-of-center youtube surfers, considered to be influencers.

In any case, feel free to project your own perceptions of where you tubers fall on the spectrum of political and social thinking. I am sincerely curious.

"he _does_ have at least some percentage of his base who self-identify as such."

By this standard all media is Alt-right. You, and those that you follow, use this standard so that you attempt to tar anyone you disagree with.

However, this standard makes the terms meaningless. Which is how everyone should regard this made up term.

"Sam Harris has been embraced, much to his chagrin, by anti-muslims"

Sam Harris reminds me of someone who has zero social skills and can't figure out why people keep on trying to avoid him. Years ago, I saw him interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News and even O'Reilly had to jump in and challenge him a few times on some of his more sweeping claims.

I don't think Sam Harris is ill-intentioned but he seems completely naive about how the real world works if it is "much to his chagrin" that anti-muslims like him.

"the AIN (the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite) "

Then that makes them part of the Alt-Lite. Reading comprehension is such an underrated skill these days.

Note how quickly the pretense is abandoned and comments begin conflating the alt-right with the entire right wing.

I recognize Señor Chadwick as the new Chilean President.

I downloaded the paper and searched on some terms.

In order to publish in academic journals researchers will almost always fall into "liberal vs. conservative," without nuance, as does this paper. If the researchers are Dems they will likely be fully committed to "liberal vs. conservative." Also, bloggers and authors of popular books will often stick with "liberal vs. conservative" because otherwise lefty followers and readers will be put off by not being accorded the compliment "liberal."

The paragraph on the "Skeptic" category is particularly lame. What are they "Skeptics" of? They never say.

In the "Skeptic" category the paper highlights three YouTubers: Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, and Carl Benjamin ("Sargon of Akkad"). Rubin and Peterson plainly identify as classical liberal, and Benjamin seems to fit that too though I've not watch much of him so I don't know whether he comes out and says that. The paper elides the overt classical liberal character of these figures. In this group one could also put Gad Saad (not mentioned in paper) and Dennis Prager (put into "Conservative"). They too call themselves liberal.

The word "classical" does not appear in the paper.

Academics will not tell you that there is a meaningful trend to recover CL.

An aspect of this trend is that George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Charles C.W. Cooke, David French, Yuval Levin, and Kevin Williamson have all been standing up for, in some cases extolling, CL, many indicating that CL is in fact what it is that their conservatism seeks to conserve.

And others, such as Ben Shapiro and Mark Levin, seem to avoid quite consistently calling lefties "liberal."

Libertarians seem to be gravitating more toward using CL, e.g., Deirdre McCloskey.

Liberalism Unrelinquished:
Among the signers:
Charles Murray, Jonathan Haidt, Steven Hayward, Alan Charles Kors, Alan Macfarlane.

The desire to place people into tidy little boxes is the sign of an over educated mediocre intellect. There is lots of it going around.

Yes, Sargon of Akkad is entirely a classical liberal too.

If you have a problem with the labels "liberal" and "conservative," it's not clear how introducing a third label "classical liberal" helps matters. What is a classical liberal and which Enlightenment thinkers with all of their disagreements actually qualify?

I think the best way to find out what categories actually exist in political thought are to try to find out what makes all of these people tick. What pleases them, what gets under their skin and sends them into ranting mode, and (a la Robin Hanson) what groups do they seek to raise and lower in social status? I am most familiar with George Will, Jonah Goldberg and Charles Murray but they all have important similarities on these dimensions to conservatives. Murray, for instance, really does think that traditional religion and family values are much more important to social stability than a safety net. You may agree or disagree with that view but that places him squarely in the tradition of conservative thinkers.

Small differences and occasional departures from partisan orthodoxy aren't enough to justify the view that these people are not conservatives. Various socialist and communist factions famously hated each other -- that doesn't mean they weren't all part of a general tendency or category of thought.

God forbid someone identified as a liberal conservative in the Edmund Burke mode.

Almost as recent (Sep 2019), British YouTube presenter Tom Scott offers his views to a Royal Inst. audience on emerging machine learning systems:


--relevant views in days when Google asserts and attains "quantum supremacy" prior to any announcement of some hallowed "algorithm of truth".

"...has come from the entry of mainstream conservatives into the YouTube marketplace."

Boomers are always screwing up stuff. And jumping on the fluidity or antiquated sense of con and lib terms: Boomers can be NeverTrumpers Democrats also.

Skimmed the paper but didn’t notice any estimate of the actual number of people they conjecture fit their definitions. As I recall Vox claims that about 5 or 6 percent (11 million) of non-Hispanic whites are alt-right but given how the alt-right is supposed to be an on- line movement, the number of views in the graphs suggest some incongruity there. Is the alt-right a small fringe or are there 10 million or more? Inquiring minds are curious.

The "alt right" is a bullshit term. "alt-lite" is even more bullshit.

It took me a bit of digging to figure it out. Here's the best I've pieced it together.

Two groups called themself alt-right at some point, one group is a bunch of politically-incorrect, trolling, sometimes quasi-intellectual geeks and another group some legit racists like white nationalists. (There is some overlap but not as much as you've been lead to believe.)

The first group mostly didn't want to be confused with the second group so they apparently mostly dropped the use of the term many years ago.

Leftists want to associate anyone who disagrees with them with racists so they use the term to convince themselves both groups are the same. Then they expanded their definition to include most anyone who says something politically correct online.

People smell too much bullshit, so some leftists have come up with a second term "alt-lite" to admit they aren't the same but still try to associate them to spread some of the racism stigma on anyone who disagrees with them.

"Alt-right" simply means any right-wing movement that does not find commonality with the popular right-wing movements. It works the same way as an opposition government in the parliamentary sense, which can be composed of parties with very divergent or even contradictory platforms. They are defined by their relation to the mainstream, not by their relation to each other.

Of course your observation that the term is co-opted by the non-alt right and left to preemptively shut down any consideration of their arguments is very much correct, but we could say the same for the "racist" "white nationalists", could we not?

That would be a reasonable use of the words "alt" and "right".

However, that's not how it's used. Per current Wikipedia, alt-right is a "loosely connected far-right, white nationalist movement".

That's actually a greatly improved definition. Some previous versions implied that MRAs are white supremacists. Another previous version claimed that the alt-right is a bunch of far-right groups united by Donald Trump.

And yes, "racist" is heavily abused by the left, and that bugs the hell out of me.

This bullshit is actually why I stopped saying I "lean left" although my views mostly haven't swung much.

I am not sure why you would consider the Wikipedia editors' definition authoritative, they have demonstrated their willingness to toe the party line as much as any mainstream news outlet.

All the same, I would allow that the value in terminology is its commonly understood meaning were it not for the deliberate carelessness on the part of our cultural overlords in employing them. Such as, again, the distinctions between a white nationalist, a white separatist, and a white supremacist. One can reasonably oppose all of these things and yet casually conflating them indicates that opposition is little more than virtue-signalling.

+1. Useful and meaningful distinctions.

"…A random walk algorithm beginning at an Alt-Lite video and taking 5 steps randomly selecting one of the ten recommended videos…"

Downloaded the paper - the authors use "random walk" as a model for browsing without even remotely trying to test whether that reflects actual human video browsing behavior.

Why should anyone believe that the conclusions of this paper have anything to do with real-world phenomena?

Because random walk is a standard approximation for browsing behavior. It's the foundation of the original PageRank algorithm, for example. To do better, you need a dataset of real click patterns which the researchers probably do not have access to and which would invite a fresh set of potential criticisms from blog commenters.

I'm not sure PageRank was trying to capture browsing so much as it was trying to measure centrality of a site.

When are we going to see studies on Russia gate nutters or TDS since they've so overtly in the MSM for about 4+ years already?

Or is that something that is politically a non-starter therefore non-fundable for some institutions and media agencies?

Notwithstanding JFK, oppression/suppression works (which is just another way of saying incentives matter). "Deradicalization" means just that. People are far more likely to fight battles they believe (even if untrue) they can win. The reason that groups who on purely rational can win still fight is that they have something else like God or Nature on their side. Hence the current view on the Right that this can't last because Truth will win out in the end.

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