Example of one of many self-proclaimed anti-wokeness and rational pop culture discussion channels
You may have seen YouTube videos with angry images and subtitles about your childhood being ruined and your favorite franchise destroyed – potentially by feminism, diversity or wokeness. We may easily dismiss such videos as hate-filled rambling of sad angry nerd boys sitting in their mother’s basement. However, such videos can be a powerhouse of anti-fandom with some channels amassing over a million subscribers, created by professionals in the fields of media or marketing.
I argue that such channels can be a potential radicalization factor by interpellating viewers into a white supremacist ideology. Despite their click-baity presentation that appeals to viewers’ sense of betrayal or disappointment about their favorite franchises taking a direction they might not agree with, the videos themselves try to be more subtle. They often claim to be apolitical by positioning themselves as “against political propaganda in entertainment”. Similarly, they claim to provide a rational perspective, thus often framing those not sharing their view as irrational, with their sense of “social justice warrior”-ness clouding their understanding of what good entertainment is.
Such videos don’t deny but often explicitly emphasize that diversity is a good thing, just not an excuse for “bad writing”. Thus, they are not as outrightly queerphobic or racist as one might expect from channels dedicated to angry rants. However, that is particularly what makes it so dangerous: Not all criticism towards the weaknesses of the movies discussed is unwarranted and the white supremacist ideology underlying many arguments is subtle. To give some examples:
- Overplaying or incorrectly predicting the critical or financial failure of movies with BIPoC actors, claiming any bad writing to be the fault of a focus on diversity and propaganda
- Using buzzwords popular with right-wing ideology such as “wokeness”, “social justice warriors”, “identity politics” and clearly positioning themselves as anti-feminist which has often been a gateway to embracing more alt-right beliefs
- Emphasizing racism as an external problem, e.g. solely due to Chinese markets being (according to them) racist and thus influencing Hollywood’s filmmaking
- Framing “white men” as the true victims who are unfairly called racist for disliking a movie or not caring about social issues and at the same time, they just want movies without “politics”, framing white men as an unmarked category
- Occasionally referring to “reverse racism”, “wokeness”, “critical race theory” (in its misunderstood “all white people are evil” meaning) or similar concepts as if they were existing problems
We need to pay particular attention to how such channels may lead viewers to consume alt-right content by introducing them to key buzzwords and strawman arguments while claiming to simply discuss popular culture in an apolitical manner. They might be particularly effective at drawing people in that might otherwise not want to engage with political content through their appeal to affect. With click-baity titles and thumbnails they appeal to those who want to engage in anti-fandom, i.e. collectively expressing their dislike of a movie, offering them an easy answer to why their once favorite franchise now disappoints them: “forced diversity”.
Frankenberg, Ruth. "The mirage of an unmarked whiteness." The making and unmaking of whiteness 72 (2001).
Mamié, Robin, Manoel Horta Ribeiro, and Robert West. "Are Anti-Feminist Communities Gateways to the Far Right? Evidence from Reddit and YouTube." 13th ACM Web Science Conference 2021. 2021.
Stanfill, Mel. "Introduction: The Reactionary in the Fan and the Fan in the Reactionary." Television & new media 21.2 (2020): 123-134.
Woods, Heather Suzanne, and Leslie Ann Hahner. Make America meme again: The rhetoric of the Alt-right. Peter Lang Publishing, Incorporated, 2019.