“Just joined mugclub”: Fan Consumer Activism meets the Culture Wars

Curator's Note

In June 2019, journalist Carlos Maza took to Twitter to complain about harassment by YouTube commentator Steven Crowder. Crowder had attacked Maza because of his race and sexuality—calling him a “gay Mexican” (Maza’s parents immigrated from Cuba), “lispy queer,” and other insults. Maza tweeted not to complain to Crowder, but directed toward YouTube, arguing that Crowder had broken YouTube’s Terms of Service. Ultimately, YouTube suspended monetization of Crowder’s channel until the offending content was removed.

In response to the demonetization, Crowder tweeted a since-deleted call to action: “We have details in incoming video, but YouTube and Vox have launched an all-out WAR on ALL independent creators. Thousands of channels under review! PLEASE TWEET us if you’ve been demonetized under the new #VoxAdpocalypse guidelines!”—referring to online outlet Vox, Maza’s employer. Crowder’s supporters took up the rallying cry, and the hashtag produced 129,455 tweets.

#VoxAdpocalypse featured many tweeters announcing that they were fans of Crowder, many of whom also announced that they intended to join Crowder’s subscription Mug Club, essentially undertaking a buycott in support of him. As part of this emphasis on Mug Club, there were numerous tweets of screenshots of purchase confirmations or the mug itself, as seen above. These public declarations function both as information about the self—which these tweeters clearly see as positive—and to build connections and community by creating networked awareness of other like-minded people, connecting around their shared support of Crowder.

There is a tendency to think of fans as progressive, but my analysis of #VoxAdpocalypse (and my forthcoming book Fandom is Ugly, from which it’s drawn) shows that the same formations of banding together to support a fan object exist no matter what the object is. Thinking about #VoxAdpocalypse through the lens of fandom calls for understanding political consumption like boycotts and buycotts not merely as instrumental, but as deeply emotional and potentially fannish, putting it into conversation with both the history of campaigns in support of media and the practice of constructing fannish belonging through public consumption.

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