I began blogging in 2008. This was the Golden Age of the blogosphere, though by that time, in retrospect, its peak was already behind it.
One example: Below is a fair representation of right-alternative (“Dark Enlightenment”) bloggers in the early 2010s:
Fast forward a decade and the scene has changed. Sure, many of the old stalwarts are still around, but those ones that haven’t died of social media AIDS have instead succumbed to mediocrity amidst the avalanche of YouTube bloggers.
The center of gravity of the right-alternative media sphere is now much closer to the following diagram from the report Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube by Rebecca Lewis (Data & Society):
It’s rather depressing, but creating a video on some topic will generally give you ten times the views as writing out a more labor intensive and K-selected blog post.
The Alt Right child prodigy “soph” – recently profiled by Mr. Bernstein – is currently just shy of a million subscribers on YouTube. She has had 17 million views since she started her (rather irregular) vlogging career in August 2015. That’s approximately what the Unz Review currently generates in half a year, and we have far, far more visitors now than we did even just a couple of years ago.
The typical video by the psychometrist Edward Dutton – probably the most high profile HBD vlogger – gets around 10,000-20,000 views. I am reasonably sure that this is well above what the typical article by James Thompson here gets. My most popular “HBD” article ever – The Idiocy of the Average – got something like 40,000 views IIRC. The Golden One, a Swedish alt right pagan bodybuilder whose videos I recently binge watched, has 100,000 subscribers, and most of his videos – rather low effort productions with minimal editing or graphics – get at least 20,000 views. The most high profile vloggers make enough money to make a comfortable living (Sargon of Akkad was getting $15,000 from YouTube ads before they demonetized his account).
This is not specific to what we might loosely term of the Alt Right network. For instance, take alternative Russia coverage, the other part of the blogosphere that I am intimately familiar with. The small, grassroots bloggers that were a dime a dozen in the mid to late 2000s (any of the old geezers here remember Fedia Kriukov?) have almost all gone. Most of them were poached by larger websites, such as Russia Insider, The Duran, and most recently, Strategic Culture Foundation; in the cases of the former two, most of their actual views now come from their YouTube operations.
What is even more startling is that these trends transcend borders. As with the Alt Right in the Anglosphere, a lot of the most interesting Russian nationalist personalities have migrated to YouTube in the past 1-2 years. For instance, the magazine Sputnik & Pogrom has shut down late last year, and its founder Egor Prosvirnin now does his political commentary and interviews mixed in with live video game streaming almost exclusively on its YouTube channel (I appear there once every few months). This is one of many budding projects of a nationalist or HBD-realistic on Russophone YouTube, most of them entirely unknown in the West. For instance, another content creator under the pseudonym of Kirill Nesterov essentially rewrote the Russian nationalist vocabulary during 2017-2018.
So essentially, things went like this. The blogosphere killed off the legacy media. Not entirely, but plummeting revenues forced the MSM to lay off editors and foreign correspondents, and refocus their coverage on topical issues and sensationalist content. Then the blogosphere got ravaged by social media, with first podcasters and now YouTube vloggers planting a dagger in its weakened heart. People interesting in HBD or witty political observations gravitated to Steve Sailer’s blog in the 2000s. Now, they go to people like Molyneux or Tara McCarthy.
Where has that old blogosphere gone?
(1) Many of the small, old school bloggers just stopped blogging. It was the digital venereal disease that is social media that killed them off more than anything else from around 2010. To have a vigorous blogosphere, you need a tightly connected network of independent bloggers bouncing ideas and arguments off each other, but when 75% of them have migrated to Twitter, there’s no longer sufficient scope in the community to generate the vigorous and counter-argument on which the old blogosphere thrived.
(2) Some bloggers were snapped up by larger websites. As a rule, the ones with stable backing from moneyed patrons were the main ones that survived and thrived (e.g. this very venue).
(3) Some parts of the blogging HBDsphere have gone into or were recruited into actual science. This is perhaps the single biggest positive development.
(4) Rising SJWism has also forced many of these discussions into closed boards, mailing lists, and Slack chats (this describes NRx and the HBDsphere).
(5) Just like the old blogosphere, the vlogosphere has debates. From what I gather, much of the old culture of back and forth that predominated in the blogosphere now finds a place in the vlogosphere (e.g. see the humorous exchanges between trans leftist Contrapoints and the The Golden One, the Swedish alter ego of Bronze Age Pervert). Vloggers make response videos to each other other. There are beefs and feuds. More visible figures promote ideological allies with less visibility.
The main problem with video is of course that it is inherently much less K-selected than blogging. It takes more effort to write and process text, but its information density is also much higher as well as the complexity of the arguments you can make. To a significant extent I agree with commenters like German_reader, as well as Ron Unz himself, that the shift towards video might be one of the indicators of looming idiocracy. But what can one do. Video now clearly dominates so far as raw viewership numbers are concerned – and by a huge margin.
I wrote most of this a week ago, before the massive YouTube purge.
Back then, I noted that YouTube was unusually more pro freedom of speech than most other social media, including Twitter and Facebook; or indeed blogspot, Google’s own blogging platform. Though I did add the following caveat: “I don’t expect this to last forever, and demonetization seems inevitable when dissident vloggers become high profile enough to enter the five figure monthly earnings range, attract intense media attention, or go into national politics.”
Well, “not last forever” = a few days.
Moreover, it is especially ironic that I quoted the Data & Society report, as YouTube’s actions seemed to have stemmed at least in part from its recommendations:
The website similarly seeks policies that offer it protection for hosting user-generated content while simultaneously facing minimal liability for what those users say. This report has shown how these attempts at objectivity are being exploited by users who fundamentally reject objectivity as a valid stance. As a result, platforms like YouTube have an imperative to govern content and behavior for explicit values, such as the rejection of content that promotes white supremacy, regardless of whether it includes slurs.
While much more research is needed to investigate the effectiveness of specific responses, Paul Joseph Watson’s tweet suggests one concrete step YouTube can take in response. The platform currently provides Silver, Gold, and Diamond awards for content creators who have reached 100,000, 1 million, or 10 million subscribers, respectively. At this point, the platform reviews channels to make sure they do not have copyright strikes and do not violate YouTube’s community guidelines. At these junctures, the platform should not only assess what channels say in their content, but also who they host and what their guests say. In a media environment consisting of networked influencers, YouTube must respond with policies that account for influence and amplification, as well as social networks.
In the original draft, I counseled people aspiring pundits in the alternative media sphere to go into video commentary instead of blogging.
However, I can’t really recommend that anymore.
Not video, anyway. I don’t know what the next hot thing will be. Interpretative dance? That joke doesn’t sound so jokey anymore. Perhaps that really will be one of the only platforms open for dissident thought once the entire Internet is shuttered and all political content is produced by Picus News subsidiaries.
Infowars link only appears on 5th page of "Alex Jones" Google search for me.
Only people covering this? Infowars itself – and Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer. https://t.co/r2xpGScVNt
Nobody reads to page 5, it might as well be a Great Chinese Firewall. And it will be extended.
— 🐉 Апатоlу Каrliп (@akarlin88) June 10, 2019
To be honest, at this point, I can’t conscientiously recommend going into any sort of “media” activity:
- Serious MSM journalism is either miserably remunerated, controlled by a small and elite caste, and more often both (e.g. most Western journalists in Moscow are trust fund kids).
- The old school journalists are struggling and committing suicide.
- People do read listicles and woke pop culture takes, but that also pays just a pittance, and it will probably be automated sooner or later anyway. At which point you’ll have to learn to code.
- Alternative blogging on interesting and controversial themes has a small audience, and will invite increasing social ostracism if you’re not anonymous (or become doxed).
- You do have much potentially bigger and much more profitable audiences for YouTube, but as of now this is systematically getting shut down.
Really, it seems that focusing on business and getting rich is much more promising. You can then fund the content you want, and/or create political networks with like-minded oligarchs (e.g. the John Birch Society). It probably won’t achieve anything either. But you’d have a pretty fun time.