It ain’t easy being a YouTuber—at least, not a political one. The platform is a giant, Byzantine organization filled with secret rules and algorithms that content creators constantly fall afoul of. This is especially true for radical voices, who are incessantly shadowbanned and suppressed by the Google-owned platform.
One person who has broken through the algorithmic barriers better than almost anyone is JT Chapman, host of the Second Thought channel. Chapman makes engaging video essays about some of the most pressing issues of the day, and the quality of his work has drawn 1.6 million subscribers to his main channel. He is also the founder of the YouTube news show First Thought and the co-host of The Deprogram podcast. Today, he discusses his tips for YouTube success, climate change, the economy, and what radicals could learn from Walmart.
Having one of the world’s largest corporations (Google) own the global town square poses huge problems for freedom of speech, not least because of the company’s intimate links to the Central Intelligence Agency. Chapman has to tread a careful line on YouTube because of demonetization, age restriction, and other tactics the platform uses to suppress radical voices. All this, he says, “really disincentivizes people like me to produce radical content.” This leads many well-meaning YouTubers to just start chasing the algorithm and become “toxic little clout goblins,” he told “MintCast” host Alan MacLeod.
When asked how useful YouTube is for inspiring people and producing societal change, Chapman said,
I think investigative journalism that exposes corruption is useful in moving the needle…but on the other hand, I’d say that a large percentage of people doing what I do on platforms like YouTube really aren’t all that useful, unless we are actively driving people to get engaged in organizations and on the ground movements.”
Chapman makes videos on a wide range of important topics. Today, he was asked about his most recent one, “Green Energy Is Cheaper… So Why Aren’t We Using It?” and why the climate movement has failed to fully grasp the fundamental incompatibility of capitalism and a healthy future planet. He suggested that the problem was co-option, stating:
I think, unfortunately, the climate movement, like a lot of other social movements, has been pretty effectively co-opted by liberals. And what I mean by that is they take a structural problem, and they very vocally demand individual solutions to it. So, go vegan, use paper straws, bike to work. That’s not to say that these things aren’t good as individual actions. It is just that is what they are: individualized. The liberal worldview fails to grapple with the fact that no matter how many individuals you can get on board – millions, whatever – it is still a drop in the bucket compared to the carbon emissions of giant corporations or the military-industrial complex.”
On this episode, MacLeod and Chapman also chatted about how we could stop economic recessions entirely if we wanted to, how economies could be planned, and his tips for others wishing to make an impact online.
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Also, be sure to check out rapper Lowkey’s video interview/podcast series, The Watchdog.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.