If Alex Jones was YouTube’s canary in the coal mine, the platform is now also beating their pigeons to a bloody pulp, nursing them back to their flu-infested health and expecting everyone to act as though nothing ever happened. The people, however, simply aren’t buying YouTube’s games.
Within the span of two days, the far-right’s controversy hawk Black Pigeon Speaks was entirely stripped of his online income and body of work, featuring a myriad of propaganda, plagiarism and his rebranding of white nationalism, which was later reinstated by YouTube and its flip-flopping administrators. When users visited his channel link, his removal was given no explanation outside their assurances that it “violated hate speech policies,” which makes the subsequent reinstatement all the more suspect.
It’s almost inevitable for channels of the reactionary genre to face the chopping block and become reinstated once captured audiences fan the flames of public pressure. When someone with over 500,000 subscribers and no strikes against their channel is paraded around as some upstanding “vegan dude who rescued pigeons” while holding “moderate centrist views” being “censored” by a corporate platform, it’s easy to see the uproar from a mile away. The narrative puts a nice face on the newly protected martyr, vindicated by YouTube’s reinstatement as a good ol’ boy. This martyr, however, is instead just another “paranoia pornographer.”
“If falsehood, like truth, had only one face, we would be in better shape,” the philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously wrote. “But the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field.”
YouTube has proven ineffectual as judge, jury and queasy executioner over such faceless men. After the events of #VoxAdpocalypse, where journalist Carlos Maza demanded policy crackdowns on “hateful content,” the Google subsidiary released their pre-scheduled blog post detailing how they’ll “specifically prohibit videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion” and “denying well-documented, violent events.” The policies, which seek to root out hate itself rather than merely the words of its delivery, is helpful clarification given YouTube’s confusing, contradictory terms of service previously.
The previous rules also failed to catch those sneaky enough to skirt the rules. As admitted by Paul Joseph Watson, Black Pigeon produced “carefully worded content” that was “specifically designed not to violate their TOS,” suggesting the hateful subject matter could be a violation if presented through reckless means. YouTube decided to restrict hateful advocacy outright, on paper, while signal boosting Black Pigeon as a harmless man simply too close to the sun.
This is ridiculous. Across 20 videos, skeptic commentator Kraut and Tea found numerous examples of Black Pigeon not only making false statements free from objective reality, but also supremacist and conspiratorial statements (all of which remain up to this day). This includes videos like “Western Women DESTROY Nations and Civilization,” which cited a non-existent MSNBC poll to falsely claim “87% of women experience an orgasm during rape,” implying there’s some kind of Stockholm syndrome at play between “dangerously” high immigration and the women voting for it, requiring border segregation.
In other Black Pigeon videos, such as “ANTIFA: Media Backed Terrorists” and “Britain Abolishes Itself,” he makes broad conspiratorial claims about how the highly-reported Charlottesville incident was caused by ANTIFA despite no evidence, how the homicide rate in high-immigrant cities such as London are growing larger than New York using distorted statistics (they actually show the rate decreasing), and pushes a false narrative about the “Windrush scandal,” claiming a Tory politician, who he calls “Andrew Cooper Windrush,” got into trouble for claiming foreign immigrant communities are “hostile” and that his views of Europe being a “one-party state” due to “changing demographics” needed sympathy.
It’s a nice narrative for an uncritical, reactionary-primed audience but it simply isn’t true. In reality, Andrew Cooper Windrush was merely a former pollster for Prime Minister David Cameron who claimed areas who don’t vote conservative are hostile, making no mention of immigrants, and misused the “Windrush scandal” name which actually refers to legal immigrants from the 50s and 70s who were poorly documented by the government and resulted in several descendent family members being falsely deported in 2018.
Kraut, Liberal Sanity Project, Three Arrows, Drallasta and several others examining the channel have demonstrated that these lies appear at such a pathological rate, “it simply can’t be a coincidence” his facts are more hateful fiction. According to Reclaim The Net, the removal and reinstatement only resulted in a “rapid increase” in his subscriber numbers with an archived gain of 20,000 subscribers in 48 hours. If YouTube sought to suppress this bird, they tried, got cold feet and now he’s souring in delight. YouTube has failed to explain why the sudden change of heart, as to be expected.
Ultimately, the platform is stuck between the desire to be a platform for argumentation, neglecting Popper’s Paradox Of Tolerance in which a tolerant society can’t stand the suppressive and intolerable, the pressure to adhere to this paradox in a fair manner, and the profit motive behind being an ineffectual monopoly.
Black Pigeon’s return may come after a wave of unethical censorship, where credible history channels and independent journalists faced the brunt of YouTube’s enforcement, but to pass equal enforcement when the target is by no means equal is telling. Whether it wants to maintain credibility, tolerance or free speech, YouTube shows the platform’s craven inabilities to play in either direction, all the while snake oil salesmen go about their business with their new tales of woe.