Media and Youth

Young Offenders: Meet the Angry Socialists Poisoning Our Politics

Noah Jarvis
March 12, 2024
Social media is widely blamed for poisoning the public conversation on a range of topics – especially politics and contentious social questions. But there’s a possibly even more dangerous force growing on the internet: an online community of YouTubers and livestreamers spouting far-left dogma, praising political violence and denigrating their opponents as evil, far-right fascists. Using fallacious arguments, psychological manipulation and overheated rhetoric, they seek to radicalize young people and convert them to their cause. Millions are tuning in, and mainstream “progressive” politicians are jumping on their bandwagons. Noah Jarvis profiles three of these socialist crusaders and explains why they are such a threat.
Media and Youth

Young Offenders: Meet the Angry Socialists Poisoning Our Politics

Noah Jarvis
March 12, 2024
Social media is widely blamed for poisoning the public conversation on a range of topics – especially politics and contentious social questions. But there’s a possibly even more dangerous force growing on the internet: an online community of YouTubers and livestreamers spouting far-left dogma, praising political violence and denigrating their opponents as evil, far-right fascists. Using fallacious arguments, psychological manipulation and overheated rhetoric, they seek to radicalize young people and convert them to their cause. Millions are tuning in, and mainstream “progressive” politicians are jumping on their bandwagons. Noah Jarvis profiles three of these socialist crusaders and explains why they are such a threat.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

It’s generally accepted across the political spectrum that the rise of social media has further degraded political discourse in North America. If you haven’t heard someone complain that “Twitter is a hellhole,” you haven’t been paying attention. And with the continued coarsening of political discourse has come a corresponding radicalization of ideas produced by both the left and right.

Sure, we can try to blame the character limit on X for killing nuance on that favourite playground of journalists, pundits and politicians. We can blame Facebook – and pretty much every other social media platform for that matter – for creating algorithms that expose users to news stories and ideas they likely agree with already, insulating them from alternative perspectives. We can blame universities for producing radical, Marxian conceptions of race and gender that have polluted the minds of their students, who are chronically online. And we can point to divisive politicians like Justin Trudeau, Stephen Guilbeault, Ilhan Omar or Bernie Sanders for demonizing mainstream conservative positions as “far-right”, “bigoted” or “hateful”.

But there is another factor radicalizing the centre-left that many conservatives are not even aware of.

An online community of left-wing YouTubers and live-streamers known as “BreadTube” has introduced countless young minds to their particularly warped views. The term BreadTube comes from the late 19thcentury Russian anarchist/communist Peter Kropotkin. In his 1892 book, The Conquest of Bread, Kropotkin argued for a stateless communist society in which every citizen’s needs would be met through voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. Why be concerned with some online community named after an esoteric Russian who espoused a seemingly harmless – if wholly impractical – vision? Because it attracts an audience of millions of mostly young people whose conception of politics is molded by these online content creators. And their ideas, rhetoric and methods are anything but benign.

BreadTube, the online community of socialist YouTubers and streamers, portrays political adversaries as evil, far-right, fascistic pigs and helps to normalize left-wing extremism with fallacious arguments, psychological manipulation, misinformation and anger.

Online political commentary is nothing new, of course, and both sides of the political spectrum can get nasty. “BreadTubers”, however, are not your ordinary political commentators. They are especially extreme in their view of politics and of their political opponents. BreadTube helps to normalize left-wing extremism, communism and political violence, and portrays political adversaries as evil, far-right, fascistic pigs. BreadTubers make fallacious arguments, employ psychological manipulation and spread misinformation and outright lies. They are effective at turning political newcomers who stumble onto their content into new far-left sycophants. And the phenomenon is not limited to the internet; they are making a tangible impact on real-world political discourse.

Beginning in anarchy: BreadTube takes its name from The Conquest of Bread, the 1892 treatise by Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin. 

Since the left and right occupy different online spaces, largely insulating themselves from one another with the help of social media algorithms, it should not be surprising to learn that there’s a cabal of influential left-wing thought leaders that people in the middle or on the right either ignore or are unaware of. It’s also true that conservatives skew older, and are thus less likely to engage with Twitch livestreams or YouTube video essays in the first place. Still it’s worth delving into BreadTube to understand the centres of influence and power that help drive contemporary left-wing thought and tactics.

So, let’s meet some of the young socialists who are radicalizing the left and further poisoning the political discourse.

HasanAbi

Hasan Piker, better known as HasanAbi, is one of the most subscribed-to creators on the Amazon-owned platform Twitch – the internet’s largest livestreaming platform, known for its video game and live commentary streams. With over 2.5 million Twitch followers, 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and 1.4 million followers on X, HasanAbi is the king of BreadTubers, and one of Twitch’s most popular – and apparently richest – streamers.

Prior to striking out on his own he built up his popularity working at his uncle Cenk Uygur’s left-wing news and commentary network The Young Turks. Since 2018, HasanAbi has built a  livestreaming empire commenting on news, playing video games and reacting to video content, all while regurgitating left-wing dogma from the comfort of his multi-million-dollar home in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills.

HasanAbi’s influence reaches the highest levels of America’s “progressive” elite – and Canada’s, too. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he persuaded radical left Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to play the then-popular and politically tinged multi-player video game Among Us with him on his  livestream. They attracted a huge audience – peaking at over 430,000 – that came close to Twitch’s all-time record for concurrent viewers. They also caught the eye of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who decided to join Ocasio-Cortez a few weeks later in what can only be described as a cringeworthy broadcast. A CBC story described it as a kind of socialist love-in that tried to “reach young people where they hang” by talking about “universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage and rehabilitation over punishment.”

Hasan Piker, better known as HasanAbi (top), is among the most influential BreadTubers, with 2.5 million Twitch followers; he comments on news and plays video games while regurgitating left-wing dogma and denouncing critics from his Hollywood Hills mansion.

There’s a darker side to HasanAbi, however. When he isn’t enticing left-wing politicians to gush over each other, he’s a far-left radical. For hours at a time on a nearly daily basis – about 200 hours a month – he comments on the news and reacts to other political pundits, frequently complaining about the horrors of capitalism, the evils of the West and the desirability of socialism. While his alliance with minority communities and “oppressed peoples” provides a patina of empathy and good intentions, his actual views, rhetoric and choice of targets suggests otherwise.

One prominent recent example: HasanAbi attempted to rationalize Hamas’s October 7 atrocity, in which nearly 1,200 Israelis were murdered, as an inevitability for which the “fascist” Israeli government was to blame. After one viewer challenged him, saying that the innocent Israelis targeted by Hamas did not deserve to die, HasanAbi went on a vulgar rant:  “You want way more than 260 people dying. You want every single Palestinian to be f—— executed ruthlessly in the streets so that you can build another f—— theme park in Gaza. You f—— baying pig. You f—— bloodthirsty pig-dog.” (The “260” referred to the massacre at the Tribe of Nova music festival, where 364 civilians were murdered, many being first raped and/or tortured, and a further 40 kidnapped and taken hostage.)

Beyond his proclivity for ad hominem attacks, HasanAbi seems curiously uninterested in pursuing the truth for someone describing himself as a journalist. When the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry accused Israel of bombing the Al-Ahli hospital, killing hundreds, HasanAbi immediately livestreamed the claim that over 800 innocent Gazans had been killed. He criticized an article from the Guardian newspaper reporting that the death toll was only 200 to 300, implied that the Guardian was racist for pointing out that the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas, and called Israeli soldiers “subhuman”.

Enticing the “progressive” elite: HasanAbi persuaded radical left Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (top) and Ilhan Omar to play a politically-tinged multi-player online video game with him; Canadian NDP leader Jagmeet Singh (bottom) joined him and Ocasio-Cortez a few weeks later to play while trading socialist policy ideas.

Once some audience members began to send him reports saying the rocket was likely fired by Islamic Jihadists and had nothing to do with the Israel Defense Forces, HasanAbi called them “f—— stupid” and continued to trust the Gaza Health Ministry’s claims. One viewer who challenged him was met with especially vicious vitriol. “F— you, you genocidal scumbag. You have no f—— dignity. You do not have an ounce of dignity inside of your soul,” he yelled, as live chat participants piled on with insults of their own. Another viewer who challenged this narrative was attacked as a “liar”, a “garbage monstrous scumbag” and a “piece of s— genocide denier”.

We know now that the missile hit the parking lot, not the hospital itself, that it did not kill hundreds of people, and that it was almost certainly fired by Islamic Jihadis – the assessment of nearly all Western intelligence services (not to mention Israel) and accepted even by the left-leaning, frequently anti-Israel Associated Press news service. But by the time the truth came out, thousands of people had likely been swayed by HasanAbi’s misinformation or cowed into accepting his view lest they too be denigrated as bloodthirsty pig-dogs to an audience of thousands.

Indeed, his most powerful tool in converting viewers to his brand of radical progressivism is not the facts or ideas he presents, but the force with which he delivers them. Viewers are drawn into and may remain part of a community that supposedly cares for them and watch the streamer who is supposedly on their side – so long as they do not stray from his hyper-progressive message which, predictably, also includes the fashionable dogma of “decolonization”.

HasanAbi (bottom right) blamed Israeli’s “fascist” government for Hamas’s October 7 massacre, while dismissing a viewer who challenged him as a “f—– baying pig” and “bloodthirsty pig-dog”.

Adherence to that message is likely why HasanAbi sees no problem siding with the Houthi terrorists attacking cargo ships in the Red Sea but has a big problem with Western navies taking out the missile launchers used to attack the ships (a point, interestingly, on which elements of the far right agree, though for very different reasons). It is also why he has no problem inviting a Houthi pirate onto his livestream for a remarkably friendly interview in which he asked softball or trivially irrelevant questions such as probing the terrorist’s views on a pirate-themed Japanese anime.

HasanAbi has streamed more than 15,000 hours of this sort of thing during his years on Twitch. He has said the United States deserved 9/11, made horribly graphic comments about U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw losing his eye while serving in Afghanistan, and has proclaimed himself “pro-China”. He was temporarily banned from Twitch for using the racial slur “cracker” (still an odd choice for censorship, given that “piece of s— genocide denier” is apparently fine with Twitch’s gatekeepers).

For those who get their political news from HasanAbi’s livestreams or videos, his content is likely to have a radicalizing effect. He stirs up the crowd with shocking, emotionally intense pronouncements, carefully curates facts to advance only his narrative, and makes absolutist pronouncements about anyone who dissents or disagrees. It is appalling that Jagmeet Singh, a political leader who aspires to be Canada’s prime minister, would seek out the likes of HasanAbi.

Vaush

Ian Kochinski is a self-styled libertarian-socialist Twitch streamer with a sizable audience of his own. Better known as Vaush, Kochinski produces content similar in orientation to HasanAbi’s. Vaush presents himself as more of an intellectual, however, one who can debunk any right-wing argument through an unimpeachable capacity to reason.

Ian Kochinski, known as Vaush, presents himself as a reasonable, intellectually-honest commentator as he bats down arguments from right-leaning thinkers and accuses them of being secret fascistic racists.

Vaush confidently bats down arguments from right-leaning intellectuals like Ben Shapiro or Milton Friedman, as well as some doubting middle-of-the-roaders, such as Sam Harris, then reveals them as the secret fascistic racists that they really are. Vaush can seem like a reasonable, logical, intellectually-honest commentator. Hardly.

Vaush is a sly propagandist who is able to repackage vile ideas through clever rhetorical tactics, self-serving reasoning and even outright misinformation. A good example was his reaction to Sam Harris’s June 12, 2020 podcast concerning the relationship between police and black communities following the protests and riots triggered by George Floyd’s death. Vaush prefaced his June 27, 2020 show by telling the audience that the benefit of livestreaming is that he can never take Harris out of context or employ a “straw man” tactic against his arguments, promising he would be as charitable to Harris’s arguments as possible.

Then, for nearly 40 minutes, Vaush fixated on a single six-minute clip from Harris’s nearly two-hour-long podcast episode. He repeatedly paused the clip to reformulate Harris’s half-articulated points into straw-man arguments. He buried the key fact that Harris agrees with him that systemic racism exists and also believes the legacy of racism has become institutionalized, the war on drugs was effectively racist and reparations to blacks may be justified. Vaush accomplished this by repeatedly pausing the video and putting words in Harris’s mouth. Vaush concluded that Harris was making a subtle argument in favour of “scientific” racism and that “his narrative is one which perfectly suits the mentality of the American racist.”

After George Floyd’s death in spring 2020, Vaush (top left) went after American philosopher and author Sam Harris (top right) over policing in the black community, misrepresenting Harris’s arguments before concluding his “narrative is one which perfectly suits the mentality of the American racist.” (Sources of photos: (top right) HBO screenshot; (bottom) Valerio Pucci/Shutterstock)

In Vaush’s mind, however, the worst of (the Democrat-voting liberal) Harris’s transgressions is that he is a conservative. Demonizing conservatives (real or imagined) is something of a Vaush obsession. Conservatives are no different from the Ku Klux Klan, conservatism is based on the same principles as neo-Nazism, the average Republican would have voted for Hitler, right-wing populism is just racism or fascism. When he’s not calling Ben Shapiro a Nazi or Thomas Sowell a fascist, he fearmongers that conservatives are out to soak the streets in the blood of liberals and leftists. During the pandemic lockdowns, when a conservative suggested that the economy needed to eventually re-open, Vaush casually replied, “Conservatives want you to die, I’ve said this many times before.”

For Vaush, a postmodernist, there is no such thing as truth, good and evil do not exist and everything in life, including politics, is a power grab – even the truth of the Holocaust. Shown, slave labourers in barracks at the Buchenwald concentration camp, Ettersberg, Germany, 1945. (Source of photo: National Archives and Records Administration, 208-AA-206K-31)

Vaush apparently behaves this way because he is a postmodernist: there is no such thing as the truth, and good and evil do not exist. Accordingly, nothing can be justified morally, and everything in life, including politics, is a power grab. “All of history and all of thought is just power grabs between people who can decide subjectively whether or not their positions are better,” Vaush has said. He’s categorical about the “all” part: he believes even the truth of the Holocaust is just a power grab. Despite all this, Vaush still has half a million followers on YouTube and about 100,000 on Twitch, with widespread sharing further extending his reach.

Second Thought

Second Thought is a socialist YouTube channel with more than 1.7 million subscribers pulling in around 2 million monthly video views – more than the CBC’s main YouTube channel, even though Second Thought uploads only a few videos a month.

Featuring a young man named JT Chapman, Second Thought delivers tightly edited, well-produced videos talking about the evils of capitalism and the West while staunchly defending socialism and Communist regimes around the world. The faux-sophistication and high production quality allow Chapman to serve up far-left radicalism and misinformation in the tone of an educational video.

Second Thought wasn’t always this way. About seven years ago the channel was pumping out lighthearted educational videos like “Why Haven’t We Cloned a Woolly Mammoth Yet?” and “Is Time Travel Really Possible?” But about four years ago the nature of its content began to change, and once Covid-19 lockdowns commenced, Chapman dove headfirst into full-blown socialism.

Second Thought, a socialist YouTube channel, features JT Chapman and produces slick videos on the evils of capitalism; it pulls in around 2 million monthly video views – more than the CBC’s main YouTube channel.

In one example two years ago, Second Thought sought to explain that moderates are really just veiled conservatives: both seek to preserve society through incremental change, and both shift their views over time, making one just like the other. The argument is childish sophistry (though of a sort that might work on some audience members), the main question being whether Chapman believes his own train of non sequiturs and other logical fallacies or actually intends to mislead.

But Chapman is probably less concerned with making sense than with luring more people to his brand of socialism. When he defines the left as the “we need healthcare” crowd and the right as the “we need an ethno-state” crowd, it’s safe to say his aim is defining socialism as “anything good that happens” while characterizing capitalism as everything that is bad in this world.

One example is a video last year criticizing corporate social responsibility (also known as stakeholder capitalism), the proposition that companies need to do more to protect the environment and take a stand on social issues. It’s something many conservatives are also critical of, largely because it increases the power of regulators and left-oriented activist groups and stifles growth and opportunity. Unlike conservatives, Chapman argues that stakeholder capitalism is bad because it is impossible to reap a profit ethically in a capitalistic society because, in turn, corporations benefit from mass unemployment and poverty. Accordingly, only a socialist economy can be run ethically.

Second Thought portrays Communist regimes such as China (left), North Korea (top right) and Cuba (bottom right) as equivalent to Western democracies, whitewashing atrocities by dictatorships while blurring distinctions between the fundamentally different political and economic systems. (Sources of photos: (left) dcmaster, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; (top right) Pixabay; (bottom right) North Korea, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another video, “This Is Why You’re Poor”, explains that capitalist societies want unemployment because it reminds the people who are currently employed that they can be replaced. Chapman also purports to explain how laziness is not real and that indignation over laziness is just an elaborate way to evoke guilt in a way that manipulates people into exploiting themselves further. In doing this, Chapman leads his audience to believe there is some economic system out there in which people don’t have to work in undesirable jobs, and that everyone could work fewer hours while remaining just as productive.

Masking truly bad ideas with slick videos and deceitful rhetoric is something of a Second Thought specialty. In a video about authoritarianism, Chapman tries to make repressive Communist regimes like the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Cuba seem equivalent to Western democracies. Chapman whitewashes the atrocities committed by Communist regimes while exaggerating the transgressions of liberal democracies, blurring distinctions between the two economic and political systems. He equates Communist secret police forces to plainclothes police officers, concentration camps for political prisoners to detention centres for ordinary criminals, state media to Western media, and dictatorships to democracies. On that last point, Chapman attempts to argue that “by all accounts”, China and Cuba offer more democratic opportunity than the United States – a patently absurd notion for which he offers no evidence.

The Politics of the Crowd

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, written in 1895 by French polymath Gustave Le Bon, explores the effect of assembling individuals into a crowd, arguing that people brought together for a common cause can become a kind of single, collective psychological entity different from the individuals who compose it. A mental unity is formed – a shared mind of sorts – whose character can be influenced by a kind of conductor. Demagogues like Mussolini, Hitler and Lenin used Le Bon’s insights to wield the power of crowds for their own political benefit.

Writing in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, French polymath Gustave Le Bon said people brought together for a common cause can form a kind of single mind receptive to external control by a demagogue; dictators like Italian fascist Benito Mussolini (bottom) used Le Bon’s insights to wield power. (Source of bottom photo: AP Photo, File)

While not nearly as nefarious as the aforementioned despots, content creators like HasanAbi, Vaush and Second Thought appear to be following a similar process. They exploit the nature of the crowd to get their audience to think and feel a certain way. As HasanAbi livestreams a rant against supporters of Israel, his audience mirrors their ringleader’s emotional fervour and shows solidarity with comments like, “From the river to the sea!” or “f— off zionist lol.” When Vaush slanders the other half of the political aisle as Nazis, audience members comment “Conservatives = Nazis” or “I see no difference.”

The anonymity of the crowd allows individuals to take extreme positions or silently sympathize without any consequences. Taking these extreme positions is incentivized, in fact, as viewers who do not remain in line with the progressive/socialist orthodoxy are excised from the community through the power of technology. The crowd’s character is preserved through the enforcement of conformity.

The Complete Picture

The impact of BreadTubers on their audience is not limited to their livestreams or YouTube videos. They can mold how young people think about the world, how they feel about the people and society’s institutions, how they interact with those around them and who they choose to associate with. There are real-world consequences.

Ever wonder why so many young left-wingers are uninterested in voting for Joe Biden or Justin Trudeau in upcoming elections? Part of the reason is that they have been told by content creators like Second Thought that Biden is a crypto-conservative. People like HasanAbi preach that politicians like Biden and Trudeau are just weak centrists who support Israel – a genocidal fascist ethnostate, in their view.

Beyond the web: Empowered by BreadTubers’ messaging, young progressives have been pulled to the radical left on many issues, including the conflict in Gaza; they express pro-Palestinian sentiments with particular anger and vehemence. (Source of photo: lev radin/Shutterstock)

And why are young progressives so emotionally invested in the Israel-Palestine conflict to begin with, and express their pro-Palestinian sentiments with such anger and virulence? Part of the reason is that the political commentators they look up to talk about the conflict nonstop and call Israel’s supporters genocidal pig-dogs. The pro-Palestinian protests are not only filled with Muslims expressing solidarity for their coreligionists, but also with many “progressives” who have been told by their favourite influencers that they are protesting for a just cause.

If you wonder why young progressives are particularly hostile to the police, perhaps it is because popular streamers like Vaush are consistently denigrating law enforcement and fearmongering that the police only exist to oppress and kill minorities. Accusing your political opponent of being a fascist or Nazi is nothing new, but the incessant use of the ad hominem in recent years speaks to the influence BreadTubers have on progressives.

That politicians like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Jagmeet Singh feel comfortable fraternizing with the likes of HasanAbi is worthy of condemnation. If Pierre Poilievre has to apologize for shaking hands with a seedy figure in a public photo line, surely hopping on a  livestream and playing video games with the likes of HasanAbi is worse.

On the other hand, perhaps it makes sense that someone like Singh or Ocasio-Cortez would collaborate with HasanAbi. As BreadTubers continue to cultivate their followings, the base of Canada’s NDP and Liberal parties and of the Democratic Party in the U.S. can only move further towards the radical, and their leaders may want to meet them where they live. For conservatives, an understanding of the sources of “progressive” thought, and how these sources are shifting, may offer the insight needed to begin pushing back against today’s far left.

Noah Jarvis is a political science student at York University and a reporter for True North.

Love C2C Journal? Here's how you can help us grow.

More for you

The Enduring Legacy of Canada on D-Day

Canada’s military today has submarines that can’t submerge, nearly half-century-old fighter jets that should never be sent into combat, an unending recruitment crisis, a collapsed public image and barely enough combat-capable soldiers to fill an army brigade – in a G7 nation of 40 million people with a nearly $3 trillion economy. Eighty years ago the same country – much poorer and with a population 75 percent smaller – deployed six entire divisions fighting simultaneously in two different combat theatres, more than 500 warplanes and one of the world’s largest navies, and kept them all supplied across an ocean. Historian David J. Bercuson recounts a time when Canada was a country that got stuff done, that earned its seat at the table with the big nations, that knew its purpose, and whose people were able and willing to do whatever it took to win, most especially on the day – June 6, 1944 – when the fate of civilization hung in the balance.

The Sacred Covenant of Kamloops: Replacing Truth and Reconciliation with Secrecy and Self-Abasement

The Roman Catholic Church is steeped in centuries of mystery and ineffable truths. Its time-honoured rituals and beliefs offer an important sense of comfort and continuity to its 1.4 billion worldwide adherents. Yet a mysterious “Sacred Covenant” signed recently between two Canadian Catholic organizations and the Kamloops First Nation concerning unproven allegations of human remains on the grounds of a former Indian Residential School will bring neither comfort nor continuity. Instead, it points to an existential crisis deep within the Church itself. Hymie Rubenstein takes a close look at what is known about this strange agreement, and what it means for the future of truth and reconciliation in Canada.

More from this author

Elizabeth May’s Green Party is Wilting Badly. Is It Time to Chuck it?

Near the end of Elizabeth Truss’ disastrous 45-day stint as British Prime Minister, the Daily Star tabloid famously asked readers if Truss could outlast a head of lettuce. After six days, the lettuce won. Elizabeth May has had a considerably longer run as head of Canada’s Green Party. Since returning to the job in November after a previous 13 years at the helm, she’s the longest-serving leader of any current federal party. Yet the wilt is unmistakable. Riven by internal dissension, plummeting election results, troubling allegations of anti-Semitism and a platform that’s been stolen by other, more credible parties, can May refresh a Green Party that appears well past its best-before date?

Share This Story

Donate

Subscribe to the C2C Weekly
It's Free!

* indicates required
Interests
By providing your email you consent to receive news and updates from C2C Journal. You may unsubscribe at any time.