If you’re not caught up on BreadTube (New-Left YouTube) Discourse™ at this point, I highly recommend this video by korviday as to what happened, who fucked up, who got hurt, and why any of this matters.
Anywho, the TL;DR is that, on the 12th of October, 2019, YouTuber Natalie Wynn AKA Contrapoints released a video entitled Opulence. In it, she implies that part of the reason some non-binary people seem to dislike her so much is that they’re envious: that, through her focus on her “glow-up game” (as she puts it) and her hyper-feminine presentation as a trans woman, she sets a standard that others no longer want to feel pressured in emulating.
She also had noted transmedicalist Buck Angel read some lines from her video, platforming him, and, by extension, platforming exclusionary rhetoric that has been used to marginalize non-binary and non-passing trans people for years.
Given that the video was released after a hiatus in the channel’s content, wherein Natalie complained about how inconvenient people being conscious of gender-neutral pronouns is to her personally on Twitter, and given that those tweets came after that one time Natalie Wynn interviewed an actual TERF, Jesse Singal, and given her half-apology for this latest drama insisting that she and Buck Angel are probably just too “old-school” for the uppity young-uns to understand, I think it’s safe to say that anyone sick of her shit should feel free to express that to their heart’s content.
Don’t harass anyone, probably, but seriously. If it’s not acceptable for a cis person to do it, it doesn’t get more acceptable because a so-called “trans icon” is the one dog whistling to reactionaries and gender essentialists instead of Ben Shapiro or Blair White.
Alright so now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about what really matters.
I don’t have Twitter (do I really need to explain why?) I’ve been following the drama on Reddit and YouTube instead. I’ve been absorbing take after take passively over the past few weeks. There are a few big tents of thought that have emerged since the start of this whole thing.
The first group are the Left Unitarians, who believe that the whole controversy is once again another example of the Left self-cannibalizing for no reason. They don’t really have an opinion on whether or not Natalie Wynn did anything wrong. Rather, they see controversy and attempt to snuff it out as soon as possible, by whatever means necessary. This is the tent that decries woke culture and cancel culture and culture culture. They’re probably so worried about culture because you have to be white to unironically believe in Left Unity. Culture is a new and scary concept to white people after all.
The second tent is the #CancelContra tent. People in this tent generally believe that Contrapoints should at minimum give a robust apology explaining how what she did was wrong and make a noticeable effort to improve her language around enby people in the future. They also in general call for more accountability amongst the most successful BreadTubers, most noticeably Philosophy Tube’s Oliver Thorn and Lindsay Ellis, who have both come out in support of Natalie.
Finally, we’ve got the Contra Stans. Contrapoints did nothing wrong. Contrapoitns will never do anything wrong. Contrapoints is the only good BreadTuber. Contrapoints is the only YouTuber. Contrapoints is YouTube. Contrapoints is.
These three tents exist in a backdrop of a larger discussion that’s taken hold of the online left since the alt-right basically took over every online space in existence and memed very big brain Donald Trump into the White House.
There’s the schism between the Dirtbag Left, spearheaded by the podcast Chapo Trap House, which maintains that liberals have distracted from class struggle with identity politics for far too long, and for the Left to succeed where liberals have failed, it must prioritize class over identity, and the SJW Left, which maintains that the Left is often the only place where marginalized people can voice their concerns about society from their perspective, and prioritizing class over identity would shut out their voices entirely.
We’ve got Anarchist vs Statist Leftists (though, to be honest, that one’s way older than the Internet). We’ve got growing concerns that BreadTube as a whole focuses too much on the sensibilities of former reactionaries and cishet white men, and not enough on progress. We’ve got people wondering if radlibs and socdems belong in BreadTube or not. We’ve got concerns that BreadTube isn’t intellectual enough, and doesn’t encourage reading enough theory. We’ve got concerns of celebrity worship. We’ve got concerns of the mental health of all BreadTubers, especially the ones at the top who, by no fault of their own, find themselves in charge of a “movement” filled with people who are more than happy to send death threats to them and their friends if they say something they’re not supposed to say.
Needless to say, the online Left’s got schisms that would make the Roman Catholic Church blush.
Not to Enlightened Centrist myself out of the universe here, but all three tents have good points here and there. Yes, the Left tends to eat itself, yes we should be united against the Right, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also have to maintain standards of our own people in our own spaces. Yes, some of the criticism of Contrapoints has gone too far, but she obviously messed up here. Arguing otherwise is at best disingenuous and at worse just supporting bigotry.
But there’s one argument I haven’t seen nearly enough of yet, so I’m going to take a moment and shout it as loud as I possibly can.
ALL OF THE PROBLEMS WITH BREADTUBE ARE PROBLEMS WITH CAPITALISM
I mean holy fucking shit.
Why I need to remind actual socialists of this fact is beyond me.
BREADTUBE IS NOT THE RESISTANCE, IT’S A PRODUCT OF LATE CAPITALISM
BreadTube has an important role in deradicalizing people from the Right and fighting against Right-wing domination of the Internet. In fact, I’m one of the people who was deradicalized by BreadTube. Also in fact, Contrapoints helped! Her video on incels helped me. Tiffany Tumbles helped me.
But BreadTube is not a Leftist movement. It’s a market created by capitalism to sell Leftists stuff. It’s an organ of capitalism that turns Revolution into a YouTube playlist video-essays and Twitter drama.
Why are we so tempted to lionize BreadTubers? Why do people form these intense parasocial relationships with them? Why do they obsess over their every move and treat their every thought as gospel?
Because that’s what capitalism trains us to do with everything we buy.
Why are people so willing to dehumanize Natalie Wynn when she messes up?
Because capitalism dehumanizes everyone. Natalie is not a human being when she becomes Contrapoints, she’s a product to be sold on a market maintained by YouTube, a capitalist entity.
Why does BreadTube seem so geared towards cishet white men? Why aren’t there more BreadTubers of color? Why are non-binary people and FTM trans people routinely left out of the conversation?
Because these people are not a large enough portion of the market to matter, and capitalism squashes populations that don’t matter.
I am amazed at the number of people who will argue that conservatives are dumb for blaming individuals for what are obviously the failures of broken systems, and then, in the same breath, talk about how the only problem with BreadTube is that Contrapoints needs to personally be a better person. Or that we need 👏 more 👏 Philosophy Tube 👏 of 👏 color 👏
What are we? Socialists in the streets but classical liberals in the sheets?
Am I saying that what Contrapoints did doesn’t matter because her art, like all art, and the toxic ways in which fans interact with her, are all victims of capitalism?
I am saying that while BreadTube’s content often critiques capitalism, the internal mechanisms of BreadTube itself are indistinguishable from those of capitalism itself. I’m saying consuming BreadTube and getting sucked up in its drama isn’t praxis, because consuming BreadTube is just participating in capitalism some more and generating revenue for a megacorporation. Last time I check that wasn’t fucking praxis.
I’m saying that, when we draw up our list of 10 demands, they shouldn’t be:
- Contrapoints should apologize
- Contrapoints should personally fix everything I think is wrong with BreadTube
- Contrapoints should apologize again, but this time to an autistic non-binary native woman in a wheelchair on a 10 hour charity stream
- Contrapoints should make me a chicken noodle soup. I think there’s something going around I mean it is November
- Contrapoints should help me with my homework
- Contrapoints blah blah blah
- Contrapoints …
If you’re focused on what Contrapoints should be doing as an individual to fix this, you’re doing the thing that liberals do when they see all the symptoms of capitalism but only think they’re bad because Trump is doing it, and they can’t wait for Joe Biden to get into office and do the same thing except now there are less racial slurs.
When liberals do this, we mock them for ultimately supporting the same oppressive system that’s creating the problems they’re complaining about.
BreadTube is the same bullshit.
There are people who have an incredible amount of social capital like Contrapoints, Hbomberguy, Oliver Thorn, and the like, who control the fluctuations of the market through what they decide to Tweet or talk about. There’s a “middle class” of content creators who are associated with them who have enough social capital so sway an audience, but not enough to be immune from pressure at the top.
And then there’s everyone else. No sway whatsoever. No sizeable control over what gets brought in the spotlight or how conversations unfold. We have to climb on top of other people’s work and ride drama and controversy to be seen or heard.
I’m a cis guy. I’ve never studied gender formally or as a hobby. I’ve never even read Judith Butler. The most thinking I’ve done on the subject is wondering why I like writing female protagonists so much, and wondering if I can pull off thigh-highs.
Second one doesn’t count, by the way. Thigh-highs are a non-binary, universal state of mind.
Why did I insert my opinion on this controversy into the Discourse™ when that controversy doesn’t affect me at all? Why did I start this essay with that opinion? Was it because I was convinced my take on Contrapoints has any value whatsoever?
Or is it maybe because I knew that if I framed my thesis as part of an ongoing conversation, one that the market has already shown great interest in, my essay would have a better chance of getting read? Was it maybe because I understood that, if I could get this out the door fast enough, the promise of mindlessly consuming more of that sweet, succulent drama the market already tricked your brain into thinking you like would make it more likely that you read to the end?
The solution to BreadTube is to recognize it for what it is
BreadTube is good for building community. It’s good for creating a shared base of easily digestible educational content. A jumping off part for getting into Left-wing politics. It’s a neat market to have around.
But for Christ’s sake, do things as well.
Join an organization or start your own. Put up flyers. Talk to people in real life. Unionize. Make your own content, and pick stuff that no one else is doing. Vote! Remember voting? What happened to that? Yes voting will only improve the system around the margins, but there are people who are suffering under the worst of capitalism who need short-term solutions now, not to be told to wait for the Revolution.
If you care about fixing what Contrapoints did, let’s turn this into a general conversation as to why transmedicalism is so harmful, and not a specific campaign to make this specific person pay for her specific crimes.
Read. Read like a real book instead of consuming what is the equivalent of SparkNotes with costumes.
I’m gonna do it. I’m fucking gonna link that one fucking Boomer comic because it’s true. Just watch me. I’ll do it. I swear. Here it comes
Yes books can get expensive. Yes we often lack the academic background to understand philosophy. Yes ADHD and other such difficulties can make reading harder to do.
But a sizable chunk of y’all are rich/middle class able-bodied neurotypical white people. You don’t have an excuse.
Have you read the Bread Book yet? I’m reading it right now. Peter Kropokin’s The Conquest of Bread is great. Have you even read the Manifesto? What other things interest you? Most older texts you can find online for free, or on amazon for cheap.
Read. Read because, if you want to learn more about decolonization on the Indian subcontinent, don’t @ Philosophy Tube to please please please do a video on decolonization on the Indian subcontinent. Just read about it. And if you like it enough, make your own video. Write your own essay.
In a cliche: solve BreadTube by going the fuck outside.