So much of the right-wing’s strength on YouTube is about rhetoric. With his expertise from working on the media analysis series ‘Strikethrough’ at Vox, Carlos Maza promises to carry on that legacy into his own independent gig. After enduring a wave of relentless harassment from conservative pundit Steven Crowder, it wasn’t a sure thing that Maza was keen on subjecting himself to more. But surely enough, his channel is now live, and the initial effort seems high-quality enough to inspire confidence about what’s to come next.
The road to independence was ladened with much strife. After Maza dared to protest his own harassment by Crowder on Twitter, if initially supportive, Vox Media eventually felt the logistical burden weighing on them hard as keeping Maza an employee was becoming a liability. Now that he’s gone solo, Maza has yet to prove what his spot under the BreadTube umbrella will be–he’s not yet sure if audiences will embrace it, but he’d be remiss not to try anyway.
“Now, YouTube is one of the biggest threats. It’s how a huge chunk of the public gets their news,” Maza tells Verge’s Julia Alexander, aware of the rhetorical advantage that the right-wing commands on the platform. His proposed remedy is making media analysis more accessible, and introduce a new audience to how narratives are concocted, manipulated, and marketed for the masses to court public support. Maza feels that this is crucial in an era where the right-wing’s influence doesn’t just stop at cable media, but has now subsumed platforms like YouTube as an essential part of its operation.
One of BreadTube’s main weaknesses is its inability to transform favorable media coverage into actual power. So often, the mainstream media’s insistence on focusing on a few key personalities is seen in and of itself as an affront to the collective spirit of the space, and a violation of its ethos of redistributive justice–the smaller channels feel left out, while the bigger ones continue to grow larger. If anything, Maza is perfectly positioned to square out these disputes, given his background in media as both a critic, and a participant in it.
Similarly, why the right-wing’s reach is so far beyond the left’s is a phenomenon worth examining. Not just because of YouTube’s extensively-documented conservative bias, but also due to the right-wing’s sharp ability to mobilize masses more effectively than the left has been traditionally able to do. Maza hopes to break out of the confines of the traditional ‘Strikethrough’ format, and take a more thorough look at the right-wing’s media machine beyond traditional cable news.
It’s unclear whether BreadTube’s core demographic will be able to relate with much of what Maza will be abording–after all, so much of the pre-existing literature is about toppling down the bourgeoisie and propping up the proletariat, while ignoring what so much of that process actually entails. If the left stands any chance of convincing its patrons to organize in an effective fashion to see political change enacted, they’ll need popular support–YouTubers of Steven Crowder’s ilk hedge their bets on keeping engaged leftists a minority, and a good first step in countering that would be to deconstruct the rhetorical tools at their disposal to make them less effective.
“I’m a media critic, and my job is to critique the media. It’s harder to do that while working with a corporate media company,” Maza told Julia Alexander, recognizing the difficulty in maintaining an accountable stance under the purview of Vox Media. “It felt safer and smarter to go independent.”
If Maza’s plan is successful, crucial pieces of media analysis usually confined to print will finally be accessible to a larger audience. In an era captured by polarization, a vector of political divide has been the noticeable lack of media literacy among the electorate–especially on the conservative side. This near-constant state of low information makes voters more susceptible to committing time and energy to political causes they might not fully understand, for reasons often ill-justified. News anchors like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson hold great sway over voters in that way, but that has been slowly expanding into figures of the New Right like Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and the aforementioned Steven Crowder–regardless of the method of distribution, there’s a conservative to meet demand.
“I do think YouTube is part of the future of political commentary and political debate,” Maza further tells Julia Alexander. “That means someone like me could survive viably on YouTube. It also means that complete asshats, people with no research, and who are motivated by pure ideology can also do well on YouTube.” That pure ideological contingent is something that Maza expressed no interest in pursuing–at least that’s what his introductory video seemed to suggest. Much like ContraPoints, Maza will be able to claim emotional and intellectual distance from a variety of opinions by portraying them from the perspective of other characters.
Relying solely on YouTube for income is shaky business — especially when you’re just starting out — and while the outpour of support on Patreon has not been sparse, it still doesn’t make the job any easier. Claiming independence from a media company is a double-edged sword–what you gain by becoming independent, turns into its own impediment as the ability to monetize one’s own endeavor is reduced dramatically. Maza seems to have a clear vision on where he wants to go, and he’ll hopefully be provided the levity to explore and define the yet-to-be identity of his channel. Nonetheless, this couldn’t have been a more positive development following the Crowder saga last year, and all are eager to see where things are headed.