HasanAbi Has Political Twitch on Lock
To have a leftist streamer with such massive influence was once thought mythical, but Hasan made it a reality.
If The Young Turks — the collective Hasan Piker was once a part of — were the renegades of mainstream media, comprised almost-entirely of outcasts and dissidents, Hasan’s standing on Twitch was just as rebellious–the platform alongside YouTube had been home for many conservatives who successfully wielded divisive rhetoric to stoke the flames of political polarization, but as Hasan rose to prominence on the back of his 2020 presidential race coverage, the dominance of conservative political commentary on Twitch no longer seemed so permanent.
Even before his hard pivot to Twitch, Hasan had always been a citizen of the internet–his presence on Cenk Uygur’s erstwhile-influential media empire honed him the skills necessary to eventually a plot a path forward for his own career, unconstrained by what role his superiors might’ve fashioned for him otherwise. While Hasan got to flex his political acumen there with a focus on socialist politics, delivering in the style of cable news always had him on the back foot against the right-wing’s Koch-funded media empire–Hasan got to wear fancy suits and try to out-PragerU his ideological nemeses, but it was clear that this wouldn’t work out for him if he aimed to reach younger audiences. Fast-forward a few years later once streaming proved itself a reliable dog in the fight against America’s political ailments, and Hasan embraced Twitch’s style with unmatched ease and saw himself quickly shuttled to platform royalty status as a result.
Lathered with memorabilia calling back to his stream’s most-resonant themes, Hasan’s room is almost a window into what it’s like to be plugged online and kept up on the restless machine that is American politics, all-the-while maintaining a familiar look for those who’d consider him a distant friend chatting about politics while providing much-needed catharsis. A feature of human interaction that has become particularly clear on the heels of an isolating pandemic is how absolutely craven human beings are for social rapport, especially when it pertains to what they feel most passionately about–Trump’s assault on innumerous civil liberties laid the groundwork for politics to become a topmost passion for many, and Hasan slid right in to fulfill that demand.
Though it may prove a convenient comparison, Hasan is unlike Destiny or Vaush — analogues he’s most-often compared to — in that sense that he isn’t as invested in arguing for his views’ potency as he is in showing why the fight for a post-capitalist future is worth the struggle. The Young Turks had already instilled in him a fighting spirit against what they’d dub “the establishment”, but Hasan takes it a step further and explicitly antagonizes all who are enemies to the project of socio-economic progress–it makes him an enemy of the online right-wing media machine, but he takes the animosity in stride and rather effectively uses it to bolster his own profile.
When Hasan came fresh into Twitch, he had the herculean task of building trust with a community that had already been in a particularly-fickle relationship with the ‘Just Chatting’ category–simply put, a lot thought that the format subverted Twitch’s original raison d’être. Earlier streams consisted of more gameplay to ease audiences into Hasan’s more substantive political takes, but as the reliance on the platform’s core base of gaming-interested viewers waned, playing games eventually became a secondary attraction–still as Hasan expressed in the past, video games are his respite from a busy day of emotionally-taxing politics talk, so they’re not competing for attention on his daily program as much as they are mutually ensuring each other’s sustenance.
To ensure longevity, Hasan made it a point to not be a one-trick pony, and to that end, he cultivated a YouTube following by uploading a carefully-curated set of stream highlights, while fan channels shoulder the burden of archiving uncut replays given Twitch’s extremely-stingy limit on replay history. He’s also been equally as successful in maintaining a presence on Instagram and Twitter, making sure even those allergic to longform content are plentifully provided for.
Still, what makes Hasan as popular in his sphere isn’t just having a good promotion strategy, looking physically-attractive, or hailing from one of America’s most-prominent establishment critics in the Young Turks–it’s the combination of natural charisma combined with sharp knowledge on how to pierce through the toughest shields of political stringency. As attested by many of his viewers, he’s been the reason many ventured further leftward — not necessarily to emulate and accommodate Hasan, but it was just the natural progression of having one’s political views challenged and them proving not as unshakable against scrutiny as they would’ve otherwise assumed.
With politics no longer occupying much of the American — and global — conversation, Hasan’s channel has understandably receded in popularity as the tension building up to Trump’s failed re-election took its leave–still, as he himself would put it, the project of political revolution is one where persistence pays in spades. It’s not even a sure thing that the reality Hasan dedicates himself everyday to facilitate the arrival of is ever materializing before he hits seniorship, but he’s willing to put himself through the arduous process of arguing for capitalism’s inadequacy on the road to building an equitable society–the weight it bears on Hasan’s psyche given how unchanging things are must not be insignificant, but it is nonetheless still exemplary of great virtue to see a goal so adamantly pursued even when the odds are heavily stacked against him.
“The pen is mightier than the sword” the old adage goes, but in today’s political economy, it may so be the case that “the microphone is even mightier than the pen” in turn–as the media embraces putting a recognizable face to its most-coveted stories, the question of what such a personality does with their influence becomes even more pertinent. While writers like Ronan Farrow and Michael Lewis have put their mark on the trade of journalism by pursuing truth through indulgence of character, it seems that the future of media is one where advocacy of core beliefs precede any pretense of neutral journalistic inquiry–it’s what Hasan has so perfectly harnessed the power of, and it’s what will keep him relevant in an ever-changing media landscape.