Joshua Collins Can't Convince Twitch to Root for Him

What happens when expectations don't perfectly match reality.

Running for Washington’s 10th congressional district, Joshua Collins would become the youngest to do the job if his campaign is successful. Much of Collins’ efforts in achieving exactly that have focused on harnessing the power of social media to break through media gatekeepers in the hopes of joining the small, yet slowly-emergent socialist wing of the Democratic party.

Since Collins’ campaign is focusing on digital, it’s then no wonder that a good amount of press — negative or positive — he’s gotten, comes from leftist Twitch. Naturally, you’d think Collins wooed them, but the opposite is so far turning out to be true– after refusing to make his position on the “Bernie or Bust” debate clear, many on the left have taken it to be a commitment to careerism at the expense of ideology, prompting some to speculate that Collins’ appeal to socialism was only but a radical means to a much more conventional end.

But even within leftist Twitch, there’s a multitude of perspectives–if most to engage the topic of electoral politics are relentlessly cutthroat in their critique of dissenters, a minority remains committed to the work of curbing alienation and community-building that the most popular have so far proven allergic to. This was readily apparent when streamer Lumi Rue — primarily focused on issues of intersectionality and social justice — took heat for interviewing Collins and not spewing the same rhetorical venom that the rest of leftist Twitch has grown so accustomed to. MindWaves and Imreallyimportant were among notable figures to have protested the relaxed tone of the interview, dubbing it as irresponsible platforming of the politically inept, while Vaush and Rational Disconnect acknowledged the fickleness of appealing to all parties, especially when Collins’ campaign was already the subject of much controversy.

Collins’ presence on the streaming platform seems to be taken by many for granted–it isn’t often that political candidates get to expose themselves for an audience that’s largely disinterested in the mainstream etiquette of political reporting, and would rather talk more about ideology. When Lumi interviewed Collins, it didn’t mark a stark departure from their usual mode of operation–if the majority of leftist Twitch skews confrontational, Lumi’s work focuses on confidence-building such as their interlocutor feels compelled to not play coy with their inquiries.

What this was viewed as instead, is a fundamental botching of the interview process — something to their credit, Lumi have already conceded they did — but if the norms of political discourse have acclimated Twitch to be in a perpetual state of conflict, it sidesteps the fact that most crucial work of investigative journalism is only possible through an establishment of trust. That’s not to say Lumi was aspiring to be as magnetically persuasive as the likes of Ronan Farrow or Michael Lewis, but it’s more so to emphasize that interviewees rarely give in to the finer details if the other party is operating from a position of malice, even when they’re compelled to do so under more strenuous circumstances.

This gets conflated with a notion of mainstream political coverage that’s often viewed as toothless by the left, when it’s clear that alienating your subjects is rarely a good way to get them to say anything, much less admit them to a significant position-change on the record. When that happens, it has to be done with tact, and it’s a skill that very few possess–and unlike what many seem to think, even fewer can properly execute.

The most talked about form of political polarization is between the left and the right, but rarely mentioned is what’s happening within either end of the spectrum. Protesting the way Collins has been interviewed to commit him to more left-wing policy ideas is a way to project upon one’s ideological stances more radicalism, which in turn pushes audiences to employ the harshest criticism against the other side–as such, Lumi’s interview skills have been equated to famed alt-right figure Dave Rubin, and Collins was painted by those left of him as a fascist.

All of this seems benign, and frankly stupid to anyone who’s not paying the mildest attention to Twitch’s political sphere–but what it’s symptomatic of, is a normalization of a certain type of antagonistic discourse, agnostic of whether it is productive in any way. Role-playing an off-the-handle news anchor getting mad at a politician for not fulfilling their promises sure looks compelling, but what it amounts to is rarely the hard-hitting journalism it’s often romanticized as.

What all of this plays second fiddle to, is the fact that Collins is autistic. Political and communications director of the campaign Dani Shull made mention of this when Collins hastily deleted his Twitter and Instagram profiles before quickly coming back, citing burnout as the main culprit. It is clear from Collins’ half-successful attempts at reaching out to leftist Twitch that they’re not interested in having him as a guest, so much as clay to be fashioned into what they deem to be the perfect leftist candidate. Lumi wasn’t interested in that, and has been automatically assumed to be in Collins’ camp as a result.

The history of leftist-infighting is exhaustively documented at this point, but where it could take more innocuous forms in run-of-the-mill ideological discrepancies, it can be deadly when it comes time to elect someone into office. This tendency to cannibalize support from within was successfully averted on the national stage with Bernie Sanders — even if the Vermont Senator didn’t make it far enough — but Congress candidates’ potency seems to be a much harder litmus test to pass. Shy of wearing red and yellow while posing with a hammer and sickle, there’s not much Collins can do to tame the flaming rage of national dissent in leftist circles–all he can hope to do, is convince WA-10 that he’s the right man for the job. His would-be constituency could care less if he read Das Kapital.