A recent post on Twitter by comedian Lou Perez suggests a hilariously subversive mind at work. In a retweet, he presented a chart that purports to quantify the height and income trade-offs that govern the attractiveness of the human male to the human female. Apparently, as Perez puts it in his summary tweet, “A man who is 5 feet 6 inches tall needs to earn an additional $175,000 per year to be as desirable as a man who is about 6 feet tall.”
Everything about this screams foul to the woke and sensitive crowd, starting with the presumption of a gender binary. But there is also the presumption of the male income being a predominant variable, rather than the female income; the inferred acceptance of the gender pay gap; the unconscious and toxic bias in favor of exclusionary heterosexual attraction. In terms of milking this for hilarity, perhaps only Titania McGrath, who specializes in politically incorrect gender humor, could give Perez a run for his money.
And like McGrath, Perez has stepped on the toes of the woke many times. So many times, in fact, that he recently published a guest column in the Wall Street Journal titled, “How I Became a ‘Far-Right’ Radical.” Unlike the study correlating male attractiveness to male earnings, which was a serious but humorous bit of scholarship coming from the University of Chicago back in 2006 when scholars had more latitude than they do today, Perez has been tagged in a more recent, equally serious but utterly humorless study.
“Evaluating the scale, growth, and origins of right-wing echo chambers on YouTube” was released in November and involved scholars from Harvard, Temple, and elsewhere, along with corporate collaborators such as Microsoft. The massive three-year study followed the viewership patterns of over 300,000 unique YouTube users, who watched over 21 million videos on nearly 3 million unique YouTube channels in over 8 million sessions.
Wading through more than 6,000 words of extremely dense academese, not including lengthy appendices, the general message of the study appears to be that although “the far-right echo chamber is somewhat smaller than the left and centrist communities, it is rapidly growing in population size and watch time. Moreover, its users are more engaged and more likely to stay engaged in the future than users in other echo chambers, especially when they are exposed to bursts of content.”
But how did Perez, a funny guy, end up on the expansive list of “far-right” YouTube channels listed in the concluding exhibits of this study? Apparently, as he explains in his Journal column, for five years through October, he was head writer and producer of a YouTube channel called “We the Internet TV.” As he puts it, “Our comedy channel made fun of everybody—left, right, center.” Material that earned Perez a Webby Award in 2017 became threatening enough by 2020 to earn him a place among America’s hard-core right-wing.
How Perez expands on the fundamental dishonesty of this study that drags several hundred people into its net and tags them all as “far-Right” is worth repeating here. He explains that the words “fascism,” “racism,” and “terrorism” are missing from the paper, even though those words are linked to the far-Right.
But then, as he puts it,
I realized it was a smart (and cowardly) move on the part of the authors to leave them out: just use the umbrella term ‘far Right’ and allow your readers to fill in the tacit isms. That way, you don’t risk being called out for labeling people who are not fascists, racists and terrorists as such. Instead, the study is peppered with nebulous adjectives like ‘extreme’ and ‘radical,’ which allow readers to see their own bogeymen.
If you read the list of “far Right” YouTube channels listed in the study, you will immediately notice that hundreds of them have already been deplatformed by YouTube. And if you keep track of these channels, you will also notice there are many more that the scholars omitted. Where, for example, are the many “Q” channels? They’ve all now been banished to alternative platforms, but were all present, and popular, on YouTube during the period under analysis.
And if the scholars who conducted this study were not being paid to offer a reductionist, biased message, they might acknowledge that the so-called far-Right YouTube channels they’ve identified constitute an incredibly diverse and inclusive list.
“In the study’s view,” Perez writes, “former Evergreen College professor Bret Weinstein—a self-described progressive and Bernie Sanders supporter—is far-right too. Joining us are neuroscientist Sam Harris (a self-confessed liberal), podcast host Joe Rogan (who considers himself ‘pretty liberal’) and Bloggingheads.tv (whose regular contributors include Vox co-founder Ezra Klein).”
Perez is correct. If you read the list, dozens if not hundreds of names jump out that have no business being tagged as far-Right, unless “far-Right” simply means “free thinker.” Prager University, Ben Shapiro, Turning Point, Conversations with Bill Kristol. Really? Kristol is neither a free thinker nor far-Right. Bill Kristol? Far-Right?
And then there are those genuine intellectuals, along with Sam Harris and Bret Weinstein, such as Jordan Peterson and Stefan Molyneux, who have never, ever engaged in “far-Right” rhetoric. Rather, they have followed truth into uncomfortable corners. And why, for that matter should the X22 Report or Black Pigeon Speaks, which delve into forbidden topics involving central banks but never engage in hate speech or calls to violence, be stigmatized as “far-Right.” Why should any of these four channels be banned from YouTube, a fate that has already befallen Molyneux and X22?
Even those websites that might qualify as far-Right by most conventional standards, such as Vincent James’ Red Elephants or Lana Lokteff’s Red Ice TV, have never engaged in hate speech or calls to violence. Moreover, an acquaintance with facts, as opposed to propagandistic drivel, is far more finely developed in James and Lokteff than it is in, say, David Muir or Norah O’Donnell.
The sheer diversity of the channels listed as “far-Right” by these supposed scholars makes any attempt to generalize about them an exercise in misinformation. What these many people offer is interesting content. They offer thoughts unfettered by fears of having to be politically correct, and instead are typically inspired by what are harmless or even uplifting motives, ranging from an irreverent but clever joke, to explorations in how to build character, to love and concern for one’s heritage.
Perez appears more bemused than offended by his designation by these academic heavyweights as a member of the far Right. That is an appropriate reaction. The “far-Right,” as defined by this impressive feat of academic hackery, is a huge and diverse group that like any large and diverse group includes a small percentage of scallywags, but for the most part are some of the most interesting and passionate people you’ll ever meet.
Ultimately, the purveyors of this study have provided us another place to look for the good guys. That was certainly not their intention, but we thank them for their service.