Bokhari: YouTube’s Plan to Stop Users Expressing Disapproval of Elites

US President Joe Biden holds a face mask as he participates in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 16, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Google-owned YouTube’s plan to remove the “dislike” button from videos, the easiest and bluntest way for users to express their disapproval with the content of a video, should not be viewed in isolation. It’s part of a long-running trend of elites seeking to prohibit ordinary people from speaking back to them.

YouTube dislikes are disliked (haha, get it?) by elites for the same reason that audience scores on movie reviewing sites and comments sections on media websites are disliked by them. It gives ordinary people the opportunity to call their supposed betters out on their bullshit.

Those elites, by the way, include YouTube itself. The most-disliked video of all time is still YouTube’s official “2018 rewind” video, a compilation of highlights from the previous year that was widely panned by YouTube users for favoring mainstream celebrities over YouYube personalities like PewDiePie. YouTube’s 2019 “rewind” video also broke into the top 10 most disliked videos, and a third — 2017’s — made it into the top 50.

Other historically disliked videos include Gillette’s boycott-sparking “toxic masculinity” ad, and a Microsoft commercial featuring alleged artist Marina Abramović, whose alleged art is praised by elites but disliked by wide swathes of the public.

And then there’s Joe Biden. By any objective standard, the White House’s videos on YouTube are not popular. Their viewcounts are a fraction of what President Trump enjoyed, and the like-to-dislike ratio looks atrociously bad for Biden’s videos.

But YouTube dislike button isn’t the only conduit of popular disapproval that has come under attack in recent years. As I explained in 2018, when Twitter was mulling the idea of removing “likes,” this is a trend that began all the way back in the pre-Trump era:

Look at the constant controversies over the movie reviewing site Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews from critics to give films a “critics rating” and from regular moviegoers to give it an “audience” rating. As Hollywood tried to shove progressive narratives down the throat of increasingly unwilling moviegoers, the gap between critics scores and audience scores on the website has widened. Movies like the Ghostbusters reboot (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and the new Star Trek series, all of which were widely criticized for overdosing on progressivism, were subject to plummeting audience scores. The Last Jedi, for example, has a withering 45 percent rating from the public — the lowest for a Star Wars film.

In response, progressive film critics  quickly adopted the narrative that the dismal audience scores were due to “trolls” from the “alt-right.” Other claimed the review scores were “rigged,” or questioned the entire purpose of giving the general public a tool to express its opinion. Eventually, with the release of Black Panther (2018), the progressives got their way, as Rotten Tomatoes promised to intervene against “hate speech” surrounding the movie.

It didn’t even begin with Donald Trump or Brexit. In the early 2010s, progressive journalists were already whining about the comments sections underneath their articles, which allowed ordinary people to actually criticize them in real-time. They got their way of course, and the comments sections slowly began to disappear. In a foreshadowing of a modern-day progressive narrative about free speech online, Ars Technica warned that comments sections could “make you mistrust real experts.”

The progressives decided long ago that it’s dangerous to allow ordinary people to freely signal their preferences online. Whether it’s review scores, comments sections, or an entire platform like Gab, every tool of popular expression has come under siege as elites fight back against the masses.

It’s not so dissimilar from the recent, pathetic examples of alleged journalists Brenna Smith and Taylor Lorenz expertly dissected by Glenn Greenwald, in which the vanguard of Soylent-drinking millennial “disinformation” journalists heroically rallied to protect their colleagues from… being criticized on the internet and on cable TV.

I’m not joking. Both journalists portrayed being criticized as something close to a near-death experience. After Tucker Carlson and conservatives on social media criticized New York Times reporter Lorenz, she complained “it’s not an exaggeration to say that the harassment and smear campaign I’ve had to endure over the past year has destroyed my life.” This complaint is coming, by the way, from a woman who once doxed Pamela Geller’s children.

The message behind all of this is clear. Elites are allowed to demonize, shame, belittle, and harass anyone they choose. But if ordinary people speak back to them in any way, even via a simple YouTube “dislike,” that’s a problem that must be addressed. 

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.



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