Should YouTubers pressure their peers to endorse candidates?
[By: Amy Odell] [Cosmopolitan] [Read More]
Some of the internet’s most influential YouTubers are starting to endorse Hillary Clinton, a controversial move that has riled both their peers and their followers. Casey Neistat, who has nearly 5.5 million subscribers and whose channel tends to feature videos about travel and adventure, started the recent wave of endorsements in a video where he sits down in front of his camera and says simply, "Hillary Clinton. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton." Instead of running on and off planes or jumping off of cliffs, Neistat does nothing but sit in a darkened room and talk directly to the camera about how he usually doesn’t bring politics into his channel — but this election is different.
I avoid talking politics on this channel, on this forum, because politics are divisive — there’s always two sides Republicans and Democrats; there’s left and there’s right. I can have my own opinion and there will always be an opposing one. That is the nature of a healthy democracy. But this is not that. This is about a megalomaniac who is driven by nothing but ego. A man who cares exactly zero about the people of this country. A person who brags about sexually assaulting women and shames others for the way they look. I’m speaking up now because this election has very little to do with politics, policy, or legislation. This election has to do with morals and principles.
Neistat then lays out his argument for Clinton, which is that she’s the only one who can defeat Donald Trump (who he does not name once in the entire two and a half minute video):
I’m voting for Hillary because, make no mistake, there is one person who can defeat him. One person who can keep him away from power, and it is her. I’m not a huge fan of her stale politics, I’m entirely aware of all the criticism against her, I’m aware of all of her failures and shortcomings. But she’s intelligent, and she knows what she’s doing. More importantly, she’s mentally sound, she’s responsible, and she’s sane.
The controversy over his video isn’t about the fact that he endorses her as a means of votingagainst Trump rather than for her, but what came next: a call to action to his fellow influential YouTubers to do the same:
I want to end this by calling out all the big YouTubers. Some I know and some you viewers might know. See, making videos like this — they’re not popular, they’re not going to get you subscribers, they’re not going to boost your view counts. But there is something much more valuable than subscribers or dollars, and that’s backbone. That is not being scared to stand up to what is right, regardless of the costs.
The top twenty YouTubers reach over a billion views every week, every seven days. We have the power to activate a demographic, an electorate that isn’t typically very active. That is young people. This generation, if we’re all banded together, we have the power to ensure that this tax-avoiding, lying, racist, misogynist stays away from power and out of the White House. But it requires all of us coming together.
So, if your favorite YouTuber says things like, ’I don’t like to talk politics on my channel,’ or ’I’m not going to reveal who I’m voting for,’ call them out. Sitting on the sidelines this time around is not ok. This election is different. And if this guy gets elected and you stood back with your arms folded and didn’t speak out against him, it makes you complicit. It makes youpartially responsible for handing him the reins of power. Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow for a fun happy video.
The video ends with a message that his endorsement was not paid for or planted by the Clinton camp.
Fellow YouTuber Philip De Franco, who has 4.8 million subscribers, responded the day Neistat’s endorsement went up on Twitter:
The next day he posted a video of his own in which he said he would not be revealing his own political views.
He accused Neistat of being on a "high horse," questioned the value of celebrity endorsements generally, and raised the possibility that Neistat is violating YouTube’s terms of service, which prohibit the "incitement to harass other users or creators." It’s the call for those in the community to ask other YouTubers to take a stand on the election that DeFranco says bothers him the most:
It was at this moment, in my opinion, Casey Neistat released a hate mob. I saw this as a general annoyance, some going as far to say that Casey Neistat’s actually breaking terms of service with this, specifically the terms of service of the harassment and cyberbullying section. The note that says harassment may include ’incitement to harass other users or creators,’ because that’s what’s happening to a ton of creators now. People are just spamming this video and saying, ’Where’s your backbone, insert YouTuber?’ ’Why are you not coming out against Donald Trump, are you racist, random YouTuber?’ ’Oh you didn’t come out in support of Hillary Clinton, you must hate women.’
And some people defended Casey saying he wasn’t saying come out and support Hillary Clinton, he was saying come out and support who you care about, let’s have a conversation. But no, we didn’t — literally the video ends on this still [paraphrasing still]: ’You need to vote for her and make sure everyone you know votes for her or the consequences of electing the unstable irrational alternative will be far reaching and severe.’ And I say this as someone who’s being hit by this harassment a lot less than many other YouTubers. And that’s in large part thanks to my audience being smart enough to realize that Phil is going to give us information, he’s going to talk about the bad things for everyone, he’s going to talk about how those people that they’re being accused, they’re defending themselves and he’s not going to push his biased agenda on us, he will let us come up with our own opinion. A lot of other YouTubers don’t have that benefit.
He concludes this segment by encouraging his readers to register to vote and get informed about the candidates.
Comedian and author Grace Helbig, who has 3 million subscribers, took Neistat up on his challenge and posted her own video endorsement of Clinton.
"Oh it makes my heart ache!" Helbig says of this election. "I wish I knew the right way to talk about this — and there is no right way. There’s the left way." (Zing-a-ling!) Helbig acknowledges the controversy surrounding Neistat’s video, but goes on to say, "I will be voting for Hillary Clinton this election. Donald Trump is so many things that I don’t want as a representative of the country that I live in to the rest of the world."
Though theories that Neistat are being pad by the Clinton campaign are circulating, DeFranco shot them down in a follow-up video. He says that a third party had offered him money to endorse Clinton, but he turned it down because he doesn’t believe it’s his place to endorse anyone. He also assures fans that he and Neistat do not have a feud and even had a productive phone call about the place of YouTubers in the political fabric of our world.
Whether or not you agree with Neistat’s decision to share his views on who to vote for or his choice of candidate, he’s right about one thing: This is not an ordinary election. It’s not simply a choice between policy platforms. It’s about something much more fundamental than that.