Vox’s Carlos Maza has a beef with conservative YouTube sensation Steven Crowder, and now these two are locked in a bitter Hatfields and McCoys feud. Well, maybe not quite that bad. But it could have ramifications for other conservative content creators on social media. Maza, who typically reports on the media for the far-left news site, has called on YouTube to ban the right-leaning comedian for videos he made targeting the journalist.
Maza claims that Crowder, who is no stranger to being singled out by YouTube, incited a harassment campaign against his videos and used inflammatory language in his criticism of Maza’s work. YouTube told The Hill that it is investigating the matter and will reach a decision shortly.
So is Crowder a rabid bigot who urges his followers to harass those with whom he disagrees? Or might Maza be a bit guilty of stretching the truth in order to silence a conservative voice on social media?
Recently, Maza posted a series of tweets complaining about Crowder’s videos debunking Maza’s work on the web series Strikethrough. A homosexual, Maza pointed out that Crowder used homophobic slurs and made fun of his lisp.
“I’ve been called an anchor baby, a lispy queer, a Mexican, etc,” he wrote. “These videos get millions of views on YouTube. Every time one gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter.”
Maza also claimed that Crowder’s followers began a harassment campaign, leaving homophobic messages on his videos and attacking him on social media. Finally, Maza ended his Twitter thread by asking his followers to flag Crowder’s videos in an attempt to get them removed:
“Anyway, if you want to help, I guess you can go to this dude’s videos and flag them? But @YouTube isn’t going to do anything, because YouTube does not give a f*** about queer creators. It cares about ‘engagement,’ and homophobic/racist harassment is VERY ‘engaging.’”
Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, let’s see what Crowder says about the matter.
A conservative comedian, Crowder hosts an online television show and podcast called Louder With Crowder on BlazeTV. The show presents racy content that could easily be seen as controversial. Crowder and many of his guests typically do not adhere to the precepts of political correctness.
On Crowder’s website, writer Courtney Kirchoff addressed the dispute, pointing out that his videos are designed to debunk the misinformation given in Strikethrough’s content. “We’ve rebutted Vox several times,” she wrote. “Always debunking their ideas, peppering in fun insults because they’re fun. Steven calls out Vox for failing to cite sources, how terrible they are at arguing a point, and even how Vox undercuts their own points.”
Crowder released a video outlining his position, explaining that he has “always condemned, and continues to condemn [and] discourage any and all forms of doxxing or targeted harassment of anyone online.” In addressing Maza’s complaints about his use of slurs, Crowder stated that his verbal attacks were “friendly ribbing.”
The YouTube host continued to claim that Maza was attempting to silence a conservative voice on social media. He argued that by playing the victim, Maza hopes to persuade YouTube to deplatform Crowder, thereby removing his voice from the site. “This is corporate censorship, and this is yet another giant company trying to lean on this channel, your channel, and the content that you’ve created,” he said. “And this is a war … we will fight to the absolute bitter end both legally and publicly.”
So who’s in the wrong here? Is Crowder a bigot who uses hate speech and harassment campaigns against lefties on social media? Or is Maza simply using this as an excuse to remove Crowder from the interwebs?
Maza’s contention that Crowder used homophobic slurs in his videos is accurate; the YouTuber often uses strong language when he pokes fun at a variety of individuals. But he uses the same type of language against anyone in his crosshairs, regardless of identity. Some of his content certainly could be seen as distasteful, but the notion that he is harassing Maza by making videos debunking Maza’s claims is absurd.
It is also highly unlikely that Crowder exhorted his followers to harass and doxx Maza. The host has repeatedly spoken out against the practice, even before this flare-up with Vox. Having been the victim of social media mobs, he urges his followers not to engage in this behavior. Ultimately, he is not responsible for the conduct of followers, especially if he speaks firmly against it.
Maza has every right to be offended by Crowder’s words — if he chooses to be. After all, he is known for blocking those who dare to utter an unkind word about him or his content. Indeed, Maza even blocked me when I wrote this piece satirizing a video in which he makes the ridiculous claim that the media are not sufficiently biased against President Trump. Believe me, I was crushed.
But his efforts to get Crowder banned from YouTube lends credibility to the host’s claims that this is not about being offended; it is about removing a powerful right-wing voice with three million followers. Anyone who listens to Crowder is aware of his constant struggle with the video-sharing platform, which has specifically targeted his videos for demonetization.
But did Crowder violate YouTube’s terms of service (TOS)? That’s a trickier question. Its TOS states that “content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person” will not be allowed on the site. Crowder’s comments about Maza are certainly negative, but hurtful? That’s a subjective term, and this ambiguity is what allows other social media companies to pick and choose who gets banned or demonetized without having to worry about being called out for hypocrisy.
The sensible can debate the propriety of Crowder’s comments without pushing for his removal from social media. Maza has been producing content for Vox for years and has likely received a slew of personal insults and criticisms far worse than Crowder’s. When you enter the media world, it is par for the course and no excuse to threaten another’s livelihood because of hurt feelings. In light of this, it is difficult to see this situation for what it is: a cynical attempt to deplatform someone for his political views.
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