Goodness am I glad I know how to change the U.R.L.
It’s a hot day, and one so far filled with *gulps* manual labour, and my brain has ceased functioning; if I die tomorrow it’ll be because THE SUN IS A DEADLY LAZER. I’ve got a lot of things on my to-write list at the moment, from responses to short essays to that awful long analysis of Donald Trump’s presidential style I’ve been putting off for months now, but today I can’t really be bothered. I want to do something to cool off but I can’t engage my brain for something hard. What I’d like to do is just document more permanently a bit of maths I found myself
autis diligently working out, to counter one of the sillier accusations the usual suspects are known to make.
People talk about @Sargon_of_Akkad a lot. They can’t get enough of him and the hate boner grows stronger every day. The criticisms come thick and fast like excrement pouring out of a broken pipe. Is there a diamond in the spray somewhere? I have no idea because my senses are overwhelmed by shit. Rather like how zero cannot be multiplied, weak arguments cannot be stacked; a tide of ineffectual criticism will persuade no one, and in fact only make them think you have nothing of value to say at all. This is why I hate quote-mining crowd pleasers so much. Everybody who has watched Video X knows that your thirty-second clip is not properly representative, and that you have manipulated things to put across View Y for likes and retweets, so really you have done nothing but polarize the debate further1.
Such a stupid, unproductive (at best) style of criticism, which really amounts to no more than jeering, drowns out real arguments. It also eggs on the idea disagreements must by nature be partisan and poisonous, corrosive to relationships, which is ridiculous and unhelpful. My greatest objection is probably that it drives people into totally arbitrary, antagonistic camps, of which there are many but the largest are called Left and Right. What I espouse is not centrism, but sense.
Thus I find it in my interest and that of the discourse to mount certain defences of Sargon, since this storm of hack pseudo-argumentation batters him particularly badly.
One of the most common assertions that gets thrown around these days is that his content is controlled by right-wing, conservative or God-forbid Alt Right Patreon subscribers. I should probably construct a generalization to lay out precisely what proposition I’m going to be opposing:
Sargon of Akkad’s content is not independent and he has lost at least some creative control over it. He must, especially given the recent advertizer debacle, pander to a particular base which is responsible for his income. This base is extremely large — logically it should be a majority by some stretch — and is right-wing, and it will not tolerate a change in emphasis or direction, i.e. an attack on the Right. Because Sargon’s principles are worth less to him than his bank account, he capitulates and defends the Right at every juncture whether he believes what he says or not.
If you feel this is a strawman you should pipe up now.
I think most people should be familiar with the above or something similar; it gets around. Really, it consists of three core assertions:
- Sargon’s income is derived primarily (it must be primarily or it would make no logical sense) from right-wingers.
- Most of these right-wingers cannot tolerate opposing views.
- As a result of this, Sargon toes a line and panders to their sensitivities.
I believe none of this is true, and I’m going to mathematically prove it. The Right may be a stupid monolith that barely even really exists, but since people insist on talking about it I guess I should use the same silly generalization myself, to rebut. I can’t really tell you what kind of people I’m referring to, but then again neither can anyone else. That’s how I justify using these hated terms: they get forced on me.
I made these calculations a week ago now on June 7, 2017, over a period of a couple of hours.
When I ask for evidence of those three claims, it curiously isn’t very forthcoming. The tendency is I’ll be pointed to YouTube comments sections, or to Pepe Twitter followers, or some vague accusation that “he never criticises the Right”, with tenuous links drawn to the size of his Patreon page, all of which — I’m sorry — just isn’t good enough. This is a hunch you have, and it will remain a hunch you have until you can produce authoritative data on audience demographics. You are not a polling organization, not that they carry much respect these days either. I don’t think it’s a genetic fallacy to say I want something better than comments autists for a claim as confident and significant as this. You simply should not be saying it, but you do anyway, so I need to take time out of my day to set you straight. This is a whimsical theory and it’s a tad rich to accuse others of being insane 9/11 truthers if you’re parroting it.
What do we have? Well, we have the audience survey Sargon conducted in May 2016, which had close to 35,00 respondents. It certainly isn’t ideal either, but name me something better. This survey may or may not have enough faults to disqualify it as an authoritative source of demographics data, but that’s rather besides the point if it’s still more trustworthy than anything side proposition can bring to the table — burden of proof, and all that.
This was over a year ago now, and I appreciate the situation has changed, but we are going to be extrapolating from it so the results are worth taking note of. Whenever I raise the survey the response is always, “Why won’t he conduct another one now?” I have no idea, but we can build on it anyway to project the growth in his right-wing audience, and find a mathematical ceiling for any reasonable surge in a particular demographic.
The results were:
- 55% left libertarian
- 35% right libertarian
- 7% right authoritarian
- 4% left authoritarian
How much do you reckon things have changed since then? At the time Sargon had 320,000 subscribers, compared with 627,000 when I made my calculations — a growth of 96%. We see from his Socialblade that he has gained over 300,000 subscribers, with some very good months following Brexit and the U.S. election:
Clearly, things picked up and growth accelerated. Let’s try to work out by how much. From January to June 2016 he gained 102,000 subscribers, which averages to around 17,000 per month, rounding up. We’ll take this as “normal”. If growth had been the same for the next year then we could assume the survey would produce the same results if conducted again.
But that is not the case. From July to December 2016 he gained 159,000 subscribers, which averages, rounding up, to around 26,000 per month. From January to May 2017, he gained 105,000 subscribers, averaging to 21,000 pre month. We may as well add another 21,000 to represent June, bringing the total for the period to 126,000 and Sargon’s subscriber count for this hypothesis — bumped up for the end of June — to 646,000. If 102,000 and 17,000 is our “normal”, then the second half of 2016 was 54% better than average, and so far (measuring from the start of July) 2017 has been 24% better.
Let’s make a ridiculous assumption: let’s say that all of this extra growth can be pinned on right-wing newcomers. The events of 2016 made Sargon appealing to a new fanbase of libertarians and conservatives, who flocked to his channel much faster than before and began smothering the traditional left libertarian base. He did not become any more appealing to left-wingers at all, we shall say.
If the entirety of that explosion — 54% and 24% above average — had followed normal demographic trends then the percentage of authoritarian right subscribers would still be 7%. Sargon is currently 81,000 subscribers better-off than he would have been if the first half of 2016 had just repeated twice. If all of these were authoritarian right newcomers, and if we add that on top of the standard 7% for those months. (11,000 and 9000), and then deposit this on top of the (320,000*0.07) 22,000 he already had, to get 123,000. Sargon of Akkad should have, by this these calculations, 123,000 authoritarian right followers. Now, an easy percentage calculation of (123,000/646,000)*100, to which the answer is 19 — 19%.
At most, Sargon can have an audience composed 19% of authoritarian right-wingers, and that is assuming firstly that all of the recent acceleration in growth was due to them, and secondly that the concerns he raised in his video about 4Chan interference with the survey were totally unfounded.
Let’s take a slightly stronger argument, that is also much less of a smear if it is true: let’s say the explosion was not in authoritarian right-wingers, but libertarian ones. Let’s take these 81,000 new libertarian right subscribers, and add them to the (320,000*0.35) 112,000 he already had, along with the “normal” 55,000 and 44,000, to get 292,000. Once more unto the breach: 45%.
I guess if you add the 7% authoritarian you can get 52%, but at this point you’re really reaching; don’t sprain your back. This depends on Sargon having attracted no more left-wingers than usual at all, and also on him selling his principles for a measly 2%. 2% is nothing. 2% cannot hold anyone hostage, and just remember how much this scenario is weighted in side proposition’s favour.
Maybe we’ll have more luck with Patreon. I don’t have an archive of Sargon’s Patreon page from May 2016, but I did manage to find one from August, which puts him at 586 Patrons. When I made my calculations I removed fifty to compensate for the fact this archive is two months late: he has gained 1871 new Patrons. Let’s say 52% of these are some variety of right-wing, as much of a stretch as that number is — 973, rounded up. If we add the old May 2016 numbers together, of the remaining 533 let’s say (35%+7%) 42% are right-wing — 224, rounded up. Together these numbers make 1197; Sargon currently has 2407 Patrons, so, at most, 49.7% of them can be right-wing.
That’s actually fewer. That’s not a majority of any kind.
That’s assertion no.1 debunked. Sargon does not primarily derive his income from right-wingers. Even if the proportion is growing (which I’ve just assumed — these calculations are not evidence that it is) it will be some time before the majority of either subscribers or Patrons is appreciable enough to threaten his creative freedom.
You still have to prove they are intellectually intolerant, too. My scenario doesn’t model a bleed of left-wingers away from the channel, but you don’t have any evidence worth taking seriously that it’s happening. If it isn’t, why should his right-wing audience bleed away if he begins criticising them? If the Left can take criticism, why not the Right? I know which one I think is generally worse at introspection. It takes a very illiberal and, dare I say, pessimistic, almost conservative view of human nature to think people recoil from criticism like that, and are so petty they would stop contributing on Patreon. I think you may be projecting. Is this just what you do? Or does human nature apply differently to right-wingers?
The only thing I can really do is make the counter-claim that Sargon doesn’t pander to the Right at all, or at least any more than can be justified. I doubt I’ll get through to the partisan hacks I’m writing this in the vain hope of convincing, but let me try to explain. The Left, to the extent it exists at all (it does exist, though it is always too general to responsibly use in discourse), is ruined. It has finally been taken over by the single-minded lunatics who have always been waiting in the wings.
The Bolsheviks, Militant, Socialist Worker, Everyday Feminism, Tony Benn, just about any of the interchangeable university students giving spontaneous campus lectures on privilege and racial classism: they are cut from the same cloth. #NotAll, obviously, but the puppet-masters, the academic sophists, some of the professional victims and a good chunk of the student population are all drenched in the same poison that once walked Lenin up the steps of the Winter Palace. The same outlook has found a different way to manifest. The rest are only brainwashed, but the best are the worst. I’m talking specifically about the craziest, and I don’t want to be accused of branding the entire Left dangerous cultural communists, but, whatever the take-up rate, that minority is the fount of all that is wrong with the wing today.
The creeping weeds must be pulled, and it is going to hurt. The kinds of leftism gaining ground now are thoroughly different and often antagonistic2, but both have histories3 to them, one is gaining serious ground for the first time in academia and the other is resurgent in mainstream politics. Both are cancerous, dysfunctional and immoral, not to mention dangerous. What kind of history do liberals have under (proper) socialist governments?
You don’t have to believe any of that: you just have to believe it’s what we believe. Now do you understand why the Left comes under such intense scrutiny? The Right is not really criticised, firstly because others are doing it, secondly because the Reformist Left has fewer bones to pick regarding the culture war, and finally just because it would be pointless. They are in power and will be for years. Energy spent trying to push a brick wall is wasted energy. Any culture war against them would be futile until we have purged our demons, because even if we can dislodge them from public office we will never for a long time be able to push genuine progressive ideas — not until we’ve reclaimed the word progressive.
1. I sincerely hope you know who I’m referencing here.
2. I know of a number of literal communists who disapprove of S.J.W.ism, they say because it peddles nonsense social categories that distract from class consciousness, which is the only identity that counts. Speaking honestly, most people I would dub S.J.W.s aren’t keen on communists either, though the unhinged professors pulling the strings tend to be variously sympathetic. On the other hand, most people I would dub S.J.W.s certainly have rather left-wing economic beliefs, beyond social liberalism and into social democracy or even socialism. Does anyone else remember that time Diane Abbot argued Mao did more good than bad? Perhaps this just goes to show the diversity of opinion within the Left/Right dichotomy; in other words, we should stop using it.
3. I hope nobody needs reminding of the history of the economic brand of Marxism. With regards to the other kind I am not talking (really) about the Frankfurt School or the Nazis’ cultural Bolshevism propaganda, I should make clear. S.J.W.ism has a long past. Quite when it fused with Marxism — i.e. when S.J.W.s became Marxists who’d simply replaced the economy with the social structure in their framework — I don’t know, but from the suffragettes chaining themselves to Parliament to the “New Left” sweeping American universities in the 1960s, to the bra-burning women’s ‘libbers whom the real second-wave N.O.W. feminists hated, and who argued equal rights was not enough as they opposed the E.R.A., to Black Power (sort of), to the unruly students who spread rumours there was L.S.D. in the water of the 1968 Democratic National convention, to the those strange women who kept camping outside nuclear bases under Thatcher, this shit stretches back a long way.