Over the weekend, online leftists leaked racist and antisemitic Discord messages posted by SocialismDoneLeft, a YouTuber who does socialism and politics explainers and videos. The messages have started a wider conversation in the “Breadtube'' community about the utility of YouTubers in the broader leftist world.
SocialismDoneLeft is a socialist YouTuber in the broad, loosely categorized group of YouTubers that's been dubbed "BreadTube" by fans. SocialismDoneLeft is in the same vein of YouTubers and streamers like Ian Danskin and Hasan Piker; they make political, societal, and economic explainers and videos that have fostered communities on YouTube, Twitch, and Discord to talk about political issues and activism.
While SocialismDoneLeft nominally pushes for progressive policies, the leaked Discord messages, which include dozens of overtly racist comments about Black people, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and Islamophobia, show that the public personas of some BreadTubers are at odds with what they say behind the scenes. It also has raised questions about whose side some of these streamers and YouTube personalities are really on. The messages, some of which SocialismDoneLeft has admitted to posting, apparently come from the YouTuber Destiny’s Discord channel and were largely made in 2019. Destiny, who identifies as a liberal, has had his politics come into question when it comes to his stances on Black Lives Matter protests, saying the n-word, capitalism, and popular progressive legislation like the Green New Deal. The utility of broader online debate has also come under scrutiny recently after an awkward and uninformative debate between Destiny and Marxist economist Richard Wolff.
Streamers like SocialismDoneLeft have also debated right wing personalities on their platform. He’s the latest in a long line of podcasters, YouTubers, and people on the “Dirtbag Left” who have actively flirted with, platformed, or otherwise aired views that are either the same as or dangerously close to those espoused by the far right and groups aligned with it, like the Proud Boys.
SocialismDoneLeft has since apologized for these messages on a Twitch livestream, saying that some of these statements were jokes made for "shock humor," and that he does not use this language anymore, three years later in 2021. He also said that in some cases he was mimicking the language of racists and emphasized that he doesn't find this language acceptable.
When these messages were initially leaked by a Black leftist Twitter user, they said that they anticipated that SocialismDoneLeft would say that some of these messages were jokes. "Why the fuck are black people, Jewish people, and trans people always at the butt of these shitty 'jokes?'" they wrote. "Who were you parodying here? Punchline?"
And that is exactly the point. For years, people online have been making horribly racist, sexist, homophobic, and other bigoted “jokes,” under the guise that they’re “just trolling” or “shitposting.” The problem is that these jokes come at the expense of the people they’re about. They also signal who these online spaces are actively designed for and who is safe to be there. Even if you are in a space that is nominally described as leftist, if you are making jokes at the expense of the marginalized, you are signalling to people that the space wasn't built with them in mind.
Despite SocialismDoneLeft's apology, leftists on Twitter and elsewhere don't seem to be buying it, or at least they don't feel obligated to trust or listen to this person any longer. Recently, other YouTubers and streamers that have been described as Breadtube have begun to question the value of political debates, especially after Destiny and Richard Wolff's stream ended in a wash.
Personally, if you've made edgy jokes about Black people in the last five years, I'm not sure you need to be the one to educate others on the politics of the left. You might have more learning to do yourself.