Trying to figure out how to watch coverage of the election results as they rolled in last night was, as it usually is, a chore. Hasan Piker's 16 hour marathon Twitch stream was the only one that approached politics from a perspective that makes any sense to me, and judging by the peak of 230,000 viewers he had last night, I'm not alone.
Piker, a traditional broadcast journalist turned video game streamer turned broadcast journalist again, has had quite a year. In 2019, Piker was still too controversial to make waves, despite his burgeoning popularity. After streaming Among Us with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the time of Piker getting suspended from Twitch for his political comments seems like a distant fantasy. Although AOC's stream peaked as the third most viewed stream on Twitch of all time, Piker brings in numbers that are nothing to sneeze at on his own. Last night Piker hopped on Twitch for a casual, sixteen hour election stream with rotating guests.
Part of what makes Piker's analysis so watchable is his modernity. Unlike other notoriously online lefties, like the popular Chapo Trap House podcast, Piker hasn't simply adopted streaming as a gimmick—it's clearly where he feels most natural and comfortable. As AOC proved, young people who are politically engaged are already watching Twitch in droves. Piker is simply giving them a home, where he'll go over the news of the day as he "babysits," as he calls it, his viewers. His fanbase uses this space not as a place where Piker's word is law, but where Piker can answer questions and talk with them. They are devoted to him, though, and they have the fancams to prove it.
Piker's appeal is not just in what he says, but in how he presents information. While your parents were most likely watching CNN's John King tap around an electoral map on a giant touchscreen, Piker sorted through exit polls and early reporting the same way I did: clicking frantically between tabs of different news sites, YouTube streams, and various chats. Last night I watched Piker and his guests play for time as he clicked on the wrong tab in his disorganized browser at least three times. I saw myself, and the way that I engage with politics and the news, in not just Piker's political opinions but the way he uses the internet itself. I mean, other than watching Piker last night, I was on a Google Hangout with two of my friends talking about articles we've read and can't find in our tabs. Piker is able to identify and discuss that politicians tweet, the way that reporters analyze the news and comment on it in articles and on social media, and the raw polling data in a way that helps explain our current moment—and he does it in a way that makes politics legible and understandable, even at its most cruel and confusing.
Compared to broadcast news last night, which is still a nightmare of CGI graphics, maps and charts, Piker looked not only at ease, but like a natural. By the end of the night, I knew what I needed most wasn't another Boomer frantically repeating talking points to other Boomers, but someone who is on my level in terms of my values, and the way that I consume information. It's easier to process hellworld when I feel like the political analysts I'm watching actually live in the same world as I do.