I watch a lot of YouTube. Like… a lot of YouTube… So much YouTube in fact, that I get a good bulk of my political commentary from watching YouTubers. Since about 2015, YouTube’s political content has exploded, with political views from Left, Right, and Center putting in their two cents on the culture wars that are polarizing our nation. As a conservative myself, I’ve been fascinated by the rise of “LeftTube,” a loosely connected group of leftist YouTubers that have formed in response to the rise of right-wing political content on YouTube. These content creators provide good insight into how the Left is responding to the Trump era, and more importantly, where it is going. Over the course of a series of shorter posts, I will be picking a certain prominent Leftist YouTuber, and I will uncover a central point they make that I think is worth exploring.


The first YouTuber I’ll discuss is PhilosophyTube, otherwise known as Oliver Thorn, who discusses leftist politics through philosophy. There’s a really interesting video he put out about a year and a half ago entitled “The Philosophy of Antifa.”In it, he explains Antifa’s , and although he takes the view of an outsider throughout the video, he clearly supports Antifa and its goals. The video is over an hour long, so I won’t address every argument. Instead, I want to specifically address how Thorn sees the radical left in this video, as it’s a recurring theme in much of his other ones.

Early in the video, Thorn states that although most people oppose fascism, what makes Antifa different is that they oppose fascism “by any means necessary.” This includes the physical attacks against fascist street rallies for which Antifa has become known. While some argue that this is counterproductive and morally hazardous, Thorn argues to the effect of, “well, Mussolini and Hitler’s following started out as a bunch of rowdy street thugs, so maybe if some Antifa members were around to ‘nip them in the bud,’ we could have prevented some of the greatest horrors in human history.” At best, this thinking comes off as paranoid, but it gets even more problematic when we consider the extremes at the other end of the spectrum, something that Thorn never seems to do. What if I applied this form of thinking to every far-left protest I saw? After all, Communism has killed tens of millions more than fascism ever has right? Maybe Antifa wouldn’t mind then if some anti-Communists showed up at a socialist rally to nip incipient Stalinists in the bud?

This is the main problem I had with Thorn’s video. He lives in a world where totalitarianism done in the name of the Political Left has never existed. We obviously need to be attentive to the crimes of fascism in the twentieth century and the recent growth of the far-right, but we need to be equally as concerned with the bloodshed wrought by Communism and the current increased radicalism of the left. Otherwise, we will become overly sensitive to extremism on the Right, while completely ignoring extremism on the Left.

You can see this problem in Thorn’s reading of history. For example, Thorn talks about how a lot of middle and upper class liberals supported fascism in the 1920s and 30s because it had such an Anti-Communist edge to it. Thorn portrays this decision as purely selfish, like, “those greedy rich people didn’t want to lose their money.” But maybe if Thorn paid closer attention to the conditions in the Soviet Union in the twenties and thirties, he’d give the more appropriate response, which is, “oh, those selfish rich people didn’t want to lose their money, get thrown in a gulag, and be forced to dig their own graves before they were shot.” There were legitimate reasons why people were afraid of Communism in the years leading up to Hitler. The issue was not that Germans were anti-communist, but that they were so afraid of political extremism from one end of the spectrum, that they paid no heed to the extremism on the other end. It’s ironic, because, again, this is exactly the same mistake that Thorn and other Antifa supporters make.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing Thorn says in the video is that the difference between the far left and the far right is that the far right attacks you for who you are, while the far left attacks you for what you think. Therefore, you can get the far left off your back if you just renounce your “fascist” ideas, while you can never get rid of the far right because you’ll always be black, gay, or Jewish.

I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Maybe this is technically correct, but effectually speaking, does this really make a difference? Imagine the Tsar of Russia saying to the Jews, “Hey, I’m not all that bad! If you guys will just convert to Christianity, I’ll stop burning your villages down!” While Thorn does say more than once that he doesn’t condone all Antifa violence, he doesn’t provide much of a limiting principle for it. This strikes me as important, especially since Antifa can’t always seem to tell the difference between actual fascists and people like Ben Shapiro. Again, Stalin and Mao murdered millions for refusing to renounce their “reactionary” ideas. How can we be so sure that Antifa aren’t just gestating Bolsheviks?

All this leads me to my main cultural point. We have become so obsessed (in many ways legitimately) with the evils of Nazism and the far-right that we’ve completely forgotten about the bloody record of the far left. I’m reminded by a comment Don Lemon made concerning Antifa. He argued that there was a clear difference between Antifa and the alt-right because one is fascist, while the other is there to fight fascism, implying that, because of this, Antifa is automatically better. Well, Trotsky was “anti-fascist” too, but that didn’t stop him from brutally suppressing the Kronstadt rebellion. As Whittaker Chambers writes in his classic memoir, Witness, “a man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something.” Yes, Antifa is a witness against fascism, but I increasingly worry that it and its supporters are primarily witnesses for the same murderous ideology that claimed tens of millions of lives.

The issue here is that the culture has adapted itself to the far left much more than it has to the far right. For example, when Roseanne Barr calls Valerie Jarrett a monkey, she is rightfully excoriated. However, when dozens of Hollywood actors support the most extreme abortion measures on a daily basis, we’re just supposed to take this as a normal opinion. When figures on the Alt-Right wave swastika flags or make allusions to Hitler, we all get riled up, but if you see a hammer and sickle flag at an Antifa rally?…meh…they mean well after all, they’re fighting fascists! And besides, communism is cool again guys!

Our problem is, like Jordan Peterson points out, we’re well aware of what the excesses of the Right look like (namely, racism and ultra-traditionalism), but we’re not very clear on what the excesses of the Left look like. The guardrails really only go in one direction. As we look at conservative political flaws over the years (racial hierarchies, the violent suppression of behavior viewed as immoral, etc.), we forget that sins exist on the other side (disastrous centralized planning and violent suppression of traditional attitudes and beliefs). In order better our culture, it’s not enough to be anti-fascist, or even anti-fascist and anti-communist. We need to find some positive common good that we can rally around in order to repair our fractured society.


Photo by geralt (Pixabay)