YouTube as a Democracy

On December 6th, Rick Perry released a campaign ad on YouTube entitled “Strong”.

This video espouses Perry’s views on gays in the military, prayer in schools, and “Obama’s War on Religion”.  With 4.7 million views, “Strong” is nowhere near the most watched video of all time (Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’), but it is the most disliked video of all time, with over 600,000 dislikes.  The YouTube community has taken swift , decisive action on this video, and decided against it.
http://live.drjays.com/index.php/2011/12/11/rick-perry-strong-ad-is-most-unpopular-youtube-video/
This link also has some really good Funny or Die parodies.

This controversy over this video is representative of all of YouTube, and YouTube is clearly a democracy.  Every interest imaginable is represented by a large ad diverse group of people.  Every user, where they have 1 or 1,000,000 subscribers are represented the same way on this site, all receiving equal means.  In fact, the citizens of the YouTube democracy are great at getting their voices heard, at least in the American context, as presidential debates have been entirely based off of questions from users of the site.  YouTube is also contributing to our own democracy, pointing out mistakes of the candidates or helping them spread their message, allowing these goofs or statements to reach a broader audience than they ever would have been able to without the internet.  YouTube as a community is a democracy, but it also contributes to the American democracy.  So, is the YouTube democracy a classic liberal democracy or a civic republican democracy?

In a civic republican way,  the community of YouTubers has come together to decide what they want and don’t want in their community, and Perry’s ad is clearly something they don’t want.  As nothing can be forcibly removed from YouTube unless it is “inappropriate.”  The YouTube community works together to remove the things that they share no vales with, flagging them as “inappropriate” or disliking them.  YouTubers from all different backgrounds have come together in a way to do as much as they can to remove something from their community.  This is akin to Kemmis’ “Barn Raising.”  Albert and Kemmis’ mother didn’t really like each other, but they both shared values and could work together to accomplish something.

The democracy that is YouTube could also be seen as a classical liberal institution.  Liking or disliking a video is a largely individual activity, which most of the time people decide to do for themselves, and not because someone else told them.  This individualism is also seen in channels and comments.  These users are working and contributing to the site individually.   Rights are another characteristically liberal trait is exemplified by many users.  Many YouTubers are concerned with their right to post certain videos or comments.  YouTube has a pretty lenient policy about what it wont allow, with copyright infringement being more serious than offensive content.  YouTube, like classical liberalism, is progressive, favoring change, unless you include layout changes, in which case they are staunch civic republicans.

Personally, I think YouTube incorporates some elements of classical liberalism and civic republicanism, and is neither one completely.  Most YouTubers, in a classical liberal way, want their individual rights on the web to be respected, but also, in a civic republican way, share values that makes them a community, and take it upon themselves to remove the things that are offensive.  Whether civic republican or not, YouTube is certainly a democracy.

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One Response to YouTube as a Democracy

  1. udontempura says:

    I completely agree with the author’s argument that Youtube is a democracy. But what I really find interesting is the demographic it caters to. If you check this video out on youtube, you can see a great number of dislikes to the video. This reveals that at the very least, the majority of youtube is left-leaning, pro gay rights and/or tends to be more secular in their views.

    Perhaps it was foolish on Rick Perry to solidify these stances on commercials that would almost certainly have gone viral on youtube. Now, not only is his video on there, but it is being systematically impaled, plastered, and destroyed in comments and reaction videos.

    A candidate who wishes to use youtube as a medium to spread their message needs to do so with the possible outcry of its users in mind.

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