As Alex Day uploads his first video since several allegations of manipulation and sexual misconduct were made against him, TenEighty explores whether disgraced YouTubers should come back to the site.
YouTube is not a right. YouTube is not a necessity. YouTube is a privilege that we all indulge in and one that we have built a community of creative and like-minded people around.
As a community we have grown faster than anyone anticipated. There is no clear leader. But there is a wealth of content creators with varying-sized audiences and often the size of their audience is indicative to the amount of influence they have over the community.
This is power. Power to influence the minds of hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of people. With that power you can do what you want. Many attempt to educate their audience, some use it to become better at one of their passions, and others use it to make money. But most seek to entertain you or simply document their lives. Simply knowing that people are watching them, that people care about them, is sometimes all the affirmation they need.
But however they choose to use the power they have, they should never take it for granted or mistake it for something else. They are not entitled to that power, and therefore they are not entitled to YouTube.
Alex Day uploaded an unscripted video on Sunday addressing only three of the 13 allegations made against him back in March. The allegations varied in severity but they all portrayed Alex as a manipulative and predatory person, with some revealing that he had pressured women into sex. Not long after this he admitted to ‘manipulative relationships’ in a statement on Tumblr, but did not own up to any of the specific allegations nor did he apologise.
His video comes only a week after two other prominent YouTubers had serious sexual abuse allegations raised against them, with the community pulling together against the accused in response. Alex uses this as part of his reason for returning, saying: “what I’ve learned over the last two week is it’s important to speak out about situations.”
He claims that the community is dissolving and seems to believe that he can help decrease the fear, anger, pain and “misunderstandings” within it. What he seems to miss is that a large part of that fear, anger and pain has been caused by him and he fails to clear up any “misunderstandings” by not addressing the majority of the accusations held against him.
And yet, although he appears to not understand this, he does acknowledge that his very presence on YouTube will be upsetting for many people. “If you’re upset by this, or you’re offended by this, or you’re angry about this, then I’m really sorry. I think the best thing to do would be to not watch my videos again because it’s probably not gunna get any better for you,” he says.
To recognise that you will cause harm but believe that the contributions you can make outweighs this, is a supreme act of arrogance. He is aware that by uploading to YouTube there will be people who feel unsafe within our community. But he puts the responsibility onto us by telling us to simply not watch his videos, rather than taking responsibility himself and not uploading anymore.
In the video Alex talks about compassionate discussion and in part discredits the anger that community holds against him. “You’re welcome to ignore my ideas completely but I still feel they’re worth sharing in the spirit of creating discussion. When I say discussion I don’t mean angry rants on Tumblr, I mean… people listening to each other and trying to find a compassionate reasonable way forward,” he says.
He doesn’t seem to understand that anger is part of this discussion and often anger is the only way we can move forward. As a community we are listening to each other, and we are doing our best to elevate the voices that need to be heard. And a lot of those people are angry and rightly so.
Many of them have been manipulated. Many of them have been abused. Whether it was as a subscriber, an acquaintances or a friend, many of them trusted and have been betrayed by Alex (and/or the other accused), and have valid reasons to be suspicious of him.
Compassionate discussion would be to listen to that anger, and act accordingly. Discussion alone would also involve reading the comments on the video, which Alex says he isn’t going to do. There is no compassionate discussion from Alex here, in fact, his return is an act of aggression against the community and an opportunity to belittle the emotions of all those involved.
And in the spirit of creating discussion, what has Alex really contributed to it? If there is a meaningful other side to the story, has Alex really presented it here?
If anything, he has shown his viewers a manipulative streak within him by omitting the more serious allegations made against him, by apologising for how other people feel but not for the role he had to play in it and by attempting to make people feel sorry for him.
The community is not dissolving as Alex believes it is. The community is galvanising the more it stands up to the wrongs within it and the more it holds its members to a higher standard of conduct (or rather, to standards of basic human decency). Is he really adding to the discussion in a positive way by saying things like that?
As a community we have a responsibility to those who have been harmed by Alex. We must always remember that the majority of the people watching YouTube are teenagers. And with that in mind, it’s understandable why so many of us feel uncomfortable with the idea that a content creator who has manipulated so many people can so easily return to that position of power.
And that’s what this is all really about: power. Alex jokes that he’s never really cared about being famous on the internet, but if that really was the case, what is he gaining from returning?
Whether he – or any of the other accused – admit it or not, it’s the power to be able to say something and influence so many people. It’s that same position of power that made it possible for them to abuse others. And it’s that same power Alex is finding so difficult to give up.
True action is giving up that power. If any of these YouTubers were truly remorseful for what they have done, they would give up YouTube to avoid causing more harm or pain to the community they’ve already done so much damage to.
It’s not as if without YouTube their ability to live their lives would be hindered. They could still make friends, get another job, get a house, a family, a dog, a cat or whatever they want outside of our community. From an outsider’s point of view, they’d merely be giving up a nice added bonus to their lives.
They do not need to be an active participant in this community to better themselves as people. It is not our responsibility to help them on their journey after they have already betrayed us. Our responsibility is to protect those who have been hurt by them. Removing them from the community and keeping them out is part of that.
Even if these people were innocent of all claims made against them, the anger and the hurt felt by their presence still remain. To be the bigger person would just be to leave.
YouTube is not a right. YouTube is not a necessity. YouTube is a privilege. And in trying to reclaim that privilege, these YouTubers show just how undeserving of it they are.
Words by Teoh Lander-Boyce, Erin Sutton and guest contributor Charlie Edge.
For further analysis on Alex Day, we urge you to watch this video from Paul Neafcy. Please also check out our articles about The Abuse Scandal That Shook The Community and Sexual Abuse: Community Response.
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