Alienates trans women from the pussy iconography
Author: Michelle Janßen
The Gronkh debacle
Tw: sexism, homophobia, sexual violence, child abuse (mention), racism (mention)
Disclaimer: In some places in the text there is deliberately no gendering because sections refer to cis men. Trans men are not addressed. [Insertion: This is not to say that trans men are not men, but that I am consciously only referring to cis men. I apologize for any negative reactions this formulation generated. I am still learning to write down exactly how I mean this and it is (still) difficult for me. I would also like to apologize for the fact that I often assume in the text that Youtubers are cis people. I will not do this anymore in the future. I leave the text as it is because I don't want to simply delete my mistakes from the Internet.] This will be marked as best as possible. The purpose of this disclaimer is to make it generally clear.
Youtubers often like to be friends of their viewers. As a buddy entertaining you online. In doing so, they are suppressing the power that comes with millions of subscribers. Youtubers are 'stars' and role models with more influencing factors than we have known from actors, singers and other celebrities. Because they are not just the poster over the bed, but can actively communicate with thousands of followers. There is an exchange that not only increases their reach, but also increases the loyalty of their fans. Often there is the image of the humble Youtuber who says that all of this is not that big and that your own influence is not that important. But YouTubers have a lot of influence, especially on young people, which they unfortunately do not always control and use well.
The following text examines the obligation to be responsible for reach and particularly addresses the German YouTube scene, which has already made several blunders in 2019. Structural anti-feminism, the general problem of criticism on YouTube and a specific situation that changed the situation for problematic Youtubers on Twitter in March 2019 are addressed.
Reach responsibility: what does that mean?
Reach responsibility is understood to mean reflected behavior on social media with regard to one's own number of followers. This means that as a well-known account on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, etc. you have a reach that is greater than that of other people. If you now criticize, make fun of someone or comment / show the account of a person with significantly fewer followers for other negative reasons ((B) PoCs, women / feminists, people who are openly LGBTQA + and other minorities are doubly affected), that's how you deliver them to your own followers. Your own followers are often largely from your own demographics (in the case of many cis male, white Youtubers, they are often also cis male and white) and agree to the larger account because they have similar backgrounds and / or are fans on principle agree. A power relationship is created in which the person with fewer followers can only lose. It doesn't matter whether the criticisms are relevant or not.
The unequal relationship also ensures that as a ruler you don't really have to accept and reflect on the criticism. Problematic people use their following power to target critics dogpilen. Under Dogpiling means bombarding a person with negative comments, threats, etc. in order to dissuade them from their point of view or to get them to delete their statements. The criticism disappears, you don't have to deal with it and your own followers celebrate you.
"But I was attacked first, am I not allowed to say anything more?" And "But on the other side there are also people who insult me!"
Operating reach responsibility does not mean that as a large account you can no longer comment on anything critical under smaller accounts or show them to your followers. Rather, it is about understanding what it is causing. This year, especially small, feminist accounts were increasingly targeted by large Youtubers on Twitter, who sent critical statements to their followers via commented retweet and then claimed that they could not do anything for the threats and disgusting comments the feminists received as a result . The quantity also became an issue when the Youtuber 'Rezo' cited three hate messages against him as an argument that the hundreds of comments under the tweet against him were justified in response to a hate storm he had triggered against a Twitterin. In large online communities there are always people who are ready to override borders and spread hatred. As an online personality, you have to be aware of this. The argument “I can't control them” is absolute nonsense - you can very well control who thinks you are good and how these people react when you criticize someone or their idol is criticized.
Range responsibility is for example:
- Openly say that dogpiling is not okay with you.
- Small accounts that criticize you for not simply delivering it to the followers, but to consider alternative solutions (e.g. send a DM; comment instead of commenting with retweet; etc.).
- Whistle back people from your own community when they attack someone.
- Speak out clearly against sexist, racist, anti-Semitic and ableist insults - even if that means that you have to criticize your own followers who behave problematically. A “no Nazis!” Tweet every four weeks is not enough, because it's not just Nazis, but regular followers. These are people who usually send hearts in chats. Even dear followers of one become problematic when their idol is attacked. This is done in the name of the online personality, these are no 1-2 black sheep.
- Reflect criticism against yourself instead of sending it to your own followers, who obviously contradict this because they are loyal fans. Criticism is not always an attack to be fought off. If your followers mute every critical voice, you don't develop any further as a person.
Feminism as an enemy: Youtuber on Twitter
Before we turn to the eponymous 'Gronkh Debacle', a few words about other incidents this year. A large part of the problematic behavior of many large (Youtuber) accounts on Twitter is that they stylize themselves as centrists. Say that you are politically in the (left) center. Nothing works on the right, really left is too blatant. Youtubers like Viktor Roth (IBlali), Erik Range (Gronkh) and many more (almost all of them cis male, by the way) are known for being ’nice guys. So politically against Nazis and somehow left, but not in the sense of 'SJW', feminists and 'leftist'. The message is the same, the label is just missing.
Viktor Roth was presented in a strange light several times at the beginning of the year, as he criticized feminist accounts (often with a few hundred followers compared to his 1.5 million (as of October 2019)), retweeted with comments and then pulled out of the affair when the small accounts were showered with hatred and (sometimes disgustingly explicit) threats. This happened several times and resulted in some accounts being temporarily deactivated because they could no longer stand the comments. Between these 'outcalls' against feminists and the openly condescending tone towards feminism itself, however, the Youtuber tweeted feminist tweets that had exactly the content for which he attacked feminists. He presented himself as a good, left-wing guy, for whom feminism is simply 'too blatant'. Feminism is exactly what he named in his tweets.
He took the feminist content and distributed it as ’not feminist, but normal’, which sent the message to his followers: I am a good one, the bad feminists hate men and are radical. He denounced feminism as something bad and, at the same time, appropriated feminist content. That this is problematic (and generally nonsensical) did not make sense to him.
Feminism and political correctness as an enemy image can be found with many 'good guys', such as IBlali and Gronkh (who often says things in his streams that could be classified as feminist, but then makes tasteless jokes about feminism and political correctness), but also many cis women who portray themselves as 'chilled' and appear as a counter-image to the 'hysterical' feminists. You can't blame all of this on ignorance - there is definitely a system in it. Because if you generally position yourself politically in the middle, you get more followers, including those who tend to position themselves in the right corner. They also keep a clear path to make politically incorrect jokes that often hit women, victims of sexual violence, political minorities, (B) PoCs and the LGBTQA + community.
The 'Gronkh Debacle'
And that brings us to the Gronkh debacle. First, a summary of what happened. The situation is recorded in detail in order to show the gradual escalation and the actions of all actors in comparison.
[The following information has been clarified with the relevant account, tweets may be quoted.]
A small feminist Twitter account with the @ NeueSappho published a series of tweets on March 12, 2019, relating to Rocketbeans team member Etienne Gardé, who made fun of child abuse on Twitter on the same day and wrote provocative tweets with the announcement:
Female Twitter account: Gamers are trashGronkh: * rape joke *Steam Community: Rape = Freedom of Expression
She wrote: “Do you want to hear something funny: I blocked large (right-wing) gamer-bubble people like Corrupty as a precaution so that someone doesn't give me a DrüKo again and my Twitter becomes unusable for days because of the hate. Fun right? "
The tweets were shared several times and soon reached the Gronkh community, who were interested in what the "rape joke" meant. Some asked, others, the clear majority, began to insult the twitterer and defend the youtuber. He became aware of the growing controversy, wanted to inquire about the tweet and discovered that it was blocked. As said in the thread quoted here, the Twitter had blocked him and other gaming accounts as a precaution to prevent a shit storm from the followers of the accounts. Something that many small accounts did after IBlali recently delivered several accounts to his followers and these were crushed by hatred.
However, since Erik Range (Gronkh) could not see this and did not understand it even after attempts to explain it by other feminist accounts, he tweeted when asked by a follower whether there was anything to the allegations:
Nope, there was nothing, but the fury blocked me immediately after making the claim so that I couldn't see it either. 1 nicer move, you immediately know who you are looking at.
The Twitter woman, on the other hand, followed the discussion between Range and a feminist Twitter account, in which he was understandable and really just wanted to know what was going on, and published another thread that is only partially quoted here:
Since he was very polite to a friend on Twitter yesterday, I decided to shed some light on the Gronkh rape joke.
[@Gronkh, I unblocked you. The block was self-protection, because I was afraid you would quote that and send your 1.2 million followers against me. If you want to criticize me, my DMs are open, I ask you to go this way, otherwise my Acc will be overrun]
The Forest game was long played by Gronkh and let's play. The same running gag has existed for years: A naked native of the forest dies and you pretend to be sexual violence against her. (...) In the meantime he played it again and these jokes came back. Now I think differently. Why?
In the following, she explains that as a victim of sexual violence, she cannot endure these types of 'jokes' and that Gronkh must reckon with the fact that he not only normalizes jokes about victims of sexual violence in his community, but also triggers other members of his gigantic follower base becomes. She also goes into the fact that the whole thing against the background that when the European fleets arrived in today's USA numerous people were sexually coerced and abused and he - whether consciously or not - draws a parallel between these acts and his acts after game . She also referred to this kind of 'edgy humor' on Youtube in general:
(The 'jokes') show how succinctly Youtubers deal with such topics. They trigger victims of [sexual] violence and show all other viewers that it's okay to laugh about it.
Only after the thread did she see how the Youtuber had said about her in the meantime and gave up the topic. But in combination with Gronkh's “furies” tweet, the amount of false information that circulated about the allegations, the people who wanted to defend their idol by all means and trolls, a shitstorm arose within a few hours that became so big that the twitterer started at one point saw constant hate messages scrolling through their mentions. Her dms were full of people denying her experience, defending Gronkh for 'he was a good guy', sending sexist memes and messages, and making threats. In particular, jokes, comments and threats related to the experiences she described with sexualised violence increased. At the same time, NeueSappho was criticized by people who accused her of blocking too much or that she was to blame for publicly criticizing Gronkh instead of via Dm. Numerous cis men who are close to Range gave solos and joked about the situation. Many of them also have a large follower base, who then also pounced on the small Twitter account.
There was also solidarity, especially on the part of journalism, large feminist accounts and numerous young women and non-binary people who are / were viewers of the channel and who also wanted to criticize the jokes based on their own experiences, but did not trust each other due to the shitstorm or the whole thing could not put into words.
Maximilian Ensikat (PhunkRoyal) responded to a Dm from Twitter in which she told him what his tweets had triggered on the topic. After a conversation, he understood that he should control his reach and tweeted that he did not support insults and hatred because of his criticism and that his fans and viewers should know better. The account RollifahrerMike, a friend of Rank, was also critical of the onslaught against the young woman; Numerous other Youtubers and online personalities, some of them from the high-ranking environment, supported the twitterer and her statements and emphasized that it was actually polite and clearly formulated criticism that was quite understandable. The rumor grew that Range had contacted her and discussed the whole thing, that's not the case. To this day, the Youtuber has not commented on the topic and the wave of hatred that his community had on the young woman.
NeueSappho's account grew to 1,300 followers within a few days, which was used to accuse her of doing the whole thing for attention. She was stylized as an evil feminist who made false accusations against a Youtuber. The criticism was never angry, and the tone was never aggressive. It was a review that wanted to improve the content of Youtuber and make it accessible to more people. The twitterer has waves to this day in which she is attacked by the followers of Gronkh. She has meanwhile commented on the psychological effects of the total of five weeks that the shitstorm lasted and said that she is still afraid to speak publicly about gaming.
How did that happen and why is it still relevant today?
The Twitter in question is currently in the protected Twitter mode, as in the course of the debate about right-wing communities in the gaming sector, hatred again met them. People tagged Gronkh among their tweets on the subject after she wrote that she couldn't spell out the name for fear of experiencing another shitstorm. Many have said that they would find it funny if she was attacked again. The perpetrators: viewers of Gronkh, cis men who also retweet Gronkh on their accounts between hatred of minorities (especially the LGBTQA + community) and follow him and other Youtubers in his environment. No troll accounts, but spectators. People who don't feel addressed by the sporadic “I don't tolerate Nazis” tweets from Youtuber or who don't care.
Gronkh is currently being criticized again, as is so often the case this year. Not much is happening, but the Youtuber is held responsible for problematic content, at least on Twitter.In response, he sends his followers who criticize dogwhistlen or makes a very general tweet: I'm not right-wing, critics and feminists exaggerate, I don't like Nazis.
But that's not all. He does not reflect the criticism, but dismisses it as nonsensical. In the vast majority of cases, it is formulated respectfully and calmly, not hysterical feminism, but first intended criticism, which shows the Youtuber and his channel for what they are: Range tries on stereotypical impressions of gay men (Sims 3 + 4, A way out), cracks sexist jokes that often focus on fat women in particular (Sea of Thieves, Streams, horror games) and still makes allusions and 'jokes' about sexual violence (Outlast, Survival games, horror games). He is vehemently defended with the arguments that he is a good guy because he is against Nazis and that these are all isolated cases. But these are not isolated cases. You can find this kind of 'black humor' and 'satire' (which strangely enough always hits the same fringe groups) in almost every game. Not just in the older recordings, not just in games like Card Against Humanitywhere this humor is used and needed - in almost every game and stream.
Range could take the criticism to heart and change something, but he doesn't have to because his community rejects all criticism and he never really bears any damage. He can afford to be ignorant and claim tolerance in the process. His community is often referred to as the favorite community on YouTube and one can wonder whether NeueSappho and everyone who was attacked in the course of the shitstorm also see it that way.
The criticism problem on Youtube
Gronkh is by no means the only one who expresses himself this way and uses his fan base as a protective wall against criticism and reflection. It's not even the worst, even if it has a gigantic range. Youtubers like Marcel Eris (MontanaBlack), Viktor Roth (IBlali) or members of the Rocketbeans team are far more open about their devaluation. But he's the crux of the matter as the center of this debate because the solos ends here. Gronkh has been criticized more and more in recent months. His fan base sticks to him, but he can no longer escape criticism. Whenever he does something that is problematic and ignorant, it will be noticed, shared and he will be held accountable. He is safe from serious consequences, but through this shitstorm and the voices of everyone who suffered from it, he is confronted with the attack of his community on a feminist with every new shitstorm. The severity of the shitstorms is increased because they slowly add up. At least he cannot escape this reality.
If you look at how criticism is on YouTube, you better understand how Range can get out of the affair and why Viktor Roth doesn't have to think about his contradictions either. Some Youtubers (I've only found cis male channels) make critical videos about their problematic colleagues and two weeks later it becomes clear that this was an art feud. If it comes to that at all. People like Gronkh have the reputation of ’nice guys‘, which is why any criticism is automatically dismissed as feminist nonsense.
If there is criticism, both channels usually react to each other several times and may even find each other honestly unsympathetic - but deep criticism that is not dismissed with a wink after a week only occurs in 'extreme cases'. It always says “oh, that's not a bad guy” and that's it. There are hardly any Youtubers who pull through their criticism. Even actually good and critical channels (like Ultralativ) do not do this. The only people who are consistently hated without a wink are women like Shirin David and Bianca Heinicke (BibisBeautyPalace), who are certainly not innocent, but not more or less worthy of criticism than the cis men on the platform.
Why are the anti-feminist rants, the hatred and the politically incorrect jokes, some of which cross the line to ’black humor’, okay, but product placements and freedom of movement are not? Why is a feud between cis male Youtubers rarely serious, the concentrated and collective hatred against the few women who have big numbers on the platform, but always?
Controversy on Youtube and criticism on Youtube have a problem that goes much further than 'mere' sexism - it is more than pure friend culture. Behind this is the system that the majority of YouTube channels that express themselves critically agree politically with those who have been criticized. MontanaBlack's misogyny is stark, but feminism is worse. One criticizes openly when it comes to clickbait, product placements with Youtubers with a young base, nonsensical thumbnails, freedom of movement among women - but not with political things that are anti-feminist and racist. Because it is implemented in YouTube culture in such a way that everyone thinks that way. At least those who criticize. And because you don't want to position yourself politically, at least when it comes to feminism. Racism is criticized, as well as homophobia, but both only in obvious cases. The openly homophobic Youtuber and rapper Mert Ekşi is criticized, but not other Youtubers who make homophobic statements without clearly saying that they are homophobic.
SJW, feminism and anti-racism are seen as worse than jokes against minorities, women and the LGBTQA + community. In their effort to be apolitical, the channels are clearly classified politically: against feminism, equality, anti-racism, etc. They stylize themselves as politically left and share some of the opinions, but denounce the organizations behind them in order to continue to drop slurs in streams can or crack a homophobic joke every now and then. What they call freedom of expression is hatred and aggression, against marginalized groups, minorities and communities. With some channels you can't honestly say whether they are aware of this or not, because they don't have to reflect because their fan base does it for them.
Reach responsibility is also about reflecting instead of hiding behind the fans who support you, no matter what you do. Reach responsibility is to see your own community as more than a homogeneous mass of loved ones, and to take responsibility when you let go of the fan base on people who don't want you bad because you have forgotten how to accept criticism.
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