“Alternative Influence” by Rebecca Lewis identifies an alternative media system on YouTube that adopts the techniques of brand influencers to build audiences and “sell” them political ideology.
Lewis looks at 65 political influencers across 81 YouTube channels, and identified what she calls an Alternative Influence Network or AIN. The AIN uses the same techniques that brands and other social-media influencers use to build followers and garner traffic, but uses them as a way to sell users on a specific right-wing ideology.
This debate is part of a larger phenomenon, in which YouTubers attempt to reach young audiences by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment. An assortment of scholars, media pundits, and internet celebrities are using YouTube to promote a range of political positions, from mainstream versions of libertarianism and conservatism, all the way to overt white nationalism. While many of their views differ significantly, they all share a fundamental contempt for progressive politics—specifically for contemporary social justice movements. For this reason, I consider their collective position “reactionary,” as it is defined by its opposition to visions of social progress.
Because the AIN is a social network as much as a professional one, collaborations can carry more weight than they would in a traditional news media environment. Influencers often introduce their guests as friends and describe their personal relationships to the audience. This type of social networking between influencers makes it easy for audience members to be incrementally exposed to, and come to trust, ever more extremist political positions