This morning, the internet woke up to an ominous warning screen on the channel of Hickok45, one of YouTube’s biggest gun channels. The error message said the account had been “terminated” and gave a non-descript message about “repeated violations of terms of service.” Hickock himself has posted on Facebook that the root cause seems to be tied up with YouTube videos being reposted to Google+, causing some complication.
One of the common responses I heard to this is saying that he needs to abandon YouTube and go to Full30, a streaming video site specifically built around firearms videos and give more control/revenue/whatever to content creators. Hickok should go there and he wouldn’t have to worry about these things, people say.
First of all, this is an aspirational political goal at a level above the economic realities of running a business. I doubt Hickok could get anywhere near the revenue on Full30 he currently gets from YouTube. He’s trying to make a living, and right now he has to do it in a place where he can get customers (views).
If he went to Full30, he would instead have to worry about losing 1.8 million subscribers. Why do bank robbers rob banks? That’s where the money is. Why do YouTubers use YouTube? That’s where the viewers are.
But let’s take it as given that he has the freedom to set up his tent where it is politically convenient. Should he go to Full30 and create an in-crowd of gun owners talking to gun owners? Or stay on YouTube where people can discover his videos?
It reminds me of when Rage Against the Machine was asked how they could indict the capitalist system and criticize America and still sell their records through a record megacorp. The guitarist, Tom Morello, said:
When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that’s where people buy their books. We’re not interested in preaching to just the converted. It’s great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it’s also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart.
This is why I hope Hickok45 stays on YouTube. It’s not about preaching to the converted. It’s about making fun, reasonable, approachable firearms content available to the general public. That’s how the hobby grows. That’s how we show people that guns are safe and fun when handled properly.