“Should’ve named your horse ICE for bonus triggers.”
A gaming streamer whose channel had been temporarily banned by YouTube for hateful content is once again trolling the platform.
Last week, the streamer Shirrako posted a clip from the fantasy-Western action game “Red Dead Redemption 2” in which the protagonist is seen beating up a suffragette. The video was viewed over a million times and received comments ranging from the snippy to the skin-crawlingly hateful (the second most upvoted comment reads, “giving women the right to vote was a mistake”).
After Motherboard, Vice’s gaming outlet, published a story about Shirrako’s stunts, YouTube shut down his channel, prompting predictably wide criticism on social media.
Shirrako, who regularly posts indiscriminately-violent and crudely-titled snippets of games, insisted that his videos don’t serve political commentary of any kind, and are intended to be taken as mere jokes.
— Shirrako (@ShirrakoGaming) November 8, 2018
Responding to the outcry, YouTube relented and quickly resurrected Shirrako’s channel, albeit with a newly-added age restriction. Shirrako didn’t wait a day before publishing a series of videos that seem to be nothing if not an attempt to taunt his Silicon Valley overlords. (I’ll leave it to readers to judge whether his response is edgy, paltry or juvenile.)
His new videos — published Wednesday night — include punching Hilter, beating up a Chinese man, and even “deporting a Mexican.” In the latter video, which exploits a glitch in the game that allows players to cross over into a fictionalized Mexico, Shirrako’s RDR2 avatar is shown kidnapping an NPC of Hispanic visage and carrying him across the border. The video has gotten almost 200,000 views so far.
“Should’ve named your horse ICE for bonus triggers,” wrote one commenter.
Take a breath: The way this story has been framed on social media unexcitingly plays free speech against the perceived censorship of tech giants. It’s indeed true that no matter how tasteless and puerile one finds Shirrako’s videos, offensiveness — especially in the fictional realm of gaming and fantasy avatars — shouldn’t by itself justify blocking his accounts.
But as much as Silicon Valley has become a bipartisan bogyman — the left hates social media platforms for allowing the proliferation of Russian bots, while the right feels perpetually censored by them — let’s not ignore how nimbly YouTube has handled this mini-crisis: First in swiftly addressing Motherboard’s concern about Shirrako’s content, then in redressing its own overreaction.
For attention traffickers (like ourselves), it’s become too easy and potentially profitable to produce incendiary content. That’s how media works. It’s not quite Jon Stuart Mill’s idealized marketplace of ideas, but it’s not necessarily as bad as some old-guard media gatekeepers would have you believe. And until we all rise to humanity’s next evolutionary stage and outgrow our lizard brains, there’s probably little we can do to change it. Censorship is certainly not the solution.
But perhaps it’s better at least not to celebrate such content as anything loftier or more intrepid than what it actually is: Cheap (and possibly cathartic) provocation.