Ideological Hegemony on YouTube and in Academia

I regularly plow through YouTube in search for anything that might be interesting from a political philosophy perspective. I often end up listening to speeches or podcasts by libertarians, because they seem to be the most articulate and persistent users of YouTube as an ideological channel to reach new disciples. My impression is that for every well-articulated video that argues for socialism there is at least ten (probably much more) equally well-articulated videos that argue against socialism. The same could be said for feminism or environmentalism, or indeed standard welfare state-liberalism (we do not have to mention utilitarian hedonism, because virtually no one seems to be interested in defending or attacking it).

Still, it is often claimed that in academia the figures are the reverse. Surveys have confirmed that a majority in some crucial (crucial for politics, that is) disciplines lean to the left. Extreme examples of this would probably be disciplines like sociology or gender studies.

But why does academic hegemony not translate into social media hegemony? Are university professors (or graduate students) too busy to take part in more “popular” discussions about the normative foundations of policy decisions, or are they simple uninterested in proselytizing? Or do they (at least the “centrists”) feel comfortable in the knowledge that policies are already more or less in line with their convictions, so why bother arguing for them?

The latter view may prove to be very dangerous. If you simply don’t feel the need to argue thoroughly for your positions (or to study the arguments of your opponents) then your stance will simply be congealed into a dead dogma. And when you are seriously challenged you simply wont have the arguments to withstand the criticism. This is, by the way, something that John Stuart Mill stresses in On Liberty. Even though you believe yourself to be right, it is still beneficial to be subjected to criticism, even if it is criticism of the “true” religion. As you may know, even prospective saints are challenged by a “devil’s advocate”, appointed by the Catholic church itself.

Anyway, if YouTube is any indication of what the future holds, then the future seems to belong to the right. And it seems likely that academic ideological hegemony will play a smaller role as the Internet age chugs along. Professors are probably not regarded with the same reverence as before and many students are probably happy to find their ideological sustenance elsewhere. In the old days, finding new perspectives outside the lecture hall was a laborious process, but nowadays one can connect with likeminded individuals all over the world without any effort. The future, I think, belongs to those who understand this, and who are ready to put resources into making high quality YouTube videos, podcasts, and the like, rather than academic papers filled with obscure jargon. Right wing think tanks (and other groupings) seem to have understood this better than those on the left.