Hold on to your thumbs, feed scrollers! Since current social media monopolizers are unable to provide a platform that doesn’t leak or sell our photos and messages to teenage hackers and data vendors, there are new, edgy, next level digital communication platforms coming our way!

But before I analyze the Jordan Peterson-backed “thinkspot” (currently in beta testing), I have to acknowledge how podcasts and digital networks have transformed modern communication—enabling popular commentators to reach millions of people and to even create their own platforms, but also proliferating structural problems that erode media literacy and spread disinformation. (Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Mr. Peterson and this will not be a glowing review of thinkspot, so continue at your own peril.)

The *Insert Here* Experience Podcast

On its face, a podcast doesn’t exactly scream “digital revolution.” Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “episodic series of digital audio files that a user can download in order to listen,” podcasts used to be the domain of U.S. comedians who were early adopters in using long-form audio to promote their shows and build an audience. In hindsight, it made sense that comedians pushed the boundaries of dialogue outside of mainstream media, as the best of them — Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, to name a few — intentionally positioned themselves outside of the ideological confines of media conglomerates, which is what made their commentary stand out.

Today, podcasts are an industry of their own due to numerous benefits associated with their production and dissemination. To marketers and commentators, they represent an opportunity to reach millions of listeners, and to the cord-cutters and workers around the world, they facilitate a small, but gratifying escape from the theater on corporate media and the soullessness in the modern workplace, one headphone at a time. It’s easy to follow a show if you have the privilege to be online—most podcasts offer at least some free episodes and followers can fast-forward ads and listen anywhere.

Why is podcasting such an effective marketing tool? Consider the time, energy, and focus that’s needed to keep up with a show that’s pumping hours of audio each week. The intimacy that exists between listeners and podcast hosts is the stuff marketers dream about. It is this perceived bond that causes fans to go crazy about their favorite podcast and buy the products recommended by their favorite host. This is why popular podcasters, who often use YouTube as an auxiliary content-sharing and streaming platform, wield considerable power when it comes to shaping YouTube’s celebrity environment and thus the national discourse, which increasingly revolves around tweets and vetted social media accounts.

Not all podcasts are controversial and polarizing; if you are looking for a show that focuses on murder mysteries and historical trivia you probably won’t find yourself in a heated exchange about serialized audio files and their managers. But if you choose to get involved in a podcast that deals with political matters, you would most likely be drawn into a web of affiliations, networks, conflict (real and manufactured), and sharp opinions for and against podcasting personalities.

None of that mattered back when I first followed the The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), a popular podcast hosted by comedian Joe Rogan, which today has 7.37 million subscribers on YouTube with millions downloading podcast episodes each month. What got me interested in the JRE a decade ago wasn’t just listening to “real” conversations, but the fact that there was no other place to discover early iconic guests and friends of the show, such as Duncan Trussell, Christopher Ryan, Graham Hancock, Aubrey Marcus, and Danielle Bolelli, whom I consider brilliant at what they do — writing, research, comedy, and good conversations. The JRE and other podcasts provided an opening to adversarial perspectives (for free!) at a time when corporate media had nothing of the sort.

The nature of Rogan’s podcast is that, eventually, there will be a guest with whom you fundamentally disagree, as the comedian invites commentators from all sides of the political spectrum. For me, one of those guests is Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist who has received significant media coverage in the U.S. for his opinion on  gender-neutral pronouns, Marxism, and the “radical Left.”

I am not a fan of Peterson — not because of an inherent fault in him as I don’t know the guy, but because I don’t find any value in what he says. I consider his rants about cultural Marxism nonsensical, as they are reminiscent of a conspiracy theory with a long and toxic history, according to which radical left-wingers and Marxists aim to bring down Western civilization. While these concepts require extensive knowledge in history and political science, it seems that Peterson, a clinical psychologist, primarily utilizes them in a crusade against “radically left-leaning” institutions. That is to stay, although he talks a lot about Marxism and the Soviet Union, the professor often ends up shallowly condemning leftist movements and blaming academic institutions, rather than making valid historical comparisons.

“These Marxist ideas are very attractive to compassionate intellectuals and we don’t have good bad examples like the Soviet Union around that everybody can point to and go yeah, yeah, well that sounds good, but what about the murderous death camps and the millions of people who are suffering,” Peterson told Joe as he plunged into his familiar rant in the first 15 minutes of their first conversation in 2016 (from JRE episode #877):

… people have no historical memory, like my students, and that’s partly because they are taught so badly in school, they have no idea what happened in the Soviet Union … they have absolutely no idea, they know a little bit about the Second World War, maybe, and of course, people generally know about the Holocaust, but they have no idea about what happened in the Soviet Union, so they have no idea where these ideas can lead. And universities and the high schools are so full of people who are radically left-leaning that the students are never taught any proper history. They are taught about the evils of capitalism … it’s not like any system is perfect, but there’s a difference between imperfect and consciously murderous.

The pattern of cherry-picking historical facts and portraying academics as “radical Left”  can be seen throughout Peterson’s particular opinions about U.S. politics and culture, which include questioning if U.S. establishment Democrats are radical, calling diversity, inclusivity, and equity “a deadly triad,” admitting he has monetized “social justice warriors,” and ranting about sexual displays in the workplace.

For these reasons, I don’t engage much with the man’s opinions, but I also don’t deny his popularity and influence in the U.S. and around the world. What I find more fascinating is the niche which has opened up for attacking leftist ideas from a perspective of a “neutral,” comedic, or politically-ambiguous intellectual, rather than a racist attack dog like Limbaugh or Hannity. It makes sense to me that the presence of such commentators in the mainstream is crucial if the Republican Party wants to attract more supporters. Perhaps this explains why, in the age of Trumbo, so many “influencers” and social media personalities find themselves blaming student activists and their professors, as well as parents, socialism, pronouns, entire generations, and identity politics for today’s biggest problems.

The most notable manifestation of this trend is a group known as the “Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW). Joe Rogan, who has had popular members of the IDW on his show, is often lumped with the likes of Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Dave Rubin, Peter Thiel, and other “intellectual renegades” who use their credentials and perceived neutrality to discuss “dangerous” ideas. The inclusion of such guests on the JRE changed the issues that were discussed on the podcast, which made it easy for the outrage crowd to attack Rogan. 

Joe’s take on the matter — “I talk to people. And I record it. That’s it” — doesn’t satisfy those who audit radicalization pathways on YouTube and often accuse the comedian of “platforming” various controversial figures, who in turn expose YouTube’s users to more explicit right-wing propaganda (though YouTube’s lack of recommendation-related data makes such claims difficult to prove). In any case, because of JRE’s growing public influence and dominance on YouTube, Rogan, whom I consider to be left-leaning, has been involved in numerous scandals which have originated from things he has said on the air.

When in 2020 Joe said he would “probably support” Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, the liberal and right-wing media establishment — who have consistently used their platforms to attack the progressive politician — weren’t thrilled about Rogan’s probable support. Because of his previous comments on transgender fighters competing alongside women in mixed martial art sports (Joe is a martial arts expert and UFC commentator), the Human Rights Campaign accused him of attacking “transgender people, gay men, women, people of colour and countless marginalised groups at every opportunity,” while CNN claimed the comedian had a history of making “racist, homophobic and transphobic comments.” The political organization MoveOn urged Sen. Sanders and his campaign to “apologize and stop elevating” Rogan’s endorsement.

Rogan has since addressed the allegations and said that his comments on transgender fighters are coming from his expertise in martial arts and not discrimination. “Have I made inappropriate jokes — yeah, for sure, I am a comedian — especially if you are drinking and smoking pot, you are swinging,” Rogan said on a recent episode of the JRE. “I like words you are not supposed to say sometimes, it doesn’t mean I am homophobic, or racist, or sexist, or misogynistic, or transphobic, these things aren’t true, I love everybody … if you are a nice person, I love you.”

While liberal centrists used a few snippets out of hundreds of podcasting hours to tarnish Rogan’s reputation, and urged Sanders to reject Joe’s support, right-wing pundits used the opportunity to call Bernard’s record “consistently awful” and attributed Rogan’s preferences to poor judgement. This is what happens when you challenge both sides of the U.S. oligarchy, which the comedian clearly did by supporting the “wrong” candidate.

Few commentators actually analyzed why Rogan said he supports Bernie — the fact that Sanders has been “insanely consistent” his entire life. Even fewer mentioned that a key proposal championed by Sanders, “Medicare for All,” would confront the massive health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Per Sanders’s website, the single-payer, national health insurance program would cover “gender affirming surgeries, increase access to PrEP, remove barriers to mental health care and bolster suicide prevention efforts.”

As it often happens, news pundits exploited Rogan’s comments for their own political agenda by attacking him and Sanders for the “crime” of agreeing with each other, not the substance of what they had to say. In a sense, the overblown reaction to Rogan’s support of Sanders (a politician who clearly isn’t fancied by the ruling class) was an attempt to delegitimize the role of independent shows like the JRE in the U.S. political discourse, and to draw a line between it and places like CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, and Fox News which don’t have to explain their “probable support” to the public.

Projecting the faults of interviewees onto podcasters, comedians, and journalists is a slippery slope toward public witch hunts and calls for censorship. This is especially true about Rogan, whose conversations with Bernie Sanders, Abby Martin, and Cornel West, along with influential conservative commentators like Peterson, are proof of his ability to portray diverse ideas without pushing a particular worldview. His critics on the Left conveniently forget to mention that Rogan has amplified independent commentators and progressive intellectuals who are practically blacklisted on mainstream media.

One has to wonder why highly-paid critics are more interested in psychoanalyzing and attacking a comedian, than standing up for brave whisleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. Then again, it’s precisely mainstream media’s inability to deliver anything other than a Chuck Todd or a Dr. Phil — and social media companies’ failure to stop click-baiting the public — that have motivated individuals and business groups to create their own platforms where they control the flow of information and revenue. Hopefully, for the better.

This brings us to the Jordan Peterson-backed thinkspot (ts), a “censorship-free” online communication platform that Peterson announced on his podcast with, you guessed it, Joe Rogan.

The official announcement about thinkspot, posted through Twitter.

The Birth of Thinkspot: A Scandalous Affair

I had to start my analysis of thinkspot with The Joe Rogan Experience, and podcasting in general, because so much about the story of thinkspot revolves around podcasts, YouTube videos, and Intellectual Dark Web personalities.

The platform’s origin story itself is shrouded in conflict, following Peterson’s public critique and leave from Patreon, a membership platform that allows creators to run a subscription service, which is now essentially a competitor of thinkspot. The reason why Peterson left Patreon, outlined by him in a video with right-wing pundit Dave Rubin, was because the platform banned another YouTube personality, “Sargon of Akkad,” whose real name is Carl Benjamin, for saying the following on another creator’s YouTube account:

I just can’t be bothered with people who chose to treat me like this. It’s really annoying. Like, I — . You’re acting like a bunch of n*****s, just so you know. You act like white n*****s. Exactly how you describe black people acting is the impression I get dealing with the Alt Right. I’m really, I’m just not in the mood to deal with this kind of disrespect.”

Look, you carry on, but don’t expect me to then have a debate with one of your f**gots.…Like why would I bother?…Maybe you’re just acting like a n****r, mate? Have you considered that? Do you think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another, and you guys can’t even act like white people, it’s really amazing to me.”

So, Patreon banned Carl for making the comments above, which provoked Peterson, Rubin, and Sam Harris, another Intellectual Dark Web-affiliated personality, to leave Patreon and start thinking of a better subscription-based platform.

Here’s how Patreon responded to criticism that banning “Sargon” constituted “political bias” and “censorship”:

Some people worry that we are reviewing content not posted on Patreon. As a funding platform, we don’t host much content, but we help fund creations across the internet. As a result, we review creations posted on other platforms that are funded through Patreon. Sargon is well known for his collaborations with other creators and so we apply our community guidelines to those collaborations, including this interview.

We understand some people don’t believe in the concept of hate speech and don’t agree with Patreon removing creators on the grounds of violating our Community Guidelines for using hate speech. We have a different view. Patreon does not and will not condone hate speech in any of its forms. We stand by our policies against hate speech. We believe it’s essential for Patreon to have strong policies against hate speech to build a safe community for our creators and their patrons.

You don’t have to be a particularly radical individual to conclude that Patreon did the right thing when it disassociated itself from Carl Benjamin. Yet, Peterson and company seemed to think otherwise. Even though they used the conflict to drum up support for what eventually became thinkspot, the Intellectual Dark Web members did not reference the transcript posted by Patreon. To the contrary—Carl was invited to be one of the first testers of thinkspot, along with other selected individuals (more on that later).

While Peterson and Rubin admitted that Patreon had provided them a tremendous opportunity to generate money from supporters, they disagreed with Patreon’s “proclivity to censor,” and said that leaving the platform was a “major hit” for their finances. This is how the idea for the censorship-free thinkspot seems to have been born. It’s a messy origin story, but one that stays true to the the sensationalism that often follows those in the Intellectual Dark Web constellation.

“Once you’re on our platform, we won’t take you down, unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law. That’s basically the idea. So we’re trying to make an anti-censorship platform,” Peterson said in a June, 2019 interview about the platform.

It is now February, 2020 and I have access to thinkspot’s beta version, which is where I made my first and last impressions of the platform.

Peterson’s Platform

At first glance, thinkspot doesn’t differ much from its competitors. There’s a “Discover” feed, which features select contributors, and a “My thinkspot” feed where users curate the content they want to see.

Peterson’s work and opinions on things are prominently featured, which is what you’d expect from a platform “backed” by Peterson. That is to say, if you don’t have at least some interest in the man’s books, opinions, ideas, and fellow contributors, thinkspot probably won’t be the place for you, at least in its beta stage.

Thinkspot’s “Discover” section where you can constantly re-discover Peterson’s thoughts.

“It will be a subscription service so that’s partly what makes it a replacement to Patreon, because we want to monetize creators, but we will have a different terms of service,” Peterson told Rogan. The famous psychologist highlighted thinkspot’s annotating features which will allow contributors to share their comments on popular books and podcasts. “We are hoping that we will be able to pull people who are interested in intelligent conversation, specifically into this platform, and maybe start to pull them away from YouTube and some of the less specialized channels,” Peterson said.

Featured contributors.

Speaking of which, one soon realizes that the only people who can actually post content and monetize from it on thinkspot are contributors who are “evaluated by a group of peers who hold quality, genuine discourse in high esteem” (also known as the elder council). This means that if you are a mere user you can’t post content, unless you are paying money to thinkspot. If you are a contributor, you can post content, but you can’t monetize from it. You have to be a featured contributor to monetize, which is a substantial barrier for those who’d want to start offering a subscription service right away.

Whereas Patreon allows users to post content and earn money through paid subscriptions, to post content on thinkspot one has to be subscribed to one of the following group identities (to use Peterson’s language):

Taken from ts’s “Coming Soon: Become a thinkspot Contributor!” post.

If we have to use parallels with current social media platforms, it appears that at least in its beta stage, thinkspot is a mix between Twitter’s blue-check system (platform subscribers get a check mark next to their name) mixed with Patreon’s subscription model, with strong emphasis on “anti-censorship” marketing and a pay-to-build-an-audience business model.

To be clear, I don’t oppose monetization when the result is more credible content and less spying on users. I agree with computer science philosopher Jaron Lanier who advocates for using paid models for social media in order to counter the inherent corruption that happens when tech platforms embrace advertising. “We cannot have a society where when two people wish to communicate, the only way it can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them,” Lanier said at a TED conference in Vancouver, as reported by Quartz.

Lanier imagines a world of “peak social media” and what that could mean:

It could mean that when you get on you can get really good, authoritative medical advice instead of cranks. It could mean that when you go online to get factual information, there’s not a bunch of weird conspiracy theories […] I’m certain that the companies—the Googles and the Facebooks—would actually do better in this world. I don’t think we need to punish Silicon Valley, we just need to remake the decision.

Unfortunately, maintaining a high quality of content doesn’t seem to be a priority for social media companies, which regularly collaborate with advertising agencies, politicians, lobbying firms, and various governments at the expense of their users. This is when problems arise due to censoring of content and pushing a specific worldview that is influenced by those companies’ corporate and government partners, rather than a sense of service to the public and basic journalistic integrity.

For example, we know Facebook is working with the Atlantic Council to combat “fake news” on its platform (in 2014, the New York Times found that at least 25 foreign governments had donated to the Atlantic Council dating back to 2008). Facebook’s fact-checking program includes the right-wing, pro-Trump outlet Daily Caller, co-founded by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. To really drive the point home, in January, 2020 it was reported that Facebook tapped Jennifer Williams, Fox & Friends senior producer, to head video strategy for “Facebook News.” These “collaborations” have little to do with Marxism and leftist ideology, and a lot more to do with the groupthink of Silicon Valley technocrats, whose skewed political preferences have drastically polarized the feeds of their manipulation machines.  

While such examples show how social media companies have failed us, none of those issues seems to play a central role in thinkspot’s “anti-censorship” mission, though it appears that emojis won’t be allowed on the platform and difficult users will be shadowbanned. “If your ratio of upvotes to downvotes falls below 50-50, then your comments will be hidden. People will still be able to see them if they click, but you’ll disappear,” Peterson told Rogan on their podcast.

Even though it’s too early to indicate whether these features will catapult thinkpot to social media stardom, the platform’s current contributors are not exactly known for challenging the status quo.

Featured contributors include: Jamie Metzl, “technology futurist and geopolitical expert, novelist, entrepreneur, media commentator, and Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council,” and James Altucher, “author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling book Choose Yourself and I’m a US-ranked chess master.” Joining them is Stephen Hicks, “author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and Senior Scholar at The Atlas Society,” and Bishop Barron, “founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” as well as Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish author and President of the think tank Copenhagen Consensus Center, whose provocative claims on climate change have been challenged by numerous experts.

If you are at least a bit familiar with Peterson’s very particular ideas and themes, scattered across hours of content produced by Mr. Peterson himself, his critics, and fans — thinkspot’s featured commentators won’t surprise you. Questioning toxic masculinity, re-framing the experiences of marginalized groups, overgeneralizing the Left, motivation talk, spreading doubt about climate science and falsehoods about higher education — yes, we are in Peterson Land and that’s blatantly obvious from the first time you enter the platform.

Of course, Peterson’s platform can be whatever Peterson wants it to be, but the empty promises of open debate and “diversity of ideas” would only become more obvious for users as they find themselves stuck in a very exclusive echo chamber.

“Thinkspot needs more progressive, liberal, left leaning and socialist contributors,” a user named AmiMojo stated on thikspot’s forum on November 29, 2019. “At the moment Thinkspot is full of hard right posts, some of them bordering on conspiracy theories. There is a lot of anti-feminism, anti-progressivism (regressivism?) and it’s generally a very one sided echo chamber. If the goal is to promote open debate then contrary ideas need to be aired in the marketplace.”

As expected, the claim was rebutted by numerous users who disagreed with AmiMojo’s framing. “You are arguing for the centralised control of ‘Contributor’ political preferences, NOT gonna happen,” one commentator argued, “At ThinkSpot, you can sign up to be a contributor no matter what your religion or political slant.”

Going through more of the featured contributors didn’t seem to open up any ideological horizons beyond familiar myths about higher education, fascination with capitalism, and attempts to make Petersonian thought cooler than it actually is.

The current list also includes “Akira the Don,” who releases “meaningwave” music which somehow incorporates the words of “Jordan Peterson, Jocko Willink, Alan Watts, Naval Ravikant, Elon Musk and Terence McKenna.” Also featured are Heather McDonald, who “argues that toxic ideas first spread by higher education have undermined humanistic values, fueled intolerance, and widened divisions in our larger culture” and Bettina Ardt, whose passion is “the very real problems confronting men and boys in our increasingly male-bashing society.” Another featured contributor is Peterson’s daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, whose all-meat diet was heavily criticized in an 2018 expose by The Altantic (one doctor called the diet an “immensely bad idea”).

If you are wondering, yes, Carl Benjamin has also landed on thinkspot after being kicked out from Patreon for violating its rules on hate speech. At the time of this writing, Carl has a whooping 44,100 followers, since it appears that thinkspot, in its infinite anti-totalitarian wisdom, automatically makes users follow featured contributors. So, if you were thinking of testing the waters before you let these highly esteemed contributors flood your thinkspot—think again. You’ll have to “un-follow” them first.

Upon joining thinkspot, Benjamin promptly featured his JRE podcast appearance and started writing about important topics like “a coherent definition of racism.”

I did notice that David Pakman, a popular YouTube commentator with a generally leftist perspective, was featured on thinkspot, but he eventually left the platform. In a video explaining the situation, the host of the David Pakman Show stated that he is no longer affiliated with the platform, because of its payment system and lack of similar shows.

The fact that Pakman was invited to thinkspot in the first place is evidence that its managers are interested in presenting diverse perspectives. How those perspectives penetrate the “culture warrior” wall built around Peterson’s opinions, however, is yet to be seen.

We all need things to live for.

Thinkspot’s close-ended publishing system ensures that all roads lead to the same old hodgepodge of anti-left rhetoric and praise of hierarchies, mixed with what’s marketed as comedy, music, and commentary on current affairs. I think of ts as what Facebook would look like if Zuckerberg created his battered addiction machine today, when the veneer of an innocent tech genius and the mission of connecting horny college students don’t have the same effect as before. When we look beyond the glossy marketing and empty promises, it’s easy to see such platforms as vehicles for affecting the media diet of millions, enriching a small number of executives, and exploiting user data to beat personal rivals; “concern for the public’s well-being” might be seventh or eighth in that hypothetical list.

Thinkspot also features a number of organizations — can you guess their political orientation? The Post Millennial, founded in 2017, is “an alternative news and opinion website based in Montreal, Canada.” The organization All Sides states that The Post Millennial has a “right” bias. They write: “During an independent review by an AllSides staffer on July 9, 2019, we found multiple headlines favoring libertarian or right-leaning perspectives on the site.” Media rating site Media Bias/Fact Check rates The Post Millennial as “right” and “mostly factual,” stating that “there is a strong right leaning bias in story selection that denigrates the left and in particular PM Justin Trudeau.

Another organization featured by thinkspot is The Babylon Bee, founded in 2016, which is “a news satire website that publishes satirical articles on religion, politics, current events, and well-known public figures.” Joining Babylon Bee is The Independent Institute, which describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy research and educational organization that shapes ideas into profound and lasting impact through publications, conferences, and effective multi-media programs.” Among the Institute’s main focus areas is “Gender Issues,” where they feature books from gender “experts” Jordan Peterson, Stephen Pinker, and Thomas Sowell. Another main focus is “Entitlements and Welfare,” where the Institute proposes that “Rather than crowding out private philanthropy with government funding of a social safety net, we can empower private organizations to foster economic security and promote upward mobility.”

Joining The Post Millennial, Babylon Bee, and The Independent Institute is PragerU, the media enterprise managed by right-wing columnist and commentator Dennis Prager. Recent PragerU YouTube videos include “Why Millennials Support Communism,” “Unborn Babies Are Children, Not a Choice,” and “The Market Will Set You Free.”

PragerU’s “content” is now featured on thinkspot.

Speaking of money, thinkspot’s subscription model is an ode to Peterson’s praise of hierarchy. In that respect, thinkspot’s users get what they pay for—a platform that boasts about “anti-censorship,” while severely limiting who can actually post content, and dividing users into multiple group identities that are pitted against each other.

Thinkspot offers two types of subscriptions—there’s a “Platform Plan” which gives access to exclusive content and the ability to create and post content, and “Contributor Plans” which allow users to follow “exclusive content” from other contributors.

Two types of subscriptions.

For example, if you’d like to follow Bjorn Lomborg’s critique of “often exaggerated” perspectives in mainstream media on climate change, full access will cost you $60 a year. As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Lomborg is a controversial academic who is known for arguing that the dangers of climate change are overstated—in other words, he was thinkspot before there was thinkspot.

Here’s an image showing more subscriptions and associated costs (taken before Pakman left the platform):

Following exclusive insights can get expensive.

Final Thoughts On Thinkspot

Digital content producers are right to worry about the future of their work and career if it goes against the interests of Facebook and Google. We can’t trust shareholders and Board of Directors to self-regulate when it comes to maximizing their profits. Therefore, it’s understandable that after clamoring to build their own podcasts and create their own channels, individuals and business groups now want to create their own platforms where they control the flow of information and money.

This dynamic highlights the inequality and elitism that are inherently present in the social media sector. Meaningful participation in today’s information streams still requires a lot of resources, both from production and consumption side of things. Microphones, software, laptops and cameras are expensive. Perhaps most importantly, working class people don’t have the luxury to be online, much less the time to follow tweets and subscribe to numerous platforms. This makes “social” media an echo chamber, rather than a representative sample of society.

All of these factors point to the fact that being a social media influencer is a more viable path for the wealthy and privileged, or at least those who have the time and resources (mostly the resources) to play by Silicon Valley’s rules. As in the rest of the U.S., major decisions regarding YouTube’s recommended videos, Twitter’s blue-checked personalities, and Facebook’s ads are controlled by the ruling class, rather than the majority of the public.

Providing a true alternative to the corrupt pay-to-play models will require more than a publicity stunt and influencer marketing. It would take standing up for media access and credible content, rather than a system which recycles and re-sells the same talking points through slightly different marketing funnels.

While it is yet to be seen what becomes of thinkspot, it’s clear that the platform’s present structure doesn’t represent an alternative to dominant social media feeds. While I understand that many have developed a bond with Peterson and his company, paying to access the same type of ideas over and over might be something to rethink.

Author

I am a Bulgarian American writer and media maker interested in progressive politics, technology, and culture. The Melt Age is a place to share thoughts outside of paywalls and trackers. You can reach me at: info@themeltage.com.

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