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Last year drove young people to political poles and attracted influencers

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A year that included a pandemic and social unrest has made young people embrace socialism more than the younger generations

Photo by Kristin Millie Salazar
| The state press

“Many young people like Jarrett Lowe have identified the US capitalist system as the core of the inequality they have experienced in the country and have in turn begun to embrace socialism.” Illustration published July 10, 2021.

Posted by Chase Hunter B. | 07/19/2021 10:47 am

Jarrett Lowe spent a lot of time to himself when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, often surfing TikTok and Twitch. But that time wasn’t spent watching viral dance videos.

The double degree in history and philosophy at ASU watched content creators like Hasan Piker and Eddie Liger Smith meticulously analyze white supremacy, the failures of capitalism, and the overlap of those ideas in places like the criminal justice system.

During a year that saw some 370,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States and exposed by increasing reports of blacks killed by police, young adults surfed the internet to understand a world whose center could not hold center and untangled before her eyes.

Many young people like Lowe identified the US capitalist system as the core of the inequality they were experiencing in the country and, in turn, began to embrace socialism.

According to an Axios poll in June, 52% of respondents aged 18-24 see socialism positively and 37% think the evidence of the effectiveness of socialism is stronger today than it was 50 years ago.

“When we have a crisis, people look for new ideas,” said Henry Thomson, an assistant professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies, which studies inequality, mass mobilization and authoritarianism. “New ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They come from the academy or from political parties or political movements. Ideas that may have been around for a long time suddenly take on a new meaning because they are picked up by a political movement or the media. “

Social media provided a platform for many influencers to provide answers to the far-reaching pain and death in 2020.

And influencers were not in short supply.

Movement influencer

The lockdowns triggered by COVID-19 combined with the initial stimulus payment gave many people like Lowe the time and energy to examine their lives and the lives around them.

Lowe’s mother is a progressive, openly anti-Iraqi war and a supporter of former President Barack Obama. He grew up in a liberal environment, he said, but watching Piker and Smith helped get Lowe to embrace socialism.

Much like a teacher’s assistant on Zoom, Piker and Smith share their content, speaking to their audience but no one in particular, and training their followers on racial and economic theories of justice, elite corruption, police brutality, and the exploitation of workers in America’s largest Company company.

In a YouTube video on April 13, Piker analyzed a news broadcast showing people jumping on a police cruiser in Minneapolis. “When that happens, people have understandably been pushed to their last stand … they’re looking for loads of justice,” Piker said.

Piker questioned the intent of those who focused on the damage to police property rather than the police killing a black man.

“You are not going to protest the way you would expect,” he said. “Especially when you consider that this is an ongoing problem that has not yet been resolved.”

Videos like hers helped Lowe “realize my place in this society and realize that I will not be the 1% and will never be the 1%”. Many of his friends feel the same way, he said, “but some still have the illusion that capitalism is of use to them.”

Thomson said revolutionary ideas would prevail in almost any crisis and that this would give rise to movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street after the Great Recession. He added that these movements are usually always led by an influential group or person.

Content creators like Piker and Smith certainly fit in as influential people. Piker has over 1.4 million followers on Twitch, with an average of over 28,000 people watching his streams. Smith has accumulated over 16.9 million views on his TikTok account as of February 2020.

With the increased production and consumption of content by creators like Piker and Smith, grassroots executives have experienced the tangible impact that content has created.

The red flame

Rob Wilson, chairman of the Phoenix branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, had his own way of embracing socialist ideals that began over four years ago.

The Iraq war and the Great Recession made him vote for Obama. But when Obama failed to make the promised change, Wilson said he became more disappointed and looked for alternatives to democratic politics.

He was further motivated to search for answers after his mother, who worked as a parking attendant in downtown Phoenix and made $ 11 an hour, died in 2017. While his mother died of asthma, Wilson felt that her death was caused by more than one condition – capitalism played an equally big part.

He attended his first meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America after the 2016 election and joined a reading group called International Marxist Tendency to better understand Marxist theories and practice. Lowe also joined the group last year for further training.

Towards the end of 2020, Wilson saw more people attending DSA meetings he was hosting. He said newcomers watched TikToks and YouTube videos that introduced them to the language and ideas of socialism and Marxism.

Lowe and other young people like him wanted to get involved.

“It is certainly true that these events, like the pandemic, will affect voter turnout across the country,” Thomson said. “I’m sure the pandemic had several effects that political scientists will likely have studied for years.”

Young adults in 2021 will grow up in yet another crisis, and the floodgates are once again open to solutions that have been perceived as too extreme in the past.

Thomson said concepts like universal basic income was one of the guidelines that was now being considered more seriously due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang signing the Universal Basic Income and the stimulus payments to the vast majority of Americans, some are wondering if the Universal Basic Income could just go on.

But it’s not just about spreading ideas. It’s the action after.

Last summer, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the largest civil rights movement in American history took place. The Black Lives Matter movement organized daily marches in American cities and around the world.

But with growing zeal for socialist ideals, Wilson cares about more than just mobilization. He’s worried about the organization.

“Martin Luther King Jr. could give a speech for the Million Man March in Washington, but where have these people been in two weeks?” said Wilson. “Are you part of an organization? Are you clicked in? Are you part of the movement?”

Reach out to the reporter at cbudnies@asu.edu and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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