If you are of a left-leaning political persuasion, and have at some point accessed YouTube to explore such ideas, it’s incredibly likely the algorithm has lead you into the world of Left-tube, aka Redtube, aka ‘Breadtube’. The term ‘Breadtube’, a reference to Peter Kropotkin’s “Conquest of Bread, has been disowned by a number of the key players so we’ll be calling it more neutrally ‘leftist YouTube’ to avoid hair-splitting and categorising ourselves into leftist oblivion.
During lockdown, I spent many long hours ploughing through a number of it’s greater and lesser contributors, digging deep into the wobbly-cam and poorly lit back catalogues from whence they emerged, and seeing with ever more delight how a number of creators developed true mastery and misstresship over their chosen media.
With each episode, you could see the lists of Patreon supporters grow, along with the encouragement, financial support, and genuine love of the work that this fostered within creators as they developed confidence, capability and artistic flair in what they were producing.
What’s nice is that you can see these networks of support live and online, as a great number of the left-tubers have become mates with each other, frequently guesting as characters and appearing on each other’s live-streams. It gives left-tube a family-friendly, collective feel that mirrors how many queer communities operate and survive IRL. There is something deeply intimate and recognisable of the parasocial relationship a viewer develops witnessing a favourite creator gradually blossom into the person they wish to be, or perhaps always have been, to perhaps how they wish to be seen, over incremental and consciously created moments of presentation over time.
YouTube content is a DIY delight in that sense, in that often it begins with a single creator and a concept, but then evolves through successive generations of complexity and intricacy as the creator discovers not only themselves but how they wish to represent themselves. And the best thing for me about the selections here is they are queer, and for the most part, anarchist as fuck. Fascinatingly to me is the personal transformations that can be witnessed as the episodes progress. Perhaps by chance or by inclination, a predominant number of the channels I followed transitioned or had coming out moments along the way, again mirroring the way that often people mask queerness and non-heteronormativity at first, but grow to express it more and more confidently as they and their networks develop.
With that in mind, here is a brief overview of a few of my personal favourites and some of the highlights of their careers so far. I point out that the list is predominately white, which has been notoriously a criticism of Left tube/red tube/bread tube, as with most media.
This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, representative, or even good, but a sharing of some of the content that I’ve enjoyed in my many hours trawling breadtube.
Honourable mentions here to others in the left-tube milieu who didn’t make the cut as they are not, to the best of my knowledge, openly queer, trans or nonbinary, but are definitely also worth a look: Renegade Cut, Unlearning Economics, We’re In Hell, Lindsay Ellis, Some More News, Big Joel, The Serf Times and Three Arrows. I also miss out the amazing Mia Mulder, amongst many others, but she is also definitely worth checking out.
George F presents: 6 queer, trans and nonbinary bread-tubers to fill the long hours of your life …
Kat Blaque – 452k subscribers, 144 videos
There are excellent critiques of the problem of white supremacy on Left-tube from Kat Blaque, who discusses here her reductive representation on the platform and the limitations of her due to being a ‘black YouTube’ or a ‘trans YouTube’, plus a plethora of interconnected and intersectional subjects through her True Tea series. She has been a YouTuber since 2010, claiming to have uploaded over 1500 videos, although of course not all of them are public today. She covers subjects on polyamory, sex positivity and trauma, BDSM subjects like shitty doms and how to avoid them, sharing her experiences as an adoptee and her perspectives on rehousing, how to help survivors experiencing hypersexuality, as well subjects around being a black trans woman. She discusses intimately the process of becoming Kat Blaque – outspoken and visible YouTube blogger – with shrewd, caustic wit and combined with her background in animation, with viewer call-ins, and a live, uneditted, unpolished aesthetic that is distinctively hers. Out of all the creators on this list, Kat Blaque’s contributions feel some of the most challenging, most intimate, most raw and important to share, which is why I have opened this list with them. Kat also delivers these difficult and vital discussions in an accessible, open and non-stigmatising manner that allows the viewer to sit with often difficult subject matter in a safer environment.
Contrapoints – 1.56m subscribers, 29 videos
Unless you’ve been living off-grid, under a rock, or in a tunnel under Euston Square for the last five years, it would be surprising if you had not encountered Contrapoints. Undisputedly the queen of left tube for a number of years, deservedly due to the grandiose production style, RuPaul-fabulous costumes, spectacular make-up and original and challenging content shared with theatricality, wit and tremendous courage. The creator, PhD drop-out and “ex-philosopher” Natalie Wynn, arguably innovated the use of multiple character dialogues on YouTube to explore dense philosophical concepts in a dialectical style, my favourite being Kitty the militant anarchist replete with baseball bat, cat ears and vampire teeth. The theatrics allow her to explore and present potentially dry and off-putting ideas in an engaging and accessible style, and over her career she has covered topics from gender criticism, the left, men, JK Rowling, trans-exclusionary radical feminists and her own experiences of cancel culture. Not only these, but others that push the typical subjects of left-tube, such as envy, beauty, cringe and the concept of the aesthetic, yet all in a digestible and entertaining manner, heavily influenced by the aesthetic cues of drag culture. Wynn also transitions publicly and proudly over several years, and has charmed millions of viewers with a self-deprecating and delightfully sharp repartee style that lead the Verge to call her the ‘Oscar Wilde of YouTube’. She, like Blaque and a number of other youtubers, also greatly enjoys a drink whilst filming. ContraPoints covers the foundation subjects of many, many other subsequent Left-tubers, Jordan Peterson being a recurrent favourite, yet still pips many past the post for sheer visual richness and depth of exploration of content, as well as in style and delivery. Indeed an aesthetic debt and some obvious consultation can be seen in the levelling up of our next tuber …
Philosophy Tube – 1.14m subscribers, 188 videos
If their was to be a successor to Natalie Wynn’s empress of left-tube, then surely Abigail Thorn of Philosophy Tube would be she. A joy to watch evolve and become ever-more performative and intricate over her career, whereas ContraPoints has recently returned to a simpler, more discursive, long-form talking head style, Abigail continues to experiment with the theatrical narrative and performative possibilities of the YouTube essay medium. Highlights include the visceral body-horror dilemma of the Ben Shapiro and abortion episode, the appearance of a Steve Jobs character transferred to a Pontius Pilate role establishing the empire in the time of Jesus whilst critiquing billionaire tech-barons like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, and in general an obvious and explicit background in dramaturgy has allowed Thorn to develop a style based firmly on excellent, emotive scripting, high production values and deeply reasoned philosophical research. There’s also a fantastic running joke about quotations from the online dictionary being for hacks. Abigail also transitioned during production, recently also talking more openly about her use of hormones and evidently going from strength to strength as she levels up from project to project. Her episodes on her own struggles with mental health, body dysmorphia and her traumas portrayed through the character of a cosmonaut going into space are truly moving, and the gender reveal party of “Identity: a Trans coming out story” is one of the YouTube highlights of the lockdown period. Also, the episode where she answers “why does Britain have a Queen?” A: “Because we all want to fuck her.”
ThoughtSlime – 267k subscribers, 133 videos
ThoughtSlime uses any/all pronouns and is the most explicitly anarchist YouTuber on this list, but also branches out into horror commentary on their alternate channel ScaredyCats as Mil-dread. They also explore issues around being non binary, as well as a truly heart-touching exploration of the self-doubt and self-loathing they have struggled with as a YouTube creator in a bare-all confessional episode that demonstrates a succinct mastery of the talking head format that is ThoughtSlime’s oeuvre with vulnerability and scathing self-critique. They discuss openly their struggles with an un-named mental health issue, and in one episode break-down their methodology for approaching the creation of content with precision and insight. In their own words, “I have neither the education or, quite frankly, the intellectual curiosity to do most of these subjects justice.” Yet, despite this, their analyses are consistently fascinating and “enter-gaging”. Thoughtslime periodically analyses the limitations and possibilities of their chosen format throughout their episodes, and shows creative bravery and innovation when branching out into rediscovering their interest in skateboarding, Taoist concepts like non-dualism, the dangers of Praeger University, demonstrating live their difficulties applying eye-liner, or taking an episode out to talk about superman just because they don’t wish to be limited by leftist political themes. Their background as a former stand-up comedian who learned about left-politics through YouTube itself is apparent in the style and delivery, marking them out with an idiosyncratic style that is more ‘every person’ than the rock-solid academic foundations of contemporaries like ContraPoints and Philosophy Tube. They also have a regular segment called ‘the Eyeball Zone’ where they promote small, leftist projects, that you too could get promoted on. However, as an example, I have included here one of their older episodes which is simply about the concept of “Garfield Eats” as it is simply too weird and wonderful an idea to miss out on.
Hbomberguy – 1.2m subscribers, 67 videos
If ThoughtSlime is the jester, then Harris Brewis, aka Hbomberguy, is the clown-prince of Left-tube royalty, a delightful weirdo amongst a pack of gleeful freaks, obsessively nerding out on the intricacies of video games and savaging the unresearched and paper-thin arguments of right-wing demagogues with such surgical detail that it reworks the definition of ‘owning’. He undoes every argument for anti-vaxxing in under a minute, but then subsequently continuing for 90 more minutes absolutely destroying the history and characters involved with such devastating effect that this video is a must send to any and all friends and foes with a shadow of a doubt as to the efficacy of vaccination. He does a similar work-over on climate change denial, flat earthers, and pick-up artistry with a flair for detailed and referenced research and an obvious, flat-out delight in uncovering the idiocy and bullshit of right-wingers’ like “the Golden One” fantastical claims with Pythonesque slap-stick and surrealistic breakaways. He talks movingly about his bisexuality, and hilariously ages “20 years over several months” as he embraces his male pattern baldness. Even for non-gamers, his epic long-form breakdowns of why Fallout 3 is garbage, or 3 and a half hours on why others like Deus Ex are fine, or the concept of speed-running, are masterclasses in game design analysis, but also, they are funny and engaging as he shares his obvious passion and insight. He even became an unlikely charity super-star whilst raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for trans-charity Mermaids by completing Donkey Kong 64 in an epic run of 57 hours and 48 minutes.
Sophie From Mars – 106k subscribers, 188 videos
Sophie From Mars is the plucky up-and-comer to this list, but a person I have greatly enjoyed the content of over the lock-down period. She focuses on “Media & Cultural analysis from an intersectional leftist & trans perspective, with some pretentious philosophy bits, lots of being mad at people who don’t want to treat others equally,” and exudes a warm, personable style with biting intellectual examination that still feels as if she is blossoming into the creator she will no doubt one day become. She is clearly in touch with and consciously learning from many of the creators listed above. It is darling to see her borrowing and honouring the more established YouTuber’s she obviously admires whilst playing and performing as she works out the bits she wants to progress with, all the while underpinning her performances with solid theory, historically based research and excellent structure to guide you through her arguments with fun and quirkiness, especially so in her most recent work on conspiracy theories on the left. Recently she has been developing a series on “Interviews for Organising”, featuring the London Renter’s Union and People Against Prisoner’s Aotearoa. Like hbomberguy, her work crosses over into media analysis of games, and despite having never played them, I watched her entire series on the design, aesthetics and gameplay of the absolutely vast Resident Evil series like I’d been a lifelong fan. As she says, “capitalism has to go, and it’s time to build big, sexy communism.”