Paul Joseph Watson (PJW) is a British YouTube personality associated with Info Wars, conspiracy theories, and the Global New Right. He is one of the core New Right YouTubers whose influence cannot go unnoticeable. This article focuses on Paul Joseph Watson's contribution to the Global New Right as he makes YouTube videos on hot politically incorrect topics.
The start of Watson's New Right career and Info Wars
Besides being very active on YouTube and other Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, PJW is an editor at Info Wars. Watson's career emerged through his work for conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones. He wrote several articles fueling conspiracy theories such as the one that 9/11 was an inside job. In recent years, he has shifted from covering conspiracy theories to explicitly political content targeting Islam, immigration, feminism, and left-wing politics.
Watson, together with Alex Jones and many other right-wing voices, claims that their modern day 'conservatism' is the counter-cultural movement of the 21st century. Paul Joseph Watson associates himself with the New Right counter-culture revolution that combats the “leftist mainstream meteor”, as he calls it.
Being known from Info Wars, PJW started to create his own political content, making use of digital media to spread it worldwide. He started his YouTube channel in 2011. In the beginning, he had an average of 30.000 views. Today, he has easily between 400.000 and 1.5 million views for every new video that he uploads. When being interviewed, he states that people are searching for an alternative and that is why they end up on his channel.
Why do you think I get almost 200 million Twitter impressions a month? Why do my YouTube videos get millions of views even though it’s just some ranty Northerner sat in front of a world map behind a webcam? It’s because people are desperately searching for an alternative. - Paul Joseph Watson
YouTube as his main infrastructure
In the last years, the Global New Right agenda has spread rapidly due to digitalization’s affordances (Maly, 2018a & B). YouTube is no exception from that, as the New Right has taken over every corner of the Internet. This debate is part of a larger phenomenon, in which YouTubers attempt to reach young audiences by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment.
It is thus no coincidence that the most prominent activity of Paul Joseph Watson can be found on his YouTube channel with the same name. His channel has a total of 1.5 million subscribers with his most watched video being "Hidden messages in New $100 dollar bill?". He describes his channel to be about "Controversy, culture and contrarianism", appealing to the Alt-Right attitudes of counter-culture and conspiracy.
Paul Joseph Watson's videos are categorized on topics: Culture, Society, Roasts, Islam, Migrant Crisis, Social Justice Warriors, Free Speech, and Interviews. One of his videos titled "Islam is NOT a religion of peace" depicts the core view of the New Right on Islam and Muslim immigrants.
The discourse of PJW is not unique. The intertextual connections (Blommaert, 2009) to the voices of politicians such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Filip Dewinter in Belgium, or Le Pen in France are explicit. This intertextuality allows us to understand Paul Joseph Watson's discourse in a much wider political tradition.
PJW's discourse on YouTube is very on point with New Right values. His speech revolves around anti-mass migration in Europe, anti-transgenders, pro-masculinity (anti-SoyBoys), Anti-Islam, and a general counter-culture attitude that rejects all mainstream industries, from entertainment to governments.
Paul Joseph Watson's content clearly targets a New Right audience fed up with immigration and what they call Globalism. He speaks to a global niche in which his discourse is understood as 'telling the truth'. As it can be noticed from the hits and comments, a lot of people share the same political views. His comment section is filled with people agreeing with him, even offering more extreme opinions. It can be noticed that Neo-Nazism and references to the Knights Templar are made by his fans, meaning that a part of his audience might be inspired by the likes of Breivik. Looking at the views, likes, and comments below his movies, it is hard to deny that his message resonates with that very specific audience.
It is no coincidence that the New Right is so present on YouTube. Besides being the most popular video sharing platform in the world, YouTube's user interface and functions, together with its integration in Google, make it a very important infrastructure for a metapolitical battle. These main factors enable people with fast video sharing across the globe.
PJW uses his YouTube channel as a TV channel/show. People are subscribed to him, he produces multimedia content for them and it is the easiest manner to spread content as people can turn on channel notifications. As Rebecca Lewis writes: "By adopting the practices of genres like vlogging, political influencers are able to cultivate a sense of transparency that is often lacking from mainstream news outlets." (Lewis, 2018) The informal and entertaining approach attracts more people with similar political opinions to his channel.
However, YouTube's policies around (shadow)banning some of the hate speech on its platform, made them into an easy and useful scapegoat. YouTube, in the New Right discourse, is portrayed as part of the politically correct cathedral: they are seen as big censors and are thus portrayed, just like Facebook is seen as the "enemy" of freedom of speech of New Right activists.
Here you see the paradox of the New Right discourse: even though YouTube and all mainstream media are constantly being framed by New Right actors as part of the liberal establishment, they are nevertheless very well integrated in these platforms. "While they posture as being underground and facing censorship from YouTube, they also know they are being given a major platform from which to broadcast their views." (Lewis, 2018). This paradox was also voiced by Paul Joseph Watson when he tweeted a photo of himself holding up a plaque YouTube sent to him for surpassing one million subscribers. He added a caption: “YouTube secretly loves me.”
Paul Joseph Watson's ties with other Alt-Right activists
In order to build larger audiences for their New Right propaganda, New Right activists such as Paul Joseph Watson make collabs and stick together all over the globe. By inviting others on their YouTube channel or making cameos on other YouTube channels they draw in new audiences. So is the case in PJW's social ties. He has made an Info Wars show with American New Right journalist Lauren Southern, promoting her new book: How baby boomers, immigrants, and Islam screwed my generation.
Lauren Southern is not the only key figure in the global new right who appears on Paul Joseph Watson's channel. Milo Yiannopoulos, a very well-known far right activist and anti-feminist, has also featured on Info Wars together with PJW. Not very surprisingly, the main topic that Milo and Paul Joseph Watson discuss is immigration and Radical Islam. Not only do these guests reproduce the New Right's typical speech - anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-liberalism, and anti-Enlightenment - the fact that they do collabs greatly expands their audiences, and subsequently improves their ranking in YouTube and Google.
Some of the most important collabs of PJW are the ones with Tommy Robinson in Info Wars shows. Tommy Robinson, the leader of the far-right English Defence League, is an iconic figure among the New Right. He is known for his anti-migration and anti-Islam views. He got really famous after he made several videos on how the neighborhood he grew up in in the UK had changed due to Islam migration and why in his view Muslims are not integrating into British culture. Both of the Robinson-PJW's collabs addressed Islamic immigration in the UK.
Memes have become a new political tool
Recently, a huge online protest hype was created by New Right Activists after Tommy Robinson was jailed. This event was framed by New Right activists around the world as new proof that their freedom of speech was abolished. In a reaction to this sentencing, Paul Joseph Watson uploaded on his own YouTube channel the talk he had with Thommy Robinson titled: the truth about the Koran. In their opinion, Islam is not a religion of peace and Muslim immigrants are a threat to Christians across Europe. This video has received a total of 332k views and 3k comments, reactions coming from all over Europe. The top comment on this video "Stay strong England. Your country is slowly waking up. Hope it is not too late yet. Greetings from Poland." points to the ties that the New Right has established globally.
Digitalization is one of the factors that accelerates this process. Through 4chan's /pol/ thread, on reddit, and in YouTube, people from all over the world engage in Far Right, politically incorrect topics. In addition, as I have mentioned earlier, Alt-Right on YouTube has also gained a lot of territory. PJW is not the only one with a successful YouTube career - New Right online activists such as Lauren Southern, Black Pigeon Speaks, Milo Yiannuopulos, and many others who have YouTube channels with a broad audience.
Memes as part of his image and speech
The appropriation and global distribution of memes by New Right members is another index of that global network. Memes came to play a huge role in their metapolitical battle. "One of the most successful metapolitical instruments of the Alt-Right was the appropriation of the meme and the embeddedness of the metapolitical battle in the ongoing culture war between 4channers and the normies after Gamergate" (Nagle, 2017: 24). Paul Joseph Watson not only put this into use, he has even been turned into a meme by others. Memes with his face are shared all over the Internet.
On the other hand, Paul Joseph Watson himself is adding memes to his YouTube videos. He posted a video only consisting of memes titled "Trump vs CNN: Ultimate Meme Compilation". Notable memes coined by Paul Joseph Watson would be the phrases Triggering the Libs and Imagine my Shock that he uses very often in his videos. He also calls American liberals exaggerating butt-hurts, because they call every meme racist, such as the OK hand sign. Thus, he is defending memes, because they are very valuable for his content.
In addition, PJW's videos cover memes as topics. He has made a video about the NPC Meme, making fun of the "leftists" claiming that this meme is dehumanizing. In this video, he explains how this meme is funny, effective, and mostly true to reality. The message is not only that the left can't meme, but also that they see racism and dehumanization everywhere.
In another video he uploaded is about the EU banning memes and why he believes that this would destroy the Internet as we know it - filled with Memes. He again argues that the political power that memes have scares the left, who are losing credibility and support. It is additional proof of the idea that the left rules the world and destroy freedom of speech. Memes are not only part of the New Right's online activity and identity, they are one of the key elements in the metapolitical battle.
The New Right as part of Internet Culture
Paul Joseph Watson is one of the many New Right YouTubers who became important in the New Right scene. His career at Info Wars combined with his online activity are the main factors for his popularity. As mentioned in the article, the effects of digitalization, which include upscaling, transnationalism, accessibility and connectivity have become the New Right's ally in spreading their ideology worldwide. Connectivity has become a huge advantage for everyone and the New Right is no exception from that.
The New Right is present on the Internet as well, spreading their influence on all online platforms. YouTube is one of the main platforms used to spread their content due to its TV-channel interface. In addition, memes, which are a core element of the digital culture we live in, have also been transformed into a powerful manipulative tool by the New Right.
The widespread view that Watson is a lunatic whom nobody can take serious and who operates in the dark fringes of the public sphere obviously needs to be amended. PJW's political impact is considerable.
Blommaert, J. (2009). Discourse: A critical introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis, R. (2018). Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube. Data & Society.
Maly, I. (2018). The Global New Right and the Flemish identitarian movement Schild & Vrienden. A case study. Tilburg University.
Nagle, A. (2017). Kill all normies. Online Culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-right. Winchester, UK & Washington, US: Zero Books.