Cornell Study: Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro ‘Infect’ People With Alt-Right Beliefs

August 27th, 2019 4:33 PM

A study from Cornell University claims YouTube channels that feature prominent conservative figures are “infecting” users with alt-right beliefs.

Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube,” written by five academics, concluded that “channels in the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) and the Alt-lite would be gateways to fringe far right ideology.” The study, released August 22, linked The Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, Dr. Jordan Peterson, comedian and host Joe Rogan, and host Dave Rubin to fringe racist figures like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor. 

The study concluded that YouTube’s “recommender system enables Alt-right channels to be discovered, even in a scenario without personalization.” Four Brazilian researchers — Manoel Horta Ribeiro, Raphael Ottoni, Virgilio A. F. Almeida, and Wagner Meira — joined with Yonsei University Professor Robert West to analyze how many viewers from three different groups on YouTube have moved to watching alt-right content on the platform.

The study took 360 YouTube channels and split them into four categories: control, alt-right, alt-lite, and the Intellectual Dark Web. The study analyzed 331,849 videos overall, and looked at 79 million comments. It found that “more than 60k users altogether” or 12 percent of those analyzed, had been “infected” from watching alt-lite and the IDW, and were now watching alt-right content.

Control meant mainstream/liberal media outlets such as The Washington Post, The Guardian, Democracy Now, GQ, Cosmopolitan, HuffPost, New Yorker, People, Slate, Vanity Fair, C-SPAN, The Economist, Recode, The Atlantic, Vice News, and Forbes. The study included six outlets it considered to be right-wing: American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, NRA, PJ Media, Project Veritas, and the Ron Paul Liberty Report.

The study found that “control” channels “present lower infection rates. The difference is particularly significant for the last three time brackets. Less than 1% of users in control became mildly or severely infected.”

Some of those channels classified as alt-lite included The Blaze, Daily Caller, Steven Crowder, The Blaze commentator Lauren Chen, The Schilling Show, and the Tipping Point With Liz Wheeler on OANN. Those in the Intellectual Dark Web category included Shapiro, Rogan, Rubin, Peterson, free speech advocate and academic Bret Weinstein, podcast host Sam Harris, The Blaze founder Glenn Beck, The Bulwark founder Bill Kristol, The Heritage Foundation, PragerU, YAFTV, YouTube host and journalist Tim Pool, Daily Wire host Andrew Klavan, and The Daily Wire.

Hilariously, the study failed to categorize these outlets in any rational manner, since Kristol is hardly in the same category as Shapiro. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation is more of a mainstream conservative organization. 

“Members of the so-called I.D.W have been accused of bigotry, including Islamophobia, transphobia and sexism,” claimed the study. “Moreover, a recent report by Data & Society research institute has claimed these channels are ‘pathways to radicalization’: they would act as an entry point to more radical channels, such as those in Alt-right.” The IDW was more likely to “lightly infect” users than the control channels were. But the study admitted: those that only watched IDW content were just as safe as those who watched the control channels.

Data and Society is a non-profit group funded by major Democratic allies including billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute and The New York Times.

However, facts didn’t change the conclusions put forth: “the rise of Alt-Lite and I.D.W. channels created fertile grounds for individuals with fringe ideas to prosper.”