“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
Firearms enthusiasts are leaving Youtube in search of greener pastures
Following Youtube's recent restrictions, many content creators are moving away from the platform.
A little over a month ago, Youtube changed its policies regarding videos that include firearms.
While Youtubers can still give shooting demonstrations or display their weapons, users are no longer permitted to post videos intended to sell firearms to prospective buyers. Youtube has also put a ban on all videos "providing instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearms accessories as those listed above." On the one hand, this move prevents illegal gun sales from taking place on Youtube's site, certainly making their lawyers happy. On the other, it's the absolute least they could do in the wake of the Parkland School Shooting.
If one were to assume that Youtube's core demographic is comprised of sane, relatively rational folks, then the logic follows that this move should have been a slam dunk, both from a legal and public relations perspective. Still, some of the more ardent gun enthusiasts are taking their content elsewhere in order to protest Youtube's decision. As if a group of people being upset that Youtube–a site famous for cat videos and Charlie Bit My Finger–won't broker their firearms deals isn't surreal enough, the first place they turned following the ban was Pornhub.
Yes, that Pornhub.
Unlike Youtube, Pornhub's restrictions for what goes up on its site are, um, pretty lax, and firearm aficionados are flocking. While Youtube certainly has more daily active users, Pornhub is still one of the most popular sites in the world, and would probably be a good alternative save for one simple fact; as its name implies, Pornhub specializes in a very specific type of video. For example, if you type the word 'gun' into the Pornhub search engine, the first video that comes up is of two men in tactical gear titled 'Glock 19 vs Hudson H9,' the second video is called 'Crazy girl ***** her ***** with a gun.' . The sociological implications of so literally blending sex and violence aside, the second video, as well as the rest of the page, certainly makes it difficult for content creators to gain mainstream appeal using the adult entertainment site.
Firearms information courtesy of Pornhub
Possibly with Pornhub's limitations in mind, the founders of Full30.com recently created an all new platform for firearms enthusiasts to share the content that they love. The site is broken up into three sections: video, blog, and forum. The video section contains the same types of videos that Youtube recently banned, namely men, mostly middle-aged and white, loudly explaining how their weapons work. Most of the videos are posted by accounts with names like God, Family, and Guns or Big Shooterist, and unlike Youtube–where videos can get millions of views in a matter of hours–posts on Full30 only tend to get around 500-1000 views a piece. The videos range from weapons tutorials and roundups, to Internet philosophers waxing poetic on their interpretations of the second amendment. While the comments sections are lacking in volume, they aren't lacking in enthusiasm or vitriol.
You'd be hard pressed to find a video on Full30 in which the comment section doesn't feature some iteration of "dumbass liberals are scared of guns."
Exuding a similar spirit, the Full30 blog is a section of the site dedicated to the discussion of gun policies that looks like it could have its own tab on Breitbart. On top of this, every article seems to be written by someone named Matt, and it's pretty safe to assume he's the only person churning out content for this portion of the site. Aside from various articles offering a conservative stance on gun control, the section also features thinly-veiled native advertisements for AR-15s and other assault rifles. Regardless of one's stance on gun control, seeing an ad for an AR-15 next to an article about the Parkland School Shooting can feel a little jarring.
Still, the most active part of Full30 is its forum, a sprawling list of comments where pictures of assault rifles captioned "A socialist judge killed more children than my AR15s" without any context compete with posts about the death of democracy.
Outliers aside, the forum reads a bit like a carefully curated Facebook wall. Specific questions about guns are answered swiftly and carefully, while social issues discussed there are usually approached with an attempt at nuance in lieu of expertise. It's worth noting however, that the threads on Full30's forum do fall into a similar trap that Facebook and Twitter feeds do; namely, they're echo chambers, resonating a relatively universal worldview and not putting much of a premium on diversity of thought.
Screenshot of Full30's Forum
Many of the posts in the forum also call for the creation of safe spaces for conservatives and gun lovers, and Full30 might be giving us a glimpse into what a conservative safe space might actually look like. While questioning American democracy may not seem like a proportionate response to Youtube telling a few content creators to stop selling weapons on their (Youtube's) platform, it's important to remember how insular and partisan online communities can be.
When a tight-knit group, online or otherwise, perceives a threat to their way of life, they tend to retreat inward.
As the world changes and gun policy gets (somewhat) stricter, it's a virtual guarantee that more sites like this will start popping up. Full30 is still pretty small, but inasmuch as a community's hobbies and entertainment are indicative of its worldview, the site is an interesting glimpse into the collective psyche of the American gun lobby's most diehard supporters.