YouTube Explains Why a Racist Steven Crowder Video Didn’t Violate Its Hate Speech Rules
A grotesque segment mocking Black farmers illustrates just how much bigotry a conservative star can get away with
An overtly racist video by conservative YouTube star Steven Crowder did not violate YouTube’s hate speech policy, the company told OneZero, though it has been taken down for other reasons. The stance highlights the broad leeway for bigotry in the platform’s moderation rules, even as it cracks down on certain categories of content, such as Covid-19 misinformation.
In a March 16 livestream, Steven Crowder and his co-hosts on the show Louder With Crowder — which has 5.4 million subscribers — performed grotesque caricatures of Black people. The bits were part of a segment mocking provisions in the new U.S. Covid-19 relief bill that set aside $5 billion in aid for farmers of color, who have historically faced discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
After running a news clip describing the aid, Crowder launched into a buffoonish imitation of a Black man posing as a farmer to obtain the money. “I’ma buy a plow, man!” he shouted. “Barack Obama, mother — ! I’m the president of plowing that ass.”
Crowder’s co-host, Dave Landau, chimed in with a joke about slavery: “I thought the last thing [Black people] would want to do is be farmers. Wasn’t that a big problem for hundreds of years?” He later joked about planting “a Hennessy tree,” after which Crowder implied that the soil in Black communities would be contaminated with “meth.”
The segment sparked outrage beyond YouTube after the progressive media watchdog group Media Matters for America criticized and circulated the clip on Twitter. You can watch it here, though be prepared: It’s even dumber and uglier than I’ve been able to articulate in words. Yet it is also emblematic of a brand of “humor” that has flourished on YouTube even though — or perhaps precisely because — it’s too offensive for traditional media.