In a recent article from Breitbart, a politically charged blog which is often described as the voice of the so-called alt-right movement, an article bashing left-wing activists featured a screenshot from one of Boogie2988’s videos. Boogie2988 is the screen name of Steven Williams, a popular YouTube personality that has amassed a loyal following including over 3.8 million subscribers to his YouTube channel.
The article titled “Berlin Report: 92 Percent of Left-Wing Activists Live With Parents, One in Three Unemployed” doesn’t mention Boogie2988 by name, but features a photo of him prominently at its head. This indicates that Breitbart is using his appearance to sell or sensationalize the story.
Boogie2988 Doesn’t Fit the Profile
There’s a problem though. Boogie2988 is not a left-wing activist. He’s actually a life-long registered Republican. He also doesn’t live with his parents. Boogie2988 lives with his wife in a sizable home. He also isn’t unemployed as he makes a very handsome living from his work producing content for YouTube and Twitch.
Boogie2988 took issue with this posting, citing that Breitbart did not have permission to post that particular screenshot and that he does not wish to be in any way associated with the political blog.
Breitbart has a very large, very passionate following. That audience has a tendency to go after people who are targeted by the blog through online harassment and other means. By posting Boogie2988’s image at the top of this very pointed article, they’re looping him in with a group that the article’s audience has a distaste for.
In a response video on YouTube, Boogie2988 stated: “Number one, I’m not German. I’m not left-wing. I’m not an activist. I’m not unemployed, and I don’t live with my parents.”
Boogie2988 went on to state he wishes Breitbart would never write about him at all. He does not wish to be the face of violent leftist Germans. He also cited that the article appears Facebook over 23,000 times at the time he made the video.
This phenomenon of audience members responding actively to subjects of negative stories is nothing new. With Breitbart in particular, cases where readers go on to actively harass people it has targeted are commonplace.
This Media Sourcing Technique is Common Practice at Breitbart
Using unrelated imagery to sell the narrative is a common practice at Breitbart. It sells sensationalism.
In another example, a previous story run by Breitbart about climate change featured a short clip of meteorologist Kait Parker talking about La Niña. This clip was used to help make the point on climate change not being real.
The Weather Channel didn’t appreciate this coverage. In fact, Parker made a follow-up video addressing Breitbart’s claims.
The Challenge of Sourcing Images as a Blogger
Being a blogger, finding good legal sources for imagery is tough. You have to work around copyright laws and deal with licensing fees. Often, blogs will heavily edit source photos to make them fall under Fair Use as a parody or derivative. It’s easier to find freely-available images that complement or otherwise bolster your point in order to prep a piece for publishing quickly.
In this case, Breitbart is using images that are totally unrelated to the story being covered. They just happen to visually fit the narrative. This practice isn’t commonly done in the scope of news, but Breitbart isn’t a news site. It’s a social commentary site that covers current events. When it is done by news organizations, these organizations are closely scrutinized for it, as were the cases for Fox News and NBC while covering the Baltimore riots.
At this point, Boogie2988 is requesting that Breitbart replace his image with another one. He does not wish to be in any way associated with the story or the website. Boogie2988 stated that the writer of the story, Charlie Nash, has been cordial and indicated that the choice of the image was made by the editor and not himself.
Whether or not Breitbart’s editors will fulfill Boogie’s wishes remains to be seen. For now, his masked face remains a part of the Breitbart home page.