Nathaniel Mabee comes by his left-of-centre politics honestly.
“I was living in the projects for about 18 years,” the New York City resident said. “When you’re living in an area like that, you kind of see the manifestation of alcohol, of gun violence, of crime. And all throughout those years I was thinking it doesn’t have to be this way. In one of the richest nations of the world, people don’t really need to be living in squalour.”
During the 2016 presidential primaries, Mabee, who’s working on a PhD in psychology, found a candidate that spoke his language.
“I started hearing a lot of the ideas that Bernie Sanders was sharing and they really clicked,” he said. “Those ideas really made sense to me.”
When the U.S. election cycle heated up again four years later, he launched The Path Forward, a YouTube channel featuring progressive news, analysis, and commentary.
“I talk about injustices present within our system and call out hypocrisy among people that are in government, and among corporations,” Mabee said about his videos, which have accumulated nearly 28,000 views so far.
And his targets aren’t just Republicans, either.
Mabee considered doing podcasts at first, but ultimately decided to go with YouTube in order to make a multidimensional connection with his audience.
He’s learned a lot since launching his channel in February 2020, including the need for professional lighting. “I look back at some of my first videos and kind of cringe,” he said.
And while he quickly discovered that Trump is good for YouTube views, Mabee is more interested in producing intelligent and persuasive content than in racking up clicks.
“I don’t really want to make any money from this,” he said. “If I change one person’s mind that day, then that’s all I need.”
That attitude is reflected in his signature closing remarks: “Agree or disagree, let’s have a conversation.”
Someone who shares Mabee’s commitment to open and honest dialogue is fellow YouTuber Jacob Pollack, an Ottawa-area social worker who hosts the PropaGanada Show.
“Politeness and respectful discourse in the political sphere is the only way to win over people who might disagree you,” Pollack said. “You have to seek common ground.”
He often employs avant-garde cinematography reminiscent of Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist film series.
“I started reading Chomsky at a pretty young age,” Pollack said of his political development. “That was really my gateway drug.”
His early interests included U.S. history and imperialism, and his reading included not only Chomsky, but others like Howard Zinn and Chris Hedges.
Eventually, he turned his attention to the situation at home and saw a need for more progressive content on YouTube. “I saw the lack of a left wing on the digital media sphere in Canada.”
“To me, challenging corporate power has tremendous unifying capability,” he said. “All the different movements in Canada, in one way or another, are essentially fighting concentrated wealth and concentrated power in their own unique way.”
Pollack routinely uses humour, often of the absurd variety, to make a connection with viewers.
“When people are laughing, or when people are smiling, psychologically they’re not putting up their defences and they’re not feeling attacked,” he said.
Pollack believes too many leftists talk down to people who don’t agree with them or who haven’t had the privilege of higher education.
“We have to be humble and realize that is a privilege,” he said. “We’re quick to talk about the working class and romanticize them, but we should also be able to try to connect with them and talk to them.”
Since launching his YouTube channel earlier this year, Pollack said he’s been introduced to other people interested in social and economic justice.
He now sits on the board of the grassroots organization Horizon Ottawa.
“We’re really trying to align all the different organizations in Ottawa who are trying to pressure city hall to have more progressive policies,” he said.