Shave your head, buy a wall tapestry and talk about your new found faith – that’s Alex Day’s apparently winning formula for having your abuse scandal overlooked by the Youtube community.
It’s unlikely that anyone that grew up on a diet of viral videos is not aware of the Youtube abuse scandal of 2014. Many allegations were made towards online content creators, spanning across every category of sexual assault, including rape, shocking the Youtube community. For the first time, the power that these Youtubers hold was called into question, many of these once trusted online figures suddenly (and justly) rejected from the media and social circles they once dominated.
Alex Day, formerly known as Nerimon, was one such Youtuber, with 14 allegations made against him. In the backlash, he stopped making videos and for a brief while disappeared from the Youtube sphere. His former housemate and friend Charlie McDonnel (more commonly known as charlieissocoollike) stated in a blogpost, ‘I just don’t feel able to call Alex a friend of mine anymore’, with Day permanently disappearing from his channel.
After all of this, you’d expect Day to disappear from Youtube, honouring his victim’s wishes by staying away from a platform that provided him with a power that he simply seemed unable to comprehend and use correctly.
Apparently not. He continues to make videos, uploading on a schedule of 3 times a week. Gone are the days of ‘Alex reads Twilight’, now replaced by, amazingly, ‘Alex reads the Bible’. Day seems to have made a conscious choice to introduce new, seemingly ‘wholesome’ themes to his channel, improving his online persona. Sporting a starkly shorn head, Day chats about his apparent veganism and buddhism, making long videos about his meditation retreat experiences, each video gaining views in the thousands.
In a recent interview BBC Radio 5 Live about these abuse allegations, Day was interviewed specifically about his own actions. However, the interview did not seem to drag up anything new. Day did not feel the need to actually address the allegations themselves, or speak about the lives that he’s damaged. Sticking to the script that he seems to have permanently adopted, he said that it was a ‘huge mistake on my part, which I won’t do anymore’ and that at the time, he didn’t ‘think it through’. In the interview, he seems to highlight the wrongness of his actions, seeing the experience as a way in which he has self improved rather than actually apologising for his actions. He acknowledges the existence of the position of power he held but falls back on the excuse that he didn’t know at the time he had it.
The Youtuber still manages to sport an impressive 870,000 subscribers, so it can’t help but be asked, has Day been forgiven for his previous actions? Has the Youtube public taken a ‘forgive and forget’ stance towards the situation, accepting the weak excuses he’s made for his actions and consequently disregarded his victims?
There’s no denying that if Day were in another profession, a footballer for example, someone with similarly a lot of power and influence over young fans, he would’ve been given a lifetime ban. Consequently he would no longer have access to the platform that he manipulated. But, on Youtube, this is not the case. Does the modernity of the platform, being a more or less brand new, mean that the consequences of his actions are not the same?
It would seem as though he hopes, by giving his channel a fresh new overall theme, that the events of 2014 will be overlooked. Day makes absolutely no attempt on his channel, or in any of his interviews that followed the allegations, to address them directly. He simply vlogs and acts as though nothing has happened, and frighteningly, it seems as though some viewers can also pretend that nothing has happened. By maintaining a charming persona throughout his videos, and by never talking about 2014, new viewers could easily never know about what happened.
This kind of situation highlights the one-sided, 2-D nature of Youtube. The creator can present any kind of representation of themselves, portraying their character in any specific way, leading to the audience never truly seeing who they are. The facade that Day presents to his viewers is not one of an alleged-rapist, but that is overall what he is. Can we trust a man who has sexually assaulted multiple young women, with the same position of power as he previously misused? Should he be allowed to inhabit the same space that he exploited, having the same access to young fans?
Despite the high subscriber count, Day does not seem to be altogether forgiven. His videos don’t get nearly half as many as they used to, and he is no longer welcome at many Youtube events. If you take a look at his videos (hopefully with AdBlock firmly on) most of the comments are people calling him out on the accusations and, significantly, on his lack of comment on the allegations.
The ‘Up Next’ video for the majority of his videos comes up as Charlie McDonnell’s ‘Sex and Consent’ video. A not-so subtle reminder of Alex Day’s past, made by an algorithm, rather than the Youtube executive themselves.
[Grace Michael- @GraceMichael925]