Twitch Bans Hasan Piker & Vaush, Kicking Off “#CrackerGate”
Ease up on the salt.
Upon the news that Twitch banned two mods (of different races) for using the word “cracker” in chat in response to a character on an episode of Master Chef, popular political/gaming streamer Hasan Piker addressed his frustrations with his chat. There, Piker called himself and chatters “crackers” and said that while people call him that every day, he still understands it’s not a slur. As of December 13, Piker found himself also banned from the platform for seven days for using the term.
Fellow leftist political streamer Ian “Vaush” Kochinski disagreed with Piker’s defense that “cracker” is not a slur and, on stream, simultaneously agreed that it didn’t carry the same weight as other words most people consider slurs. While Vaush saw Piker as egging Twitch on (which I can confirm, as a viewer, is his preferred method of communication), Vaush also found himself indefinitely banned by Twitch. In a followup video, Vaush appeared genuinely confused, as he believed Twitch was looking at Piker’s streamers without context (as their Terms of Service promises.)
So whether someone (white in both cases) is bombastically calling themselves and their chatters “crackers” sprinkling in historical context (Piker) or rather calmly, yet smarmily explaining an opposing viewpoint on whether or not it is a slur (Vaush), Twitch was ready with the ban hammer. Since Vaush and Piker’s bans, New Zealand streamer Fawn and more have been affected by #crackergate.
The perfect storm
Something frustrating about this entire conversation is that —at least in the video Piker later shared—he hits most of the main points as to why “cracker” is not a racist slur. I think this is lost because most of his audience is white (something he has stated), as is the debate-bro wing of the internet he comes from, too. Disgruntled white onlookers, regardless of political leanings, see this as a personal attack of race over class.
Speaking of class, his discussions of class politics, versus the belief of grifters that all socialists must be poor, fanned the flames of #crackergate. Piker’s high-profile “scandals” the last year or so don’t make things better either. Streaming mostly political content as a socialist online, he gets a lot of backlash regarding money. Recently, people were upset that he bought a house—in expensive L.A. county—for almost three million dollars.
Before that, there was the Twitch payouts leak, where people saw Piker made almost three million from Twitch last year. This was not surprising, as he is one of the most popular streamers on the platform and a person who shares his sub counts (Twitch takes 50%). He defended this, saying that he runs his streams in the most ethical way possible, from merch sourcing to paying editors/staff well for YouTube clips.
Historical context really does matter
While wealthy landowners (and people owners) in the U.S. racialized the term, “cracker” is older than that and has distinctly been tied to class. Piker even points out in the broadcast (albeit in his crass style) that despite being ethnically Turkish, he passes as white (both ethnically and racially) and is called “cracker” a lot, but that “cracker” is empty because no systemic barriers affect him based on his race.
There and on Twitter, he discussed how different ethnic groups now were folded into whiteness (by forced and coerced assimilation) to maintain power. Noel Ignatiev discusses this in his 1995 book How the Irish Became White, as did David Roediger in Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs and so many other writers in both nonfiction (like Ignatiev and Roediger) and fiction (similar to Nella Larson’s Passing).
whiteness is also a concept build around being the dominant in-group. benjamin franklin even considered germans to be swarthy at the time. irish ppl, italian ppl, polish ppl, jews etc. were all oppressed as non whites before being accepted in to the dominant group. pic.twitter.com/Guo0cPFadV
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) December 14, 2021
This conversation online is a holdover by people making social justice-related explainers five years ago. For example, Franchesca Ramsey hosted an MTV Decoded episode about this topic.
Cracker Barrel (a very white dining establishment), Ritz crackers, and more are commonly in use and no alarms go off. There are actual slurs whose use is censored, but that is often found in art and with a distinct meaning closely tied to its history. Like Ramsey (in the video) and others, Piker acknowledges that being called a “cracker” or anything else is mean and kinda juvenile, but still not a slur.
Racial slurs versus just being mean
I’m not advocating for Piker to get banned, but honestly, there are worse things he said on-stream than declaring himself and fellow white people in his chat “crackers.” Twitch is really using its limited capacity to address slurs and bigotry (a while ago they banned “simp,” “virgin,” and “incel”) to ban political streamers (and some mods) for using the word “cracker”? This seems like just a way to appease the right-wing talking points and figureheads that are instilling the laughable idea that “it’s not okay to be white anymore” or something to that effect.
I could see, much later down the line, Twitch looking to more robustly create a toxicity-free (well, as toxicity-free as you can get for a streaming website whose bread and butter is gaming content) environment by tackling some grey area mean words or words that address class. I’m not sure how that would fare, but maybe. Either way, in the present, their Terms of Service are vague enough to include the word “cracker” regardless of context, and it’s radio silence on their end, so we’ll have to wait and see where this goes.
However, in the present, the “c-word” is already shorthand for a weaponized gendered attack that results in real-world harm (including death). I think the best use of time, money, and resources is to address and fine-tune (as best as you can while acknowledging nuance) words, phrases, bots, and trends that target people that live on the marginalization of gender, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation first.
(via Twitter, image: Twitch.tv and screencap HasanAbi)
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