Hasan Piker, a self-styled socialist Twitch and YouTube streamer that rose to wide attention for his 2020 election coverage and stirred controversy by buying a $2.7 million house earlier this year, has been banned indefinitely from Twitch for using the word “cracker” to refer to white people. This marks Piker’s third ban from the service. Twitch has famously done a terrible job protecting streamers of color, queer streamers, and women streamers from being harassed or attacked. As CNN reported in September, Black and LGBTQIA+ streamers took a day off from making the service money after dealing with unfettered hate raids by bigots. Evidently alleged anti-white racism, using a slur white people invented to insult white people with less money, is where Twitch draws the line.
While it is likely that Twitch is attempting to treat all of these terms and ideas as equal, they’re left with two problems. The one problem, which may require either deep sociopolitical-historical analysis or simply looking around at the world we live in, is that these terms and ideas are not equal. The other problem is that Twitch has allowed hate to fester on its platform when violent and harassing language is used in earnest toward actual minorities, while punishing people like Hasan after he’s reported by disingenuous trolls. So Twitch might look like hypocrites here.
According to Isaac McIntyre at Dexerto, Piker argued that the word “cracker” lacks offensive potential because of the power dynamics implicit in racism as a form of structural oppression, defending the use of the word by moderators of the HasanAbi channel chat that had been banned. The indefinite ban of the HasanAbi channel spurred a conversation around whether “cracker” is a racial slur by other streamers, like Ian “Vaush” Kochinski, who was in turn banned indefinitely for saying it.
Piker, nephew of The Young Turks news show cofounder Cenk Uygur, began his career in political news as an intern for The Young Turks network, later creating and hosting the Facebook political analysis show The Breakdown for TYT. He began streaming on Twitch in 2018, appearing on Fox News’s show The Issue Is and left-wing political podcast Chapo Trap House. He stirred controversy in 2019 by joking about Dan Crenshaw, a Scottish-born right wing militarist that represents Texas’s 2nd district in the House of Representatives and is missing an eye from his service as a US Navy SEAL. For that, and for saying “America deserved 9/11,” Piker was suspended by Twitch.
During the first presidential debate on Sep. 29 last year, Piker led Twitch viewership of the debate with his stream, with over 125,000 views. He later collaborated with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Twitch streamer Pokimane for a get out the vote initiative through the game Among Us, playing with Representative Ilhan Omar and other Twitch streamers. Piker’s election coverage was the sixth-most viewed across YouTube and Twitch, peaking at 230,000 concurrent viewers, and he reached a high of 231,000 viewers during the January 6 coup attempt.