If there’s anything to be learned from being on the internet, it’s that things are always more complicated than they seem…on the internet. Yesterday evening, this played out in real time between two hugely popular streamers.
It began with leftist streamer Hasan Piker browsing r/Livestreamfail — a Twitch-focused subreddit that streamers often mine for react-style content — and coming across a clip of (deep breath) Minecraft megastar Dream criticising a video by comedian YouTuber Dunkey that, in turn, sardonically makes fun of people who are actually mad that Dream cheated in his Minecraft speedruns.
This led Piker, whose corner of Twitch does not regularly overlap with Dream’s, down an audience-shoveled rabbit hole of Dream’s past infractions that suggested he once harbored Trump-y, alt-right views — despite his sometimes too-passionate audience’s socially progressive reputation. This included a pro-Trump Reddit account (that apparently did not fully belong to Dream), an ill-advised joke tweet about America assassinating Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in 2020 (that Dream later apologised for and deleted), and most perniciously, the time early last year when Dream and his friends played Minecraft with the game’s original creator, Markus “Notch” Persson, who has revealed himself to hold such noxious viewpoints that Microsoft has basically deleted him from the game. Piker stated that despite what people prioritise when they compile lists of content creators’ past crimes on the internet, playing Minecraft with Persson is “significantly fucking worse” than, for example, popular streamer Karl Jacobs having been a fan of now-banned Twitch controversy magnet Paul “Ice Poseidon” Denino when he was younger and outside the limelight.
From the get-go, Piker was upfront about his stance on all of it.
“I don’t even care about someone’s past as long as they are a different person now, as long as they have grown and changed their mind,” he said on stream.
Nonetheless, this impromptu stream segment eventually got Dream’s attention, leading him to subtweet Piker for spreading “outright lies” about him and accuse him of being “anti your friends being held accountable.” (The tweets have since been deleted.) Later Dream clarified on a private Twitter account that he thought Piker made some “good points” but that “he also brought up lots of things that I have already explained, addressed, or apologised for while not including those apologies” and “insinuating that someone is alt-right to 40,000 people isn’t cool, especially when you’re that far off.” In reaction to this — and what appeared to be a growing Twitter clash between fans of the two streamers — Piker said that Dream could just come on his show. So he did.
Immediately, Dream apologised for his tweets about Piker.
“I just want to say I’m sorry for the tweet,” Dream said to Piker. “That was me being an idiot. I was just watching your stream, and I was like ‘Oh, this fucking arsehole.’ …People that are now being newly introduced to this would see it without the context. That was the only thing I had a problem with.”
The two then talked about how and when audiences choose to hold creators accountable.
“I understand that a lot of younger Minecraft stans or Minecraft Twitter people have almost idealistic expectations of their own content creators, and they want to hold them accountable — and in certain instances, it is good,” said Piker. He then referenced Dream’s tweet about Iran, in which he flippantly joked about Iran saying it would destroy America, Trump’s reaction, and the idea of World War III. “And if you understand this tweet was shitty, you probably recognise that that’s good, right?” said Piker. “For them to call you out on America assassinating an Iranian leader.”
“Yeah,” replied Dream, “I think that shitty takes should be called out as shitty takes regardless.”
Piker then explained where he personally draws the line, which is at the idea that people should forever have a black mark on their records if they’ve ever interacted with problematic content or people — or even held problematic viewpoints.
“I think that people are products of their environment and upbringing,” he said. “It’s all, for the most part — especially your political ideology and political worldview — is completely dependent on what your upbringing looks like…I think that is normal, and as long as you’re not, like, a fucking Nazi or some shit, I completely understand. I’m not saying you are. I’m simply stating that from my worldview, from where I’m standing as someone who’s been doing political commentary on the internet for a very long time — and getting brutalized by Nazis regularly for a very long time — seeing this community in the gaming space change, that’s my threshold.”
Dream, in turn, admitted that he used to hold “way more conservative views” back when he was 16 and “an idiot kid growing up in Florida, in a red area, going to online school” (Dream is now 21). As a result, he spent portions of his teenage years thinking Trump was “funny” and watching Ice Poseidon streams. But, in both cases, he offered his current perspectives, in addition to his previous views.
“I think Trump said funny things. Obviously it’s less funny when he’s the ruler of the United States,” Dream said. “I think recognising a lot of shit [Ice Poseidon] did was really bad and should never be done — as long as somebody addresses something and grows from it, then that’s it.”
This brought them around to the subject of Minecraft creator Persson, who Dream — despite having collaborated with him — claimed not to have much knowledge of, outside the fact that he created Minecraft.
“Well, I’ll let you know that he’s not just the creator of Minecraft,” explained Piker. “He has horrible points of view, way beyond just saying Trump is funny or even being a Trump supporter, if you will…Now, that doesn’t mean you should cancel Minecraft, something that is so important for [so many people]. He made the game. The game is wonderful. My point is, if you can separate that, then you can understand that people can enjoy certain things and watch certain kinds of content.”
Piker threaded a very particular needle, but it’s one that makes sense for him, given that he’s somebody who’s succeeded far beyond the scope of other leftist commentators on Twitch by regularly interacting with problematic streamers. Some of these edgier streamers, like superstar Félix “xQc” Lengyel, have moved noticeably leftward in their views or discussed ideas like free healthcare in front of their audiences (with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in some cases) due in large part to Piker’s influence. During yesterday’s stream, Piker offered more examples of streamers who used to hold reactionary viewpoints, but due to time, growth, and exposure to other points of view, have changed. Specifically, he pointed to popular personalities like Ethan “H3H3″ Klein, Charles “MoistCr1TiKaL” White, and Asmongold.
“They originally had, like, relatively reactionary points of view that were either centre or centre-right in certain instances, [but] have changed their point of view throughout time,” said Piker. “I really love and respect and appreciate that. I think they’re fucking awesome for that reason.”
Ideally, of course, big personalities would never have held viewpoints that dehumanized other people, whether explicitly or implicitly. But Piker still thinks that such creators ultimately do more good than harm, assuming they learn and grow over time.
“I don’t really care about, like, ‘Oh my god, you were a conservative’ or anything like that, because I care more about the impact a content creator has,” he said to Dream. “You are very responsible with your content otherwise, and even then, I think people still jump down your throat when they feel like you’re coming out of pocket.”
Dream again acknowledged that criticism can be healthy, even when it comes to the recent cheating controversy that he’s still raw about, as evidenced by his reaction to the Dunkey video. “I’ve been criticised a lot of times for things I didn’t deserve criticism for, but I’ve also been criticised for tons of things I deserved criticism for — even recently,” said Dream.
Dream went on to repeatedly clarify that he doesn’t believe himself to have ever been fully alt-right, which he felt the need to stress because he generally talks to a younger audience and therefore feels like he needs to leave no room for misinterpretation in his communication style.
“You mentioned before, like with people that are younger and stuff, some people have comprehension issues, some people have a harder time understanding things,” said Dream. “When I say things, I try and say them in a way that can be consumed by the most people and understood like, ‘OK, there can be no misinterpretations.’ It’s just a different style of talking.”
Piker commiserated with Dream over the challenges of having a young audience that’s prone to flying off the handle.
“You don’t have to be super defensive,” Piker said. “Don’t worry. I’m not trying to, like, fuck you over and expose [you] or some shit like that. And it’s gotta be fucking annoying to feel as though people might be doing that.”
Dream replied that he’s “used to it” and that he was glad the two were able to head things off at the pass. “I’m glad we could clear that air so that fans who had nothing to do with the situation wouldn’t be at each others’ throats,” said Dream.
Ultimately, Dream deleted the Notch video and his tweets about Piker. Dream departed Piker’s stream after a bit over 40 minutes, but the conversation reverberated for hours. Almost immediately, it trended on Twitter, with Piker and Dream’s audiences commingling and mostly getting along. Many pointed out that Dream’s emotional, potentially irresponsible tweets stood to rile up his audience in a way that betrays how recently he came into having one at all, but that he’s also been the subject of a lot of online ire recently.
“‘Hasan is making good points about how people can learn and grow’ and ‘Dream is allowed to react emotionally and get defensive because he is constantly under attack, but should take some time to process what Hasan is saying’ are two statements that can and should coexist,” wrote one fan on Twitter.
In addition to a fair amount of discussion about the influence frighteningly large audiences wield and what it means for younger creators to start becoming politically aware, Piker and Dream’s back-and-forth also produced a lot of (mostly ironic) fan fiction and fan art. You will not be surprised to learn that most of it involves the two streamers kissing. In the comments of Piker’s YouTube video of the conversation, Dream himself even got in on it.
“Why did you leave out the part where we kissed?” he asked. “Kind of biased editing.”