Practice what you preach. It’s an age-old adage that has likely been buzzing around the brains of Twitter critics during one of the platform’s most recent scandals. Hasan Piker, a 30-year-old Twitch streamer and political commentator, has come under fire for purchasing a $2.7 million house in Los Angeles. Some find Piker’s purchase hypocritical as he is a vocal supporter of socialism and leftist sentiments. Piker himself defends the decision as entirely valid within his political leanings. So who is right?
A Brief Career Overview
Hasan Piker was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, though he was then raised in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated from Rutgers University with majors in political science and communication studies after moving back to the States. He spent some time with The Young Turks (TYT), a progressive news network, and soon went on to create “The Breakdown,” a TYT web series that promoted left-leaning political commentary a la Bernie Sanders and his supporters.
Though Piker started casually streaming on Twitch in 2018, it wasn’t until January 2020 that he announced it as his primary platform. Under the screen name HasanAbi (with “abi” meaning “big brother” in Turkish), Piker streams political commentary and gameplay to an audience of 1.5 million followers.
Piker garnered more than 125,000 viewers while live-streaming his reaction to the September 2020 presidential debate, giving him the highest Twitch viewership of the event. In October 2020, Piker joined U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Twitch streamer Pokimane in playing Among Us as part of an initiative to mobilize young voters.
During the week of the 2020 election, Piker streamed for 80 hours, peaking at 230,000 viewers and making him the sixth most-watched source of election coverage on both YouTube and Twitch. Throughout his rise, Piker has appeared in places like Fox News and podcasts with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer. His influence is far-reaching and seems only to be growing.
Piker’s Real Estate Foray
On Aug. 20, Twitter erupted after learning of Piker’s purchase. People on both sides of the aisle were furious — leftists because Piker seemingly did not live up to the ideals they all hold so dearly, and conservatives because Piker hypocritically profited off of a political system that, in their eyes, doesn’t work.
As soon as the news broke, Piker tweeted, “everyone collectively needs to calm down.” He then spent the next few hours defending his choices, pointing out the bipartisanship of his critics and their assertion that “socialism is when no house.”
One Twitter user named Alexis said, “idk man it’s just flat out unethical to be profiting off of socialism and buying yourself a 3 million dollar home in a state that has one of the highest homelessness rates in the country.”
When Piker fired back that Alexis had a Patreon link in their bio, they argued that their Patreon is entirely different from Piker’s house purchase. Piker responded once again, saying, “oh so the way we generate income is identical. it’s just the amount that bothers you, got it. … didn’t realize marxism wasn’t about the relation to the means of production but abt arbitrary cultural signifiers assigned by reactionaries.”
Soon after, Piker summed up his defense, saying, “pretty much what everyone’s argument reduces to. i live in la. the housing market here is f—d. why is the argument that i should keep renting or that i should go gentrify somewhere else? will this solve the problems? no. ppl are mad cus lefty w house. that’s it.”
Many news outlets picked up the story, though it seems Piker himself has finished talking about it. His Twitter is once again back to his regularly scheduled programming of enlightened political takes, like “donald trump jr is male meghan mccain except his dad didn’t even love him.”
Theories in Practice
Hasan Piker is a progressive socialist, intersectional feminist and an avid supporter of gun control, the LGBTQ+ community and anti-war sentiments. He also just bought a $2.7 million house. Both of these things can be true.
In reality, some of Piker’s biggest critics are actually bastardizing the ideals he uses his platform to promote. One Twitter user puts it best: “being a socialist does not mean taking a vow of poverty, but it does come with certain expectations of behavior, like not doing ads for gambling sites and using your platform to help the cause, standards hasan meets easily. not buying a house is not on that list imo.”
Critiquing society doesn’t mean you don’t still have to live and function in that society, just as advocating for socialism doesn’t mean you have to forfeit all earthly possessions. Piker has made quite a living from his Twitch streams, and he’s done so ethically. Twitch donations are nowhere near the exploitative relationships imagined in Marx’s original credo. As the above tweet points out, there are a number of behaviors Piker needs to demonstrate in order to legitimately claim to be a socialist, and he does them all.
It seems like people are mistakenly conflating mid-level LA influencers’ wealth with corporate goliath Jeff Bezos’s wealth. Billionaires like Bezos represent an unfathomable level of profit far beyond the concerns of ethics. Amazon warehouse employees suffer from grueling conditions and insufficient pay while Bezos creates a spectacle out of space travel for the benefit of his pocketbook and his own ego. On a scale of Piker’s LA investment to Bezos’s $165 million home, there’s really no comparison.
Piker’s critics are idealizing a world that is wholly not ideal. The exorbitance of LA rent costs aside, they’re asking Piker to forfeit his livelihood in service of a cause that can’t be accomplished by one man. Progressivism might require individual efforts, but it’s about targeting the systems that allow a starkly larger gap between two “wealthy” people like Piker and Bezos than between Piker and the average American. And though conservative counterpoints might use Piker as evidence that socialism doesn’t work, it’s under capitalism that these types of wage discrepancies exist in the first place.
Much like Bernie Sanders, Hasan Piker has revitalized the role of younger generations in politics. Though this isn’t to say that his positive impact absolves him of any missteps, his role in the political sphere cannot be ignored. Piker appeals to an audience that feels disconnected from traditional cable news outlets. He provides accessible coverage and education in a way that is fun and entertaining, and he actively encourages his viewers to reclaim their political voices. Piker practices what he preaches, and if the new property helps him continue that mission, I’d say it’s a worthy purchase.