America is a country built on freedom of speech and expression. We are meant to accept and challenge each other — rather than to draw lines in the sand and attempt to ban the opinions of others.
Yet somehow we live in a time when outspoken liberal Robert De Niro can find work left and right, but two-time Academy Award-nominated actor James Woods has admitted to being on a “blacklist” in the Hollywood community because he holds conservative political opinions.
There’s plenty more proof of the existence of that blacklist — and the fact that it suppresses or outright bans artistic voices merely because these people have political opinions that differ from those of most of Hollywood’s creative forces.
To move beyond individual politics, we now have theaters banning historically important films for fear of being “insensitive” — the same sort of logic used to ban books that can be important to America’s youth and the growth of our kids as human beings.
Enter Joy Villa and Kaya Jones now. Both musicians have become more and more outspoken this year about their support for President Donald Trump — a position that is clearly becoming increasingly dangerous for an artist to have. Villa and Jones are realizing that, as both are facing what could quite possibly be very real attempts at censorship by YouTube.
Villa received a cease-and-desist letter from the video-hosting giant three weeks after she posted her music video for her latest song, “Make America Great Again.” Despite the name of her song, the tune is not political. It is instead a call for people of all beliefs and backgrounds to come together. The video shows a variety of people smiling at a camera — and YouTube claimed one of these people complained about the use of the face in the video.
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Upon receipt of the letter, Villa responded she had written agreements from each and every person in the video. YouTube did not care and refused to let her make her case. The video was set to “private,” and Villa was forced to recut. She has not heard from YouTube about her latest version of the music video.
Villa told LifeZette in an interview on Tuesday that she was originally going to remain quiet about the struggles with YouTube. Though her experiences raised some red flags, she said she felt embarrassed and even guilty — despite being in the right. It wasn’t until she talked to Kaya Jones that she decided to question YouTube publicly.
Jones has a new music video out as well, for a song titled “What the Heart Don’t Know.” It’s a quiet and moving song about the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform and their loved ones. It’s even less political than Villa’s video.
The music video was quite successful when first released. It was “getting anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 [views] per day,” according to Jones. However, she became nervous when the view count on the video stalled and began sporadically moving downward — without explanation — after only two days.
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Youtube responded generically to her concerns, saying the service removes views if it feels those views are from a third-party source that’s been paid to put them there — something Jones was offended to hear.
“Everything about what I do is independent,” she said, adding that the video should have had a much higher view count based on its sharing by popular figures, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity.
When Jones connected with Villa and the women realized they were facing similar struggles with YouTube, they decided to have a “call to action.”
The two highlighted their issues in a Periscope video with fans, and fans responded immediately.
Both songs jumped high on the Amazon sales charts. Jones and Villa’s songs have both skyrocketed and currently sit in the top 20 on the top digital songs, and they’re beating out tunes that have millions of YouTube views, including some by Katy Perry. According to YouTube’s math, Jones’ video currently has about 80,000 views and Villa’s has around the same. In their specific genres, “What the Heart Don’t Know” hit number three in top pop songs, and “Make America Great Again” has hit the top spot in rock songs.
Both Jones and Villa do not feel their battles with YouTube are a coincidence. As the two have become more vocal on Fox News, InfoWars, and other conservative outlets, they say they have become the victims of aggressive bias.
“This is not just an accident,” said Villa. “They tried to ban us.”
“This is not just an accident,” said Villa. “They tried to ban us.” The irony, said Jones, is that the videos are not even political and are works of art separate from the pro-Trump beliefs of the two creators.
Jones said her song was “pro-military. That’s it.” Villa’s tune was equally apolitical — so we are entering dangerous waters as a culture here. Since YouTube has not been able to provide either artist with much of an explanation for what’s happened, it is not much of a stretch to believe the two artists are being targeted for their public beliefs.
Where do Jones and Villa go from here? More importantly, where do all creative conservatives go from here, as they face a more and more uphill battle to do one simple thing without censorship — create?
“I want YouTube to realize the gravity of the situation and how unfair it is to target independent content creators when they have been speaking on the basis of supporting artists for years,” said Villa. “They’re targeting us simply because we’re conservatives, and that’s not right.”
Villa added that she hopes, but doesn’t expect, to see an official apology or statement of explanation from YouTube.
Jones sees a more united front in the future for her, Villa, and other creative conservatives who face backlash within the artistic community. “We need to start uniting like a squad,” she said of conservative artists. Old powers in Hollywood and in media, she added, are fighting as hard as they can to suppress new voices.
They are going after “anyone who can raise people up,” Jones she, adding cryptically, “We know what happens historically when this stuff goes down.”
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Villa also sees a tough cultural fight ahead. “It’ll get worse before it gets better. It’ll probably get so bad, people will cross the line so much that even the most left-leaning liberals will start to say, ‘Wait a second. Is this right?'” said Villa. “I would have said three months ago that it’s going to get better, but after I saw what happened with Kathy Griffin … and then Snoop Dogg ‘shooting’ the president in his video … It is getting really, really ugly and it’s going to get uglier, but it will get better at some point.”
Both Villa and Jones will be fighting harder than ever to promote their equal right to express themselves and create. “In a war — and this is a culture war — you fight to the death,” said Villa. “This is our war and my sword is my music.”
Update: YouTube has told Villa that her new video does not “violate our policies.” Villa called the response from YouTube a “victory for free speech” on Twitter.