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Joey Saladino (aka Joey Salads) is a YouTube personality and vocal Trump supporter. His political commentary is poorly researched, uncorroborated by experts and outlandish – and yet, his outreach is incredibly high.
Joey Saladino operates multiple channels on YouTube, the most popular being his prank channel, which counts almost 2.8 million followers. His humor is predicated on shock–one of his most popular videos features him cutting the wires to people’s headphones at random. Saladino also conducts what he has titled “social experiments” (it is unclear what his sociology background is but he admittedly “learned nothing” in his time at Staten Island Community College). For one so-called experiment, Saladino parked a car decked out in Trump merchandise in a predominantly black neighborhood and filmed residents destroying it. The video went viral in 2016, but was exposed as staged when Twitter user @txorres posted a video of the residents who destroyed the car standing by as Saladino filmed his intro. Saladino issued an apology for the misleading video.
Saladino became increasingly political during Trump’s first campaign for President – so much so the YouTube star established a separate channel dedicated solely to his multimedia political manifesto: the eponymous “Joey Saladino Show.” (He also ran for Congress in 2019 in a campaign that fizzled out before the primaries.) Saladino’s punditry channel boasts 254,000 subscribers and churns out videos with rapidity and relevance. To date, The Joey Saladino Show has released more than 500 videos and occasionally posts multiple times a day. These videos address the 2020 campaign, the Black Lives Matter movement and pop culture. The substance of his commentary can be distilled down to xenophobic rants, diatribes about a dishonest media, unfounded conspiracies and a commitment to owning the libs.
The 26-year-old Staten Islander is many things: an alt-right pundit, an unsuccessful candidate for public office, a YouTube media entrepreneur. But one thing he is not is a journalist. Saladino’s commentary on the shooting perpetrated by Kyle Rittenhouse is a microcosm of his journalistic ineptitude. Episode 133 of The Joey Saladino Show is primarily focused on deconstructing the Reuters video of Rittenhouse shooting two people, killing one and injuring the other.
Saladino takes it upon himself to determine whether or not Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense in this video. Saladino fails to cite any statute of Wisconsin self-defense law nor does he refer to the opinion of a legal expert. Failure to back up statements with evidence or research is a consistent theme in Saladino’s work.
During his video breakdown, Saladino suggests Rittenhouse was “classified as a terrorist and arrested immediately”. Rittenhouse turned himself in the following day in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois. Saladino is not well versed in the events he is commenting on. The failure to arrest Rittenhouse the night of the shooting received condemnation from Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.
Saladino states Rittenhouse is “being chased, he’s getting punched, he’s getting attacked by a mob…I want you to [indiscernible] what you would do if a mob was trying to attack you and kill you”. Saladino is making an intuitive leap – there is no way of knowing the intention of the dozens of protestors surrounding Rittenhouse. Anthony Huber, one of the men shot by Rittenhouse in the video, did indeed lunge at Rittenhouse with a skateboard – but Huber will never be able to vocalize his intentions because he did not survive.
Saladino credits Rittenhouse for lowering his rifle and putting his hands up as the police approach. He makes the blanket statement that police killings do not occur when black people abide by the directions of the police. This is a stance Saladino has taken in a previous video on Jacob Blake. Daniel Prude, a black man whose arrest was captured by bodycam footage, adhered to the directions of the police but died of asphyxiation in their custody in Rochester, New York. Saladino’s assertion is negligent to the discourse around police brutality and the history of police killings of unarmed black people.
Joey Salads’ work is like his speaking style: riffing, unresearched and unproven. His manipulative framing earned him a permanent ban from Twitter. Despite his lack of credentials and corporate-imposed social media limitations, Saladino takes pride in marketing abilities. In a profile by Makena Kelly on The Verge, Saladino touted his understanding of memes and informal millennial culture. Indeed, Saladino does know how to attract eyes and ears: The Joey Saladino Show is approaching 7 million total views. Saladino’s YouTube outreach is so broad that by lionizing Rittenhouse, he may be encouraging others to commit more heinous acts in the name of vigilantism. Saladino’s disregard for public safety, resistance to expertise and research and reputation as a manipulator of context dismisses him from the journalistic body.