One could say that yes, this appears to be a surface-level irony.

I have an issue with this criticism, however (and I receive it a fair amount). It does not take into account any issue of power structure, which I will now address:
I am an independent content creator. I am not affiliated with any entities which would provide me any sort of budget to cover production costs or basic necessities (a corporation, a think tank, etc.)

I also live in the United States.
I say this to assert my personal situation, although creators in other situations, say bands signed to labels, are in situations in which t-shirt sales are required to fund them as human beings who eat food. They see pennies for the music made on their labor.

For ME, though:
As a leftist spreading information voluntarily without the influence of a paycheck from somewhere up in the hierarchy, I do not have:

1. the power that someone advocating for the status quo does

2. the money to advocate against the structure someone it is okay with does
This means a couple things, first that the power dynamic between my "brand" and money is completely different than a corporate one.

Second, that the power dynamic between my "brand" and my audience is completely different than a corporate one.
The dynamic between a corporate brand and money is that a corporation invests money to create something that penetrates people at all aspects of their life.

You like x? Why not have some branded lettuce or fruit punch?
The idea is to create access points inside a person's *lifestyle*.

To lifestyle market is to make sure there is both a mode of consumption and a product to consume - then emphasizing this repeatedly.
The independent content creator (or even most non-a-list corporate-affiliated content creators) does not have the ability to do this.

It is an absurd proposition for a creator to intentionally be everywhere. If it was financially possible, it would look desperate, but it isn't.
The creator that has the full backing, that has a massive investment of capital, who capitalists are looking to actually do work to ensure the success of, you begin to see these kinds of more saturation-oriented campaigns with the intent of creating a *lifestyle*.
I explicitly can not create a lifestyle; I can associate a few products (ones that you would commonly categorize as "support the creator" purchases) with my "brand," but I cannot control the environment of the average person in the way that Pepsi can.
That is to say, if I sold Peter Coffin-branded lettuce, I think pretty much everyone would tell me to fuck off with that.
Why? Because you do not live the "Peter Coffin lifestyle."

And if you do, it is because you have been led to believe that is "just what fans do" or you are obsessed with me - and not because I have done the requisite marketing to get my claws in you.
In fact, pay attention to what I do.

I do everything I can to avoid what I call "cultivating identity." I address people as people rather than fans, I do not tell them what to do, I frame the calls to action as "value extraction" and it is explicitly noted as benefiting me.
I do everything possible to avoid "programming" people. When I feel is appropriate, I explicitly say things like "I am not the authority on this" and "I should not be seen as a leader."
Now, it is certainly true that I sell t-shirts and that I get a few dollars per sale (and so do the artists I work with)! If you think that is unethical, I agree. Explicitly!

And is it *possible* for me to take advantage of people even though I am not backed by capital? YES!
But am I "lifestyle marketing"? No, I really think that is bullshit. I'd really have to make some big changes in my operation to own people in the way I think lifestyle marketing works to own the psyche of the people it targets.
There's a discussion to be had about social capital here, though.

I am building social capital (regardless of intentions) and there might be a point I could groom people as if I had hard capital... but I love having that conversation. That is the conversation I live for!
But ultimately, the real issue here is that in order to groom people, one has to groom people.
Which is, unfortunately, something the individual who occupies a hierarchy has to specifically choose.

As I get power in whatever media structure I am accruing it in, I can tell you with confidence that I won't use it to "own" people.

But that is me. I can't speak for everyone.
What it comes down to is that I make content that criticizes the structure that would normally pay me to make content.

This means that I depend on people who simply want my content to exist rather than people who want to make money from it.
So, to ask people to consider becoming patrons or to buy a physical product (in which they get something physical rather than just make my labor possible) is to ask folks to pay for my operation and for my rent and food (with the help of all the freelance work I do).
Oh yes! If anyone thinks my patreon and my considerably smaller ad revenue pay for a family of four to exist? Oh ho ho my friend! It doesn't.

I do ongoing freelance work and even if I made 15k a month on patreon I still would to get out of debt.
So, do I engage in commodities exchange? YES.

Does it depend on my social capital? YES.

Is it a bit unethical? YES, but so is every other action you take when you consider the real context of it and blaming yourself for that is counterproductive.
The alternative is *not making content*.

Because it takes labor, which takes time. Most of what I do takes extremely large amounts of labor/time.

I easily work more time than a full time worker on VID between shooting and editing. Let alone the research.
The research is the thing that ends up bleeding into "regular life" the most. Pretty much all of my internet consumption is directed towards making something at some point. Then there are projects that do not make it to fruition (labor which yields nothing).
I like that labor, but because we live in capitalism, that labor is intrusive to "real" labor (work), unless money is made for it.

Which directs a person away from "fun" labor, because it is not canonized (made official) as "useful" or as "work."
It's extremely obvious what a person is buying when a person buys a t-shirt from an independent content creator.

Can it become dicey? Sure. But we have to observe the actual behavior to make that judgement.
I think if you did analysis on my behavior, it would be extremely hard to call what I do "lifestyle marketing."

And to try to invalidate my asking for support is to say "I don't think you should make content."
This is why you might see a condescending response from someone being criticized for how they get money - some may interpret it as a threat to what they're doing.

I don't, but I do think people need to start understanding the material reality of where leftist content comes from.
Or, really, any independent content/art.
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