How Not to Apologize: A Linus Tech Tips Story

Parallax Abstraction
7 min readAug 28, 2023
Linus, I am disappoint.

If you’re into tech, YouTube or possibly even if you caught the coverage this got in mainstream media, you’re likely aware of the major blowup that happened with Linus Tech Tips and Linus Media Group as a whole over the last couple of weeks.

If you aren’t familiar, I’m not going to rehash it all. There’s a lot to it and if you want to be fully informed, you should invest the 90 minutes to watch the videos. You can do that below and I’m also putting them in here because they’re relevant to the post. They’re in chronological order of events.

The initial video from GamersNexus.
GamersNexus’ response to Linus’s forum post.
The initial response video from LTT.
The most recent response from LTT.

Don’t you just love YouTube thumbnails? 🙄

Personally, while I’ve continued to watch LTT as I have for years, I’ve had my own ethical concerns with them well before now. From Linus continuing to cover competing products in segments he has direct financial investment in, to soft handling anti-consumer practices from his sponsors, to taking sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in free product to be used in monetized videos — many of which were for his new house — but not declaring them as sponsorships because apparently it doesn’t count when you don’t get handed a cheque along with them. They disclose their web of financial ties to the industry they cover in the barest minimum way possible and while their methods may be legal, I think they’re far from ethical for a company that claims to put their community and consumers first.

I don’t make purchasing decisions based on their videos so I never really cared that much, but seeing the exceptionally well sourced revelations from GamersNexus — whom I had great respect for even before this and have even more now — and now, LMG’s response, I wanted to write about how while this isn’t the worst apology and mea cupla they could have made, it’s definitely in the bottom quadrant.

LTT and GN used to be friendly, but things seemingly went cold after GN previously called out LMG’s terrible response to being asked why they’re overpriced backpack didn’t include any kind of formal warranty. Linus has refused to mention them by name since. Since their week off to reflect and reform was kicked off specifically because of GN’s coverage, one would think at least acknowledging it wouldn’t be out of the question, especially since they are now committing to do better.

Linus has had a big ego for a long time and it’s only gotten larger as he’s grown from a tiny channel to a frankly very impressive media empire. One can’t deny his accomplishments, but they have come with a hefty shoudler chip. He doesn’t take criticism well and while not being nearly as hostile as the late TotalBiscuit (who I still admired, despite him being a legendary asshole), his first response is always to punch back, rather than take a breath and reflect. Indeed, what many people like about smaller YouTubers is their willingness to be direct and not come across as filtered through PR. I think that’s important, but things also have to change when you’re the top of a company that you yourself said was recently valued at $100,000,000.

So, why exactly do I think they’re handling of this situation was so terrible? In the interest of time, let’s keep it to bullet points:

  • Linus’ initial response largely speaks for itself. It’s an unhinged, emotional rant that ignores key points, distorts others, and gaslights his fanbase.
  • In the first apology video, they frequently rely on jokes, poking fun at the things critics already hate most about their videos, like obnoxious sponsor segments and even twice shilling their overpriced merch. A complete misreading of the room.
  • In the same video, Linus deflects responsibility and is unable to just apologize without multiple “Yeah but…” moments. In other words, he tried to make himself as much a victim as an offender. He also never addressed how his team had been raising these issues before — including in a main channel video — and were seemingly ignored.
  • In the follow-up video, he did a good job at explaining what the team did in their week off production — which is frankly very impressive if they can follow it through — and what they intend to do going forward, but then spent the back half of it bragging about their benefits package (which yes, I’d kill for), how well their employees are treated, and rightly shaming the scumbags who harassed his staff, though he never did so to his army of fanboys who did the same to the GN team or previously, Hardware Unboxed. A supposed apology is not the time to brag about what a benevolent boss you are.
  • He also didn’t address the point I laid out earlier as to why it took being exposed by another successful channel to actually do something about their sloppy processes and crunch culture that led to the issues in the first place. Indeed, based on his initial forum response, it sounds like he wasn’t even willing to change anything until his wife/co-owner and his team pushed back on him, and good on them for doing so. Fact is, while they appear to be doing the right thing now, this came as a result of getting caught, not taking proactive action. He claimed many of the changes people asked for had been in the works for a long time, but the very existence of this saga shows those efforts either didn’t exist or weren’t working.

Beyond these points, there’s also the whole Madison situation. I understand why they didn’t address that as there’s legal implications, and they have said a third-party investigation is underway, which is good. However — and many people aren’t going to like this — I think her allegations sound highly suspicious. They’re very serious in nature, but the timing of being silent on them until this unrelated, but high profile event happened, that zero evidence was provided of the claims themselves or the ramifications afterward (including claims of self-harm), that none of the many other young women at LMG have chimed in with support or their own claims, and that to be blunt, I remember her being not great at her job when she was there, it all trips my usually right instincts into telling me that this doesn’t add up.

To be clear, if the investigation finds inappropriate things took place, I think those involved, up to and including Linus, should be fired at best, and criminally charged at worst where applicable. But I’ll say it again for the cheap seats: Accusations are not proof and due process still exists.

Despite all of this, I am still cautiously optimistic about LMG’s commitment to do better, and the sacrifices they’ve made to do so. They have lost a lot of money and momentum between the week of stopped production, their commitment to a reduced upload schedule and the community support they lost during this. One can argue they deserved the hit, but they also could have put their heads down and waited for the storm to pass. The Internet may never forget, but it also gets easily distracted by newer, shinier things. Rather than do that, they faced things head on, eventually. The proof will be in the data, but they are trying and for that, I’m staying subscribed — for now.

However, based on everything said publicly, it’s clear that Linus himself still hasn’t learned the right lessons. He still can’t take things on the chin, he can’t apologize without blaming others or playing the victim, and he still comes across not as sorry that this happened, but that it blew up like it did. If LMG can turn their reputation around — and I hope they can — it’s going to be because of the efforts of his loyal team, not because of him. I don’t think Linus is a bad guy, I think he’s just succomb to the pressures many creators get when they put out a lot of content and have millions of eyes watching it and millions of mouths talking at him about it. It’s a tale as old as online content creation itself, but it’s different when you’re running a media empire, and he never really got that.

I honestly think the best thing that could happen would be for him to stay out of the spotlight for at least the next while and let the team rebuild. But he can’t just not be in videos. The whole company bears his name — another early sign of his ego — and he’s the face of the whole operation, even if he’s also the face of their many gaffes. I do hope that Luke can grow the stones to call Linus on his bullshit on future WAN Show episodes rather than just clam up, and I do hope that Linus will take this broadside to heart and learn from it, maybe even with some professional help. I like how open and transparent they are, and as someone who also has ADHD, I totally understand how often people like us can put our feet in our mouths. But I’m one guy who makes content barely anyone watches, not the leader of a nine figure company. I also don’t think he should be involved in any coverage of laptops as long as he holds his financial position in Framework, but they’ve said nothing about that so I’m not holding my breath.

This saga was a mess and while I hope LMG comes out the other side better than ever, this was handled horribly from front to back and has shown me that not all the right lessons were learned and that too much of their operations are still tied to the whims of one man and his ego. He still has a long way to go.

I hope at least the mantra of “no publicity is bad publicity” ends up being true for Billet Labs.

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Parallax Abstraction

Gamer, variety/indie/retro Twitch streamer/YouTuber, pet parent, IT ninja and much more. I'm not opinionated, I'm just always right!