For the significant portion of my readership who dwell in caves: a week ago the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a hit piece on YouTuber PewDiePie (Felix), claiming he promoted fascism. They took the nine instances of this behaviour they found to his biggest brand partners. Subsequently Disney, Maker (his network) and YouTube all cut ties. The resulting shitstorm set the internet alight for the past week.
WSJ’s contention, and the dozens of echoing publications, was that his jokes about Nazi’s promoted the ideology. Their proof? The Nazi site Daily Stormer re-branded themselves as “PewDiePie’s number one fans.” WSJ, in their video, removed the context of the jokes; usually being a parody. Perhaps WSJ thought he would apologise and try to grovel back his lost brand partners. What he actually did was publish a twelve-minute response to his audience of fifty million: “I’m still here, I’m still making videos, nice try Wall Street Journal, try again motherfuckers.”
They made an enemy out of a molehill…
Hypocrisy thy name is Wall Street Journal:
Firstly, the Wall Streets Journal’s criticisms are equally valid, if not more so, against their own actions. Since the Wall Street Journal’s article, The Daily Stormer has received four times its usual traffic and twice its previous peak. Another big contention was that the site changed its header to praise PewDiePie. Now, however, The Daily Stormer’s header reads “The Worlds #1 Wall Street Journal Fansite.” Of course this is just a trolly joke and shouldn’t be treated as WSJ promoting fascism, unlike when they did it to PewDiePie, that was dead fucking serious.
Finally, and most ironically, it has come to light that at least one of the three WSJ authors, Ben Fritz, had a habit of posting antisemitic and racist jokes on Twitter. Further, his profile picture is from South Park, which make Jew jokes every episode.
Selective targets prove foul play:
So it’s hard to believe that these writers, who enjoy the same humour they demonise Felix for, actually believe their assertion: jokes at Nazi’s expense somehow promote acceptance of the ideology. If anything the fact once terror, Hitler, is a joke for children’s entertainers, proves how nonthreatening fascism is these days. Labeling people as “fascist” who aren’t is what promotes acceptance, if anything (I actually wrote a whole article about it).
What’s strange is if they were looking for edgy comedians on YouTube there are far juicier targets. What about iDubbbz? He calls himself “nigger faggot” and uses slurs as a comedic tool.
Want more mainstream examples: South park. Cartman regularly insults Kyle for being a “dirty Jew” in fact here’s a video of him dressed up as Hitler leading a lynching. What about famous comedian Norm Macdonald’s saying if he went back in time to kill Hitler he’d probably just fall under his spell? Or what about Louis CK saying he wouldn’t kill Hitler he’d just rape him?
I find it highly likely there were ulterior motives in singling Felix’s innocuous jokes out.
Media attacked due to ulterior motives:
Some say this was simply click bait for the ad revenue. However, Wall Street Journal has limited advertising on its site and I doubt hordes of angry PewDiePie fans are likely to subscribe. Forbes publicly displays article view counts. Of the three written they averaged 44,206 views. Assuming a generous return of $2/1000 that’s just $88 an article. Click bait can’t be the only motivator.
PewDiePie is the most, and perhaps only, YouTuber that has significant mainstream recognition. He’s been on the late night shows, he’s been on South Park, normal people know his name. He is emblematic of the platform to older generations and thus people who run brands. By hurting Felix the media sends a message to advertisers that YouTube is a platform they need to be wary of. They also send a message to other YouTuber’s that they need to fall in line with mainstream rhetoric or face financial repercussion.
YouTube is the biggest media consumption platform in the world now. Because advertising comes from a central provider, Google, personalities have almost complete freedom of expression while still getting paid. The recent edgy humour and anti-establishment trends have brought old media’s attention to the platform. There’s a reason this attack came now, not when PewDiePie was making offensive jokes about Happy Wheels. Felix’s humour is getting edgier and he recently has been calling out the media. This couldn’t be left to stand.
The freedom of YouTube and direct relationship between what users enjoy (views & likes) has created a machine that is eating the old media’s lunch. How can TV compete when they can’t make the same jokes and can’t talk with the same freedom? So, whether consciously or unconsciously, they are using the fear they still exert on brands to damage the YouTuber’s who’ve stepped too far out of line. Felix, due to his fame, is the sacrifice meant to warn others. “If we can do this to him, imagine what can we do to you.”
“PewDiePie Dust-Up Shows Risks Brands Take to Tap Into Social Media” – Sapana Maheshwari, New York Times.
This theme is represented in most of the traditional media’s coverage of the event (see this thread for a list). The point is brands should advertise on old safe media not new dangerous media or they will get in a scandal. Humans are tribal and journalists are protecting their own.
Dozens of mainstream publications published articles condemning PewDiePie. In response big YouTubers have come out supporting him. Felix himself responded. He admitted some of the jokes went too far but mostly condemned the media. The small concession allowed previous fence sitters to join the tide of public opinion.
Editors note: Reddit user /u/MilkaC0w wanted me to point out that the following two YouTubers have walked back their statements somewhat and were far more conciliatory towards Felix then the media. They just thought the jokes went too far.
There are only two major YouTuber’s who have condemned him. JackSepticEye said his friends jokes went too far. However had been initially supportive, but after “receiving pressure” made the video. It’s worth noting he is with the same network, Maker, that dropped PewDiePie. The other was Casey Neistat. Who never talked much about politics until he got bought out by CNN. Since then he has echoed mainstream media opinions.
It’s safe to say this wasn’t how the Wall Street Journal wanted it to turn out… Whether consciously planned or subconsciously; or a mix of both. Felix, after having his finances and reputation run through the mud, was supposed to apologise, beg for forgiveness and promise to mend his ways. A chilling warning to brands and YouTuber’s to respect and fear the mainstream media’s power. WSJ probably thought Felix did it for the money and would take a profitable compromise. This was a misjudgement. He called their bluff and told them to go fuck themselves. Now battle lines are being drawn, as the culture war seen elsewhere in society, is coming to YouTube.
They picked the wrong target. Now they’ve pushed YouTube’s biggest personality to become further anti-establishment along with his audience the size of two Australia’s. The next generation is being raised to hate them and advertisers can see old media doesn’t hold the power it used too.
They made an enemy out of a molehill.
Thoughts? Should PewDiePie be making jokes about sensitive topics? Were you or people you know offended? Comment below! And if you like my writing subscribe to r/ini0n to see when I post.