YouTube Stars' Defence Of PewDiePie Is Garbage

It's been a rough week for YouTube's biggest star. Felix Kjellberg — better known to his 53 million subscribers as PewDiePie — was dropped by Disney earlier this week after a Wall Street Journal inquiry regarding Kjellberg's use of racial humour and Nazi imagery; yesterday YouTube itself cut his channel out of "Google Preferred" advertising. Big names on the platform are rushing to Kjellberg's defence today.

Image: YouTube/PewDiePie

Proper context clears up these misunderstandings, they claim. They're right, but not for the reasons they're thinking. The context of these "jokes" makes it hard to imagine how YouTube's biggest star could have thought that this situation would shake out any differently.

Of the nine incidents cited by the Wall Street Journal in PewDiePie's videos, two have come under particular scrutiny, both involving the service Fiverr, a "freelancing" site where users can pay as little as $US5 ($6) in exchange for odd, often dubious jobs like boosting search rankings. In one, Kjellberg paid a man who resembled Jesus to say "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong." In another he paid two young men to dance and laugh while holding a sign reading "Death to all Jews."

Besides demoting him to standard advertising revenue, YouTube has also cancelled the next season of Scare PewDiePie — a series made for the platform's paid subscription service YouTube Red. (Another of Red's planned series, I Am Tobuscus, was stymied last year by rape accusations made against its intended star, Toby Turner.)

But close friends and fellow creators have stepped forward to claim that Kjellberg was just joking, and that his outlandish behaviour is being taken out of context by the Journal. Ethan Klein — who posts videos on the site to his 3.3 million subscribers as h3h3Productions — explained that the "death to all Jews" sign also included the phrase "subscribe to Keemstar". The intended butt of the joke was Daniel Keem, known as Keemstar on YouTube — an allusion to the many accusations of his untoward and often racist behaviour.

Image: 4chan /pol/ thread

Regardless of intent, 4chan and a variety of white supremacist and national socialist sites took Kjellberg's attempts at humour as a dogwhistle. Members of 4chan's infamous /pol/ board and neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer declared PewDiePie a fellow traveller of sorts. In the days since his fall from grace, YouTube personalities popular in the so-called "alt-right" have made videos on the matter, with Sargon of Akkad claiming Kjellberg did nothing wrong (a dull allusion to the earlier Hitler jokes) and Styxhexhammer666 claiming PewDiePie has taken up the alt-right mantle as a business strategy.

It's difficult to say what responsibility Kjellberg has to the massive and unprecedented audience he's worked to accrue. Though, like Klein, fellow comedians on the platform seem to think this instance isn't particularly damning. "Context matters," he barks in the same vlog defending Felix, before claiming he didn't even read the Journal's coverage due to its website's paywall. (Maybe that's a joke too — it's getting harder to tell what is or isn't these days, since very little of it is particularly funny.)

Klein is right to a degree: The context of Kjellberg's "jokes" weren't well addressed by the Journal. For instance, one such claim of "Nazi imagery" — where clips of a Hitler speech were played while Felix donned military garb — were meant to satirise YouTube's controversial new moderation protocols. But in the context of internet history, it's baffling to think this could be anything other than an appeal to the most unoriginal of trolls.

Using Fiverr to pay strangers to say strange or offensive things is a well-tread meme among 4channers. One particularly famous YouTube channel (now deleted) shelled out money over and over to get a classroom full of kids in India to say phrases like "I am not gay, but $20 is $20." Another features a man with a hand drum proclaiming "the holocaust is a lie". Big Man Tyrone, another pay-to-say service, has delivered messages on behalf of GamerGate.

4chan's rigging of online polls and contests to spread shock humour or hate speech has led to Mountain Dew and Frito-Lay having to veto potential crowdsourced flavours called "Hitler did nothing wrong". It's an old joke within 4chan circles — insofar as 2011 is an eternity in internet years — and it's strange to see it leaking into content made by the most popular YouTuber in history who was, until recently, raking in money from Disney.

Back in 2011, the tenor of such "jokes" was simple: Mess with a major brand by making something deeply offensive highly visible on their website. Or at least, that was the smokescreen used by those who genuinely believed statements like these about Hitler. "Comedy and jokes are not real," Keemstar shouted in his own video defending Felix. But as the internet as a whole has become more politicised — and quasi-fascist candidates take increasingly high offices around the world — claiming jokes like the ones Kjellberg made are "just jokes" is a hollow defence reminiscent of the "it's just a prank, bro" argument made by YouTubers who were exposing their genitals to strangers for views.

"Some have been pointing to my videos and saying that I am giving credibility to the anti-Semitic movement," Kjellberg wrote in a Tumblr post on Sunday prior to being publicly dropped, "I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes." Personally, I believe him. But he had to know that this type of humour was at best cribbed from some of the most hateful corners of the internet, and at worst pandering to them. He also must have known that massive corporations are in no way obligated to continue paying him to make content that has the potential to tarnish their image.

Even the normally combative Philip DeFranco said in a vlog today that "while I don't support Felix getting kicked off these things... I also understand why the company would do this." As summarised in a particularly tepid response to the situation, vlogger and CNN employee Casey Neistat said, "you can say whatever you want but at times there will be consequences for it."

The consequence for Felix is that his formerly unstoppable online brand has become toxic overnight. But the greater consequence is that now, no matter how vehemently Kjellberg denies it, Nazis believe the biggest star on the biggest video platform on the planet is a Nazi too.


Comments

    Actually, he's right concerning Hitler did nothing wrong according to Jesus. Well maybe not Jesus himself but if you read the first testament, god wanted it's followers to kill people following different religions. It even gets worse. God wanted people to kill their own children and partners if they didn't follow God's word. It's a totally fucked up book and judging by God's actions, God was a psychopath. He indiscriminately killed innocent men, women, children and animals all the time. And people worship this God. Wow, just wow.

      You do know that Jesus wasn't "in" the "first" (old) testemant, right. And that the second testament (the Jesus-ey one) has those bits about "turn the other cheek", and that bit where he explicitly states "forgive them father, for they know not what they do" about his persecutors.

      So, no, I don't think Jesus would have sided with Hitler.

      Oh, and you do know that the Old Testament comes from the same foundation texts as Judaism?

      For the record, I'm not Christian (I'm agnostic, for the record) but I dislike religious intolerance in any form or however subtle, whether it's against Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc etc, and ignorance breeds intolerance.

        I did say that it wasn't Jesus but God, well, his teachings.

          Its the first line... You drew a line from Hitler directly to Jesus. Sure you took it back in the next sentence, but why draw the line in the first place. The implication that Jesus would have agreed due to what's in the Old Testament is patently wrong.

          If your argument is that followers of the teachings contained in the Old Testament would have no problem with what Hitler did, then you could extend that to say Jews have no problem with what Hitler did. The teachings of Jesus at times contradict what's in the Old Testament.

          It's why the bible (in its entirely) is a useful tool used by some to justify whatever political stance they choose to take. Cherry pick from the Old or New Testament to suit your argument. Its the irony in Christians using segments from the Old Testament to justify an action while ignoring what Christ (supposedly) had to say on the matter.

            Old Testament, New Testament, doesn't matter. Both books were written over several decades/centuries by several authors (some unknown). None were divinely revealed but were passed off as such. Both have countless contradictions, scientific/factual errors, false predictions etc. Humanity clings on to them due to its own insecurity and idiocy. The sooner they are placed in the bookshelves under the fiction section the better for all. The same applies to every other "holy" book.

        I think you mean Atheist. If you were Agnostic you wouldn't have posted the above.

          Being agnostic just means you aren't sure whether you believe there is a divine being or there isn't. Nothing they wrote contradicts that, AFAICT.

            By definition an Agnostic would not have an opinion on what Jesus would have thought about Hitler and would definitely not be lecturing someone else who believed differently.

              "A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God."
              No mention of opinions there, the existence or not of God is not relevant to the holding of an opinion on any of the multitude of religions both past or present, or the fictions contained within their literature. After all, only one of them can be right, and from there it is but a small step to the possibility of them all being wrong, and yet there could still be a God. Personally I oscillate between calling myself atheist or agnostic, because in reality I just don't care.

                "After all, only one of them can be right, and from there it is but a small step to the possibility of them all being wrong, and yet there could still be a God".

                You've answered your own post with your first definition. An Agnostic does not think that only one religion can be right or all are possibly wrong. You guys are struggling with the core concept of Agnoticism.

                  No, you're missing the point. Agnosticism has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with God. As such holding an opinion on any or all religions is not relevant to a persons agnosticism, you are struggling with the core concept of comprehension.

                  Last edited 17/02/17 3:13 pm

          Umm... ionchef, please explain.

          Last edited 16/02/17 10:31 am

          Why not?

          As @spruppet notes, being agnostic just means I'm essentially not convinced but open to the idea.

          Even if I definitively believed there is no God, it still doesn't preclude me from believing that other people believe in God and follow what they see to be as the teachings and word of God as contained in the writings of their religious texts. And doesn't preclude me from having knowledge of what's in those texts or the tenets of a given faith, or from wanting people to not misrepresent what's contained in those texts or tenets.

            It is not about what you believe in it is that you are lecturing someone on their interpretation of the Bible when as an Agnostic you would not be confident enough of truths and absolutes within the bible to be able to provide a definitive answer as to what Jesus would do. As an Agnostic I would expect you to question the OPs summation rather than tell him he was wrong.

            Agnosticism doesn't have to be an 'absolute' in itself but is about learning, not teaching.
            From what you have said you seem to be an Agnostic Atheist, you don't believe but also don't claim to know for certain. Which is probably where most non-religious people sit, even those claiming to be full Atheists.

              I think your understanding of agnosticism is skewed. I'm not atheist agnostic, I'm agnostic which means I don't know if there is or isn't a god, and don't believe it's possible to prove either the existence or non-existence of God (using God here in the broadest sense, not referring to any specific deity).

              That doesn't mean I don't accept that the words written in the bible are actually the words written by the people who wrote them, and doesn't mean I can't state facts or have opinions about the meaning of those words. It also doesn't mean I can't correct people's false beliefs about the tenets of religions.

              In the context of someone quoting the bible to suggest what Jesus would or would not do, it's entirely appropriate to point to other text in the same bible to dispute that interpretation. At that point, we're not debating the existence or otherwise of God we're discussing the interpretation of a book.

                Look I get that is pretty cool to call yourself Agnostic, you probably feel you need a label on your beliefs, but you just don't seem to understand what it means to be Agnostic. Not what the word means.

                This here:
                " It also doesn't mean I can't correct people's false beliefs about the tenets of religions "
                is exactly the reason why you are not Agnostic and don't understand what it means to be Agnostic.

                I'm guessing you won't even understand what I am criticising either.

                  Wow. You really don't understand what agnosticism means do you?

                  Let's put it another way .... A book is published written by someone called Paul that he says are the words of someone called John. People then use this book to decide what John thinks - based on what is in the book.

                  I myself don't know if John exists, or if Paul has just made the whole thing up.

                  I can however read the book, and if someone says "according to the book, John would have done this", I can point to the book and say "look, I don't know if John is real, and even if he is I don't know whether he even spoke to Paul. But you are inferring something from this book about how John, if he where real, would behave; whereas in the book it clearly says that in this situation John would do this".

                  I'm sorry, but I can't explain this any simpler. You do seem to have a complete misunderstanding of what agnosticism means, so it would be helpful if you post exactly what it is you think it means to be agnostic. Whatever you are trying to describe is not agnosticism.

                  @ionchef (cc @felicitous_blue)

                  I agree with felicitous_blue, you seem to be mistaken on what agnosticism means. Agnosticism is a knowledge philosophy relating to theism, not to religion:

                  - Theism is the belief in the existence of god(s).
                  - Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of god(s).

                  - Gnostic means 'with knowledge'.
                  - Agnostic means 'without knowledge'.

                  Both terms can be used together and all four combinations are possible.

                  - A gnostic theist is certain god exists.
                  - An agnostic theist believes god exists but holds that its certainty can't be proven.
                  - An agnostic atheist doesn't know if god exists and holds that its certainty can't be proven.
                  - A gnostic atheist is certain god does not exist.

                  When someone refers to themselves as just 'agnostic', all they're saying is that the existence of gods can't be proven. They're still either a theist or an atheist because by definition everyone must be one of them, they just haven't told you which one yet.

                  All of these things relate to theism - the belief (or lack thereof) in the existence of god(s). Religion, on the other hand, is a social system that attempts to define the nature of existence and prescribes on its believers a set of behaviours that are consistent with that nature. It has no dependence on theism (nor vice versa). Both theistic and nontheistic religions exist, the latter including Buddhism, Taoism and parts of Hinduism.

                  There's nothing at all preventing a person from analysing and interpreting religion, regardless of their theistic stance. The 'absence of knowledge' in agnosticism relates only to theism, not to religion.

                  Last edited 18/02/17 9:13 pm

        Jesus may not have sided with Hitler, but from what I remember of High School Religion, it does not matter what you have done in your life, as long as you turn to god and repent and ask for his forgiveness, you will receive it.

        SO if Heaven did exist, and Hitler in his bunker had prayed to god for his forgiveness for his past acts, and for his act soon to come (his suicide), then he would be in heaven right now, talking to Jesus....

          That depends on the specific branch of Catholicism, and is just another example of how a religious text can be bastardised to justify any view/actions. Other denominations believe that the works of a person shall be judged by St Peter at the Pearly Gates, and those not worthy are sent to Hell.

          It's broad sweeping statements and straw man arguments regarding religion like yours that I'm against, as they serve no purpose than to justify intolerance and hate against a group. Its like saying all Muslims are terrorists and quoting some section of the Quoran to justify this (or for that matter terrorists using the Quoran or Bible to justify their actions)

      the nephalim were pure evil, the flood was justified
      death to all nephalims!
      yahweh did nuffin wrong!

      >He indiscriminately killed innocent men, women, children and animals all the time

      No he didn't, they were all evil,
      besides he is following the anti-discrimination laws, so it's fair!

      Lmao how is this to do with the article, plus any ways when jesus died on the cross the laws of the old testemant were made invalid

        Because the fictions of the past are overturned by the fictions of the future.

      Um no, the Old Testament never endorses indiscriminate killing of unbelievers. There are instances where God tells the Israelites to destroy specific cities/nations (usually because the Israelites are being oppressed or enslaved). Nowhere in the Bible, New Testament or Old, does God give the Israelites a generalized command to kill unbelievers. There is no "contradiction" in the New Testament either. Jesus says you shouldn't kill unbelievers, but that doesn't contradict anything, because the Old Testament never says you should.

    Maybe it was all meant as a joke but today when bloggers and other journalists are searching, waiting for the barest word that can be construed as contentious you would expect a "celebrity" to have more sense than to stick a big target on their own back.

    Always going to be people ready to defend someone who refuses to own their actions. The whole affair is disappointing in the predictability of its course.

    I think I've watch all of about 5 vids of this clown, and didn't get anywhere through them. He should have cashed out long ago... As they say, a fool blah blah blah...

    He'll no doubt be gracing those youtube vids on the top 5 'where are they now' in a couple years time, or probably less. The wave has gone and he'll be the only one floundering around once everyone deserts him, sad really.

      The fool is a lot richer than you are.

        You don't know that. Mr Stevey might be a secret alias for Warren Buffett!

    Did nobody tell Menegus that /pol/, being on 4chan, exists purely to be as offensive as possible?

    I actually sort of agree with Menegus (probably the first and last time) in that PewDiePie's attempt at "humour" was awful, but I also don't think the guy is a legitimate Nazi nor alt-right.

      Agreed. He's an idiot, but he's not a nazi sympathiser.

    In my lifetime I must've tolerated watching about a total of maybe ten minutes of content from this dude, but it sound to me like he thought he was popular enough that people would let him do anything.

    Disney and Youtube are simply doing the right thing by their businesses. For someone as big as this guy reportedly is (and I admit I still don't get the appeal), even a mere mention or even association could hurt the overall brands.

    In the end it comes down to simple common sense; if you play with dirt, you're gonna end up looking dirty. It doesn't matter what your intentions or motives were, when people look at you, you're going to look dirty.

    As a fan of PewDiePie for a couple of years, I appreciate the satire used in his more criticized videos.
    He started as a gamer yelling into the camera and evolved into more of a vlogger.
    He knows how to 'play the game' and knows the boundaries to push.

    But like anyone who steps over the socially accepted politically correct line to test those boundaries, there will be a select few who take it out of context and create hysteria where its not entirely due.

    The fiverr video was a display of how someone will do anything for $5.
    As Phil Defranco puts it, you can get into the conversation of intent vs affect as it wasn't Felix's intent to create hate or upset anyone but if you take his videos out of context you now have a video that will.

    My question is, why did it take WSJ's investigation to bring to Disneys' MCN's attention that their biggest content provider was producing content that may be against their values?
    The removal of PDP from their platform is a knee jerk reaction and would never have happened if some random journalist wasn't so bored with reporting Trump news.

    Last edited 16/02/17 10:54 am

      My question is, why did it take WSJ's investigation to bring to Disneys' MCN's attention that their biggest content provider was producing content that may be against their values?
      Sargon said it well, watch his video (link in article) if you're bothered.

    I am not an asshole, I gave people 5 dollars (and 5 mins of youtube fame/infamy) to people to act like assholes so I can video my reaction to make thousands of dollars in ad revenue.

    Sorry PDP, that makes you a Class A asshole. You instigated, victimised, exploited, profited, took no responsibilty for your or their actions, and believe your own ego. Asshole!

      PDP also believes he is a socioligist or pyschologist who can conduct experiments on people without consequences.

      His degree is in manufacturing, and I have not seen or sighted his qualifications or scientific journals justifying his experiments in humans.

      Social Experiments on unwitting subjects is unethical, the fact he made money off it, and while making fun of Jews who were subject to unethical human experiments is a horrifying.

    “Its just a prank bro” really doesn’t cut it. Regardless of the intent, he paid for messages glorifying Nazis and promoting hate of a religious group. He deserves all his funding pulled.

      No he didn't and no he doesn't.
      MSM has you in its hooks brah.

      "a true thing, poorly expressed, is a lie"

      WSJ and MSM has taken his video's out of context and created vilification where it wasn't due.
      PDP has made a response video that is worth a watch.

    Kudos to Bryan for not making this a complete witch hunt article like usually happens in Gizmodo these days.

    Please watch Pewdiepies videos and form your own opinion, I highly disagree with almost every point made in this article for the simple fact that i can go view the people in question and form my own idea, my last comment got deleted for sone reason, 8if this one does too then there's definitely an agenda here

      Your previous comment was deleted because it didn't meet our Community Guidelines.

        The community guidelines are that if you don't agree with the article you get deleted.

          Yeah, no. I disagree with articles here all the time and I've only had maybe 3 posts deleted in the whole time I've been here.

          The community guidelines are here, not a thing in there about having to agree with the article, but there are rules on personal attacks and accusations of editorial bias. People who complain about their posts being deleted "because they disagreed" more often than not break one of those two rules in the process.

      @Jaime
      It's ok, the "journalist" is a delicate little snowflake.

    It is a joke. Get over it.
    If you are not a Jew is isn't on you to decide if it is offensive.

    H3H3's Ethan is Jewish and he has no problem with it. Context is everything and the MSM ignores it to manufacture outrage from lefties.

      I'd upvote this, if I could remember my password
      people are looking for every reason to be offended

      if south park was created today, im sure it'll be taken off tv in a week
      omg cartman dressed up as hitter and said seig heil!! this is a neo nazzi shooooooww!!!! ooommmmggggggggg!!!
      *writes letter to comedy central*

      the sooks are ruining everything!

      You don't have to be a Jew to find a sign that says "Kill all the Jews" offensive, and just because one Jewish person was okay with it doesn't give it a magical 'acceptable' stamp of approval.

    So your argument is that he should have known his actions were going to be deliberately misinterpreted? Maybe he did? Maybe because fuck those people? He split the field perfectly as far as I'm concerned. The people capable of logical reasoning over here, and the misleadingly outraged over there.

    Political correctness destroying humour once again .. rejoice!

    The prank he pulled helps normalise and legitimise the alt-right. Does that make him directly racist, probably not, but it does make him casually racist.

    hes a racist tool and ill gladly toast marshmallows on the burning embers of money hes lost

      he racist from a couple of pranks on a website full of bullshit ? spare me

    Ironic to be dropped by Disney given Walt's position on these matters still unambiguously underpins their entire corporate subcontext.

      Aside from the fact the antisemitism rumours were never substantiated, the guy's been dead for 50 years. Whatever he did or didn't think about Jewish people has fuck all to do with the company today.

    He's created thousands of hours of content. Most of it to me is inane garbage. Certainly not racist. To grab a couple of lines of text and hen label hm a racist just because the wall street journal and a a few nutter white supremacist ran with it. Look at the bigger picture. This knee jerk stuff is stupid.

    You should perhaps work for trump with the amount of alternative facts you presented here. Good job gizmodo for printing trash and flawed opinion. I think gizmodo staffers should now watch all of the material of all current performing comedians so they can accuse them of being racists and nazi's too.

    And FYI PDP subscribers went from going up 7K a day to going up 50K a day. The extra promotion is going to make him more add revenue. Also he is now a free agent who can do what he wants. The guy could put a one minute video of him staring at the camera and make more money than the writers of this rubbish does in a year.

    I think his content is annoying so I don't subscribe or watch him but thanks for making him bigger with all this manufactured outrage for those sweet sweet clicks.

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