YouTube celebrity Felix 'PewDiePie' Kjellberg has been on the ropes lately following controversy over anti-Semitic phrases in his videos. The Wall Street Journal ran a story highlighting such problematic incidents as paying two men in India to hold up a 'Death To All Jews' sign and paying a man dressed like Jesus to say that Hitler 'did nothing wrong.'
PewDiePie has responded with an 11-minute video directed at his critics, including a half hearted apology to any who were offended by his content.
Check out the whole video here:
PewDiePie is pretty used to haters on YouTube, but recent scrutiny from the media has had some financial consequences for him. In response to the WSJ story, Disney cut ties with Kjellberg, and YouTube itself also pulled his channel from its Google Preferred premium advertising program and formally cancelled plans for a second season of Scare PewDiePie.
On the other hand, Neo-Nazis have been thrilled, and white supremacist rag The Daily Stormer has championed PewDiePie as a useful recruitment tool.
PewDiePie Admits He's Got A Lot To Learn, But Insists That He's The Real Victim Here
Now, I took a look at the case for PewDiePie being an actual Nazi, and it's pretty weak. But it's undeniable that his jokes were intended to be offensive, and that they're being used by hate groups to promote actual harm. Basically, Felix has a lot to learn about how actions can have more serious consequences than you intend them to, especially if you have such a huge platform.
In his new video, PewDiePie actually does seem to display a smidgeon of self-awareness and recognize the problem with his edgelord humor. He also appears to get why it's not a tone that Disney or YouTube want to be associated with. PewDiePie says that he'll take this as a 'learning experience'.
That's not a bad attitude going forward. But it's unfortunate that he then undermines his position by presenting himself as the real victim of persecution.
PewDiePie Claims That The Media Is Out To Get Him, Because Reasons
The majority of the response video is focused on discussing the story from The Wall Street Journal, arguing 'old school media doesn't like Internet personalities because they're scared of us' and pointing out that the WSJ (a financial publication) is obsessed with and somehow threatened by the money PewDiePie makes on YouTube.
Does this make sense? All the attention he's getting from the mainstream media right now thanks to the WSJ coverage and ensuing controversy has got to add up to a whole lot of views and clicks for him, so it's hardly diminishing his influence or outreach.
Ultimately, The Wall Street Journal doesn't have a lot to gain from trying to take down PewDiePie. It's certainly not going to win over his audience as subscribers. PewDiePie is right in that 'old school media' might not really understand his kind of work, but YouTube and Disney are big money, and it's reasonable that a financial publication cover a story about them and their brand ties with someone who made anti-semitic jokes.
Pointing the finger at the people who drew attention to a bad thing suggests there's a lack of understanding on PewDiePie's side of the generational gap too. He's denounced the hate groups who praised him, and that's important, but by playing the victim, he's deflecting responsibility for his own actions onto the people who reported them.
PewDiePie isn't a complete egomaniac, and he's keen to point out his substantial charity work. But he can't really seem to see the issue in a way that isn't all about himself and his own hurt feelings instead of recognizing the harm that his actions may have caused.
As he closes his response video with a fist bump and thanks to the YouTube community, it's clear that Felix has been genuinely touched by his fans' support during the controversy and sees himself as still standing proud after an attack from the 'old media' Goliath.
PewDiePie may be genuinely sorry if people were hurt and regretful that he attracted the support of white supremacists, but he seems less interested in asking himself the tough question of why this happened in the first place. But when you're tapped into such an overwhelming well of personal validation, that kind of serious soul-searching doesn't come easy.
What do you think? Does PewDiePie get why people were upset?