So last Thursday I was asked to talk on the radio, on BBC World Have Your Say, about the current situation surrounding the most well-known YouTube personality around: PewDiePie. The segment wasn't very long, and there were a few of us on there, so I didn't quite get the chance to say everything I wanted to. That's not the fault of the show, or the other guests, it was purely because it was a short 15-20 minute segment of a radio broadcast, and there simply wasn't enough time for everyone to go into great detail. You can listen to it if you like here (from about 38 minutes in). So, since I didn't get to say everything I wanted to, I thought, where better to say it all than right here?
So if you haven't already heard, and I'd imagine that even if you're not a fan of Pewds' you will have, but PewDiePie has been dropped by Disney's Maker Studios, amid drama surrounding some "anti-Semitic" comments in his most recent videos. Wall Street Journal published an article on PewDiePie, regarding these "anti-Semitic" comments, however their article was directed more like an attack on the YouTube star, than anything else. Jokes taken out of context, and then further comments and jokes tacked on to an already out of context article, to seemingly give credibility to their claims. And note how their article is titled: "Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts" - "Posts" not jokes. Clearly aiming to mislead from the title alone.
The video which started the whole drama was one in which PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, discovered a website named Fiverr. With a sub-heading of "Freelance services for the lean entrepeneur", Fiverr is a website for people to offer services such as artwork, videos, etc. for money (misleadingly not just for a fiver, prices do vary on there). So Pewds being Pewds, he decides to purchase some of the offered services: a bit of gametime with a girl offering the opportunity to play Hearthstone (if I remember correctly) with her (Pewds instead asks for Roblox), a video from Jesus Christ himself, and a video of two Indian guys holding up a sign and dancing, etc. PewDiePie's audience love dark, shock-humour, as does he, and in wanting to show off just how ridiculous a premise that Fiverr is, and to see just what people will do for money, he asks the FiverrGuys to hold up a sign saying "Death to all Jews". A montage of rejections show, as other people Pewds purchased services from refuse to do his requests, including someone turning him down for using foul language, and the Hearthstone girl refusing to play Roblox with him instead, and then much to everyone - and Felix himself's surprise, the FiverrGuys fulfilled Pewdiepie's request. There they were, holding up a sign saying "Death to all Jews". They later proclaimed innocence, stating that they did not know what it meant, which has people divided, but the simple act of Felix asking them to do this, and then publishing it in his video for all to see, is what has caused so much drama, and caused him to be accused of being a Nazi.
Now Pewdiepie is not a professional comedian, but the purpose of his YouTube channel is for entertainment, and many people really enjoy his comedy and sense of humour. By inserting that clip into his video, he was not in any way trying to promote Nazism. He was simply trying to push the envelope by going for a risky joke, whilst displaying the ridiculousness of what you could get people to do for money on the internet. He got a bit of backlash for it to begin with, but nothing to the extent of what it has blown up to now. He released a video explaining his actions, and yet things got worse for him. Wall Street Journal revealed that since August, there have been nine "instances" of anti-Semitic content in PewDiePie's videos. Again, these have all been taken out of context. One such instance was that he used footage of Nazis marching in one of his videos, with them completely ignoring the fact that this clip is being shown as he is talking about how the YouTube Heroes program is comparable to Nazi Germany.
This whole media witch-hunt has gone faaaar too far. Felix is a great YouTuber, and very funny. Yes, he made a joke that may offend people, but what comedian or even amateur comedian doesn't? As I said on the radio show, you choose to be offended. I can understand being offended by something being outrightly said as to cause offence, that, in its very basic nature, is the aim of the comment. But a joke? If the content of the joke is not to your liking, or offends you, then don't watch. Frankie Boyle, the Scottish comedian, is a prime example of this. He says some of the most controversial shit out there in terms of his jokes, but people still find him funny. And the people who aren't into that kind of humour? Well they just don't watch his shows or buy tickets to his gigs. Simple. At what point do we stop being able to make jokes about certain things? Popular TV shows joke about these risky things all the time, yet we all still love them - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I'm looking at you, you wonderful bunch of deviants.
Ironically enough, another YouTuber that we're huge fans of, iDubbbz, is apparently still signed to Maker Studios, when his jokes and dark humour are way more controversial than Pewds. But the media doesn't care about that, because PewDiePie is their current target, he's the richest YouTuber there is, so why not take him down a peg or two? Pathetic.
And not only with the media targeting him, but the fact that he has lost his label, Maker Studios, as well as the second season of his YouTube Red show, Scare PewDiePie over it, is just excessive. Disney, who owns Maker Studios, aren't exactly the poster-boys for all things clean and PC. Previously, rumours have gone around to say that Walt Disney himself was a Nazi-sympathiser, something that friends and family of him had always greatly refuted. And now the situation comes round again, this time with Disney being the ones pointing the fingers, or at the very least being worried of falling back into those rumours, instead of trusting in the biggest name in their roster.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't agree with hate-speech, or hate-groups, just like Felix does not condone these things either. But the internet is a dangerous place, and anything can be taken out of context and twisted to fit the narrative that people want to project. It's why I fully expect comments disagreeing with me, just like I had on the radio show. But for free speech and humour to survive, we can't twist words to fit our own agendas, the way the media do. And I don't mean in the Donald Trump "oh the media hates me" sense, because he's the biggest bullshitter around, I mean in the sense of words being taken completely out of context for a clickbait headline, or wildly out of touch article.
Maybe instead of jumping on the hate-bandwagon against Felix, who is a real person just like you and me behind his PewDiePie persona, we should be a little more respectful. A little more understanding that a joke can go too far, and just because it does, it doesn't make you a bad fucking person. Felix will be fine without Maker Studios behind him, and without a season two. But if the media can do this to him, you can bet they wouldn't hesitate to do it to someone who doesn't have the finances to fall back on if everything were to go tits up.
We support Felix, and we hope you do too.
- V x