Felix Kjellberg, more famously known by his YouTube username PewDiePie, recently lost two major partnerships that he had acquired during his time on YouTube, Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube Red, after his videos were called anti-Semitic by the Wall Street Journal.
PewDiePie is the most-subscribed YouTuber to date, with 53 million subscribers and counting. Being an internet celebrity, he’s often subject to criticism and appears to be under the close watch of most journalists. After all, many journalists found out that putting his name in the titles of their articles brings in more viewers.
With Kjellberg’s ever-growing fame, he is constantly under the public eye, meaning a more people are watching his videos. This also means his slip-ups are more likely to be noticed. Most people who became famous usually try to water down their edgy jokes and become more politically correct in fear of being scrutinized. Kjellberg decided to do the opposite.
It all started with a video in which he played around with the website Fiverr, an online freelance services marketplace where consumers can pay $5 for any offered service. He discovered that there were services where he could hire someone to say or write anything he submitted.
The action that caused so much controversy was when he paid Fiverr freelancers “FunnyGuys,” who hold up a message of the customer’s choice while dancing in a jungle, to hold up the phrase “Death to all Jews.” Kjellberg also went on to ask other freelancers to say to subscribe to a nonexistent YouTube account and asked a Hearthstone gamer to play Roblox with him.
Obviously, it was meant to be a silly video where he messes around on the site, pointing out that people were willing to do anything for $5. Most of his requests were denied by the freelancers who are not forced to do anything they don’t want to. One of his requests that was accepted was from the FunnyGuys, who, as advertised, danced around a jungle and held up a scroll that read the message Kjellberg requested.
Kjellberg was extremely shocked, and immediately apologized for requesting them to say that. “I am sorry, I did not think they would actually do it,” he said, baffled that of all his Fiverr requests, that was the one to complete the transaction.
The Wall Street Journal did not see this as a joke, and journalists called Kjellberg anti-Semetic. Being journalists, they went to ask other people who were associated with Kjellberg’s brand to see what they had to say about the fact that they were supporting an anti-Semite. Shortly afterwards, YouTube and Maker Studios dropped Kjellberg, meaning that YouTube would not pay Kjellberg for AdSense and Maker Studios canceled the second season of Kjellberg’s YouTube Red show, “Scare PewDiePie.”
Kjellberg made a response video, addressing both his regular YouTube audience and WSJ. He mainly expressed why he felt like he was being targeted. “Old-school media does not like internet personalities,” he said in his video.
I have to agree with Kjellberg. I very rarely see any positive articles written about YouTubers, and most of the ones featuring the keyword “PewDiePie” in the title ridicule Kjellberg’s style of videos. They mention how much he earns from his job, and how he’s a makes silly jokes for kids. This time, most articles are accusing him of being anti-Semitic.
If he were anti-Semitic, I don’t think his videos are best way to determine that. In the video that seemed to tip everyone off the edge, Kjellberg recognizes that what he did was not good and immediately apologized. I really don’t think that’s enough evidence to prove his anti-Semitism.
WSJ also referenced other videos in which Kjellberg showed anti-Semitism, such as using Nazi imagery in a few videos. Again, in every single one of those videos, he made the joke in a comical manner. And I think that’s what WSJ missed. If Kjellberg had made those videos in a serious manner then yeah, he’s probably anti-Semitic.
It’s dumb to not see that he’s clearly joking. Should he have made those jokes? Probably not, but I think it’s a bad assumption to think he’s anti-Semitic based on those videos. The fact that WSJ decided to comb through Kjellberg’s videos after that incident, desperately trying to find any references to anti-Semitism, and finding only instances in which Kjellberg was joking, makes them seem already a bit over-sensitive.
An article written by GQ compared Milo Yiannopoulos to the Kjellberg, which was a bit ridiculous. Kjellberg making slightly edgy jokes in a YouTube video is nothing like Yiannopoulos. To me, it just seems like these journalists are watching him way too closely, trying super hard to catch him making any sort of mistake.
In Kjellberg’s response, he did apologize for what he said, saying he was a “rookie comedian” and that he learned from this experience to not do that sort of thing again. I take his word for it.