If you are a millennial, or use Youtube, you cannot have missed Pewdiepie. The Swedish digital entrepreneur, online sensation and videogame victim is a sensation to over 50 million subscribers. Not a stranger to controversy, the stars latest battle is against established and veteran newscaster, The Wall Street Journal. The WSJ have alleged that Pewd’s online media is anti-semitic and a mecca for Neo Nazi groups. A subject that he hotly and publically disputes.
The story so Far
The problems started when Pewd’s atypical and often blunt sense of humour found a new direction. In a world where nothing is off limits, the star courted danger by mocking the capitalist sentiment of website Fiverr. In case you are unfamiliar, the site allows users to pay 5 dollars for a number of services. In what he viewed as a mockery of the site, he asked two users to dance with a message online. He wished to expose the silliness of the site.
Fortunately for his critics, and opportunist journalists, the message was ‘Death to All Jews’.
As if this wasn’t enough, his last year has been peppered with vague references to Nazi culture, Hitler and fascism. All in jest, but risky all the same. Pewd’s is an open provocateur, mixing sensationalist business savvy with his own brand of ‘no bull’ personality. Although the references may seem incriminating alone, placed ‘in context’, Pewd’s claims the joke is obvious. In the 21st century nothing is off limits.
The media picks its fight
The public fight started when the Wall Street Journal published an article claiming that Pewdiepie’s content was openly Nazi, citing numerous clips and activities as evidence. Not only did the journal attack the star, but also contact his sponsors including Disney. Disney dropped their support for the star, as well as cancelling his show. The article was a strong piece, but as Pewd’s claims, ‘out of context’ and ‘pathetic’. It may be that this attack was simply desperation for a ‘failing’ site.
‘It seems to me that they were just after making the strongest headline’ said Pewdiepie in response to the article.
Hidden behind a paywall, the article goes on to question both the star’s content and moral code. Using screengrabs, including one of the star raising his arm as if in a ‘Nazi salute’, the article attempted to build a case for facism. The Article inspired a number of prominent figures to speak out, including JK Rowling, who criticized at the stars alleged message.
Pewd’s Fights Back
Outraged at what he saw as a personal attack, Pewd’s launched a number of personal and emotive videos explaining himself. Apologizing for his brand of humour, the star explained that his jokes were taken ‘out of context’. He went on to claim that the Journal’s unprofessional conduct in approaching his sponsors before reaching him for comment spoke more of their intentions than the work itself. A personal attack for profit, lacking substance and using sensationalism. Break a career for pennies.
‘I think what this article shows, more than anything, is that old school media doesn’t like internet personalities’ said Pewdiepie.
In a series of well researched videos, Pewdiepie also highlighted the inconsistency of reporting and hypocrisy inherent in the site. Citing WSJ author ‘Ben Fritz’, he demonstrated that the author made his own anti-semitic jokes in a similar vain.
In a heartfelt but powerful video he then went on to question the journals standards, claiming that if he should face retribution for jokes, then author Fritz should suffer the same.
Opinion; was Pewds wrong or did the WSJ go too far?
Simply put, the Holocaust isn’t funny. The legacy continues, with the re-emergence of Neo-Nazi culture finding sted in the post-trump era. Equally, one way of deconstructing immoral idealism is humour, where the ownership of ‘tragedy’ by marginalized groups is often met with jokes. Historically, black comedians would often deplore racist sentiment by playing into it. To mock old ideals is to render them obsolete.
Although Pewds does not fit the stereotypical marginalized archetype (he is white, blonde and not Jewish,) his humour follows the same approach. Although potentially insensitive, there is no indication that his work is anything but supportive to Jewish viewers. His readiness to admit his fault in potential misunderstandings is testament to his good nature, which a wealth of charity work further supports.
Pewdiepie’s problem is more with fame and demographic. As internet celebrity grows, slander becomes hard currency. The Wall Street Journal, with demonstrable hypocrisy, attacked a star for profit. Not only did they attempt to defame and discredit his work, they tried to break his business. By using ‘out of context’ clips, the WSJ tried to ignite the old fires of Liberalist outrage so easy to warm their pockets. A white guy is an easy target.
In my personal opinion, although Pewdiepie’s work was harmless, it does speak of a man who needs to consider his audience further. However, in order to progress socially we must also push the boundaries. Pewds found himself in hot water because his comments were picked up by unscrupulous journalists and Neo Nazis, not because he himself was either.
Although this event may be a setback for the star, his honesty and readiness to apologise for his part in the fiasco speaks volumes. I would also suggest that if the WSJ is serious about ‘exposing’ facism and racism, it should check its own ranks first, as well as attack any comedian mocking marginalised historical groups over the last 50 years.
Dr Ben Janaway MBChB // @drjanaway
Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.
Dr Ben Janaway is a medical doctor and Editor for the online healthcare and education source ‘Mind and Medicine’. He writes regularly for patient.co.uk and The Canary, amongst and other national news sources, on a variety of political and social issues.
He is also working on a number of literary pieces.
Contact Dr Janaway at www.twitter.com/drjanaway with stories, commissions or for discussion.
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