Updated: Disney walks away from PewDiePie following Anti-Semitic videos.
Update: Variety has reported that YouTube has officially pulled support from PewDiePie following the anti-Semitic videos he posted and the subsequent outrage. YouTube has cancelled the second Season of Felix Kjellberg’s reality show that was a YouTube Red exclusive named Scare PewDiePie.
The second big hit was that PewDiePie would no longer be within the “ad preferred” category in the YouTube system. Essentially this removes Felix and his channels from premium advertisers. While videos of his had been marked as “unfriendly”, this is the first time the entire channel has been hit. This news broke hours after Maker Studios made their announcement about removing the popular YouTuber.
PewDiePie is falling hard over these videos. While there was doubt if YouTube would step in, it appears that the videos were indefensible. Unlike Disney, PewDiePie was one of the biggest earners for YouTube meaning they had more stake in his holding. Yet what Felix displayed in the videos was too far gone. His channel will still remain up but this is a serious knock that could have massive implications. Felix still has yet to provide an apology that amounts to more than the reiteration that is was all a joke.
Original: Maker Studios has announced they will cut ties to popular YouTube star PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg). The reason is due to a flurry of anti-Semitic videos that have recently become part of his channel. Maker Studios as a division of Disney found that a few examples of his content was deemed offensive.
According to the Wall Street Journal (as reported via Kotaku), nine videos since August have involved some form of anti-Semitic content. The biggest red flag was a specific videos uploaded on January 11th. Felix hired two men to hold up a sign reading “Death to All Jews”. The video has since been deleted but many have screen grabbed the moment. The following events have been chronicled in a video produced by the Wall Street Journal.
The video itself was based around the site Fiverr. Essentially users can pay $5 and have another perform the action for the cash. Felix decided to test how far he would go and thus had two Indian men hold up the aforementioned sign. Felix would then watch the video just to confirm they would actually do the deed. While he shows surprise they actually went that far, he is the one who made the request in the first place. All men were banned from the site, with the excuse from the two who held up the sign claiming they had no idea what it meant. They were eventually unbanned following a plea from Felix.
He followed up this video later by stating he was mischaracterised by the media in response to the January 11th video. Essentially arguing it was a joke gone wrong and it was simply that, a joke. The video unfortunately also takes a standoffish tone instead of one of apology or regret playing off the concerns of viewers and critics. Then as if he could not leave it well enough alone, he followed up with another video showcasing a man playing Jesus Christ saying that “Hitler did nothing wrong.” All these videos amassed 23 million views before they were all taken down. That is an intense number of people who watched.
A spokeswoman for Maker Studios provided more detail with regards to the videos saying, “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate.”
A screen capture of Felix’s “apology” video via WSJ
PewDiePie is still the largest channel on YouTube. He holds the titles as the most subscribed and most viewed member of the website. This only leads him to be the highest earning as well, but there is more to it than that. Felix is an opinion leader in his position. Regardless of personal feelings towards him or his content, his popularity provides him immense sway. This is only compounded by the fact that a sizable amount of his audience are impressionable children and teens.
Yet, with the awkward political climate where hatred and fear are becoming a more prominent part of the social consciousness, it is hard to defend Felix for these videos. There is already a defence squad that has come out to claim this is simply “PC Culture gone wrong!” Yet what makes it harder is that websites that have neo-Nazi affiliation have begun to flock to him following these events. Wall Street Journal names the site The Daily Stormer as an example that has started referring to itself as the Number 1 fansite for Felix.
Felix did respond to the criticisms by denying any involvement with any hate movement and saying he is not one to share in attitudes of hatred. You can read the full Tumblr post here. He considers the notion of him endorsing these groups as “laughable”.
The reality is however, these videos are themselves providing a voice to bigots. The current timing could not have been worse and arguments of ignorance do not sustain a suitable defence. The videos are not funny, shock value works within a certain context but not here. There is no satire or message involved, only random out of nowhere offensiveness. When a neo-nazi organisation starts to fight for you, I believe that is indication enough of a failure. Felix might not hold the views, but he clearly has no issue in promoting them.
One can only applaud Maker Studios and Disney for stepping in. Despite PewDiePie being a big earner for them, having him promote and create such material is detrimental to many, let alone those directly affected by such messages. Hopefully this sends a strong message that resonates, that regardless of influence, hate speech should never be tolerated. Felix won’t be going anywhere and he won’t be losing many views over this but it sets an important precedent. The real question is if he will be doubling down or not from the content of a sensitive nature.