What happens when a story comes along where the information presented isn’t solid? Where, even after reading the information you can’t decide which side is right or wrong? We talk often here about truth and facts. They’re important. But sometimes we just don’t know what to make of something. In such cases I feel it’s acceptable to form an opinion of sorts but not to make declarative statements. Take the recent case of PewDiePie.
A lot of people don’t know who PewDiePie is. That’s the YouTube username for a man named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg. He isn’t just any YouTuber though, he’s the YouTuber, the top dog, the man with the single most subscribers of anyone on the platform with over 52 million subscribers. That’s an incredible that has made him a multi-millionaire with his estimated annual income estimated at $4 million. Even among those who watch YouTube a lot he still might be their bag so It’s not a surprise if you haven’t heard of him even given his popularity. For those of you have heard of him and are subscribers you already know what has happened to Felix.
When you create as much content as he does and are seen by as many people as he is then it’s a sure bet you’re going to offend someone. His humor and language are rough, full of cursing, and sarcasm. It’s to be expected. Recently he crossed a line with some people and it exploded in his face.
There’s a web site called Fiver where you can pay people all over the world for as little as $5 (thus the name) to do tasks for you. He paid some men to hold up a sign. He did this as a joke on a friend. The sign read, “Death to all Jews”. The men holding the sign apologized and said they didn’t know what the words meant. This is plausible on their part since English isn’t their primary language. But there was no mistaking that Felix knew just what it meant. The harshness of the phrase was the core of his joke.
The joke got him some bad press to be sure. Not only was it in poor taste in terms of the reference to Jews but it was in poor taste to take advantage of the two men as well. He apologized for that and the comment. To him it was a joke but he says he realizes it was in bad taste and can understand how people could see it offended.
I love to push boundaries, but I would consider myself a rookie comedian and I’ve definitely made mistakes like this before. But it’s always been a growing and learning experience for me. And it’s something that I actually learn to really appreciate. And I think this whole situation has definitely been that for me, and it’s something that I’m going to keep in mind moving forward.
Some journalists over at the Wall Street Journal decided to go through his videos and see what other Nazi propaganda he was spreading and they found some. Of course they did. For example, he made a video in which he compared a new YouTube policy to Hitler. That must mean he’s a Nazi right? But wait, there is more, and this one is pretty bad, hard to explain away like the others. He paid a man (again on Fiver) who was dressed as Jesus to say, “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Again, humor he says.
According to Forbes There were 9 videos that contained questionable content.
Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) has posted nine videos featuring anti-Semitic comments or Nazi imagery, the Wall Street Journal reports. These include a video of men paid by Kjellberg to hold up a sign reading “Death to All Jews” (Kjellberg later referred to this as a joke gone too far) and another with a man dressed as Jesus who says, “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Multiple videos feature swastikas, while another includes photos of Hitler, with Kjellberg wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. The Nazism has expanded to audio: In a January 14 video he played the Nazi Party anthem, and in a February 5 video he features a “Sieg Heil” voiceover.
PewDiePie has taken down three of the nine videos in question.
There does seem to be a fixation. Due to this Felix lost some contracts for shoes he was going to do with Disney and some ad revenue from YouTube Red.
A Nazi was interviewed and he gave his opinion. I say it that way “a Nazi” because really it’s not clear how much this person represents any group or demographic, he says that any jokes about Nazis helps to make them mainstream, and any jokes about the victims of Nazis helps to marginalize those victims. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I tend to think it’s one of those things that it all depends on who the listener is. Some are predisposed to support causes like that.
Maybe it’s the fact that Felix is a Blonde (probably died) blue-eyed Swede still carrying his accent into English that has people seeing him as a neo-Nazi. He certainly does seem to fit that Aryan profile. Maybe it’s a case of the old media trying to take out a big player in the new media, that’s what Felix says it is, professional jealousy.
Both sides of this actually seem to have good points. Though I don’t particularly “get” the humor it does seem to be meant as humor. But does something being meant as humor mean that Felix isn’t a racist neo-nazi? It does not mean that. Did the Wall Street Journal jump to conclusions in naming him one? Yes they did. You see, just like I can’t fully discern his intent from these few videos and jokes, neither could they, but the story they wrote was clear about what they thought about it, “anti-Semitic” and “neo-Nazi”.
When I come to a story that I don’t know the truth of I reserve judgement. It’s that simple. But again, this requires reading the news, looking at multiple sources, comparing them, and taking time. Not everyone has that time. If you don’t that’s okay. Some people have the time but not the inclination. That’s okay too. Hopefully if you fall into that category you don’t draw conclusions needlessly. You understand the difference between an opinion, a judgement, and a fact. You can have your hunches to be sure but being honest enough to know that hunches and opinions aren’t fact will go a long way to make sure we can have a conversation instead of a shouting match that we can talk rather than accuse. It’s pretty amazing, and to me interesting, what you can learn about a person by talking to them.