PewDiePie, the biggest YouTube in the world, with 52 million mostly young subscribers, has once again stepped in it, this time with a video in which he paid two young Indian men to unfurl a banner that reads “Death to all Jews.”
A lot has happened since that video, which so far has been seen 8.7 million times on YouTube.
He’s apologized, but kind of half-heartedly. That’s because he doesn’t believe he’s anti-Semitic, but also because he thinks the outside world criticizing him has missed the joke.
You can’t stop stupid.
PewDiePie, actually Felix Kjellberg, has attempted to walk back the first video with an even more remarkable video, titled “In My Defense.” It probably just compounds the problem.
To go back a step or two: Earlier this month, in the original video, he explained he had just come across the Web site Fiverr, which allows you to get anyone to do whatever you want, for $5, if they accept.
Amazed, PewDiePie tries some safe ideas that don’t really work out, until, surprisingly, the video of the Funny Guys duo shows up with them flashing the sign, laughing. (They claimed later they didn’t know what the words meant.) PewDiePie says, on the video, that he’s mortified that someone took him up on the challenge to display that sign.
He also says: ”I got to give them five stars for an outstanding experience.”
Many of his fans got the joke. Based on the comments, many did not, including at least one alt-right racist, anti-Semitic site that said PewDiePie’s slurs, followed by insincere apologies could be called “the Donald Trump method of self-promotion.” Assuming Kjellberg sees posts like that, I’d suppose he’d be mortified for sure.
In his defense video, he said, “I don’t think there’s anything actually anti-Semitic about it.” But in a video in between those two, he explains other failed attempts to use Fiverr again after the Indian/flag thing; in those efforts, the jokes included using doctored photos of his grandfathers as Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels.
PewDiePie’s blames a familiar villain for his problems: modern media. “The problem with all my videos lately is that they take all the stuff I say out of context because that’s what going to get clicks.”
“In My Defense” posits that news Web sites make money if you just click on the lurid grabber -- ”They get paid as long as they have a good enough, strong enough title (headline).”
YouTube is “kind of different” in that regard, he argues. “First of all, YouTube monitors watch time. So even if you have a clickbait video and people don’t actually watch it, you won’t get as promoted… It’s the first thing that appears on its analytics [dashboard].”
PewDiePie combined videos have been watched for 150,060 years and 44 minutes, and he jokes, “That’s just kind of sad isn’t it?”
Like a certain politician we could name, PewDiePie thinks he’s just a good guy, misunderstood. But now through the news, he is “terrible,” ‘homophobic,” “anti-Semitic,” he says.
“PewDiePie, he’s a bad boy now. He’s umm, a meanie.”
Well… when you are a 27-year-old entertainer called upon to invent a double-dare-you outrageous scene, conjuring up the vision of two guys holding a banner reading “Death to all Jews” or jokes about notorious Nazi leaders shouldn’t just jump into your head.
“We’re going to have to start separating what is a joke and what is actually problematic. . ., he says in the defense video. “The problem with all my videos lately is that they take all the stuff I say out of context because that’s what going to get clicks.”
“Now 2017 is the year it’s going to go bad for me,” he says in the “In My Defense” video. Darkly, or maybe humorously, he says that a person in his position may be smart to “get out before you can’t.” Maybe.
If the video had been on a South Park episode, the media world might have missed it, or not cared. If you have a show that is regularly offensive to everyone, all the time, then its viewers don't seem to mind as much. Mel Brooks likely offended a few with Hitler humor (from The Producers) back in the 1960s. Some of the stuff that Seth McFarland gets away with in his cutaways on Family Guy is far worse that this latest brouhaha. PewDiePie apologized last year for exploring the same themes that one sees on South Park and Family Guy (e.g., gay themes, mentally-challenged characters) but he apparently lacks much of the charm of Mel or Seth or Trey/Matt.