I didn’t make this post to pick a side and defend it. I’m just here to share all possible angles that I can see from the perspective of an outsider, someone who lives faraway from this whole issue. I’ll try anyway. You judge.
Probably the first biggest internet issue or scandal to come out this year is the one about PewDiePie, a very famous YouTube personality, and his “anti-semitic” jokes. Basically, this is what happened: PewDiePie uploaded a video on his channel where he showed this website called Fiverr that will do practically anything that you ask of them for a few bucks. PewDiePie paid/ordered/asked (the word choice is yours) these two boys to make a video message where it says, “Death to all Jews. Subscribe to Keemstar,” as a joke. Of course, with that kind of statement, it caught a lot of attention, started a lot of debates, and offended so many people. Recently, Wall Street Journal posted an article with an accompanying YouTube video that Maker Studies, a subsidiary of Disney, cut ties with PewDiePie upon WSJ’s inquiry with Disney. YouTube also cancelled PewDiePie’s Scare PewDiePie show on YouTube Red in effect. Since then, the original videos have been removed from the channel.
Now, the online community is freaking out.
People are taking sides. There are people saying that PewDiePie went overboard with his jokes and shouldn’t have made a laughing stock out of such a sensitive and discriminating topic, and so he deserved the negative reaction. On the other hand, there are people calling out injustice, saying that PewDiePie didn’t mean to offend anyone and that WSJ took his videos and content way out of context to make him the bad person. Before you point fingers at anyone, consider all aspects of this issue first. ALWAYS remember that NOT everything is BLACK and WHITE, and that you can pick only one side and mark everything else as wrong. No.
There are five perspectives directly involved with this issue: PewDiePie, Wall Street Journal, YouTube and Disney, the online community, and the receiving end of the joke, which are the Jews themselves.
To PewDiePie, as he explained in his videos and blog, he didn’t mean offense. It was just a joke, albeit satirical and dark in nature, for a video. It was part of his humor, part of his content, part of his act and style of comedy as an entertainer and YouTube personality. He was not pushing any political agenda. To him, he was just a guy making funny videos for his subscribers.
I watched that exact video when it came out and if I remember clearly, that video was meant to explore and, in some way, criticize the website Fiverr in a satirical way. This website is an online freelance service platform that will do anything the clients ask of them for a few bucks. To test it out, PewDiePie chose various freelancers and came up with the most absurd requests to see if they will actually deliver. Some declined by saying it goes against the policy and the requests were offensive. To everyone’s surprise, one did deliver and that’s where this issue all started. The Funny Guys, as requested, made a video where they held up a sign that says, “Death to all Jews,” while laughing and dancing around. Because of this incident, the Funny Guys were banned by the website and PewDiePie, feeling responsible about, kind of appealed to Fiverr to un-ban them. This whole situation caused mixed reactions and criticisms, as expected. After that, PewDiePie made videos and a blog post explaining himself.
To Wall Street Journal, they were just doing their job as a reputable journalism company to point out all the possible offensive, discriminatory, and anti-semitic content that PewDiePie has inserted to his videos.
In this issue alone, a statement on annihilating a whole race or ethnicity or any group of people for that matter, is not just offensive but also intolerable and disheartening, especially one that is directed to an actual group of people who had a history with racial discrimination and genocide, and were immediate victims of it. It is understandable that people would find such statements, even if it was meant as a joke, to be offensive and hateful. There are simply things that you don’t ever take lightly and joke about, especially sensitive and derogatory topics that are deeply rooted in history. That coming from a famous personality and public figure with over 50 million followers (that is a number large enough to influence and make impact on) is indeed problematic and scandalous. Of course, major news sources such as WSJ would put it into light and even make it headline-worthy. It’s expected of them as it is their job.
To YouTube and Disney, this is all about business. They did what any business entity would do in the face of such scandal. Of course, in order to keep the reputation and credibility of their brand, they have to cut ties with someone who would put them into a negative spot and potentially harm their market. No businesses would associate themselves with someone who is “anti-semitic” or anyone allegedly supporting a hate group. Not only would that give the brand backlash, it would be a reason to lose their market. What YouTube and Disney did wasn’t surprising. They are thinking in a businessman’s mindset and their decision to remove or cancel their partnership with PewDiePie was the most obvious move to make. They are just doing what they think is the best for their company and people can’t blame them for that.
To the online community, it’s another issue to discuss, another point of debate, another thing to react to and talk about. The way I see it, the general consensus is split into two: those who are defending PewDiePie’s side and those who were offended for the Jewish Community. I don’t know if they picked a side because they truly understand the weight of this issue and formed a rational opinion in response OR if they were just blinded by their emotions and personal bias. Anyway, it’s a mess.
Those who are supporting PewDiePie are claiming that WSJ and other news publications took his videos out of context, cherry-picking what parts would make PewDiePie look anti-semitic, and therefore mischaracterizing him. Even other YouTube personalities have talked about this and considered it defamation of character. They believe that PewDiePie did nothing wrong and that it was unfair to judge him with a few clips that have no basis of context and were framed in a way to make him look bad. He was just making funny videos, and people should try to understand that it was all just a satirical joke that people took personally and negatively when it’s not meant to hurt anyone or support any kind of hate.
Those who are against what PewDiePie did are claiming that, in the first place, he shouldn’t have done what he did, he went too far and low with it, and that his jokes were very thoughtless, offensive, discriminatory, and “not funny.” They feel offended for the Jewish Community and they think that what he did, as a public figure with millions of people watching him and listening to every word he says, is beyond disappointing and inexcusable. Even if it was a joke, he still tried to make fun of a very dark topic targeted at a certain group of people, trivializing this sensitive issue or even influencing others to do the same, so it’s expected that everyone would criticize him and give him backlash.
Then, of course, there are those people who don’t care at all and think that there are other problems—bigger problems—worth talking about, and everyone else is just over-reacting about the issue. Whichever, the result is chaos in the YouTube comment sections.
To the Jewish Community, I honestly don’t know what they think of this in general. While there are a few who have spoken up and said that they weren’t really offended because they were aware that it was just a joke, I’m sure that most of them were deeply hurt by the statement. Putting myself into their shoes, if someone famous and influential said, “Death to all Filipinos,” as a joke, I wouldn’t really take it personally but I know I would feel the sting. What I just don’t understand is why do other people feel the need to be so offended on their behalf. I don’t know what the Jewish Community think about this but personally, I feel that it is unnecessary. The concern is very much appreciated but it is just not needed? (I will have to make a separate post about this.) If anyone had the right to feel offended by this whole situation, it would be the Jews. Rightfully so. But I don’t know. Maybe they don’t even know about the existence of this issue or they have more important matters to deal with than just one YouTuber’s offensive joke.
Bottom-line, consider all perspectives of the issue. Why should you care? The problem with people nowadays is that they are so quick to judge, so quick to bash, without considering all sides involved. The result of this shows how people can be so ignorant and irrational with their opinions. It’s evident when you read comments everywhere. That is the sadder reality reflected in this mess.
Now, here’s what I think. But before I continue with my personal take on this issue, if you have your own opinions about this, please share them now. Don’t read the following paragraphs without sharing your own comments first because I don’t want in any way influence your thoughts. Okay? Okay.
To sum it up: Wall Street Journal is sensationalizing the heck out of it, YouTube and Disney are doing business as usual, PewDiePie should have known better, and the internet is so uselessly triggered about it.
I’ve been subscribed to PewDiePie for a few years now and, even though I don’t regularly watch his content, I know his style of humor so I wasn’t really shocked or anything with those “anti-semitic” remarks. He’s the kind of personality that makes fun of everything and doesn’t censor a single thing even though the jokes are very offensive, and he knows it. If you watch his videos, you’ll know that the tone of his humor is not the fluffy kind of funny. It’s dark and satirical and it’s often meant to criticize an issue or situation.
If you’ve been reading my blog, especially my earliest posts, you’ll know that I follow the same kind of humor, but the difference is that I am very careful not to unintentionally offend, attack, or hurt anyone. While I’m at level five at best, PewDiePie is at level fifty on the scale of how-sarcastic-are-you. And that’s the problem. People almost always miss sarcasm, and if people take it seriously, it is guaranteed that they will make an issue out of it. PewDiePie knows it and he doesn’t care. But he should know better and he should start caring. Especially nowadays when everyone is so easily triggered and offended even by a non-reaction.
He is a public figure so he should start acting like one. Even if he is an independent entity with no companies or organizations holding him down (except maybe YouTube because that is his medium, but PewDiePie is a such a huge personality now that I doubt even YouTube can hold him down), he should consider now that he is a person with millions and millions of followers that will hang on to his every word and action. What he does can influence people and make an impact to important socio-political issues whether it was his intention or not. I know he just wants to do his thing, and he doesn’t care about his image or reputation or what other people see him as, but for the sake of his followers, he should be more responsible. He should know the limits and be more thoughtful of what he does or say. I do feel bad for him with the amount of hate he is getting now but at the same time, I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming. It’s the consequence of his actions as an internet celebrity.
On one side of the spectrum, there is also Wall Street Journal making a sensation out of the issue. In case you didn’t know, I’m a communication arts student and I major in media studies, so this is kind of my thing. I’m going to take bits and pieces from what I’ve learned in school (if there’s anything I’ve learned) and try to form an opinion based on those things.
I believe that everyone already knows that even the most credible news sources, no matter how “objective” their facts seem to be, only give us a frame of the story. If not, believe me, all media and news organizations don’t always give the information people need to know. They give what they THINK people would WANT to know, and what people want are things that calls for attention, things that are interesting, things that have impact. Human interest, timeliness, conflict, consequence, and prominence—these are just some of the things that make newsworthy stories, and we can cross out all of it for the PewDiePie issue.
I’m not saying that they are deliberately hiding information from us, but part of their job is to take an angle that better suits the story or issue, and in the process, so details are omitted. There’s a thing called framing and this concept is basically about how information are presented in such a way that will give readers an impression of what topics or issues are more important than the other. Presentation influences the way people interpret information and even the most neutral thing can look either good or bad with the way it was presented. Maybe PewDiePie’s issue is a case of that. I’m NOT saying that PewDiePie was the victim here. I mean, he did make those “anti-semitic” jokes and it’s understandable that the media and the public wouldn’t take this lightly. But this is just on the surface level.
Behind the scenes, behind closed doors, journalism is more complex than the need to report accurate news and current events. Journalism is still a business after all, and businesses need to attract a market and profit from it. Where there is business, there are also people running it from the inside, and where there are people, there are also personal agendas, biases, motivations, and beliefs. Besides appealing to the public’s interests, the news stories will have to appeal to the needs and wants of the people running the business. I don’t know what exactly these things are for Wall Street Journal, but I know for sure that it is reflected in the way they are framing and sensationalizing the PewDiePie story.
Yes, the way I see it, this story is being sensationalized. If you’re going to watch WSJ’s video of this issue, the signs are all over it. Never mind the video clips that were being taken out of context as there are various videos and posts addressing this issue. Just look at the way it started and ended. They started with an introduction of PewDiePie, explaining who is and what recently happened, and ended with these statements: “PewDiePie’s videos are being celebrated by The Daily Stormer website, which recently declared itself ‘the world’s #1 PewDiePie fan site.’ The Southern Poverty Law Center calls The Daily Stormer the ‘top hate site in America.'” They didn’t lie to us, they didn’t use any information that isn’t factual, and they didn’t say anything questionably subjective. HOWEVER, they left the audience with a piece of information that implies that PewDiePie is the bad guy, and the effects on PewDiePie’s image is severing and defaming. He doesn’t really deserve that treatment. Did they really take his videos out of context? You know what, news in general don’t give people context. As I’ve said, framing is what they do best and framing doesn’t give you every single detail you need. Although it would be much better if they did, they aren’t obliged to do so. Their job is to give us what they think is important to us, and they didn’t report anything that is false. Technically.
They already expect people to react. It’s more surprising if they didn’t because that would mean that the news isn’t “worthy” enough. That would mean that their story failed to capture people’s attention and influence companies to cut ties with PewDiePie. That’s what newspapers do. But they did succeed and now people are going crazy about it. Remember, WSJ is also a business-focused newspaper company. They know what’s going on and they know what they are doing. People are once again the pawns of this game. Whether you are pro or against them is irrelevant.
I’m NOT saying that what WSJ did was wrong…or right, and that WSJ shouldn’t have framed the story like that. But you can’t really say that they did wrong, because PewDiePie did say all of those things, and those things did really happen. Sure, it is way unfair that they took out all the context and make it seem like PewDiePie is such a horrible person. But, “Death to all Jews,” is indeed a very hateful and offensive statement even as a joke. It’s bound to be interpreted and taken in different ways. So we can’t really fault WSJ for doing that. But we can’t say that they did good either. I’m just saying, they did what they had to do as a newspaper company. WSJ did their job. PewDiePie is just another story. It goes to show that journalism and media haven’t changed. It’s still the same politically-fueled industry that guises itself as a form of public service. Are they corrupt? No. I don’t think so. Are they wrong? No. But as I have said, this matter is not as simple as pointing out black and white. There are moral and ethical grey areas—dilemmas, if you may—and the industry has demands that people will have to answer to, whether they like it or not. This is the way it is.
The lesson here, people, is to read all facts. Every freaking time, this is the problem, internet people! Read. Not just from one source, not just from the side that you support. If you really want to form a wise opinion, read from all angles of the issue and always, for the sake of humanity, verify facts. We live in the age of information, how hard can this be? This way, there will be no information taken out of context, there will be no statements misinterpreted, and there will be no baseless accusations. I see a lot of them all over the face of this issue, and it’s a shame. Even if they twist and bend the facts, you know the truth and you won’t be fooled this time.
No one is stopping you from picking sides—it’s natural for people to follow their values and principles—but you need to have a solid basis and a sound reasoning for choosing one. If people challenge your opinions, you can just lay down all the facts for them and easily justify it, and if they still don’t understand that you can have your own opinion just as they can have theirs and they start disrespecting you, they will come out as the stupid ones. No one is obliged to agree with your sentiments, but it matters that you know well what you’re standing up for and everyone should learn respect it, the same way you’re respecting theirs. But more than that, it makes you the more credible person and your opinion will become more substantial.
Oh, and another important lesson that I almost forgot. Think before you speak.