PewDiePie has responded to the recent controversy that caused him to be dropped by Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube’s premium advertising program, acknowledging that he “went too far” with his anti-Semitic jokes but maintaining that the media is still to blame.
PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, was recently dropped by Maker Studios after a Wall Street Journal report brought one of his videos to their attention, in which he is shown using the online freelance marketplace Fiverr to pay two young Asian men to hold up a sign reading “Death To All Jews.” After Maker Studios ended their affiliation with him, YouTube axed him from their premium advertising program and cancelled the second season of his YouTube Red show Scare PewDiePie.
The YouTuber, who boasts over 53 million subscribers and is the most popular personality on the site by a considerable margin, has now uploaded a video in which he discusses the events of the past few days, putting the onus of blame upon the media despite acknowledging that his actions in his recent videos may not have been acceptable.”I’m sorry for the words that I used as I know I offended people, and I admit that the joke itself went too far,” the 27-year-old said.”I do strongly believe that you can joke about anything, but I also believe that there’s a right way and not the best way to joke about things.”
He continued: “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’ve learned to appreciate, and I think this whole situation has definitely been that for me, and it’s something I’m going to keep in mind moving forward.”
He then goes on to discuss his thoughts regarding the Wall Street Journal’s report, which he believes takes his jokes out of context in order to paint him as an anti-Semite. “They used another video where I joke that the YouTube Heroes program is seen basically like a Nazi scheme, where I look at a Hitler speech, and they used that as proof that I’m a Nazi or anti-Semite. I’m not kidding, they even used my pointing my arm like this (he raises his arm), technically they can use this as evidence as well, because that’s what they did.”
Watch the video below:
While PewDiePie concludes the video by reiterating that he’s “just a guy from Sweden” and that the media should focus upon “actual hatred out there” rather than his videos, the fact remains that with his 53 million subscribers, his words carry weight. Though he may only consider himself a “rookie comedian,” the fact of the matter is that broadcasting divisive attempts at humor that are misconstrued by many — including fascistic sites such as The Daily Stormer — as efforts to normalize dangerous opinions is going to lead to negative reactions. He may just be “one guy,” but he has a larger audience watching his videos than most TV shows. What he says matters to many people, whether he likes it or not.
While efforts to paint him as a genuine anti-Semite were off-base, that his content was being celebrated by an audience of genuine racists will hopefully serve as a wake-up call. Despite him clearly being uncomfortable with the spotlight his popularity on YouTube has placed him under, he should maybe consider that he has only been criticized by various media outlets after resorting to his ironically anti-Semitic jokes, Nazi imagery and edgelord humor. Though he wouldn’t be the first comedian to use potentially offensive material in his “act,” the fact that he’s had to spend the past month or so explaining the punchline to his jokes is indicative that he simply isn’t very good at treading the line between offense and humor; a level of nuance is a requirement for such jokes, and unfortunately for PewDiePie that nuance flies out the window when you’re paying two foreign men $5 to hold up a sign reading “Death To All Jews.”