As a general rule, I don’t spend too much time thinking about or paying attention to “YouTubers” or “Influencers.” As I frequently tell my fellow Overlords when they lay in to me about not knowing who some NPR person is, if someone hasn’t been deemed interesting enough to be given a reality show on Bravo, I don’t consider them worth my time. I do, however, know who PewDiePie is (real name Felix Kjellberg.) Why? Well, sometimes when someone is such a colossal shit despite being not being on my television screen, even they get my attention.
Here’s a fun walk down memory lane for some of the times PewDiePie has been a vile person, and then passed it off as no big deal.
Let’s ease into this— In his bio, he linked to a YouTube channel of a racist asshole.
Not shitty enough for you? Don’t worry, there’s more. Per Vox:
PewDiePie also referred to several past incidents that sparked a similar outcry: a video in which he performed a Nazi “heil” salute, and one in which he hired a pair of performers from a freelancer website to hold up a sign reading “Death to all Jews.” He said these examples were satirical, but many observers condemned them as anti-Semitic.
…please count me among the ranks of one of those “observers.”
Or, per The New York Times:
…in 2012, when he was criticized for his habit of referring to beating his video-game opponents as “raping” them, or in 2016, when he was temporarily banned by Twitter after joking that he was joining ISIS. Kjellberg called these mistakes his “oopsies,” and he knew they were easily fixed with an apology.
Are you getting the picture of the f*ckery?
So when I was minding my business on the internet this morning, it was particularly jarring to see this headline: “PewDiePie under a ‘colossal amount of pressure’ and ‘exhausted’ before break as he steps back from YouTube.”
Being a glutton for punishment, and also, having 30 minutes until it was time to take my laundry out of the dryer, I clicked on the link because why not? For context, last month, PewDiePie took a break from his YouTube channel, because he’s already made millions from it and nothing really matters in this life because bad behavior seems to pay off, for many.
In the article, I was privy to such excellent pull quotes as:
The YouTuber has been uploading every day for years and, with him recently admitting that he’s ‘feeling very tired’ after working so hard, it’s no surprise he needs some time away.
Yes, it is very hard work coming up with new and exciting ways to say harmful bullshit, isn’t it?
What does the expert sourced for the article have to say?
… Clinical Psychologist Janina Scarlet explained just why his break is so needed. Janina told Metro.co.uk : ‘The pressure of making new content, along with pressure of timely video releases, and being subjected to frequent harassment and trolling can be exhausting to anyone.
So, spoilers for the link, at no point does any of this guy’s very shitty history get mentioned. He gets the full “oh, he’s burnt out and doing self-care, this is important” schtick. Are we doing this now? Hillary Clinton’s emails and “Benghazi” still get mentioned on a very regular basis— even though multiple investigations have cleared her of any wrongdoing— and will probably be mentioned in every single article about her from now until the end of time. But some pale, male YouTuber leaves his platform and we’re gonna talk about burnout instead of all the hate and bullshit he’s put forth into the world for no reason other than racism and sexism don’t touch him as the apex predator in the social hierarchy, aka, a white guy? F*ck no.
Do I think people should be allowed to grow and move past their mistakes, or “oopsies” as PewDiePie calls them?
Yes, absolutely. In order for that to happen, real change and remorse should be shown. More importantly, an understanding of why the f*ck up was a f*ck up is required. Anyone can be sad and bummed out that they got caught. It’s rare to understand why what was done was harmful, especially if the harm will never touch you.
By writing about this guy’s “burn out” instead of the harmful and hateful shit he has said and promoted, we’re normalizing the hate. He’s being presented like a starlet who’s being treated for “exhaustion” instead of someone who knowingly created a shit storm that promoted hate, for years, and decided he’s had enough of it for now so he’s stepping away because he feels tired. “Experts” should talk about the toll promoting hateful things takes on society and mental health, because here’s where it gets really depressing and not harmless “lolz” at all, per Dr. Naomi Elster via Impakter:
…hate speech leads to ‘a dehumanizing effect’ which lessens our empathy for other people…When we dehumanize people, or see them as a cultural ‘outgroup’, we are less moved by their suffering. An extreme form of this is violence targeted against a specific group, but it also makes us more likely to tolerate and less likely to be disturbed by denial of the rights we ourselves take for granted.
…But sure, let’s talk about his self-care, because that’s what’s important in this conversation, right?