Controversy fueled by the media surrounded YouTube personality Felix Kjellberg, otherwise known as PewDiePie, throughout February and March of this year. The drama started after Kjellberg released a video reviewing the website “Fiverr,” on which virtually any service is offered for just 5 dollars. In the video, he made a point about how easy this made it for both consumers and workers to abuse the site. If a buyer asked someone in the design department to write a logo, for example, the person could easily copy and paste artwork from another site and run it through photoshop to make a few dollars.
In Kjellberg’s video, he intended to see how far he could bend the rules from the opposite side. The video began as more comedic and satiric as he paid multiple users and asked them for ridiculous things. Many of them did not deliver because of this. However, one group that Kjellberg didn’t expect to follow through actually did: a group of young men who had posted that they would post a video of themselves dancing in the jungle with a custom message written on them. In what was, granted, not very stellar judgement, PewDiePie told them to write, “Death to all Jews”. When he came back a few days later, he found the video that contained them laughing and dancing, then suddenly revealing a sign with the statement written on it. Kjellberg’s jaw dropped. “I am sorry,” he said after the video ended. “I feel partly responsible for this… I didn’t think they’d actually do it.” He said he thought it was only fair to give them a good rating, as they did give him what he’d asked for.
About a week later, Wall Street Journal posted an article entitled, “Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts.” Allegedly, after the video of PewDiePie was posted, WSJ had gone to the two major companies he worked for, YouTube and Disney, and convinced them to break off all collaboration with him. Kjellberg stated this a week later in a video titled “My Response,” where he made a public apology and clarified that he never intended to hurt anyone. After the apology, however, he angrily spoke out about the media’s influence in his life and how he feels that Wall Street Journal in particular paints a deceivingly negative picture of him by taking content in multiple other videos of his out of context. “[They] posted that I, during the past six months, have made nine videos that have anti-Semitic messaging,” Kjellberg said. He went on to state that the site pulled footage from other videos to build evidence that he was a Nazi, such as one cropped screenshot taken of Kjellberg pointing to something out of frame, making it appear as though he were doing a Nazi salute.
It is not unusual for celebrities in the 21st century to be surrounded by controversy. As long as his or her name is in the title with a “shocking” headline, an article written about them is bound to get buzz. However, the fact that Kjellberg built his fame as a gamer and online personality rather than in Hollywood (where most other scandals originate) may have worked to his advantage instead of the media’s. His channel PewDiePie has nearly 55 million subscribers, many of which lashed out at Wall Street Journal after seeing his public statement. Consequently, the site has lost about ten million viewers in the past month where it had instead hoped to increase its following. Neither side has stopped feuding, causing the “war” to keep going strong even a month after the initial events unfolded.