The Wall Street Journal published an article deriding recent videos by YouTube sensation PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, due to Nazi and anti-Semitic content used for comedic ends. Kjellberg has the largest and most watched channel on YouTube at 53million subscribers, making him a juicy target for sensationalism. The WSJ interprets the inclusion of such content to be confirmation that Kjellberg is a Nazi and the use of this imagery for comedic purposes is to share Nazi views and populise them. They concocted a video showing all the examples of PewDiePie’s videos that include Hitler, Nazi swastikas, Nazi salutes, and a prank through the website Fiverr (in which people pay $5 to someone for them to say whatever you tell them to) in which he asked two people to dance with a banner that said “Death to all Jews”. Over 6 months of content they supposedly filtered through and found 9 such occurrences. 9 occurrences for a person who publishes 1 or 2 videos per day. A small percentage by any metric.
While this may be unhumorous to some it is all in a satirical context. For instance the clip of Kjellberg watching a Hitler speech, while wearing a military uniform, is from a video criticising YouTube’s new hero system for community “policing”. It is obviously satire. Even if PewDiePie was sharing his Nazi views through the medium of comedy for plausible deniability purposes, was Sarah Silverman doing the same thing when she was interviewed on Conan dressed as Hitler? Was Charlie Chaplin doing the same in The Great Dictator? Or how about Philip K. Dick writing The Man in the High Tower? The WSJ fail to establish why use of certain material is confirmation of belief in that material. The “Lol jk” response is perfectly valid. Perhaps someone at the WSJ needs to organise an “Understanding Comedy” course for them to be taught a core principle of comedy is subversion of expectation.
On another note. The WSJ, or the 3 authors of the “article” at least, fail to make sense of how mockery of an ideology is a sign of devotion to it. Most people dislike the ideologies they hold to be mocked. Just look at feminists on Twitter or Christians on YouTube back when Thunderf00t created the “Why People Laugh at Creationists” series. The adherents of the ideology that was and is targeted appear to act personally slighted, even though they haven’t been.
PewDiePie’s own response video to the WSJ is not an apology video as has been cited on other news websites but is in fact a stalwart defence of comedy and a literal fuck you to the WSJ. The WSJ article has been regurgitated on pretty much every major platform that has a technology page and some that don’t. Some even claiming this is Kjellberg’s downfall. While he may have lost his contracts with Disney and YouTube his channel is still live, he didn’t rely on either of those contracts for success, and in fact his subscriber count has been on the rise even more dramatically post-hit piece. His response video has been viewed 11 million times (at time of writing) and has over 1 million likes to a couple of thousand dislikes. People are overwhelmingly in support of PewDiePie and rightly so. The blatant attempt at a hit piece takes comedy out of context poorly. It is still clear from the WSJ video that it is comedy and that they have cherry picked the clips. Humour should never be censored no matter its content. If you find something in it offensive, don’t watch it. Simple as.