The Walt Disney Company has severed ties with YouTube’s biggest star PewDiePie after he posted a series of videos featuring antisemitic comments.
PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, is a 27-year-old Swede who built a huge fanbase making opinionated videos, mostly about video games. With more than 53 million subscribers on YouTube, Kjellberg has turned his videos into a lucrative business, earning more than $14m per year from advertising, sponsorship and appearance fees.
A key part of PewDiePie’s empire is a joint venture he formed with Disney’s Maker Studios in 2014. This gave him co-ownership of a multi-channel network called Revelmode that produces videos, mobile apps and merchandise. Following an investigation into the antisemitic content by the Wall Street Journal, Disney has ended this joint venture.
According to the Journal’s analysis, over the last six months the YouTuber posted nine videos that include either antisemitic jokes or Nazi imagery, including one, posted on 11 January, that featured two men holding a banner that stated: “Death to all Jews”. Another video, posted 22 January, featured a man dressed as Jesus saying, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong”.
A spokeswoman for Maker Studios said in a statement: “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
YouTube hasn’t removed any of the videos, although PewDiePie’s channel has pulled three of them.
On Sunday Kjellberg wrote a blog post “to clear some things up”.
He said that his comments were jokes that have been taken out of context and that the video with the banner was created to show “how crazy the modern world is”. He used freelance marketplace Fiverr to hire two men in India to make the offensive sign.
“I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes,” he said. “Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive. As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way.”
PewDiePie’s comments have made him popular with neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, which has run a series of articles about the YouTuber, describing him as “our guy”.
“He could be doing all this only to cause a stir things up and get free publicity,” wrote the Daily Stormer. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, since the effect is the same; it normalizes Nazism, and marginalizes our enemies.”
The site has even added a banner describing itself as “the world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite”.
Without the Disney joint venture, PewDiePie will have to produce his videos independently or find a new partner.
Source: The Guardian