Felix Kjellberg, more commonly known as Pewdiepie, is no stranger to controversy. In his rise to becoming the most subscribed to content creator on YouTube (by a large margin), Kjellberg has made his fair share of mistakes. But with a trio of videos that have now been deleted, Disney has had enough. According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney, who own the Marker Network that Kjellberg was signed up to, have dumped the YouTuber after he made strong anti-Semitic content, all in the name of internet troll culture.
The videos in question are no longer hosted, but each had their own form of anti-Semitic messaging (a further six still remain active, according to the report). In one, Kjellberg reacts to two freelancers (who he hired from a website called Fiverr) holding up a sign that says “Death to all Jews”. In an earlier one, Kjellberg showed a man dressed as Jesus claiming “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong”. The most recent example comes way of a February 5th video, which featured a short Nazi salute by Kjellberg followed by a sound snippet of Hitler shouting “Sieg Heil”.
Kjellberg claims all of these videos were done in jest, but Maker wasn’t having it. According to the report, Maker have severed ties with the YouTube personality and removed all mention of him from their website. In a statement, Maker made it clear that this was just a step too far, and that they could no longer faithfully support content with messaging such as this. In signing the deal with Maker in 2016, Kjellberg held independence in his content creation.
“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,”
Despite making comments earlier in January defending his jokes, Kjellberg posted another apology two days ago. He writes that the content was always intended as a joke, and done so in an attempt to shine light on “how crazy the modern world is”. Kjellberg states that he is “in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes”, despite paying people to produce messages for him to react to. The full apology can be read on his blog.
But apologies such as this, especially in a modern time where messaging around Neo-Nazism is so volatile, are not free of consequence. Jonathan Vick, an associate director of the Anti-Defamation League who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, explained that putting this type of content out there just brings it more and more into the mainstream,”.
That’s especially true when it occurs on the world’s largest YouTube channel. A very direct result can be seen on website Daily Stormer, an outwardly neo-Nazi website that is prominent in the United States. The website recently changed its motto to “The world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite”, in reaction to the content that has since been deleted from Kjellberg’s channel.
This is the kind of association Maker, and by extension Disney, wants to strongly avoid. But it’s also indicative of how dangerous messaging can be. In an age where human rights are being argued on the basis of religious beliefs (still), Kjellberg’s content could easily be chalked up as simply tactless. But there are dire consequences that come with that, and Disney’s move might just be the first reaction to that.