“”Subscribe to T-Series.
| Like and subscribe|
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (1989–), known by his stage name PewDiePie, is a Swedish internet entertainer who makes video content for the online streaming service YouTube. He makes millions of dollars a year from his entertainment business, and is estimated to have a net worth of US$20 million. His YouTube channel first became the most-subscribed channel[note 1] in August 2013, with 11 million subscribers, and has been overtaken several times, most notably by the Indian company T-Series in early 2019.
Outside the YouTube community, he is generally best-known for becoming a human meme,[citation NOT needed] having his supporters hack printers, and paying two Indians to hold up a sign saying "DEATH TO ALL JEWS". Aside from the latter incident, Kjellberg is also infamous for some other slip-ups of a similar nature, as well as his interactions with prominent members of the alt-right.
Racism and antisemitism
Is Kjellberg actually racist or antisemitic? Possibly, but it's also possible that he just tends to trivialize such issues, partly because of his perspective (i.e. that of a white male Swedish millionaire residing in southeast England). That said, he certainly did used to follow a lot of racists and antisemites on Twitter.
Fiverr and the Wall Street Journal
“”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".
|—Oliva Solon, of The Guardian.|
The second banner that they held said "SUBSCRIBE TO KEEMSTAR". For many of PewDiePie's viewers, this helped further contextualize this as a joke. For the media, the other banner was much more important.
PewDiePie lost a lucrative joint venture with Disney's Maker Studios after this controversy, and YouTube cancelled the second season of his YouTube Red series. In a 2019 review, The Verge links the incident directly to the "adpocalypse", the gradual and systemic decrease in ad revenue received by YouTube creators.
milked the controversy to increase views and watch time posted a series of related videos after the initial incident (on 17 January, 22 January, 13 February, 16 February (deleted), 22 February and 24 February). He doesn't initially apologize for any of the incidents, noting in the first video, "it might be just my crude sense of humour, but I think there's something funny about [the sign], and I don't think there's any actual antisemitic thing about it". He also criticizes the media for using parts of his videos out of context, and asserts that this constitutes clickbait. The second video (mentioned briefly in the quoted Guardian article) mainly concerns the consequences for the people he paid through Fiverr. The third and fifth videos are more light-hearted videos which are in response to three people in particular.
It finally came to his attention on 12 February that he might be "giving credibility to the anti-Semitic movement", and clarified on his Tumblr blog that he did not support any hate groups. In the deleted video, he eventually apologizes for the Fiverr incident, but also devotes most of the video to criticizing the media's coverage of him and other YouTubers. Somewhat predictably, the media didn't cover this particularly positively. The last two videos are about the responses to the apology video.
Other YouTube personalities backed PewDiePie in the course of events, primarily due to media outlets' misrepresentation of his actions and misleading labelling of Kjellberg as a Nazi and/or antisemite.
Crossing the bridge
“”The 27-year-old video blogger called an opponent a 'fucking nigger' while live-streaming playing the online game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, before correcting himself to 'fucking asshole', adding: 'I didn't mean it in a bad way.'
|—Alex Hern, of The Guardian.|
Nothing really happened as a result of that one.
The controversial shoutout
In a video uploaded to YouTube on 9 December 2018, PewDiePie accidentally (or "accidentally") gave a shoutout to, among some other YouTubers, a channel featuring some fairly overt racism and other assorted offensive stuff. Ostensibly, Kjellberg liked their Death Note video essay and didn't notice all of the offensive stuff, even though some of it was in the exact video that he mentioned. PewDiePie then updated his own video to remove the reference, and made another video to address the situation and the Vox article, but not before the other channel gained tens of thousands of new subscribers.
It's somewhat plausible to give Kjellberg the benefit of the doubt, since the video mentioned was more than 30 minutes long. Not much happened as a result, perhaps partly because at the time the "PewDiePie vs T-Series" thing was in full swing.
In mid-2018, it appeared that PewDiePie's reign as the most popular YouTuber was close to ending, as the Indian entertainment company T-Series was gaining subscribers at a much faster rate. This has been attributed to an increase in the number of Indians with internet access.
In response to this being noticed, PewDiePie vs T-Series and "Subscribe to PewDiePie" became a sort of organized campaign, with many YouTubers and other PewDiePie fans showing their support for him in public and on the internet. Some of them asked random strangers to subscribe. Some of them made signs and bought advertising billboards. And some of them hacked thousands of TVs and printers. PewDiePie himself later got somewhat fed up with the campaign and issued a statement saying "DON'T Subscribe to Pewdiepie". The campaign has been remarkably effective, with T-Series's takeover being averted for several months.
Despite Kjellberg's prior history of doing just a little too much racist dog-whistling, many supporters were keen to view him as an individualistic symbol of the "old YouTube", where individual creators like Kjellberg (as opposed to companies like T-Series) could succeed with nothing more than the YouTube algorithm and their fans. The campaign was perhaps more symbolic than practically useful, as Kjellberg's YouTube channel had made him a millionaire years before the campaign began.
The Christchurch mosque shootings
On 15 March 2019, a self-described "Ethno-nationalist, Eco-fascist" far-right gunman shot 50 people dead and injured many others in terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the start of the gunman's livestream, which continued to be broadcast through the attacks, the gunman said, "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie". It is likely that just like the other "memes" found in the shooters mad ravings, the shooter added in a popular Youtuber's name so that the media would spread the story, leading to his hateful ideas being spread further on the back of clickbaiting articles and videos. PewDiePie later expressed condolences on his Twitter account, and expressed being "sickened" that the shooter mentioned him. On April 28, PewDiePie decided to end the "Subscribe to PewDiePie" meme, citing the shooting as the main reason.
The gunman's manifesto and livestream also contained references to various other memes, including the Navy SEAL copypasta. Arguably, Kjellberg unduly received attention because of his aforementioned slip-ups. On the other hand, PewDiePie and much of his fanbase have reacted quite defensively to his racism-related incidents; and PewDiePie has openly mingled with figures like Ben Shapiro in his YouTube videos, and followed several reactionary and far-right characters (including Lauren Southern, Stefan Molyneux and Markus Persson[note 2]) on Twitter. Arguably, Kjellberg is not entirely blameless, as he has been careless with his enormously wide platform and (implicitly) allowed his young, impressionable fans to be more easily radicalized. Not to mention his "fake news media" thing after the Wall Street Journal published the initial report on his Nazi stuff, which would have been convenient for certain people.[note 3]
Four days after the shooting, Kjellberg converted his Twitter account into "#1 BTS Stan Account", and unfollowed everyone to only follow @BTS_twt. While Kjellberg did not explicitly connect this to anything in particular (besides his apparent interest in BTS), the accounts he had been following might be indicative of a desire to hide that information.[note 4]
The Poway synagogue shooting
Six weeks later, a shooter opened fire inside a synagogue in Poway, San Diego County, California, killing one person an elderly Jewish woman named Lori Gilbert Kaye and injuring three others such as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and a young Israeli girl named Noya Dahan. The perpetrator, a 19-year-old California State University San Marcos student from the Rancho Pensaquitos suburb of San Diego, California named John T. Earnest wrote an anti-Semitic and racist open letter on 8chan similar to the Christchurch shooter's manifesto. The open letter specifically blames "Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously genocide of the European race" and for other ills. The open letter cites the Christchurch, New Zealand Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre shooter Brenton Harrison Tarrant and the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers including Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ, Apostle Paul, Martin Luther and Ludwig von Beethoven as inspirations for the attack. The open letter revealed that the shooter/author was responsible for committing arson against a mosque in Escondido, California earlier in March 2019 before the shooting in Poway as he made it clear "I scorched a mosque in Escondido with gasoline after Brenton Tarrant's sacrifice and they never found shit on me" he wrote.
The virulently racist letter specifically named Kjellberg:
“”To the glow-niggers and Jewed-media reading this. I think it is important for you to know that I did not do this alone. I had the help of a man named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg. He was kind enough to plan and fund this whole operation—the sly bastard. Apparently, Pewdiepie hates Jews as much as Pajeets. Who would’ve known? Make sure to call me a ‘white supremacist’ and ‘anti-semite’ or whatever bullshit you spew to spook the normalfags. It doesn’t even matter. You’ve been calling every White person alive those names for decades—they’ve lost all their meaning. You’ve socially ostracized every White person. You’ve made it harder and harder for White people to live a normal life. To this I say well done. You are stupid enough to make a White person’s only viable option for survival to kill all of you. Keep doing what you’re doing Jew-media. You’re putting the noose around your own neck. The irony is glorious.
|—The shooter's "open letter"|
However, Heavy.com notes that "the reference appears to be an effort to troll the media"; Kjellberg probably didn't actually "plan and fund this whole operation". Kjellberg has not publicly commented on the shooting.
- Jordan Peterson -- Another oft-memed Internet figure. PewDiePie also endorses Jordan Peterson and his book, 12 Rules for Life.
- This excludes special channels which do not own any videos, such as YouTube Gaming.
- It is somewhat difficult to absolutely verify that Kjellberg did, in fact, follow those people; archive.today does not show those people in his following list, as only 20 people are listed on each page and the full list was not archived. However, the Reddit thread does not contain any comments outright denying this – some of the comments claim that PewDiePie unfollowed them because they were receiving death threats – and the image used as proof in the post was uploaded to Twitter on 17 March 2019 at 10:44:09 am UTC, before Kjellberg unfollowed all of the accounts, and more than a day before the post to /r/ChapoTrapHouse was made. There are even some comments on this article's talk page corroborating this. Overall, it's quite likely that Kjellberg did actually follow those people.
- In one of the aforementioned videos' descriptions, Kjellberg credits Sargon of Akkad.
- Well, wouldn't you possibly be a little bit embarrassed to be publicly following a white nationalist, a white supremacist and a QAnon believer?
- Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts - WSJ. Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas and Ben Fritz, Feb. 14, 2017.
- MSM Tried To Destroy PewDiePie and OMG It Just Backfired! So ridiculous... by Philip DeFranco
- Is PewDiePie a Racist? by h3h3Productions
- I Was A Complete Idiot And Was Totally Wrong About PewDiePie by ReviewTechUSA]
- PewDiePie must not be excused. Using the N-word is never OK - The Guardian. Chella Ramanan, Mon 11 Sep 2017.
- What is T-Series, the YouTube channel that's about to surpass PewDiePie in subscribers? - Mashable. MATT BINDER, SEP 06, 2018
- PewDiePie in battle with T-Series to keep top YouTube spot - BBC. Zoe Kleinman, 3 December 2018.
- DON'T Subscribe to Pewdiepie - Youtube.
- “Remember Lads, Subscribe to PewDiePie”: We Need to Talk About How Domestic Terrorists are Created Online CNN News
- Ending the Subscribe to Pewdiepie Meme
- Okay, This Is Epic ( Bonus Meme ft. Ben Shapiro) [MEME REVIEW] 👏 👏#40 by PewDiePie
- MY NEWS NETWORK! by PewDiePie