PewDiePie's 'Death To All Jews' Joke Is Indefensible. Here's Why.
13 January 2017, 15:57 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:23
You can be a fan of Felix and still think that this was a grave misstep
This week, PewDiePie released a video in which he paid some performers from the controversial website ‘Fiverr’ to hold up a banner that read 'Death to all Jews'.
From the video, it appears that Felix’s intention whilst writing that message was to see whether the performers would actually do it/ go through with it. Essentially - Felix made this video as a dark joke (and assumed that everyone would take it that way).x
Well, let's take a look at one of the top comments:
Woah. It goes without saying, but attracting these kinds of people to your videos is not okay. It is also worth noting that the performers on Fiverr were banned from the website shortly after releasing the ‘Death to all Jews’ video, so the controversial nature of his message clearly made waves on that website as well.
But before I say more, I’ll state that I am fully aware that some PewDiePie fans will already be flexing their fingers, ready to type out an indignant comment about how it's his freedom of speech bro, he can do what he wants - I get that. But I believe this is an issue that transcends the idea of freedom of speech. I'm not saying he should be thrown in jail for his words, I'm just saying maybe he should think for five seconds before he speaks. I'm saying that his actions have consequences that he does not appear to be considering.
Felix is the biggest YouTuber in the world. His audience is massive – and on the whole, it’s young. Whether he likes it or not (and he honestly seems to grapple with it), he has an enormous amount of influence, including over people who are very impressionable. So, Felix can prioritise his right to be an edgy edge-lord who never censors his art, bro but he – and anyone with his level of influence – has to accept that if you are that influential (and if you’re just a normal, empathetic human being) you should be far more responsible with your words.
Let's take a look at this delightful comment again:
People like this exist. Nazis exist. Anti-semites exist, in their multitudes. It may all seem like a joke, but to many people it is deadly serious - to some it is even a matter of life or death.
Let me pause here to say that I know PewDiePie doesn't hate Jewish people. I know that he is a nice guy - we've worked with him, he's lovely. However, the crucial problem is that when someone as naturally accepting as Felix makes a 'Death To Jews' joke, he is doing it under the assumption that it's a ridiculous thing to say. He treats the phrase lightly and jokingly because under his joke is a subtext that reads: 'you didn't really think I'd actually mean this horrible thing, did you?!'
He's banking on the fact that you will know he doesn't actually hold this view and that everyone the world over thinks it's a horrible view to have. The problem is there are people who hold that view. There are many people who would, with full sincerity, proclaim a phrase like 'death to all Jews'. Anti-semites are everywhere - some of them are even incredibly influential.
A literal anti-Semite white supremacist leaves a comment on PewDiePie's video
As we grapple with the reality of living in a time when white supremacism has made a surging comeback (joy), we have to ask whether we can really afford to leave the lines this blurred.
Felix isn't the kind of Onision-style edgy boy who revels in being a villain. In the very same video as he showed the 'Death to all Jews' sign he also apologised pretty profusely for making it happen. But hey, he still uploaded the video. He still recorded it, edited it and then published it - all while knowing how offensive it was. He can't have been surprised when YouTube demonetised it.
Felix, whether you like it or not, you owe it to your audience to behave in a way that rejects hatred.