Depending on your filter bubble, YouTube star PewDiePie is either a maligned prankster or someone who normalises fascist viewpoints.
Google news search results for “PewDiePie,” real name Felix Kjellberg, are led by negative coverage from the Evening Standard and the New York Times, among others.
But enter the same search into YouTube, and the first page of results is dominated by Kjellberg’s fellow — and occasionally rival — online personalities jumping to his defence.
As PewDiePie, Kjellberg is YouTube’s biggest star — but was dropped by Disney this week after a series of pranks involving anti-Semitic messages. Kjellberg was in a joint venture with the Disney-owned multi-channel Maker Studios, but the organisation severed ties with him after the Wall Street Journal pointed out the offending videos.
According to the newspaper, Kjellberg posted 9 videos containing Nazi imagery or anti-Semitic statements. One saw Kjellberg pay two freelancers, hired through the website Fiverr, to hold up signs saying “Death to All Jews.”
At the time of writing, the top YouTube result for “PewDiePie” is Kjellberg’s own response to critical media coverage about him.
The remainder are almost exclusively videos by young, male YouTubers decrying the media coverage around Kjellberg.
Philip DeFranco, a libertarian YouTube personality who discusses news, posted a video titled: “MSM Tried To Destroy PewDiePie and OMG It Just Backfired! So ridiculous…” In an earlier video, DeFranco said: “Felix I don’t believe intended to say anything racist, or prejudiced or hateful.”
Another video posted by YouTube personality Ethan Klein begins with tongue-in-cheek criticism of Kjellberg. Klein opens by saying he will unsubscribe from Kjellberg’s YouTube page and Twitter feed, before saying: “That’s a goof.” He added that Kjellberg is “not an anti-Semite.” Klein is himself Jewish, as he notes in his video.
His video has more than 3 million views so far, while DeFranco’s has more than 1 million.
There are common arguments across the videos — that Kjellberg wasn’t making anti-Semitic statements but seeing how far Fiverr freelancers would go; that his actions were taken out of context; and that media outlets resented Kjellberg’s success.
YouTuber TJ Kirk, who posts under the name “The Amazing Atheist,” called Kjellberg a “victim of bad press.”