Pewdiepie is in trouble for expressing racist sentiment. Again.
In the first half of 2017, Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg came under fire for paying a couple of men to hold a banner which said “Death to all Jews.” He claims he did this to prove just how crazy the world is, as there’s a website – which I won’t mention here because, well, fuck them – where you can pay people $5 to do pretty much anything. Why that ‘thing’ had to be something so hateful and discriminating, I don’t know. He just as easily could have asked someone on this website to smack themselves in the dick with a hammer, but nope, he went straight for Nazi rhetoric. Anyway, as a result of this – as well as other racially or religious sensitive things that appeared on his channel before – Pewdiepie lost a deal with Disney’s Maker Studios, which canceled plans for TV, apps, and merchandise to be produced under his brand. Youtube also canceled the production of Scare Pewdiepie Season 2 (for Youtube Red), and his channel was also removed from Google Preferred.
You think he would have learned his lesson… but nope, he’s doubled down on his stupidity. Well, maybe tripled, because he also did a Hitler-esque video after all this.
But more recently while streaming, Pewdiepie was caught saying:
Pewdiepie: “What a fucking n****r! Jeez, oh my God, what the fuck. Sorry, but, what the fuck. What a fucking asshole. I don’t mean that in a bad (unintelligible and laughing a little). Why would he do that? Legit, why would he do that? Fuck sake.”
Immediately after those words escaped his mouth, he knew what he had done. His words that followed made that clear. But too bad, so sad, the damage has been done. Pewdiepie, already seen by many as anti-Semitic and racist, said the worst thing possible.
Now, it’s entirely possible that Pewdiepie is neither of those things. He very well may be a nice guy that just happened to use a racial slur while venting… which is still dumb. Very, very dumb. A lot of people say stupid things not because they’re evil, but because they lack a brain-to-mouth filter. I get that. And because I’m not one of those people that care about political correctness just for the sake of appeasing people, I don’t even care what he says or does in his personal life. If he wants to spout off the n-word from the comfort of his computer chair, then fine. That’s his prerogative. However, I’m also free to think and say whatever I want, so I also reserve the right to call Pewdiepie an epic piece of shit for doing so. I do think that you can joke about ANYTHING – some people in this life seriously need to lighten up – but Pewdiepie wasn’t making a joke. He let a racial slur slip out of his mouth because he was upset. At a video game. Who does that?
A lot of people have tried to justify this by saying, “Well, it wasn’t contextually insulting. He just said it because he was mad.” So, what are those people trying to say? That saying the n-word is cool just because you’re caught off guard and pissed off by something? That’s news to me! So I guess any time I stub my toe, hit my funny-bone, hit my head, my son spits up on me, or my foot falls asleep, I should let the n-word fly?
Here’s what it all boils down to: If Pewdiepie let this slip during a live stream, especially considering the history of racial insensitivity behind him, then that means he says this regularly, or at least regularly enough. It’s something he likely says when he’s playing away from prying eyes… which is shitty. I’ve never once uttered the phrase ‘check your privilege’, because it’s become synonymous with ‘white people can’t have an opinion’… but Pewdiepie is the kind of person that saying is meant for. Or at least ONE of the kinds of people it’s meant for. The n-word isn’t some ‘say it because you’re angry’ sort of thing. Most people I know use ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’. If you’re associating anger with the n-word… well, problems, son. Problems.
Youtubers generally use alternate personas for their channels. What you see on-screen is meant to entertain you, and doesn’t necessarily represent the person behind the gamer/entertainer tag. That’s all well and good, but if you’re not professional enough an entertainer to separate those two distinct personalities (one for home, one for work), then it becomes an issue… especially if you’re an idiot like this guy.
Now Pewdiepie is, predictably, being punished by others on the development side of things.
Sean Vanaman of Campo Santo games has stated they’ll be filing DMCA takedown notices for all of Pewdiepie’s Firewatch content, as well as any future Campo Santo games. His Tweet storm is as follows:
“There is a bit of leeway you have to have with the internet when u wake up every day and make video games. There’s also a breaking point. I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make. He’s worse than a closeted racist: he’s a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry. I’d urge other developers & will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a millionaire. Furthermore, we’re complicit: I’m sure we’ve made money off of the 5.7M views that video has and that’s something for us to think about. Lastly: I love streamers. I watch them daily and we sent out over 3000 keys to professional and amateur streamers of FW.”
This introduces another wrinkle though, and one that’s not actually problematic for Pewdiepie, but Campo Santo themselves. In the ‘about’ section on firewatchgame.com, there’s some intriguing information:
“Can I stream this game? Can I make money off of those streams?
Yes. We love that people stream and share their experiences in the game. You are free to monetize your videos as well. It doesn’t hurt to let us know on Twitter when you’re live. We might show up in your chat!”
But when questioned about the legality of using DMCA takedowns because of a racial slur used by a streamer, Sean had this to say:
“All streaming is infringement but devs and pubs allow it because it makes us money too.”
This, of course, has created a huge can of worms. The first thing some people have said in response is, WTFU, which stands for, ‘where’s the fair use’? This is something Youtubers have clung to each time a developer has issued a takedown for one of their videos. Word quickly spreads among the Youtuber community, and they band together in order to save their collective asses. “We can do what we want because fair use” isn’t exactly true, though. It’s more of a gray area. Criticism is specifically protected under fair use, but Let’s Plays are basically the wild west of content. Some lawyers, per some of John “Totalbiscuit” Bain’s tweets, believe developers can do whatever they want with Let’s Play videos:
Totalbiscuit: “Spoke to an actual lawyer. Opinion was Campo Santo is 100% within legal rights, DMCA applies, LPs (Let’s Plays) are not fair use. Website (referencing the ‘we like streamers’ bit on Firewatchgame.com) non-binding. So those arguments are basically out the window, leaving “should they shouldn’t they” which is up to them really. What a mess.”
But the interpretation of law seems to vary attorney by attorney, and judge by judge. So while the attorney Totalbiscuit was in touch with says LP’s aren’t protected by fair use, Leonard French, a respected legal interpreter on Youtube, believes this would be DMCA abuse. His argument is that, yes, posting the ‘ok to stream’ message on the Firewatch website grants Youtubers permission, and that they had more than enough time to request Pewdiepie’s video get taken down if they had a problem with it… except they didn’t. Until now. After Pewdiepie said something racist. On a video that had nothing to do with Firewatch. The argument is basically, ‘The video was legal, for years, until they didn’t like something Pewdiepie said on his own stream of a different game?’ And not only does Campo Santo likely not have any room for legal action at this point – especially since Pewdiepie undoubtedly received one of those keys direct from the developer – but if anyone had the right to issue copyright claims, it’s Pewdiepie, as he could target anyone using his gameplay footage without some form of criticism to accompany it (as criticism is expressly permitted under fair use).
See how sticky this whole thing gets?
But it gets worse. If you’re a fan of Youtube, regardless if you’re a viewer or content creator, things have been getting hairy.
Jim Sterling has pointed out that, at this point, Pewdiepie is a liability for the entire industry of gamers and Youtubers, and he’s absolutely correct.
Pewdiepie’s flub from earlier in the year is one of the many reasons why advertisers began to pull away from Youtube. Their ads could pop up during any video, regardless of the content it contained… but that creates a huge marketing problem. Advertisers are spending good money to shill their products, and they want to have the ability to decide what content their ads are appearing in. After all, that’s how it works on television. But Youtube never did much to appease the advertisers, so they started withdrawing their money after the Pewdiepie incident.
In an attempt to bring the advertisers back, Youtube finally made some changes, by way of allowing bots to flag inappropriate content. This impacted a lot of the major Youtubers we know and love, as much of their content was flagged for one reason or another. It was awful for anyone who relied solely on the money from Youtube ad views, although some planned ahead and have Patreons up for support. Still, it’s horrifying to think that all this content was being threatened to have monetization removed, merely because some bot heard one ‘fuck’ too many. This is something that should be done by a dedicated staff, not some bargain bin AI. Context should matter, and a bot can’t distinguish between an acceptable piece of content or something that’s truly objectionable. As a result, content creators suffer as a whole. This hands off approach is, frankly, disgusting. It’s the most despicable form of censorship I’ve seen.
Well, maybe censorship is the wrong word. Youtube still allows you to post your content… you just won’t be paid for it. And they, as a company, have every right to make that call. To be fair, Youtubers should understand that they’re not as ‘free enterprise’ as they believe. They’re relying on a hosting platform for a living. Unless they get a website and pay for their own traffic, they’re at the whim of whatever Youtube decides to do.
Anyway, Pewdiepie should have been smart enough to know that couldn’t play the system forever. He’s always used controversy as a way to gain subscribers, but he never took into consideration how his actions would affect everyone. He’s not the only Youtuber saying nasty or insensitive things – in fact, he’s quite tame compared to countless others – but whether he likes it or not, Pewdiepie shoulders more responsibility for his actions than others. With over 50 million subscribers, he represents Youtube, content creators, and gamers. People who don’t even game or watch Youtube all that often know who this guy is, so there was an especially heavy burden on him to remain professional at all times. But unfortunately, he didn’t, and now everyone else is paying the price.
That’s the worst part, honestly. Because of Pewdiepie’s decision to use shock value as a way to gain subscribers, content creators are sitting at the edge of their seats and biting their nails, wondering if DMCA takedowns will be abused more than ever and upheld by law. Even if Pewdiepie wins, it’s not exactly a positive for content creators, and Google/Youtube are most certainly looking at ways to better monitor and/or restrict content.
Good luck to all of the content creators out there…