Disney severs ties to world’s highest paid YouTuber over allegations of anti-Semitism.
PewDiePie, one of the world’s most popular and enduring social media stars and who has 53 million subscribers on YouTube has landed himself in hot water over ‘humorous’ content he released in January, that he says has been misinterpreted.
PewDiePie, who in real life goes by the name Felix Kjellberg, aged 27 and is from Sweden, reportedly made over $15 million last year alone for his online video series. He is one of the major stars of YouTube original content network, YouTube Red, and was, up until this week strongly affiliated with Disney’s MakerStudios brand.
The Disney owned studio had brokered deals with Kjellberg worth millions of dollars, but that relationship would now seem to be at an end following his antics in the first part of this year.
The three videos in question have since been removed from the channel, but involved in one instance, an ironic appearance by two Sri Lankans who held up a sign that read “Death to all Jews.” Another posted video featured a clip of a man dressed up as Jesus and saying “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.” In other videos, he also showed swastikas drawn by a fan, played the Nazi Party anthem and did a brief Hitler salute – all of which he says was done as a joke.The two men in the Sri Lanka video have since publicly apologised saying that they didn’t really understand the message or its cultural or historical significance.
Kjellberg had used freelance job finding site Fiverr to find participants for the clips. Ironically, Kjellberg had said the purpose of using Fiverr to hire the ‘actors,’ had been “to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online… I picked something that seemed absurd to me – That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars… I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.”
The resulting fallout over Kjellberg’s humour however seems to have made this point for him, even if it personally and financially it seems to have backfired on him.
Offence is taken, not given. The videos if viewed in full, and in the context of their original publication and intention are a) reasonably humorous, and b) thought provoking and hit their targets. The whole furore that has followed and gone viral in the resulting main stream press publicity, does seem to have all jumped onto a bandwagon that has no idea how it got there.
A spokesperson for MakerStudios said: “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.”
For his part Kjellberg has apologised for the online content, but said it was “laughable” that he endorsed any type of anti-Semitic message on a personal level, but also added that “though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”