Why PewDiePie doesn’t care about free speech [Opinion]

Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, has made it his mission to fight The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The Swedish YouTuber is consistently posting videos for his 54.6-million subscribers attacking WSJ for reporting news. But nothing Kjellberg argues ever holds up, and it’s a damning representation of where his priorities lie.

For those blissfully unaware, back in January PewDiePie posted a video in which he paid Indian men to hold up a sign promoting Jewish genocide. WSJ wrote an article on it, and contacted Disney for a statement. Disney was producing Kjellberg’s YouTube Red show Scare Pewdiepie at the time, and subsequently cancelled it.

In his video “My Response“, Kjellberg asserted that “old school media does not like internet personalities, because they’re scared of us.” He then went on to slam the outlet for misunderstanding his jokes.

But the conflict didn’t stop there.

Late last month, WSJ reporter Jack Nicas reported that YouTube’s premium ads were being featured alongside racist videos. Many advertisers, including Walmart, Pepsi and Starbucks, have since suspended their ads on the platform.

YouTube channel h3h3 productions then posted a video accusing Nicas of falsifying evidence. The channel was proven wrong, and the video has since been deleted. But that hasn’t stopped this group from declaring an all-out war on The Wall Street Journal.

This “war,” though, represents a misunderstanding of WSJ and YouTube as businesses, and it spawns a dangerous mistrust of news media in an age where that trust is important.

By making WSJ a scapegoat, the likes of PewDiePie are never at fault

The most confusing part of Kjellberg’s argument that WSJ is out to get them is that it has absolutely no reason to. The Wall Street Journal is not competing with PewDiePie. What PewDiePie does on YouTube in no way affects its business. If this were a magazine like Cosmopolitan ragging on beauty and lifestyle vloggers, then maybe that argument would stand. But here it makes no sense at all.

What this argument does, though, is absolve YouTubers of any blame for advertisers pulling out. By making WSJ a scapegoat, the likes of PewDiePie, h3h3 Productions, and DramaAlert are never at fault. The content about which WSJ writes is not to blame, but the fact that they are writing it.

And the scariest part is that their massive audiences are lapping up their performed victimisation, and hordes of fans are rushing to his defense online.

These YouTubers (and their fans) will have everyone believe they are fighting for free speech. But when they openly declare “war” on the press, they aid the likes of US President Donald Trump in killing it.

A mistrusted media is one that cannot do its job. It is one that can no longer hold people in power accountable.

If it was free speech these YouTubers wanted, they would be engaging with the content rather than attacking the outlet. But they aren’t, because what they want is a freedom from press. They want the freedom to make money without ever being held under scrutiny.

In one of his videos, PewDiePie claims that he likes YouTube because it’s not like mainstream TV, where people are told what to say and how to say it. But the reason that happens on TV is because of advertisers — just like what is happening now with YouTube.

Neither the advertisers nor YouTube are telling content creators what to make — they’re just letting them know they won’t be able to monetise their racist content anymore. And for someone like Pewdiepie, who is constantly insisting he isn’t racist, that shouldn’t be so difficult to understand.



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