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SA YouTuber Kyle Olinsky’s ‘apology’ is insulting [Opinion]

Back in July, a story broke about South African YouTuber Kyle Olinsky (better known as “BluRz”) sending seemingly horrific messages to a strange woman on Instagram.

These messages were both violently and sexually graphic, and in one Olinsky said that the woman couldn’t say no — pushing the messages into rape threat territory.

If you’re looking for any articles from July, though, you’ll be hard-pressed. Most articles were taken down — Memeburn‘s included — after a legal notice claimed that the messages were posted without consent from either party involved. No one denied that they were real.

Now, Olinsky is back on YouTube with an “apology” that seeks to explain his side of the story. Said “apology” is weak, nonsensical and a cop-out, and it’s not difficult to prod at it until it falls apart.

Olinsky’s story

Before looking at the apology, it’s best to get his side of the story. In his video, Olinsky breaks it down.

According to him, he messaged two women on Instagram with similar graphic messages. He describes these as “dark humour”, intended to offend while also being funny.

One woman — the one whose messages were leaked — did find it “funny”. The other didn’t. Somewhere on this unclear timeline, this woman blocked him and her uncle contacted Olinsky, ostensibly to ask him to leave his niece alone.

Kyle Olinsky says he then “immediately apologised to her and her family for causing distress”.

The woman, who Olinsky claims found it funny, sent screenshots of the messages to her friend. The screenshots then somehow reached a “WhatsApp group filled with women […] who aim at protecting women (sic)”.

It got through to News24, which broke the story, and the rest is history.

Humour relies on understanding

Kyle Olinsky’s main argument rests on him having a dark sense of humour. He spends a while in his video explaining that he and others find gory, graphic jokes funny — that’s just the way he is.

But a pivotal part of humour is understanding. If I told you a joke right now in German — and you can’t speak the language — you’re not going to laugh, and I shouldn’t expect you to.

In his video, Olinsky says that he knows not everyone finds dark humour funny. He even had to explain the concept to his own mother. So when he sent these messages, Olinsky knew these strangers could take the joke one of two ways: as hilarious or as threatening.

He doesn’t say he prefaced the messages with any warning. He didn’t ask them of their sense of humour before diving in. Olinsky of his own account went straight to frightening sexual gore.

This means that Kyle Olinsky took the risk of these women thinking he was threatening to rape them.

“Don’t take it serious”

Anyone who lives in South Africa knows how real the threat of rape is for women. Between April and December 2016, 110 cases of rape were filed a day. This means that for every hour, there were four women enduring one of the most traumatic events life can throw at you.

And these are only the reported statistics — they could be even higher when taking into account survivors who never report their trauma.

As a woman in South Africa, I live my life avoiding sexual assault. I don’t walk alone at night. I avoid public transport when it’s dark. I run from men who grab at me in the streets, from men who whisper at me that they want me.

I know that at any moment, my body and my autonomy could be ripped from me by one person obsessed with power and violence. My entire world orbits this fear.

This is why, when Olinsky asks later on in the video for “ladies” to “not take it so serious”, he lacks either understanding or compassion. Sexual violence is one of the most serious parts of my life.

I would love to brush it off or push it to the side. I welcome the day I can laugh about sexual violence, when the concept is so foreign and removed from a woman’s everyday life that I couldn’t imagine how it could happen to me.

But it isn’t — and I refuse to acknowledge the topic with anything less than the utmost importance, and for a man to ask for anything less from me is frightening.

“I can’t change the gaming scene”

One of the worst parts of Olinsky’s “apology” is how he “can’t change the gaming scene”.

No one is asking him to fix gaming’s sexism problem — just like how no one is telling me, a white person, to completely fix South Africa’s ongoing racism problem.

Most individuals can’t overturn ingrained societal systems. What they can do is examine the way they perpetuate said systems. When one person realises that the way they’ve been treating women is hurtful and damaging, they can lead by example.

They can show their viewers how an inclusive environment doesn’t mean they get shut out. They can show them that you can still have fun without threatening rape.

Olinsky uses his inability to change the entire gaming scene as a cop-out. By saying this, he exonerates himself from any sexist things he does, because, hey, everyone else is doing it too and he can’t stop that.

But a lot of people participating means nothing. There was an entire army of nazis in WWII. The KKK still has a sizeable membership. The apartheid regime was not run by one man. These systems thrived on people who benefitted from the system standing by and letting atrocities happen.

If you believe in something, it doesn’t matter how many people are involved. In no point in his apology does Olinsky acknowledge that what he did was harmful. He doesn’t mention how it perpetuates gender-based violence.

In fact, he exhibits no moral compass whatsoever — and instead warns his viewers not to examine their own inherent sexism, but to beware of social media.

“Be careful and responsible with what you post [social media]”

Olinsky’s takeaway from this debacle has not been that he shouldn’t send women potentially threatening messages. It’s that doing so on social media could land you in trouble.

And this is where he fails most spectacularly.

He says he “learnt his lesson”. He says he apologises “from the bottom of his heart”. But the only lesson he clarifies is to be more careful and the only thing he’s sorry about is getting caught.

All he needed to say was “I’m sorry for perpetuating a system that sees women consistently assaulted and abused. I will work harder to examine what I think is funny and be careful where I espouse my dark sense of humour.”

None of it matters, of course, because Kyle Olinsky has given his viewers an out too. Instead of asking them to be introspective, he lets them know that they’re also off the hook for trying to be good individuals.

His career will be fine. Just like how Jacob Zuma became president despite rape accusations, how Donald Trump became president despite bragging about grabbing women by the pussy.

No one would choose the difficult course of examining their own discriminatory behaviour when they could continue to support scary people and do nothing to make themselves any better.

Author | Julia Breakey

Julia Breakey
Julia is a UCT film graduate with a passion for dogs, media, and dog-centric media. If she's not gushing about the new television show that you need to watch, she's rewatching The Good Place (which you need to watch). More
  • @SargonDotA2

    Well written and on point with everything you wrote. Couldn’t agree more. There are too many apologists on this issue who are unwilling to unpack, or really scrutinize, his position.

  • Guild

    Very well written and thoughtful article. Thank you.

  • Nicely said…

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