YouTube Cancels Pewdiepie's Show, Removes Him From Premium Advertising

Illustration for article titled YouTube Cancels Pewdiepie's Show, Removes Him From Premium Advertising

A month after YouTube’s biggest star uploaded a video containing the phrase “Death To All Jews,” the service that once hosted that very content is distancing itself a bit from Felix Kjellberg.


Variety reports that YouTube has cancelled the second season of Scare Pewdiepie, the premium $10-a-month show that sought to scare Kjellberg IRL in elaborate, video-game inspired ways. Additionally, YouTube will also remove Pewdiepie from “Google Preferred,” which is an advertising service for “brand-safe” content (which Pewdiepie is most certainly not, even discounting the nazi jokes.)

Taken together, both of these repercussions will have some kind of effect on Pewdiepie’s actual income, though he will still be able to monetize his videos through normal means on YouTube. In the past, Kjellberg has said that his normal income-per-view on YouTube is low because his brand of ‘edgy’ humor also limits the advertisers that YouTube makes available to him. “My content is not necessarily family friendly, it’s got a bunch of profanity,” Kjellberg said.

YouTube’s decision follows the news that Maker Studios, a division of Disney, also cut ties with Kjellberg over videos with anti-Semitic jokes. The most infamous video had Kjellberg paying a pair of men to hold up a sign that said “Death To All Jews,” though he has been known to jokingly reference Hitler and Nazis in plenty of other videos as well. It blew up to the point where Kjellberg accidentally started garnering support from real neo-Nazis.

Scare Pewdiepie season two was announced last year as a collaboration between the executive producers of The Walking Dead, as well as Maker Studios—the latter which might explain the sudden cancelation. The first season is still available online. Many of the videos that sparked the nazi controversy, however, are no longer available.

For his part, Kjellberg has insisted that he didn’t intend his ongoing nazi references to support anti-semitism. “I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online,” Kjellberg wrote on Tumblr. “I picked something that seemed absurd to me—That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars.”


So a dude with more money than most people see in their lives chose to take advantage of economically-disadvantaged individuals for the sake of some anti-Semitic “humor,” and is now surprised that there are consequences that go with that kind of behavior.

Got it.

Having read some of the comments on the previous article for this story, I want to make a couple of things clear:

1.) Those who are decrying PewDiePie’s “Nazi humor” are not without a sense of humor themselves. Humor requires context, and references to The Producers, South Park, and similar bits of satirical humor that have referenced the Third Reich at certain points miss a key point: those films/shows/texts/etc placed their Nazi references within a given context that created a humorous situation, often through mockery.

Offering a couple of economically disadvantaged guys five bucks to hold up an anti-Semitic sign, and then going, “LOL, these economically disadvantaged people will do anything for a fiver—isn’t that shit hilarious,” is much the same thing as tossing loose change at a homeless person just to watch them pick it up.

It is mean-spirited, it is small-minded, and in threading the anti-Semitic reference into the act, PewDiePie was not creating a humorous situation—he was abusing his wealth for the sake of making someone else look ridiculous, and using hate speech in order to do it.

So, in short, the context of this “joke” of Pewd’s was: Rich asshole takes advantage of the economic fragility of others to get his jollies; makes anti-Semitic remarks as part of his “LOL, poor people are poor” bullshit.

2.) Removing Pewds from his association with Disney—and now with YouTube—is only “censorship” in the loosest possible sense of the word. Both Disney and YouTube are publicly traded companies, reliant upon the continued goodwill of their shareholders and audience alike for continued operations and profits.

That goodwill is not sustained by maintaining relationships—and especially not employment relationships—with an individual who has made rather a pattern of anti-Semitic remarks.

PewDiePie remains free to say whatever he wants to say, as he always has—but neither Disney nor YouTube are under any obligation to pay him for saying vile, hateful shit, even if it is in the name of a juvenile idea of “humor.” They owe him nothing apart from remuneration for services rendered—and at this point, his “services” may well be damaging their business and brand more than bringing in profit, which makes him a liability rather than an asset.

Firing/severing ties with him is not an act of “censorship” so much as it is a sound business decision in the face of his recent actions. I doubt very much his claims that he harbors no anti-Semitic feelings whatsoever, as the video referenced in the previous article was not a one-off occurrence—but even if I were to give him the benefit of the doubt, the fact is that he has shown incredibly poor judgment in choosing to make these sorts of remarks on multiple occasions (and particularly in abusing the economic vulnerability of others for the sake of his “jokes”).

Disney and now YouTube took the only sensible course of action from a business perspective. Whinge on about “censorship” and “free speech” all you like, but he’s not being quashed by the government—and severing an employment relationship with an employee that is bad for business isn’t really an act of censorship so much as it is “saving the ship” relative to the employer’s business interests.