Taggart’s Take: YouTube Sensation PewDiePie Back in Hot Water


Ian West/Pa Wire/Abaca Press/TNS

Controversial online celebrity Felix Kjellberg attends the London premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Dec. 16, 2015. In the latest of a series of offensive incidents, a video of the star using a racial slur went viral costing Kjellberg several lucrative deals.

Online celebrity and mega-influencer Felix Kjellberg, or PewDiePie as he is known to his 57 million YouTube channel subscribers, is under fire once again. And this time, the consequences are well deserved.

On Sept. 10, while streaming footage of himself playing the online game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” Kjellberg inexcusably used the N-word after becoming infuriated with another player. Making a horrendous use of the racial slur even more abhorrent was the fact that after delivering the remark, Kjellberg is seen on video laughing off the incident. The clips immediately went viral on social media.

However, this was not the first time the controversial celebrity was in the spotlight for his off-color missteps. In February, his representative, Disney-operated Maker Studios, dropped him after he released a video of two men he paid to hold up a sign that read “DEATH TO ALL JEWS.” The video also prompted YouTube to cancel the second season of his show, Scare PewDiePie.

These events are not isolated incidents but rather testaments to Kjellberg’s long history of anti-Semitic and racist views.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Kjellberg posted a video of himself watching a video of Hitler giving a speech while wearing a Make America Great Again hat. On Oct. 15 of the same year, he posted a video showing off swastikas, made by his fans as a show of support, after he drew criticism for airing the Hitler speech. He also posted a video of himself watching a Hitler speech while wearing a brown military uniform.

The list goes on and on including playing the Nazi Party anthem while bowing to a swastika, performing a Nazi salute to a track of Hitler’s voice saying “Sieg Heil,” and a myriad of other pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic jokes.

Until now, Kjellberg insisted the media takes his jokes out of context and that his comments are meant explicitly for his audience. However, in an apology video released two days after the N-word incident, titled “My Response,” Kjellberg said there were “no excuses” for his language and that he used it “in the heat of the moment.”

“I’m disappointed in myself,” he said. “It seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies.”

Clearly, he has not. Kjellberg does not even acknowledge his past wrongdoings as mistakes, rather he refers to them as “controversies.” Nevertheless, “in the heat of the moment” is no excuse for using the N-word or any other anti-Semitic and racist remarks.

Although his laundry list of offenses continues to grow, PewDiePie still maintains a worldwide audience of 57 million subscribers. The question is, how many passes will his fans give him? Yes, he is the biggest YouTube star in the world, partially because of his controversial antics. But the denigration of others based on their race or religion should not be what drives viewership. Nor should it be casually dismissed.

That’s just my take. What’s yours?