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PewDiePie Criticizes Wall Street Journal Report, Says Jokes Went 'Too Far'

But his response wasn't exactly an introspective look at how things got this far in the deep end.

Image courtesy of PewDiePie

Two days after Disney and YouTube distanced themselves from YouTube personality PewDiePie over videos featuring anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery, PewDiePie uploaded an 11-minute video responding to his critics, including an apology (of sorts) if people were offended.

"A lot of people loved the video, and a lot of people didn't," he said. "It's almost like two generations of people arguing whether this is okay or not. Regardless of that, I wanted to reiterate that it was my intention to show just how stupid the website was and how far you can push it by paying $5. I'm sorry for the words that I used, as I know they offended people. I admit that the joke itself went too far. I do strongly believe that you can joke about anything, but I also believe that there's a right way and not a best way to joke about things."

PewDiePie, well-known for deploying shock humor for his audience, admitted he's a "rookie comedian" and considered this a "learning experience," but also argued his jokes were taken out of context. (Another video by PewDiePie's friend, Ethan Klein, makes a decent case for that argument, in some instances.)

Most of the video, featuring PewDiePie talking straight into the camera, focused on discussing the story from The Wall Street Journal, arguing "old school media doesn't like Internet personalities because they're scared of us" and pointing to many stories that obsess over the money PewDiePie makes on YouTube.

(He was also upset more people didn't talk about his charity work, which is substantial. He helped raised $1.3 million last December.)

But most of the world is not the 53 million people who subscribe to PewDiePie's YouTube channel. If you were to ask the average person on the street if it's possible to make $4 million per year recording yourself playing video games, chances are they're going to laugh at you. When an article mentions the $4 million figure, it's helping cement legitimacy to the work of PewDiePie and others.

"This whole thing is not a post, it was an attack towards me," he said. "It was an attack by the media to try and discredit me, to try and decrease my influence and my economic worth."

If anything, I suspect he's received a bigger audience over all this, and his apology, which is likely to be viewed millions of times, is sure to earn more than pennies. He's right that a generational gap in media leads to misunderstandings about his work, but I'm not sure it applies here.

What does The Wall Street Journal, or the reporters attached to that story, have to gain by hurting PewDiePie? The Wall Street Journal isn't going to get a new round of funding by publishing a critical piece, nor will PewDiePie's audience suddenly become deeply interested in reading a conservative-leaning publication's reporting and commentary on the economy and national security.

But it's not surprising The Wall Street Journal, a financial publication, would make money a key focus of their reporting, especially as it relates to Disney and Google, some of the wealthiest companies in the world. It's reasonable to wonder if those companies would take issue with one of their partners making commentary, jokes or not, that could be construed as anti-Semitic.

PewDiePie himself admits the jokes went too far, and prior to The Wall Street Journal publishing a story, wrote a blog post trying to distance himself from hate groups that were praising him for his remarks. Jokes have consequences, regardless of your intent. Antisemitism is no joke. In January alone, 48 Jewish Community Centers were hit with bomb threats.

"This whole thing is not a post, it was an attack towards me," he said. "It was an attack by the media to try and discredit me, to try and decrease my influence and my economic worth."

(I've said racist or sexist things in my life, but upon realizing what I said was racist or sexist, I worked on correcting it. Saying something racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic doesn't mean you're a hateful person, it means there's opportunity for growth.)

In the video, PewDiePie claims The Wall Street Journal was out to get him, pushing YouTube and Disney drop support, part of an old media publication running scared.

While I can't speak to the reporting process of The Wall Street Journal, it's common to report a story and deliver your findings to a company ahead of publication, especially if the company's reaction would have a serious, material impact on the story. It's also common for a company (or individual) to take your findings and respond. In this case, it was YouTube and Disney choosing to denounce what PewDiePie said. The Wall Street Journal demanding PewDiePie be punished strikes me as highly unlikely, and if PewDiePie should be pointing fingers, it's at the partners who weren't willing to defend him.

"I understand that these things have consequences," he said.

So the jokes went too far and YouTube and Disney were fine to put some distance, but "the media" is the one who's the real enemy? Something doesn't add up.

"Personally, I think they [the media] are the ones who are normalizing hatred," he said. "There's actual hatred out there, there's actual issues. Instead of focusing on my show getting cancelled, why don't we focus on that instead?"

It's possible to focus on multiple issues at once, but it's easier to point the finger at folks who are criticizing you, rather than looking inward and trying to figure out where you might have fucked up. That's not to suggest the media isn't capable of sensationalizing, dogpiling, or hyperbolizing—it happens all the time. But it's also an easy foil to deflect meaningful critique. Just ask Trump.

To his credit, PewDiePie denounced white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups that praised him. That's important! But it's also worth exploring why those people were attracted to you at all. The end of his video suggests he's less interested in that.

"I'm still here," he said. "I'm still making videos. Nice try, Wall Street Journal. Try again, motherfuckers."

Before closing out with a fist bump, PewDiePie's famous way of communicating with fans he can't typically see, he earnestly thanked the people who'd thrown support behind him. Tears in his eyes, PewDiePie seemed genuinely moved.

"Thank you, everyone in the YouTube community," he said. "Thanks. It means a lot."

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