It is a very strange time to be alive when one of the most influential figures in the world is a 29-year-old Swedish gaming enthusiast who found fame via a free website where, as his critics would have you believe, nine-year-olds began religiously following him, but here we are.
PewDiePie (real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) is more than just the accidentally-self-appointed herald angel of live streaming’s vast online success. Rather, he is the people’s chosen messiah of meme-dom, and represents The Internet’s inane ability to take something fundamentally meaningless and run with it, spreading something that doesn’t make sense to those not-in-the-know to a point of virality.
He does, after all, have over 95 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, and has enjoyed his place at the top of the subscriber’s list as the website’s number one creator for some time. His battle with Bollywood’s ‘Super Cassettes Industries Private Limited’, or T-Series as it is largely known, to be the number one most followed account on the platform, has been widely documented and reported upon.
One of the most famous memes related to his name, however, has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, and Pewds has had enough. The phrase ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie’ has been bandied around a lot of late, by many who want to see the gamer retain his premier spot, but in a video released today, the darling of the internet has announced his wish for a permanent moratorium on ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie’.
And he has a pretty bloody good reason.
“At first it started out with people doing really positive and fun things to get attention through ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie‘”, he offers, before continuing: “But something I learned–and hopefully it’s something that people can understand–is that when you have 90 million people riled up about something, you’re bound to get a few degenerates”
The first nasty incidents to involve his name without his consent was an anonymous vandal spraying the meme onto a World War II memorial–something which Kjellberg was quick to disavow at the time via his Twitter account, before donating money to the cause. But, little did the Swede know that this was, in itself, a harbinger of much worse things.
Last month’s brutal massacre in Christchurch, which left 50 dead–in their place of worship no less–was disgustingly live-streamed by the perpetrator. As he (allegedly; the case is yet to go to trial) cowardly mowed down the defenceless innocents with a maelstrom of hot lead, the gunman spoke the phrase: “Subscribe to PewDiePie”.
Shortly over a month later, another gunman repeated these words while live streaming his acts in a Californian synagogue. While, obviously, Kjellberg is completely innocent with regards to these attacks themselves, many have been quick to examine–often unjustly–the correlation between the hugely successful star and the far-right trolls who lurk in the fetid mire of websites such as 8chan, and their fanboy personas.
Felix is not having a bar of that, and nor should he. Having received criticism for not addressing the uncomfortable occurrence of the Christchurch shooter’s utterance in greater detail at the time, he is now making his intentions very clear.
“To have my name associated with something so unspeakably vile has affected me in more ways than I’ve let show, I just didn’t want to address it right away and I didn’t want to give the terrorist any more attention; I didn’t want to make it about me.”
Obviously, the YouTuber can’t police what others say, but it is a fairly clear statement and an indication that he would rather not see his name dragged by people whose actions are beyond his own even though he clearly has nothing to do with them. It’s also a clearly vilifying indictment of these aggressors’ despicable acts.
Whether or not Pewd’s feud with T-Series will be ultimately lost for the gamer, time will tell. For now, however, the doyen of short-form video content still holds the YouTube throne, and a select few trolls who tarred his name with their morally bankrupt brush have been rightfully admonished.
“Seeing so many people come to my support–other creators as well–has been incredibly humbling. It’s really, really meant a lot.”