Erica Flores

YouTube creators are trying to move from "subscribe to PewDiePie"

“About 12 hours before a gunman told people watching his live broadcast to” subscribe to PewDiePie “before killing 50 people in New Zealand, popular comedy creator and TV commentator Ethan Klein posted a video called “Subscribe to PewDiePie for Revenge.” Klein’s video was a sketch based on the popular meme, but in the wake of the terrorist attack, Klein declared the long-running meme and removed his video.

Klein was one of thousands on YouTube who joined the biggest community phenomenon on the platform of the past six months: an ongoing “battle” between Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg and Bollywood music label T-Series to claim the most subscribers on YouTube. The fight, largely considered by facet, has become a meme everywhere from YouTube to Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and more. The “Subscribe to PewDiePie” messages line up on all social media platforms, but the phrase has also been chanted by teenagers marching the streets of Estonia and playing each other during halftime shows at basketball games.

It has also been used to deface a WWII commemorative statue in Brooklyn, and has been cited in global piracy jokes. Now, after the New Zealand massacre, it is becoming increasingly apparent to some creators that participating in this meme is no longer acceptable.

Affects everyone.

Klein says she felt terrible about posting a video about the meme. “I think that meme is no longer funny,” Klein said on a podcast this week. “There’s a lot to process. I’m just heartbroken about it.”

Other figures on YouTube have also started pushing to end the meme. Gregory “Onision” Jackson, a popular and controversial sketch creator, tweeted that people should stop engaging in the meme, saying “it’s not funny, it’s not cool, and it marks one of the most horrific mass shootings ever.”

The creators acknowledge that the meme has morphed into something darker. It’s similar to what happened to Pepe the Frog, Matt Furie’s comic book character who was an innocuous cartoon figure before he was co-opted by the right wing as a symbol of hatred. This is the first time, however, that the YouTube creative community has dealt with a popular phrase coined by one of their own gunmen.

Like Furie, Kjellberg has rebuffed people who use the meme in hateful or illegal ways, including placing it next to anti-Semitic images or carving it into the WWII memorial. He also tried to use the phenomenon forever, raising more than £ 170,000 (approximately $ 230,000 USD) for an orphanage in India during a charity drive in December. It’s a way for Kjellberg to reiterate to his audience that everything about “subscribing to PewDiePie” is a joke, not a call to arms. Kjellberg’s team had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

“There’s a part of this that I really don’t like,” Kjellberg said in a December 2018 video. “And it’s a shame because it’s not the vast majority of people. But sometimes … you see comments. [on live streams] like, ‘Fuck Indians’. It’s really nasty, unnecessary comments. “Obviously I’ve made jokes about Indians, but I make jokes about all countries, and that’s not what it’s about.”

However, some critics are calling for Kjellberg to take a tougher stance. Jimmy Wong, a popular YouTube game creator, asked Kjellberg to reject the meme after the attack. He is also concerned that “subscribe to PewDiePie” is still being used as the white supremacist’s dog whistle, masquerading as trolling.

“I’m not blaming PewDiePie, but I think it is their responsibility, like it or not, to use their massive platform to aid the healing process,” Wong said. tweeted. “You have a global audience and people who will listen to your every word, including incredibly young and impressionable children. There is no better time than now to help unravel this whole scenario and clarify what is wrong and what is right. Be an example to follow. . “

Talks about whether Kjellberg has control over his millions of viewers aren’t new. The question is asked over and over again when Kjellberg’s name or channel appears as the reason for a particular event in the news, such as a hacking attack on The Wall Street Journal. Een (who asked not to use his full name), the host of the popular comment channel Nerd City, believes that Kjellberg has done his part to recognize and repudiate acts of violence or hatred that are committed in his name, but says it is impossible. for YouTube creators. Have full control over your audiences.

“It’s important for people to realize that creators don’t control their fan base at all,” says Een. “Not even close. In fact, the more you yell about something you don’t like, the more you’ll get that every day.”

It’s not just a problem that affects Kjellberg and his channel, but it affects the entire community, Een says. Kjellberg is “the king of YouTube,” according to Een, which means “anything that affects him will have an impact on all of us.” Observe how Kjellberg reacts to the situation and be aware of what YouTube does in the coming weeks. , determines how creators will deal with the meme, and other situations like this, in the future.

What happens next

Don Caldwell, editor at Know Your Meme, thinks the “subscribe to PewDiePie” meme will eventually stop, but it won’t happen until the T-Series takes over from Kjellberg. At this time, the two channels have gone back and forth; seems to change every few hours, expanding community support for Kjellberg. But Caldwell says you can’t really predict if a meme will die, he thought Pepe the frog wouldn’t stay either.

“I don’t know if PewDiePie could divorce from the Series T subscriber battle of this incident,” Caldwell said. The edge. “It seems like it would definitely be a challenge for him, and I have no idea what would be expected of him in order to handle this.”