The massive problem with PewDiePie’s humor is that there is no / no obviously noticeable layer of satire. Whilst I do have my problems with South Park (especially later seasons) it has consistently being able to maintain it’s layer of satire. The most important thing for a joke is context. When someone like Cartman on South Park screams “death to the Jews” or tells an a particularly distasteful joke it is definitely communicated to the viewer that this is a work of satire and this is not the guy they should be rooting for. He almost always gets what he deserves eventually.
When Neo-Nazi websites are cheering on in support maybe, just maybe the joke fucked up?
Some will argue that the joke was nothing to do with hate towards Jewish people. The fact that the “joke” was meant to highlight the things people will do for money is even more problematic. It’s very reminiscent of Bumfights – a series where a wealthy white man goes onto the street to dehumanize homeless people (who are desperate for money and alcohol) for profit. PewDiePie paid two men in India five dollars to hold a sign with an Anti-Semitic message that they didn’t fully understand. He (a man who according to Forbes in 2016 made $15 million) fully exploited their need for money to get them to do something provocative for views on social media. If that doesn’t sound ethically wrong…?
PewDiePie is a huge example of the limits and disadvantages of inane “doing it for the LULZ” humor (which is completely separate from satire; satire such as the artwork of Charlie Hebdo). “Doing it for the LULZ” humor can be done well but it is hard to pull off. The normalization of this kind of humor is bad for comedy and bad for society. Racism and anti-semitism for the LULZ most of the time (especially during a time when “alternative facts” is a thing) contributes to the climate of hate and makes people such as Neo-Nazis, white supremacist groups, Islamic Extremist groups and others on the far-right feel vindicated. Whether the joke is said it in earnest or in jest, the negative effect is the same. People can be put in danger all because somebody wanted some LULZ and didn’t think about the effects of their material and how it could be interpreted.
I feel that there are a lot of YouTubers supporting him for their own selfish reasons. Of course there are those that definitely support him, but I don’t want to ignore that YouTube is not just a bunch of amateurs in bedrooms anymore. To some people YouTube is their livelihood and a business. There are huge opportunities for an increase in viewers and subscribers (and therefore income) by simply kissing PewDiePie’s ass.
I acknowledge that he may have apologised for his actions and recognised that the joke was in poor taste but actions speak louder than words and an apology doesn’t have to be accepted. Trust and respect has to be won back.