YouTube needs a new face, one that doesn’t mainline racism.
I really didn’t want to write this article. This is only the second article I’ve written since I restarted my blog and yet here I am, about to step into the mire that is PewDiePie. Certainly not what I envisioned when I wanted to write about games and the culture surrounding them.
That said I can’t escape the shadow of PewDiePie’s latest controversy. The fact that I had to add “latest” should be the telling word. This isn’t the first time the “face of YouTube” (and by god, what a sad reflection is that?) had gotten into trouble, and I have a sneak suspicion it won’t be the last.
So what did YouTube’s golden boy do this time? Apparently in one of his videos he recommended viewers check the anime content of one creator going by the name “E;R”. Now this “E;R” fellow is a proven anti Semite with videos dedicated to Hitler speeches, using foul language against minorities and posting on Neo Nazi threads on Gab, the preferred (well, only) platform of the “alt right”, or Neo Nazis if we are being perfectly honest. Oops!
Full disclosure, I didn’t watch the video myself, but I trust all those who reported on it. I don’t watch PewDiePie videos for the same reason I didn’t watch the Twilight movie series: I don’t really care about them. I acknowledge that they exist and are somewhat popular and if people like them, good for them. However, while the Twilight movies were mostly harmless, PewDiePie’s actions have repercussions, not so much for himself but for others using the platform.
I am not going to talk at length about the landfill that is YouTube right now, especially in the advertising landscape. However PewDiePie and his ilk, who have built their riches off of YouTube, certainly aren’t helping. Besides mainlining hate and supplying a gateway to the “alt right” (can we just call them Nazis, please?) for impressionable teens who are the core demographic of PewDiePie, you know the moral aspect, there is the fact he is driving off advertisers. In an era where major organizations are losing funding due to association with far right (again, just Nazis) figures, no sane company would look at YouTube and think of investing major capital in an advertising campaign in a platform that generates so much controversy. That is, unless afforded more control over the content.
Whats more, I find it quite hilarious that people have been pushing PewDiePie down their audiences’ throat as some sort of answer to a growing number of non white, corporate channels in YouTube. Of course, they’d justify their stance by saying that they want YouTube to see that content creators still matter. However making or maintaining PewDiePie’s hold on the number one spot on YouTube through all these years have done little to stop the deterioration of the platform. One could argue that it even helped accelerate it as he brought more scrutiny on the platform as a whole with his constant attention seeking (at best) stunts like saying a racial slur live or guest spotting rabid Islamophobe and short person Ben Shapiro, darling of the “alt right” (again, Nazis).
The fact is, a cursory glance at the top 50 subscribed channels on YouTube reveals that a majority of them are corporate entities. Whether they are named after a band or a singer makes little difference. They are all meant to further corporate interests. The fact “T-Series”, the Indian music and film label, was picked upon for its fast growth smacked a tad racist. I’d have to ask the people who have been promoting PewDiePie if it had been say, Eminem or Katy Perry who were set to overthrow their golden boy if they had been just as adamant in pushing him.
Facts are, demographics, especially online, are changing. There are more Indians than people living in the “western world” (Europe and North America) which content like the “T-Series” would be far more appealing to. Why wouldn’t they want to subscribe to a channel that caters specifically to their tastes in music and video? How is that going to impact the landscape of YouTube negatively? If anything, I think that it will both give the greater exposure to various cultures and tastes, not to mention promote other content creators in those countries to create since they’ll see that there is an audience for it. What is so wrong about that!?
Of course, the defense goes back to “proving” to YouTube that content creators matter. Yet YouTube already has all the data it needs to realise that point and yet it has continuously ignored it, seizing instead on its monopoly to punish content creators by imposing more stringent content ID bots, demonetization tools for companies and maintaining archaic copyright dispute processes that lean heavily in favor of corporate entities. PewDiePie being the biggest channel hasn’t changed YouTube’s position once regarding these issues, so why maintaining it would do so now?
I understand looking at the desolation that has become YouTube and feeling angry, but scapegoating “T-Series” isn’t going to help. Instead realising that YouTube has been a corporate playground for years, ever since being bought by Google which sought to monetize the platform heavily, would do better for these people. There never was an “utopian” or “golden age” for YouTube but rather a wild west where everything was not so much allowed, as just existed as no oversight was in place to crackdown on it. What we see now is just the end result of law being brought to the lawless waste by corporate entities rather than government.
If you want to change YouTube for the better, instead of promoting a millionaire who just struck out for the third time with racism you should be promoting smaller, better content creators who are struggling to break through the sludge that is the YouTube algorithm feed. Lobby governments and support campaigns to bring YouTube and its corporate overlord, Google, to heel. Pressure advertisers with threats of boycotts if they won’t join the community in leveling the playing field for both the corporate and independent content creators. Do something, just not subscribe to a channel as a “declaration of support” because that is both lazy and self serving.
I don’t see a reason why corporate channels and smaller content creators can’t exist on the same platform. I don’t see why an Indian music and video company can’t coexist with a gaming channel and a history channel or a podcast about Warhammer 40k. Most important of all though, I don’t see why giving more subscriptions to a man who has proven incapable of holding himself to the standard needed of him as the “face of YouTube” is going to somehow make YouTube take content creators more seriously. I have a sneak suspicion it might just do the opposite.
*Photo attributed to Hard Drive