Column: How clickbait media defamates characters for monetary gain

It must be a slow week down at The Wall Street Journal; there must not be any news worthy stories on politics or global economics for them to be fabricating clickbait articles on YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, otherwise known by his channel name PewDiePie.

Felix has the most popular channel on YouTube with a little over 53 million subscribers. He is a comedian that started off playing video games like Call of Duty and Halo and reacting to them. Then later on in his career he started reacting and making jokes on other content creator’s videos and sometimes making funny, satirical rants. His humor is silly, immature, and blunt, but recently he has been accused of making anti-semitic jokes by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). After watching the jokes in question I can say with certainty that he is not a neo-Nazi.  

I am not a fan of PewDiePie, I’m not part of his zealous “Bro Army,” and I don’t find his videos entertaining. To be honest, I didn’t watch many of his videos until The Wall Street Journal released their hit piece on him.

I looked at the original clips and images in The Wall Street Journal’s video that they complied from Felix’s channel. It took me less than thirty minutes to find the original contents on his channel, watch them in their entirety for me to see that they have been taken out of context.

One of the jokes he made was a social commentary on the website Fiverr, he was pointing out the stupid things people would do for five dollars. He paid people to hold up a sign that read “Dead to all Jews” and say “Subscribe to Keemstar.” The Wall Street Journal and countless other media sources removed the last part “subscribe to Keemstar,” in their reports. The joke was Felix was trying to make Keemstar (another YouTuber) look like an Anti-Semite. Perhaps the joke went too far, and Felix pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable, but the context remains that he was making a social commentary on what stupid things people would do for money, and making a stab at Keemstar, not expressing personal anti-Semitic views.

What the WSJ has done is purposefully misrepresent Felix by taking his videos out of context, cherry picked jokes that he made and framed those images to make him look like a neo-Nazi. Take another example, in a video that Felix made that he posted on his YouTube channel titled, “I’m Racist?,” Felix is mocking different news outlets for calling him a neo-Nazi based on no real evidence. He spends the entire video calling out the media for misrepresenting him and taking his previous videos out of context. He spent most the video criticizing the culture of clickbait articles that use sensationalist headlines for more views.

He was extremely heart-felt when he said, “Every year there is something like this coming out. I’m a racist now, and then I’m sexist. I’ve been a pedophile. These like horrific claims, I just have to take from the media. It will get them clicks, and uh who cares? Who cares if there is a real person behind it right?”  

And of course, because Felix is a comedian he ended his video with a joke of him putting on Nazi military clothing and watching a clip of Hitler speaking. The joke was meant to make himself look like what the media is painting him to be. However, the brilliant team at The Wall Street Journal found this video and his joke at the end and made their own video of him. The Wall Street Journal then removed the context of the joke and made him appear to be watching Hitler’s speech seriously.

These journalists chose to watch his entire video, ignore all the points that he made about the media misrepresenting him, and then took his one joke out of context to misrepresent him as a neo-Nazi. This doesn’t sound real, this sounds more like an episode made by the South Park creators or an actual fake news article from The Onion, but this is the sad reality that we live in a post-fact world. The consequences of this type of journalism has a negative impact not only on Felix, but also on the current political climate.

Because of The Wall Street Journal’s hit piece, YouTube has cancelled Felix’s show, Scare PewDiePie. The announcement was made shortly after Disney Maker Studios cut their ties with him as well. This type of defamation of character has lost him millions, and has stunted the growth of other YouTubers. For example, Ethan Klein from H3H3 Productions is a growing channel and he along with other YouTubers were supposed to make appearances on Scare PewDiePie, so this cancellation based on false claims has an impact on other independent creators in the YouTube community, as well.

However, the greatest impact that this type of reporting has is that it defies the core principal of what journalism is supposed to be. Journalism’s sole purpose is to report to the public accurate news that will inform their judgement. Taking information and then decontextualizing it on purpose for personal gain goes against everything that reporters should do, and it has an effect on the integrity of the company.

The current comments, and Like to Dislike bar on The Wall Street Journal’s video on PewDiePie illustrates my point. People like myself who aren’t his fans but have seen the evidence that he isn’t an Anti-Semite, and members of his fan base are all coming together and voicing our discontent. People have been reporting in the comments section that they will be reporting the video, and ultimately The Wall Street Journal’s credibility is taking a toll.

In recent months, more than ever before, I have heard people from my own social circle to the general public express outright disdain for the media. We live in such a vast age of information that someone like myself, or a 10 year-old for that matter, can simply pull out our phones and fact check these kinds of  news articles.

Because of that reason I feel like people from the politically left and right have been calling out the various news sources for lying by omission or decontextualizing quotes. This article that The Wall Street Journal posted is unfortunately a textbook example of fake news, and because they have contributed to the heated climate of false reporting and senseless labeling of “racist” or “anti-Semite.” The next time an actual racist or sexist has gain a stronger platform to spread their ideas, I along with other readers will be more skeptical.

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