Outside the news of hurricanes and Trump, the next largest news story of today was how Felix Kjellberg, better known by his online alias PewDiePie, slipped up and said the “N Word” on his gaming live stream. The young Swedish YouTuber is arguably the biggest online personality of the past decade, and has gotten his fair share of fans and haters over that time. In the past year though, as YouTube continued to become a more legitimate platform for creators to make a living on, and traditional media continued to decline, we’ve seen a massive amount of negative media hit pieces, going after several online personalities. I’ve made the point before that these attacks are due to the toxic combination of ever increasing social justice in journalism, paired with journalism’s evolution from being sources of news to being nothing better than tabloid journalism.
The fact that a publication as large and respected as the BBC used their platform today to smear PewDiePie is a good signifier that the old school media feels threatened by the reach and social influence young online personalities have. If it was merely small blogs and other alternative media outlets attacking each other, this wouldn’t be a problem, but when major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, which millions of people read and trust to be telling the truth, lie in order to bring down new media, you know that legal action is brewing. There’s only so much smear and slander that new media can take before we see them take the battle to the courtroom, and once it comes to that we’ll truly be in a new era. Today’s “N Word” controversy doesn’t even match the absurdity of PewDiePie’s last scandal, where he was accused of being anti-semitic and a nazi sympathizer, and later lost his Disney contract despite being found innocent. When somebody makes as much content, both live and recorded as PewDiePie, these people are bound to slip up at some point. Even if they don’t slip up and intend to be offensive, nothing that’s been done actually warrants the digital witch hunts that have been occurring.
What really rubs me wrong is that the mainstream media was essentially silent when it came out that a lot of young YouTubers were taking advantage of fans, and preying upon them sexually at events. When this scandal broke out, fans of alternative media were furious that people with such innocent or likeable personas could stoop to such disgusting behavior. Aside from alternative media outlets though, the general news cycle had nothing to say on the matter. It wasn’t until Gamergate did the mainstream take an interest in what was happening on the digital landscape, and of course we all know that they used it as a way to paint all gamers and YouTubers as sexist bigots, who use their anonymity and platform to attack feminists and social justice warriors. They cherry picked the most obscure and troll-ish voices, and attempted to make them representative of the whole. Nowadays, the same mainstream takes small snippets out of context to attack with, or in cases like Dave Rubin, they just flat out lie and use labels like Nazi and alt-right to slander folks with big audiences and important messaging.
There’s been an agenda at work for the past years now, but thankfully people are starting to see the mainstream for the fake news it really is. The game to play going forward is the same alternative media has been playing since the beginning, stay true to themselves, make content that is quality and that people enjoy, and most of all, use their unique connection to their audiences to make it clear as day that these creators are anything but what the media wants to paint them as. We need to keep supporting alternative media in any way we can, either through YouTube, Patreon, Paypal, or through merchandise. It’s only with a diverse marketplace that we can truly be free, and we can’t let the old and outdated media take that away from us.