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PewDiePie’s Battle for the Soul of the Internet (quillette.com)
102 points by tim_sw on Dec 22, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 133 comments

To be honest, the disgusting hit pieces/slander from WSJ, Vox, The Verge, etc that has been on PewDiePie, has made me loose almost all faith in MSM outlets and their credibility. If you let your journalists write things that are so outright wrong, and so extremely trying to twist the words of someone to manipulate your readers, then why on earth should I trust any other story from you.

And I doubt in any way I’m alone in this—proabably the far majority of PewDiePie’s subscribers don’t take media outlets serious anymore.

The age of journalism has long been dead. Click-bait killed in, and now they just putting nails in their own coffin.

> then why on earth should I trust any other story from you.

Gell-Mann amnesia [1] is rapidly disappearing as people has access to broader information channels.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gell-Mann_amnesia_effect

I knew little about this topic until I just happen to catch Pewdiepie on a podcast.

He spoke at length about the recent Swedish elections, how his mother cried when the Swedish Democrats (the new right-wing) party won, how he thinks young people can be more racist than old people today, went on to defend immigrants, the old Swedish values of being an open society etc.

He sounded like the complete opposite of what the media in these stories are portraying him to be

Do you happen to know the name of podcast? Was it in English or in Swedish?

> The age of journalism has long been dead. Click-bait killed in, and now they just putting nails in their own coffin.

Sam Harris and Matt Taibbi had a good discussion about this. How news has gone from being a loss leader to competing with clickbait.


This trend of outrage journalism is disturbing. Where the goal seems to be about finding the worst possible interpretation for clicks and prestige points. The headline is all that seems to matter, with few digging into the actual context. Which both fuels more uninformed outrage and erodes trust in journalism overall.

It seems like a new form of witch hunting?

The issue is not that journalism has developed a new trend of ginning up outrage, that’s a constant in the history of journalism. The issue is that it’s rapidly becoming all that’s left, all that most people consume, and it’s unleavened with anything like responsibility, or balance from respectable journalists and politicians with at least some limits.

It’s the degradation of all media rather than just a large portion of it, which is new and worrying.

Whether it's all media or some media doesn't really matter so much, I think what's really important is how much influence is actually wielded by the bad actors. Good media existing doesn't do us much good if that media isn't the influential media.

You're absolutely right about it being a constant in the history of journalism though. Recently I've heard a lot of talk about how the situation in this respect is getting worse, but I think it's important to remember that yellow journalism is nothing new, nor is the influence it wields. The Spanish American War was essentially started by yellow journalist media barons fabricating public consensus, and the ramifications of that war were fairly severe in both hemispheres. Maybe Vox picking on pewdiepie is unfair, or maybe they're justified. But viewed in the proper context it's inconsequential either way; neither Vox nor pewdiepie are provoking bullshit wars. Thank the gods for that.

> Maybe Vox picking on pewdiepie is unfair, or maybe they're justified. But viewed in the proper context it's inconsequential either way; neither Vox nor pewdiepie are provoking bullshit wars.

But they are provoking bullshit wars.

Being an unreasonable extremist and drowning out the reasonable voices on your team gives the unreasonable extremists on the other team license to do the same.

People being able to express contrary opinions in public is a release valve that allows a moderate consensus to form.

Polarizing everything and then shutting down public debate is how you get into a war. Just because nobody is actively building munitions factories doesn't make this a benign development that it's reasonable to ignore just because the country is not yet literally on fire.

> "But they are provoking bullshit wars."

No not actually. Hyperbole is fine but don't confuse it for the real thing.

How does the real thing happen?

Similar process is not similar outcomes. The stakes in pewdiepie vs vox are far less serious than an actual war. This really should not require explanation.

The media doesn't provoke an actual war by bombing anyone themselves.

I'm not sure what your point is, I never claimed media organizations were doing the bombing.

To reiterate my point: Yellow journalism that successfully warmongers is a far cry from yellow journalism that gets into a heated argument with a youtube celebrity. The methods employed by yellow journalists may be identical (in fact I'd argue they probably are), but there is a serious disparity in the severity of the outcome. And considering that in one case we're talking about significant loss of human life, I don't think you should be abstracting that away so coldly.

You should be thankful that the Vox/pewdiepie spat is not getting thousands of people killed and territory annexed. Is that not clear?

That it's all the same methods is the issue. Honing a censorship apparatus on random people is how it becomes sharp enough to do real damage.

When you find a tiger loose in a city, the response should be to do what it takes to get it off the streets, not that we should be thankful that everything is fine because so far it has only been hunting puppies.

> "That it's all the same methods is the issue."

Only if you're abstracting away the value of real human lives. If a tiger breaks loose you should be concerned by that tiger but ALSO be thankful that nobody has been eaten by it. If you forget the later, you forget your humanity.

I was thinking the same thing when I read this article.

Who the fuck cares about what pewdiepie does with his platform for his speech?

Trump, on the other hand, has far more power, but hasn't figured out how to anything other than being the center of everyone's attention.

And while Fox News is ginning up fervor against immigration in the US, it's not like we're going to go into a serious war with Mexico over it. Thank God.

> At major tech and media companies, promotion of progressive principles has become a matter of humourless, ironclad dogma.

It's the "humourless, ironclad dogma" aspect that provokes the response of people like Pewdiepie, and it's that aspect of the reaction to Pewdiepie's satire that makes it a self-completing feedback loop wherever it's discussed.

A generation ago, this description belonged to right-wing moralists like Focus on the Family and Tipper Gore. Now it belongs to the left-wing moralists who have largely taken over corporate messaging and university curricula.

To me, the political aspect is less interesting than the underlying desire to control thoughts and behavior. The most alarming aspect is that it has gone beyond redefining what constitutes crime to using social media to attempt to destroy the lives of those who run afoul of the agenda. And it only takes a handful of people to start up the outrage machine and direct all of its fury at a particular person. It's the source of the sense of dystopia that I feel many days.

It will be interesting to see what the generation coming up now ("Zoomers" I guess they're called) does in reaction to the full-throated adoption of the humourless, ironclad dogma of the Millennials. I see it played out almost daily between my millennial daughter and her Zoomer son. I think it's going to be uglier than the Boomers fighting with the Silent Generation in the 60s.

I watched the video (and PDP's apology) and I was outraged that either

a) A person with an incredibly impressionable, young, and naive viewerbase would shout out an obvious, virulent bigot because he shares their views or

b) A person with an incredible impressionable, young, and naive viewerbase would shout out someone that is an obvious, virulent bigot because he's so divorced from reality outside of video games that he didn't understand that they would be offensive.

or c) he just linked to video that he liked which came from an account that is verified by youtube so he felt it was safe and didnt spend days checking all the content

his followers arent dumb and youre underestimating what young viewers are able to figure out. if they can see that its not a big deal then why are you so outraged for?

> he just linked to video that he liked which came from an account that is verified by youtube

The video INCLUDED neo-nazi rhetoric. Literally click on any others and they include n-slurs in the title. Again, either he's a moron or he's a racist. I'm not sure if the former is that much better a look for him.

Also, young kids can figure things out, yes, but the biggest YouTube star on the planet shouldn't be normalizing neo-nazi terrorism.

i watched the video and it was fine and has lots of views and plenty of comments that understand the dark humor without going off the rails on outrage.

none of the videos have n-word in the title, are you making that up? did you read about how that channel is verified by youtube itself?

now youre calling it terrorism? slow down there. i think you should learn to take a joke like the rest of the world. if everyone else can figure it out then maybe its you that has an extreme problem with it?

>"none of the videos have n-word in the title, are you making that up? did you read about how that channel is verified by youtube itself?"

One of them did, it has since been deleted by youtube. It probably slipped by people, including youtube moderation for years, because it was a deliberate misspelling of the word "reneging".

I'm not going to link it for obvious reasons, but if you're skeptical you can find it by searching for the guy's mirror channel on one of the more infamous "free speech youtube alternatives" where he's uploaded it again with a note about youtube deleting it. In all honesty, I think it's likely this anime review guy is masking genuine nazi propaganda behind an edgy humor. I think he's doing it in a way that in each instance he usually has plausible deniability, but when viewed as a whole a clear picture emerges. I think this is why many people including yourself, youtube moderation, and supposedly pewdiepie did not notice it on first viewing. Furthermore I think that it's uncharitable and morally wrong to accuse people who missed it of having character defects, so please don't think that I'm impugning your character by disagreeing with you.

>One of them did, it has since been deleted by youtube. It probably slipped by people, including youtube moderation for years, because it was a deliberate misspelling of the word "reneging".

I can still see it. 2 of them posted 2 years ago with 400k views each. If he had more I wouldn't know, which is even more concerning.

I'm not going to see it as a character defect, but I will see it as incredibly irresponsible. It would be irresponsible even without Quilette editors tut-tutting about the people who are disturbed by it. The fact that people defend it even with the full scope of the evidence available is not acceptable however.

>now youre calling it terrorism? slow down there. i think you should learn to take a joke like the rest of the world. if everyone else can figure it out then maybe its you that has an extreme problem with it?

I'm pretty sure most people, including the FBI Director and Jeff Sessions, believe the Charlottesville attack was terrorism.

>In one example — a video Kjellberg publicly liked, leaving a comment underneath — E;R uses aerial footage of the moment when a car drove through a crowd of people during the white supremacist-led “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last year. The incident left multiple people injured and one protester, Heather Heyer, dead. E;R turns a scene from Netflix’s live-action Death Note movie, describing how a death is carried out when a name is written inside the titular notebook, into a joke about Heyer’s death using actual footage from Charlottesville. [0]

[0]: https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/10/18134748/pewdiepie-er-pe...

It's not witch hunting. It's ad money hunting. Click-based advertisement has created incentives that are directly opposite to what drives good journalism.

Therefore, paywalls and online subscription is actually the best thing that could happen to online journalism.


He shouted out 28(!) smaller channels. 1 of the 28 he recommended for its essay about Death Note. That's why it was being promoted. He didn't realize the channel contained anything anti-semitic or otherwise. Once that was pointed out, he removed the shoutout from his video.

The journalists in question are not reporting the nuance and context in their rush to burn the witch.

> He didn't realize the channel contained anything anti-semitic or otherwise.

He's suggesting that, but it is extremely unlikely that he didn't know.

> nce that was pointed out, he removed the shoutout from his video.

Sounds like the journalists are doing their job.

> He's suggesting that, but it is extremely unlikely that he didn't know. Oh? Is there any evidence to back up that claim?

> Sounds like the journalists are doing their job. Sounds like the death of investigative journalism.

> putting it into context

It seems like it's quite the opposite most of the time, which is the reason for the backlash against the articles.

Then I suggest you read up on the situation.

I'm fully aware. Clearly people will believe what they want to believe so I'll stay out of that, but I do think there is a major issue with what "context" is and how it's presented.

Outside of any context you mean. I don't see what making millions has to do with it.

An ironic nazi is still a nazi. No matter how you turn this, this guy:

1. Commissioned someone for 5 dollars to hold up a sign stating "Death to all jews"

2. Published the footage upon seeing it to an impressionable young audience, without putting why it'd be wrong to do into context. And thought this was an okay thing to do.

That's all that was reported on. And rightfully so.

I find it very sad that I get warned for "ideological posting" and yet quillette is a source allowed on here; easy to spot what ideology they support by their mention of Ben Shapiro as some sort of idol: reactionary. (If you're not convinced, find their sidebar for feminism bashing)

You should really reconsider if your own bias is distorting your moderation policies, dang.

Monty Python went on British national television in front of impressionable children dressed as Nazis, making their salutes, and quipping their slogans. Were they actually Nazis?

I'm Jewish and I'm open to criticizing decisions and behavior that make light of anti-Semitism, but classifying someone as a racist, Nazi, or white supremacist should have a higher standard.

You, stating 1. and 2. like that, quite clearly shows that you a) no nothing about the situation except the extremely biased news articles you’ve read, or b) have malicious intent, because if you did know the situation, you wouldn’t present it like that.

PewDiePie has commented quite a few times on this, but I’ll loop you in.

1. He was, in a satirical bit, showing what people were offering as services on Fiverr. As a result of this, he was surprised about what people were willing to do, and wanted to push it to the limit. He expected his request to get rejected, but it actually got approved and the guys did the sign—proving the point that people are basically willing to do anything for $5.

2. Have you even seen the video? You’ll honestly have to be the most clueless person on earth to not see that he is quite clearly not thinking this is okay, not is he condoning what they did, but it is still a very relevant thing to showcase what people are willing to do.

> An ironic nazi is still a nazi. No matter how you turn this...

Sure...if he was even remotely a nazi...Are you aware that what you are doing is actually doing a service to actual bro-nazis and a disservice to people trying to deal with actual problematic people? Desensitising people like this, means they won’t take the serious cases, well, seriously. Ever heard of the boy that cried wolf?

If you think having some guys write, let's say it again


on a banner for 5 bux is some sort of capitalism critique and not a spectacle to get views, I don't know what to tell you.

I guess I can leave you with this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjNILjFters

that was satire to show what you can do for just 5 bucks but he apologized for it

whats wrong with the quillette and ben shapiro? arent you showing your bias here?

Precisely what mode of thought was he satirizing?

"Satire" has a meaning - A Modest Proposal wasn't Swift going "haha what if we ate babies"

that you can do crazy stuff for 5 bucks that didnt get stopped all by the services he tried and the people he hired

>arent you showing your bias here?

You're saying that as if a post unopposed is neutral, and opposition is "taking a side" and therefore showing bias. It's not. There is no neutral here. The article poster has taken a side and the moderation team has too, even if it's just a slight pro.

I can say a lot about Shapiro, few things good. But I've been told to keep away from this sort of flame war and I'm convinced if you're willing to change your mind you can seek out the information I'd provide easily on your own.

No, they’re creating context... big difference.

“PewDiePie’s ties to white supremacy spell serious trouble for the future of YouTube”

Titles like the above are likely the reason that news outlets like Vox and Vice have fallen on hard times.

It’s a shame really - both outlets have done some seriously groundbreaking work, but this...this is just cheap outrage-bait for clicks.

The MSM are going to lose an entire generation because of stupidity like this. The people who actually follow pewdiepie know it's BS and then start to wonder what else the media has lied to them about where they didn't know better.

Pretty much the definition of shortsightedness. They are killing their reputation long term to get ad clicks today.

Aren't clickbait titles one of the things keeping these outlets afloat?

As an outsider it feels like young people in America are getting their values from some kind of cult of political correctness. It seems to be doing the same thing that the religious right used to do at one point in time. The old censorious approach to a new set of blasphemous topics has become the norm.

What seems obviously broken is the fact that ideals like free speech, free association, due process, etc. have taken a backseat to some new rules like inclusivity, hyper sensitivity and hyper empathy.

That is dangerous for society. It has happened before in so many theocracies. A very vocal group seems to have seized the reins of all mainstream media and technology companies in areas like "trust and safety", which always seem to morph into propaganda outfits.

By displacing to a large extent judeo Christian values, for all their faults, perhaps in education and elsewhere, it looks like something far more broken, dangerous and sinister has filled the void left by it.

As a result the new crop of young talent seems to be attracted to these new "woke" companies like vice and vox who are pandering to their misguided ideas of the world.

What 'far more broken, dangerous, and sinister' things have filled the void left by Judeo-Christian values? There's a long history of Judeo-Christian values being pretty broken, dangerous, and sinister themselves. The Spanish Inquisition is just 1 of many examples.

The culture of deprioritizing free speech, free association, presumption of innocence and other such principles in lieu of "virtuous" principles that seek to right the wrongs of society.

So hypothetically if you say the wrong terminology to refer to a group of people, then you have blasphemed and regardless of context your use of the terminology deprives you of due process, presumption of innocence and freedom of speech. Anyone who defends you has their freedom of association revoked.

Stories like these seem to be becoming more and more common. The dark and sinister replacement seem to be a new set of rules whose goal is to protect people from certain blasphemies. At one time it was the sun revolving around the earth or denial if the ressurrection of Christ. Today it's some forbidden phrase like Merry Christmas or handicapped or midget. If you are the CEO of Firefox or Oculus rift, you are fired for your charitable donations. Freedom of association is far more important to society than the harm done by a CEO who blasphemes or pays people to blaspheme.

The Spanish Inquisition occurred under the aegis of a church that had strayed so far from Judeo-Christian values that many of the most pious people in Europe would soon abandon it.

Judeo-Christian values are hard to pin down, but I feel confident that the 15th century Catholic Church did not reflect those values.

Isn't that just a way of saying Judeo-Christian values are anything good Judeo-Christians have done, but none of the bad stuff?

Isn't that what "values" means? Things that "good" people do and "bad" people don't.

I'm just offering the Reformation as evidence that even people in the 1500s didn't consider the behavior of the Catholic Church at that time "good".

Edit: As the responses point out, people don't all agree about values. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

I don't think values means that at all. Some of the most evil people in history had values too, but they were considered awful by others. Many times in history their values from their perspective were noble, yet to others they were murdering people for their thoughts or speech.

Values aren't only the good - you want them to be only the good. It's like asking to judge the character of a person by only the good they do, not the bad

> The Spanish Inquisition occurred under the aegis of a church that had strayed so far from Judeo-Christian values that many of the most pious people in Europe would soon abandon it.

The Spanish Inquisition (unlike the Papal Inquisitions, or the later Roman Inquisition) occurred under the aegis exclusivelt of the Spanish Crown; and “Judeo-Christian values” are most often cited as a thing by evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants trying to pretend that their views (often quite personal and not even broad enough to be sectarian) have some kind of broader grounding than can be justified factually.

> Judeo-Christian values are hard to pin down

Because “Judeo-Christian values” aren't actually a thing.

> Because “Judeo-Christian values” aren't actually a thing.

Also considering that Christianity is a rejection of many of the values and norms of Judaism.

This is a preposterous false dilemma.

YouTubers might not be able to get famous as easily if they link the wrong channels

"By displacing to a large extent judeo Christian values, for all their faults, perhaps in education and elsewhere, it looks like something far more broken, dangerous and sinister has filled the void left by it."


A good quote - "A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses. And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure."

> As an outsider it feels like young people in America are getting their values from some kind of cult of political correctness. It seems to be doing the same thing that the religious right used to do at one point in time. The old censorious approach to a new set of blasphemous topics has become the norm.

> What seems obviously broken is the fact that ideals like free speech, free association, due process, etc. have taken a backseat to some new rules like inclusivity, hyper sensitivity and hyper empathy.

"As an insider" it seems like this as well. Not everyone in America falls so far on either side that we can't see this.

I don't think fareesh meant to imply only non-Americans can perceive the situation as they do. I think fareesh was merely providing context for their perception.

Which is fine and generous; not everyone like fareesh may be so accommodating.

What, precisely, are "judeo-Christian values"?

In my comment I am referring to what George Washington talked about in his farewell address when he discussed a similar topic. He didn't name judeo Christian values but it's implicit when he says "religion".

If you are not familiar with it see the section on religion morality and education


OK, but the concept is historically nonsensical - antisemitism was a large part of early and medieval Christianity - and the term itself didn't come into use until the 40s.

> If you are not familiar with it see the section on religion morality and education

Am having a hard time seeing how the idea that morality can't be maintained without religion connects to "free speech, free association [and] due process".

Those are individual rights, and arguably they came from a worldview (stemming from those values) where all people are created equal.

Much of the new culture I am referring to, seems to elevate the rights of groups and treat individuals as unequal because all people are born unequal depending on the group they belong to - the exact opposite of what the country was founded on and believed for a long time. It isn't untrue because people are born to vastly different circumstances that have a big impact on their long-term success in society. This seems to have become a sacred cow, i.e. a new set of religious principles.

How this plays out in this particular context is that when Pewdiepie uses his YouTube channel to make amusing videos, if he touches on certain blasphemous topics, then regardless of context, he is convicted as having "ties to white supremacists". His rights as an individual are deprioritized because the subject matter is blasphemous to the new value system, which places a very high priority on protection of the sentiments of minorities.

This is an exceptionally great goal, but freedom, due process and presumption of innocence of the individual must come first, if the goal is to create a fair and stable society, in my opinion.

I refer you to David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”


Religious flamewar will get you banned on HN. Please don't post like this again.

You've also been using HN primarily for ideological battle—we ban accounts that do that, too. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here.

go fuck yourself

A key part of the article seems to be that PewDiePie's channel is largely satire, which is inherently under attack and worth protecting. Maybe I am getting old, but I find satire a lot less valuable than I once did.

The article mentions South Park too. I once loved the show, and still remember many moments in a strangely fond way. But the problem of Poe's law and the like means satire is sometimes taken seriously, and the cumulative effects of that have serious and real repercussions.

The creators of South Park, for example, recently "apologized" to Al Gore[1], who they ridiculed mercilessly. Many people believe that ridicule seriously hurt the climate change movement. I can't imagine what a real world solution would look like, but I would gladly live in a world where those episodes disappeared and we were in a little better spot regarding climate change.

We probably don't yet know what the lasting legacy of PewDiePie will be, but personally I'm doubting the positive aspects of it will outweigh the effects of many of his viewers taking some of his satire seriously.

[1] https://www.salon.com/2018/11/08/south-park-apologizes-to-al...

Al Gore's hypocrisy and profit seeking were the cause of whatever harm was done to climate change awareness.

Placing any of the blame on South Park for exposing it is an example of a dangerous yet all too common idea: tolerate, even conceal, bad behavior lest the overall movement be harmed.

I'm sure there's a lot of legitimate reasons to criticize Al Gore. The problem with the South Park episodes is that:

1. They did not talk about any of those valid criticisms

2. FAR more people saw those South Park episodes and, at least somewhat, adjusted their views of Gore to be more negative without even realizing it, than came in contact with anything that DID talk about those valid criticisms

Reaching more people is precisely the purpose of satire. Humor communicates with a lot of people who don't read the NYT.

> Al Gore's hypocrisy and profit seeking were the cause of whatever harm was done to climate change awareness.

Well clearly Matt & Trey disagree now.

It is quite funny that very few people are actually able to come up with valid criticisms for his climate change advocacy, which wasn't even on the more alarmist side of climate change in 2006.

> very few people are actually able to come up with valid criticisms

I guess that depends on what you mean by "valid" but I think his plan to profit from carbon trading was a clear conflict of interest.

All the conservative people I know are aware of this, so it also depends on who you know.

And if those conservatives find out that Matt & Trey now think they should have kept this a secret to avoid damaging Gore's climate change advocacy, that will only reinforce their distrust of climate change advocates.

Al Gore made more from the Google IPO in 05/06 than from his climate change advocacy, which is something he pioneered since when he was a conservative Democrat from Tennessee. The idea that it’s a conflict of interest is silly in the grand scheme of things.

He was trying to convince people to sacrifice their own lifestyle for the sake of the distant future.

Giving people a reason to think his efforts were a money-making scheme was just stupid.

This is such a silly canard, outside of the eco-primitivists nobody serious is advocating for wholesale lifestyle deflation.

The laughably impotent response to climate change is another issue altogether.

Al Gore was telling us that burning fossil fuels was going to destroy the world. The only appropriate response, if that were true, would be immediate "wholesale lifestyle deflation".

> The only appropriate response, if that were true,

That is an absurdly narrow viewpoint for a website dedicated to news about technological advances. I'm honestly astonished.

Your attitude is inappropriate on a website dedicated to rational discussion.

Also, you must be unaware of what Al Gore was saying. "An Inconvenient Truth" predicted horrible things would happen by 2015. That was a very common prediction in the 90s, actually.

We're past that now and technological advance is nowhere near eliminating or even reducing climate change. It was obvious even in the 90s that zero-carbon technology wouldn't be ready for decades.

The only solution to the doomsday prediction Al Gore was selling 20 years ago was immediate drastic action (which even the Democrats never actually had the will to call for).

If his channel falls into a satire category then the category has massively expanded these days. Outrage porn is not satire and is just going for shock value. It's not satirizing anything, which is often a commentary on how absurd something is and not just saying something disgusting to get views.

I don't follow him much, but his content (currently, he pivoted from a few years ago) certainly has satirical elements.

I've seen a number of his videos and none of those could be classified as outrage porn. They were nothing like that at all.

I guess one could argue that outrage porn is a satire of outrage culture

Would your weariness of satire been the same had South Park instead satirized the climate change deniers and led people to take the issue more seriously?

I would agree about the severe diminishing returns of satire. Indeed, here is something more general on this that I suspect will be of interest. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n14/jonathan-coe/sinking-giggling-i...

I remember back in 2012 when he started to get big he was roundly mocked for being overexcitable and cringy on his videos.

It was only after the WSJ articles that I found out that people actually defend him unironcially. Not sure if that's just him evolving or because of some other factors..

I'm in my late twenties, and it's interesting to see "tech" and "culture" journalists around my age get more and more out of touch with internet culture. At first I thought it was deliberate misinterpretation of satire and Monty Python shock-jock comedy for the purposes of clicks and politics.

Now I'm not so sure - much like how early 4chan's self-deprecating and self-aware irreverence devolved in a swell of uncreative people taking the memes (and themselves) way too seriously, the same seems to be occurring with the media. Maybe the media is on to something when they say memes, jokes, and satire are dangerous because too many people take the performance literally and become neo-Nazis? But I don't see this phenomenon as only existing inside that sphere - so many people, even journalists who should know better, are content with bits of second-hand information and out-of-context sound bites when making up their mind about something or someone.

Maybe we're getting too comfortable with the internet. It was once a curio outside of our brain, but as it becomes a part of who we are we increasingly give it authenticity.

A wise anon said as far back as 2007, on 4chan's politics board, paraphrased:

A community that consistently pretends to be something will eventually attract and finally be replaced by exactly the people they meant to pose as.

In this case, nazis. Even now you can't really tell how serious people on there are.

> The story centres entirely on Kjellberg accidentally throwing a fringe site into a laundry list of other outlets he was seeking to signal-boost.

Poor Pewd! It's sad how these accidents keep happening to him, over and over again. Just bad luck, I guess.

There also seem to keep being accidents from SPLC, Vox, etc. where they label people as extremists on the flimsiest of evidence, and have to walk back their words.

SPLC, for example, made a name for themselves by winning lawsuits against the KKK and Aryan Nations. Now they are losing lawsuits and having to apologize for falsely calling people "extremists": https://www.newsweek.com/splc-nawaz-million-apologizes-98187...

In the article about PewDiePie, Vox tries to call Laci Green "alt-right". I'm sorry, if Laci Green is alt-right, then the word has lost all meaning. They updated their story, but the update was pretty inadequate: https://twitter.com/jessesingal/status/1074762800109637633

"It's just a heated gaming moment, over the course of several years!"

I think previously it has not been so much accidents as shock humor that is prevalent among young people (most famously often shown at 4chan) that clashed against the mainstream. Paying two poor indian guys 5 bucks to write "Death to jews" (or something like that) and dance around is probably in poor taste but my guess is that the words were chosen more because "you cannot say that" than trying to spread that message.

Considering he spends tens of hours a week producing inane, barely researched content and commentary and also handles most of his own admin I'm not surprised. People with a tenth of his audience have staff dedicated to making sure that things like that don't happen.

What's more interesting is that every single bleeding-heart journalist that seems to have an issue with him all have tweets praising Nazis, throwing racial slurs around or generally being whatever they're criticising Felix for.

An example from the Vox writer: "seeing #WhyIJoinedTwitter trending and all i can think of is, Don't be stupid, be a smartie! Come and join the Nazi party!" - with gif of people doing Nazi salutes [0]

Call that satire if you like - which is how she's trying to defend it - but that's exactly what Felix is repeatedly crucified for. Just bad luck for her too, I guess. Except she's not apologising for it, nor is she being punished by her employer nor is she having articles written about her for it.

[0] https://twitter.com/ajaromano/status/1024721866823491584

I have not stayed extremely up-to-date on PewDiePie's various scandals. But the one I am mainly aware of was him calling someone that killed him (in-game) the n word. How is this the same as that tweet?

It's not. We're talking about a different scandal altogether here from a few days ago (the one referenced in the article) where Felix gave a "shout out" to a couple dozen different channels - one of them for some sort of anime content. That channel turned out to have antisemitic content as well. Felix promptly apologised and removed the link to their channel.

To someone not growing up in America it isn't clear that you can't say the n-word. We see people say it all the time in tv shows so we just copy that. Therefore it makes perfect sense that Europeans uses the n-word without being racist. Once they are told to stop they usually do though.

Classic cherry-picking logic.

If, on the contrary, let's cherry picking the good things said by Pewd, then anyone can come at the opposite statement.

I am really disturbed by this line of thinking, which bases conclusions on top of unfounded claims in the first place.

If someone can choose negative things one says, it means that they said negative things that outweigh the good ones. It doesn't take many negative things sometimes (often just 1) to be enough to outrage people. No one is going to ignore the negative things because he also happened to say good things (subjectively of course).

You seem to be saying that they're cherry picking the negative things which means they can't be 'unfounded claims' like you say later.

> If someone can choose negative things one says, it means that they said negative things that outweigh the good ones

No it doesn't. Why do you think it means the negatives must outweigh the positives?

Because this isn't a zero-sum game. If you say 9,999 good things on the internet and 1 offensive thing people aren't going to say 'oh... but he said 9,999 good ones so we should ignore the one that we find offensive'.

Your first comment was about a person's negative statement outweighing their positive ones, but this attempt to clarify doesn't address that at all, and instead focuses solely on others' perceptions of that person. Which are you talking about? Or if you're claiming they're linked, what is the link?

The link is a perception one. To people who view those original statements as negative ones they're not going to care about anything positive and the positive ones won't minimize the negatives ones for them usually. Therefore, if there are negative statements generally some people will find that they outweigh any positives said.

I assumed the link was pretty obvious... to paint a vivid picture if you have a person or group that says nice things most of the time about puppy dogs but just once says some hateful nazi rhetoric, someone out there will find that the negative outweighs the positive and won't care that there are positive statements.

Edit - I probably should've qualified my statement in my original post to better state that position. I can see now that it seems my statement is an absolute for all people. Not my intent.

To state myself clearly:

I am disturbed by the line of thinking of basing conclusion on media reports.

I do not say negative outweighs positive or vise versa. That's not my point.

My ultimate point is that a person is complex. If you want to base your perception on media reports, that's clearly lazy and manipulated. To know a person, you need to see the whole picture. Then if you want to claim that a person's repetitive attacks from media is because that person is problematic, that's disturbing.

I understand the perception thing. But your original comment said nothing about perception, and presented it as a truth about the person and their comments (one that would be true independent of anybody else's perceptions of it).

So, to clarify, you're saying these perceptions aren't necessarily true? If so, I'd suggest that your original comment comes across as saying something very different.

It's interesting to compare the level of forgiveness / empathy from news organizations like Vox and Vice depending on the subject they are covering.

1. Youtube star who links a white supremacist channel and then immediately disavows it - still a racist.

2. Democratic presidential candidate (Obama) meets with and has photos taken with avowed racist and anti-Semite (Farrakhan) and then disavows it a few years later - no problems here.

Websites with discussion (like hacker news) have simple rules like "assume good faith." If somebody says they don't believe something, participants are expected to accept that, unless there is evidence to the contrary. Yet, "respected news organizations" like Vox and Vice only presume good faith for people who agree with them.

And yet, when 3. our current president said there were "fine people on both sides" it's still racist, because it is a pattern of behavior. It's not a single incident.

Obama disavowed Wright and Farrakhan in a speech that was praised by nearly everyone, including Mike Huckabee and John McCain, and was president for 8 years without winking at Nazis, white supremacists, or anti-semites like Farrakhan.

do you realize that people use bad words all the time in real life? saying a few bad words when you record yourself hours every day is not a big deal and almost everyone can look past it because other than some words he hasnt actually done anything

meanwhile you should probably pay attention to actual fascists out there in the world like in china and russia

Because most people don’t use the nslur against people even in “heated gaming moments”

Young people in Sweden used it kinda like "fucker" when pewdiepie grew up. It is wrong to use the word that way for the same reason it is wrong to use the word retarded etc and he should stop, but using it is in no way proof that he is a racist.

That, plus the fiverr stuff, plus the E;R shoutout, plus the n-word? It's a pattern of behavior of either being racist or being incredibly irresponsible and ignorant.

Not that it absolves him of even saying it, which is pretty bad on its own, especially in a pejorative sense.

For the record, I know from being on the receiving end that racist young people use it in America too so he's not getting a pass on that from me (nor should he).

You can't judge a white Swede with the same standard as a white American, they grew up in completely different cultures. In Sweden saying the n word was completely normal 20 years ago and almost everybody did it, not just racists but a lot of immigration friendly people as well. That means that pewdiepie having that word in his unconscious vocabulary is not a sign of him being a racist, but of him having grown up in Sweden in the 90's. White Americans on the other hand have been drilled not to say the word for a long time (kinda like Voldemort in harry potter) so to them it is unthinkable to say the word like that, but pewdiepie didn't have the luxury of growing up in USA. Being lenient to foreigners is an important part of globalism, he did something wrong, said he was sorry and he is unlikely to do it again, why is it so important to you to press further?

Also many racist things that would be totally unacceptable in Sweden are common in USA so it is not like we are more tolerant or racist than you are over there, we just focus on different things. For example in Sweden it is unacceptable to group people together like "African American", expressions like that are there to alienate groups. Instead we think it is enough to call everyone "Swedish", it is unthinkable that a politician would start calling immigrants "Afro Swedish". Or at least it was seems like we have gotten more influenced by USA now. But another thing: In Sweden it is seen as very racist to ask about race, gather data about race etc, while in USA that is mandatory. A politician suggesting adding such measures would get called a Nazi and thrown out immediately.

About the other things, pewdiepie has produced around 600 hours of original video content with edgy humor on his own, each clip getting millions of views. Edgy humor tends to skirt on whats acceptable and he is bound to make mistakes sometimes, especially with the cultural differences between Sweden and USA. I think it is stranger that they haven't found more dirt on him on than they did.

yea they do. join any gaming channel for 5 minutes and see what happens. and its not just gaming, its how people talk amongst each other when they arent in public.

not a big deal.

Pretty good read. Liked this quote:

> Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya once recalled his work with Facebook this way: “We trumpeted [our platform] like it was some hot-shit big deal. And I remember when we raised money from Bill Gates…And Gates said something along the lines of, ‘That’s a crock of shit. This isn’t a ‘platform.’ A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.’” The brilliant Microsoft founder knew that his own Windows operating system was a true platform because, as Microsoft openly bragged, the company itself captured only a minority of the value created through the Windows ecosystem. Facebook, YouTube and Google are in a completely different category—because the vast majority of the wealth they generate is controlled by the social-media oligopolies themselves. They aren’t platforms so much as rent-seeking agents that oversee a set of critical economic protocols.

I don't know about the Google of today but the Google of say 2003 clearly fit that definition. It was making it possible for 1000s of mom and pop shops to reach a much larger audience. I remember specifically a story about a small company that made custom cowboy boots that was doing much better now that it could could buy a few keywords and target people looking for those kinds of boots so that seems to fit.

Youtube certainly seems like a platform for others to make money, the top example being PewDiePie himself making 7 million year 2 or 3 years ago from just youtube ad share. No idea how much more he made from product placements or endorsements. There's clearly some amount being made by groups like Vox, Kurzgesagt, Corridor, and similar channels who . Would those channels be able to survive if they had to pay to stream their own video?

I’d like to re-center this on the author’s central diagnosis. Advertising is the problem. Bad protocol design is the cause. Now advertising giants control the protocols.

What are we going to do about it?

While I won't subscribe to PewDiePie because I'm just not interested in that kind of content... I disagree with very, very little of this piece.

Sad state of affairs.

Search this article for the racial slur that PewDePie yelled out during a livestream, and you won’t find it.

The essence of the anti-censorship position, non-governmental or otherwise, is acknowledging when someone says something that you object to, and nonetheless supporting their right to say it. Sweeping it under the rug is just cowardice.

(I’m being generous in even linking this to censorship of any form. PewDePie is still on YouTube (as he should be allowed to be!), he just wasn’t featured in a highlight reel).

To someone not growing up in America it isn't clear that you can't say the n-word. We see people say it all the time in tv shows so we just copy that. Therefore it makes perfect sense that Europeans uses the n-word without being racist. Once they are told to stop they usually do though.

> Sweeping it under the rug is just cowardice

100% correct. Too often though, this is the default defense-non-defense for all sorts of awful behavior. However, it's a great tactic to try to switch the conversation from a "should" to a "can".

All the comments here are about journalism or politics so I'll start a thread about technology instead. The article says this:

this kind of power hoarding exists only because of insufficiently farsighted design of the early web ... Were there a public protocol that allowed video to be shared as easily as hypertext, there would be no need for YouTube

But this is a major misunderstanding of the problem, which is not due to the web's design but rather the basic incentive issues around the creation of decentralised, public infrastructure.

Because of course there is such a public protocol that allows video to be shared as easily as hypertext. It's called the web. How does this author think YouTube works, exactly? Anyone can transcode a video, upload it to their personal web server and use the <video> tag. The codecs, the transports, the viewer software, it's all free and public.

So why don't PewDiePie and others like them do that? Why do they all flock to YouTube and then create massive dramas over YouTube's policies? And by the way, I ask these rhetorical questions as someone who is no fan of Google's recent turn towards blocking and censorship of conservative views.

Well the questions are rhetorical because the answers are obvious. They stick with YouTube and don't even go elsewhere if they get silenced because the value YouTube is providing them is staggeringly huge. YouTube isn't merely a way to publish video. It's a huge, no questions asked bandwidth and CPU subsidy. It's the technology to instantly handle serving to planet-scale populations. It's commenting and voting that's defending against spamming and other forms of DoS. It's discovery and sharing. It's editing tools and analytics and most of all it's advertising - monetisation is what we lack public infrastructure for, not video serving.

And why do we lack public protocols for all these things? Because creating YouTube is a hell of a lot of work for many people and they want to get paid for their skills. Which inherently means they need to own the result of their work, and ownership implies control. Private property rights, that's capitalism and incentives 101.

I've worked on decentralisation related software for a long time and still do, because there are certain areas where it can really help. But you can't inherently point the finger at existing technologies and say "if only they were better, everything would be decentralised". No, it doesn't work like that. It's a failed analysis of the problem. Create decentralised tech like the <video> tag or git, and a YouTube and GitHub will arise around it and re-centralise it all by providing value the public protocol does not. Society wants centralisation because most of the time, the abuses of power it allows are collectively considered low cost relative to the benefits of the extra features and competence the centralisation allows.

This doesn't mean it's all useless. Git being decentralised is helpful even though everyone has centralised around GitHub: if you do want to move your code off of GitHub, you are just a "git push" away from having all your history and branches painlessly transferred to GitLab or your own server. Sure, that won't help your issues or pull requests, but that doesn't take away from the fact that source code is now properly decentralised and that's still better than before. So we should continue to develop decentralised technology, whilst understanding that it won't result in everyone using purely decentralised systems.

Hi all - this is Allen Farrington, the author of the piece (not sure how to prove that but oh well. If only we had a public protocol for identity :P )

I just wanted to say that of all the commentary on the article across the web that I am aware of, this is by far the most interesting and informed. I would really encourage the contributor of this post to copy and paste the whole thing onto the Quillette article itself as it may well get a great conversation going.

In short, I am aware of all these issues and agree that the best way to frame the problem is not really in terms of 'technology' per se, but in terms of incentives. That folds in what I think is the all-important point about monetisation, which I completely agree with.

Where I think I disagree slightly is the overly deterministic assertion that 'recentralisation will occur' due to social demands. I think this understanding underplays how much social interaction with technology is moulded by the technology itself. This is getting a bit subjective at this point, but I don't think society really does 'want' centralisation, at least not along the lines of such a sweeping declaration. I think they like the results of centralisation as they happen to exist on the web so far. But, as above, these are strongly determined by the available technology, and in turn what incentives are viable. As you say yourself lower down, there are cases at meaningful scale where the degree of decentralisation is increasing, and other more speculative cases in which the degree of decentralisation is a step change from current norms. My thought (/my hope) is that this provides enough leeway to enormously alter incentives such that social interaction with the technology can alter enormously as well.

Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, I covered these issues extremely briefly and overly rhetorically in the article as I am assuming that some 99% of the audience has never even considered these issues, never mind having the technical understanding to follow a discussion this in-depth. I was really using the hook of PewDiePie to meander towards this exact topic. That said, I am very happy that this discussion has got going here! Good job, and please spread it if you can!

Glad you liked it! :)

You may well be right about the interplay of what society 'wants' vs technology choices. After all, git and GitHub competed in a market against totally centralised and proprietary version control systems, and won. The decentralised nature of git, making forking easy and so on, was surely a part of that, and is certainly the hard part relative to fairly trivial features like an issue or PR tracker.

I'll copy and paste the comment into Quillette. One might say, I'll fork the conversation. Perhaps we need a git-like mechanism for discussing essays on the internet :)

Let's try a Trump quote "There is good people on both sides"


Please don't break the site guidelines by posting flamebait.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18743326 and marked it off-topic.

I'll play devil's advocate. Part of the Charlottesville pro-statue crowd were "heritage not hate" types who grew up with those town statues as part of their local history and had no personal racial animus. While I think they're misguided, I think they can still be "good people". They heard of the rally amidst the trend of statues getting taken down, and showed up without knowing of the organizer or who else would show up. Before you dismiss this out of reflex - most Women's March attendees had no idea that some organizers of the march were connected to anti-Semitism and a speaker was convicted for torturing a gay man to death (Donna Hylton).

Of course, this part of the crowd was not sensational and was not covered so perceptions were shaped accordingly. The part that was repeatedly covered was the neo-Nazi vans showing up later in the day (the original attendees started leaving when this happened), and the subsequent brawls and vehicle terrorism.

Much like how there were well-intentioned statue protesters and violent antifa marxists, there were also well-intentioned statue advocates and violent neo-nazis. In light of that the statement of "good people on both sides" is not malicious or technically wrong, though it was unnecessary and tone-deaf.

It's unfortunate that you are downvoted without any responses. I read this article about the Women's March just today: https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/276694/is... . Certainly many of the people I know (having grown up in a fairly Jewish community) attended the Women's March without understanding the views of their leadership.

There was live footage of what looked like a thousand people marching with torches the night before, chanting “you will not replace us”, which is part of the racist “white genocide” theory. I live in North Carolina with a lot of folks who have confederate flag clothes or complain about how bad it is that confederate statues come down. I don’t know that any of them expressed sympathy for the Charlottesville groups.

Your general point about movements being messy things is right. I’m just not so sure it applies here.

20 years ago when the internet was just hitting its stride, it would be unthinkable for any individual or organization to systematically attack anyone on the internet for the content they created.

The fact that so many have devolved into a religious fervor over silencing any views they don't like is anathema to the fundamental purpose of the internet itself.

Edit: and entirely predictably, I am being attacked for saying this. HN is part of the problem.

The internet is a place where usually people can state their views openly. That is happening. However, what's also happening is people find his views and comments disgusting and they're commenting on it. Totally within their rights to do.

And it's not as unthinkable as you say at all that an individual or organization would attack others for what content they create. Since there has been an internet there's been people who attacked others for their content. I'm not sure what internet you saw 20 years ago but it wasn't the same I saw.

rotten.com? stileproject? goatse.cx? were there even other sites 20 years ago? The Smoking Gun? When did Cryptome/Cartome start? I don't know, but I know users on slashdot weren't pearl-clutching prudes, for example.

Sure people "commented on" things they didn't like, on their own websites. Not on platforms from which they wanted to kick others, certainly not as a habitual normal thing a sane person would consider. Yes, "such people always existed", so in that sense it was "thinkable". But it wasn't done as a matter of course, as a way to win debates.

> it would be unthinkable for any individual or organization to systematically attack anyone on the internet for the content they created.

It's unthinkable that you would criticize Vox for content that they have created. 20 years ago this wouldn't have happened!

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