Racism is a popular recipe for YouTube success

Once again, shallow YouTube Personality PewDiePie has blurted out a racist slur in a video. Hey, it was just a heated gaming moment, says notoriously dimwitted Breitbart apologist Ian Miles Cheong. He has 57 million subscribers. He made $1.4 million a month for squealing in gaming videos. He is the very definition of the superficial, lightweight, know-nothing and contribute-nothing pinnacle of internet vapidity. And he’s very good at it.

So he puked out hate in a heated gaming moment. That apparently excuses everything. I guess my gaming moments have never been sufficiently heated to prompt me to shout out bigotry against other people…or maybe I don’t feel that degree of bias. I think I might say the usual swears — damn, shit, fuck — in those heated moments, but I’m not sure why you’d suddenly spit against a whole people. Filthy Norwegians! Gosh, I lost my game, I suddenly hate Saxons. Whoops, blame that one on the Luxembourgians.

But despite being appalled at this talentless ass, you have to recognize that there’s not much to be done. How many of his subscribers will drop his account because he’s prone to racist outbursts? None. I predict he’ll gain some. Contrarians, alt-righters, channers, Nazis, members of the KKK will sign up just to show solidarity. YouTube will do nothing, because that’s their core constituency.

Stupid triumphs.

Still, he hasn’t been entirely silent: His most recent video, which argues that this year’s hurricane season is nothing out of the ordinary and shouldn’t be politicized, was posted earlier Sunday. It already has more than two million views.

Here come the climate change deniers, the anti-science brigade, the Republicans, all ready to sign up and swell his legion of assholes.


  1. themadtapper says

    I’ve never understood PewdiePie’s appeal. The first time I saw one of his videos I chuckled a bit, though I found his signature “Peeeeewdie Pie!” namedrop to be cringe-worthy. But every other video was exactly the same. There was no originality at all. Not particularly surprised that his moral and intellectual pools are as shallow as hit talent pool.

    I take comfort in the fact that there are plenty of good gaming streamers out there that are intelligent, science-minded, progressive, and inclusive. The streaming communities I watch include a number of gamer women, both cis- and trans-, as well as gamers of color, who don’t wallow in the gamergate and alt-right cesspool like so many others.

    Unfortunately the cancerous likes of PewdiePie dominate the market, but there’s plenty of good content by good people out there.

  2. ck, the Irate Lump says

    His followers are trying to paint the DMCA take down of his video like it’s some new thing that has uniquely targeted him. “Let’s Play” videos have always been on fairly thin ice legally, and are often taken down for no reason at all.

  3. says

    Gotta protect those white 14 year old boys, gosh, a mistake like lynching an 8 year old could really fuck up their future, y’know.

    I wonder where those 14 year olds learned that. It’s not the kind of idea that just pops into someone’s head.

    “Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life,”

    Maybe they have ‘affluenza’ or something.

  4. Vivec says

    The youtuber in question built his career by yelling rape jokes while playing horror games, so it’s not like this is exactly a huge fall from grace or something.

    While it is true that lets plays are on legal thin ice, the problem comes when the company in question had a blanket “We love Lets plays and let you monetize them by default!” policy that they only rescinded in this particular case.

  5. Nentuaby says

    I hardly see why that’s a problem, Vivec. Intellectual property owner implicitly allows activity which enhances its property’s value; denies activity which degrades it. Film at 11.

  6. Vivec says

    The problem is that you can’t give a blanket allowance for monetized Lets Plays with no qualifications, and then retract that allowance and claim copyright infringement only on the grounds of the person making a racist statement. At the bare minimum, it’s a highly legally contentious part of DMCA law.

    Its analogically similar to setting up a cookie jar in public with a “Free cookies!” sign, and then accusing a person I don’t like of theft if they take a cookie.

  7. Vivec says

    This isn’t exactly a new contention either, there’s been plenty of cases where people, for example, give their material into the public domain and then sue if someone they oppose uses their material. There’s no clear precedence on the matter, so it’s not a cut and dry issue on either side.

  8. Vivec says

    And before the inevitable accusation, I’m not defending Pewdiepie, I think he’s awful and should be demonitized, I’m saying that there is a legal argument to be made against the specific DMCA takedown.

  9. Nentuaby says

    I’d say it’s more analogically similar to setting up a free cookie jar and then telling somebody who took a bite out of one and put it back that he’s not welcome to any more cookies. You never actually *stated* that staying within the normal bounds of decent society around the cookie jar is a required condition of the free cookies, but it’s hardly troubling for the future of cookie enjoyment that you treat it as having been implicit.

  10. Nentuaby says

    I’m unimpressed by it as a purely legal argument, because “we love let’s plays, we think they add to our brand rather than detract from it” is way past the degenerate case as a grant of license; the reserved right to retract it from a malfeasant content producer is no more implicit than the offered right to make lets plays in the space was in the first place.

  11. Vivec says

    See, the problem is that the DMCA isn’t being filed by the people who own the game he was playing when he said the slur during, so it is being filed by virtue of his reputation.

    Also, they’re not just demonitizing him, they’re specifically filing a DMCA claim, which is where the analogy kinda falls apart. Reputation or outside actions aren’t enough to turn a non-infringing use of a work into an infringing use, as far as the law is concerned – especially when you previous ceded the right to pick and choose who is using your work in this context.

  12. Vivec says

    Also, as mentioned, they’re retroactively declaring a previously non-infringing use of their work to be infringing, which is what complicates the case. It’s not just that they’re saying “This guy is bad and we don’t want him being associated with us in the future”, they’re saying “This guy is bad and therefore his previously allowed use is now retroactive copyright infringement”

  13. Alverant says

    “Let’s Plays” are also reviews of sorts and reviews are protected by law. A company should no more be able to take down a video of someone playing their game that exposes any bugs or issues the game has than they can demand a bad review be removed. But part of the problem is YouTube has an automated take-down service which has led to a lot of abuse. I’ve heard of cases where DMCA takedowns have removed original work because someone else claimed it violated their copyright. The accuser doesn’t have to prove they have copyright, just say they do and the system does the rest. The system on YouTube is really messed up and needs improvement. But since YT is a business that needs advertisers, who do you think they’ll listen to – the advertisers or the laws on fair use?

    Edward Currant got taken down multiple times on YouTube without justification so DMCA has been used to effectively engage in censorship of an unpopular opinion.

  14. Vivec says

    Alverant also brings up a good point, “Causes financial harm” isn’t, by itself, a justification for a DMCA takedown claim. Parody and Negative Reviews can be a protected use even if they cause the content owner financial harm.

  15. Zeppelin says

    I think it’d have been more politic to publicly request that Pewdiepie take down the video because they don’t want to be associated with him.
    This would make them look like sensible adults the way a possibly spurious DMCA claim doesn’t, since those are traditionally associated with thin-skinned hacks and bullies trying to silence critics. It would also make it a purely ethical argument, not a legal one — which I think is what we’d rather be having anyway, considering the propensity of the Freeze Peach crowd to descend into pointless sophistry about what you technically can and can’t say. And if Pewdiepie refused to take down the video in that context he’d look like a dick, whereas if it gets DMCA’d he’ll have an easy victim narrative.

  16. robro says

    Well, he made it onto the Guardian over this, for what that’s worth. If he really did make $15 million last year, I’m not going to worry about him loosing his revenue stream. I’m sure he can find a venue that will be happy to let him serve up this kind of crap.

  17. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Vivec wrote:

    See, the problem is that the DMCA isn’t being filed by the people who own the game he was playing when he said the slur during, so it is being filed by virtue of his reputation.

    That I didn’t know. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be from a game other than the one at the centre of the current PewDiePie controversy. That makes it pretty inexcusable. However, I suspect they’re still within their rights to demand this, despite how distasteful it is.

    Alverant wrote:

    “Let’s Plays” are also reviews of sorts and reviews are protected by law.

    Kind of. Excerpting segments of the work for criticism is fair use, but the extended, unedited footage of the game could also be argued to be a public performance of the work. The latter obviously isn’t protected as fair use.

  18. says

    As I’ve said elsewhere (Twitter, WHTM), I’m a gamer and an Australian, so when it comes to turning the air blue in moments of algorithmically generated frustration, I’m definitely in with a bit of a head start. Can’t remember ever having bothered with racial slurs, though. Scatology? Yup, certainly. Blasphemy? You betcha. Double-barrelled profanity? You better believe it. All of the above, combined with vivid descriptions of the possible marital status, intoxication status, potential sexually transmitted diseases and non-human species of the parents of the character on screen? Yup, done that too. But most of the time, I settle for the ancient Australian curse: “May all your chooks turn to emus, and kick down your dunny door“.

    Someone who lets loose with racial slurs isn’t even trying when it comes to cussing out a computer game.

  19. emergence says

    Jim Sterling did a video that addressed this issue in its latter half. His main point was that PewDiePie has become a flat-out liability to youtubers who rely on fair use. Even if PewDiePie is a shitty youtuber who adds nothing to the games he films himself playing, there are a lot of people who use YouTube to review games, report on what’s happening in the game industry, and make first impressions and strategy videos for games that can be more informative than what the game’s publishers themselves provide. If the DMCA strike and the subsequent lawsuit set legal precedent, PewDiePie could take down a lot of good channels like The Jimquisition or Super Bunnyhop with him.

  20. Vivec says

    While it’s true that PewDiePie does run the risk of lending precedence to the side that holds that Let’s Plays are fair use, generally on a case like this any hypothetical court decision would be worded in such a way that it severely limits the impact of the decision on precedence, especially on a fairly new field like DMCA law.

    For example, it might mean that facecam/no-commentary Let’s Plays are legally considered infringement, but not very heavily edited/produced transformative works like game reviews or videos like Jim Sterling’s.

    And, of course, this would have no effect on companies that give a blanket allowance for monetized Let’s Plays, as a growing amount of companies are.

  21. tkreacher says

    I’ve seen a lot of apologetic about how he isn’t a racist, he was just blurting out the worst thing he could think to call someone. These people genuinely believing that the fact that “the worst thing you can think of to compare someone to” is a slur for a black person isn’t racist.

    People are fucking stupid and I don’t like them.

  22. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Vivec wrote:

    For example, it might mean that facecam/no-commentary Let’s Plays are legally considered infringement, but not very heavily edited/produced transformative works like game reviews or videos like Jim Sterling’s.

    As Jim Sterling points out in his video on the matter, it’s likely to have a huge impact regardless. Plenty of Youtubers are already suffering with the recent ‘adpocalypse’ where advertisers suddenly decided to pull advertising from a huge number of videos and channels (virtually anything potentially controversial or niche seems affected). If advertisers start associating gaming with racism, it might become even harder for the small youtubers to make money off advertising. Frustratingly, PewDiePie is likely to continue to enjoy plenty of financial success even as he effectively salts the earth for others.

  23. rietpluim says


    These people genuinely believing that the fact that “the worst thing you can think of to compare someone to” is a slur for a black person isn’t racist.


  24. Vivec says

    Oh yeah, without a doubt, I think he’s a piece of shit and he’s really making it harder for pretty much everyone who relies on digital fair use to make a living. I’m just trying to clarify that a ruling against PewDiePie wouldn’t necessarily create wide-reaching legal precedent.