YouTuber Jonathan Saccone-Joly has defended fellow influencer PewDiePie, saying an anti-Semitism controversy which engulfed the Swedish star last month was the result of "humour" being twisted by the media.
PewDiePie – real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg – was abandoned by several corporate partners, including Disney Maker Studios and YouTube itself, earlier this year following accusations of anti-Semitism. The brands severed ties with the gamer after he uploaded videos titled ‘Death To All Jews’ and 'Hitler Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong' to his profile, the most subscribed to channel on YouTube.
“I think with the Felix thing, to defend poor Felix, the people that thought he was doing this Nazi thing, that was a clear example of two platforms meeting and not understanding each other," Saccone Joly said on Tuesday (21 March) during a panel on the power of influencers at Advertising Week Europe.
Answering a question from Heat editor-in-chief Lucie Cave on what brands should do if an individual they aligned themselves with went on to "do a PewDiePie" and "go Nazi", Saccone-Joly, who himself has 7.8 million followers across YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, implied that the row over PewDiePie's actions underscored a clash between the giants of new and old media.
One of the videos uploaded by PewDiePie saw the personality pay two men to hold a sign reading 'Death To All Jews', all part of a supposed social experiment. Despite the Wall Street Journal reporting that nine of the YouTuber's videos contained anti-Semitic content the star refuted the allegations on his channel, saying: “I am sorry for the words I used as I know they offended people. I do strongly believe that you can joke about anything, but I also believe that there is a right way and not the best way to joke about things."
However, Saccone-Joly said that the media storm didn't provoke outrage among PewDiePie's fanbase. "None of his audience were reflecting saying ‘oh this is terrible, Felix is now doing all this’ - no it’s just humour and then somebody decided to twist that humour, take it out of context and display it in a different way."
"I’ve experienced that with the media as an influencer," he continued, saying in some cases it comes down to people "concerned about [ad] spend."
He went on to say this concern was rooted in a question about why advertisers would spend money with traditional media when they could go to audiences directly via influencers. The vlogger added that he thinks some media outlets will take things out of proportion to "make a news story" to "upset" influencers and to stop people spending money with them - "that's what happened to Felix," he added.
PewDiePie's controversial spin on humour has landed him in trouble before. Last year he was temporarily banned from Twitter after making a joke about Isis, and back in December he took aim at the media as part of a hoax in which he claimed he would delete his YouTube account.