This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.
One thing we tend to avoid here at Niche Gamer is the “Battle for the Soul” of the internet and gaming. It’s never pretty, and with the way politics has evolved in the last year, it can turn violent from people who profess that they are the tolerant ones.
Something should be clear: humor is subjective. You can’t control what you find funny without extreme mental conditioning. And if you want to find out if someone is an authoritarian nightmare, see what they think is acceptable to joke about, and what length they will go to enforce that standard.
Last week, we got to see what happens when the increasingly slanderous and authoritarian media vent their frustration at a Trump presidency combined with the fact that they are now obsolete in many peoples eye.
The Wall Street Journal, which has a reputation for being a bastion of credibility, decided that they would like to throw all that away by allowing Jack Nicas, Ben Fritz, and Rolfe Winkler to publish one of the most slanderous attacks on a person, Felix Kjellberg, who goes by the YouTube name PewDiePie. This is possibly one of the worst narrative-driven attacks I have ever seen in my 12 years of working in the online entertainment industry.
The original article, which is behind a forced paywall on the WSJ website, reeks of opportunistic leaching, slander, and lies. It has to be one of the more petty and jealous things I have seen established mainstream media do.
Now why am I posting this here? Normally I wouldn’t, but the actions taken by Maker (which is the MCN bought out by Disney, that Felix and many other huge Youtubers are apart of) and Youtube have some massive ramifications for all those in the gaming community as well as the greater Youtube community.
If these “journalists” are willing and allowed to go out of their way to attack one of the most inoffensive gaming YouTubers such as PewDiePie, going so far as to take an image of Felix pointing off screen at something and saying “See look here! A Nazi salute!”, to push Disney and YouTube into a corner to take action, what will they do next? When does it stop? Who is the next target on the list? The “journalists” have been doing this for years to politicians and movie stars, and now it has officially reached our door step, but we are different and we can fight back. But we need to change the way we look at issues like this.
Rolfe and Ben have now since made their Twitter accounts private after the
#istandwithpewdiepie hashtag blew up on the platform, rallying fans and some of the biggest Youtubers to the defense of PewDiePie. This naturally added universal condemnation for all those who sought to use this as a way to delegitimize YouTubers and their influence.
The New York Times went so far as to call this a “Populist Revolt” as if being a populist (a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people) was some great evil. These are the same words they use to describe President Trump. This is the epitome of classism. They literally see themselves above all of us, and this is their attempt at punching down at an uprising they fear they can not control. I wonder where I have seen this happen before?
Now we are already seeing this trickle down, be it members of games press taking shots at Felix for clicks, to Billionaire writer J.K. Rowling calling Felix a literal fascist. The latter is even more insulting as she is someone who should have the brains to question news media; she even wrote about this same situation happening now in the Harry Potter series with the character Rita Skeeter, who mirrors the real life situation with Felix.
At the end of the day who really suffers for this? You and me, the actual gamer. When people do something like this, they inherently dehumanize their target. Felix is no longer the human behind PewDiePie, he is whatever “-ist” the politically correct Zeitgeist now feels OK with labeling him. PewDiePie is a representation of the culture, not only in gaming but the up and coming generation that are largely digital natives; people born into the age of the internet.
Love him or hate him, gonzo journalist Andrew Breitbart was right: “politics is downstream of culture.”
That phrase meaning people for the most part form their political opinion based on what they generally find cool, popular, scary, fun, and socially acceptable. And sure enough, gaming culture has traditionally been looked at as the the farthest thing of what is cool, popular, scary, fun, and socially acceptable. Gaming culture which has spilled into Internet culture reflects this and became in essence, a new counter-culture as well as a political threat.
Now this is where I want everyone to start thinking differently; during this time the “t–h–e–y” started making accusations that the now infamous hashtag “GamerGate” elected Trump into the White House again via their Twitter feeds and social media. This was largely laughed off as ludicrous, but I am here to tell you that their fears are well founded and some of the most sane things they have said.
These individuals and groups are afraid, and they are afraid because they know they caused this. Normally politics and culture become more relaxed as time goes on, making it easy to acclimate to ideas that may have seemed insane 50 years ago, but with the internet and TV broadcasting, things that would take 10 years to cycle happen in 6 months.
When Barack Obama was sitting POTUS, the pace picked up substantially and became less defensible and less articulate. With a 10 year gestation period people can see what works and what doesn’t, but with this rapid flow of information, confirmation bias kicks in and now it’s not about what works and what doesn’t, it has become a culture of “ME” and “MY.” In contrast, the internet and gaming has always been a culture of “WE.”
Examples “MY” feelings, “MY” pronouns, “MY” ideas. People are so caught up in the “MY” that they can’t see that the “WE” don’t, for a better lack of a term, “give a shit.” As long is it does not involve stepping on the “WE” because for the most part “WE” want to be left alone. In general the “WE” can take a beating, and the “ME” can’t because anything that puppy punts their “MY” ends up with childish backlash as they have never been told no.
Eventually, even the “WE” will reach their limit, but they don’t lash out like a caged animal, making mistake after mistake in their haste to escape impending doom, they strategically organize and fight back. No matter what side of “GamerGate” you were on, it was clear, they organized and attacked accordingly, answering to no one but themselves, while being attacked relentlessly which only fueled the fire.
No matter what side of the Presidential Election you were on, Trump voters organized and attacked accordingly, answering to no one but themselves, hence the grossly misleading poll numbers, while being attacked relentlessly which only fueled the fire. Now in a desperate move, to try to reshape politics and culture overnight in one swing, they attack PewDiePie, and both fans and those in the culture organized and attacked accordingly, answering to no one but themselves, but something has changed.
That change is why all this is important to you, to me, and to all of us gamers. With 53 million subscribers, now growing at a rapid rate after this incident, the general public is now getting wind of what is actually going on with the safe space culture that they were complacent with, and is now festering. They are starting to take a good long look in the mirror. A look that is about 10 years to late. With that realization, they see that they can not attack the “WE” without consequence to further their agenda. They now realize they’re wrong, and we know it.
They should stop looking at the “ME” and start looking at the “WE.” But that is wishful thinking. Gamers more than ever have now become a political and social voice, a powerful one at that. Most would say: “it’s time to clean up our act,” but not I. Why should “WE” conform to their norms? We are a nation without borders, a people of the people who loves our individual freedom to do what “WE” want and joke about anything. “WE” like what we like, “WE” are crude when we want to be, and as long as we are not malicious in nature, who gives a shit if we argue about “THE PLOT” or if “FLAT IS JUSTICE.”
But hey, since “they” have extended this kind invitation to play their political game, why don’t we stay a while. It can’t hurt to pick up the controller and play a few rounds. Hell, we all know how good it feels to beat someone at their own game. Beside, they have been playing with themselves for so long, it should be legally recognized as public masturbation at this point.