YouTubers Play a Key Role in Far-Right Extremism of Online Forums

This month, a far-right nationalist from Australia murdered 50 people in a terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand. In a rambling manifesto littered with memes, the alleged shooter cited YouTuber Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, also known online as PewDiePie, as an influence, and referenced Spyro 3 — a videogame for children — as a force that taught the gunman ethno-nationalist views. PewDiePie is irrevocably connected to gamer culture himself, having amassed most of his 90 million subscribers from videos of him talking over footage of his video-gaming. These are important connections, but they need to be discussed without falling back into the old arguments about videogames and violence.

PewDiePie, the most-subscribed YouTuber ever and one of this generation’s most significant influencers, posted a tweet on March 14, disavowing the shooter and showing a vague solidarity with the victims, though he was back online that day doing his normal viral spiel, his follower count rising ever higher. More than 1 million Twitter users placated PewDiePie’s ego, assuring him he had nothing to do with the massacre and that he was remiss to have even spared a second of thought on it. Other prominent YouTubers have a long history of supporting PewDiePie too, embodied by Markiplier’s “You have nothing to do with it” tweet of support this month (a support he has offered in previous controversies too). Any suggestion that there might be a valid connection is immediately dismissed out of hand.

To understand what is really at play here, we need to think not about whether PewDiePie himself is to blame for the massacre in New Zealand, but about what ingredients combine to produce such horrific results. We know that PewDiePie was not directly responsible for the mass shooting, just as we know that games themselves do not cause violence or school shootings (as Donald Trump claimed, along with many ’80s parents). Nevertheless, there is a connection between gaming, far-right extremism…

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