[UPDATE: After backlash from his fans, Felix Kjellberg has stopped his plans to donate to the ADL]
The most popular YouTuber on the platform is attempting to gain favor with the organization that wrote no company “has any obligation to support his wide dissemination of hate speech.”
PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, announced on September 10 that he will donate $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League. Because of his previous dust-up with the ADL, subscribers and fans are skeptical.
PewDiePie posted to Twitter that while media hitjobs against his politically-incorrect humor have not intimidated him in the past, “after the Christ Church[sic] travesty a few months ago, my own clash with MSM was manipulated as a tool for destruction,” which in turn made him “[feel] responsibility to make changes.” PewDiePie wrote that he while “making a donation to the ADL doesn’t make sense to everyone, especially since they’ve outright spoken against me,” but even so he added “I think it’s important, this just isn’t my fight anymore.”
PewDiePie, while vague about his own genuine political beliefs, would sometimes indulge in offensive or absurd imagery purely for shock value. PewDiePie previously had a joint venture he established with Disney-owned Maker Studios in 2014. Disney, seeing his shock value humor as beyond the pale “severed ties with him” which in turn caused ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt to congratulate Disney for the move.
Since then, PewDiePie has managed to shift away from such severe shock humor, and worked with celebrities such industrialist Elon Musk and Rick Morty show creator Justin Roiland who helped host his iconic “Meme Review.” In a bit that went viral he asked conservative pundit Ben Shapiro to react to various Ben Shapiro memes. Shapiro responded by filming his own Meme Review segment at his studio and emulating PewDiePie’s style.
This strange donation to an organization famous for censoring YouTubers however comes only a few weeks after multiple channels were deplatformed by YouTube based on recommendations from the ADL. The ADL tweeted in August of 2017 that it is proud to “contribute to the @YouTube Trusted Flaggers Program working to make the internet a safe space for all.”
The ADL, under Greenblatt, has been accused by the National Review of being led “off a partisan cliff” by its current leadership.
Greenblatt spoke at a February 26 panel, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, where he asserted his organization works with Big Tech companies to “protect users’ right to not be harassed or hated.” Greenblatt served as “special assistant to President Obama” and, according to the New York Post, has even “directed an initiative at the Aspen Institute, a George Soros-financed, left-leaning nonprofit.”
Greenblatt assessed phrases like “caravan” and “open borders,” as “literally white supremacist phrases that have worked their way through the system.” These standards are being used to evaluate “hate speech” on social media platforms.
Free speech YouTuber and journalist Tim Pool tweeted his disappointment with PewDiePie’s donation: “the ADL has caused collateral damage to tens of thousands of small creators livelihoods.” He followed by adding that “Pewdiepie is not being a bigger man, he's taking a payday on a milestone he reached thanks to the YouTube community.” However, he observed the irony that PewDiePie “funds an organization that will get people in that community banned.”