Felix “PewDiePie” Kjelberg has included an illustration of Pepe the frog, a meme commonly associated with the alt-right, along with other images co-opted by the deeply controversial group, in a new video that continues his run of appealing to divisive online political groups and figures.
In the video PewDiePie uses the game Passpartout: The Starving Artist to draw a series of illustrations, including one of Pepe the frog, an image that was recognized by the Anti-Defamation League as having been co-opted by white nationalists into a racist hate symbol. Though there are still those who argue that Pepe is simply an innocuous meme, there is no denying the correlation between the illustration and online hate groups, with even its creator having distanced himself from the cartoon as a result of it being widely used by racists online (via The Guardian). The video of alt-right leader Richard Spencer being punched earlier this year also saw the white nationalist wearing a Pepe pin and explaining how it had become a “symbol.”
The 27-year-old YouTuber also uses the game to draw the “autistic screeching” meme, popular among anti-feminists online, though he replaces the head of the figure typically featured in the image with the CNN logo, a reference to the ongoing battle between the news station and Donald Trump’s presidential administration. He also included the “Kekistan” flag, a symbol of a tongue-in-cheek fictional religion conjured up by 4chan users in which Pepe is positioned as a spiritual leader.
PewDiePie is YouTube’s most-subscribed creator, with him having over 56 million subscribers on the site and a significant young audience. At the start of this year a report from the Wall Street Journal condemning “anti-Semitic jokes” he had used in his videos led to Disney dropping him from its Maker Studios division, while YouTube also cancelled the second season of its YouTube Red reality show, Scare PewDiePie.
In response to this report, PewDiePie apologized for the offense caused by some of his jokes, though continued to argue against the media reporting upon his actions. This anti-media stance struck a chord with many right-wing figures, who began to champion the YouTuber’s complaints regarding the mainstream media, with them having also taken a strong stance against many centrist or left-wing outlets during the Trump 2016 campaign, given the large amount of negative reporting upon the then-presidential candidate. The racist white supremacist site the Daily Stormer later suggested that he was trying to convert his young audience to fascism, with them featuring him on their cover banner alongside the caption “the world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite.” PewDiePie refuted any allegiance with the alt-right movement as a result.
But PewDiePie’s recent actions have led many to grow concerned, with him exposing his huge fan base to talking points from a number of divisive political figures; it has been suggested by his critics that he is willfully normalizing divisive political stances to his young audience in his output. In one of his recent videos he discussed the “myth” of the gender pay gap, leading to him being commended online by right-wing conspiracy site InfoWars’ editor Paul Joseph Watson and former Rebel Media commentator Lauren Southern. He was also requested by Alex Jones to “DM” him, with the InfoWars creator being most famous for repeatedly claiming that the tragic Sandy Hook shootings were “staged” (via MediaMatters). PewDiePie briefly followed Jones on Twitter following the message.
— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) July 18, 2017
So @pewdiepie just red-pilled his 56 million subscribers on why the "gender pay gap" is a total myth.
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 14, 2017
Watch the video below: