Culture Feature

TikTok at Your Own Risk: The Case of SailorJ and Stolen Art on TikTok

“Now you can tell the truth and stop playing a part in my being exploited by a whole ass APP worldwide without my permission,” Jahkara Smith wrote.

"If the men find out we can shapeshift, they're going to tell the church."

That's one of Jahkara Smith's most memorable lines from her most well-known YouTube video titled "Contouring 101," which accrued over 4.4 million views before Smith deleted her account in 2020.

"I don't know if you put your contouring on before the rest of your makeup or after the rest of your makeup, but it doesn't matter; because men are stupid," she quips in the video in a mid-Atlantic accent.

Her explosive online popularity defied expectations, The Mary Sue noted, "because three of the worst things you can be online are: a woman, brown, and loud."

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Shane Dawson and the Plight of the White Male YouTube Star: When Cancel Culture Fails Us

YouTubers Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, James Charles, and David Dobrik have all had major success in spite of "cancelable" offenses. How do we ensure they're held accountable?

Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the subsequent push from progressives to overhaul America's law enforcement, celebrities and public figures have been forced to reckon with their own history of racism at varying degrees of severity.

In the past week, Mike Henry, Kristen Bell, and Jenny Slate have announced that they're stepping down from voicing their Black animated characters on The Cleveland Show, Central Park, and Big Mouth respectively. Hulu removed an episode of Golden Girls in which Blanche and Rose wore dark brown mud masks. Country bands Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks changed their names to not include words rooted in racism, while some realtors are nixing the phrase "master bedroom."

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Music Features

Exclusive Interview: Poppy Is in Creative Control on ​​"I Disagree​​"

The enigmatic singer spoke to Popdust about the creative process behind the "post-genre" sound of her latest record, I Disagree.

"I'm Poppy."

Despite introducing herself countless times in one of her first viral videos, the Internet spent 5 years trying to figure out who Poppy really was. The enigmatic singer, performance artist, graphic novelist, and church leader (born Moriah Pereira) has wielded ambiguity in savvy and eerie ways throughout her artistic career, creating a pastel-hued cult of mystery surrounding her multimedia Poppy project since 2015. Returning with a new "post-genre" sound that melds together shades of industrial rock, nu-metal, and ethereal hyper-pop, Poppy put out her third studio album, I Disagree, back in January. She's never been beholden to a singular sound or character, and her latest project showcases this ability to evolve as she expands her Poppy-verse to new dimensions in one of her most emboldened metamorphoses yet.

Take the music video for the album's title track, "I Disagree," which stars Poppy wreaking havoc at a roundtable of record label execs as she sings about apocalyptic ends and new beginnings. "We'll be safe and sound / when it all burns down," she chimes in a crystalline chorus amid a swarm of doomy guitar riffs before the shot closes on her overlooking a mass of flaming bodies. Despite the seemingly macabre visuals, this song—like many of the others on the album—is as much about asserting oneself against oppressive forces as it is about regrowth in the face of chaos. Out of the ashes is born a new version of Poppy, adding another layer to her evolving mythology.

On I Disagree, Poppy navigates between ethereal vocal passages before launching into thunderous, nu-metal breakdowns. This jolt in momentum can be dizzying at times but on the whole a lot of fun to listen to and definitely a refreshing break from the poptimism direction many singers are heading towards. Her alt and nu-metal influences are detectable enough: Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails, and even metalcore bands like Norma Jean come to mind. Poppy has been vocal about these influences in interviews, but she also prefers to refer to her latest record as "post-genre" rather than boxing it in as a "metal record." Her ability to navigate between different sounds and styles is an impressive showcase of range, which shouldn't be surprising coming from an artist who has in the past explored everything from synth-pop (on 2017's Poppy.Computer) to heady dark-pop on 2018's followup, Am I A Girl?

But one of the most compelling aspects of Poppy's career is that she'll never lift the veil too high. In an age when almost no personal detail of a celebrity is withheld from audiences, it can be refreshing to see a star who embraces these elements of spectacle, persona, and mystique. Like Marilyn Manson and David Bowie, Poppy is a master of world-building and theatrics. Though Poppy was once notorious for staying in character during interviews, she's since opened up to show her most human side yet.

Enter Poppy's uncanny valley corner of Youtube. Poppy's videos quickly made her an Internet sensation, garnering millions of views on videos like the "I'm Poppy" clip (which now has over 23 million views). She would go on to steadily release a slew of mesmerizing, often A.I.-esque videos that left people equal parts intrigued and freaked out. Is she a computer? A cult leader? The Warhol of Youtube? A surrealist performance artist pulling off an elaborate stunt to critique the pop machine? Well, as she already told us: She's Poppy.

Poppy began to shed her robo-humanoidism aesthetic on "X", the closer to her 2018 album, Am I A Girl? (the sonic embodiment of her former sugary-pop sound meeting a nu-metal sensibility). She also fleshed out these darker, moodier tendencies of Nine Inch Nails-esque rock on her 2019 EP, Choke, which was released on Diplo's Mad Decent label.

The Poppy mythology grew more entangled when she made a public statement parting ways with former collaborator Titanic Sinclair (real name: Corey Mixter), whom she was involved with in the Mars Argo lawsuit. The lawsuit is perhaps alluded to on the track "Anything Like Me," where Poppy sings fairly straight-forward lyrics such as, "I'm everything she never was / Now everyone's out for my blood" etcetera. Although Sinclair did contribute to the album and is credited on a few songs, Poppy's decision to sever ties reflects a new chapter in her artistic career, as she invariably moves towards more autonomy and control over her own sound and direction. She's also no longer working with some of the major labels that she's worked with in the past. Instead she put out I Disagree through the metal label Sumerian Records and is set to tour in support of Deftones in the summer of 2020.

I spoke to Poppy in February over the phone before she headed to perform her Boston show on the I Disagree tour. Read our conversation below.

POPDUST: So I know you're on tour right now. How has it been playing the new songs from I Disagree live?

POPPY: Great! I'm having a lot of fun, and I've been waiting to be able to do this because I have had a lot of the songs for a while, so it's great to finally be able to play it.

I saw that you've been playing a cover of the T.A.T.U song "All The Things She Said," which is incredible. What drew you to that song?

Thank you. That song has been a favorite of mine and I feel like it fit amongst the other songs very well.

In your own words, how would you describe the new sound on the album?

Well, I just call it post-genre, that's what I've been using. It's not any specific genre, as you can tell from the record, so I'd say that's the best descriptor.

When you started out creating I Disagree, did your vision for the album retain its shape throughout the process or did it go through a few different evolutions as you went along?

I just went into the process with an open mind, and I wanted to make an album with no rules, and I think we did that, and that's I Disagree. No rules.

In interviews you've mentioned that this album has a lot of different sonic influences, from Marilyn Manson to Trent Reznor to Madonna. What kinds of bands did you like to listen to growing up?

Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, No Doubt, Blondie: I was very drawn to all of them.

I wanted to ask you about the song "BLOODMONEY" and the themes you explore on that surrounding religion. Throughout your career as Poppy, I've noticed that, while your sound grows with each album, these themes surrounding religion and/or devotion continue to crop up. Are you attracted to the aesthetic or visual elements surrounding religion?

I think some religion is fascinating, but [I] also think that people can follow blindly without asking questions. I think any religion needs to be questioned at times, and I think it's fascinating to analyze, but I don't subscribe to any one in particular.

Can you expand on what you were hoping to explore on "Bloodmoney"?

It's about hypocritical people that are a different way behind the curtain [and] which things are a lot darker behind the scenes and behind the curtain, so that's what I'm expressing.

Speaking of addressing people, the video for "I Disagree" seems to have a pretty clear message towards the established music industry. What kinds of changes would you like to see within the music industry?

That's definitely a complex question, but I don't think there's a ton that can be done in the immediate future because certain people are in positions of power that won't let ideas come through. But I think whenever you mix art and business, there's going to be compromise, and I just feel fortunate that I'm in this position where I don't need to compromise.

While making I Disagree, did you feel like you were in a position where you had more control over what you were creating?

Yeah, absolutely. It was shown to industry people after it was completed, so at that point I didn't take into account anyone's opinion because it was already done. So I did have complete control over it.

"Nothing I Need" appears to preach a kind of minimalism within a pretty sonically maximalist album. Is that something you intended?

It serves more as an interlude on the album. I wouldn't say it was intentional that it was minimal, but it allows the listener a second to breathe, because it is a lot of information as an album as a whole. The message is just being okay with being okay, and it doesn't mean settling by any means; it just means you're accepting things for what they are and things that're okay with it. You're okay with starting over, and maybe things you thought you always wanted are actually things you don't need.

With this new chapter, do you ever feel like you are leaving behind your previous Poppy persona or perhaps evolving into a completely different person?

Evolution. I wouldn't say I'm leaving anything behind, because I think if I was to stay consistently the same it would be really boring, and I get bored really easily.

In terms of what's next on the horizon, I saw that you have another graphic novel coming out. Can you tell me a bit about that and how you got into that medium?

Yeah, I have been always drawn to it, and it just felt like the right time when we launched Genesis I, my graphic novel that came out before my first release. And yeah, I'm really excited for Poppy's Inferno because it comes out in July, and it'll have an album that you can play along while you read it.

Culture Feature

NikkieTutorials' Coming Out Story Is a Giant Leap for Normalizing Being Transgender

The popular YouTube beauty guru revealed she's transgender in an emotional video.

This week, Nikkie de Jager—better known as NikkieTutorials—posted a YouTube video titled "I'm Coming Out," in which the massively popular beauty guru revealed that she is a transgender woman.

"Today, I am here to share with you something that I always wanted to share with you one day, but under my own circumstances. It looks like that chance has been taken away from me, so today I am taking back my own power," she said in the emotional 17-minute clip. "When I was younger, I was born in the wrong body, which means I am transgender."

I'm Coming Out.

De Jager went on to detail her backstory, saying she'd always felt like a girl and that she started fully presenting herself as female around the age of seven or eight. By 14, she was taking hormones and growth stoppers; by 19, she said she had "fully transitioned." At the time, de Jager was also building her channel and working towards her current 12.7 million subscribers.

The dark side of de Jager's coming out, however, is that unnamed potential blackmailers had been threatening to leak her story to the press. It's important to note that de Jager is in an undeniably privileged position; she's white, she said her mother was supportive of her entire journey, and she hails from the Netherlands, one of the most progressive countries in the world for LGBTQ+ rights. However, her story brings to light the potential dangers of outing someone before they're ready. Many people who aren't straight and cisgender cannot safely come out, and unwillingly being forced to do so can pose gigantic risks. According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, 22 to 43% of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetime, and unsafe or unwelcoming situations are a major contributing factor.

Thankfully, de Jager was in a safe position to disclose her story. She serves as a living example for people with antiquated perceptions of trans folks, especially those who think that children should be rigidly assimilated into the sex they were assigned at birth. GLAAD reported in 2017 that 3% of people across all age groups in the U.S. identify as transgender. Younger groups are more likely to identify as trans, reaffirming our need to provide equal rights to LGBTQ+ folks across the board and include them in our conversations about sex education. That way, more people can go through smoother transitions, like de Jager was so lucky to have.

But of course, de Jager wasn't immune to backlash. Leaked screenshots indicated that the sister of Too Faced founder Jerrod Blandino had made transphobic comments on her Instagram page, insinuating de Jager was a liar. De Jager had collaborated with Too Faced in the past and stated she felt underpaid by them. Blandino responded, sending love to de Jager and saying he'd fired his sister. Many other celebrities showed their outpour of support, too, including Ariana Grande and Kim Petras.

Transgender public figures like de Jager, Laverne Cox, and Euphoria actress Hunter Schafer—people who you'd "never guess were trans" if they hadn't said so—show that non-cis people are around you more often than you might think. There's no one way to define "looking trans," and if de Jager's story is any indication, being welcoming and educating young children about LGBTQ+ identities can reap major benefits down the line. De Jager is brave for coming out; hopefully, she'll encourage others both young and old to do the same.

Trevor Project Hotline: 1-866-488-7386

Culture Feature

This Haunts Me: YouTubers and Their Disposable Wealth

I'm losing sleep over a video called I Went Shopping Without Checking The Prices.

Monica Church on YouTube

I really enjoy watching YouTube videos about personal finances.

Whether it be savvy tips from Chelsea of the Financial Diet or the ruthless roasts from self-made millionaire Graham Stephan, I find a sense of comfort in the money-centric sector of YouTube. No matter the status of my savings account, these channels make me feel marginally smarter, give me a boost of confidence while home-brewing my morning coffee, and remind me that finance doesn't have to be scary.

Evidently, the YouTube algorithm thinks I'm interested in any video about money, whether its creator is fiscally responsible or not. Last night, I was recommended a video posted by a user named Monica Church, titled I Went Shopping Without Checking The Prices... In New York City.

I Went Shopping Without Checking The Prices... In New York City

Church is a Seattle-based influencer with 1.26 million subscribers and, like me, is 24 years old. She's just one participant in this video trend, whereby YouTubers flaunt their wealth by going on a mindless shopping spree, waiting to discover how much they spent until the camera is rolling to record their reaction. To stir the pot, these buyers often pick something up from designer stores, like Church did in Manhattan's shopping hub of SoHo.

In her video, Church reveals that she spent $440 on a yellow hoodie, $110 on a plain white t-shirt, and $1,150 on a Balenciaga purse with kittens on it, just to name a few items. The grand total racked up to over $2,000. "You'd think I got it at American Eagle for, like, 40 bucks," Church said of her new cashmere sweater, purchased for a cool $275. Although she did sing the praises of each item she bought, there was a subtle sense of regret. She also included a giveaway where she bought a $700 gift card to the Children's Place for a subscriber who had six adopted siblings.

However, this isn't even the first time Church has filmed a shopping spree without checking the prices. Whether intentional or not, she's filming these videos because she knows she has enough disposable income to do so, and she knows the novelty and shock factor of it will generate views. I only single Church out because her video was the first of its kind I discovered. Many others have posted their own iteration of "I Went Shopping Without Checking the Prices," which shines a harrowing light on how influencers depict wealth and consumerism.

Popular YouTubers like Church make most of their money from partnerships and video sponsorships, although some AdSense money plays a factor in their income, as well. There are numerous factors that go into exactly how much ad revenue goes back into the YouTuber's pocket, so much so that the precise amount is almost impossible to calculate. However, Influencer Marketing Hub reports that every 1,000 views equates to $3-$5 for the creator in AdSense alone. If this is accurate, then advertising has earned Church at least somewhere between $827 and $1,379 (and counting) for this video alone.

While "making it" on YouTube isn't always as easy as some might think (it takes most creators years until YouTube alone can sustain them), the consumer-driven nature of the platform and normalization of high spending has irked me exponentially more, the older I get. And of course, YouTube wasn't always like this. Its first video was uploaded in 2005, but it's only been in the last five years or so that a noticeable shift has occurred in what drives YouTube's top creators: money.

One of my favorite YouTubers is Tiffany Ferguson, who hosts a very thoughtful and nuanced series called Internet Analysis. She recently uploaded a video titled The Dark Sides of Flex Culture that criticizes the normalization of luxury items within the YouTube community and its societal implications (not to mention the fact that luxury brands often exploit their workers).

The Dark Sides of Flex Culture

In the video, Ferguson mentions 18-year-old YouTube phenomenon Emma Chamberlain, who helped pioneer a recent genre of goofy, unglamorous, arguably "relatable" teen content, heavily centered around her self-deprecating sense of humor. Chamberlain started her channel in 2017 with DIYs, thrift store hauls, and vlogs by herself, eventually going viral with a video called we all owe the dollar store an apology. Chamberlain now has 8.5 million subscribers and regular partnerships with Louis Vuitton; her most recent video, as of today, is a vlog documenting her experience being the cover star of Cosmopolitan. If this is the lifestyle of YouTube's so-called "average teen," what does this mean for, well, actual average teens?

Every day, YouTube's 2 billion users watch over a billion hours of video. Their press page states that the number of channels earning six figures per year grew more than 40% in the last year. The lines between ordinary people watching YouTube and the arguably-average people profiting from it grow more and more blurred by the day, making luxury items—especially Balenciaga bags bought without even checking the price—seem like a universal commodity. The omnipresence of these goods and excessive spending is being normalized in viewers' subconsciouses, thanks to users like Church—users who market themselves as your girls-next-door despite carrying $1,150 handbags. Consider me, and my bank accounts, haunted.


How Hate Makes Money: YouTube's Hypocrisy on Hate Speech

There's an outer, harmless world of YouTube music videos and comedians, TedTalks and cat videos, but there's also an inner sphere of conspiracy theories and varietal "truthers," bloviating gamers and far Left or Right commentators. PewDiePie combines the latter two.

How much money is a joke worth?

Swedish vlogger Felix Kjellberg, known by his 102 million YouTube subscribers as PewDiePie, announced that he's "taking [a] break from YouTube" in 2020, adding, "I'm tired, I'm feeling very tired." The notice is tacked onto the end of his recent harangue about YouTube's upcoming policy changes, which are meant to crack down on harassment in the form of hate speech, threats, and incitements of violence. Maybe he's fed up with YouTube's history of inconsistent and hypocritical policy changes. Maybe, like much of the public, he's just fed up with himself.

PewDiePie YouTube New Statesman

PewDiePie Is "Joking"

YouTube recently announced that they will "no longer allow content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation." The policy reads, "We've always removed videos that explicitly threaten someone, reveal confidential personal information, or encourage people to harass someone else. Moving forward, our policies will go a step further and not only prohibit explicit threats, but also veiled or implied threats. This includes content simulating violence toward an individual or language suggesting physical violence may occur."

The long-winded language of their update clarifies that they're aware of what kind of dangerous and hateful content has been permitted on their platform, from the physical endangerment associated with viral stunts like the "Bird Box" challenge to extremist beliefs targeting groups and individuals based on race, religion, or sexuality. Kjellberg, for instance, has consistently been one of the highest paid content creators on YouTube, earning approximately $15.5 million in 2018. He's also been described as "controversial" for his history of anti-Semitic jokes, Nazi imagery, and endorsement by far right extremists. In March of this year, the white nationalist who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand took to Facebook before murdering at least 50 worshippers to livestream himself saying, "Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie." The YouTuber has been cited in at least one other shooter's manifesto (before said shooter murdered one woman and wounded three more in a California synagogue). In fact, he had no connection to either gunmen, and he tweeted, "I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person."

However, Kjellberg himself has absolutely promoted violent and extremist beliefs—albeit "ironically," he's argued. The 30-year-old lost partnerships with Disney and Google after he used the N-word during a gaming livestream in 2017. Before that, he starred in his own YouTube reality show Scare PewDiePie, but the company canceled it after Wall Street Journal detailed his use of anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery in at least nine videos. He even apologized for hosting a video of two men holding up a sign reading "Death to all Jews." "I'm sorry for the words that I used," he said. "I know they offended people, and I admit that the joke itself went too far." Also of note is his cancelation of a pledge to donate $50,000 to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League this past September, supposedly in response to the Christchurch shootings.

PewDiePie Antisemitic Irish Mirror

While PewDiePie has been trying to distance himself from YouTube's political extremism, has he ever been "joking?" How complicit is PewDiePie in the violence of extremist men who agree with some of his "jokes?" When The New York Times tackled that complicated but widely circulated question, Kevin Roose tracked down the YouTuber for his profile, "What Does PewDiePie Really Believe?" in which he wrote, "One crucial thing to understand about YouTube is that there are really two of them." There's an outer, harmless veneer of music videos and comedians, TedTalks and cat videos, but there's also an inner sphere of conspiracy theories and varietal "truthers," bloviating gamers and far Left or Right commentators (PewDiePie combines the latter two).

In effect, these YouTube rabbit holes are like all other echo chambers on social media. In Roose's words, "It is a self-contained universe with its own values and customs... The biggest of these personalities have millions of subscribers and Oprah-level influence over their fandoms. Many Inner YouTubers never watch TV and develop elaborate parasocial bonds with their favorite creators."

Hate Speech in the Age of YouTube

How did we get here? In the 228 years since the Bill of Rights was adopted, there surely hasn't been a day someone didn't dispute their interpretation of Freedom of Speech, whether that be regarding hate speech, freedom of the press, or accusations of totalitarian censorship when someone reported their sexist Tweet. Then, with the introduction of YouTube 14 years ago (along with plenty of other social media echo chambers), what media constitutes "press" and how much authority internet companies have over private individuals' content became unregulated terrain. Simultaneously, culture wars and bipartisan issues have driven antipathy and disdain between opposing political parties to record-high severity, according to Pew Research Center. Now YouTube is experiencing "growing pains" as an Internet company, according to The Verge, and their balm is to say they've "met with a number of experts who shared their perspective and informed our process, from organizations that study online bullying or advocate on behalf of journalists, to free speech proponents and policy organizations from all sides of the political spectrum."

But more insidious than YouTube's lack of tangible action is the way in which irony and nihilism have come to define our digital modes of communication, ultimately feeding into outrage culture, cancel culture, and the capitalist absurdity of brands making dad jokes on Twitter. Is PewDiePie really joking? Does it matter, when his clickbait videos were in the same playlists as right-wing personalities like Alex Jones (who offered him a guest slot on Infowars, which Kjellberg declined)? Roose notes, "Edgelords—people who post offensive things online for attention—had always existed on message boards like 4chan. But YouTube brought them out of the shadows and turned provocation into a viable career path." He adds, "On YouTube, there were few rules and no lawyers looking over creators' shoulders — which is precisely why millions of young people went there, to find the kind of stuff they couldn't get on TV."

Of course, YouTube isn't interested in looking over the shoulders of creators who produce ad revenue. Ostensibly, YouTube's new anti-harassment policy is in service of creating a more diversified, all-inclusive digital space. "Harassment hurts our community by making people less inclined to share their opinions and engage with each other," they write in their policy update. However, bullying is also bad for business—especially if popular creators are driven away from the platform. The problem, of course, is that plenty of extremist, right-wing, and plain "problematic" creators are popular, which means they give YouTube ad revenue. As an Internet company, YouTube's business model prioritizes views over actual quality of content.

Researchers like Becca Lewis of the Data & Society Research Institute has condemned YouTube's algorithm as one that "helps amplify and propagate extremism through social networks." She critiqued, "Extremism on YouTube is interwoven with the platform itself: The engine for radicalism particular to YouTube is its monetization of extreme ideas, allowing both extremists and the company to profit from such dangerous content."

As a company with an estimated net worth between $160 billion and $300 billion, of course they prioritize ad revenue over the ideological decay of their viewers (who are predominantly between 15 and 25 years old). Roose added, "For people who frequent Inner YouTube—generally people under 25, along with some older people with abundant free time—the site is not just a video platform but a prism through which all culture and information is refracted." That's how PewDiePie's brand of "joking" easily turns into irony poisoning that leads viewers to internalize the kind of racist, anti-Semitic, or white nationalist concepts they intend to mock.

But hate makes money, so what's an Internet company to do? Recently, the company's incurred a large backlash (even a YouTube Walkout) after they updated their terms of service to say that channels that make them money are prioritized on the platform. "YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account's access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the service to you is no longer commercially viable," the policy read, also noting that "Content is the responsibility of the person or entity that provides it to the Service. YouTube is under no obligation to host or serve Content," a statement that emphasizes that they have no responsibility for the ideas promoted on their platform, despite their anti-harassment policy.

This policy's just the latest gesture to appease critics and shirk culpability for hate-based content, and YouTube's made similar promises to crack down before. As Gizmodo pointed out in July, one month after YouTube announced its site-wide overhaul of its policies against hate speech, "It remain[ed] disturbingly easy to find channels associated with hate groups on the platform. Strangely, this isn't a simple oversight by YouTube's parent company, Google. In fact, it's the policy working as planned." To be fair, with more than 23 million channels, it's an enormous feat to monitor each one for possibly dangerous content (without incurring accusations of censorship and Orwellian Big Brother fascism). However, Gizmodo breaks down the platform's history of cracking down on right-wing or extremist channels, and "these numbers suggest YouTube is aware of many of the hate speech issues concerning the remaining 187 channels—and has allowed them to stay active."

Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which is dedicated to tracking extremist content, said that "Because YouTube only deals with the content posted, it allows serious white supremacists like Richard Spencer and [KKK leader] David Duke to keep content up." She added, "In general, our feeling is that YouTube has got to get serious about removing radicalizing materials given the impact these videos can have on young, white men." But researchers like Lewis don't just blame YouTube. "To be clear, YouTube's glut of white-supremacist content isn't simply a glitch in the platform's content-delivery system," she writes. "It's the product of a social problem badly exacerbated by technology and which extremists have exploited to amplify their messages as widely as possible."

Despite spending hours interviewing Kjellberg and creators who've collaborated with him over the years, Roose can't come to a conclusion about what PewDiePie actually believes or means to say. PewDiePie probably isn't a white nationalist, and he may not be an anti-Semite. He's the run-off product of our time, a 30-year-old joker who monetizes himself and his beliefs to create an optimized brand rather than a viable belief system.

In his recent video criticizing YouTube's anti-harassment policy, Kjellberg sits in his colorful gaming chair with his mouth inches from his microphone's pop filter. He reads aloud excerpts of the policy and argues back, "The only thing keeping other YouTubers in check is other YouTubers. We have this anarchy system; don't come and ruin it for us, YouTube. The rule is if you do dumb sh*t on YouTube, you will get called out on it. We need that—it's the only thing keeping us sane." But by definition, anarchy is a state of disorder that can never be regulated in a system. The caption of PewDiePie's video is characteristic of the typical commentary and probity of all YouTube edgelords who earn millions by passing off hate speech as "jokes": "Youtube stinky."

Days after, Kjellberg quit Twitter, citing Aristotle and condemning virtue signaling, writing, "You get rewarded for saying things that make you virtuous, rather than acting on it…this is why (Twitter) has become a cesspool. More often than not the people who boast about being virtuous are hiding the fact they're not," he added, virtuously.