PewDiePie using words – or how local are our moral codes?

So, if you are even mildly active on the internet, you might have seen that PewDiePie is under attack again*. Why? He said the “N”-word in a live stream.

 

It is fascinating to see all the reactions – barely 24 hours have passed, and already you could write several books about the case. People either protect him, saying it happened in a moment of rage – or are really upset about everyone who would let this pass as an excuse. So far, so forseeable.

Controversy?! – $$$let’s get the traffic$$$

Of course, media outlets do what they get money from. They write about it, awaiting people from both sides to make videos about their articles and starting comment wars below the articles. It’s an easy topic to have an opinion on (or at least declare that you should not have an opinion on because of your ethnicity, which is an opinion in itself). That’s why controversy hits Felix Kjellberg the hardest – his name generates a lot of search traffic which translates to money for media outlets. (This also explains how all the articles above are only cookie-cutter copies of one another without adding any other thoughts. You only need the keywords, original thought is basically worthless.)

Why are people’s reactions so strong?

But the media outrage can only live thanks to the many, many little wars going on all over the blogosphere. Many creators on YouTube have blamed PewDiePie for the so-called “Adpocalypse”, where advertisers started to withdraw from YouTube. A lot of people who had achieved their dreams of living off YouTube had to give up on this dream – or at least have it a lot harder now. Some might fear it getting even worse now.

Other than these very personal reasons, the underlying war between Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and the opposing “red-pilled” Anti-SJWs has been a big topic and common theme for many weeks now. We have a chicken and egg problem here – did people care first or are their reactions only fueled by the media? Or, do all actors in this debate actually fight to settle a bigger question:

Who owns morals on the internet?

Since the internet is mainly English-speaking, it makes sense that a lot of it is rather americanised. PewDiePie, however, is from Sweden and lives in the UK. Of course, Europeans do not proudly go around throwing this word in everyone’s face. It does, however, definitely not bare the same gravity as in America here. Firstly, the whole discussion “hard r” vs “soft r” seems kind of bizarre to evaluate morality from my standpoint. Secondly, race is a way bigger issue in the USA than anywhere on my continent. The whole debate about it is rather alienating for Europeans.

That is why all articles and videos are centered around the whole race topic and opens up the discussion whether your language alone actually makes you a “bad person” or racist. I’m a hobby-linguist and believe in the power of language -yet, to me, it seems that this belief be stronger and more polarized in the US than anywhere else – as the sheer debate about those words is lead quite radically.

 

Either, you are on the moral high ground, never having said them – or you think that this overly tough policing on language is harmful in itself. Maybe, as an American, the word would not simply slip out. It did happen to PewDiePie – and if you re-watch the video, you’ll see that he apologises right away. You can see this attempted balancing act between both moral codes playing out within him.

The internet brings all people together and our local moral codes blur into this very multi-faceted debate with very little attention on the point that in the USA, this word probably means more than in Europe. That’s why this debate is even more heated. It is not simply about the race war – it is about morals themselves.

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*I wrote this article after watching Sargon of Akkad’s video on the issue who provided these links in his caption.

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On Information

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1) Thirst.

We are young and greedy, we want to know everything. Our brains know no limits. In our save little world, with our technology, everything is possible. Whether it is guitar tabs, live-streams of people fighting for their lives in other countries or just the newest of your university lectures – you want it, you get it. On demand, wherever, whenever. Endless possibilities.

You swear to yourself to become the best possible version of yourself, read everything, know everything. You will to catch up on everything that happens in your country, in the world, and know what your friends do at every waking moment. Finding new friends, learning all the languages and knowing every cultural offence is only one click away. Knowing every classic novel and the best quotes ever said is easy as cake. Never will you fail to know the answers to crossword puzzles. Just jump in and dive away in the endless strings of ones and zeros, let them fill your brains until they are soaked in information.

2) Pressure.

But information is a whore. There is so much of it out there. Soon you might feel like you’re drowning, trying to put on a life vest of yoga and relaxing tea sessions. But you cannot stop the incredible stream. And soon you are caught in a state of floating between filtering all that you receive and the unquenchable thirst that’s still somewhere inside you.

You realize that endless possibilities have their downsides. You are supposed to be a homo economicus, the perfect human scale. Weighing all the input the world throws at you, using these experiences to reflect upon the little stories you live – maximizing what you get out of every decision, exploiting every minute you have on this planet.

But all that reflecting upon what your possibilities are (spoiler alert, they are endless) makes you incapable of acting. The knowledge of how small you are, how little you might be able to gather in your even tinier brain paralyzes you.

This phenomenon has been given the name Narcotizing dysfunction of knowledge by Robert Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld. The concept is as disappointing as it is visible. Disappointing because knowledge isn’t negative. Knowledge is like calorie-free ice cream, there is nothing bad about it, no regrets. It is the only real-life superpower you are able to actually actively acquire.

For an increasingly nonreligious generation, we usually replace holiness by information. Instead of church, we read our newspaper. Instead of praying, we check the newest tweets and facebook updates. But there are too many gods out there, too many controversial views. We are just not capable of getting an even nearly satisfying overview over all of the smart utterances made by politicians, gurus and friends.

We need to cut something away and thereby lose balance again. Either we’re unsocial, politically apathetic or die from burnout before we reach our thirties. Who has got the time and energy to become a full package nowadays?

3) Reconciliation

This situation is so new that we all experience it with little to no warning. People who are supposed to introduce us to the data highway mostly know way less than we already do. And I’m more than worried that I might end up the same way. I will be, and I already am surpassed by younger early adopters. They have the better gadgets, they know how to get the information they need even quicker. The information jealousy that our parents feel towards us might overthrow our enthusiasm for the hottest news. But the cycle will repeat. And their dreams are finally crushed just like ours, the oasis of knowledge turned out to be no more than a Fata Morgana. The sweet drops of data left our mouths drier than they have been before.

But the right dose of information undoubtedly makes us smarter. We learn to acknowledge that the internet is like Pandora’s Box and delivers information in disorder, alongside with distraction and devastation. Nonetheless, let’s not fail to see Hope.

Let us realize what the generations before us have learnt, what the coming ones will have to learn. We cannot know everything and we are not so unique in that.

I was celebrating Ramadan. Kind of.

Hello people of the internet,

I haven’t been really active in the online world for the past month. Some people may think I finally converted to be a muslim, but it was just the circumstances.

My life took a weird twist, and I ended up being in England again. I applied to the wonderful Friends of the Earth and can volunteer in London over the summer. It is amazing to live here.

But my accomodation is not the best. Since my brother has a really cool internship with Google, I have been crashing his place for the last month. The reasons are obvious: with horrendous rents of like 400 quid a week (sic!) I just want to save money, and it’s located next to Paddington (pretty handy).

BUT little did I know that I have to sleep on the floor (I have the luxury of a 1mm thick mat) and DON’T have INTERNET or a KITCHEN. On top of that, I didn’t have my laptop charger, so i couldn’t even be a hipster and use the free WiFi in Starbucks or Costa. I realized in this month what big part my laptop and the internet are in my life, and that I couldn’t go without them for just one more day.

So in one week I am moving out. To Zone 3, but at least I will have internet again. Fasting is over, back to the digital world.