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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