White nationalism and internet culture

By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollit.

“Subscribe to Pewdiepie.” Until recently this phrase was nothing more than a widespread meme that simultaneously managed to demonstrate the power of community and be extremely annoying at the same time. However, after the Christchurch shooting, “Subscribe to Pewdiepie” is now linked to white nationalism.

The shooting at the Christchurch mosque was a complete and utter act of evil and disregard for the sanctity of human life. The fact that 49 people who wanted nothing more than to live their lives were killed should repulse anyone and everyone.

This article, however, isn’t about the shooting itself, the disgusting ideology of the murderer, or the courage and bravery of those who helped save lives during the crisis.

This article is about the link between meme culture and white nationalism that has unfortunately been becoming more apparent in the past few years.

During the attack, the Christchurch shooter yelled “Subscribe to Pewdiepie.” For any other meme this wouldn’t really be an issue. Yes, it would forever taint that meme, but this case is special. Pewdiepie, Felix Kjellberg, from who the phrase arises, has been associated with alt-right and white nationalist ideology for quite some time. He has been accused of wearing German military uniforms on camera and he has faced punishment for the use of racial slurs while live streaming.

Regardless if whether or not one thinks that Kjellberg actually subscribes to that line of thinking itself, it’s hard to deny that his community perpetuates those kind of ideals. While most of his audience may be well meaning viewers, there are always the bad that ruin the good.

Kjellberg has admonished and condemned the shooter and has done well to separate himself from any accusations. However, he could do more in regards to his audience.

While he can’t control who watches his videos, he would do well to more frequently and vocally oppose those toxic elements within his fan base.

Past the relatively simple business of memes, this shooting shows how in a modern world, everything becomes inseparable from the internet and internet culture. The shooting being live-streamed is a prime example of this phenomenon.

In the past, a deranged person had to search for a platform from which to spread their ideology. Usually they’d have to write a book or rave from an alleyway. Now, these platforms are handed to everyone on a silver platter. Using live streaming services gives anyone a direct audience of potentially thousands.

The internet also forms communities. Many of these groups are wholesome. They give a venue for people who might have the most obscure interests to find folks who share their passions. On the flipside, the internet is a breeding ground for toxic and vitriolic echo chambers filled with people who validate each other’s negative views.

This can be found on subreddits, image boards, and chatrooms. These places are not necessarily bad but can harbor hate much in the same way that casual racism can harbor real thoughts of supremacy.

That is not to say that the internet is an inherently negative atmosphere. The issue is those who are marginalized, for good reason, incels, alt-right supports to name a few, flock to places where they think their venomous views are accepted.

Ultimately, I don’t think Pewdiepie holds blame for this attack. That is a short-sighted view. The Christchurch murderer holds the guilt and consequence for his actions.

Although, a meme or a personality can’t be blamed, that does not mean that we as consumers of media should blindly accept jokes and established internet culture as just good fun. What starts as jokes can evolve into genuine sentiment, poison a community, and as in this case, end in tragedy.

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