Truth be told, I don’t particularly care about PewDiePie. I appreciate him as a testament to the levels of success someone can achieve as an individual on YouTube, but aside from that I’m indifferent about his content.
It’s hard to ignore his misrepresentation in the media, though, and how journalists have continued to harass him throughout his career (which now spans several years). I did delve into it and its significance across influencer culture in my book, The Influencer Bubble, but I think it’s worth revisiting as journalists continue to become more personal in their approach.
Following the YouTuber announcing a temporary hiatus, many mainstream news websites jumped on the opportunity to share the “breaking news”. Whilst this does confuse me (seeing as him taking a temporary break from YouTube isn’t really news, is it?), journalists reporting on celebrity movement is far from new.
What irked me was that each article seemed to reemerge his past controversies (which are arguably misrepresented), despite them not being relevant to the core story. One article in particular by the website “CCN” made a list of all of his missteps, starting the list with “Here are five reasons we all need a break from Felix.”
The articles aren’t news or even gossip, they’re just personal attacks with the aim increasing website traffic.
PewDiePie definitely isn’t the first victim of this, but he’s one of the few celebrities who doesn’t have a PR team or any infrastructure for bad press, he’s just an average person who has fallen into success and the limelight.
For other celebrities, these personal attacks ultimately come with an objective, usually to cause harm to the celebrity’s career.
When Kanye West was suffering from breakdowns during his Life of Pablo tour, the press’s constant reporting acted as a catalyst for further issues, later resulting in him cancelling his tour and being hospitalised. When journalists resurfaced old Kevin Hart standup performances, the constant media pressure forced Kevin to stand down from his role.
I’m not saying that journalists shouldn’t report on individuals, but that their approach is often inappropriate.
For example, Kanye shouldn’t have been mocked for his irrational behaviour, he should have been receiving actual help or care. And Kevin shouldn’t have been punished for mistakes he already addressed, it should have just been left in the past or addressed as part of his personal growth, as opposed to being actively unearthed by someone with the purpose of using it to devalue the Oscar announcement.
Journalists aren’t paid to do the right thing, they’re paid to draw the most traffic to a website. Celebrities are just the easiest way for them to achieve this goal.
In 2018 I listened to Eminem’s Kamikaze. During my listening session I noticed some hypocrisy between his equal rights stance in his previous album (Revival) and a homophobic line in one of Kamikaze’s tracks.
So what did I decide to do? Well, try and make a controversial tweet to annoy some Eminem fans. This is what I came up with:
Eminem 2017: “I AM NOW A STRONG ADVOCATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS”
Eminem 2018: Uses homophobia to attack Tyler The Creator because he criticised Eminem once.
Hmmm… Aside from the obvious, it’s also lazy writing from a bored millionaire who clearly can’t take criticism.
Over night my tweets received over 100,000 impressions and thousands of engagements, also managing to be featured in a couple of articles including ones by; Business Insider, MTV and Yahoo. Eminem fans were angry as fuck, but the tweet did its job.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why journalists choose to constantly criticise celebrities, it just works from a website traffic perspective.
“It generates us good revenue” unfortunately doesn’t pass as a good excuse for immoral actions, though.
Until journalists find another way to generate revenue for their bloated media corporations, we shouldn’t expect this to change. This is the new age of journalism, it’s just a shame it probably marks the death of a more genuine era.