The N-Bomb: Response to Pewdiepie Far Worse Than His Crime
A few days ago, one of the largest YouTubers to ever grace the platform made a mistake. During a livestream of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, he dropped the N-Bomb. In a moment of sudden frustration, the word welled up inside of him and was released, followed immediately by an apology.
That was enough for most.
But not, apparently, the worldwide media. News platforms ranging from The Guardian, Vox, Variety, Slate, and more whipped into a feeding frenzy over his momentary blunder, likely attempting to build off of the nontroversy he experienced this past February where he was accused with no small amount of hyperbole of being an anti-semite by The Wall Street Journal following some edgy jokes he’d made in a recent video. This video by YouTuber Kraut & Tea breaks down the situation rather intelligently.
But nonetheless, the worldwide internet media continued to circle him like vultures, swooping in to peck and nip at him in hopes they could cause his downfall.
Why? It’s difficult to say with any reasonable assertions. A slow news day, perhaps. Maybe the Wall Street Journal was attempting to give old-school yellow journalism another attempt. Perhaps they were attempting to participate in the modern witch hunt against supposed racists and tried to lead the charge against one of the biggest YouTube stars there is, rehashing the Satanic witch hunt of the 80’s and 90’s. Which itself is a rehash of the Red Scare, which is simply a rehash of other such witch hunts going all the way back through recorded history and beyond.
Did Pewdiepie say the word?
Is it as malicious and hateful as many armchair psychologists wielding a social media account and a sense of moral superiority are asserting?
No, and here’s why.
People use taboo words all the time. Some researchers have suggested at least once every two hundred words, on average, is a swear. Now this normally isn’t an excuse, but it does shed a light on the psychology of swearing that the armchair cynics may not realize. Namely, that blurting out taboo words in reaction to a moment of sudden frustration, fear or pain has an evolutionary basis, centered in the amygdala and sharing the same space as our reaction to danger. Furthermore, the simple act of swearing, while notably taboo, is shown to relieve stress and pain.
How many times have you blurted out a dirty word after stubbing your toe? After being killed for the umpteenth time in a video game or been cut off in traffic? When your favorite basketball team loses the game in the final seconds of the match?
I’m not going to defend the use of the n-word, as I do personally believe it is among one of the most offensive words in the swearing arsenal of the human race, and I have friend in the Navy who are known for finding new, creative ways to say offensive, crass or otherwise rude things. But regardless of which word is used, it’s important to draw a distinction to how it was used. Was he using it to belittle an entire racial class of people, or did was it simply a psychological mechanism to express frustration?
What Pewdiepie said, to me at least, is nowhere as important as the intent. And the intent is crystal clear, no matter how much spin internet busybodies want to put on it.
What is more concerning to me, however, is the reaction to it. It’s caused people to do some… non very intelligent things. Case-in-point, the co-founder of Campo Santo and co-director of the Indie game Firewatch announced publicly his intent to misuse the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to send a message by rescinding what one lawyer has argued is an open license to stream and monetize their companies games, something that, under the eyes of the law, is a blatant abuse of the DMCA.
And then there are the scores of internet denizens who are reveling in Pewdiepie’s downfall.
I’m here to tell you… Pewdiepie’s doing just fine. This whole event might have been personally frustrating for him, but the assertion of many that this even will lead to his downfall are… well, completely exaggerating the impact. Normally, when a big YouTuber is embroiled in some controversy, they lose subscribers, such as in the case of the Fine Brothers’ announcement that they intend to copyright their React video formats causing them to drop hundreds of thousands of subscribers in a relatively short amount of time. Pewdiepie, on the other hand is continuing to rise in subscriber count at the rate of over ten thousand new subscribers daily, even since he dropped the n-word. Those numbers don’t lie. The outward impact of his choice of words have had little effect on his success.
The point being is that people need to chill out. Too many have taken Pewdiepie’s outburst as a crusade of sorts. To spread the word that he’s a closeted racist or somesuch. While what he said was undeniably rude, it does not require the attention of activists the world over who have better things to worry about than the momentary outburst that likely has little in the way of deeper meaning of a YouTube celebrity. Rather, my own feeling on the topic is that it is a non-issue, probably more useful in distracting the internet hordes from being concerns about other, more pressing matters of human rights.