PewDiePie is asking for the end of the “subscribe to PewDiePie” meme.
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTuber and vlogger, remains to the most subscribed person or entity on YouTube. His particular brand of brash, opinionated, and often controversial entertainment has struck a chord with denizens of the internet across the political spectrum, and while that has made PewDiePie one of the richest people on the video streaming site, it’s also given him notoriety he never asked for. Or more like notoriety he never expected.
PewDiePie certainly didn’t do anything to stop the “subscribe to PewDiePie” meme--why would he? What originally began as a fun way to draw up support so he could maintain his top spot as the most subscribed person on YouTube was at first completely harmless. Plenty of YouTubers joined in and put their own fun spin on the meme, and the whole thing was largely wholesome.
But as PewDiePie describes in his latest video, "When you have 90 million people riled up about something, you're bound to get a few degenerates."
The first warning sign, as PewDiePie says in his video posted on Sunday, was when someone spray-painted “subscribe to PewDiePie” on a war memorial earlier this year. He was quick to disavow the graffiti and it was later removed, but it revealed a dark side to PewDiePie’s following that was difficult to ignore.
Which became impossible during the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand last month. Just before entering the mosque, the shooter recorded himself saying "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie," and then walked inside and proceeding to murder 50 people.
At the time, PewDiePie didn’t address his small role in the massacre, only tweeting out his condolences and how he was “sickened” by having any association with the shooter at all. He remained silent over a month out of respect for the victims and not wanting to make the tragedy about him.
Now, however, PewDiePie is asking for the meme to end. “This movement started out of love and support,” he says in his video, “so let’s end it with that.”
Unfortunately for PewDiePie, once a meme is born it can be difficult to control. We’ll have to wait and see if his name becomes associated with more acts of violence in the future.