As the world froze at the news of mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand that led at least 49 people dead, YouTube sensation PewDiePie found himself being dragged into the controversy on Friday.
The gunman, 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, livestreamed parts of the brutal shooting on Facebook. Moments before he fired the shots, he can be heard saying: “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie.”
Soon after reports emerged, 29-year-old Swede YouTube celebrity PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, was quick to distance himself from the reference that had put him in the spotlight. Tweeting in support of the victims and their families,he said he was 'sickened' about having his name uttered by the gunman. “Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy,” he tweeted.
Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch.— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 15, 2019
I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.
My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.
Social media, too, remained divided on the subject. Ever since his name popped up in the midst of the gruesome attack, hate has been pouring out on social media. At the same time, sane voices have come in support of the artists, urging people not to blame him for the attack.
Who is PewDiePie
Felix Kjellberg, alias PewDiePie, in one of YouTube's biggest celebrities and has remained embroiled in a few controversies recently; one of them even having an Indian connect. His YouTube channel (with over 89 million subscribers) which features a mix of comedy and video game commentaries has been the top-ranking channel for a long time, until last year when India's music label and film production company, T-Series, dethroned him. It has since been a constant tight battle between Felix's followers and that of T-series with the former back on top again with marginal difference.
In fact, the phrase 'subscribe to PewDiePie' is used as a meme and a rallying cry by the YouTube sensation's fans to garner support for him in the ongoing battle with T-series. Things began to turn ugly when Felix's fans reportedly took to hacking into Google Homes to promote the slogan, and even vandalised a World War -II memorial by spray painting the phrase on it.
No stranger to controversies, PewDiePie, has come under fire for some of his videos that featured anti-Semitic and racist imagery.