Context of Modern Media and Clickbait News

In today’s world of always-online connectivity, news travels at the speed of twitter. In 140 Characters, people can spread and consume headlines and stories faster than you could say peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. So it can be assumed that people take in stories every day read the headlines and go “Yes that’s true. ” I don’t have to look further into it and I can make up my opinion on the subject at this very moment. You as a media consumer be it the generation the “millennials” or the next generation “Gen Z” should be more attentive when it comes to media and what kind of content they push to your smartphones and monitors.

Media today comes in many forms from the classic nightly news broadcast to the newer online sites we use every day with places like Facebook and Twitter allowing for constant instant updates. And knowing how media works sensational headlines get more views or online clicks, way more than a story that isn’t sensationalized or controversial, and the more people that watch or read their work the more money these companies make. You should be skeptical of both the headlines and the content these mainstream media people claim as fact because you might not know their agenda for making these articles and what bias they have in making it.

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Short edited videos above a long article that are then edited for quick consumption that keeps our attention just long enough to get the big idea and move on. Never mind the original purpose of the content they are using, just put in a catchy headline and use some editing to make it fit into our agenda so we can make money. Both the media and the general public make the big faux pas of taking content written or made under a specific context and twist it so it matches their personal agenda.

So while people all across the world can enjoy the speed at which content is shown to them you as an individual should make sure that big flashy headlines and controversial topics don’t instantly sway your opinion. In February of this year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) released a piece on Pewdiepie aka Felix Kjellberg a Swedish comedian and arguably the most famous person on the YouTube platform with a subscriber count of over 54 million users to date. In their article, they portrayed Felix as being a racist and an anti-Semitic.

In their four and a half minute, long video they go over a few of his videos edited for maximum effect. The first clip they use starts with him in a make America great again hat watching a Hitler speech while also wearing a Nazi like uniform. The next was a clip of him watching two South Asian men, that he paid on a website called fivver, dancing and laughing while carrying a sign that said “Death To All Jews” and lastly a clip where he shows a man acting as Jesus saying Hitler did nothing wrong. But this supercut of his videos are highly misrepresentative of what Felix is as a comedian and a content creator.

As a comedian trying to make jokes about our crazy world and he was often misrepresented in any of his inclusions of anything Nazi related. The part with him watching the Hitler video was a satirical look at the new program YouTube is looking to implement called the YouTube Heroes Program. The program as it was described allowed people to opt in to contribute to flagging inappropriate videos while also being rewarded for doing so. Felix is comparing the ability to censor content just because it offended you to Nazi youth and given the context, that Nazi’s are bad so is censorship.

The part with him and the dancing men in context was of him showing that you can get people to do the craziest things for some money, same thing for about the Jesus video. The WSJ article would like to have you believe that Felix, the most popular person on YouTube, is a racist and anti-Semitic. Though in a Forbes article defending Felix written by Dani Di Placido, “The Wall Street Journal’s video contains several scenes deliberately taken out of context, and is edited to appear far darker than the patently ridiculous source material.

A penchant for vulgar humor does not automatically make one a neo-Nazi, and while Kjellberg is controversial, he has never seriously advocated a racist agenda”. The specific content that the WSJ focused on had bigger meanings and ideas that Felix wanted to get across in his satirical comedy. Yet they cut out that part of the story because the out of context view of “Pewdiepie is a racist anti-Semite” guaranteed them to get lots of coverage and with coverage comes money.

The story from the WSJ gained so much traction, so much so that as a reaction: YouTube canceled the second season of his YouTube red series scare Pewdiepie, removed from the Google Preferred ad program of YouTube and was dropped like a hot rock by his MCN (Multi-Channel Network) Maker Studio owned by Disney. The WSJ, Wired, The Washington Post and many other “mainstream media outlets” are just running with the story publishing the same thing and misrepresenting and putting things out of context when talking about Pewdiepie and that’s because Pewdiepie is an easy target.

Philp Defranco, prominent YouTube news content creator said, “You look to all these other sites that are talking about Pewdiepie right now and you can see their intent. Their Intent here was to take down and ruin Felix; the biggest Youtuber on the platform, through the veil of “we’re doing the right thing; he’s a Nazi! ” you just need a good, juicy headline and we’ll make some points that … it’ll get across to 98% of the people that aren’t going to fact check or dive deeper on it. Felix bring in the clicks outrage brings in the clicks get him in with the headline and whatever happens, after happens.

Wired also posted an article by Emma Grey Ellis titled “Pewdiepie was always kinda a racist-but now he’s a hero to Nazis To PewDiePie’s”. But later the same day back peddled on the title which now reads “Fall Shows the Limits of ‘lol jk’”. Yet Wired still has a linking tweet from the @wired Twitter account, “White Supremacists have a new hero and his name is Pewdiepie. ” which you can still find as of today searching through twitter. While the headline is based on some semblance of fact, it is going to the extreme side of the topic.

Defranco continues to say “but they know what they’re doing with that headline bating for those clicks with the worst possible description of the situation and if you go into the article itself it is just like a classic over-extension. ” In the article, Ellis gives short blurbs about his videos and just linking to his content to give him even more views.

Within the article, Ellis wrote “In this face-swapping video he repeatedly uses an image of actress Leslie Jones to represent Harambe, the gorilla killed in the Cincinnati zoo last year. I shouldn’t have to explain what’s wrong with that. Here Felix’s content once again is taken out of context. Because watching the video itself, it was not Felix’s creation, but that of a creation of Microsoft’s AI bot Project Murphy where you can type something in and random image would come up that had what you typed in face swapped with some other image. All these stretching posts just adding more fuel to the out of context fire for the people like us who may not have time to make their own investigations towards all these allegations that if any of the ire Pewdiepie is getting for being called a racists and an anti-Semite has a leg to stand on.

When we look at headlines and short snippets of an article on Twitter, we are seeing what they want us to see. These media outlets are taking things out of context and the people running the site don’t really care if all the facts back up what they are saying. Because to them if a story is that big it’s easy to push an article with a controversial headline about a famous person and flimsy evidence because they know that’s all they need to do to get people like me and you to click on those links and give them the ad revenue they desperately want.

It’s not good journalism to make up a narrative and attack a creator on the internet. To take someone’s work and edit it to make what was supposed to be a satirical comedic look on the world and turn it into a narrative of their own creation for people to see as fact “Felix Kjellberg is a racist and anti-Semitic” look at all this evidence we conveniently edited together. It is morally wrong to twist someone’s words to make it look horrible and in doing so try and profit of all the negativity.

I for one would not like something I did taken out of context by others and then have this image of me branded in their thoughts that something I did was that offensive and let that affect my life in bigger ways. Next time you see a headline about an attack on some content creator don’t just fall in line and believe everything being written take in the context of the original situation and then judge for yourself whether or not it’s justified to be mad.