India’s T‑Series Is Dominating YouTube — And Kicking A Racist Neo Nazi Off The Top Spot

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Oct 26, 2018

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Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg has been hailed as the “King of YouTube.” You may or may not recognize him by his online name PewDiePie, depending on whether you’re one of his 67 million subscribers. I’m hoping you’re not.

Kjellberg uses his massive platform to put out a mix of video-game reaction videos, rants, commentaries, and meme reviews. They’re abrasive, irreverent, and decidedly anti-PC. You would think this would appeal to a very niche audience, but the Swedish vlogger has stayed at the top of YouTube stardom since 2013 when he became the most-subscribed user, earning an average salary of $12 million a year.

In that time, he has also amassed a certain reputation among his ‘Bro Army,’ the self-chosen nickname for his fanbase, thanks to his anti-semitic stunts, racist comments, and the casual rape joke that gets thrown in his videos every now and then. He is 4chan trash, the face of that toxic gaming culture that now represents right-wing, fascist values. Even though every controversy — from paying people to hold up a sign that says “Death To Jews” to using racial slurs in his videos — is followed by an apology from him, really what he’s doing is normalizing incredibly violent rhetoric towards anyone who isn’t a cis, hetero, white man. But instead of being relegated to some murky, sub-Reddit thread or chat room, he has had this enormous platform from which to spew hatred (disguised as dumb bro-jokes).

Cue the dhols, Punjabi rap, and Bollywood bling. The T-Series YouTube channel, which shares Indian music videos and film trailers is set to overtake PewDiePie as the most subscribed channel by Monday, 29 October. Headed by Bhushan Kumar, the company is obviously able to put out videos at a much faster rate than Kjellberg, averaging six posts a day. That, combined with India’s huge market of smartphone users, has meant that desi music is flooding the internet — even though most people outside of India can’t seem to figure out what the channel even is

Of course, Kjellberg decided to play the victim, stating, “I don’t really care about T-Series, I generally don’t, but I think if YouTube does shift in a way where it does feel more corporate, then something else will take its place.” Kjellberg has cared though, making a godawful diss track about T-Series, and has spent a good couple of videos making fun of India and Indians (including a very strange spat with Ekta Kapoor).

Unfortunately, even if he’s knocked off his top spot, PewDiePie still is the biggest face YouTube has to offer. And this is the problem with our Internet culture right now — YouTube is generating an ungovernable internal economy that depends on views, even — especially — if the content is destructive. Thankfully, there are others who just want to watch the trailer for Badhaai Ho.  

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Written By Nadia Nooreyezdan

Nadia Nooreyezdan is The Swaddle’s culture editor. Since graduating from Columbia Journalism School, she spends her time thinking about aliens, cyborgs, and social justice sci-fi. She’s also working on a memoir about her family’s journey from Iran to India.

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