Hours after mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques Thursday, a YouTuber with more than 84 million followers, and nearly 17 million Twitter followers cleared the air on social media.
“Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch,” Felix Kjellberg, more commonly known as PewDiePie, tweeted. “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.”
The mosque shooter live-streamed a 17-minute social media video of the terrorist attacks, which authorities are urging people not to watch or share online, and has been identified as 28-year-old Australian resident Brenton Tarrant, according to Australia’s ABC. In the video, he told anyone watching, “Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie” before firing several rounds with a high-powered rifle.
Tarrant released a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto before he allegedly opened fire on both the Masjid al Noor and the Linwood Masjid mosques in Christchurch, a city of more than 350,000 residents on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, according to the Associated Press. In it, he said he considered the mass shootings a terrorist attack.
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“Yet another narcissistic right-wing extremist terrorist who has a distorted fantasy world,” Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish terror expert, told the AP.
PewDiePie’s YouTube channel had more subscribers in January 2019 than any other account on the platform, according to Statista. He’s the internet’s version of a radio “shock jock.”
The Swedish internet sensation came under fire in 2017 “after paying two Indian men to hold a sign saying ‘Death to all Jews,’” then months later for using the “n-word” during a video about video games, according to The Guardian.
PewDiePie has built a good portion of his internet fame on the concept of the “let’s play” a videogame YouTube video format. He offers commentary on whatever game is being featured and was at the forefront of turning this content into online entertainment.
PewDiePie’s YouTube videos over the years have earned him $114 million, but he’s also made more than $40 million in merchandise sales and almost $6 million more from investments, according to Influencer Marketing Hub
Three other people, two men and one woman, have been arrested in connection with the mosque shootings, according to CNN. Forty-nine people have reportedly died.