I should preface this post by saying that it isn’t about gender. However, intersectionality teaches us that feminism is about more than just gender so I feel like the topic I’m about to discuss is still relevant to this class. The recent controversy revolving around JonTron and the reactions to it by people all across social media can tell us a lot about the underlying dictates that guide behavior in the society we live in.
So for those who don’t know, JonTron is a long time YouTube comedian who co-created the Let’s Play series Game Grumps. He’s a big-time internet personality with over 3.1 million YouTube subscribers to date who makes funny videos about video games and he is well loved within the online gaming community. However, JonTron has recently come under fire for several opinions on race and immigration that have recently come to light.
The biggest example of this was on March 14 when JonTron and another internet personality, Destiny, had a live stream debate about race and immigration in the United States of America. During the approximately 90 minute conversation, which I will link below, JonTron made several remarks that people have interpreted as racist. Among these were assertions that Mexican immigration is a high contributor to crime in the United States, black people are more likely to commit crime than white people regardless of socioeconomic status and that immigration should be curtailed in order to prevent white Americans from becoming a minority in America. And, to top it all off, he insisted that all forms of oppression in present-day America have been eradicated and that the idea that oppression is still happening today is an absurd myth.
Now, to be honest, I don’t want to delve into the back and forth of this debate (there’s a lot to sift through), but rather, would like to highlight that last statement and frame it in the context of the reactions to this video. The exact quote from JonTron is as follows: “People like me are supposed to listen to people like you chatter on about this – this oppression in America. It doesn’t exist dude. It doesn’t exist, there is no oppression.”
And in light of this and his other statements, there has been a lot of push back on both sides in comment sections and message boards all across the internet. There are a lot of people who say that what JonTron said was unforgivably racist and some long-time fans with this opinion have decided to unsubscribe from his YouTube channel. On the other hand, some long-time fans are sticking by him. They say that his statements weren’t indicative of a truly racist individual and that in the heat of the moment he simply said what came to mind even if he didn’t mean it.
It is this second group of individuals that I find most interesting. It is common for an individual, once someone they admire is cast into a poor moral light, to disbelieve that that individual is truly a bad person and make apologies on their behalf. I feel like this propensity, when it happens on a large scale (like it has in this case), illuminates something about widespread social conscience. All forms of oppression – be it racism, mysogyny, etc. – are fundamentally denied by members of oppressive societies. We deny that our heroes have bad moral character because we see ourselves in them and refuse to acknowledge that we might have bad moral character as well and I feel like this controversy with JonTron is a perfect example of that.
So, despite saying blatantly racist statements with no factual basis such as “rich black males commit more crime than poor white males” JonTron’s fans are still willing to argue that he is not racist so that they don’t have to face the racism that may lie within them as well. And this applies across all intersections of oppression – for instance, individuals who reinforce gender stereotypes (even in small ways) but refuse to acknowledge themselves as mysogynists. The issue with this pervasive mindset is that, if we as individuals are not able to recognize the issues within ourselves that contribute to social harm and oppression, we will never be able to fix them.
The Full Debate: