Millions of fans around the world love Jon Jafari—the creator of the JonTronShow and former Game Grumps host. For six years, his videos have brought tears of laughter to anyone fortunate enough to have discovered his channel—yet, with his recent foray into the alt-right and white supremacist political spheres, his reputation is taking a hit. Given the content of his comments, many longtime fans will not feel comfortable supporting Jafari in his future endeavours.
Back in November 2016, he first tested the political waters in an interview with Breitbart. Many fans were concerned that Jafari decided to speak to such an unreliable—and to some, hateful and offensive—news service. However, fans seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt. His comments were generally harmless and mentioned his past support for former President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately, the discourse didn’t stay so benign. On March 12, Jafari tweeted out his support for Iowa Representative Steve King in the wake of his comment that, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” His words of support immediately set off a chain reaction within his fan base, and as well as with other YouTubers, leading to a debate with streamer Steve Bonnell.
During the Twitter debate, JonTron doubled down on his stance.
“It’s not as if we’re saying all black people are irresponsible,” Jafari said. “I’m just saying, like you can’t make the argument that whites should be okay with becoming a minority in the country their ancestors built.”
The issue is not that he is conservative, it’s that his political views are closer to that of Richard Spencer’s—a well-known white supremacist—than President Donald Trump’s. There is no question that fans of his, especially minorities, feel uncomfortable with Jafari’s beliefs and statements. In fact, the backlash was so ferocious, the JonTron Reddit was locked because of the toxic atmosphere.
The situation with Jafari is part of a larger trend within YouTube. On Feb. 13, Internet celebrity PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, found himself in trouble with both fans and sponsors because of an anti-Semitic joke calling for “Death to all jews,” in a now-removed video. While many do not believe Kjellberg is anti-Semitic, fans needed to re-evaluate their support for someone who regularly uses race-based humour.
These two controversies are similar because they remind viewers that popular Youtube content creators are individuals. Unlike Hollywood celebrities with teams of public relations and employees vetting their every word, Internet stars are largely independent. Their personal views may, at times, collide with the audience’s. Whether it’s an off-kilter joke by PewDiePie or the racist political beliefs of JonTron, fans need to understand that these people are being themselves. Some will be able to look past their issues as imperfect beings in a world with high expectations, but others will regard them, especially Jafari, with justifiable contempt. The beauty of the YouTube platform is that it allows fans to take a stand against Jon Jafari via public comments, unsubscribing, or using AdBlock to prevent ad revenue to the Youtuber.
Regardless, these two instances will not be the end of JonTron or PewDiePie. They will continue to produce content on their YouTube channels at the same rate as before; however, with Jafari, videos will be forever tainted by his deplorable political views. Given his voting history, it’s equal parts perplexing and infuriating that Jafari has bought into the alt-right movement. Jontron previously supported Senator Sanders, meaning his views are subject to drastic change. Hopefully Jontron will change his views, so that the content that has brought happiness to millions of viewers around the world can be enjoyed without the heavy blight that is attached to it now.