Another YouTube personality is in hot water, this time over comments that echo long-running, widely discredited far-right talking points about immigration, ethnicity and nationalism.
Jon Jafari, 26, (pictured above) otherwise known as JonTron, tangled with Twitter followers on Sunday and then dug in deeper in a livestream debate about nationalism, ethnicity and immigration. His comments revealed wide-ranging right-wing sympathies that appear to have blindsided many of his viewers, some of whom have withdrawn their YouTube subscriptions.
Jafari is the founder of Normal Boots, which is a series of YouTube channels that includes Did You Know Gaming, which has been featured repeatedly on Polygon. Other channels include Peanut Butter Gamer, Continue? Projared, The Completionist and Satchbag. Normal Boots is a member of the Polaris multichannel network on YouTube, and has 8.7 million subscribers combined. JonTron’s channel is down about 10,000 subscribers since the controversy broke.
It all began on Sunday when Jafari tweeted a defense of U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). King, supporting the Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, said, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," basically endorsing the idea of nations as singularly ethnic states. Jafari, apparently unsolicited for his opinion, said the following:
Wow, how scandalous, Steve King doesn't want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!— Jon Jafari (@JonTronShow) March 12, 2017
He dug in yesterday with Twitch streamer Steven Bonnell II, also called Destiny, in a two-hour argument in which Jafari referenced long-held, far-right wing talking points such as a Mexican "reconquista" (the Mexican retaking, by mass immigration, of American land or culture), and the claim that even wealthy blacks in the United States commit more crimes than poor whites.
How any of this would be relevant to Jafari's normal subjects, which have amassed him 3.1 million viewers on his own channel, is unclear. His defenders have complained that the reporting of Jafari's unsolicited Twitter comments and the remarks from his entirely willing, two-hour appearance on Bonnell's livestream amount to thought policing, character assassination, censorship or all three.
In the debate with Bonnell, Jafari suggests that the economic influence or benefit of immigration is something liberal academicians overstate, or that it goes unchallenged by people who don't want a fight with the politically correct. He argues that the U.S. should refuse immigrants from "incompatible places." Interestingly, Jafari's heritage is of Hungary and Iran; Iran is one of seven nations named in an executive order issued by the Trump administration restricting immigration, and a revised one following a successful challenge to the first.
Jafari's argumentation and the fallout from it echoes another pop-culture vlogger who veered off topic into deeply political territory and was met with a large backlash. Felix Kjellberg, 27, also known as PewDiePie, published several videos over the winter that referenced fascist and even anti-semitic themes, retroactively claiming they were jokes intended to shock. It cost Kjellberg his affiliation with Maker, the YouTube multichannel network owned by Disney, and his contract with YouTube Red, which makes original programming for the site's premium content subscribers, was likewise canceled.
Polygon reached out to Jafari via email to ask for his response to the backlash to his comments, whether his business has suffered in the aftermath, and why King's position was worth such a heavy investment through both Twitter and the Twitch appearance. A message was not returned as of publication time.