Jon Jafari is one of the most popular gaming YouTubers, with the subscriber base for his JonTron channel sitting at just over 3 million subs. A darling of the YouTube video game scene since before even his stint with Arin Hanson at Game Grumps, Jafari has become well known for his video game-focused content and off-the-wall humor. However, JonTron has become embroiled in controversy due to a series of comments on the topic of race and immigration.
JonTron Starts Controversy on Twitter
It all began on Twitter. On March 12, 2017, Jafari posted an update defending the comments of incendiary Republican Iowa Representative Steve King. King, who has a long history of controversial statements, made a comment arguing against immigration, saying "[we] can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies." The comment was widely criticized for being jingoistic and inflammatory, but found a defender in Jafari.
"Wow, how scandalous," said Jafari on Twitter. "Steve King doesn't want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!" The comment from Jafari surprised a lot of his followers, as Jafari rarely spoke about his political beliefs, and even rarer still with such vehemence.
Wow, how scandalous, Steve King doesn't want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!— JonTron (@JonTronShow) March 12, 2017
That was far from the end of it, however. Jafari followed up by stating "This whole stupid system relies on rational people being shamed into shutting up. Glad to see that slowly falling apart." This follow-up caught the attention of professional Twitch streamer Steven Bonnell, otherwise known as Destiny, who invited Jafari to take part in a live-streamed debate after a discussion on Twitter (warning in advance for the use of some racist terms).
It's Jafari's comments in this debate that have been the main subject of discussion since. Over the course of two hours, the two internet gamers talked about immigration and race, and Jafari's arguments took some turns that surprised many viewers. For those interested in watching the full debate, it can be found embedded below.
The JonTron Debate
Here are just a few samples of the comments made by Jafari over the course of the debate. In particular, Jafari stated his belief that the United States of America does not "need immigrants from incompatible places," and voicing his concern about a "demographic displacement" of white people which he compared to the South African apartheid.
"If there is one American in America who doesn't see themselves as strictly American, we have ourselves a problem," stated Jafari over the course of the debate. In particular, these beliefs stemmed from the perceived creation of "ethnic enclaves" of Mexican migrants, stating that undocumented migrants want to "break off parts of America."
It was not just Mexican migrants that were mentioned by Jafari, however, with the YouTuber also pushing forward an argument that "white people are aggressed against in their own nations," while stating that black Americans from wealthy demographics commit more crime than white Americans from poorer demographics - a statement that it is worth noting is unfounded. Jafari also argued against the need for further equality on racial grounds, stating that "we've gotten rid of discrimination in our Western countries."
Once again, these comments surprised many of those who followethe JonTron channel, as for a long time Jafari had not spoken openly about his political beliefs. However, a more political lean had been creeping into his online accounts in the last few years, with recent comments showing a distaste for racial discourse as seen in acclaimed horror movie Get Out. Jafari also showed some light support for the GamerGate movement during its heyday, which campaigned for - among other things - the reduced role of political discussions in video game media.
His recent comments caused an almost immediate reaction, with Jafari's statements being picked up by both those within the video game community and those outside it. It didn't help that these comments were made in such close proximity to the controversy surrounding a prank by Felix 'PewDiePie' Kjellberg that was also perceived as racist; PewDiePie paid two men to hold up a sign that said 'Death To All Jews' in a comedy skit.
The ramifications of PewDiePie's video were swift and decisive, with his relationship with the Disney-owned Maker Studios severed, and the second series of Scare PewDiePie cancelled. In response, Kjellberg posted a video distancing himself from fascist movements, but at the same time avoiding discussing in depth the level of appropriateness shown by his initial video.
JonTron's Response and Its Impact
JonTron's channel is unlikely to suffer from the same financial or commercial impact as PewDiePie, however. Although there have been a number of fans who have unsubscribed, it has totaled at only around 10,000 and is but a drop in the ocean in comparison to his overall sub count. However, Jafari has felt the need to further clarify his comments through a follow-up video of his own.
Jafari took to YouTube to help clear up some of his comments, away from the "pressure" of the debate format. "I wasn't prepared for a debate of this sort with these kind of sensitive topics at hand," said Jafari, admitting that he was "a bit all over the place" during the debate. "I said lots of stuff that could be misconstrued in all sorts of ways."
The YouTuber instead stated that he meant to argue about the "increasing tribalization of our culture," where people are meant to think in racial or ethnic categories or "in terms of gender or sexual orientation." Specifically, JonTron stated that he finds it hypocritical that those who think in terms of race object when "white people speak up in what they believe are the best interests of their race."
Jafari did also admit that the "African American community has had a raw deal" in the United States of America, but argued that this discrimination is "universally wrong." He also clarified his comments regarding immigration, instead claiming he is against "mass immigration," saying it would be "heinous" of him to be against immigration entirely as the child of two immigrants.
"People looking at this think I’m some kind of explicit ethno-nationalist, but I’m not," Jafari said. The YouTuber will also now step back into the realm of comedy, after this brief move into the world of political and racial discussion.
It's unlikely that this foray into debate will be forgotten quickly, though. Unlike the example of PewDiePie, where it was a potentially tasteless joke gone awry, there is a belief behind some of Jafari's comments, even if it has cooled between the initial stream and the follow-up video. Most of Jafari's audience, however, are not likely to be swayed from following JonTron - and unless this political sentiment further breaks into his personal brand, it's probably going to remain that way. After all, as long as his unique sense of humor remains intact, the fandom will get what it wants.