If your child's friend says 'Death to all Jews' as a joke, how do you respond? By Aisha Sultan St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10 hrs ago (11) Aisha Sultan Aisha Sultan is home and family editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Imagine you overheard one of your child's friends making a "joke" about the Holocaust in your home. Most of us, I would like to believe, would say something, explaining that anti-Semitic comments are not funny. I wouldn't allow someone to talk like that in my house. And I'd be careful about trying to keep my child away from someone who thinks the massacre of millions of innocent people has light-hearted comedic value. And, yet, millions of children have exactly this kind of "friend." He's known as PewDiePie on YouTube, and he made an estimated $15 million last year posting videos of himself playing video games. In real life, PewDiePie is Felix Kjellberg, a 27-year-old Swedish man who rules YouTube. His channel has over 53 million subscribers, the largest presence on the site by 20 million. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Disney severed its ties with Kjelberg after the Journal asked about his videos with anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery. The videos included two Indian men holding a sign saying “Death to All Jews." Kjellberg paid them to hold up the sign and laughed at them. The online celebrity who is more recognizable than Jennifer Lawrence among tweens and teens still runs his YouTube empire and lashed out against the Journal and other media in a video response. He said the media took his anti-Semitic jokes "out of context." He said he does not support Nazi groups. The younger audiences who follow YouTube celebrities have a different relationship with these stars in their minds than typical celebrity worship. Because the daily videos are so personal and conversational, children feel like they are hanging out with a cool and funny friend, watching him play different video games, day after day. It's a massive entertainment industry online, and children born and raised in our digital culture do not separate their online lives, socialization and culture from "real life." For them, this is as much real life as hanging out with with friends. Salon wrote about the enthusiastic response PewDiePie's stance has had with leading white supremacist bloggers and hate sites. Neo-Nazi groups have been celebrating PewDiePie and the messages our children were getting in these videos. One prominent neo-Nazi blogger pointedly wrote that whether Kjelberg personally supports Nazi beliefs ultimately doesn’t matter, "since the effect is the same; it normalizes Nazism, and marginalizes our enemies." In the past several months, there's been a resurgence of the swastika appearing in public spaces and a marked increase in phone threats to Jewish community centers. In fact, President Trump was asked about the threats to Jewish centers at a press conference on Thursday. He told the Jewish reporter to sit down and later said anti-Semitism was coming from "the other side." Many people may think they don't have to say something so obvious as condemning Nazism, especially to a child old enough to know better, right? Wrong. "It's easy not to pay attention to it. It's easy not to see the negative impact," said Karen Aroesty, regional director with the Anti-Defamation League in St. Louis. But these are precisely the moments we must pay attention and speak even the most obvious truths, she said. Aroesty points out that what begins as jokes or subtle messages by an influential figure to millions of impressionable young people can escalate. Exposure to unchallenged hatred is a threat to our children's emotional, mental and moral health. "We have to acknowledge that it is physically and emotionally harmful as your kids doing drugs or smoking," Areosty said. Just as we would explain the dangers of second-hand smoke to our children, we need to remind them that these kinds of "jokes" peddled online are neither funny nor harmless.