You should never meet your heroes. In the best case scenario, you might be disappointed to learn that your favorite actor is a narcissistic jerk. Or in the worst case, might discover they hold some unexpected views that butt against your own in major ways. Case in point: JonTron.
Jonathan Jafari, better known as JonTron, is an internet comedian best known for his YouTube videos in which he reviews and lampoons video games. He loves spicing up his videos with comedic sketches and has even helped other likeminded internet reviewers get into the game by starting the online hub NormalBoots. Without the site, and by extension JonTron, YouTubers such as Austin "PeanutButterGamer" Hargrave, Jared "ProJared" Knabenbauer, and Jirard "The Completionist" Khalil might not be where they are today.
However, while JonTron has been invaluable for a small clique of YouTubers, he has done himself far fewer favors. On occasion, his sense of humor or unclear opinions have led to backlash and nuked his subscriber numbers. Many YouTubers adopt an online personality vastly different from their true selves, but in JonTron’s case, some fans think his fictional persona might be more reasonable than his real one.
Engaging with Gamergate
It’s been almost a decade since Gamergate divided the internet. The controversy started when indie game dev Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend alleged that she’d cheated on him and received positive coverage of her work from people with whom she’d been romantically involved (per The Verge). Things snowballed from there, as other people associated with the game industry — mostly women — were harassed, doxxed, threatened, and similarly accused (per Boston Magazine). While most claims, including the initial accusations against Quinn, were proven false, the sheer number of accusations made it difficult for some to separate fact from fiction. But that didn’t stop people from throwing their hat into the ring.
In October 2014, JonTron tweeted he wanted the whole Gamergate controversy to end, partially because he didn’t understand it. But several minutes later, he posted another tweet, saying he wasn’t convinced that Gamergate was about ethical games journalism, implying that he did understand some of the arguments. The following day, JonTron came out and stated that he stood for the "good" things that Gamergate supporters were fighting for — an unclear sentiment that didn’t sit too well with many fans in the replies. Then, during a 2017 podcast with Sargon of Akkad, JonTron admitted he never understood Gamergate, and several years of mulling it over hadn’t helped. JonTron also said that he wanted to stay out of Gamergate — but that didn’t stop him from offering his two cents.
Admittedly, this wasn’t the first time JonTron got involved in this kind of culture war. He once commented on a video by Anita Sarkeesian — another target of Gamergate harassment — in which she discussed the objectification of women in games. JonTron countered with his own claim that every gender is objectified in video games, much to the chagrin of internet commenters. The internet is still divided over Gamergate, and any engagement is eyed with scrutiny. JonTron’s apparent flip-flopping didn’t exactly ingratiate him to a number of fans.
He once wore an SS uniform for a bit
Anyone who has seen a JonTron video will tell you that you can’t predict the kinds of jokes he will make. He reacts to weird design choices in games (and weird games) and loves dressing up for skits. But sometimes his jokes go a little too far, and you can’t help but wonder what he was thinking.
In 2015, JonTron teamed up with Disney to produce "Starcade," a high-budget miniseries in which he discussed the lion’s share of "Star Wars" video games. "Starcade" is also full of comedic sketches, most of which are relevant to the subject matter. For instance, the first game JonTron mentioned in the eighth "Starcade" video is "Star Wars: TIE Fighter," a spiritual successor to "Star Wars: X-Wing." In "TIE Fighter," players can pilot the titular crafts for the Galactic Empire. For this sketch, JonTron said he wanted to "embrace [his] inner dark side," "look and feel the part," and "go all the way."
So what did JonTron do for the skit to "go all the way?" Did he dress up as a TIE pilot? Darth Vader? The Emperor? Nope, he dressed up as a Nazi SS officer, with the implied reasoning being that the Empire is an evil dictatorship and Nazis are, of course, evil. Even Donald Duck couldn’t get away with this bit.
Plenty of actors wear costumes to portray Nazis in movies and shows, but from what people have gathered, it looks like JonTron actually purchased the uniform and wore it for that five-second joke. Judging by reactions on sites like Reddit, few people found this bit to be funny, but some have argued that fans took the brief bit too seriously.
He didn’t fact check an anti-Fauci post
Dr. Anthony Fauci has served in the United States public health sector for an impressive amount of time. He has advised every U.S. President since Ronald Reagan and has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. It only made sense for him to lead the charge against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many people have tried to discredit him and didn’t let facts get in their way — and JonTron seemed to be one of them.
In October 2021, JonTron made a post on his Twitter page, asking people to "Just trust the science, bro!" With the tweet, JonTron added pictures of a New York Post article about legislators demanding answers from Fauci regarding alleged experiments in Tunisia, in which beagle puppies were apparently subjected to a painful experiment involving sandflies. Many responses saw this as an attempt to encourage distrust of Fauci.
Multiple websites, including USA Today, fact checked the so-called "Beaglegate" claims and found that while the experiment in question did take place, the NIAID did not fund it. The NIAID did fund a similar experiment involving beagles and sandflies, but according to the organization, researchers made sure the dogs were comfortable during that experiment (although they did have to be euthanized afterwards).
The moral of this story? Fauci was not connected to the particular experiment in the tweet, and everyone should fact check news stories before posting them on Twitter — JonTron included. It doesn’t appear as though JonTron ever followed up on this divisive tweet.
JonTron divides viewers with anti-immigration opinions
Whenever a fanbase turns on a content creator, you usually can tie it to a single event that kickstarted the shift. For JonTron, that event occurred when he voiced opinions that would be contentious even if they weren’t steeped in irony.
In 2017, seemingly out of nowhere, JonTron posted a comment on Twitter in which he supported Steve King’s belief that a country shouldn’t be "invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people." Not to be confused with the award-winning author Stephen King, Steve King was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives who has been decried as a white nationalist by outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, particularly due to his views on the concepts of white supremacy and his belief in the "white genocide conspiracy theory."
By posting this single comment on Twitter, JonTron effectively shot himself in the foot. Followers were quick to point out that JonTron is the son of two immigrants and is Iranian on his father’s side. The following day, Steven "Destiny" Bonnell debated JonTron on immigration, but instead of walking back his statements, JonTron doubled down and claimed, among other things, that a country needs a "demographic majority" to survive and that multiculturalism is inherently unsustainable. In response, JonTron’s subscriber numbers plummeted, and Playtonic removed JonTron’s work from its then-upcoming game "Yooka-Laylee."
His debate with Destiny revealed strange takes on wealth and race
During his debate with Destiny, JonTron also claimed that non-white people commit a disproportionate number of crimes against white people. Destiny countered by pointing out that poverty is a major contributing factor in crime rates, and that getting rid of poverty could theoretically decrease crime. JonTron then said that poor white people commit more crimes than wealthy white people, and for a second it seemed like JonTron was starting to see Destiny’s side of things. But then JonTron pulled a strange claim out of nowhere, saying that wealthy Black people commit more crimes than poor white people. He didn’t give a source and defended his claim by telling Destiny to "look it up." Destiny looked for an origin, but all he found was a Washington Post article claiming that "poor white kids are less likely to go to prison than rich Black kids," which JonTron simply dismissed as "conjecture."
According to Time Magazine, JonTron’s debate with Destiny may have cost him hundreds of subscribers. Plus, according to Shane Gill, the creator of DidYouKnowGaming, many members of NormalBoots received "online abuse" as a result of JonTron’s claims.
JonTron said Mexican-Americans want to secede back to Mexico
Over the years, JonTron has said some contentious things regarding immigrants. He’s argued in the past that anyone from "incompatible places" shouldn’t come to the U.S. (per Polygon), but also has expressed the belief that some people dislike America so much that they want to turn parts of it into something else entirely.
During the infamous debate with Destiny, JonTron floated an unexpected conspiracy theory: the idea that many Mexican immigrants want to "break parts of America off back into Mexico." Even though JonTron then tried to say that not every immigrant was coming to America with this goal, it didn’t do much to help his case. When Destiny challenged JonTron on the logic of the claim, JonTron just said that he "knows" that’s what many Mexican immigrants are doing or trying to do. The closest JonTron gave to a source was another claim that Mexican immigrants were displacing Black Americans from their homes, likewise without a citation.
JonTron once argued discrimination no longer exists
At this point, both fans and detractors alike have taken JonTron to task for his controversial views. But the content creator really lost people when he espoused that America had fully done away with racism.
JonTron uttered more than a few questionable remarks during his debate with Destiny, but one statement just came across as head-scratchingly misinformed. While JonTron and Destiny agreed on the general belief that "discrimination is wrong," for some reason, JonTron essentially claimed many countries have essentially abolished discrimination as a whole. He didn’t state that America alone had gotten rid of discrimination, just that it wasn’t really a problem in Western countries. Unfortunately, JonTron neither cited his sources nor clarified his statement.
To JonTron’s credit, though, he walked back several of his inflammatory statements in a later apology video, including his claims regarding discrimination. He apologized for what he’d said and tried to clarify some of the more controversial opinions he espoused during the debate, but he also said that a lot of people took his statements out of context. JonTron would also later say that he should have been better prepared for the debate (per Polygon). This apology didn’t have the intended effect, however, and his fame and subscriber numbers definitely took a hit following the debate.