YouTube star Logan Paul, a popular vlogger from a family of popular vloggers, drew a massive backlash on Monday and Tuesday for posting a video showing a dead body he stumbled upon in Japan’s notorious “suicide forest”.
The video, which Paul uploaded on December 31 and ultimately deleted late on January 1, chronicles a visit by Paul and a few companions to Aokigahara Forest, located on the northwestern side of Mt. Fuji. Upon seeing the body, Paul calls out, “Yo, are you alive?” and then, “Are you fucking with us?” He then continues to film his reaction to the discovery, complete with laughter and joking, which he later explains is his way of trying to cope with the shock of the situation.
While Paul added a preface to the video before posting it in which he gravely insisted that “this is not clickbait,” he also advised viewers to “Buckle the fuck up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!” and used a shot of the body for the video’s promotional thumbnail.
Despite YouTube’s policies prohibiting violent or gory content, the video quickly went viral on the site, reaching No. 10 on its trending list even in the face of protest and outcry on YouTube and other social media platforms.
Paul’s video amassed over six million views before he deleted it and posted an apology on Twitter, in which he said that he didn’t post the shocking footage for views but “because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet” and “raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.”
However, on Tuesday afternoon, he posted a second apology on YouTube, calling his decision to post the video a “severe and continuous lapse in my judgment.”
On the one hand, the outrage caused by Paul’s video and his subsequent apology follows a familiar and predictable pattern of any typical internet controversy: a public figure screws up, becomes the target of backlash, and expresses some degree of remorse.
On the other hand, the video has fueled an extensive debate about the limitations and lawlessness of YouTube’s prank culture, and raised questions about why YouTube failed to remove the content from its trending videos list.
Paul’s decision to post the video in the first place casts a harsh light on the showy, often deliberately invasive, self-aggrandizement that has come to define prank culture on YouTube. Up until this weekend at least, that shtick has not been associated with any one person so much as appearing as a morally gray cloud that hangs over the genre’s many, many participants. And ultimately, the pranks implicate YouTube itself for taking a backseat in refereeing its top creators.
Twitter Reactions :
YouTube has not responded to a request from Vox for comment. But Buzzfeed reporter Davey Alba reported on Twitter that a spokesperson for the site told him that it had applied a strike — a temporary flag on a user’s account which can accrue and result in a permanent ban (as in “three strikes and you’re out”) — to Paul’s account.
But even if the strike has been applied, it will likely have very little impact on a YouTube creator as successful as Paul, who has made his name on precisely the kind of viral-ready, thoughtless actions that drew him into the Aokigahara Forest.
YouTube’s deep culture of veneration among fans creates an insular, often accountability-proof bubble around its biggest stars (see also: PewDiePie). When those stars have earned large fortunes by creating content that violates the personal space and consent of other members of the public, it’s hardly a surprise that one of them would eventually end up posting footage a suicide victim’s dead body.
In his apology video, Paul said, “I don’t expect to be forgiven — I’m simply here to apologize.” But among the nearly 700,000 comments that the apology video has amassed in the last 24 hours, support from his most fervent fans remains strong. As DiFranco noted, Paul likely won’t lose too many followers in response to his behavior; rather, the onus is on YouTube to take meaningful action to prevent videos like this from being shared on the site.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paul’s apology video was the No. 1 video on YouTube.
External sources used : Vox with permission