American YouTuber Logan Paul uploaded a video on Dec. 31, 2017 where he walked through the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, according to BBC News. The location is frequently used as a place where individuals commit suicide, and Paul decided to include a dead body in his video.
Paul later claimed in his Twitter apology that “I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet … I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.”
No one could have prevented Paul from going to the forest or uploading the video. However, he should have the sense to recognize that publishing the macabre footage, and then joking about a dead body, was deplorable.
If Paul genuinely wanted to raise awareness, and not merely raise the “hits” on his channel, he would have spoken about his experience rather than depict its gruesome nature. After reading his Twitter statement, where he said, “I’ve never faced criticism like this before, because I’ve never made a mistake like this before” and that “I’m often reminded of how big of a reach I truly have”, it is clear that Paul missed the entire point of why people were upset by the video.
Rather than solely taking accountability for his actions — ones that would be wrong regardless of his popularity — Paul made the apology about sharing his accomplishments. Additionally, he reaffirmed what was likely already clear to those who follow him — he is someone that was told his entire life that he is “remarkable”, and unsurprisingly, he eventually believed it.
Paul is yet another instance of the politicization of social issues for the sake of profit, yet he is not the only one to blame. As consumers, we have the choice to close the tab on the video and then encourage others not to watch it. Even so, while considering that idea, I am reminded of the phrase “the personal is political”; a central topic in my recent academic course, Women’s Activism in the 1960s.
Yes, suicide typically occurs privately and involves those closest to the individual. However, given Japan’s high suicide rates, and how suicide affects families around the world, it must be addressed in a broader political context to eliminate the stigma, and also increase prevention.
Nonetheless, showing a suicide for his own profit overstepped boundaries that evidently, people did not think needed to be distinguished. The question then remains, how do we move forward?
Some people called for the end of Paul’s channel, citing its violation of YouTube's Community Guidelines. However, if YouTube removes him, some people will likely question potential censorship and how much control YouTube should have in determining the content that is uploaded by its many producers.
We should also consider other practical ways to ensure that Paul understands the severity of his actions. If you were a fan of Paul’s channel and have not done so already, unsubscribe from him and do not watch his future videos, if he uploads any. Do not give him the “hits” that he evidently craved when he entered that forest and disregarded its severity by turning on his camera.
By doing so, YouTube’s job becomes a little easier — after all, it is all about dollars and cents.