By Nat Jenkins
On December 31st, YouTube “star” Logan Paul uploaded a video to his channel featuring a suicide victim in Aokigahara, commonly known as the “suicide forest” because of the large number of people that take their own lives (estimates claim that over 100 suicides take place each year, although Japan no longer releases its death counts.)
Forbes Magazine ranked Logan Paul as one of the top entertainment influencers in the world; major companies pay him considerable amounts of money to post sponsored videos. With 15 million subscribers, it is no doubt that his videos have an impressionable effect on his audience, targeting mostly teenagers and children.
The extremely problematic video consisted of Paul and a small group of his friends planning to stay overnight in the woods where he hoped to “focus on the haunted aspect of the forest” and potentially film supernatural events. Paul’s attitude throughout the entirety of the video is disgusting, it is hard to tell whether or not he is being serious. In fact, upon discovering the body of a man who recently had commit suicide, his reaction was not of respect, but rather excitement:
“This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted to this channel,”
and continued to say that “this is YouTube history because it never been done before.” While this in itself is repulsive, Paul continued to film the body of the victim and failed to hold back a laugh. “This was all going to be a joke; why did it become so real?” Aokigahara was and never will be a joke, Aokigahara is not a tourist attraction; it is a mass grave. In fact, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and at Aokigahara, Japanese officials have signs displayed around the forest asking victims who may be suffering from mental illness to seek help.
The following day Paul had received overwhelming backlash, as he should. Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, and American Actor Dylan O’Brien are some of many who had criticized him for his actions.
In an attempt at good faith, Paul uploaded a one-minute-long “apology video” to his channel (notably, which did not contain any resources for anybody suffering from mental illness, which he claims to support.)
He also uploaded an apology to Twitter:
“This is a first for me. I’ve never faced criticism like this before, because I’ve never made a mistake like this before. I’m surrounded by good people and believe I make good decisions, but I’m still a human being. I can be wrong. I didn’t do it for views. I get views. I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity. That’s never the intention. I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention and while I thought ‘if this video saves just ONE life, it’ll be worth it,’ I was misguided by shock and awe, as portrayed in the video. I still am.”
Paul’s apology is not sincere. He is only defending his actions. If he truly wanted to “raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention,” then he should have included resources and tools that can help people who are suffering from mental illness. Not only that, but the video is monetized, meaning that if you allow the presence of advertisements before your videos, YouTube will charge advertisers for these and share the fees with you, allowing you to make some money from people viewing your videos.
After it was revealed that the video was monetized, Twitter went on to boycott Paul’s YouTube video to ensure that the vlogger would make no further profit. The fact that Paul’s video is monetized clearly raises the questions as to whether or not he is truly sorry for his actions, and if his initial intent was to raise suicide awareness and prevention.
Some people are frustrated with YouTube’s lack of intervention since Paul himself removed the video. Recently, however, YouTube has finally decided to reprimand Paul for his actions.
YouTube posted a statement on their Twitter account apologizing to its users and promised that “changes are on the way,” implying that “further consequences” would be at hand for Paul.
In addition to this statement, a YouTube spokesperson stated in a press release that the company had removed Paul from its Google Preferred advertising tier, cancelled the upcoming fourth season of the YouTube Red series Foursome, and temporarily stopped the production of Paul’s films in its “Originals” category, including the upcoming sequel to YouTube Red’s first feature-length thriller, a dystopian sci-fi called The Thinning.
Despite this, his self-created business empire still exists. He will continue to make an estimated eight-figure profit each year – according to a Forbes estimate – since he earns the remainder of his income without YouTube involvement, mostly through brand deals and his popular merchandise.
That means that Paul’s financial success is not entirely up to YouTube, but mostly to his fans and sponsors. If his fans stopped going to his meet and greet and buying his merchandise entirely, his earnings could drop 50% at least. This is unlikely, however, as PewDiePie (another YouTuber who had a recent controversy) managed to earn $12 million last year.
It is sickening that Logan Paul will virtually face no significant consequences for his actions. Suicide is not – and never will be – a joke.
Editors Note: Contributing article by Natalie Jenkins. Natalie’s conclusions expressed in this editorial do not represent the predilections’ of our writers, contributors and editors. If you would like to comment on our articles or columns, refer to our contact section above.