Being a YouTube star doesn’t mean you are fit to “create awareness” on a serious social issue like suicide

A 22-year-old vlogger with more than 15 million followers has seriously misjudged his power to do as he pleases when he posted a sensational video on Twitter on the last day of 2017.

YouTube star Logan Paul posted a video of the dead body of a suicide victim in Aokigahara, a forest on the northwestern side of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest, very thick with trees, is infamous as a national and international spot to commit suicide.

This is an important point to remember when reading the YouTube star’s apology after internet outrage forced him to remove the video from YouTube.

The vlog in question shows Paul and his friends as they come across the body of a man hanging from a tree.

In between Paul’s comments about the seriousness of suicide, the camera zooms in on various parts of the body, while Paul occasionally cracks jokes or laughs, reports The Verge.

“I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history,” Paul said in the video according to The Verge.

Prophetic words, but probably not in the way he had envisaged.

Showing the body of a person who was so traumatized that he took his own life and then joking about it while trying to give the impression that he is “creating awareness of suicide and suicide prevention” has gone seriously wrong for the YouTube star.

What was he thinking?

Well that’s point. He wasn’t thinking, just shooting for his audience.

And his apology doesn’t come across as sincere either.

The Verge reports: “The group continue to stand around the body, filming one another’s reactions. Paul is seen struggling to suppress a laugh, saying “this was all going to be a joke, why did it become so real?”

Suppressing a laugh can be put down to sheer shock at coming across a dead body, but these people knew where they were and the chances of coming across a suicide victim. Filming each other’s reactions and posting it online has crossed the line of human decency.

The Verge: “Back in the parking lot he films the emergency response crews, drinks sake, and says: ‘That’s the life, this daily vlog life. Guys, I said this in one of my first vlogs, I have chosen to entertain you guys every single day.’”

What is entertaining about a vlog that shows a dead body?

His official apology refers to his intention to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention. If that was indeed the case, why act surprised and shocked at finding a suicide victim? Why not treat the incident with respect?

His excuse is that he got caught up in the moment. Probably, because there was no serious intention or serious preparation for a serious subject like suicide.

The fact that the video wasn’t monetized and begins and ends with messages urging viewers with mental health problems to seek help doesn’t turn the video in a “positive ripple” on the internet as he claims his intention was. It doesn’t offset the inept treatment of a serious subject and the possible harm done to his millions of young viewers.

In a second apology Paul faces the camera and says, “I’ve made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement, and I don’t expect to be forgiven. I’m simply here to apologize. What we came across in the woods that day was obviously unplanned. The reactions you saw on tape were raw, they were unfiltered. None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should’ve never posted the video.”

 

The Atlantic hits the nail on the head: In encountering a corpse, Paul suddenly found himself in a journalistic role, and he had no idea how to respond. Most U.S. journalists abide by certain recommendations for reporting on suicide, and for good reason: Suicide seems to engender a significant copycat effect; sensationalized press coverage of one victim can prompt other people to make similar attempts. Paul surely did not know about these rules, and in any case he did the opposite of several of them.

This is what you get when anyone with a camera and a desire to be famous can create content without any oversight and post it online for anyone to see. Not to speak of YouTube that didn’t even react until the public outrage couldn’t be ignored any longer.

This is bad.

The very root of this sick episode is of course the incentives that put people like Paul into positions of power. On the single day that the video was online, it was viewed 6.3 million times. What was so fascinating?  A video of a corpse surrounded by people who didn’t show it any respect.


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