At the beginning of 2018, the popular YouTuber Logan Paul posted a video blog (vlog) of himself encountering a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, also known as the Suicide Forest.
Paul, with over 15 million subscribers to his name, is a 22-year-old man whose YouTube channel description reads, “22 year old kid in Hollywood making crazy daily Vlogs!”
The video begins with Paul warning his viewers that it will contain graphic content and assuring them that he won’t make ad revenue off it. As somber piano music plays in the background, he adds “I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history because I’m pretty sure this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever.”
For many including myself, it became clear early on that Paul meant to hype up his experience and provide entertainment, despite the sad music he edited in.
In the video, Paul and his friends find the body of a man hanging from a tree. Though Paul appears visibly shocked and frazzled, saying “a lot is going through my mind,” he also cracks plenty of jokes and maintains most of the over-the-top behavior that is characteristic of his style.
One major criticism Paul has received for posting the video is that he exploited the suicide to receive views. The tone of the video is an unsettling mismatch of fake seriousness imposed on an event showcased as thrilling.
Though I do believe shock can cause people to react to uncomfortable situations in different ways, sometimes through humor, I don’t believe that Paul would have posted the video if this event truly gave him any discomfort.
It doesn’t appear to have been a sobering experience for him, but rather an opportunity for him to put more exciting content on his channel.
Paul, whose vlog channel has racked up a total of over 3 billion views since he joined YouTube in 2015, faced immediate criticism by fans and non-fans alike.
Not only did Paul receive criticism for his video, but YouTube did as well.
Another nine days passed before YouTube revoked Logan’s Google Preferred Status, which gives the top 5 percent of YouTubers ads from brands that pay for their ads to be put on their channels.
Gestures like these don’t mean much to me when I consider the underlying goal of YouTube. Paul is one of the site’s biggest stars and acts in several YouTube Red, YouTube’s subscription service, originals.
In other words, Paul makes YouTube big money. He could even be seen by some as the face of YouTube. I believe YouTube needed to gauge how negatively it would affect their company to remain inactive before they risked losing an asset.
This particular scandal reminds me that YouTube isn’t the same website as it was five years ago. It’s not just a site where you can make videos for free anymore. Instead, it’s a company like any other, with an agenda and a way of self-promoting.
YouTube places a handful of channels at the top, feeds them money, and keeps them in a particular order that best serves YouTube’s needs. In this case, YouTube’s needs included giving Logan Paul special treatment and tolerating his video as long as it did.
Most people have seen a dead body on the internet before. However, there is a way to portray death so that it remains respectful, and Logan did not care about being respectful nearly as much as he did about getting views.
Similarly, YouTube’s slow reaction shows that they don’t care to take action when it involves threatening their brand. Both YouTube and Paul deserve to be criticized instead of ignoring the problem this controversy caused.