To forgive or forget?
Several weeks after YouTuber Logan Paul consciously uploaded video footage of a suicide victim in Aokigahara, infamously referred to as Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest,’ and received massive backlash worldwide for his disrespect, he has returned to the internet with a seven-minute video in which he moves to raise suicide awareness and pledges to donate $1 million to various causes that support suicide prevention.
Some say this is a step.
The truth is, it’s barely even a start.
Arguably, actions speak louder than words, and I respect Paul’s decision to donate far more than I respected any of the tone-deaf apologies he previously tried to issue. However, I would respect such a decision more had it not come on the heels of so much criticism from people who have already instructed him to take these actions, nearly word-for-word.
It is still unfathomable to me that an adult man should have to be told by thousands of strangers that filming a suicide victim and posting the video for laughs and clicks is disturbing and wrong in the first place – but I can also still respect the potential for him to learn from this experience on some level.
What I cannot respect is Paul receiving credit for finally doing the bare minimum.
Why reward him with forgiveness and views for simply doing what the internet has repeatedly told him to do?
Why praise him before he’s even proven his words to be true?
Now that YouTube seems to have pulled the plug on several of his projects, it seems convenient that he should try to edge his way back in now. Even so, he still retains a massive following and a platform with which he claims in his latest video that he will “have a hard conversation so that those who are suffering can have easier ones.”
It’s a fanciful idea.
Still, some have cited his comeback video as having positive impacts on them, and I would be inclined to agree. The interviews were incredibly moving and well-done, and the information in them speaks more volumes than anything Paul could have said himself. I hope fans who blindly defended him develop a better understanding of that which they were trying to justify and learn to empathize, rather than mindlessly follow.
But on the topic of said fans, when exactly does Paul plan to denounce those who viciously attacked Japanese YouTuber Reina Scully with racial slurs and insults after she spoke out about why the video that started it all was so offensive?
And if he won’t admonish the toxic, racist mindsets of his diehard ‘Logang’ himself, then when will we see an apology for all the toxic ways in which he and his friends belittled Japanese citizens in their own country? Or will Paul be sidelining certain suggestions, again saving any meaningful action for a later date?
For all its slow, hopeful piano music, there’s something to be said about the lack of intersectionality in the video. The highest rates of suicide occur in Asian countries, but not a second was spent acknowledging the gravity of that fact in relation to what he did. Suicide is undoubtedly a global issue, one that certainly does not discriminate based on race, gender, ethnicity or sexuality – but the quality and perception of mental health care across various cultures is another complex and significant layer Paul ought to have addressed. Because not only did he sensationalize mental illness and suicide, but he did so in an Asian country after cavorting around its streets, throwing Poké Balls at strangers and shoving dead seafood in faces and windows, mocking them in ways many Asians may recognize as part of their own experience.
It isn’t uncommon to be reduced to stereotypes or made into caricatures, to be fetishized or altogether forgotten, to be asked what you are rather than who before anyone even asks your name. That constant diminishing, paired with how temperamentally mental health issues are handled in the community, is a part of the conversation Paul has remained noticeably quieter in.
It’s also telling that in his interview with Bob Forrest of Alo House Recovery Centers, located in Malibu, California, Paul admits to blissful ignorance after Forrest incredulously asks if Paul has truly never been aware of how prevalent suicide is in his own home state of Ohio.
While he may be slowly learning the severity of his mistakes, this hardly qualifies him to spearhead such a significant movement. Perhaps he should consider a video series on these issues, one that doesn’t revolve around his own redemption but rather focuses on utilizing his platform.
After all, seven minutes is a blink of an eye in relation to the countless minutes of his YouTube career that he and his brother have spent being loud, brash and offensive.
“I know I’ve made mistakes, I know I’ve let people down,” Paul says in a voiceover, while gratuitous B-roll shows him washing his face and hands and literally cleansing himself of the situation. “But what happens when you’re given an opportunity to help make a difference in the world.”
Even in what is technically an admission of his own fault, he still manages to dodge accountability. I believe he was first granted that opportunity when he gained as much popularity as he has – when he first realized the scope of his platform, when he began profiting off it and understanding that people were watching and listening to him. Now we’ve seen how he treats those opportunities.
Let’s hope Logan Paul is wiser for this one.