We’re only three days into the new year, and yet something so blatant still needs to be said.
Not only is suicide decidedly not a punchline, but according to the World Health Organization, it was the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 worldwide in 2015, with the highest rates of it occurring in Asian countries — such as Japan, where the conversation about mental health is often cited as lacking and stilted at best.
But Logan Paul’s words upon seeing the body of a suicide victim hanging from a tree in Aokigahara, otherwise infamously known as Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’?
“Oh no, I’m sorry, Logang. This was supposed to be a fun vlog.”
What exactly is supposed to be fun about visiting a site popular for the most tragic reasons, a site at which the Japanese government willfully tries to discourage its citizens from taking their lives?
What did you think would be fun about a place known throughout the world for being one to which Japanese people go to when they are at their lowest, when they can’t see any other way for themselves?
Logan Paul went there with a purpose, and while he may not have specifically set out to see what he saw (“we came to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest … this was all going to be a joke”), he certainly wasn’t there to respect anyone who took their lives there. He made that clear when he zoomed in on this man’s body and his personal effects, when he stood beside him and made jokes (“you ever stand next to a dead guy before?”) rather than called for help.
“We are literally 100 yards from the parking lot,” Paul said, motioning behind him. He and his friends were not lost; help was not beyond reach — and yet his first instinct was not to call for it.
Instead, it was to film himself.
The video is difficult to stomach, but even more so is watching as Paul and his friends simply stare in disturbed fascination, before Paul says, “So, a lot of things are going through my mind. This is a first for me.”
It’s your first time seeing the body of a man who deserves more than to have the end of his life surrounded by an ignorant boy’s desperate excuses to justify his actions?
The message of ‘awareness’ he tries to send while not more than mere feet away from the body feels more like a disclaimer that comes before the capitalization of someone else’s pain — and while Paul states in the beginning that the video is not monetized, his apology video?
No such disclaimer.
The awareness he claims to have tried to raise was just an excuse for him to post a shocking, disturbing, heart wrenching video for views. In his video apology, he states he knows he made a mistake and that he does not anticipate being forgiven.
Is that self-awareness speaking now, or simply the sheer volume of backlash from those who had the horrible privilege of seeing such a low part of humanity at work?
In his written apology, released one day prior to the video form, it’s no more than a shift of blame, essentially putting it down to getting caught up in the moment after apparently working so vigorously on YouTube all year round.
Does the editing process not allow time to process the fact that perhaps posting that footage was wrong? Or does someone else do his job for him, and in that case, should I be all the more disgusted at such a lacking apology and the thought more than one person might have deemed this acceptable?
And what changed in him that he had to amend his initial apology?
Not nearly enough if he is seeking profit from his second one.
Titled ‘We found a dead body in the Japanese suicide forest,’ he claims “this is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted on this channel. 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.”
Yes, I would hope no one has ever had to see something so heartbreaking as what he did — but more than that, I would hope they would have the common sense and decency not to post it for the entire Internet to see.
Young people have become so desensitized to video and images such as Paul’s vlog, to the point of normalization.
The fact that Paul has millions of subscribers, many of them young and impressionable, surely puts upon him a certain unspoken responsibility not to harm them — but especially not to candidly show such disrespectful, graphic images to them to pedal a cause he clearly knows nothing about, if how irreverent and cavalier he and his friends were serves as any indication.
The fact that a sizable number of his young audience continue to defend him rather than acknowledge his mistake summarizes what is wrong with society today. ‘He blurred his face’ or ‘he put warnings on the video ahead of time’ are senseless arguments when the thumbnail clearly showed the victim’s body, or when that video footage should have never seen the light of day to begin with.
It was a fundamentally wrong decision, and yet many young people have become so desensitized to video and images such as Paul’s vlog, to the point of normalization — and now to the detriment of a man in his darkest moments, whose loss and pain is now being overshadowed by empty, meaningless apologies and children who know no better defending them.
Not only was this video wildly unforgivable as someone who knows firsthand what it is to feel like they’re at the end of their rope and as someone who has known so many who have also suffered — but as an Asian woman, it was a vile, frustrating show of someone so unbelievably sightless using an Asian man’s pain and death for views, without once truly, genuinely acknowledging the mental health stigmatization in the community and offering real resources to help combat that.
If he truly meant to help rather than hurt, Paul could have sat down in his vlog and reflected honestly about his experience, before emphasizing that asking for help is the best, most important course of action one can take. He could have opened a vital dialogue that would have reached 15 million subscribers and avoided this situation.
Instead, there will likely now and forever be a copy of that video online for the victim’s family and friends, in which they would watch as a boy comes into their country and mocks their loved one after he has taken his life. I would invite those who callously side with Paul’s careless actions (which even he acknowledges as such, despite the monetization of said apology video) to consider that.
There is the very real possibility that Paul’s video going viral could have announced the victim’s passing to his loved ones before the authorities could inform them properly.
Yet another of the worst realizations is that YouTube may not even see to it that Paul suffers any consequences, given that the original vlog was left to make it to the tenth spot on the site’s trending list before the user removed it.
Still, I feel for Paul in the sense that coming across something so devastating can be traumatic. I would feel even more for him, had he put the camera down and learned something from that experience. I would have even believed his message, if not for the fact he seems to have felt nothing for the victim, the victim’s family and friends or his audience.
“Now with that said,” Paul added to his intro. “Buckle the f*** up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!”
I sincerely hope not.