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"We Found a Dead Body"

Maria Milekhina

January 4th, 2018

“I fell in love with the idea, for New Years, slowing [life] down, like going somewhere that’s really isolated... sort of finding myself,” says Logan Paul in a now-deleted, much-Tweeted about vlog. It is after this self-centered, tactless ponderance that, to his 15+ million YouTube subscribers, many of whom are children and young adults, Paul gestures to the infamous “suicide forest” in Aokigahara, Japan, on his left.

 

It is an eerie scene: Paul, in the parking lot of this hallowed ground, accompanied by three smiling sidekicks, cracking jokes while taking camping gear out of a car, wearing a large, fluffy neon green hat, through laughter insisting “don’t laugh, this is not a f*cking joke.” This is a theme: reckless, immature laughter and smiling followed by “serious” disclaimers about mental health and how the humor in the video “is a coping mechanism.” But no amount of coping-mechanism excuses are justifiable. The disrespect shown by Paul and his crew is consistent and blatant. When Paul grabbed a football, still in that parking lot, saying that he brought it for them “to have fun” while searching for ghosts and sleeping overnight in the suicide forest, was that not already crossing the line? Who “has fun” in a space where over a hundred people (we don’t know exactly, the Japanese government won’t track it) end their lives a year? Later in the video, Paul not just finds but also tapes a swinging dead person, someone who had presumably taken their life, and makes it the center focus of his vlog. But it is evident that the beginning of this video, even the very premise of it, already lacks in respect, maturity and decent human empathy, before Paul makes a dead person entertainment for his millions of subscribers.

 

It is a scary moment when someone who holds so much influence, especially over a young demographic, thinks it is justifiable to tarnish a sacred space with his gimmicks and buffoon-like behavior. It is even scarier when this person not only films, but post-production edits and uploads footage of a dead human being. The title to the original video, “We Found A Dead Body” went to trending on YouTube before someone at the company had good sense to make sure it was removed. It has since been widely circulated, and who knows what lasting damage it will do in young people’s minds?

 

It is important to read into Paul’s words and their deliveries throughout the video, because they represent something no amount of apologies can erase. Walking into the forest, Paul shouted into the space around him: “Just a couple of Americans, going camping in a suicide forest.” Upon discovering the body: “I really hate to say this... but I think there’s something hanging right there...” (Camera panned on a smiling crew.) After two of his crew admit to “not feeling good,” Paul asks, (jokingly), “What, you never stood next to a dead guy?”

 

Paul feels comfortable justifying this sort of content by saying that he produces a vlog every day, for 400+ days in a row now, and has a “commitment” to his fans. He explains this debacle as a bad lapse in judgement, that his grind is to blame. But here’s the concerning thing: it should not require an oversight team or extensive judgement to realize that respecting the dead and the tragedy of suicide should be prioritized over a trivial, if not completely arbitrary vlog. And it is evident, as this disgraceful fiasco percolates through social media, that it is Paul’s privilege and egotism as a young, white male that allows him to behave in this way and pretty much get away with it-- whether it be in the headlines that emphasize his apology over his actions, or with his loyal subscribers. Logan Paul’s actions are a concerning gauge on our youth culture because they show just how heartless and distanced our privileges can make us, and just how easily these moral shortcomings can be broadcast to the entire world. It’s too late for apologies. The damage is done and there’s nothing Paul can do to redeem himself from this grievous misstep not just as a role model for millions, but as a human being.

 

This tweet, featured in a New York Times article, says it best:

It is the purview of the privileged young to believe everything is for them, to be commented on by them. The young person who died was not for Paul- not their body, not their image, not their story.