YouTube star Logan Paul faced serious backlash Monday evening after he posted a video showing a corpse in Japan’s so-called “suicide forest.”
The forest, a popular locale for people seeking to take their own lives, is well-known in Japan. The corpse in Paul’s video appears to be hanging from a tree. In the video, Paul — along with several friends accompanying him for his trip to Japan — can be seen mocking the victim and laughing.
Shortly after the social-media star posted his video, celebrities like Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul and Game of Thrones‘ Sophie Turner weighed in, chastizing him for being insensitive about suicide.
@LoganPaul You’re an idiot. You’re not raising awareness. You’re mocking. I can’t believe how self-praising your “apology” is. You don’t deserve the success (views) you have. I pray to God you never have to experience anything like that man did.
— Sophie Turner (@SophieT) January 2, 2018
How dare you! You disgust me. I can't believe that so many young people look up to you. So sad. Hopefully this latest video woke them up. You are pure trash. Plain and simple. Suicide is not a joke. Go rot in hell.
— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) January 2, 2018
— Nate Garner (@natekgarner) January 2, 2018
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.
— Caitlin Doughty (@TheGoodDeath) January 2, 2018
Shortly after the backlash exponentially grew, Paul put out an apology.
Dear Internet, pic.twitter.com/42OCDBhiWg
— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
“I didn’t do it for views. I get views,” he wrote, referring to his YouTube success (As of this writing, Paul has approximately 15.2 million video subscribers). “I did it because I thought I could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity.”
“I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention and while I thought, ‘if this video saves just ONE life, it’ll be worth it, I was misguided by shock and awe, as portrayed in the video.”
As made clear with Turner’s tweet, above, his apology came off as tone-deaf to many people, and merely poured gasoline on the fire.
On Tuesday morning, with the backlash still not subsiding, Paul posted yet another apology.
So sorry. pic.twitter.com/JkYXzYsrLX
— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
Paul removed the original video from YouTube, but it can still be found online. In the video, Paul and his group of friends come upon the body hanging in the forest. They call out to him, and Paul asks twice for someone to call the police. (The body’s face is blurred, and the individual has not been identified. The video, titled “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest,” also had a graphic content warning.)
“This is a first for me. This literally probably just happened,” said Paul after he spotted the body.
“I don’t feel good,” said someone off-camera.
“What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” asked Paul.
“No,” replied the person.
At this point, Paul laughed. “It was gonna be a joke. This was all a joke. Why did it become so real?”
“Depression and mental illnesses is not a joke,” he continued. “We came here with the intent to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest. This just became very real.”
Later on, the group gathers in a parking lot and Paul stares straight into the camera. “The smiling and laughing… is not a portrayal of how I feel about the circumstances,” he said. “Everyone copes with s**t differently. I cope with things with humour.”
He said that he was not monetizing the video for “obvious reasons.” He claims that his original intention was to shoot the video to highlight the forest’s supernatural-like feeling.
Paul, 22, and his younger brother, Jake, 20, are YouTube and social-media sensations. Jake has approximately 9.8 million subscribers on YouTube. The brothers are competitive in their fandom; Jake’s fans are called “Jake Paulers” while Paul’s fans are known as the “Logang.”
They often pit their viewers against one another by staging a contrived on-camera rivalry to see who can get the most views or collect the most profit in merchandise sales. The pair is wealthy, and their combined estimated net worth is approximately $12.5 million.
In July 2017, a Hollywood community banded together to file a lawsuit against Jake, who was allegedly destroying their neighbourhood with late-night parties, vandalism and general debauchery. They sought to boot him out. (You can see more about that story in the video, below.)
YouTube, which pays its content providers for the videos they upload, has not released a public comment about the incident.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Canadian suicide hotline, available 24/7, at 1-800-668-6868. For more information on suicide and to find help nearest you, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.