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Tears of a clown

08 January 2018 | Lloyd Hughes

There was a huge backlash last week against YouTube ‘personality’ Logan Paul.

You know you’re galloping into the depths of middle age when you realise you’ve never heard of someone with over 10 million YouTube subscribers and 4 million Twitter followers. But that’s why we have a young and hip social team. They know stuff like that so I don’t have to.

US vlogger Logan Paul faced fierce criticism after taking a trip to Japan (that he’d vlog about throughout, of course) during which he visited the Aokigahara forest. This is a place known as a Japanese suicide hotspot, with hundreds of desperate people heading there each year to take their own life. The situation is so bad that signs have been installed encouraging people to turn around and head back to seek help, while the authorities regularly sweep the forest in search of victims.

Of course, given the forest’s ghoulish reputation, Logan Paul was keen to head there to do a video. In the process, Logan and his accompanying friends came across the hanging body of a man, footage of which they included in the video (blurring out his face, but that’s about it). Not only did they film it, they also laughed about the encounter and cracked jokes before uploading a vlog to YouTube.

Logan Paul’s crass insensitivity about the seriousness of suicide caused understandable fury, and he was met with a fusillade of online anger. Eventually taking the video down, Logan Paul issued a poorly thought out, self-serving written apology on Twitter, before uploading a video further demonstrating his contrition. It’s not been enough.

The social media lynch mob, when out in full force, very rarely accepts an apology for what it is. They deem it PR firefighting (which it undoubtedly is) and see it as false and meaningless, only occurring ‘because they’d been caught out’. Of course, you can only apologise for something when you’ve done something wrong, but that sentiment won’t satiate the frothing multitude when in flood.

The wrath aimed his way has seriously unsettled Logan Paul. From someone who has benefitted hugely from social media exposure, the burn of this particular spotlight has obviously shocked him. He’s now resorted to hiring a security guard thanks to fear of the threats directed at him.

Following the furore, I’ve watched some of his videos, which just serves to demonstrate how out of touch I am with ‘youth culture’. The bloke is a moron. The videos surrounding his Aokigahara trip show him being an idiot in general, doing what he can to offend and annoy the local people, including prancing around in traditional Japanese dress and mocking their culture, while throwing Poké balls at unsuspecting passers-by. I’d be fuming about it if anyone did that in the street, let alone someone who is a guest in the country. Obviously, his fan base is ok with this sort of behaviour though (and indeed seem to love it) but for anyone with a few more years under their belt, he comes across as an arsehole of the highest order.

I often feel sorry for people who fall victim to the pitchfork and lighted torch mentality of the online mob. But, with Logan Paul clowning around at the expense of other people, he pretty much had it coming. The ‘Logang’ (as he calls his followers) still probably won’t care – indeed, his follower count has actually increased since the video – but if this is what the kids are interested in these days…well then, good luck, world.