2018 has barely begun, but we’ve already got a candidate – if not a winner – for ‘idiot of the year’.
Unless you’ve missed it, a YouTuber by the name of Logan Paul (nope, me neither) went to a prominent suicide blackspot in Japan – nicknamed the ‘suicide forest’ - and unsurprisingly found a dead body. He then proceeded to film this in rather excessive detail and proceeded to upload it to YouTube (including a thumbnail image of the body) for the viewing pleasure of his impressionable 15 million subscribers.
It’s a story which, predictably, has gained a huge amount of attention around the world – with the majority of people criticising Mr Paul.
It really is remarkable that anyone, YouTuber or not, would think that such a stunt was a good idea.
Yet at no point did Mr Paul seemingly have any qualms about what he was doing. He certainly didn’t about filming, and even when he later had a chance to review the footage, still thought it was acceptable to post online. Many of his brainwashed fans have leapt to his defence, claiming it was a “mistake”.
No. This was no mistake. Mr Paul deliberately went to this area, and perhaps hoped he would be ‘lucky’ enough to see what he got. He perhaps reasoned that it would only aide him in gaining more views and more fame – a point on which I’ll return to later. It's not so much that Logan Paul's moral compass is broken - the idiot never had one in the first place.
This sorry story is yet another example of a problem that has become endemic at YouTube.
Do you remember, a thousand years ago, when YouTube as rather different to how it is now? Back in 2006, for instance, not long after the site was first launched, all you would find on there would be amusing cat videos and people recording themselves with grainy web cams dancing along to their favourite songs. It was a far more innocent time.
But as the site’s popularity increased, it became possible to become a ‘professional YouTuber’ – the type of person who earns their income from the number of views garnered from their videos. Quickly, this lead to all sorts of unsavoury and downright sociopathic individuals – who, in any other medium, wouldn’t have a hope in hell’s chance of becoming anywhere near as wealthy or successful – rising to prominence.
When they’re not being caught out for using racial slurs, or using their large numbers of followers to bully individuals or businesses that they feel have done them wrong, they’ll make videos. But the problem is that, whereas 12 years ago a video entitled ‘cool ski trick’ would get you several thousand views, today that’s not good enough. Everything has to be overly dramatic and over the top, so your skiing video would now be entitled something like “SKI TRICK GONE WRONG! (I NEARLY DIED!!!!)”
In desperation to remain relevant, and to gain your approval and validation which their fragile egos crave, YouTubers are now going to extreme lengths to stand out from an ever increasing crowd. Take this story from last year, where a young woman accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend and father of her young child in a YouTube stunt that went wrong. It’d be comical if it wasn’t so tragic.
All this leads back to Logan Paul’s video. Perhaps one of the worst things about it is that while the video was online, it was on YouTube’s ‘trending’ page for popular videos. It had already amassed several million views. Even worse is when you learn that Mr Paul removed the video himself (after receiving a ‘monsoon of negativity’ as he put it in a typically insincere apology) rather than YouTube. It leads to serious questions as to how the site is policed, and whether the individuals who make the most money for YouTube receive preferential treatment.
They’ll argue, of course, that when millions of videos are uploaded every single day it is impossible to spot offensive content immediately. To which the logical response is how was this particular video – which, as already mentioned, was on YouTube’s ‘trending page’ and from a guy with fifteen million subscribers - allowed to remain up as long as it was. And why didn’t YouTube remove it?
You imagine that if this video had been by regular Joe Bloggs, hoping to use it to gain a large following, it would have been removed far quicker and the person responsible permanently banned from the site. But for one of YouTube’s biggest ‘stars’, a guy who featured prominently in its yearly ‘rewind’ video? In the long run, it’s unlikely to have any great effect on him at all. He’ll return, eventually, and in a few months this incident will be but a distant memory. It already is to his young fans, who, worryingly, don’t seem to feel that what he did was that big of a deal.
That latter point is really the reason YouTube needs to send a strong message about this. Apologies and statements about ‘learning lessons’ just won’t cut it anymore. In the site’s still young history, this is perhaps its darkest, most shameful moment. You could even argue that Mr Paul has brought it into disrepute.
It will therefore be interesting to see what, if any, action YouTube takes. Unfortunately for the world, a permanent ban seems highly unlikely. There’s too much money and too many views that would be lost through that. But it would be no less than he deserves, and would send an overdue message to his ilk behaviour like that is not acceptable.
Maybe then we can finally get back to what the site used to be. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to watch some funny cat videos and reminisce about Crazy Frog.