Students Weigh In on the Logan Paul Video Scandal

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In early January, YouTube star Logan Paul claimed he was making history when he posted a new edition to his vlog entitled “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest.” One of a series detailing the YouTuber’s trip to Japan, the video showed Paul and his crew hiking in Aokigahara, Japan, known as the “Suicide Forest.” There, he filmed the corpse of a man who had recently committed suicide. 24 hours and 6.3 million views later, Paul took the video down due to the severe backlash he received through social media. Everyone had an opinion on the controversial vlog, including Durham Academy students. 

An anonymous survey sent out to the Durham Academy Upper School found that while only 22% of students follow Paul’s vlog, about 95% of the 82 students who responded to the poll had heard of the scandal and had something to say about it. “I feel that taking a video of a suicide victim is a disgusting act in the first place, and posting it on YouTube for your own gain is something only the dregs of the earth would do,” one student explained. “Suicide and mental illness are serious things, and they shouldn’t be joked about and used for other’s gain.” 

Paul hadn’t intended to film a suicide victim, but he nervously joked about whether the victim was truly dead, and bragged about being the first to catch a suicide victim on camera. He did end the joking to apologize and state, “Suicide is not a joke. Depression and mental illness are not a joke. We came here with an intent to focus on the ‘haunted’ aspect of the forest. This obviously just became very real.” One student acknowledged how disconcerting the moment must have been for Paul: “He should have cut the video short and told his viewers why the video was so short. As someone who watched the video though, I do not think it is fair to say that he made jokes. He was in a very uncomfortable situation, and so he laughed. I do the same thing when I’m uncomfortable.” On the other hand, some students were unwavering in their criticism: “It trivializes suicide and makes a joke out of mental illness. Paul is self-centered, only focusing on how he feels and how filming the victim will boost his popularity. By filming the victim without consent from the family… Paul disrespects the victim, everything they’ve gone through, and the victim’s family as well.” 

Durham Academy’s student body was also divided on what would be an appropriate punishment for Paul’s actions. Since he posted the video, Google and Foursome have lowered his visibility and earning power on YouTube. Parents have blocked their kids from subscribing to his channel, viewers have vilified him, and other celebrities have publicly condemned his behavior.While almost 48% of DA students felt these consequences were acceptable, 10% believed the punishment was too extreme, and 43% believed it not extreme enough. Taking into account the video’s effect on Paul’s “Logang” (his fanbase), one student explained: “He deserves to be taken down from YouTube and have his voice taken away. He does this stuff pretty often, says some things that are not appropriate, and is not a good influence on children. The majority of his fan base will follow him and do anything he says. He has the power to control a huge mass of people and he thought it was funny to make fun of a suicide victim.” Another student agreed: “A lot of people are blindly defending him because they like his content, but this isn’t about whether or not he’s a good YouTuber– we aren’t insulting his comedy skills, we’re mad at him for trivializing the pain that person must have felt to have killed themselves.” 

However, some students called for forgiveness. One student said, “Everybody makes mistakes, especially someone who basically films every day of his life. [It’s] easy to get caught up in what is moral and right and what will get you views. I think that it was a learning moment, not a end to his career.” In response to Paul’s efforts to atone for his video, another student shared, “I think it is good that he has given $1 million to suicide prevention organizations and started a redemption campaign. I think he deserves a second chance.” 

His redemption campaign also included him posting a new video, “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow,” that features interviews with suicide survivors. A student who saw the video commented, “It’s hard to tell what his motivations are for making his newest redemption video, but I did watch it, and it definitely seems like it will help raise awareness for suicide [prevention]. I don’t think he will ever be forgiven by many people, but if he does continue to care about the cause in the months to come and truly changes himself, then his actions might be considered redeemable.” One student, though, wasn’t convinced: “The question is… whether Paul’s apologies are sincere or just more ploys for money and views. Personally, I feel as though [he is] not sincere at all. Although he might understand that his video was wrong, I’m sure that we’ll all see that within less than a month he’s gone back to disrespecting foreign cultures and causing scandals.” 

While time may be the only way to judge Paul’s sincerity, his video revealed how important it is to discuss suicide, especially with adolescents. According to Mental Health America, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Americans ages 15-24.Expanding on Paul’s new video, many students proposed ways to prevent suicide in their own community. One student suggested, “We all need to be looking out for each other. If any one of my friends considered suicide, I would hope that they would trust me enough to come talk to me. Nobody deserves to feel worthless and unwanted, [and] we cannot create that sort of environment at school, in our country, or in the world. Nobody should feel alone in [their] struggles either. People need to know that they are not alone and that there are other options than suicide.” 

Crisis Resource Information: 
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) 
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) 

North Carolina Crisis Line: