Remember Logan Paul? He’s that YouTube celebrity you’d probably never heard of until the beginning of the year, after his abhorrent decision to make a cutesy vlog featuring a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara went viral. It may have spurred you to suddenly check on what exactly your kids are doing on YouTube all day. It certainly made Paul, a 22 year old numbskull jock, the pariah of the internet for a short period of time. Well, it did but mostly with people who didn’t know who he was. His young, impressionable and zealous fan-base didn’t care about him cracking jokes with a corpse for views. Anyway, he took a brief break (a whole month, what a hero) and is now on the inevitable apology tour, starting with a serious sit-down on Good Morning America.
FULL INTERVIEW: YouTube star @LoganPaul speaks out, one-on-one with @MichaelStrahan. "I am a good guy who made a bad decision…I will think twice in the future about what I post." pic.twitter.com/5ju8WPA4HV— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 1, 2018
This is not a man who does sincerity, but props must go to the miracle workers in his PR team because they gave him the full house of the right things to say and the correct solemn tone to say them in. He even got a more serious looking haircut for the occasion. And he’s wearing a suit jacket! But with a t-shirt so you know he’s #onbrand.
I’m not sure who this apology is for. His fans didn’t care, his subscriber numbers never went down, and YouTube barely lifted a finger to condemn him. This entire operation is simply setting up future opportunities for the ‘star’. Internet fame is fleeting and the real money is with endorsements, sponsorships and traditional media deals. He does admit that the ‘controversy’ (you know, making a joke about a suicide victim while wearing an aliens from Toy Story hat) has hit his bottom line, but ‘it’s not like I’m drowning’ and that he tries ‘not to live my life thinking about money because money doesn’t make me happy.’ It’s true, money doesn’t make you happy, but when your potential monthly earnings are $1m a year, it certainly doesn’t hurt!
The thing is, for the most part, Paul says all the right things. He doesn’t cloak his apology in ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ or spinning it to make himself the real victim. He talks about getting death threats but doesn’t try to turn that into an excuse to dismiss the bad thing he did. He also crucially points out that parents shouldn’t be letting their kids mindlessly watch his stuff. I don’t buy it when he says he doesn’t think about those young fans when he makes his content - they’re his largest fan-base so I assume he must do on some level - but in terms of properly contextualizing his power and its consequences, it’s a good start.
But the other thing is that I don’t believe a word he says. It’s all so staggeringly insincere, made even more so when he starts talking about how the video ‘happened for a reason’. Michael Strahan asks if, at any point during filming or editing or organising the video, did he think that it was a bad idea, and Paul says yes, but claims his intention was to shock people into awareness of suicide prevention. Come on, do you buy that?
The entire video is so noticeably tame. Paul as we know him may be a public persona on some level, but it’s a knowingly crass and loud persona that he has crafted for the past few years to obnoxious perfection. His work is full of ‘pranks’ that border on sociopathic. He wants to upset then claim it’s all a joke or ‘awareness’. He wants to get up in people’s faces and mock them, all the better if he can do it in a country where English is not the primary language. So when he claims ‘I’m a good guy who made a bad decision’, when he veils the filming and mockery of a suicide victim for clicks as a ‘lapse of judgement’, I don’t buy it. ‘Lapse of judgement’ is a phrase reserved exclusively for celebrity non-apologies.
But as I said, this doesn’t really matter. His fans never left him, the people who hate him were never giving him those views, and that effective facade of solemnity will probably be enough for sponsors and the like to return to his flock. He never suffered for what he did - he spent less than a month offline in his multi-million dollar mansion and now he’s wearing a suit jacket on GMA and talking about how sorry he is. I’m not sure what would be effective penance for his awfulness because I question whether we even have an understanding of his type of celebrity and how it effects the culture. He’s gonna be fine.