Rescue effort or photo op?
On Tuesday, Paul posted a video titled “This might have to be my last vlog…” as he excitedly explained that he had some “savage” plans in store for the next week. He was heading to Texas to “save people’s lives.”
It would not be his last vlog.
While many entertainers have made monetary donations in the last week, or helped people without vlogging about it, that’s not Paul’s style. He comes from the YouTube school where everything is fair game for clicks, from family drama (like making his wife and mother fight) to his haters. In July, Paul’s West Hollywood neighbors described his street as a “war zone,” involving couch fires and a constant stream of fans. That drama was turned into content. His savage plan to help people in need had to be a little self-serving to be on brand. “They need food, they need water, they need vlogs,” Paul says in his tone-deaf “farewell” video.
Paul, a former Disney Channel star, has a massive fanbase, creatively called the Jake Paulers. He has 10 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 2 million on Twitter. Once Paul blasted social media with his message, the fans descended. This is when being a famous YouTuber trying to escape recent bad press through disaster relief became problematic.
In Houston now. Going in on Jet skis. Will update y'all
Send prayers for these families
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) August 30, 2017
A video shows fans in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot storming his U-Haul truck, which was rented to gather supplies, and putting themselves in danger by jumping into ditches. Another shows Paul trying to drive through a crowd of frenzied fans. Footage from news station KENS 5 captures Paul scolding his fans for “acting like animals” and reminding them he’s not there for a meet-and-greet as someone on his crew films behind him. According to the San Antonio Express-News, Walmart was not aware that this mass of people would be convening there, and the lot was shut down, effectively closing the store to people who might actually need supplies. Police and the fire department were also called.
Paul said they filled two trucks with supplies, and fans happily tweeted about his good deeds. But other YouTubers disputed his claims and called him out for taking resources away from people in need.
In a video posted Thursday, Paul documented rescue efforts in Houston and shared an emotional message about what he saw in Texas. He also called for fans to buy merch.
It’s not clear how much good Paul actually did in terms of relief—we’ve reached out for comment.
H/T Washington Post