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Logan Paul made his return to YouTube on Wednesday with a seemingly heartfelt suicide prevention video. He pledged a $1 million donation to suicide awareness organizations and to make a new start as a YouTube star—and as a human being.
But not everybody believes Paul’s redemption story, and plenty of YouTube stars have lashed out at Paul for what they’re calling nothing more than a public relations stunt.
Paul stoked international anger this month when he filmed and posted a video of a dead body hanging in a Japanese “suicide forest,” and the consequences have been severe. He’s been dismissed from the Google Preferred program, costing him a big chunk of his YouTube payouts, and lost a YouTube Red series role.
But after a three-week absence from his channel, which has 16.2 million subscribers, Paul returned to interview a suicide survivor and vow to help make a difference in suicide prevention.
Paul seemed earnest in the video and honestly impacted by the story of Kevin Hines, a man who tried to kill himself at the age of 19 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But many on Twitter weren’t quite as moved by the video, and some claim Paul hasn’t changed at all.
YouTuber Rob Dyke (2.7 million subscribers) seemed perturbed and lashed out at Paul on Twitter.
I think Logan Paul still doesn’t get it. This isn’t about your journey to understanding suicide. It isn’t about making a short film where you’re—yet again—the star. Way to commercialize this even further. No normal person needs to be taught compassion for suicide victims.— Rob Dyke (@TheRobDyke) January 24, 2018
Like here’s a thought. Maybe go and talk to people without cameras and lighting and voice overs and a crew of people and probably catering lol like what? Just doesn’t feel at all genuine. I am always happy to forgive someone. But this...this just feels MTV to me.— Rob Dyke (@TheRobDyke) January 24, 2018
Going to therapy, connecting with people who can provide perspective, and discussing your experiences with those things with your audience like a human being would’ve been way better than this. I feel Logan Paul has entirely lost his humanity. His whole life is cameras/acting.— Rob Dyke (@TheRobDyke) January 24, 2018
Exactly. The money he’s donating is great (he’ll probably find a way to make it into a tax write-off let’s not forget lol) but this would’ve seemed way better if it were just a vlog with these people. Like the dude called up a production crew. A PR team. Doesn’t seem genuine. https://t.co/0fBYlSrKMX— Rob Dyke (@TheRobDyke) January 25, 2018
Dyke wasn’t the only one who thought Paul’s pensive gazes were phony.
Where can I get my 3D printed sad Logan Paul, @loudmouthjulia ?— Charlie Hall (@Charlie_L_Hall) January 25, 2018
Me after watching logan paul's video pic.twitter.com/FjB9gkwbSG— Bradlee (@OfficialBradlee) January 25, 2018
Musician and YouTuber Jimmy Wong had other questions about the video.
Hey @LoganPaul, first off thank you for your video on suicide awareness. Trust, we are grateful you used your platform to teach your audience about an important issue, but let's take a step back here, and look behind the PR team that made this. - https://t.co/LUu2prOuSV (thread)— Jimmy (@jfwong) January 24, 2018
Wong expanded on that by writing, “After you posted a vlog to 6 million views using a suicide victim’s body and image as clickbait, we started diving into your past videos/tweets to see the number of ways you have continually treated and used other people as props and accessories for your success/attention. The MAIN issue, obviously, was not just this single case of your gross usage of a suicide victim, but rather that you have a behavioral and mental problem to do this sort of thing non stop. It’s been continually happening for your entire career and we finally slowly realized it.”
Wong said he hoped Paul would have used his time away from the platform to reflect on how his actions affect others. Instead, Wong wrote, Paul’s latest video suggests that he and his “PR machine” are still being deliberately manipulative and “just covering your ass.”
So I'm putting you on the spot @LoganPaul - if you are truly changing, then it should show in every video you make from here on out. It DOES NOT END with a well timed PR piece, where you wash your face and hands in slowmo, have a new haircut, and speak with a somber affectation.— Jimmy (@jfwong) January 24, 2018
Casey Neistat and others, meanwhile, were a little more optimistic about Paul’s future plans.
.@LoganPaul has a long way to go and people are right to continue to question his motives but today's video was a thoughtful first step. hopefully this is part of a true effort to move on from sensationalist content - https://t.co/VqU5q97jKi— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) January 24, 2018
A man tries to make the first steps to do something good despite his wrongdoings yet the internet stjll crucifies him for trying to do something good after his big mistake. Give the man a chance. Logan Paul can do Great things if he wants to with his following.— George Benson (@MrGeorgeBenson) January 25, 2018
Either way, Paul’s video has clearly made an impact. In the 24 hours since he posted his attempt at redemption, the video garnered more than 10 million views (with 1 million likes and 231,000 dislikes). And whatever Paul posts next, you can be sure there will be plenty of supporters and critics who weigh in with their opinions about his intent.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.