This word cloud is composed from comments pulled from the video Logan Paul posted after his highly controversial Japanese Suicide Forest vlog. The original video featured Logan and his friends going into ‘the suicide forest’ (otherwise known as Aokigahara, a real forest in Japan where hundreds of people have gone to commit suicide in recent decades), deliberately leaving the main trails, and stumbling across the body of a man who had clearly recently hung himself.
That video was taken down by Paul and reuploaded to YouTube multiple times by other accounts. As it is now gone, the apology video is the primary forum for discussion of the scandal and its aftermath.
Text analysis of over 2000 words of comments reveals the following trends:
- Top responses from fans/Logan Paul supporters indicate an individual forgiveness. Over 30 comments included I forgive you, and many addressed Logan by name. This suggests a fan/creator relationship that is experienced as a close relationship, with a sufficient degree of emotional intimacy (however one-sided) that the fans feel a personal need or desire to forgive Logan themselves. We can relate this back to the study done on PewDiePie’s use of English swearing to engineer a casual, friendly tone in his videos. Logan lets his viewers into his life and cultivates a sense of friendly intimacy, so his fans feel that they know him on a deep level.
- Make mistakes and makes mistakes show up a cumulative total of 14 times. Logan Paul’s most steadfast supporters carry the narrative that he made an error in judgment but he should not be condemned for it, nor should that single action be generalized into a statement about his broader personality, morals, or worth. Detractors argue that while recording the footage may have been a mistake, it takes substantial time to edit and publish a video, and in that time it went from being misguided to recklessly insensitive. There’s an intentionality fallacy in the argument from the supporters, as if to say, even though the video is widely regarded as offensive, it should not be interpreted as such because the creator did not intend to cause offense.
- Deserves a second chance appeared no fewer than 7 times, indicating an interest and willingness to put this incident in the past and resume viewership. A second chance implies that the incident will not be entirely forgotten– the next controversial event would be viewed more harshly in light of this one– but also says that, so far, Logan is on his first chance. As in, he had never made a comparable mistake prior to this scandal. His videos predicate themselves on attention-getting behavior, and provoking drama is a key strategy, which makes the ‘he made a mistake’ line a hard one to swallow. The concept of ‘keyfabe’ can be brought into play here– the existing fans have been in on the joke for any other incident thus far and do not take issue with prior actions, whereas someone coming in whose only impression of Logan Paul is derived from external sources, usually covering some kind of drama surrounding him, will be predisposed to see him negatively. Two different types of audience or level of familiarity, two different interpretations.
- The phrase he said he’s sorry in some variation or another is used around 8 times. This word choice suggests that his apology should be enough and that the issue should henceforth be put to rest, or at least that those who disparage Logan Paul ought to take into account the fact that he said sorry before criticizing him.
Looking at the text of comments from the follow-up video, “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow”, some more trends arise.
In this analysis, the ‘second chance’ and ‘made a mistake’ lines are still running through the comments, but there are some additional layers.
- We all make mistakes/no one is perfect. Not only does this continue to reduce his problematic actions to ‘a mistake’ or ‘mistakes’, but it is also reflecting back at the detractors in the comment section. In these comments it is even more clear that the supporters are arguing against those who are still “hating” Logan Paul. This kind of appeal might be a type of whataboutism, as though the commenters are suggesting that it is hypocritical to judge Logan Paul because those who are making judgments have, themselves, done things worth judging.
- Trying to change/step in the right direction. These are indicators that the fans are already preparing to not only put this incident behind them, but argue that Logan Paul has actually improved or grown as a result of the controversy and associated fallout. On a similar note, many of the I hope this experience and proud of you for comments are beginning to congratulate and even thank him for having learned a difficult lesson, and made positive changes as a result. “Respect” and “mature” come up in the top 150 most-used words in the comment sample.