Perhaps in an older, analogue world where movies were checked by an army of producers, executive producers and assistant directors before being seen by millions, someone would have noticed they were blanking out the swearwords but showing the dead body of a man who had killed himself.
This, though, was the virtual reality of vlogging “goofy” hunk-next-door Logan Paul, unknown to adults over 30, loved by the kids and the big brand advertisers who target them, net worth a reported $14m (£10.3m).
So Paul went into Japan’s Aokigahara ‘suicide forest’ wearing his kooky three-eyed alien hat, spotted the body – and giggled.
“F***ing craziest moment of my life!
“Me smiling and laughing,” he assured the camera, “Does not ... err … Is not a portrayal of how I feel about the circumstances … If you guys haven’t noticed, I cope with things with humour.”
It was, perhaps, the kind of reaction you might expect from an immature, overprivileged – but not intentionally malicious – young jock, especially one playing up for his friends (virtual and real).
He did at one point put on a serious face and say “suicide is not a joke; depression and mental illnesses are not a joke”.
And it’s pretty certain the 22-year-old didn’t anticipate the fury that came when he uploaded the video for his 15 million YouTube subscribers.
And yet, if you scratch the goofy, not overtly bright dude exterior, you might find there is something more studied about Logan Paul than the jock vocabulary and alien hat suggest. Perhaps a lot more studied.
Paul doesn’t just describe himself to his 3.9 million Twitter followers as “goofy dude”. It’s “goofy dude with BIG goals”. And in July 2015, aged 20, enjoying the first flush of internet fame, he described those goals to an interviewer.
“I want to be the biggest entertainer in the world,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Perhaps that included learning the art of the celebrity apology.
Read his post-Twitter storm statement with older, more jaded eyes than those of his fanbase, and you might possibly wonder whether someone – his big-hitting LA agent, his manager, his Hollywood attorney, Paul himself? – has applied a lot of knowing PR gloss to it.
“I didn’t do it for views,” he wrote. “I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.”
Yes, he was misguided, but you see he was also thinking: “If this video saves just ONE life, it’ll be worth it.”
As well as his Twitter statement, Logan Paul issued a video apology
Maybe, despite what older generations think when they see the output, a social media star like Logan Paul doesn’t get the money to buy his $6.55m LA mansion by accident.
Perhaps we should look more closely at the video he shot outside that mansion on the night he bought it last October. Although you might like to fast-forward past the part where the young millionaire laughs uproariously about spending $12,000 on Gucci clothes, pauses briefly to pee on his brother’s truck and adds: “I know we joked about being homeless a lot, and we were. But I found this house.”
When he was 15, says Paul, suddenly serious and accompanied by “inspirational” soundtrack music, “I wrote down on a piece of paper, like 100 times, ‘I will be more successful than anyone else.’ I was 15 guys, in Ohio.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I just knew I wanted to be ‘more successful than anyone I know’. I kept pushin’ and pushin’ and pushin’ to make that happen.”
And so he tells the 5.8 million people who have seen the video that they too can “do whatever the f*** you want, bro” – before closing, of course, with an enthusiastic plug for his clothing range.
Which might give an insight into how and why Logan Paul has, at least until his latest vblog, been “frickin’ livin’ a life of my dreams”.
Because by some measures, he seems to have become more successful than even the most successful people he knows – the ones he began rubbing shoulders with in 2014 when he dropped out of university, and moved to LA to share an apartment complex with other stars of Vine, the now defunct smartphone on which he first made his name.
Back then, Andrew Bachelor, aka King Bach, was the most popular person on Vine with more than 12 million followers.
Now, King Bach has 9.5 million Facebook followers and a total of more than 3 million YouTube subscribers. Not bad, until you consider that Paul’s numbers are now 16 million on Facebook and 15 million on YouTube.
Paul has always been backed by his family, including his estate agent father and his younger brother, Jake, now 20, who has also moved to LA and faced controversy. (Stunts like setting fire to furniture in an empty swimming pool generated clicks from Jake’s 12 million YouTube subscribers and the threat of a class-action public nuisance lawsuit from his wealthy neighbours.)
In LA Logan Paul also acquired the agent, the manager and the entourage – after, he says, watching an Entourage TV series boxset to work out what they all did.
But driving ambition, it seems, has ensured he has never let all the hard work be done for him.
“What separates Logan,” his manager Jeff Levin once told Adweek, “is his work ethic.”
It was there in his apology, when he said: “I do this sh*t ever day. I’ve made a 15-minute TV show EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 460+ days.”
And don’t think a 15-minute video equate to 15 minutes work. He may specialise in slapstick and goofy guy gormlessness, but Paul can spend hours setting the videos up.
He told one interviewer who noticed how meticulous he was about creating arrow-straight lap lanes for a slapstick electric scooter race: “One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re trying to be good on social media is skimping on props or setting or production equipment. If you don’t have the right setting, you shouldn’t bother.”
And yet the audience – and therefore the brands – love it because it all looks so unplanned and chaotic.
A Hollywood movie star would seem too polished, too A-list ever to slip on a banana, let alone do a comedy backflip in the process. Young “influencers” like Paul can make it seem hilariously believable.
And so his agent Paul Cazers can say, with perhaps only slight exaggeration, that his client is “this generation’s teen idol,” attracting crowds of adoring young fans “like the Beetles in the Sixties”.
“They’re the new rock stars with a bigger audience than old Hollywood ever had a chance to access,” Cazers told CBS News in 2016. “If you take someone like Logan, he’s got over five billion video views across all his platforms. I mean, it’s a staggering number.”
And those audience numbers, of course, mean money to advertisers, and to the star himself.
Which may explain why on Paul’s business website, the first thing you come to – after scrolling down from a picture of the “actor/director/entertainer” himself – is the statistic: “48.7 million total reach”, made up of subscribers or followers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat.
He has done digital promotion campaigns for Dunkin’ Donuts, Nike and Pepsi, among others.
With social media reach as powerful as his, Forbes magazine estimates that Paul can charge $80,000 for advertiser-sponsored content on Instagram, and $150,000 per Facebook post.
Which does make you wonder about those saying Paul is now finished – even if the “Logan Paul Just Ended His Career” video has itself become a social media sensation, with 2.5 million views in 24 hours.
Will the brands really want to abandon such a powerful marketing tool, especially now that he has issued that apology?
Nor does Paul himself does seem the type to be easily crushed. “Here’s the thing about haters,” he told Business Insider in 2015. “I don’t care. I’m very, very confident.”
Yet maybe there will be schadenfreude for the critics to enjoy. They might just have to wait a while.
Paul himself is well aware that, as he put it in 2016, “social media has a lifespan”.
Teenagers may love your goofy slapstick when you’re 22, 6ft1 and beautiful. But if you’re still doing the splits and calling yourself a “dude” aged 40, the kids will probably dismiss you as embarrassing.
Paul seems to know this. As his website makes clear, he didn’t leave Ohio to further his YouTube career; rather, he “moved to Los Angeles at age 19 in order to pursue entertainment beyond social media”.
There have been acting lessons, a guest appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but so far nothing to suggest he has achieved his stated aim of becoming one of the first social media stars to make the transition to old-style mainstream media success.
Perhaps a possible reason for this was suggested when the Business Insider interviewer watched him at an acting class in 2015.
She noted that when challenged to act the part of a man struggling with his girlfriend’s plan to have an abortion, Paul fell back on what he knew, trying to turn the scene into a “big, broad comedy” sketch worthy of one of his social media videos.
The suggestion, then, was that he couldn’t do serious. The suggestion now, after his trip to the Aokigahara forest, is that Paul still can’t do serious.
Does that mean that one day, all that ambition and 15-minute-video-a-day drive, all the wealth and hubristic talk of becoming the biggest entertainer in the world will come to nothing?
Paul, of course, has spoken of having a fan base that will “follow me to the ends of the Earth”.
But his fans can grow up. The question is: can he grow up with them?Reuse content
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube have created a super-team to tackle terrorism.
The fearless foursome currently face a tricky foe: public and government sentiment that their social licence could be revoked if they don't do something about their platforms being used to spread hate speech that radicalises users and incites them to violence, either through posts designed to recruit activists or encrypted messages used to plot atrocities.
Such an enemy can't just be blown away, so in recent weeks we've seen YouTube and Facebook explain how they'll detox their services.
While those solo efforts have been well-received, online companies clearly feel they need to team up. Hence the announcement of the “Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism” to “formalise and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN.”
The Forum says its efforts will “evolve over time as we will need to be responsive to the ever-evolving terrorist and extremist tactic” but for starters its members plan to “work together to refine and improve existing joint technical work, such as the Shared Industry Hash Database; exchange best practices as we develop and implement new content detection and classification techniques using machine learning; and define standard transparency reporting methods for terrorist content removals.”
Members will also share their research efforts and “work with counter-terrorism experts including governments, civil society groups, academics and other companies to engage in shared learning about terrorism.” They'll also share the fruits of their labours with smaller companies who may otherwise struggle to respond to terror-related content online, and develop counter-terrorism strategies.
There's no word on the resources the Forum's members will bring to bear on the tasks they've set themselves. Perhaps just forming the group was enough to address sentiments like UK prime minister Theresa May's statement, in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, that big internet companies give terrorism “the safe space it needs to breed.” ®
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