Here is the news: Logan Paul, a social-media star with more than 16 million Instagram followers, recently visited Aokigahara, a dense forest known as the “Sea of Trees” on the northwestern side of Mount Fuji.
Aokigahara is beautiful, but also infamous; for at least a half-century, it has been a popular destination for people to attempt suicide. Soon after entering the forest, Paul encountered a man’s dead body, apparently killed by suicide, and he made it the centerpiece of a nervous video, apparently intended to be humorous, that he posted to YouTube on December 31.
“Yo, are you alive?” Paul shouts at the body, early in the video. “Are you fucking with us?”
The 15-minute video was taken down Tuesday. Since its posting, the familiar cycle of Horrific Internet Content has played out: scathing criticism from all sides; the deletion of the video from YouTube, an apology from Paul (defensive, in writing); a second apology from Paul (tearful, on camera); and finally a comment from YouTube. It would all feel routine if not for the macabre video at the center, which highlights the lack of oversight in the online fame machine.
First, though, the video itself. Paul is an avid video blogger, and he posts a new video almost daily, but viewers are told straight out that it is something different. “This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted to this channel,” Paul said in an introduction to the video, according to New York Magazine. “I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history because I’m pretty sure this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever. Now with that said: Buckle the fuck up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!”