Even Logan Paul’s comeback tour sucks. The brawny social media star who built an image around being a maverick was shamed early last month when a YouTube video crassly showcasing a suicide victim in Japan convinced the internet that he was an insensitive an arsehole. Scorched by nearly universal criticism, he took a break from his daily video uploads to supposedly reflect on his behavior. A month later, he is back, but his new stunts don’t show that he has learned much at all.
The first item on Paul’s agenda was to make it look as if he had taken his mistakes to heart. In a late January video titled “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow,” He got together with mental health experts to discuss suicide. The entire thing was uncomfortable, as it made Paul seem even more clueless. Did he really need an extended explanation of why suicide isn’t a joke? But the deeper problem was how much the video betrayed the spirit of YouTube. Video creators on YouTube thrive through the veneer of rawness, honesty, and realness. The quiet, concerned Logan Paul in this footage didn’t seem genuine, instead coming across as if he’d been media trained by a public relations team. The whole thing was a little too Hollywood, as if Logan was going on a redemption tour.
So, Paul switched up his strategy. When he appeared on Good Morning America on February 1, he pushed for the narrative that massive blowback against his video had made him a victim. “It’s been tough because, ironically, I’m being told to commit suicide myself,” Paul said. “Millions of people literally telling me they hate me to go die in a fire like the most horrible horrific things.” That sound bite that was mocked on media websites and on YouTube.
A few of days later, Logan hopped back into the vlogging saddle in a video where he started poking fun at the controversy. He jokingly had a narrator call him a disgraced YouTuber, followed by footage of him hiding his face from the paparazzi. Then he fought back against the narrator, reminding viewers that he gained a million subscribers while he was away (he’s at 16 million now). Later, he gleefully noted that while tons of people have told him to go die, it’s all still engagement. On the internet, all social media interaction is good interaction as far as our algorithm overlords are concerned. I called this a month ago, but it is inarguable that this controversy has only made Logan Paul even bigger.
Otherwise, everything that made Logan Paul Logan Paul was back: exaggerated mannerisms, the screaming, and hype that is devastatingly good at masking that nothing of substance is actually happening on-screen. Logan, by sheer force of his enthusiasm, promised that his return signaled the era of boring YouTube content. He was, at the time, drawing a dick in the sand.
In this video, we can see the true trajectory of Logan Paul’s comeback plan. Apologising, making people feel sorry for him, joking about it, lapping it all up: these all had their place, sure. Paul recently uploaded a video, for example, where he puts on a disguise and asks students what they really think about him. It’s entertaining, yes, but it’s also a reminder of his fuck-up.
To change the subject, what Paul really needed is a villain, someone to fight against. On YouTube, viewers love nothing more than a good beef. Nearly every big YouTuber, from Pewdiepie to Jacksepticeye, has played-up a rivalry for entertainment before. Paul’s entire YouTube fame comes down to him fighting against his brother, Jake Paul, through cringe-worthy rap videos and Jackass-style pranks. The more Logan pretended to fight against his brother, the more his viewers became invested in his storyline, and the more other YouTubers talked about his existence. This is how both the Paul brothers exploded on YouTube and became notorious.
You see an inkling of this spark in Paul’s earliest return video, where he claims that media outlet We The Unicorns took a clip of one of his videos about his shenanigans in Japan out of context and made it look worse than it actually was. He may have bought a Game Boy, smashed it on the ground, and then tried to return it, as he did in one video that was viewed 8.1 million times, but what they didn’t show was that the portable legitimately didn’t work before the theatrics began. He didn’t actually return the Game Boy, he claimed—he just pretended try for a funnier vlog. The insinuation was clear: the media can’t be trusted, guys.
Of course the problem with that framework is that, even if Paul is right, there are plenty of other clips of him going on an insensitive rampage in Japan. He can’t really convince anyone that the mainstream media got him all wrong. Fortunately for Paul, a different enemy has surfaced.
To change the subject, what Paul really needed is a villain, someone to fight against.
Earlier this month, the internet was collectively eating popcorn as two big YouTubers, KSI and Joe Weller, transferred their virtual feud into a real-world boxing match complete with a championship belt on the line. It was a terrible fight by boxing standards, but it didn’t matter. Over 20 million people have watched two YouTubers flail inside of a ring. KSI won and then proposed a new battle: “If any YouTuber wants [the belt], you can come get it,” KSI said. “Jake Paul, Logan Paul, any of the Pauls, I don’t care. Bring it.”
The Pauls are happily obliging. Over the last week, the brothers have produced three videos responding to KSI’s confrontation. Both of the Pauls keep trying to act as if the confrontation is beneath them, often referring to KSI—a well-known YouTuber with 17 million subscribers as his own—as anything from PSI to KFC, in an attempt to pretend not to know who he is. As an added insult, the Pauls initially tried to make it sound as if they were going to make their dad, Greg Paul, box in their stead. “It’s a little below me to fight this kid,” Jake Paul said. “I don’t fight people. I destroy people.”
Since then, the circus has merrily gone on its way to producing another showdown. Jake Paul has clips where he’s training for the eventual fight, and his dad has flown down from Ohio to join the festivities. KSI’s brother, ComedyShortsGamer, threw his hat into the ring by calling Jake Paul a “pussy,” prompting the Pauls to change the terms of the fight. Now, the Pauls say, they’re willing to fight brother to brother, even dad to dad if possible, so long as KSI adheres to the following rules:
If the Pauls win, they’ll donate their winnings to charity. But, they say, they’ll only participate if this is a higher-stakes fight—no headgear, MMA-style. (Such a fight would have to be sanctioned by an athletic commission.) But perhaps the biggest benefit to winning this fight is the merch stipulation. Since Logan Paul was taken off Google’s “Preferred” advertising platform thanks to his suicide video, his earnings on YouTube have gone down. In his comeback videos, Paul repeatedly reminds the viewer of this fact, and asks people to buy more merch to offset his losses. The possibility of having another big YouTuber repping the winner’s wares to a huge audience for a month could be worth a lot of money.
While the Paul brothers continue to berate KSI for being irrelevant, the clash is a blessing for them both. The fight wouldn’t happen for weeks or even months, which means the build-up for it has only begun. And unlike the perpetual Logan versus Jake ruse, this fight carries some weight, a sense of realness. Someone might get hurt. Whatever happens, and even if you dislike everyone involved in this stunt, you’re going to hear about it all the same. Maybe you’ll even tune in.
Better yet, folks aren’t talking about the suicide forest nearly as much now.