COMMENT: Defending celebrity cult icons like Trump, McGregor and Logan Paul is a toxic cycle
I never met my grandfather.
The most vivid image I have of him is the picture that hangs in my office of him smiling, pulling a pint behind his local bar.
He passed away just before I was born after multiple attempts at taking his own life. On the fatal day he succeeded, they found him, alone, and not on the internet hours later streamed to millions of people around the world.
The man 22-year-old YouTuber Logan Paul filmed was not afforded the same dignity when they found his body in the Aokigahara forest on the northwestern flank of Japan's Mount Fuji.
"What, you never stand next to a dead guy?" Paul quipped.
Before a woman next to him said: "We joke about seeing things in here, this was going to be a joke."
However ill-advised their plan of going into a forest, internationally known as one of the world's most popular suicide sites, to joke about the 'haunted' aspect of that location may be, to film, laugh on camera around a corpse and then publish said video to millions of people with the caption 'this video isn't monetized "Logansters"', is an even greater example of egregious stupidity.
But the video is orchestrated by a guy who films himself squeezing a bottle of ketchup into his friends' drinks.
A guy who drives around Los Angeles antagonising motorists until they want to fight him so that he can then ultimately profit from their anger.
A guy who screams 'Good morning Hawaii' from a hotel balcony at 4.53am before spending the rest of his day 'dabbing' with Kevin Hart.
Clip via TheOfficialLoganPaul
Stupidity isn't something you just wake up to one day, it manifests and develops over time and is justified in this instance by monetary gain, which invariably leads to fulfilling the most coveted goal of having a "dope life". How fitting.
Paul, and his younger brother Jake, who claims to have the most 'lit' channel on YouTube, are super-sized attention seekers, and in a different generation, their stupidity would only be limited to those that came into physical contact with them.
However, in 2018, they're able to effectively bypass traditional media outlets and expose their unique brand of toxicity to millions of people, most of them kids, around the world.
That is a problem, and an issue YouTube, and other social media platforms will have to bear responsibility for when it goes horribly wrong, but while Twitter is busy verifying Nazis, and Facebook are coming to grips with the fact that Russian bots used their site to help influence a United States Presidential election, the cult icon thrives.
Paul has a rabid fanbase, and while mainstream media outlets, and celebrities such as Sophie Turner and Aaron Paul excoriated him this week for his Aokigahara forest video, his fans - also known as the 'Logang' - rushed to the defence of their embattled hero.
"You don't need to apologize you brought up awareness and I have mental disorders and it actually encouraged me because I felt like u cared," wrote user Dj Crimson.
logan paul’s fans in the middle of a super complicated philosophical debate pic.twitter.com/uDSnt3h0SZ
— k e i t h 🐤🥔 (@KeetPotato) January 2, 2018
— KEEM 🍿 (@KEEMSTAR) January 2, 2018
.@ameliargh is one of the few journalists writing critically about YouTubers and their astounding cultural impact. The most troubling aspect of this story is how Logan Paul's fans continue to defend him; that's how far his influence reaches. https://t.co/5RrE5M8h0H pic.twitter.com/5YYeq2v2q1
— Anna Codrea-Rado (@annacod) January 3, 2018
But this is what happens with Logan Paul, with Conor McGregor, with Donald Trump, and with any other divisive cult icon.
When they say or do something that is offensive, insensitive or obscene, the base rallies around their hero on social media and attempts to shield them from the criticism, which, in Paul's case, was met with him asking his fans to stop defending his actions, and in Trump's case, usually provides him with vindication for his.
With regards to McGregor, each act is met with a more puzzling and more indefensible defence by his loyal band of followers.
'He didn't know he was being filmed' was a common excuse after he was caught on camera repeatedly calling Andre Fili a 'faggot'.
'He was just celebrating with his teammate' was the apparent justification for him scaling the cage during Charlie Ward's fight with John Redmond at Bellator 187.
'What was he supposed to do? The guy was trying to push him off the cage' was a typical response for McGregor striking Bellator official Mike Johnson after Johnson pleaded with McGregor to get down off of the cage following Ward's win.
As Ewan MacKenna wrote in October: "We've been subjected to the usual insulation by some of his followers as they surround their man in bubble wrap. If he burnt down your house they'd tell you he's lowering your heating bills."
But it's not only those that defend the indefensible that are concerning, it's also those that garner inspiration from the source.
Logan Paul inspires younger brother Jake to become a YouTube star, who in is his latest video titled 'I Lost My Virginity...', repeatedly advertises a site called 'www.edfluence.com' where he encourages viewers to visit if they want to "have their own YouTube channel, become social media famous and live the life of your dreams", which, of course, was uploaded just days after the dream his brother sold turned into a nightmare.
In MMA, McGregor has inspired a host of imitators trying to duplicate his blueprint to varying degrees of success.
Lightweight contender Kevin Lee has gained some traction after mimicking McGregor's style while welterweight Colby 'Chaos' Covington, the man who said that Brazil was a “dump” and that their people were “filthy animals” last year, is still trying to iron out some of the chinks in his own imitation after he was locked down by security in his hotel room following his post-fight comments from his win over Demian Maia.
As for Trump, well, he's inspired the alt-right, xenophobes everywhere and a general hatred among his base for the MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA, who will apparently be 'rewarded' next week.
I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
It's a dangerous cycle because the perpetrator is often rewarded rather than reprimanded.
YouTube said that Paul's video broke their rules and that it would remove any posts that were of a similar nature.
It bans "violent or gory content". It said, specifically, that it will not tolerate that which is posted "in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner". It did not say it would ban Paul, however, whose fame continues to grow in the interim.
McGregor called Russian-born German mixed martial artist Dennis Siver a Nazi on Twitter, said that he would invade Jose Aldo's favela on horseback in a different time and would kill anyone that was not fit to work, and called Nate Diaz a 'cholo gangster' before UFC 196.
After every insult, his fights became bigger and more lucrative.
Donald Trump said that he likes the US war veterans that weren't captured, he was caught saying that he 'just grabs women by the pussy', whilst having multiple accusations of sexual assault or harassment against him, and he was rewarded by the American public with the 45th Presidency of the United States.
Each example is entirely different to the next, but a culture has definitely emerged where people overlook reckless behaviour in favour of what they perceive that person to be before defending that perception vigorously on social media.
Paper magazine's 2014 winter issue, with the cover shot of Kim Kardashian by Jean-Paul Goude, set out to #BreakTheInternet.
Less than four years later, it still needs serious mending.