Not Good Guys vs Bad Guys (362)

I’d never heard of the term “vlogger” until this past week. Apparently, a “vlogger” (a video blogger) is someone who makes videos, posts them on social media, and somehow monetizes that into a paying job. Anyway, there’s a young man named Logan Paul who has quite an internet following, making a good living sharing videos of his adventures. During a recent visit to Japan, Mr. Paul, spent time at a national forest near Mt. Fuji. While hiking through this vast forest, Paul encountered the hanging body of a man who had committed suicide. He uploaded a video of the scene on YouTube last month, blurring the face of the young man, but on the audio portion of his video one could hear Mr. Paul and his companions making light of the situation.

The response was swift and merciless from the internet and Mr. Paul quickly took down the video and posted the following mea culpa: “I made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement, and I don’t expect to be forgiven. None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should have never posted the video. I should have put the cameras down. For my fans who are defending my actions, please don’t. They do not deserve to be defended.”

Of course, such behavior is indefensible. It was rude and insensitive to the man’s family and to all those who viewed the video on the internet. Period. Full stop. My interest, however, is in many people’s reaction to Mr. Paul. Some threatened to “rip his throat out.” Others suggested he “go hang himself” or made comments like “you’re the worst person ever.” Many reactions were in that vein, all shaming and condemning Mr. Paul. Again, what he did was wrong, but so many of those who responded have done so from a moral pedestal that they don’t deserve (none of us do), meting out Pharisaic pronouncements for how Mr. Paul can both fix himself and the situation.

And here’s the curious thing these kinds of situations present: People can feel self-justification for their own behavior by finding someone who has done something worse. So, they reflect: “I may have done something wrong, but look at what Logan Paul did, he’s much worse than me.” This is related to what psychologists call “splitting,” dividing the world simply into “good guys vs. bad guys,” and placing the other person in the “bad” category. Thus, by default, due to their perceived lesser “badness” than the other person, they find themselves (conveniently so) in the “good” category.

In our current socio-political climate, this practice is running amok. Our President does this “splitting” regularly by calling people “disgraceful” who criticize an action of his. He then points to what he says are their worse actions without addressing the merits of their criticism. But he by no means is the only perpetrator of this. He’s merely reflecting a practice across the socio-political spectrum. All this shows a lack of empathy, humility, and compassion for others who, like us, share the human condition. To remedy this, we don’t need to become moral relativists. As I wrote, it’s quite right to say what Mr. Paul did was wrong (and it will always be), but to do so from a place of emotional and spiritual maturity, recognizing our own capacity for thoughtlessness and insensitivity. Without such an epiphany, we all remain emotionally immature and spiritually stunted.



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