On Monday night YouTube star and viral sensation Jake Paul returned from a two-week vlogging hiatus with a documentary-style video on Parkland where he attempts to solve the country's plague of mass shootings.
The 21-minute long video racked up over 1.5 million views in a matter of hours. It shows Paul meeting with students who survived the massacre, their families, and a local commissioner. He even Skype calls with Sen. Marco Rubio.
Paul said that he traveled to Parkland after being incredibly moved and upset by the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Unlike his regular daily vlogs, this one is interspersed with news footage and shot documentary style. Somber music plays in the background as Paul stammers through the things he's learned on his trip.
This isn't the first time Paul has intervened in a national tragedy. He famously traveled to Houston after the floods to help those in need, and made a trip to help residents who suffered from the California wildfires.
While he’s been accused of capitalizing on horrific events for views, Jake earnestly does to want to help after disaster strikes. He's undeniably aware of his platform, and seems to think it grants him some super-human ability to fix things.
The star’s Skype call with Marco Rubio begins with him asking the Senator, "hey, what's up man?" Paul offers Rubio prompts like: "I think like a lot of people think, passing laws is super easy. Can you explain like, some of the struggles around passing laws?"
Questions like that are interspersed with video footage from the CNN town hall where Rubio was publicly lambasted by highly articulate Parkland students for continuing to take money from the NRA. The juxtaposition between the clips and Paul's sympathetic line of questioning makes it seem like Jake supports Rubio and wants to give him a chance to share his side.
Things devolve from there as Paul presents his five-point plan to combat gun violence, which he says was developed through conversations with students and their parents.
Nowhere in his plan does he address gun violence.
Instead, he suggests the following:
1. Install bulletproof windows, particularly inside classroom doors.
2. Put more law enforcement officers in schools.
3. Have social media and tech giants somehow identify potential shooters based on their Instagram posts, and alert authorities. “I know on Instagram if a girl posts a picture with her nipples out it gets flagged and reported on Instagram. So why can’t we have the same technology for a kid posting a selfie with a handgun?” Paul says.
4. Have kids carry bulletproof shields inside their backpacks.
5. Lock down high-school campuses with TSA-style checkpoints where kids are searched and forced to provide ID to enter campus.
After a social-media backlash, Paul took to Twitter to say that he does support some forms of gun control. He tweeted late Monday night that he supports ending gun shows, upping the age limit to purchase a gun to 21, and instituting a six-month training course and mental-health evaluation and a 30-day wait period for gun buyers,
Unfortunately, none of these suggestions were included in his video, the primary way he chose to address this issue and the one that the vast majority of his fans will see.
What Jake failed to realize is that unlike a natural disaster or a cause like "suicide prevention" championed by his disgraced brother, mass shootings are an inherently political issue. It's not enough to simply say we should "all come together for solutions" when people on different sides of the political spectrum hold radically different notions of what should or shouldn't be done to address the issue.
The reason the Parkland teens have gone viral is because they have leveraged social media to promote a direct political stance. The March For Our Lives taking place on March 24th is specifically aimed at rallying support for gun control measures. Jake vaguely mentions the march at the end of his video as a "march a lot of people are going to" but doesn't say anything about why it's important, what it hopes to achieve, or why people should go.
Paul, like many internet stars, has attempted to remain apolitical throughout his career. He never publicly endorsed a candidate for president, and lives a privileged life in a multi-million-dollar mansion in L.A. where he's shielded from many day to day issues plaguing the nation.
In February he spent time driving around with former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci, though even his fans don't know why or how that meetup was arranged.
Regardless of Paul's politics, his sudden decision to tackle gun control can be read as particularly rich given his own history of fetishizing and promoting firearms.
In a video uploaded less than a year ago in May 2017, Paul and members of his squad pose with automatic weapons which they later use to destroy a friend's car.
"We have 20 pounds of explosives, and we have machine guns,” Paul brags to his viewers.
He and a bikini-clad woman climb on top of a military vehicle and he poses shirtless with a massive gun. Shortly after, Paul and his friends compare the gun tattoos they all have up the length of their thighs.
When Paul tells a member of his group that he doesn't totally trust him to hold a firearm, his friend, Nick Crompton responds, "I do want to shoot people right now.”
A video Paul posted to Instagram stories that day shows him shooting a gun into the desert with the caption, "real men don't look at what they're shooting."
At no point in the video, or others Paul has posted where he shoots guns, does Paul raise the issue of gun control or gun violence, or issue any sort of disclaimer to his young audience.
After pledging $25,000 “be a part of this cause," Paul ends his Parkland video with the words, “By you showing this video to one other person, if it saves one life, then we are successful.”
But the video is unlikely to save anything other than his view count.