In a video posted today to his channel, YouTuber Jake Paul speaks with survivors of the tragic school shooting that took place last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as state senator Marco Rubio, in an awkward and at times tone-deaf new video that he hopes will help “activate parents and kids within their own schools and communities.”
In the video’s description, Paul “[vows] to be part of the solution and utilize my platform to raise awareness and action across the board,” but the execution is often clumsy and painful to watch. On his way to meet one of the students, he stares out the car window before noting that he just wants to “become homies with them and just be there for them.” When talking to a student whose shoes were visible in a now viral video from the shooting, Paul gravely asks “are these the shoes? Those are the shoes from the video?” Paul later promises to donate $25,000 “to help be a part of this cause,” but fails to mention exactly where that money is going.
His tips about how to make schools safer are thin, including adding “check-in points” to schools where students can be IDed before entering a building, or advising students to carry around portable bulletproof glass in their bags. Rather than focusing on stricter gun laws that control who and how people get access to weapons, Paul seems more concerned with pictures of guns on social media. He calls on “big social media companies” like Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram to help flag potential shooters.
“I know on Instagram, if a girl posts a picture with her nipples out, it automatically gets flagged and removed from Instagram and reported under a system. So why can’t we have that same technology with a kid taking a selfie with a handgun or a kid in a video killing animals?” asks Paul, who has an assault rifle tattooed on his thigh. “That should pop up on someone’s radar, and these big companies should have the moral responsibility to add that to their flagging systems.”
For contrast, look no further than Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students like Emma González, Cameron Kasky, or David Hogg, who continue to champion better gun laws with a tenacity and passion that promises more change than any of Paul’s efforts. In Paul’s own video, Kasky can be seen pushing Rubio: “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?” When Rubio deflects, Kasky persists, until Rubio finally admits “I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda. The influence of these groups comes not from money. The influences comes from the millions of people who agree with the agenda.”
Paul’s questions to Rubio show none of that determination, understanding, or grit. After greeting the senator with a casual “hey, what’s up man,” Paul begins his line of softball questioning: “I think like a lot of people think passing laws is super easy. Can you explain some of the struggles around passing laws?” “Is there anything that people can look forward to, is there something new that you’re working on, or is there something specific?”
Rubio says that the key in preventing these tragedies is to be proactive in finding these shooters before a tragedy occurs. “The best thing to do here is to stop someone before they even show up at the school and shoot it up,” Rubio says. It’s unclear exactly how he thinks this could be accomplished, and as a student from the Florida shooting points out later, authorities were warned about the shooter before the attack. Rubio later tells Paul that disagreements about gun laws existed before the Florida shooting, and will continue to well after. Paul recaps what he’s learned from his interview, which amounts to “Mr. Rubio is working on a couple of different laws” and that more legislative efforts need to be made locally.
It’s admirable for an influencer with a following as massive as Paul’s to try and use their platform for good. But his simplistic, uneducated view of gun control offers little to the complicated conversation around guns in America, and his softball questions to Rubio, which demonstrate a shallow understanding of the problems at hand, are a wasted opportunity. Like his brother Logan, who attempted to refurbish his image with a maudlin video aimed at suicide prevention after tastelessly filming the body of a suicide victim in Japan, Jake Paul’s efforts feel poorly thought out and questionable at best.