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A Discourse Analysis on Logan Paul’s Apologies: Are They Apologetic Enough?

Authors:
A Discourse Analysis on Logan Pauls Apologies:
Are They Apologetic Enough?
1st Poppy Amalia Binraya
English Studies Program, Faculty of
Humanities
Universitas Indonesia
Depok, Indonesia
poppy.amalia@ui.ac.id
2nd Yasmine Anabel Panjaitan*
Linguistics Department, Faculty of
Humanities
Universitas Indonesia
Depok, Indonesia
yasmine.anabel@ui.ac.id
AbstractIn a world full of Internet sensations and
Internet scandals, a famous YouTuber named Logan Paul
raised to fame by bringing one of the biggest Internet
controversies in the beginning of 2018, which was the filming of
a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest. Although he later
apologized for his mistakes, the audience was not just
convinced by his words. In response to the criticism, he made
another apology. This study seeks to answer the questions:
Were his attempts apologetic enough?and What made
them apologetic or not apologetic? Several analyses have
attempted to examine whether his apologies were sincere or
not. However, none of these analyses analyzes his apologies
from the perspective of linguistics. To fill in this gap, this study
examines Logan’s apologies from a linguistic point of view. It
employs the qualitative method and frameworks by Blum-
Kulka, House & Kasper [1], Benoit [2], Schmitt, Gollwitzer,
Förster & Montada [3], Lutzky & Kehoe [4], and
Deutschmann [5]. The findings reveal that Logan’s first
attempt at apologizing was not apologetic enough, and that his
second apology was more apologetic.
Keywords Discourse Analysis on Apologies, YouTube Star,
Linguistics of Apologies, Logan Paul’s apologies
I. INTRODUCTION
In this modern era where people have easy access to
entertainment, online streaming platforms, such as YouTube,
rise to the occasion. Just like TV, YouTube also has its own
stars who have gained fame from the platform. They are
called YouTubers. One of the most famous YouTubers of the
current generation is Logan Paul. Before becoming a
YouTuber, he first gained his fame through a 6-second video
application called Vine, which shut down in 2016. By the
year 2017, Logan was “the fastest YouTuber in the history to
ever hit 10 million subscribers in 2017” [6].With almost 19
million subscribers, his name made its way to the “the 20
most powerful influential people on the Internet in 2018” list
[7]. With his slogan “be a maverick,” he is a living proof of
how being different and determined in what you do can get
you far in life.
He was praised by the world for his achievements, until
he got himself in trouble at the peak of his career. In the
beginning of 2018, Paul made quite a commotion by
exposing a dead body that he found in the Japanese Suicide
Forest while he was exploring it. This exposure infuriated
many people. The video received almost six million dislikes,
and Paul started losing subscribers within minutes after
uploading the video. People also expressed their
disappointment and disgust in the video’s comment section
as well as on Twitter. After receiving a wave of backlash,
Paul immediately took the vlog down and apologized
through his Twitter account. However, people were not
willing to forgive him just yet because of what he said in his
apology. A lot of people indicated that Paul seemed to be
very insensitive regarding the situation and that his apology
was terrible and self-centered. Many people on Paul’s
YouTube comment section seemed to think that he only
made the apology because he got called out for his ignorant
behavior and did not seem to regret it at all. On the same day
when he posted his first apology, another attempt of apology
was made in a nearly two-minute video. Even though his
second attempt of apology seemed to be better than the first
one, the audience was once again not convinced. The reason
as to why people were not convinced was the fact that Paul
monetized his apology video, and many were “questioning
whether the YouTube personality [was] really sorry at all”
[8]. After receiving the backlash of his second apology, Paul
decided to demonetize the video.
Apologies, such as what Paul attempted to deliver, have
been widely studied by experts across various fields. Most of
the existing studies about apologiesincluding the ones
written by Page [9], Ancarno [10], and Sandlin & Gracyalny
[11]use the theory of image repair strategies by Benoit
[2]to examine whether an apology is successful or not. To
analyze Logan Paul’s apologies, this study combines
Benoit’s strategies with other theories, namely the five verbal
components of an interpersonal apology by Schmitt,
Gollwitzer, Förster & Montada [3] and the pragmatic
components of an apology by Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper
[1]. The frameworks of these theories are meant to reveal the
common apologetic factors that are present or missing from
Paul Logan’s attempts.
This study examines Paul’s written apology and videos
taken from his personal Twitter [12] and YouTube [13]
accounts. Unlike similar researches by Ancarno [10] and
Page [9], which incorporate people’s responses to explore
how they contribute to the success and sincerity of an
apology, this study only focuses on underlining the linguistic
features of an apology. To be more specific, it investigates
the elements of an affective interpersonal apology that may
or may not exist in Paul’s apology tweet and video. In
addition to the frameworks, it also employs Lutzky &
Kehoe’s [4] Illocutionary Force Indicating Devices (IFIDs)
to find words that collocate with “sorry” without actually
including the word “sorry. Lutzky & Kehoe [4] used IFIDs
to help them analyze one particular word, which was oops,
to help them determine whether the word was actually used
to mean sorry and if it was actually acceptable to the
audience. Similarly, in this study, IFIDs are used to list down
the words that are found in Paul’s apology and to put them in
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 453
Proceedings of the International University Symposium on Humanities and Arts (INUSHARTS 2019)
Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Atlantis Press SARL.
This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license -http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. 101
six categories without including the word “sorry. These
categories are: expression of remorse, acknowledgment of
the offense, explanation of the account, offering for repair,
asking for forgiveness, and others. The IFIDs are also used to
help analyze words that are still unclear in terms of who Paul
was addressing them to.
The main objective of this study is to answer the
questions: Were his attempts apologetic enough? and
What made them apologetic or not apologetic?
II. METHODS
This study used the qualitative method to analyze Logan
Paul’s apologies. The data were gathered from Paul’s
apologies on Twitter [12] and YouTube [13], which were
both posted on 2 January 2018. For purposes of this research,
data from the video were transcribed. The first stage of
analysis laid out the elements found in the apologies
according to pragmatics [1], image restoration discourse [2],
and verbal components of interpersonal apology [3]. These
frameworks were sorted based on the year the studies were
published, and their aim was to identify the missing
linguistic elements from the tweet and video apologies and
examine any improvements made in the video. By doing this,
we hope that the results will be able to determine whether the
second attempt of apology was necessary and if it was more
sincere and worth forgiving than the first one.
The second stage of the analysis involved making a list of
words that are found in both apologies without including
the word sorryusing Illocutionary Force Indicating Device
by Deutschmann [5]. In this second stage, the listed words
were categorized into six categories, which are: expression of
remorse, acknowledgment of the offense, explanation of the
account, offer for repair, asking for forgiveness, and
others.” The others” category was filled with words that
did not fit into any of the other five categories. These were
also words that were still unclear in terms of who Paul was
addressing them to; i.e., whether it is to the victim, to his
audience, or to himself. Using this same framework, this
study also attempts to explain the meaning and the possible
reasons as to why Paul used other words that cannot fit into
the categories above.
III. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
A. Results
Based on the data collected and on the analysis to
examine whether there was any difference or improvement in
Paul’s second apology, the following elements were found,
but unfortunately, they are still missing from both attempts
of apology.
TABLE I. ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL APOLOGY
Framework
Missing Elements
1st Apology
2nd Apology
Apology Within
Pragmatics [1]
1
1
Image Restoration
Discourse [2]
0
1
Verbal Components for
An Affective
Interpersonal Apology
[3]
3
Total
4
From these results, it can be concluded that there are
generally some improvements made in the second attempt of
the apology. Notably, there are expressions that are not
present in the tweet but are present in the video apology. For
example, in the tweet, there is no expression indicating that
Paul admitted the damage that he had caused. However, in
the video, he took time to explain the situation and address
those suffering from mental illness and were affected by his
actions. Improvements in terms of how he used polite
expressions, including “There’s a lot of things I should have
done differently, but I didn’t [], to admit his fault are also
found in the video. In the tweet, Paul admitted his fault by
simply saying, “For the first time in my life I’m regretful to
say I handled that power incorrectly.” He later made quite an
improvement in the video by saying that he should have
never done what he did and that there are things that he could
have done differently. He emphasized this by saying, “Like I
said, I’ve made a huge mistake.” Another element that has
also been improved in the video is the promise for
forbearance from Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper’s Apology
within Pragmatics [1]. In the tweet, Paul promised his
audience that the same mistake will never happen again
without promising that he will change his attitude as a person
altogether. However, in his second apology, Paul promised
to be better. Not only did he promise that, but he also
emphasized it by saying, “I will be better.” By that simple
repetition, Paul showed his determination to convince his
audience that he will change his attitude for the better. From
these analyses, we can conclude that his second apology was
necessary to cover up for the missing elements in the first
apology. Not only were the missing elements added, but Paul
also used a different tone and elaborated the things that he
should have explained further.
Looking at the ratio of elements that are found in the
tweet and the video, it looks like there are two more elements
missing from the tweet compared to the video, which only
has one element missing. Like it has been mentioned before,
Paul did not seem to be admitting his fault in the tweet, but
he later corrected this in the video by admitting his fault.
Another element that is missing from the tweet is the
expression of asking forgiveness. According to Schmitt,
Gollwitzer, Förster & Montada [3], saying “I’m sorry,”
which is an expression of remorse, is not simply the same as
asking for forgiveness. The meaning behind I’m sorry can
vary, depending on the situation. One can say “I’m sorry” to
give a response to bad news. However, if one is asking for
forgiveness, not only do they have to say “I’m sorry,” but
they also have to make it clear that they are asking to be
forgiven by the person affected by the damage. Notably, in
the video, Paul only stated that his intention was to apologize
for the damage he had caused and that he did not expect
anyone to forgive him. To analyze this expression, we need
to take a look at Austin’s [14] and Searle’s [15] theories on
speech acts. The study of speech acts concerns examining an
utterance together with the kind of acts that derive from it.
According to Austin [14] and Searle [15], there are three
layers of meanings in speech acts, which are: locutionary
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 453
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meaning, illocutionary meaning, and perlocutionary
meaning. To have an understanding of an utterance, one
must look past the locutionary meaning, which is the literal
meaning of the expression. In the video, Paul did say that he
did not expect to be forgiven, but the illocutionary and
perlocutionary meanings of his words imply otherwise. The
illocutionary meaning is the meaning that is the implicit
intention of a speaker when they are making an utterance. In
Paul’s case, the intention of his utterances was to ask for
forgiveness. The perlocutionary meaning is related to the
expected effect that the utterance may or may not cause on
the other person. When he said that he did not need
forgiveness, the expected outcome was that the audience
would see that he had realized his mistakes and the damage
he had caused to others. By making it seem like he had come
to a realization and given up on the chance to be forgiven,
the audience would then pity him and as a result, be
compelled to forgive him. When looked at from this
perspective, it can be concluded that Paul’s utterances were
tailored to trigger the audience to forgive him. All in all, the
utterances can still pass the category of asking for
forgiveness.
Despite all the elements that were improved or added in
the video, two elements are still missing from both the tweet
and the video. The missing elements are: offer of repair and
offer for compensation. The answer as to why these elements
are still missing cannot be ascertained. Looking at the
frameworks above, offer of repair and offer for compensation
seem to be referring to an act that Paul can do to cover the
damage. This can be paying for the damage or doing a
community service. However, looking at the situation itself,
the damage that his Suicide Forest vlog caused was mostly
affecting people around the world on their psychological
level instead of occasioning material loss. Therefore, the
only possible thing that Paul could do was to make a promise
for forbearance, which is to convince the audience that he
will do anything within his powers to prevent the same
action from happening again in the future. Thankfully, the
promise for forbearance can be found in both the tweet and
the video. To even make it better, he stated it twice in the
video. All in all, the second apology was necessary in order
for him to be forgiven.
Identifying the elements of an effective apology is
apparently not enough to analyze Paul’s tweet and video
apologies. Even though it has been shown that there are
elements that were improved, the meaning and intention
behind the words used in the video apology are still left
unknown. Therefore, to find out their meaning and intention,
this study further analyzes Paul’s apologies using the
framework of Illocutionary Force Indicating Device [5].
TABLE II. ILLOCUTIONARY FORCE INDICATING DEVICE [5]
Categories
Tweet
Video
Expression of Remorse
9
Acknowledgment of the Offense
8
5
Explanation of the Account
11
9
Offer for Repair
Ask for Forgiveness
1
Others
6
6
Total
25
30
Just like it was established in the first step of analysis,
there are still some categories that are missing from the
apologies. There are three empty categories missing from the
tweet and one from the video. The categories missing from
the tweet are expression of remorse, offer of repair, and
asking for forgiveness. In the video, the only category
missing is offer of repair. However, there are words that do
not fit into any of the five categories, and these words were
put into a new category called “others.
First, this research will analyze the words found in the
tweet. There are six words that do not fit into the categories
above, and the reasons why they do not fit into any of those
categories will be explained further. The word views refers to
the number of viewers that Paul gets in his videos, which are
usually in an average of millions of viewers. He used the
word to explain that he was not using the footage of the dead
body in the vlog to get people to view his video because he
already had a large number of subscribers; therefore, the
action itself is proven to be unnecessary. What is interesting
is that it shows that he had the choice to include the footage
or just to leave it out on the editing floor. However, this
utterance has been interpreted differently by the audience.
The audience chose to look at it as a way of Paul bragging
about getting a sizable number of views on his vlogs. This
was one of the reasons as to why his apology was termed as
being self-centered. The same thing goes to the word sh*t,
which is not the word that one would typically find in an
apology. However, that is not the reason as to why this word
was put in the category of others. The word sh*t in itself is a
type of slang that people nowadays use to replace a noun in a
sentence. In this case, the word sh*t refers to what Paul is
doing with his profession, which is to make daily videos. If
that really is the case, then the views and sh*t can be put in
the category of explanation of the account. However, his use
of these words made his whole apology sound harsh, and as a
result, he created a sense of arrogance Other words that also
decrease the politeness of Paul’s apology are out and peace.
The exact utterance in the tweet is “I’m out of here. Peace.”
The word out is used to signal the end of his statement.
According to the Urban Dictionary (n.d) [16], I’m out is an
informal expression of goodbye that is usually used by a
person to signal that they are leaving or to express
disagreement. In this case, Paul simply used this word to
casually say goodbye just like TV hosts sign off at end their
shows. However, an expression as simple as goodbye and
thank you would be an appropriate choice of words to end an
apology. On the other hand, the word peace, as is used in
Paul’s utterance, does not seem to have any purpose. Just
like out, it was just casually put in the utterance without any
meaningful intention, yet it is in the part where he was
signaling the end of the apology. Just as mentioned before,
this utterance in itself is something that is usually found in a
more casual situation, even though in this case, the situation
required more polite expressions. Therefore, these words
cannot be put into any category. As for love and believe, the
intention behind Paul saying these words is simply to remind
people, especially his fans, that he loves them and that they
are good people who can understand the situation and all the
decisions he has made.
Second, there are also six words that are found in the
video that cannot be put into any of the five categories
above. The words promise, better, and will are the words that
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Paul used in the same utterance to express an offer for
forbearance, which clearly means that they do not fit into any
of the categories above. As for heartless, cruel, and
malicious, they do not fit into any of the above categories
because it is not clear who Paul was addressing these words
to or what the intention was. Paul stated in his video that
“The Internet is never to be heartless, cruel, or malicious.”
There are two possible reasons as to why he stated these
words. The first one is because he was shocked by the
response that he had gotten, which he perhaps found to be
very mean and traumatizing. This, therefore, means that the
utterances were directed toward the audience. The second
possible reason is because the mistake he committed had
caused emotional damage to many people, which means that
he was addressing these words to himself as the person who
had used his powers inappropriately. Looking at the
utterance that he made before this one, it seems that the
current utterance is leaning toward the second possible
reason. The previous utterance is “The goal with my content
is always to entertain, to push the boundaries, to be all
inclusive in the world I live in. I share almost everything I
do.” If the two utterances are connected, it becomes clear
that Paul was addressing the second utterance to himself
rather than to the audience.
B. Discussion
In this section, we will discuss our findings from the
linguistics public relations perspectives.
The Apology Tweet
As mentioned in the introduction of this paper, Paul’s
audience was not convinced by his first apology because it
appeared to be insensitive and narcissistic. According to
Chad Kawalecthe CEO of Brand Identity Centerin an
interview with The Wrap [17], the first apology was riddled
with Paul referring to himself and he had the audacity to add
his trademark hashtag #Logang4Life. Chad further added that
the first apology was simply made as an attempt of image
repair by showing his narcissistic facade and referred to it as
a “band-aid. Evan Nierman, the founder of Red Banyan (a
crisis PR firm), stated in the same interview that perhaps the
apology could have worked better if it was in form of a video
because it connects him with his viewers better [17]. Red
was baffled that Paul chose to make a written statement
instead of a video. The vice president of Bernstein Crisis
Management, Erick Bernstein, also had similar opinions with
the previous experts. He, however, added that Paul should
have considered the fact that he was addressing a wider
scope of audience through his tweet, and not only his fans.
According to Bernstein, there are three kinds of audiences,
which are: “1) fans who will stand by you no matter what, 2)
haters who aren’t going to ever be convinced you’re worth
their time, and 3) those who are on the fence, unsure whether
you’re truly a villain” [18].
From the perspective of linguistics, it has been proven
that there are some elements missing from the tweet. Those
elements are the expression of remorse, offer of repair, and
asking for forgiveness. The absence of these elements made
the apology appear insincere and self-centered because Paul
seemed to be heavily leaning toward explaining the situation
rather than acknowledging that the audience needed him to
apologize and change his attitude. These findings corroborate
what Bernstein stated. Does this make the first apology
apologetic? It seems like it is not because key elements are
missing from the apology. Paul also mentioned some words
that did not fit into any of the five categories, including sh*t
and views, which seemed to portray the image that he was
referring to himself and what he does as a social media
influencer.
The Apology Video
Bernstein [18], Kawalec [17], and Nierman [17] agreed
that the second apology was better than the first one.
Bernstein stated that Paul seemed to have finally stripped
down his “YEE BOI” facade and genuinely looked
remorseful. Nierman also thought that the second apology
was a major step forward. Kawalec, on the other hand, stated
that there were still key elements missing from the second
apology, although he agreed that it was better than the first
one. According to him, the missing element was “How [was]
he going to use his platform to impact the issue at hand?”
[17]. He also stated that the apology could have been better if
Paul had directed his viewers to the National Prevention
Lifeline, which could have been handy in giving those
affected by his actions a sense of meaning and hope.
However, just as mentioned before, some people still think
that the second apology was not sincere because Paul
monetized both the suicide forest vlog and the apology
video. This made many people wonder whether he was truly
sorry and if he really wanted to change his behavior.
Regardless of what his intention were, the apology video
showcased undeniable improvements. From the results, Paul
added two of the three missing elements from his tweet,
which are the expression of remorse and asking for
forgiveness. The ratio of the words in the categories of
explanation of the account and offer of repair was also not as
much as found in the tweet. In the two categories, Paul also
shifted his focus to addressing his audience as opposed to
making the apology seem as if it was about himself.
However, just as Kawalec stated, one important element that
is still missing from the video is the offer of repair. Paul
needed to point out how he was going to fix the damage and
how his platform was going to be used in facilitating this. All
in all, due to the improvements that were made, the second
video is somewhat apologetic, although it may not be a
perfect apology.
IV. CONCLUSIONS
The results and discussions of this study have revealed
that Logan Paul’s first apology was not apologetic enough
because three important elements are missing. The elements
that are missing include: the expression of remorse, the offer
of repair, and asking for forgiveness. As a result, a second
apology was necessary. Some improvements were made in
the second apology, and only one important element, which
is the offer of repair, is still missing. The offer of repair in
itself is considered an important element because it can be
found in all the three frameworks that offer the components
of a successful apology. In Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper’s
[1] framework, the offer of repair is complemented with a
promise for forbearance. However, in Benoit’s [2]
framework, those two elements are merged into a strategy
that is called corrective action. Therefore, the importance of
the offer of repair is the limitation of this study. It is still not
clear whether the offer of repair and promise of forbearance
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 453
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can collectively be referred to as corrective action. If they
can’t, then what is it that differentiates them?
Since this research only provides the linguistic
perspective and its key objective is to find out whether Paul
was apologetic or not, it cannot answer the question whether
his apologies were sincere or not because it does not include
other suprasegmental elements, such as facial and tonal
expressions. Therefore, future analyses on the sincerity of
Paul’s apologies should incorporate an analysis on facial
expressions and, where possible, include audience study.
Another analysis that can also be incorporated in future
studies is an analysis on how the audience perceived the
apologies. An audience study can be carried out as a
comparative study that will focus on how the audience’s
background knowledge of Logan Paul can affect their
perceptions toward his apology because there was certainly a
change of behavior in his daily vlogs and in the apologies.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
First and foremost, we would like to thank Blum-Kulka,
House & Kasper, Benoit, Schmitt, Gollwitzer, Förster &
Montada, Lutzky & Kehoe, and Deutschmann. For without
their theories, this research would not have been possible.
Second, we would like to thank all the lecturers of English
Studies in Universitas Indonesia. Without their guidance, we
would have had a hard time finishing this research. Last but
not least, we would like to thank Coffee Toffee FIB UI for
providing such delicious food and beverages and a cozy
place throughout the writing process.
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Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 453
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