British YouTuber Louis Cole, the face behind the travel vlogging channel FunForLouis is apparently not having a fun time dealing with everybody’s rage.
By everybody I mean, the media, his fans, and everyone else who’s heard about the controversy on the internet. Of course, there are someone people who think he’s right and everyone’s just overreacting, but most people believe sources like Vanity Fair, Gawker, Philip DeFranco, and more.
So here’s what happened-
The travel vlogger’s 10 day North Korea travel series just ended. He wrote in his description for the series- “I’m trying to focus on positive things in the country and combat the purely negative image we see in the Media,”
If you’ve seen his videos or seen him uncut in other vloggers’ videos, you know he’s a really kind person who’s all about positivity and carpe diem-ing. Louis’ videos are an extension of himself, capturing his personal views and experiences of the people, cultures and places he visits. Rather than taking a journalistic approach, he chooses to focus on the positive aspects of his adventures. This is fueled by his belief that there is a beauty to be found wherever one might go, for those who are adventurous enough to look for it.
But many people were angry because he focused on the positive things and not mentioning any of the negative aspects of North Korea. Time after time the country has been used for satire purposes like the controversial movie The Interview (2014).
Many people also believe this he was paid to form this propaganda and positive image about North Korea.
His videos which showcase everything from water parks to playing with local kids focus solely on the positive elements of the country and ignore the country’s problems and the repressive regime of Kim Jong-un.
Human Rights Watch reports that North Korea’s abuses are “without parallel in the contemporary world.”
Some are calling him ignorant, saying these videos push a false narrative. Others call him irresponsible for showcasing these videos to a massive following. While he’s not a journalist, he has an audience. And putting out one-sided videos can be problematic.
It can be argued that Louis is getting paid to promote North Korea or not, because he is a monetized YouTube channel so technically he is gaining money from the views and the watch-time of those vlogs. And in the past, Louis has done sponsored content deals with big brands.
“Hey Louis. Love your channel, and I’m a long-time fan of your adventures. I appreciate that you’re showing us a different part of the world, and North Korea might have built monuments that are symbolic of unity… but it’s pretty hard to ignore North Korea’s human rights violations, and I hope it’s something you mention after the trip, for the sake of helping people gather a balanced, informed view of what’s happening there… because everyone should be able to feel at peace, enjoy life, and live the adventure.” – Travel vlogger, Chris Prouse said smiling.
He’s currently dating a travel vlogger as well- YouTuber Raya.
And then, of course, Phillip DeFranco, had to cover this drama because it was getting so much attention.
DeFranco breaks down the drama in his video as-
“The problem becomes that if you are just trying to keep it positive, keep it chill, you’re actually doing it a service,”
“It’s like if you go into a giant mansion and there’s like horrible things happening in a tonne of the rooms, like people are starving to death, there’s rapes, there’s murders. But your guided tour only takes you to like the indoor heated pool, and the room with the Xbox.”
“And then you leave and you only talk about the cool stuff and people are going to say 1) you’re either ignorant to the reality of the situation or 2) you’re purposefully presenting it in this positive light which is actually bad because it shows the owner of the house, Kim Jong-un, as a good person and the other people that resided there as regular people who aren’t victims.”
His theory on why Louis didn’t acknowledge the bad is because he doesn’t want to screw over the guy that got him there. He also is in a weird place because the videos are already out there.
But FunforLouis is not the only YouTuber making videos from North Korea.
Two weeks ago, Jacob Laukaitis posted this video but he doesn’t view it as propaganda.
He told Mashable–
“My video is different than Cole’s series because it does not show the daily life in North Korea or the daily life of North Koreans. No one should have an opinion on those things based only on my video. It simply shows what we were allowed to see on a day to day basis. If someone’s interested to learn more about North Korea, they have to watch other documentaries and read books.”
He feels the hate towards Cole may be a result of Cole not understanding how sensitive this topic is to millions of people around the world for various reasons.
“At the beginning of the video I explain the rules tourists face in North Korea, such as: ‘You are only shown what they want you to see,’ ‘Everything you do has to be approved by your guides,’ ‘Every time you want to take a picture of something you have to ask for permission’ and some others,” he said. “Then I advise people to take it with a pinch of salt and judge it for themselves. At the end of the video I sort of summarize the experience as eye opening in the sense that millions of people don’t have as much freedom as I do and that’s why I shouldn’t take mine for granted.”
YouTube believes creators should take more responsibility for what they post. But Human Rights Watch is not really happy with Louis.
“Cole is reveling in a Potemkin village, ignoring what’s behind the facade,” Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy director of the Asia Division, told Mashable. “But what’s most astonishing is Cole arrogantly thinks his guided tour qualifies him to criticize what he characterizes as negative ‘media’ portrayals that are based on the work of journalists who have actually dug well beyond what a tour guide tried to spoon feed them.”
Declining interview requests from tabloids, Louis uploaded a video on YouTube saying there is no truth in the headlines about the videos being North Korean propaganda.
In the video, he says he does not agree with the North Korean ideologies. But he does care for and loves the people there. And this is just what he normally posts.
“I want to connect with local people, learn about the culture and the country,”
“I’m not an investigative journalist; I don’t really do political commentary. So this I went on this trip to North Korea…as a tourist. We went on an organized tour.”
He acknowledged that he does know “what’s going on out there, I’m not being naive to it all.” He doesn’t apologize for the video series itself, but he does note he should have encouraged viewers to do their own research on the country before viewing his videos.
“This allegation is categorically untrue. The videos were in no way paid for, commissioned or influenced by any political or government body.”
This trip to North Korea was inspired by a friend who has been on seventeen trips to North Korea since 2007, running humanitarian and relief work in communities which need it. The purpose of this trip was to join a team of volunteers in teaching local tour guides and children how to surf and skateboard, as part of an annual surf camp which first launched in 2014.
Philip DeFranco responded to his response in this video saying he still thinks he putting the blame on the person who took him there.