Shane Dawson has been fashioning himself as a documentary filmmaker for a little while now. First, he released a series on TanaCon, the failed convention attempt from fellow YouTuber Tana Mongeau, then came a series on the life of noted racist Jeffree Star. Now, he’s taking a deep dive into controversial YouTuber Jake Paul’s life… by trying to diagnose Jake and his brother Logan as “sociopaths.”
Dawson's series, made up of eight installments, is his attempt to figure out why, exactly, people hate Jake so much. After Dawson announced that he was working on the series, he received significant backlash on Twitter. Dawson continued working on it, because, as he said in one video, he is “fascinated by” the “darkness of Jake’s world.” He's released four episodes so far, each clocking in at around 40 minutes long, in which he mostly questions the mental health of the Paul brothers and other YouTubers.
Dawson’s “research” has consisted of talking to a licensed therapist, Kati Morton, about antisocial personality disorder; interviewing iNabber, who discusses drama on his own YouTube channel; watching videos from Jake's "enemies"; and watching videos from the Paul brothers themselves, as well as their parents (also YouTubers). The series was originally supposed to focus just on Jake but has since brought Logan into the fold as well. As of publication time, Dawson’s videos have not contained interviews with the brothers. He claims that Jake will be interviewed in episode five, but that Logan has declined his interview request. According to Dawson, Logan DMed him on Instagram and told him that he considers himself to be on the "sociopathic spectrum," but that his brother is "nice, and empathetic as fuck.”
This whole situation is rife with problems—not least because the term “sociopath” is an outdated term for antisocial personality disorder. J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist, told BuzzFeed News that those diagnosed “don’t form emotional bonds and tend to be emotionally detached from other people, and they also don’t experience the more socialized emotions that other people have that require that you can represent other individuals as whole people.”Dawson tried to sensationalize his conversation with Morton, the therapist who described the symptoms, by intersplicing it with clips of other YouTubers engaging in the behaviors discussed, as well as what seems like stock footage of ominous people with masks. Aren’t documentaries supposed to be about uncovering the truth? Though the videos are scattered with disclaimers and claims that he’s not trying to diagnose anyone, Dawson continually questions whether certain behaviors or things that the brothers have done might signify that they’re “sociopaths.”
Morton says that, though she can’t diagnose Jake or Logan since she hasn’t met them, it’s “definitely possible” that they’re sociopathic. “People put on personas, but going back to the symptoms and signs that we've just read through, like not caring if people get hurt... he’s done things like terrorizing members of his team. Like, the lack of emotions in his eyes is kind of creepy,” she tells Dawson. “Is he remorseful? Does he just pretend he’s remorseful?” None of this is grounded in fact though and is basically armchair theorization.
Some behaviors exhibited by the Paul brothers are terrifying, and many are completely inexcusable, but making claims about them without being a licensed mental health professional is just wrong. Add the fact that, at this point in filming, Dawson had not met either of the brothers, and the series becomes even weirder.
Both Jake and Logan have expressed their concerns at the way their stories have been told. Jake tweeted that he is “trusting” Shane to “carry out the rest of the series,” but that “the ‘sociopath’ STUFF doesn’t interest [him].” He says that he’s concerned that Dawson “still [hasn’t] made it clear that [he’s] DETERMINING” whether or not he is a sociopath, but is instead “already labeling [him] a ‘sociopath.’” Logan has released a video on Dawson’s series, stating that he thinks Dawson is presenting the information in an “extremely misleading” manner. He says, and has apparently told Dawson, that he prefers to say that he has “sociopathic tendencies” instead of being called a “sociopath.”
Again, unless you’re someone’s therapist, you should not be diagnosing or making assumptions about anyone's mental health—especially if you’re disseminating those speculations to millions of subscribers. Not only can this be damaging to the individual in question, but it also further stigmatizes mental illness.