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Following months of venting about the Olympics, Japan’s digital masses found a new villain to focus their outrage on a week after the closing ceremony: A mentalist named Daigo.

The first big post-Games online controversy wasn’t solely contained to social media either — it spilled over to mainstream news, with government bodies stepping in to the muck.

The 34-year-old Daigo started his online career in the early 2010s, using Nico Nico Douga and YouTube to build an audience interested in his musings about the human mind and beyond. He parlayed his web success into publishing dozens of books and becoming a frequent guest on TV variety shows.

He’s a proto influencer, using his mentalist hook to develop a lifestyle brand branching into weight loss advice and silly collaborations with other famous YouTubers. On Aug. 7, Daigo held a livestream dubbed “Super Spicy Q&A” on YouTube. The title alone hints that he was potentially planning to troll his audience, a trusty YouTuber strategy that usually amounts to some kind of edgy joke. Whether he was joking or not, though, Daigo made the mistake of stepping over the boundary of good taste.

A viewer’s question prompted him to talk about welfare recipients and homeless individuals. In the now deleted clip (preserved via screen captures), he said he doesn’t pay taxes for others’ welfare, adding that it would be better to save a cat than someone receiving government assistance. He then directed his ire to the homeless, declaring he didn’t care about their lives at all.

Twitter, bulletin boards and other YouTubers began buzzing about Daigo’s comment in the week that followed. The general reaction was disgust at what he said, some wondering how someone so economically blessed could be so callous toward others, and others saying it could lead to hate crimes.

The story dominated Japanese Twitter’s trending ranking, but went to another level when the mainstream media picked up on the story. Celebrities, politicians and other prominent figures took to their own social media platforms to criticize Daigo. His own brother expressed outrage, while the official Twitter account of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shaded the mentalist with a tweet on Aug. 13 linking to welfare information, reminding us that we could all need assistance at some point.

Daigo followed a path many YouTubers have trekked in recent years — he donned a suit and shared a 15-minute-long apology video. Netizens weren’t impressed. Like a lot of influencer apologies in Japan, it felt more like someone going through the motions rather than investing in some actual introspection. In any case, the damage is done. His channel has seen a massive dip in subscribers and a commercial starring Daigo was pulled from the airwaves.

So don’t expect to see Daigo on television anytime soon, though discussion about his comments continue to spur introspection on news shows, and in online articles and tweets. Daigo was likely looking for some extra attention … but probably not like this.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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