YouTuber LeafyIsHere mocked a man with a learning disability, describing him as “looking like he went through five different strokes” among other things, in an almost 11-minute rant that begins with Hitler jokes. Sadly, this is far from the first time he’s punched down at small-time creators.
Leafy, who has amassed a following of over 2 million subscribers, mocked the appearance and behavior of Brendan Mitchell, who vlogs as wetmovie1. Brendan revealed in his response that he has struggled with weight issues and spent his school years in special ed. This and many of Leafy’s other videos appear to run counter to YouTube’s policy on harassment and cyberbullying, though we’ve also seen that community guidelines on the platform are largely unenforced. Leafy even jokingly refers to himself as a cyberbully in a video from two days prior.
Leafy was a source of controversy last month after making fun of an autistic man who vlogs under the name TommyNC2010. In the now-deleted video, he mocks Tommy’s behavior and appearance, and Tommy claimed soon after that subscribers of Leafy’s had been sending him death threats. The YouTube and Reddit communities rallied behind Tommy, and Leafy issued an apology. He’s also made fun of YouTubers for their weight and they way they dress. Mocking others is the central purpose of the majority of Leafy’s videos, and in many cases, his targets are subjects of harassment from his followers.
Its worth noting that Leafy’s content is monetized with ads, meaning he—and by extension, YouTube—profit from this terrible and offensive crap.
The new video comes at a time when some of the biggest names on the platform—like PewDiePie and Markiplier, who have a combined 55 million subscribers—have been vocal about “YouTube drama,” a negative trend which they feel is a hunger for controversy and infighting rather than a sincere desire to create video content. Though Leafy isn’t specifically named in the videos decrying negativity on YouTube, for many in the community he’s one of the biggest sources of “drama.”
We’ve reached out to YouTube, Leafy, and Brendan Mitchell and will update if we hear back.
Update 4/19/16 3:22pm: Brendan responded to Gizmodo and claimed over Facebook audio messages—which are easier for him due to his disability—that followers of Leafy’s channel have be sending him hateful messages, and encouraging him to commit suicide. The 33-year-old Los Angeles resident described his vlogs as a means to self-confidence, starting with monthly weigh-in videos that gave him the accountability and encouragement needed to lose over 200 pounds, though, “when stuff like this comes around, like the Leafy situation, it kind of brings up old habits.”
This isn’t the first time Brendan claims he’s been harassed online, but he said he made his response video to Leafy to try to stop this from happening to others. “People always tell me, like my parents and other friends of mine ‘Hey Brendan just ignore it, it’ll go away,’” he said. “Yeah, he’ll move on from me, but then go on to somebody else. I don’t need that to happen.”