On April 30th, 2019, popular YouTuber Desmond 'Etika' Amofah, in the throes of a mental breakdown, appeared on a YouTube "news" channel called DramaAlert, wherein the host, Keemstar, challenged him: "Then why live? Just jump off a cliff."
Less than two months later, Etika actually jumped off a bridge.
Keemstar's initial response to Etika's disappearance sheds light on the extreme toxicity of YouTube drama culture.
In the world of petty YouTube drama, there's no bigger name than Keemstar. The 37-year-old YouTuber, whose real name is Daniel Keem, is best known for his DramaAlert channel where he capitalizes on the constant stream of infighting within YouTube culture. While he bills his show as the "#1 source for news on the social interactions in online entertainment," it's more accurate to call it a platform for Keemstar to heighten, encourage, and involve himself in the drama. Keemstar, with strands of grey in his overgrown beard, can often be found arguing with and making fun of people 10 to 20 years his junior.
For months prior to his suicide, Etika publicly struggled with mental illness, posting delusional and suicidal thoughts on social media and recording multiple confrontations with police that led to brief stints in institutions. Keemstar took Etika's arrest as an opportunity to bring him on the show to make light of his mental illness, suggest that his suicidal musings were an act, and ultimately, egg him on like he was a sideshow attraction.
Before bringing Etika on the show, some fans warned Keemstar that Etika wasn't in a good mental space for that level of ridicule.
"Suck a d**k. I run a news channel, I'm going to get my viewers the news, I don't give a f**k about your fake SJW emotions on twitter for attention," tweeted Keemstar.
On DramaAlert, Etika manically ranted about life being a simulation and his own role as a god, to which Keemstar responded by facetiously suggesting he jump off a cliff. Some might claim that line is taken out of context, but the only necessary context is that a 37-year-old man brought an obviously mentally troubled kid on his show to make fun of him and flippantly joke about committing suicide. Then the kid really jumped. That is the context.
The entire episode can be watched here, but fair warning: It's hard to watch an adult smugly egg on a troubled young man in the middle of a mental breakdown.
Etika ( INTERVIEW ) after being ARRESTED by Police! #DramaAlert ( SHOCKING ) www.youtube.com
The interview culminates in Etika calling Keemstar out for wrongly outing an older, small-time Runscape streamer as a pedophile and making the man cry on livestream years prior.
"I always shied away from whenever people would make fun of people. It just felt bad. It's like why would you tear that person down? Be nice to people...you're f**king mean," said Etika.
"Sometimes I am mean about it but it's still funny," responded Keemstar.
Etika grew increasingly upset about the situation, yelling at Keemstar to shut up and eventually disconnecting.
"Oh my god, what a f***king nut job," Keemstar laughed at the end.
Afterwards, Keemstar bragged about direct messaging Etika to call him "weak" and Etika blocking him in response.
On June 20th, Etika posted his final video, "I'm sorry" on YouTube. His body wouldn't be found for another five days, during which fans frantically searched New York City for him.
During this time, Keemstar posted an almost constant stream of Etika-related tweets and memes on Twitter, many of them doubting the authenticity of his mental illness and suggesting it was a stunt, just like he did during his DramaAlert episode. He has since deleted these Tweets, but luckily there are screenshots.
As a side note, Keemstar also has a history of making fun of mental illness.
Now that Etika is dead, Keemstar has purged his Twitter of all "doubt" and is instead pretending that he was a true friend to Etika who really, truly cared about him.
Indeed, Etika apparently was a big fan of Keemstar, and he mentioned him directly in "I'm sorry."
Naturally, some of Etika's fans who witnessed Keemstar's behavior throughout the whole ordeal have been calling out Keemstar for his hypocrisy.
"I really don't care how much hate I get for this. You had a prime opportunity to help this man, and you sat back and laughed. Hope you enjoy living with regret," said one user.
Keemstar responded to the backlash with a Tweet lamenting his frustration "with some people in this community that would use this opportunity to swing at me or others. Incredibly disrespectful."
Except: They're one hundred percent correct. YouTube has one of the most toxic cultures anywhere online, and much of that centers around "drama." YouTube monetarily incentivizes fighting, meanness, and bullying. For a mentally ill content creator in that space, it's incredibly easy to be swallowed whole. Keemstar reigns supreme at the center of that culture, with his DRAMAALERT faux "news" channel boasting over five million subscribers.
Keemstar is a cultural grifter who manipulated a mentally ill man for clicks and continued to meme "mental illness for attention" bulls**t until the man was finally found dead. He doesn't "report news." He eggs it on. Worst of all, this isn't new for Keemstar. He's a vulture who has spent years preying on people's worst moments for profit. In that line of work, it was inevitable that one of his targets would eventually commit suicide, and it's insane that Keemstar is now trying to position himself as a good guy.
How can someone who behaves like Keemstar possibly speak of disrespect? How little self-awareness does someone like that need to have to function?
All of this isn't to say that Keemstar directly caused Etika's suicide. Nobody should hold Keemstar responsible, and Etika was failed on many fronts, including by the US mental health care system and society's larger stigma around mental illness. But Etika's death was entirely preventable, and instead of helping him in his moment of need, Keemstar publicly ridiculed him before a massive audience for profit. Keemstar does not get to turn around now and play the hero or the mourning friend. Keemstar's behavior is indicative of YouTube's larger culture of toxicity and abuse, and that culture just cost a young life. Now, Keemstar has to live with that.