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Uh, Oh, It's Magic

Some days, it just falls into your lap...

So, I was bimbling around, trying to think of something to write about, and orlacarey links to a story about a 13 year-old girl who committed suicide because the parents of a girl she knew decided to create a false MySpace profile of a cute boy and build her up, then crush her hopes, because they thought she was saying mean things about their daughter.

You know, in a nutshell.

I'll leave the story interpretation to you (note:  I am witholding judgement on how much of the story is factual; the incident happened over a year ago, and the link goes to a somewhat melodramatic and poorly-written piece); it's the comments following that fascinate me, as comments on any emotion-arousing story always do. They're an illuminating example of how most people have not managed to drag themselves out of the seductive but ultimately deadly swamp of magical thinking (also, an excellent example of the pitiful state of modern spelling and grammar). The rallying cry of these masses is always "There ought to be a law!", except it's usually accompanied by misspellings and an excessive use of punctuation ("They're 'aut' to be alaw?!?!?!?!OMG!!!").

...Not to mention the overuse of the CAPS LOCK key.

I'm not mocking the emotional intent of these people (well, not much). But I am fascinated by how, as soon as something bad happens, all common sense and higher reasoning powers go out of the window. There ought to be a law? A law against what? There are already laws that cover most of what happened (though a jury or judge might not convict), and there are civil suit options as well. Additional laws are not needed. Even though there has been a reluctance to apply existing laws to the Deadwood of cyberspace, the fact remains that the Dakota territories were eventually assimilated. Worse, any time you try to make new laws for a specific situation, they rarely work as well as the existing laws that cover that issue.

Next, people feel that the "Internet should be regulated so it's safe!!!!". Good luck with that one. I guess some people think the New Age Illuminati (this link leads to a Chick Tract Bob found in the Men's Room in a Golden Corral that I found particularly hilarious) really is in charge, and that the "Internets" are actually controllable. Go back to AoL and play in a safe little cyber-theme park (metaphor courtesy of Dave Barry), and you'll be fine. MySpace has a certain amount of obligation to its users, but it is not responsible for the actions of those same nutcases. The blame (if any is to be applied - and if the story is in the least bit true, and not a hatchet job on "teh Intarwebs") lies at the feet of the people who committed the act, not the medium used to commit it. as one reasonably sane person in the comments said, "You don't sue GM when someone drives drunk and kills someone!". No - nor do you sue the alcohol company, though some people have tried.

But I think it is in the desire for vigilante justice that our magical thinkers truly shine. They didn't have any involvement in the matter, but boy, do they want revenge. An "eye for an eye"? Are you seriously suggesting killing the idiot neighbours' daughter (for that is the Law of Hammurabi)? Wow. They want names, and they want them now! They will spread them all over the 'nets! People should know what evil thing they have done! And they should be driven out of town! Feel shame all their lives for what they did? Who's got the tar? I have feathers!!!!

Assuming these people really did what the story says they did (the story and the quotes and the subsequent events are curiously fiction-like in the reading - seriously, read the article, and ask yourself if someone would actually say, as the neighbour mother apparently did, to a reporter that "...she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral she found out 'Megan had tried to commit suicide before'."), and assuming they really are evil bastards, what business is it of strangers to dispense justice? That is what we have courts and judges and juries for, after all. If we feel that these things have outlived their usefulness I suppose we can vote them away, but I think most people would miss them somewhat the next time they end up on the wrong end of an arrest. 

In fact, I find this "To Catch A Predator" mentality somewhat hypocritical in that everyone wants bad people punished for doing bad things until a relative or a friend (or even they themselves, who were so gung-ho on mandatory prison sentences a moment before) does bad things. Suddenly then, it's the law that's bad and oppressive, and their friend is just "messed up", or "going through a bad patch", and it's never because they're a criminal, oh, no. 

Magical thinking demands that everyone be punished except you and your loved ones, even if the act wasn't a crime, but only pissed you off.  It says that all laws are good, and civil liberties won't suffer. That everyone can be made safe forever more by "The Government" (who are apparently olympian beings that never overstep their limits).  No-one will die!  Everyone will be happy!  Men in suits will remove all dangers from our lives!!!!!!

...And magical thinking also says that vigilante justice and a constant demand for new laws will never come back to bite you on your tarred and feathered (and incarcerated) butt.

Because, after all is said and done, and the Courts have failed us, and the Cops have stopped us from having any real fun, there's always God, the ultimate magical thinker, and He will make everything okay. Just to prove it, I leave you with a full quote from the comments that really needs no other commentary:

" Well this is an absolute outrage that in todays world The "Government" would allow such things to be done by anyone let alone adults. But, I know first hand that the Meier's Really need to figure out their "realationship" with their "God". Because I fully believe that altho the 'adults' involved in this travasty need to be punished in a most severe way. Megan's parents also need to "forgive" the adults that are involved in this travesty. The reason I say this is because if they "forgive" these 'people'. Then altho they will still have a loss in their lives that will never be able to be replaced; it will make life at least somewhat easier to live. I mean truly 'forgive' them. It will lift a load off their hearts that unless you have 'lived' thru this you could never imagine. Altho, life is tough; in dealing with this situation at least things will eventually get easier. Granted I do not know what "God" you believe in. But, I know my "God" will do His service on the involved 'adults' judgement day. It will also make Megan's parents look better in the eyes of their "God". Don't get me wrong however. I do fully believe that these 'adults' do need to PUNISHED!!!!!!!! And, the 'laws' do need to be changed. These troubled people reather it be children, teens, or adults need to have 'laws' that "understand" them. They need to have someone 'defend' them & let their voices heard. "

The Punctuation Police called; they want their keyboard back.

 

Comments

( 61 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
karynbautista
Nov. 20th, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
There oughta be a law against quote mark abuse!!!!!!! lol, that is just insane. Nice find on your part though. I love internet urban legends.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
I honestly don't know if it's an urban legend, a hoax, or a poorly-reported and emotionally magnified story. It's been picked up recently by a couple of news sources, but the story is over a year old. I will wait and see.

What I have trouble with is the black-and-white-ness of the whole story. The daughter was in counseling, closely monitored, the conversation is remembered word for word, the mother "get's a horrible feeling", vs. The neighbours wanted to hurt the daughter, pressed charges on the foosball table, pretended sympathy, said they didn't feel that guilty, etc. It's more like a CSI episode than a balanced piece of reporting.
(no subject) - liamstliam - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jillwheezul - Nov. 20th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 21st, 2007 10:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - soldiergrrrl - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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kass_rants
Nov. 20th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
Didn't you know? The teenage girl's suicide has to be someone's fault! It can't be that she was mentally unstable! It must be that she was harrassed in the gym showers at school or that her teachers ignored her or that even the parents of other kids conspired to make her miserable! It can't possibly be that she was so depressed just over stuff that she felt she'd rather be dead!

You're on about justice and punishment and regulating the internet and bad spelling and punctuation. But this makes me bleed from the eyes about responsibility.

Can't this girl at least have the dignity of making a choice about her own existence? Can't it be her decision?
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
Nope. MySpace killed her, clearly. *thbbpt*.
(no subject) - kass_rants - Nov. 20th, 2007 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thatpotteryguy - Nov. 20th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - dorinda2212 - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathgrace
Nov. 20th, 2007 02:33 pm (UTC)
I read this yesterday too, and "really" felt like the parents were just "sooooo" perfect, why would parents (that claim to be very "protective") that "great" allow their 13 y/o daughter friend a 16 y/o boy because "He's hot"?
And it seems very "convenient" that only the last message is lost to the mists of time....you know the one that "made" her kill herself...the one that only the "dad" saw and remembered word for word? I think I am going to go eat a "big mac" and then sue "McDonald's" for making me "fat", oh wait someones already "done" that...
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
They remember the entire night's conversation, even though it happened over a year ago (the article quoted them, it didn't give a generalized statement, the way most people will). It's just so black and white.

I don't want to minimize the parent's pain, but it's just weird that it's only now being picked up. This kind of story is usually all over the news within days of the event, not a year later.
(no subject) - cathgrace - Nov. 20th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 20th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
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hugh_mannity
Nov. 20th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
I'll be posting about this myself in a bit. There's been a massive shitstorm over it on another forum I belong to.

What I find interesting most of all is that:
(a) most reports are copies of the AP report, which seems to have been based uncritically on the local paper story.
(b) it's almost entirely the mother's story.
(c) there's a massive absence of hard facts.

Very few kids get to be depressed to the point of needing (and receiving) medication in a vacuum. There is a family system dynamic going on here which we aren't seeing.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's the one-sided nature of the story that really gets to me. And the added evilness of the neighbours that pressed charges on the foosball table damage (that the had asked! Noes! To be stored by the poor victims) and a security camera? it's just so good vs. evil that it's hard to believe.

But, the emotional thinkers are going to swallow it and accept it as gospel truth, and anyone who questions it will be attacked viciously. You can see that in the original article's comments - "You disagree witht he veracity of this story?! You must be one of that evil family!!!!eleventy!!!".
(no subject) - tacnukesoul - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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turdoken
Nov. 20th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
Natural selection issues....
I don't mean to sound heartless but could there be a natural selection element to this story, if indeed it proves true? I have a stepdaughter, now almost 16, but at 13 she was an emotional wreck. We had to put her in a lockdown mental health facility for two weeks for her own safety and at her own insistence. But that turned out to be the turning point because in there she met kids with REAL problems in their lives, with REAL stepmonsters, with real anger control issues who had been dealt violence and would deal violence without hesitation. It woke her up to what true truama is. She is still a little harpy, as 15 year olds tend to be, but she's handling that age better than I did and that gives me hope.
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Natural selection issues....
I'm not really debating the veracity of story, but the reactions to it, and how emotional and unthinking they are.

I'm sorry, on an internet where people post websites that encourage other people to assault, rape, and kill the people they disagree with, a law against writing "you suck!" on MySpace is dumb.

Edited at 2007-11-20 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Natural selection issues.... - dorinda2212 - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection issues.... - turdoken - Nov. 20th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection issues.... - dorinda2212 - Nov. 20th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection issues.... - attack_laurel - Nov. 20th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection issues.... - dorinda2212 - Nov. 20th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection issues.... - (Anonymous) - Nov. 21st, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
perronelle
Nov. 20th, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
This is what happens when critical thinking skills are eschewed as being unpopular, politically incorrect or biased. Common sense flies out the window when one time events get exaggerated, usually by the media, into something that can happen to any of us at anytime. Welcome to our climate of fear where reasonableness is diminished by the philosophy of "you can't be too safe"!. Recall the run on duct tape, plastic sheeting and filter masks?

Sigh......
attack_laurel
Nov. 20th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
Tolerance is not acceptance of everything.
Critical reasoning is not rejection of everything.
Patriotism is not blind obedience.
Religion is not blind hate of everything different.

etc., etc., etc.

The Internet, I'm told however, appears to be absolute truth, all the time. 8P
(no subject) - sileas_1 - Nov. 20th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - perronelle - Nov. 20th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - azpapillion - Nov. 20th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 21st, 2007 10:58 am (UTC) - Expand
dorinda2212
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
"The government is us!"

Aha! I've figured out what's wrong with the government!!! (NO! don't take away my exclamation point key!!!)
soucyn
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
I have seen more and more that kids are having trouble with online communities. When I was growing up, bullies could only get to you outside your home, so you had this safe place called "your room" where people couldn't bug you. Now though, we've got computers in our kids rooms, and the kids are out playing on the net, and various bullies are finding their way to your little online community to get you there.

That said, it's a problem for parents to deal with, along with their kids, so that their children still develop a healthy sense of self worth.

I'm generally against more rules and laws. Call me a Libertarian, but it's true. The more laws you make, the more criminals you will have. People need to stop looking to their government to solve all their problems, because it can't. Only you can solve your problems, and you have to want to solve your problems yourself before anyone can help you. ("You" in the rhetorical sense of course.)
attack_laurel
Nov. 21st, 2007 11:01 am (UTC)
I'm in favour of making all bullying socially unacceptable, with social consequences (such as shunning) the result of bad behaviour; it's much more effective in the long run than a law. It's not that hard to find cyber bullies; IPs are easy enough to track, and most people dim enough to get their kicks from bullying don't have the sense to try and hide their locations.
rufinia
Nov. 20th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be the unpopular voice here, and say that the creators of the fake MySpace should probably be charged with something- there actions directly led to the girl chosing THAT time and THAT place to kill herself (and hearing that the mother who made the MySpace said "It doesn't matter what I did, because she'd tried to kill herself before anyway." A creative DA could come up with something.

People don't seem to get that there are real people who are behind internet presences. Real people with real feelings and there are real consequences to actions. I hear it on LJ all the time. "You're upset about what someone said about you ON THE INTERNET??? IT'S JUST THE INTERNET, OMGLOL"

And soucyn is absolutely right- Kids being bullied can't go home and get away from it anymore. Kids (especially in middle school) are vicious little monsters. And they don't have remorse.
attack_laurel
Nov. 21st, 2007 11:08 am (UTC)
Actually, except for this journal, you're part of the popular voice. I am the one dissenting from popular opinion. My readership isn't *that* big that you can conflate the comments here to be the popular view. :)

The FBI can't find anything to charge them with.

In cases like this, you have to prove forseeable consequences. They could try to sue, but it's hard.

Being an asshole isn't a criminal offense. By trying to pin something on the idiot family just because they're assholes makes for very peverted justice, and encourages vigilante actions, which are not right.

Publicity (which they're getting plenty of) about their complete idiocy is punishment enough.

Now, if you want to make MySpace change its rules so that only real people can create a profile, that would be business pressure from subscribers. However, most people would not care to have their legal actions curtailed that way. Fraud is an economic crime, so it doesn't apply here.

And if it was illegal to create a ficticious profile, a million AoL users would be in jail - it's amazing how many people use the internet to live out their sexual fantasies.
(no subject) - rufinia - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
xntryk
Nov. 20th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
To me, it's not the "must persecute" that's irritating...
it's the possibility that two grown adults participated in the emotional crippling of a young teenager, and that the associated participation may have contributed to her decision to end her own life.

I have seen the physical scars of young men and women who grew up with abusive parents. But the idea of someone else's parents abusing a child hurts my soul. If it had been physical violence these people would be in jail. But mental violence?

Of course, this is all just pondering... I've only heard about it through third- and fourth-hand sources. I've been on a news-free diet since I left the TV station two months ago. And boy, is THAT liberating!
attack_laurel
Nov. 21st, 2007 11:13 am (UTC)
Re: To me, it's not the "must persecute" that's irritating...
Abuse is a strong word to use - if it had been a teenage boy messing with her, no-one would bat an eyelid, because those kinds of interactions are normal. We have only the father's word for what was actually in the messages, remember - this is all based on hearsay.

She was not persecuted, she was not stalked, she was not abused any more than any other teenager on MySpace - you should read what some of those little assholes write to each other; it's repulsive. And normal.

The neighbours were idiots, that's for sure. Childish, yes. Ill-considered, yes. But criminal? No.
nobarking
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
I saw this floating around recently and just can't believe the sheer amount of horror it's caused in general -- and the spectrum of attitudes the comments manage to encompass.

It's the vigilante stuff that REALLY gets me -- there's absolutely no excuse for that kind of thing. Ever. EVER. People are so quick to hop on the vigilante bandwagon that they don't even consider what's going on, nor do they care. If you post a phone number in any public forum and say "This person is bad" they'll get a dozen phonecalls, and if you attach it to something like this...

I can't imagine.

I'm a little knee-jerk over it because I had that happen to me (part of the whole e-stalker thing that turned psychotic) and it's horrifying.

Not that I necessarily feel bad for the people who did such a terrible thing (if in fact they did), it's more the fact that people are so willing to devote personal time and effort (and money!) calling someone they've never even met, to threaten to kill them in explicit detail.

What the hell, seriously?

It's also next to impossible to get something investigated when it involves the internet, if it's not child pornography or pirated music. Even murder. I kid you not -- she was stopped at the border with a loaded shotgun, and the ONLY thing that saved me despite multiple police reports with MULTIPLE types of police (local provincial police, RCMP, local police in Texas)... was a kid at the border who thought to check her trunk because she was acting funny and couldn't provide the address of her "friend" she was going to visit.

This hits close to home in weird ways, I guess. On both sides. Adults have been encouraging kids to commit suicide for a while now... it's disgusting and lower than pond scum, but it's not some new thing the internet is allowing them to do. Obviously not ALL adults or even a majority, but by NO MEANS is it an uncommon thing.
attack_laurel
Nov. 21st, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
I agree. Wholeheartedly. I think it boils down to the fact that 90% of people simply don't use their brains and take whatever they read on the internet as gospel.

The reports and follow-up are all based on the story I linked to - and that story clearly paints the situation in a very black and white mannner, with no attempt to balance the viewpoint. If it had been deliberately written to cause a lynching, it couldn't have worked better.

I think the journalist should be spanked.
(no subject) - xntryk - Nov. 21st, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
mstra_margarita
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:18 am (UTC)
I saw an interview with the mother of the child that died yesterday morninng. Based on that I would think that the offending mother could be charged with reckless endangerment depending on state laws. She not only knew the girl who killed herself, but the girl had stayed with her perioidically, and her mother had discussed her daughter's antidepressants with her.

There was also a woman on the same show who referred to a fairly recent federal law that would be applicable. Unforunately I didn't catch more details.
attack_laurel
Nov. 21st, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)
The neighbour mother is an asshole, no doubt. But the point is that the commenters are reaching a whole new level of frightening in their responses - unthinking mob justice always terrifies me. It should terrify anyone.
(no subject) - soldiergrrrl - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
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