The unedifying saga of Amanda Todd is one with a single victim, no heroes, and too many auxiliary vampires and vultures.
Every update about the adorable looking 15-year-old girl who was apparently driven to suicide by online “jailbait” bullies simply increases the world’s toxicity.
Learning that vigilantes have (or haven’t) tracked down and publicly shamed her alleged tormenter (and other accused online lowlifes) somehow doesn’t reassure me.
So I hesitate to add to this mess, and am unsure whether I have anything original or useful to say.
Except one thing, the thing I haven’t seen mentioned much in all the bandwagon-jumping articles condemning “cyberbullying” and “rape culture,” and calling on Somebody (always Somebody Else) to Do Something.
Here it is.
Are you ready?
DON’T POST NAKED PICTURES OF YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET.
Am I “blaming the victim”?
The fact is, “blame” doesn’t apply to cause and effect and other immutable, impersonal laws of the universe.
Here are the facts:
As Todd said herself in her now-famous video “cry for help,” her fatal downward spiral began in Grade 7, when she “would go with friends on webcam.”
Viewers called her “beautiful, stunning, perfect.”
“They wanted me to flash. So I did one year later.”
Had Amanda never flashed her breasts on the Internet, is it likely she might still be alive today?
I can hear detractors now. I’m an old fogey. Kids these days live their lives online, and they all do stuff like that.
And why not? That’s how Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian became millionaires many times over.
Besides, parents can’t watch over their kids 24/7, right? Don’t I have any compassion?
Do you mean tossing cheap carnations onto the “makeshft” memorial piled high with teddy bears and balloons, mourning a stranger you’ve never met, and getting (as the Sex Pistols sang) “a cheap holiday on other people’s misery.”
Because that’s what passes for “compassion” these days.
You know I’m right: millions of people out there live for the deaths of all the Amandas (and Princess Dianas and Michael Jacksons).
They get a creepy thrill out of knowing they’re still alive while someone else is dead, especially a lovely young lady who died before her time.
In a society of godless people who’ve purged religion from the public square, everybody’s yawning “God shaped hole” has to get filled up somehow.
Hence the idolatrous “worship” at sidewalk “altars,” and the cheap grace acquired from hitting “Like” on a Facebook “tribute” page.
If that’s compassion, I’m not compassionate.
Here’s what I do know:
A girl in the first blush of womanhood senses (if not exactly understands) that she possesses beauty, youth, and sexual allure, and that these gifts are profoundly powerful — and fleeting.
We’re not generally taught how to deal with this burgeoning power. (If you’ve ever wondered why girls are so fascinated by witchcraft, you have your answer.)
This natural development turns twisted, however, if a girl has been sexually abused, even once, or exposed to pornography, however “mild.”
One law of the universe is that the human “sex activation button” has no “off” setting.
And so girls act out: flirting compulsively, dressing provocatively, daydreaming of being strippers or mistresses, “riding in cars with boys” — and posting sexually provocative images online.
Another law of the universe?
Actions have consequences.
This law doesn’t care that you’re “just a kid,” anymore than gravity cares that you’re “just a kid” when you tumble into a well.
Now: because the “sex button” has no “off” setting, a healthy society demands that men control their powerful, often irrational sexual urges. Of course, they are not always successful.
They might be more so however if (as Dennis Prager has noted) we likewise demanded that women do their part by not walking around half naked.
Once again, why should they bother? They are surrounded by images of women who’ve been well compensated by displaying themselves in various states of undress.
Parents outfit their little girls as hookers for Halloween, and send them to school wearing t-shirts that spell out “Porn star” in sequins (I’ve seen them), and take them for Brazilian waxes — and they gush about how “cute” it all is.
Men who obsess about underage girls are disgusting. However, the unpleasant fact remains that many of the bad guys in the Amanda Todd story — and, to a greater extent, the Gawker vs Reddit “jailbait” horrorshow — can counter honestly that many (not all) of the images they passed around to each other had been originally posted by their female targets themselves.
We clearly have a long way to go as we try to come to grips with where the Internet sits on the private/public continuum.
Clearly, millions upon millions of human beings — be they teenaged uploaders or adult pedophiles and other mischief makers — still believe despite the evidence of their senses that what they post on the web is somehow “anonymous” and “invisible,” the way others don’t think anyone can see them picking their nose in the car.
As a blogger of some vintage who has been on the frontlines of many “free speech” battles online and off, I’ve always championed the Internet’s “Wild West” intramural codes for self-policing. The web should be a “special” space, like a hockey rink, where fights we’d never sanction outside the arena are more or less acceptable, if not practically obligatory.
I’m deeply concerned about developments such as this: a crowdsourcing project that aims to raise a half-million bucks to “stop online bullying on social networks.” We’re in for an avalanche of vigilantism and nanny state censorship designed to “fight” the latest overblown moral panic, and which will end up punishing the innocent, increasing paranoia, and polluting the public (or is that private?) square.
The only solution I can come up with targets the source:
Let’s demand that parents monitor their children’s online behavior by fining or jailing them when their underage kids upload photos and videos that make them vulnerable to “bullying.”
We have laws against public nudity already, do we not?
(I really hope they don’t call it “Amanda’s Law,” because “dead kids make bad laws,” but I’m willing to go along if it will save the internet from being destroyed by morons.)
Otherwise, remember that classic Onion story?
“Fun Toy Banned Because Of Three Stupid Dead Kids”?
That’s what will happen to the internet.
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