Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cyber Violence is Real

The technology of cyberspace and Web 2.0 has produced developments so rapidly that events are occurring before we have time to anticipate or plan for the consequences. No joke, the Internet has produced real casualties in many ways. One example involves two 13-year old girls who were having a spat. The parents of one (the parents!) advised their daughter to connect with her foe using mySpace as a fictitious boy. Treat her well and befriend her online, then rip her to shreds, including "The world would be better if you weren't in it."

The victim hung herself.

What happens to the parents who initiated this disaster? Nothing. No laws exist to prosecute such behavior.

Some girls harassed a thirteen year old boy with text messages. He committed suicide. Repercussions? Not legally, but I wonder what those girls think now.

Your computer taps into material that can inflict real damage. The concept of virtual rape is growing. ABC's 20/20 tells of a real estate agent whose daughter decapitated herself driving his Porsche into concrete at 100+ m.p.h. Police dutifully took pictures of the scene for their records. One policeman, no malice intended, sent the images to his home computer not clear of the implications that others had access to it. Someone posted the photos online.

The father, four months after the accident, thinking it is a link to real estate images, encounters the photos of his decapitated daughter. He is suing the police department.

I hurt myself a couple years ago and worse than you think. I watched the original video of the beheading of Eugene Armstrong (the link here is a safe wikipedia link about Armstrong). I don't think the original footage is posted anymore (I'm not looking). Search at your own risk. The original took several minutes. That's a long time to be conscious as your head is cut off.

I was shaking, traumatized, eyes welled up, sick to my stomach, and psychologically wounded in a way that took time to recover. It stuck with me for days, like ingesting a cerebral poison that started streams of thought I could not control or stop, wondering what it must have been like for him, for the killers, the camera operator, as Armstrong screamed in terror beyond language. I have seen a fair amount of intense footage including other violence and murder. The Eugene Armstrong video slammed my psyche hard enough to scar the mind, a permanent blemish from damage that cannot be undone.

Twenty years ago, a snuff film sounded like a huge deal. The semantics get entangled as motivations eliminate murders or deaths caught on camera by chance, but an intentionally produced video of a real murder where someone is deliberately killed before the camera as depicted in the film 8MM is now just a search away. Most of us probably saw the hanging of Saddam Hussein. I posted the thing. The footage showed a real execution, and it occurred as tame. I don't think I like what that means.

I would speculate that YouTube has boundaries, but few resources are required to obtain a server and a connection to post anything. Anything. Yes, we have the story of the man posting live footage of his raping/molesting a child and the police investigator who managed to get officers on the scene in time to shorten the act and arrest the man. That was a miracle and the exception.

Omnivores have a dark side. They videotape sex, fights, outrageous party developments, and staged / partially staged confrontations for shock value. One operates the camera while the other(s) commit the extreme, whether it is tearing the clothes off of a screaming woman in a public place, beating up the homeless (seen one of those? I have not), or verbally assaulting some stranger in public to collect footage of the reaction. All of the above is then posted online, completely eclipsing the farce of reality television.

The originally intriguing (when it started) "Survivor" having devolved to the ridiculous "Kid Nation" can't hold a candle to the usually unedited or barely edited and very real footage of real people whose consent or prior knowledge of the event does not exist. The amusing "You're on Candid Camera" involved carefully staged situations designed for humor and cautious of potential outcomes.

The young omnivores exercise no such caution, and this is dangerous. Some naughty teenagers messing with a camera are going to point it in the wrong direction. Police will not find the recording device around the bodies. Our K-12 schools seem to move too slowly, but if I were running the show, cyber safety would become a class for all children literally as they start to learn to read. Learning to read and learning to surf have merged. I can't get it into the schools, but if you're a parent with young children, consider that cyber safety involves a lot more than keeping a child from seeing pornography. Pornography didn't lead a thirteen year old girl to hang herself.

We have dropped a spark on a pile of flammable stuff, and I don't know how this unfolds. I remain a staunch proponent of Web 2.0, Internet technology, and the explosion of human connectedness and communication. Without it, I fear a tyrannical dystopia too horrible to imagine.

Even with the great information explosion and the ability to spin circles around mainstream media, we face extraordinary challenges.


Anonymous The Navigator said...

Your "WARNING-Do Not Click!" story, a post that will live in blogger infamy, amply demonstrated the ability to link to toxic content.

The horrid image you injected into my consciousness cannot be erased.

I am not an attorney, but passing laws to address this phenomena is going to be very difficult.

I think TREO wanted to retaliate in some way for your blog and "Something Else." That no one can do anything to the parents when a child commits suicide is a sobering assessment of the reality of holding people accountable for blog or myspace behavior. If such horrible acts cannot be addressed, your truth telling is untouchable.

It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit of the family of the girl killed in the accident moves forward.

Not sure if you heard, but another idiot walked in front of a train while talking on his cell phone.

I am sure you noticed your rank climbed to #2. I confess I smile when I think of right wingers reading your content. My guess is that they only perceive the most superficial aspects, and not the deeper stuff.

For example, I doubt they sense the enhanced sexual undertone of this particular post, which is clearly deliberate and part of your point.

12/09/2007 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, x4mr, but my comment is to tell you I watched Inland Empire last night, TWICE.

What an incredible experience. I don't know diddly about the border or any of that stuff, but that film is mind boggling in a way that is just fascinating. The "no script" in the moment no history no future quality is rich.

You are right about Laura Dern. What a performance! She does deserve an Oscar.

12/09/2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous the doctor said...


You watched Inland Empire TWICE in a single evening?

Are we talking about the same film?

That movie is THREE HOURS LONG. Are you saying you spent six hours in front of your tv watching whatever that was?

Did you get the bunny heads?

I am clearly in the camp with Liza. I don't get the level thing or the poetry or any of that. I will say that x4mr has the best images of any blog I've visited.

In visual imagery, no one comes close.

12/09/2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

cyber safety is actually pretty heavy on my mind. My intent was to teach my daughter all about the internet and it's uses as she grew up, much like riding a bike. It's something that will have to be done at home, and I don't think it will find it's way into curriculums until omnivores start teaching.

I'll have to control access at first (as much as I can), and loosen the leash as she matures. If you have any ideas as to how this can be done let me know. I have plenty of timeto go yet.

12/10/2007 7:28 AM  
Blogger shady said...

DUSTIN: I us a program called PC Pandora which is a monitoring program. There are several out there... do a search. It's the best way to go.

Anyway, for the post -- excelltn. Cyberviolence is all too real. We NEVER had this - at such a large scale - when we were kids. It's scary. For every good invention, there are evil intentions.

12/10/2007 8:20 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...


Nineteen and at Stanford, my kid's fine, but if I had a young child, I would be all over this, and the sexual content is the least of it.

I think the real violence occurs via relationships that develop through gaming, email, mySpace, text messaging. Real communication and online identity is what opens up the vulnerability for someone to get truly hurt.

An "important online friend" is a serious red flag.

I didn't mention it in the story, but I'd be very wary of a son getting into those videogames. Their natural competitive spirit belongs on the track, field, or court.

12/10/2007 9:02 AM  
Blogger shady said...

I agree with your "real violence occurs via relationships..." Absolutely. But the Internet affords relationships that would not have been forged years ago.

Example: I have made friends in several countries and even had visits with one person (from Austria) that I met online at a certain musician's forum. My current best friend is someone I met on that same forum. 15 years ago, that was not a reality. 15 years ago, you were pretty much friends with whoever was in your town. That's not to say there weren't evil things done or bullying, but parents faced a local problem... not a global one. I don't know if that makes sense.

Anyway, gaming... so far there has yet to be a case of anything. I think most of the bullying there is just "talking sh*t"... harmless. I'm sorry, but I find MySpace and FaceBook so much more harmful... and NOT just in predators. I mean in simple addiction. People go there to meet people, and then what do they do. They get so hooked they never leave their computers... they become hermits. I know people that have been fired over the addiction. Social Networks make you lose social skills!!!

Oh the irony…

12/10/2007 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cyber safety for children IS very serious. I sat my kids down and had a very serious conversation with them about the bad things that can happen.

One of the problems is that you can't control what happens outside of the home. They can go online at a friend's house, the library, school.

Schools now use the internet, so you can't keep your kid from going online.

The solution is education, education. You need to inform your kids of the dangers and tell them the horror stories.

I'm not sure how to address the video game epidemic. That's another story, x4mr, totally under reported in regular media. I think it effects boys more than girls, and I can't think of a single article printed on the subject.

12/10/2007 11:08 AM  

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