Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Make this 17 seconds good."

I came in to work this morning intending to blog about an internet phenomenon called "lolcats." And I will sometime soon, I'm going to need the joy that it brings, I think. I've basically been holding a one-household boycott of televised news (which I think deserves its own blog entry somewhere down the line), so maybe I'm late running across this news item, but apparently six girls in Polk County, Florida lured another girl into a house, beat her unconscious, then waited for her to wake up with a video camera in hand. Then they took turns beating her on camera. I've seen the part of the video that I'm sure you've all been saturated with already, and I am, like I can only hope that you are, thoroughly disturbed. I will not link it here, if you haven't seen it and want to so bad, I'm sure you can find it on your own.

I guarantee that somebody on the TV has said something along the lines of, "Well, there's so much violence in television and movies and video games that they don't know any better." I don't watch as much TV as I once did, but I do love all kinds of movies (including some violent ones) and I do play video games (some of them violent) and I have never, ever seen anything like this video. Ever.

So what spawned this terrifying violence? Apparently the victim trash-talked about the other girls on her MySpace page. But I suspect that the real causes lie deeper than internet social-networking sites. I found another video, you see, and I want to say this very carefully, because I know how the televised news can make clever cuts and comments to make anyone mean anything--but the mother of one of the attackers speaks about the names that the victim called those girls on her MySpace page, "much worse names than 'slut.'" Perhaps this is a parent desperate to keep the media from demonizing her child. Perhaps the televised news cut the part of her interview where she says, "There is no excuse for what my daughter did." Or perhaps this is a mother thinking, "Heck, I'd want to beat her down, too." I'll never know for sure.

What I do know is that folks are blaming MySpace. And this is a topic that I know a little bit about, at least, being kinda internet savvy. MySpace is a tool, and just like any tool it can be used for good, or evil. A hammer can build up, or tear down, and the same is true of MySpace. But in the end, it's a tool, and can't do anything on its own. Both the victim and her attackers saw MySpace as a tool for evil. This isn't a new thing, MySpace wasn't around when I was in high school, but girls were vicious gossips and name callers then, too. What MySpace has done, is bring that kind of name-calling and bullying to a much wider audience. When girls in my tiny high school were being verbally vicious, it circulated around the school, but that was about it. When you do it on MySpace, anyone with the internet can see it. Anyone. And there are things that social-networking sites can do to cut down that kind of behavior. And I hope that they will.

Luckily, there is something that you, dear parents can and should be doing. Get internet savvy. And check out your kids' blogs, MySpace, Facebook... whatever. Know who their friends are, where they're spending their time, and what they're spending their time doing.

And for the love of God, teach them how to turn the other cheek. I'm not saying to teach them to internalize what others say about them, either. It's quite likely that none of the attackers were sluts. But you can teach your children that the proper reaction is, "Huh, I guess she's not my friend after all. But I know I'm not a slut, and so do the people who know me, so whatever."

In other words, "Let's all get together and beat her on video for 30 minutes so we can post it on the internet for revenge" should be the furthest thing from their minds.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh