Well, she claims that all such deliveries were "passed on to the appropriate person." You might indeed have a case there, if Debbie is unwilling to ante up the names of the actual people whose stories she appropriated, and/or if those people do not agree they got lots of goodies.
Sidenote: Passing off an amalgam of other people as one actual human being is what cost Janet Cooke her 1981 Pulitzer Prize. And those in the prior thread questioning the ability of a major newspaper like the NYT of getting duped should note that Cooke worked for the Washington Post.posted by aaron at 12:39 PM on May 20, 2001
Since you linked it here, I'll respond to it here; the other thread is so big now that it's taking forever for the page to load.
aaron: "Okay then. The blog was a fraud. Thank you."
the very worst thing about all of this is that people who are cynical by nature are going to take all this as validation of their suspicious natures---and people who are inclined to trust and to love are going to think twice before extending those kindnesses to strangers again.
Those who are cynical by nature, such as myself, receive literally dozens to hundreds of such validations every day. We don't need a big blog scandal to validate our beliefs. (Not to inject politics into this, but at its heart, this is the main difference between conservatives and liberals. Liberals believe in the inherent goodness of people, and that humanity can eventually achieve a level of something close to perfection with the right combination of laws and regulations to make sure everything is spread around in the right amounts to benefit everybody. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that people are always going to be selfish on a number of levels, looking out for number one, no matter how hard we try. And not only will all the laws, regulations and social engineering in the world not change that, they'll simply provide more ways for the selfish to take more for themselves at the expense of the less fortunate it was supposed to go to (for example, the huge amounts of fraud scumbags manage to skim from just about every government program).
For those who are inclined to trust, I can only say that even as a card-carrying cynic myself, I have not lost all faith in trust and love towards strangers. I have merely learned that I should not bestow unlimited trust and love towards complete strangers who hide so far behind the screen that it looks extremely suspicious. And that's just common sense that we really all ought to practice in our daily lives. All it means is that when presented with extreme cases such as this one, where one is never ever presented with the slightest shred of non-circumstantial evidence that the person on the other end is real, you have the right to consider the possibility that something funky might be going on. And let's face it, such an extreme case almost never happens. Following such common sense rules shouldn't affect your day-to-day relationships with new online friends at all.
but the immediate future is going to bring a whole *lot* of ugliness from people who think that trust and love are things to be scorned, and who think that those of us who genuinely grieved for "Kaycee" are saps and fools for having done so.
I dunno. Even I don't believe this. As I said in the previous paragraph, none of this means trust and love themselves are to be scorned, nor that those that did fall for the Kaycee story are to be scorned. There really wasn't that much in her story to make people actively start to question the whole thing until they way that she "died" was so abnormal that it made lots of people start to question it all at the same time. The only thing to be scorned here are those who were so wound up in their grieving that they actively tried to stop others from investigating because they personally couldn't handle the possibility that they'd been had.
and a bigger shame that there are people small enough to get that kind of cruel and petty glee out of watching the fallout happen.
Again, any glee is obtained only by watching those who angrily and self-righteously attacked the rest of us for even attempting to investigate in the first place. The fallout itself to me is merely fascinating. I have no emotional investment in it, other than the satisfaction anyone doing any sort of detective work gets upon cracking the case.posted by aaron at 1:03 PM on May 20, 2001 [2 favorites]
What I find really interesting about this is that the essay acrid rabbit originally linked to was, for the most part, wrong.
I'd suggest giving Amazon a call. I'm sure they won't just have over all relevant details about the account based on a single phone call, but they can tell you what process you must go through in order to get them to release that information. Generally, it would be a request from a law enforcement agency. So if you can get anyone in your local PD willing to look into this as potential mail or wire fraud, or perhaps the USPS's postal inspectors, they could get that info from Amazon very easily.
The only message I'm taking away from Living Colors is that when sick people prey on the emotions of others, they are forgiven by those who feel the message is worthwhile.
Well, people ought to forgive, just for the sake of their own emotional well-being. Better to forgive and stop letting it bother you, than spend weeks, months or years continuing to simmer about it. But the forgiveness should be about Debbie's fraud, not because "it just shouldn't matter anyway as long as the blog personally made me feel better about life." To me, the latter requires one to have some serious problems comprehend the most basic, important differences between reality and fiction, and potentially indicates a deeper emotional problem in those with that belief.
As for how easy or hard it is to scam others online in this way: I traded some emails with Steven over the last couple of days on this subject, and I realized that it's far easier to dupe people online that most think. The simple fact is that practically nobody in this world is so inherently skeptical and paranoid about everyone they come into contact with online that they harbor continued suspicions about each of their existences until they can pair up some piece of RL info to each online character. Our natural state of affairs is to not go looking for it, and to not even consider going to look for it. Given this fact, I have only ever seen three ways in which a fake online persona ever gets his/her true identity questioned and then eventually outed:
1) They make a truly massive blunder that makes everyone realize the fraud instantly. For example, someone discovers the persona is always posting from the same IP address as someone else on the system who claims to live 2000 miles away.
2) The persona makes the mistake of becoming too popular, to the point where too many people want to start communicating with them, but every single one is continually rebuffed for increasingly dubious reasons. (A little of this seems to have happened with Kaycee last year, but most of the questioners got suppressed quickly with a lot of "how dare you question someone with terminal leukemia" peer pressure, and the issue faded quickly.)
3) You kill off the persona. This is guaranteed to unleash a huge chorus of people begging for information on where to send condolences, flowers, maybe even show up for the funeral, etc. And of course, at that point the persona's "friends" are forced to spin elaborate, and totally unbelievable, excuses about why none of the mourners can even so much as send a Hallmark card to the grieving family. Steven noted in the other thread about a similar case on Anandtech last week, where someone was able to pull off one of these fake personas for almost a year, but the moment he killed off the character, the entire thing fell apart.
If someone with a fake character was smart enough to never make the persona so elaborate that (1) never happens, and never lets the persona become too popular or die as in (2) or (3), I wouldn't be surprised if they could pull it off for several years without a hitch.posted by aaron at 3:04 PM on May 20, 2001 [2 favorites]
Where Kaycee is open about her thoughts, my youngest daughter tends to lock up her emotions. She is one who will say her piece then quickly move on.
This summer I had a rude awakening. I had thoughts of harming someone. Never in my life did I ever think this would happen. I wanted to search out the predator and destroy him with my bare hands. I was angry, but worse yet, I felt guilty.
My guilt derived from my failure to protect my child from harm. Through a chain of distressing events I discovered the horrible secret my youngest daughter had been carrying around with her. The visions haunting her were devastating. She had been molested and felt unworthy of being loved.
At this point I felt as though I had somehow failed both of my girls. I hated the Cancer which was trying to steal Kaycee. And I hated the person who had stolen the innocence of a child. My anger burned inside me.
Like I've said, I believe it's Munchausen or some variation. By being on the receiving end of all those endless emails, IMs and (perhaps) phone calls, lots of positive mentions on other peoples' blogs, and cards and presents via snail mail, she gains the unbelievable amount of attention and love she craves ... she's not "a central player," she's essentially Kaycee herself. All that affection is for her, regardless of what the name on the card might say.posted by aaron at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2001
Why would you want to break them of a habit they'll have to possess in order to be successful in Hollywood?posted by aaron at 9:47 PM on May 20, 2001
Gabriel Noone is a teller of tales, a writer whose cult-hit radio serial "Noone at Night" brought him into the homes of millions, including an ailing 13-year-old boy named Pete Lomax. Meeting through extraordinary circumstances, Noone develops a remarkable friendship with Pete, a connection that evolves into a profound mystery that will blur the lines between truth and illusion, and lead Noone to confront all of his relationships--familial, romantic, and erotic--knowledge that will alter his perception of himself and his life forever.
Yup. I've been wondering for some time now how many fewer people would have allowed themselves to be suckered in by this if "Kaycee" had had acne and/or had been overweight. My guess is maybe one-tenth as many.
From Kristin's blog:
It sounds grim but I knew that eventually I would know either way, if this Kaycee existed. Either she would die, and it is pretty hard to die in America without a paper trail, or she would live, in which case I would watch for her at FrayDay, or SXSW, or Journalcon, all venues populated by her fan base. There was talk of her being a panel leader at the next SXSW. There were people offering to pay her fare.
People really proposed this? How pathetic. I thought even when this was all believed it be true, it was "Mom" and BWG who were doing all of the work, while "Kaycee" was dashing off soliloquies based on her natural teenage love for bad early 70s pop songs. Does anything matter at these web gatherings besides popularity?posted by aaron at 10:23 PM on May 20, 2001
Likewise. And anyone who bought into this fraud, or who ever decides to "support" or "feel for" someone's suffering largely because they're really attractive, deserves every bad and confused feeling they get when the truth comes out.posted by aaron at 10:59 PM on May 20, 2001
Read the post again. Did you give such love to her because she was someone dying from cancer, or because she was a beautiful 19-year-old girl dying of cancer?
I'm only speaking of the latter. And if you are one of the latter ones, I have no desire to spell the reason out in more detail, as you're already a hopeless case.posted by aaron at 11:13 PM on May 20, 2001
That SOME PEOPLE are. Not everyone. And there were pictures.
If you're that unwilling to believe that people are, as a rule, far more generous and caring towards those they consider physically attractive (and it doesn't have to be in a sexual way, either), there is several decades' worth of peer-reviewed evidence I can dump in this thread.posted by aaron at 11:27 PM on May 20, 2001
Eventually you'll get used to it, as you find it happening more and more often. ;)
Heck, everybody in my old home town is still going on about four cheerful, beautiful teens killed in a car wreck a few years ago, when it took people about a week to forget a non-beautiful, somewhat melancholy but still personable male teen when he comitted suicide in front of his parents after being made psychologically abused by peers at the high school (including the said four girls before they died).
Yup. Bullshit bigotry like this occurred several times in my hometown during my junior-high and high-school days. Arrogant, physically attractive popular kids go arrogantly speeding in a rainstorm in their brand new Jeep and hydroplane off the side of a cliff, and the entire area is in mourning, schools close, the all-important "crisis counselors" are brought in, the local paper covering the death with front page headlines in a font size that literally hadn't been used since Nixon resigned. Unpopular kid (fat) from the same school dies after a long painful bout with cancer, and the homeroom teacher mentions it one morning, everyone shrugs, and forgets about it by first period. Only mention in the paper whatsoever is the freebie death notice, about 1/2-inch long, called in as a service to the family by the funeral home.posted by aaron at 11:54 PM on May 20, 2001
Why? There are plenty of 19-year-olds in this world that have lived far more eventful, fulfilling lives than many 50-year-olds. Life is what you do with it (and, more importantly, what society lets you do with it), not the length.
Indeed, one of the reasons I wasn't totally overwhelmed with sorrow for "Kaycee" was because she came off as just one of those types of 19-year-olds, who had lived a far more fulfilling life filled with zillions of friends and loving family members than I've ever had in my 31 years. This isn't to say it means I WANTED her to die, only that I realize that I would have traded places with her in a second, had she been real. As such, who's the real winner and loser?posted by aaron at 6:34 AM on May 21, 2001
Yes, it's possible. However, like the Kaycee scam itself, fulfilling the possibility requires physical attractiveness and a social network, which I ain't got.
If I did switch places with her, I'd have had to change the name though. "Kaycee" is so trailer-park. You just know that if you ever see "Kaycee" on a name tag, the words underneath are going to read "Wal-Mart Trainee."posted by aaron at 7:24 AM on May 21, 2001
Hell, has anyone tried to call KELLI/Kaycee Swenson yet?
rich: If you don't like the thread, leave. You've made your point, it's been digested, people aren't going to agree with you on it. Move the fuck on.posted by aaron at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2001
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