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July 9, 2001
11:28 PM   Subscribe

Jumping on the infamous Interschool Ho voting booth story Salon is currently running a 4 page article charting/attacking the rise of 'cyber-bullying', a phenomena defined by students (mostly?) slandered their peers online. In the opening page of the piece the author, all orifices throthing, offers several graphic examples of the trend and gives not only details of the full name and school of a female sophomore victim, an extensive barrage of quotes of what ugly, retarded, hurtful stuff was written about her by some severely mentally unstable individual, but also a relatively prominent, in-your-face link to the smalltime message board in question causing them to replace it with the whimpering redirect message 'Unfortunately, due to an article posted on salon.com, the LHStudents.com website traffic has exceeded maximum capacity and we have no other option but to create a new LHBoard on a different server'..
posted by Kino (16 comments total)

 
If it was my message board i'd be declaring what a pathetic piece of spineless scumfuck the Salon writer is; surely the girls predicament is bad enough already without her unwillingly being thrown into the glare of a global internet freakshow by some second rate weaselish hack desperate for a trend-riding story and drawing a hugely visited websites readers attention to, not only slimy shit posted on a forum about a girl, but stating that girls name and school right there in the article along with unrepeatable examples of the vicious remarks. Angry? I'm fuckin livid!!.

What do you think - Should the writer be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for single-handedly, and without warrant, escalating her ordeal enourmously all for the sake of, it seems, livening up an otherwise generic, mediocre, droning, monotone, run-of-the-mill, tabloid-esque article? Having sent enough readers the forums way to completely sap its bandwidth has this mainstream media exposure unnecessarily added wholesale to the ruining of this shamefully victimized and, by all accounts, already suicidal girls existence?

Does this type of behaviour amount to blatant abuse of the writers position and fall foul of even the mildest concepts of journalistic responsibility? Could the general gist of the attacks not have been presented in an infinitely more subtle manner with a bit of concern for the delicacy and nature of the overall situation?. What was gained from printing the girls full name and school in the same paragraph as the hurtful remarks?? And then aiding the tormentors campaign by providing a link to the full gory picture for all to see.

Having hyper-elevated the whole deal by giving such starkly identifying details full glory in a headline story on the bloated platform of one of the worlds most internationally absorbed websites (without the girls permission) doesn't it put the writers gutterlike scruples right down there on a par with those which they are meant to be condemning? Does it not in fact expose them as being nothing more than just a 'cyber-bully' too?
posted by Kino at 11:29 PM on July 9, 2001


I see your point Kino, but there is a larger, much larger, if not a pandora's size larger issue here. I take some solace in this statement:

Students can sue other students," says Hiestand. "They need to have this message hammered into their heads: They are responsible for everything they publish online. I hope that some of these messages are getting through. Just because you can post something online doesn't mean that you should. But kids are going to be kids."

One can only hope future courts would use the same logic. The internet as a communication tool is much too important to tarnish with widespread fear that lawsuits will come from speaking one's mind, no matter how deleterious the plaintiff finds their harm to be. What would the precedent of a ruling in favor of one child who has at her means civil action against the "cyber-bullies" who torment her be to the whole of independent newsreporting or opinion bolstering ? Or metafilter in fact?

Hopefully reactionaries won't get the best of it aye?
posted by crasspastor at 2:46 AM on July 10, 2001


Does this type of behaviour amount to blatant abuse of the writers position and fall foul of even the mildest concepts of journalistic responsibility?

Not really. Crime victims get their names in the papers all the time without giving consent (unless they are raped, in which almost all papers won't run their names), and a criminal report was filed about the acid throwing incident.

If anything, the writer's guilty of taking one example of adolescent bullying and grafting a trend story around it. The cheesy "cyberbullying" stuff reads like an excuse for Amy Benfer to write about the Lake Highlands girl.

I don't know why Salon believes that it's news when a fat kid has mean things said about her, but it recently published Damien Cave's appallingly inaccurate article about HMO victim Marcia Blake and Keith Dawson, who is helping her with an online charity. I'm beginning to wonder if they laid off too many editors.
posted by rcade at 6:12 AM on July 10, 2001


> Crime victims get their names in the papers all the time

Not if they're minors, they don't.


> Students can sue other students," says Hiestand.

Students whose parents can afford a lawyer can sue other students. What protects the ones -- the majority, I would guess -- who don't have that sort of private means? Does freedom of speech mean that children have to put up with "speech" that is malicious, damaging and untrue?

As for journalists picking this story up and flacking it to jack up their ad revenue, which is what Salon is doing, I want to point out that there's a difference between government restraint of free speech and press by laws, and private restraint of free speech and press by any form of non-governmental social pressure that can be brought to bear, from outraged letters to the editor to torchlight parades and tar'n'feather parties. There is no constitutional reason to oppose private pressure to make scumbags with dollar signs in their eyes shut up.

Salon is dead, let's bury it. If you're paying for their tits-and-ass I MEAN premium service, unsubscribe. Complain to their advertisers -- that works very well to intimidate paper newspapers, I'll bet it works just as well on electronic media; anyway let's find out. Bitch about them in other public forums. Anybody nailed this up on the door at /. yet? Do so.
posted by jfuller at 6:32 AM on July 10, 2001


yes, alert jon katz... he would have a FIELD DAY with this.

(i think this is a rare case of a potential jon katz field day being a good thing)
posted by chrisege at 6:47 AM on July 10, 2001


Kino, I'm not sure that the Salon writer's sensationalist approach constitutes equivalence with "cyber-bullying" but certainly the writer went too far in pursuit of the details, and the editor was extremely lax in not considering what reproducing all of that garbage would probably do to a person. Really awful decisions.

Rcade, one point to consider is that, since the attempt here was in particular to slander and insult the victim, and by reproducing the insults, victim's name, and the source for more insults, the article seems to exacerbate the original "offense" (not speaking legally there, mind you) in a pretty specific way -- differently, I think, than if the papers had printed my name after I was robbed.
posted by BT at 7:11 AM on July 10, 2001


This story was covered in the Dallas Morning News on June 10. From the summary in the archives:

Lauren Newby had been harassed for weeks on a Lake Highlands student Web site. She tried to let the rude remarks and threats roll off her back, but she admits that she cried herself to sleep more than once in the last few days.

The article goes on in some detail, and it is obvious Ms. Newby talked to the paper...
posted by xiffix at 7:24 AM on July 10, 2001


Not if they're minors, they don't.

That's inaccurate, and I say that as someone who wrote for newspapers for more than a decade. The Dallas Morning News printed the teen's name, as Xiffix shows.

There's no hard-and-fast rule against publishing the names of minors (though the names of juvenile criminals are often kept out of the paper, ironically enough). Did a single paper in the U.S. decline to publish the name of that 8-year-old shark attack victim, even though the hospital didn't release it and the parents weren't talking? No.

Rcade, one point to consider is that, since the attempt here was in particular to slander and insult the victim, and by reproducing the insults, victim's name, and the source for more insults, the article seems to exacerbate the original "offense" (not speaking legally there, mind you) in a pretty specific way -- differently, I think, than if the papers had printed my name after I was robbed.

Personally, I don't think the story is newsworthy at all, so I wouldn't have had a reason to run her name or the insults. However, I don't think it's exceptional for a paper to run something like this. Newby participated in the Dallas Morning News story, which was already seen by more people she knows than a Salon followup.

Also, I don't understand how some minor crimes are more damaging to read about in the paper than, say, getting shot in the head by your husband's deranged teen-age lover. Did anyone ask Mary Jo Buttofuoco if it was OK to run her name?
posted by rcade at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2001


Some people would consider your use of 'retarded' ugly and hurtful. I just think it's ugly. And throthing?
posted by sudama at 10:15 AM on July 10, 2001


Also, I don't understand how some minor crimes are more damaging to read about in the paper than, say, getting shot in the head by your husband's deranged teen-age lover.

Actually, I didn't say it was more damaging: just that in the case of defamtion, slander, etc., reportage of the action, with details, to a degree directly advances the original dissemination of slander. This may or may not be worse than the pain caused by reportage on someone's becoming a victim. But it's predictable in its directness -- if someone spreads word that I torture frogs, and then my local paper (or Salon) runs a story "Local Man Accused of Frog Torture", that seems to me to on its face extend the aims of the person making the charges. Which should make a news organization particularly careful in a way Salon wasn't about spreading the specificities of the slander.

Whether that concern is obviated once another paper runs the story...well, I don't think it is. At least not in this case.

Maybe this is hairsplitting -- I agree that the story just wasn't newsworthy in the first place.
posted by BT at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2001


'Some people would consider your use of 'retarded' ugly and hurtful. I just think it's ugly. And throthing?

So what i made a typo and used a 'th' instead of an 'f'.. Spank me. I must point out just to make it clear because you didn't Saduma - It wasn't Rcade who used them words, it was me, ages ago, i used the first when describing the type of sick comments that were quoted from the student message board that made the news for being just that, or did you not notice? to be honest, the kind of person who has a shallow enough mentality to ignore a whole thread and bother to make a crap one line post pettily objecting to two words being used in its intro (and not saying why) AND as if that wasn't odd enough - for added effect laughably pasting a google search link on one of them just because it contains a typo at the beginning isn't a person who, judging by their minimal contribution, is really worth entertaining in a debate, to be blunt (It's quite a wonder i remember using them words, i use lots as you can see, you should try it, then it wouldn't take a coincidence for people to have some idea what in the world it is your referring to). But there you are, anyway, have a paragraph, you obviously crave it. Enjoy, it's your last - the next one will cost you some input of substance and in view of the available evidence you probably aren't capable Sadama <---- Oh look, [lets stoop to a level your more able to digest].. Your first name is soOoOo fitting, i've never seen the surname 'ama' before though. Or is it a middle name? i dread to think what comes after it. Moron perhaps?.

'Crime victims get their names in the papers all the time without giving consent (unless they are raped, in which almost all papers won't run their names), and a criminal report was filed about the acid throwing incident'

Reporting the acid throwing episode with a victims name attached is fair game and would hardly provoke a scathing rant of a thread, Rcade. But it's a comment piece in a 'lifestyle' section and not a news story at all. It's obvious the actual events reported in the piece happened months ago. And the acid was thrown at her mum whose name wasn't even mentioned in Salon. The only time any degree of in-depth spilling of her childs deranged message board tormentor should occur is around the time when the acid story is an actual breaking news event and as a minor element in reporting it (ie. not with horrendous quotes and links to the original filth), or, if like this it's months after and presented in a completely tactless manner with extremely questionable objectives it should only be done after securing the persons permission and perhaps their participation (depending on the circumstances and how much the publication is willing to compensate them), otherwise the kids name and school shouldn't be coupled with the attackers quotes in an explosive vulgar package like the one in question. It just shouldn't anyway. Who would want to write it the way Salon did, whether they had the right to or not. Bastards. Hence it being such a vein-popping travesty. This reporter included that acid throwing assault crime incident merely as a tasty punctuation mark like incidental side-salad in their bloated bubble of pain inflicting, globally devoured, opportunist drivel centering around irresponsible facsimiles of ugly, audience appeasing remarks.

The girl may have participated in her local papers story, but who wouldn't, given that the odds are it wouldn't be viciously written and that there'd be a good chance of shaming ones tormentor. Not to mention motivation for involvement as a platform for defending ones name whilst the attacks are happening; whilst it's anywhere near being slightly newsworthy. Perhaps her local paper stitched her up bigtime and wrote it just as badly hence her not returning Salons calls. Or maybe she's just trying to pull her shit together, let things settle, and move on with her life. She probably wondered why Salon was dragging it all up, got a bit tripped out by the whole thing and avoided them like the plague. Who could blame her.

' "Just because you can post something online doesn't mean that you should. But kids are going to be kids." One can only hope future courts would use the same logic. '

Yeah, like they say, 'kids will be kids' Crasspastor (Sadama's proof of that). I assume though, judging by the extraordinary level of stupidity involved, that this Salon reporter can only be an adult. This kind of behaviour (in an ideal fantasy world of my own invention you understand) would make them a deserving party to any ensuing court action the victim and her acid-splashed mother might take against their verminesque tormentors. I wonder if there's a chance perhaps that the underlying motive for the never-should-have-been-printed personally identifying details being presented in such depth, with such frequency, so late in the day, was out of any degree of juvenile, wicked, ruthless spite because the girl committed the heinous crime of [gasp] not returning the reporters calls and therefore tarnishing the main hook of their big 'look at me momma i'm a star' 4 page Salon wannabe 'scoop'!? Not to mention the barrage of nasty quotes and direct link to the juicy desert. Didn't they stop to think that maybe when kids are acting like kids, adults should act like adults, especially when reporting about kids for such a big site.

It's plainly obvious that they put their own career before any thoughts of what real-life damage they may be inflicting. It did afterall appear that the rest of that page was nothing more than just a lazy leeching re-hash of a story they had read in the new yorker magazine and any other apples they'd took just enough of a bite from that they didn't have to own up to at the outset (just incase readers/editors happened to notice) 'As much as one can discern from the understated style of the Talk of the Town section, the incident ...Regardless of the gentility of the prose, however, the details packed a wallop'. Do they not appreciate that some things call for absolute gentility? One things for sure - they knew that without something big from this girl the piece was nothing more than a bastardized non-starter. And it still is. That reporter was itching for some original juicy comments from the girl to justify them stealing someone elses work and instead they settled for next best thing so as to sneakily cash in their paycheck and call the story their own. This is one of the most blatant examples of trashy journalism imaginable. Delving deeper still into the writers deeply twisted neurons - did they point out the fact that the poor girl hadn't responded to their call/s in a half-arsed attempt to justify their sordid actions of digging up ten tons of shit, giving it a massive platform with names/locations/link attached, without the girls blessing/permission, and taking it upon themselves to stir it thoroughly with a few million readers mindspoons to stop anyone asking themselves questions of this sort? Does the writer underestimate the publics intelligence and sense of fairness/compassion? Are they fucking nuts!¿!?!

'I'm beginning to wonder if they laid off too many editors.'

Maybe, but surely this reporter can't be that desperate for more than their (on the basis of that article, wholly unjustified) share of those rapidly depleting Salon paychecks. The rest of the story may well have read like a blunt icepick in the forehead but was there really any need for the them to try that hard to forcibly drag people in at the intro. It's outrageous. The whole sorry affair stinks like a big crock of steaming elk shit. And before anyone around here pipes in and starts defending the slimey fucks actions with freedom of speech citations i'm not disputing journalistic freedom, just this ones motives, ethics, timing, blatant lack of concern for the individual concerned and their general IQ/stupidity levels. It wasn't crucial to the story to elevate this poor girls ordeal to such heights and if she does end up killing herself i'd like to see a dose of much deserved instant karma dished out to the piss-poor excuse for a Salon reporter by them being thoroughly named and shamed for their bizarre actions in connection with the incident on prime time news. Hopefully then every editor this side of 'Bulgarian goat farmers weekly' would see them as a serious, unprofessional, unemployable danger and they'd end up promoted to stacking shelves in k-mart where they truly belong.
posted by Kino at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2001


Wow, Kino. I'm so sorry to hear your cat died.
posted by rcade at 12:31 PM on July 10, 2001


It's ugly and hurtful to equate developmental problems with the 'sick' cruelty of the comments those kids made.

I had no idea throthing=frothing. I was just asking.
posted by sudama at 12:34 PM on July 10, 2001


> It's ugly and hurtful to equate developmental problems
> with the 'sick' cruelty of the comments those kids made.

Why sudama, we don't use "retard" to refer to persons with developmental difficulties any more. That leaves the r-word free and available to be used as a plain old insult, like "self-righteous twit."
posted by jfuller at 1:35 PM on July 10, 2001


rcade (do I know you?), I'm so sorry to hear your cat died.
posted by bryanboyer at 2:40 PM on July 10, 2001


Should have known not to let a physicist look after it..

Especially that Schrödinger guy. He always did give me the creeps.
posted by Kino at 3:49 PM on July 10, 2001


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