"Whats goin on..."
December 4, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

"A bullied teen's poignant video has caught the eye of the blogosphere over three months after it was originally posted.

The clip, simply titled 'Whats goin on...' [sic] and uploaded to YouTube in August, features eighth grader Jonah Mowry, who addresses the audience with a series of revealing notecards while Sia's 'Breathe Me' plays in the background."* "Mowry's video has gone viral since being picked up and promoted by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton."*
posted by ericb (71 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
On December 3rd., Mowry posted a follow-up to the original clip, in which he thanks viewers for their support.

Jonah's YouTube channel and Twitter account.
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2011

Mowry posted a follow-up to the original clip, in which he thanks viewers for their support.

Within the past ten minutes: "This video has been removed by the user."
posted by ericb at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2011

YouTube responses to Jonah.
posted by ericb at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2011

When he says he's done things he is not proud of and shows his arms, neck , etc I really can't make anything out in this video?

What should I be seeing?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2011

What should I be seeing?

Scars from self-inflicted "cutting."
posted by ericb at 12:39 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I figured it was that, but couldn't make anything out. Thanks.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:41 PM on December 4, 2011

Also, theres the We Support You Jonah Facebook group.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:42 PM on December 4, 2011

I loved this response.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:53 PM on December 4, 2011 [21 favorites]

I try really hard not to be a cynical jaded bastard about stuff like this. Gut response is to say: "Suck it up." We're all picked on at various times, we all hate our life at some point in grade school, junior high, high-school etc. But, everyone handles things differently, so if this helps him feel better. Good for him.
posted by Fizz at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want a shirt that says "I'm tired of being torn down" on it, in his handwriting typeface.
posted by Hicksu at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2011

There's a whole different level of bullying involved for gay kids. Dismissing it as 'everyone gets picked on' ignores the fact that gay teens have much higher rates of suicide attempts than do straight kids (up to four times greater).
posted by winna at 1:29 PM on December 4, 2011 [30 favorites]

Did the "We Support You Jonah" facebook group thing... there are some trolls who are posting really graphic images on it. Sometimes I just don't get people. Nor do I think I care to. I have to go watch the response that triggerfinger posted again to scrape my brain clean.
posted by theplotchickens at 1:41 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brave brave kid.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The shirt I want says:

I have a million reasons to be here

That is where I lost my shit while watching this video...
posted by bilabial at 1:47 PM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

This comment will not help Jonah, but maybe this will be practical help someone who needs it.

Getting Out Of Your High School, Specific Instructions for the State of Georgia

Are you desperate to get out of high school? Do you have good to excellent grades? Do you live in the state of Georgia? There is a program called "Move on When Ready" (that I pray has survived the latest rounds of budget cuts). It will get you out of your school for part or all of your school day.

This program will allow you to take college courses on the taxpayer dime instead of attending a public high school. In some school districts you can go part time (that is what I did) and spend only part of your day at school. Or. You can go full time and not show up at school at all.

That is, you can leave high school without dropping out, while earning college credit, and not costing your parents a ton of money.

If your home life leaves something to desire as well, there are even a few residential programs that will have you living full-time on a college campus. The ones that I know of are at Middle Georgia College and West Georgia University.

Obviously, this is not for everyone. First, like I said, you will need good grades. Next, you will need to be at least a junior in high school. If you are not in a residential program you will need your own transportation. Finally, you will need the cooperation of your parents and school district. If you can, emphasize the fact to your parents that it's guaranteed college credit and could lead to you graduating from college faster/cheaper.

This program saved several of my friends in a previous incarnation a decade ago, and not just from human tormentors. One used the residential programs to escape a home filled with poverty and one was able to use the program to be out of the house while a parent underwent cancer treatment that would have compromised her ability to stay in school.

However, this program is not for everyone. One friend was kicked out of the Middle Georgia program for drinking. Another elected to stop showing up for class. Do not let this happen to you! It will just make things harder when they should be getting better.

Still, it's a great option if you have it. This program costs the county school systems money, so they are very reluctant to advertise it. Ask and be persistent if you need to get out.

Similar programs exist in other states, so please take advantage of the resources available if you need to make a change in your circumstances.
posted by Alison at 2:02 PM on December 4, 2011 [24 favorites]

Gut response is to say: "Suck it up." We're all picked on at various times, we all hate our life at some point in grade school, junior high, high-school etc.

It's really not the same. As a big, apparently straight white guy, I was picked on maybe twice for all of junior high and high school, and it was pretty half-hearted at best. I knew a guy who was small and effeminate, and he was picked on every single day, called faggot, told to kill himself, dumped in trash cans, every day. I enjoyed high school most of the time; it was living hell for him.

In my opinion, the school administration should have been brought up on charges for allowing what happened to that guy... same for this guy. At my school (elementary), the kid would be suspended, then expelled if it continued. Not sure why it's different for jr. high/high school.
posted by Huck500 at 2:12 PM on December 4, 2011 [11 favorites]

I was teased, a lot, as a kid, especially in middle school. I was born with severe scoliosis and the vertebrae in my neck are fused, giving me kind of a weird appearance. Plus I wear hearing aids. Anyway, I was called cripple and retard and weirdo, and it has had a lasting impact on my life. I didn't date until I was in my 20s.

BUT - I was close friends with a very effeminate boy. I'm not sure if he knew he was gay, but he used to bring scrapbooks full of pictures of Madonna, so everyone else knew it. And he got the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis. His life was sheer hell. Unlike me, he was very conventionally attractive, but I would not have traded places with him for a day.
posted by desjardins at 2:23 PM on December 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

" We're all picked on at various times, we all hate our life at some point in grade school, junior high, high-school etc."

That's one of the most clueless things I've ever read. If you look at childhood bullying without even accounting for something like sexual orientation, you see a huge disparity of being bullied among children. The pattern is entirely unlike the quote above and is instead one of a few children being intensely and consistently bullied, another group moderately bullied, and the rest only occasionally or not at all bullied. It's hard to believe that Fizz was ever a child, given that comment.

And, of course, there's a few things that are especially correlated with being in the first, intensely bullied, group. Not being heterosexual, for one. There are other things and everyone can recall examples from their childhoods.

When I was a child (70s), absolutely no non-adult I'd ever heard of was out of the closet. Instead, in adolescence, being accused of and being presumed gay was the most intense way in which teen boys were marked out for humiliation and abuse. Obviously, childhood culture in NA/Europe has changed since then and has become more tolerant—but not so much, and certainly not everywhere, such that non-heterosexuality is truly acceptable and doesn't correlate to being intensely targeted for bullying. There are certainly regions where the culture, in this respect, is almost unchanged from forty years ago.

The highly disproportionate rate of teen suicides among non-heterosexuals is a revealing measure of how much of this kind of bullying is still prevalent.

I am greatly disturbed by bullying on the basis of sexual orientation, but I think the intense bullying that a minority of all children experience through their childhoods is an extremely serious problem that is deeply upsetting. As a child, I was always very aware of the possibility of becoming a target of bullying, and deliberately and carefully avoided this. Even so, there were numerous times when I couldn't stomach the bullying of another child and would step in and defend him. This was always a wrenching decision for me because intervening against a bully always makes one the bully's primary target. But what some kids suffer through on a daily basis is, in my opinion, almost incomprehensible to the rest of us.

It seems to me that it's unlikely that it will be possible to eliminate all the various factors that go into producing someone who frequently bullies others. What is more practical and likely is that the rest of the children, the onlookers, are taught and encouraged to be intolerant of bullying. I'm not sure how much this has been achieved, though I'm aware that this is a focus of activity against bullying.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2011 [14 favorites]

Anyway, I couldn't watch the video past 1:20, when he started to cry.
posted by desjardins at 2:27 PM on December 4, 2011

Recently Redditors created a site called 'We Love You Tanner' to support a gay kid in Gatineau QC who was blogging about being bullied at school. I've been following his Twitter; he's still dealing with a lot of crap but at least now he knows he's not alone.

I think it's pretty cool that social media is helping kids reach out and find help and support no matter how small and isolated their communities might be.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:07 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was bullied horribly for years. Must of the focus of that was perceived sexual orientation, although it was only part of the reason I was bullied. The kids who got targeted the most for bullying were perceived to be gay.

All these years later...through Facebook and what-not...I've been able to connect with many of those kids. Only some of us ever graduated. Only some of us went on to have okay lives.

And only some of us turned out to be gay. I'm straight. So were some of the other kids. That part doesn't matter - no one deserves to be bullied for being gay - but it does help to show that even the suspicion of being gay is a huge part of bully "culture".

My kids are growing up with friends who have gay parents, teachers/principals who are gay and relatives and family friends who are gay. I can only hope that this generation has a fighting chance, when it's something that's been normal to them since they were born.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I never tear up at youtube, but I'm weeping now. Just want to go get him.
posted by Iteki at 3:48 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's one of the most clueless things I've ever read.

And that's unnecessarily condescending, considering the tone of Fizz's entire comment. In a thread about bullying, of all places, folks could theoretically disagree without being nasty.
posted by red clover at 4:10 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Man I posted my previous comment before watching this video. I just did and now tears are rolling down my face. I was in many ways a natural target for bullying when I was a kid but for whatever reason I had rock-solid self esteem back in those days and I don't remember it ever being a problem for me. These kids deserve so much better.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, that is video heart wrenching, I just sobbed my way through it. The antidote -- some of the terrific videos people are posting in support.

I've never been a Perez Hilton fan, but inviting this boy to a celebrity party next spring, all expenses paid, might give him something special to hang on to and look forward to when times get tough.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:15 PM on December 4, 2011

I try really hard not to be a cynical jaded bastard about stuff like this.

But you're going to, anyways.

Gut response is to say: "Suck it up."

Yeah, tough love bro.

We're all picked on at various times, we all hate our life at some point in grade school, junior high, high-school etc.

Yup, that's just the way life is for all teenagers and there's no hope in ever improving that lot.

But, everyone handles things differently, so if this helps him feel better.

Yeah, let me say this point to his face.

Good for him.

Distancing language and/or individualist fallacy.

I'm just ribbin' on ya! Sure you're a good person IRL.
posted by polymodus at 5:07 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Freshman year my mom moved to Baja California, and cus I was 14 and a dumb ass I followed her down. Being the one skinny ass white boy in a mexican public high school, I quickly learned that the best defense is a good offense.

When making your stand against someone whos been bullying you, its best to pick your territory and then respond as aggressively as possible when provoked, but in an environment when people will come running to break up the fight before it can get serious. This second part is critical as it makes you appear as though you are willing to start shit without needing to commit, because come on, the guy has freaking 50 lbs on you and your going to get your ass kicked. Once you give him a black eye though he will most likely move on to smaller fish. Bullies universally are cowards, thats why their bullies.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 5:15 PM on December 4, 2011

You know what I'd actually like to make?

I'd like to make a video speaking to Jonah's bullies. In which I show off a bunch of cards saying the following:

"Hey, guys. What's goin' on? Listen, you know how you pick on that kid? Why do you do that anyway? No, seriously, why? Did he do anything to you? Steal your lunch? Beat you up? Steal your homework? He didn't do anything like that, did he? So why are you picking on him? Why do you think it's okay to do that to him? Why do you think it's okay to do to anybody? Are you just afraid of him? Did you know that it's braver to make friends with someone rather than pick on him? So if you're making fun of him, you must be scared of him. Is it just him, or are you just afraid of anyone different from you? Why are you so scared of people? ...You don't like me calling you scared, I bet, right? You think you're brave, don't you? You want me to believe you're brave, I bet. Do you know how to prove to me that you're brave? Be brave enough to make a friend with someone different. Someone you would have picked on. Be brave enough to be nice to someone when your friends don't want to. Be brave enough to tell your friends to stop bullying. Be brave enough to stop bullying yourself. Only COWARDS bully. Prove you're not a coward. Prove it to me. Prove it to your friends. Prove it to Jonah. Prove it to the world. By stopping bullying."

....The only problem I have with this and other such "it gets better" approaches is that it is only half the puzzle. Telling the bullied "eventually it gets better" is important - but it's also important to tell the bully-ers that "what you are doing IS NOT OKAY." Or to tell other kids "standing by and doing nothing while other kids are being bullied is NOT OKAY." And I haven't seen anyone really address this part of the message yet, and I'm wishing someone would.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Open Letter to Jonah: You Have Thousands of Friends You Haven't Met Yet
".... Dear Jonah:

I watched your video today and it broke my heart. I remember how hard it was at your age, but clearly you are having a worse time of it.

I know that what you expressed is very real, I could see it in your eyes. You have been hurt, you feel alone, and you are afraid.

It is so hard to know what to say, but there are things I do know. It's not you, Jonah. It's them.

Too often, individuals, even adults, who are victimized by others, conclude that they have to be responsible. You are not responsible. They are. You did not do this. They did.

I remember a conversation I had with a very loved friend who was telling me of the hardships he endured because of his father. After hearing what he said I asked him to do one thing, even if he didn't believe it. I asked him to say: 'It's not my fault. It's his fault.'

He said it and the emotional dam broke. He wept for a long time that night but acknowledged, out loud, that he was not responsible for the actions of others. I hope you will say, out loud, to yourself: "It's not my fault. It's their fault. I am not responsible for this. I am not to blame." If you don't believe, keep reminding yourself and saying it out loud until you do.

I want you to say it because you are not to blame. Anyone who watches you knows you have been victimized. I cannot see how anyone with the courage to express himself, as you did, could possible be responsible.

As I read your notes and saw what your bullies were saying, it is clear they are the ones with problems. They are insecure, scared, perhaps a victim of other bullies themselves. The problems they have are their own and they try to make them your problems. Don't let them.

I don't know what your situation at home is like. If you can talk to your parents about this, do so. Show them the video. They need to know this is serious.

If you can't do this with them, for whatever reason, don't go through it alone. You need people to support you.

If there are teachers or counselors at the school who you think are good people, then show them the video, enlist their support.

I know you said you are strong, and I don't doubt you are a strong person. Simply making that video shows me that you are, but, even strong people sometimes reach a breaking point. That is why you need to share this, not just with anonymous people on the Internet, but also with people who can be right there with you; with people who can hold you and tell you that you are someone valuable and who can battle on your behalf when you need them.

Without that kind of backup, even the strongest person can cave in.

There is a scene in the film, About a Boy that says it well. The boy, Marcus, is having a tough life with bullies and a mother who needs help. Marcus goes out looking for people to be supportive, mainly for his mother, but also for himself. By the end of the film, he finds that support and Marcus tells the audience: 'We have to look after each other. The two of us. Suddenly I realized two people isn't enough. You need a backup.'

Jonah, you need backup.

In your message you said you have one friend left.

NO, JONAH. YOU HAVE THOUSANDS OF FRIENDS. You just haven't met them yet. They are there. We are there.

We want you to become the miracle that you are.

Read your thousands of messages. I suspect there will be tens of thousands soon. There are some jerks, but they are tiny, unimportant minority. Read what Hollywood scriptwriter Dustin Lance Black said to you here. The novelist Anne Rice has urged you to contact her; so have hundreds of other people.

Contact someone. You need backup. The greatest strength you can have is knowing when you need support. I know you don't want to go through this alone. If you did, you wouldn't have made the video.

As hard as it is to tell strangers through YouTube, it is harder to tell people who know you. Try. If you can't, then reach out to others. The Trevor Project can help. Give them a call at 866-488-7386.

You have thousands and thousands of friends who want the chance to meet you someday. You are not alone."
posted by ericb at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2011 [14 favorites]

* Bullies feed on reactions. Don't give them what they're looking for. When Jimmy pushed me on the ground and held a knife at my throat, I stayed casual. Never saw him again.

* Bullies generally have friends they want to hold onto that wouldn't like what they're doing. When they're around those people, give them the option to be an asshole. Watch them weigh what they stand to lose. Do it again next chance. When 10th-grade Al started pushing me into a locker, 12th-grade BIG Al threw him aside and told him to lay off.

* Some bullies are also scared kids who have low self-esteem. Some times a friend-like gesture will get them to lay off some. When they do something well, mention it... saved my ass a few times.

* Find adults you can trust. Especially the ones who've "been there". Listen to their advice. When you let them know what's going on, you'll be surprised at the really clever ways they can find to *fix* it. (Don't play that card too much, save it for real danger.)
posted by Twang at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Awwwww, fuck. I SO did not need to cry tonight.

The actual video got me going. The posted response made me totally lose it.

I was bullied pretty damn hard in my life. By adults in their way, as well as by kids in their way.

As much as I hate repeating a much used phrase, things do get better. They so do get better.

As someone who tried killing himself twice and seriously considered it up to about two years ago, I am so glad I suck at planning suicide and managed to get past the worst of my depression (although one might argue my slovenly housekeeping shows otherwise (grin)).

I won't say my life is all that happy, but I remember those moments. Those wonderful perfect moments when all is right and the universe is in perfect balance. They've not been many, but I do know more are out there. I just need to wait for them to occur. Try to make them occur.

Sorry to totally lose it tonight. Not much of a crier, and it tends to lead me to emotional data dumps.
posted by Samizdata at 7:01 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

As sad a statement as it seems on the surface, sometimes the simple lesson that a kid is not alone in being targeted, knowing that ignorance and bigotry exist across state lines is a powerful message, in a world that might otherwise seem...

urgh, that open letter is pretty moving, I hope this idea can come to be seen as the corollary to the (useful, and powerful) "It Gets Better" hypothesis. "WE are there."

"WE are there". We are there because it can only get better when people learn they are not alone. We are there because it gets better puts so much on a target to "improve", to "deal", and "settle", to "accept the bullying as the steady state, and to just survive". We are there because it is not a failing of a person to still feel weak, despite hearing from adults that "It gets better". WE are there because it is not the responsibility of an individual to bear the burden of a worlds worth of ignorance. We are there because it is not the responsibility of a child to overturn the weight of the whole worlds bigotry. We are there because together we have power, shelter and protection from the cold winds of ignorance, where alone we are naked. WE are there because We need those who are gone. WE are there because those we lose are gone, we cannot bring them all back to life.

WE are there.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I'm tired of bing torn down."


(I'm going to hell for that, right?!)
posted by markkraft at 8:11 PM on December 4, 2011

And yes, I have a sympathy for him, because I was teased mercilessly when I was young, and practically had to fight to defend myself every day for about two years... but if you're going to go to all the trouble to write up cue cards, shoot a video, edit in some audio, time the audio so that it peaks right at the end of the video you shot, and post it to YouTube... it's a good idea to spell check first.

I was bullied practically every day from about 4th-6th grade. I even had the f*cking principal tell me that I was like a wounded fish in a tank that everyone would take a bite of, and that I needed to fight back... as if I ever actually wanted to be a punching bag... but I don't think I would've ever have made my difficulties so public.

I might be a snarky grammar nazi, but the real cynical bastards are the 6500 or so who voted thumbs down on the kid's video. I honestly don't think that social pressure will make bullies stop being bullies -- only the most serious of punishments might work -- but *maybe* it could help change the dynamics of the many, many others who feel compelled to huddle around excitedly, as young kids get attacked for no good reason, because the kids on the playground still like to watch "a good fight".
posted by markkraft at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2011

"WE are there."*

* In sprit. Except, of course, that the fellow students, the teachers, the adults around this kid... they aren't there when he's getting bullied every day. They just aren't. Even if it's their job to be there, and they can see that someone is getting bullied... again. Because they're busy, and have work to do. And besides, when they do try to be there for a bullied kid, they know they have their hands tied, and that any action against bullies will be negligible, until serious damage has been done. They can't do that much anyway, in large part because there are just so many kids out there who support the bullying on some level, goading it on and instigating it, to the point that it's hard to differentiate who the bullies really are... and taking effective action against packs of bullies is simply not acceptable to the parents, who will raise a stink to high hell if their pwecious little darlings are compared to nasty, brutish thugs.

We, most certainly, are not there. And telling someone to wait several, several years for things to "get better" is damn near a foreign concept to a young kid.

posted by markkraft at 9:09 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Gut response is to say: "Suck it up." We're all picked on at various times, we all hate our life at some point in grade school, junior high, high-school etc.

Suppress this response. It's the kind of thing a high school counselor might have told me, in the same breath as telling me that I was bringing it onto myself by not acting "more masculine."
posted by hermitosis at 9:42 PM on December 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

We are there, and it will get better, should not confused with a belief in an instantaneous and magic-like "end" to all bullies. Yes, for reasons you noted, a chain of changes would need to occur to end bullying. No one word will end bullying.

My dream is that we (as a society) will get to hear the words of people who might have taken their own lives... their words that will help to end bullying, in a way that I simply cannot. Knowing that people think it is important that a person stays alive, and with us to keep this discussion going... is powerful, and actually, even if we aren't all in the same room, and I don't have an army to stop bullies, it still holds meaning, and weight.

People don't need to physically stop a single assault to help another person find relief from their pain. Words of compassion to a victim can hold weight, just like actions against a bully. They are not "dichotomous", they are facets of the same concept.

You are right, we aren't "there". And even if we were "there", like Jonah expressed... faking a smile to avoid facing depression is excruciatingly easy. Even were we "there" such pain might not be apparent, until it has festered and eaten at self-confidence, stolen self-worth one step too far, and it all falls apart. Everyone is distributed, displaced spatially. Many people trying to create a wave of opposition to bullying are of differing ages, so even if everyone was "there", they still might not even otherwise *see* each other in any sort of daily life. But, really, for many people, the immediate goal is not some totalitarian end of all bullying (*which, yeah, sucks, but also, yeah, there are also immediate goals, urgent goals that [at least, *I* believe] are more clear and pressing, to do nothing, where something can be done, not to beat up the bully as they do their bullying, but to talk to victims and to say "you have worth", "you are important to the world", "you are important to me", "you are important to others", "You will find more people who will say that you are important as you get older"; "Don't give up, don't give in, there are others just like you, and you don't want to tell them to be hopeless... join the struggle, join Jonah, and so many millions of others").

The thing that I think confuses many older people is that "It gets better", is not about ending bullying, so much as showing young people that their voices are needed to save the lives of other young folks just like them (it isn't for the adults, it is for the young people, to show them that they can, now more than ever, connect with others, both around them, and far away).

It is to express to the countless amazing, important, bright, hopeful, sad, broken, repairing, tired, weak, strong, unprepared young people not to end their own life. I cannot create a police force, or build an education system where teachers are trained to recognize, and understand bullying... stopping it before it even occurs, even if I could "create" that magical army... I, certainly, wouldn't know what order to give... no one thinks there is a 'solution' like this.

I can, realistically, only say, with confidence, and maybe I am squibbing the truth here, maybe everything is horrible forever like it is now... but I don't care, because the horrible "here" that we all have now... would be infinitely better were even *ONE* of the tragically young folks who have taken their own lives due to feeling unworthy, still here... it gets infinitely worse for us all, with each alert that another person who is supposed to help the world heal, when we learn they have gone before their time, "it gets better, we all need YOU, urgently, and to that end, I am here, many are here, we may not be THERE... Sorry. But we are here, distributed around the country, and with you."

Fine... if needed... take away It Gets Better, take away WE Are Here... But one that you cannot take is "We Need *You* Now More Than Ever; don't give up".
posted by infinite intimation at 9:48 PM on December 4, 2011

I guess, my point, and the point of others, is that the idea that "It Gets Better" promotes (remembering that yes, it is a slogan, but behind the slogan are millions of much deeper, much longer thoughts and ideas, and shared dialogues... many from people who are survivors, and have shared experiences with the young people that the messages is intended for), a message which is not actually, at all, in the slightest, *about*, or *for* bullies, or even people who tacitly support the bullying by seeing it and being silent... it is *about*, and *for* the people who are targeted, for anyone who feel worthless, or broken, anyone who feels powerless.

It is to say; "this feeling, this powerlessness... it is a lie". Look at Jonah, a bunch of millions of people hearing his thoughts... discussing his words, some pointing to splleeeing arors, but hey, that's fine, it's really all ok, because what he realized, is that *that* is power. *That* is worth; we need to create our own power, our own worth sometimes (contrary to those who feel that "It Gets Better" will only weaken young people, or make them dependent on an authority figure to protect them), the true message behind "It Gets Better" is one of empowerment. That is importance... and (yes, he *is* special, and very brave), but he is not an outlier... any one of the young people who felt like they *didn't have a million reasons to be here* actually could have done what Jonah did, or something different, with an even wider impact.

I guess the point is to help people see that *power* and *worth* are all relative.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:03 PM on December 4, 2011

I live and do everything I do for every Jonah out there. Including Jonah.

Jonah, around the world, you have more friends and allies than you could ever possibly imagine.

Let someone know who you are. Let a bunch of people know until you find someone who helps.

But remember: We are here for you.
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:09 PM on December 4, 2011

PS Fizz I am very very upset with.
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:13 PM on December 4, 2011

Suck it up. This might work when you have to eat a shit sandwich, but these kids are drowning in an sea of shit. The stuff they called you, it wasn't true. You didn't fuck your mother, you weren't an asshole, at least not more than anyone else, and certainly not more than them. They probably called you a faggot and I am guessing that wasn't you either. It's harder, and more damaging, to suck it up when they are right. What they are victimising you for, and excluding you for, and beating you for. When it's true. It being true doesn't make them right, but it can sure feel that way.

Fight them back. If you were caught (and your plan, it sounded like, was to get caught by an adult who could break it up), you would be dragged before the principal, right? And your parents called in, yeah? And they would be told what it was about? And then there was a good chance they would never look at you the same way again. Or throw you out of your home. Or make it impossible for you to stay. Wouldn't they?

It saddens me that I, who was never bullied, can empathise with these kids when those who themselves were bullied often can't. The legacy of this vicious form of abuse perhaps.
posted by Iteki at 10:24 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

The stuff they called you, it wasn't true.

This is a good point and insightful, but it doesn't always apply and especially not with kids. For every homosexual boy who gets called "faggot," there is a girl the same age who's never kissed a boy but is being called "slut," and a lot of the latter aren't able to distinguish that it isn't true and it affects them as if it were.

It's all bad, abuse and bullying and cruelty. I think there's validity to your point. But to the extent the logic carries on to minimize other bullying or to say, "Yeah, but this is worse"...I don't necessarily agree or think that's useful.
posted by red clover at 2:15 AM on December 5, 2011

I don't know what the HELL to believe.


So, I might say, "This video was fake, not the original."

But then people link to http://www.youtube.com/user/RandomTV201 so you can compare/contrast for yourself. He doesn't speak in the original video, so there's no sample to tell there, but compared to the video above and the person in the "RandomTV201" videos, there is a lot of similarity.

So, I thought, "Well, RandomTV201 may be the same as the guy claiming to be a liar, but neither of them are Jonah."

...then why does ericb have RandomTV201 listed as his Youtube channel?

Similarly, that looks to be the same guy in the JonahMowryReal twitter account linked above for the "Jonah Mowry has asked for the "We Support"..." link.

Did I just get trolled?
posted by subversiveasset at 6:14 AM on December 5, 2011

Yeah, evidently you guys just got seriously trolled. His link to Perez Hilton is apropos because it seems like they have the same manic attention-seeking behavior.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2011

Is it possible that the "I'm happy" video was filmed several months after the "what's goin' on" video? Maybe Jonah got lucky, and his fears were not realized. Maybe the support he got after posting the video helped him find his way. Maybe he was exaggerating (but I don't know how you can watch that video and think it is fake).

Ultimately I don't think it matters. The issue is much bigger than this specific kid.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:01 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I dont't think we got trolled.
"We are very happy to report that Jonah is doing very well and happy!

Jonah uploaded his bullying video in August, though it just went viral. He has this other YouTube channel where he's been having fun lipsynching to some of our favorite artists, goofing around in other vids, and just being the very special kid he is.

We've also been chatting with Jonah on his Twitter account and through DM. He is so touched by all the love being sent his way. He tells us he is truly in a much better place. Happier and with friends that care! Plus, he is also getting some counseling - something we'd recommend to anyone going through difficult times." *
posted by ericb at 9:06 AM on December 5, 2011

BTW -- the second YouTube video in the FPP was of Jonah thanking people for the support of his 3 month old video. He stated that he is doing well. At the end he berated people who were writing nasty comments about him online and took to task people who called his summertime video fake. That video was removed 10 minutes after I posted this FPP. I suspect he did so due to the tone of the video ending negatively.

I think in this new video he is challenging the doubters and haters: fake, or not, you decide. He's being snide and also insulting them with his "of course I'm gay, Einsteins" message. It's a teenage boy snapping back in somewhat of a sassy way.
posted by ericb at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2011

"He tells us he is truly in a much better place. Happier and with friends that care! Plus, he is also getting some counseling - something we'd recommend to anyone going through difficult times."

It gets better.*

posted by markkraft at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2011

When making your stand against someone whos been bullying you, its best to pick your territory and then respond as aggressively as possible when provoked, but in an environment when people will come running to break up the fight before it can get serious.

Does it bother anyone else that the tips for surviving school so closely resemble the tips for surviving prison?
posted by dry white toast at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

People tempted to pile on Fizz are encouraged to read his entire comment before responding.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:30 AM on December 5, 2011

When I watch this, there's a part of me that's irritated that his grammar, spelling, and penmanship are so terrible (his school system is failing him in more than one way), but I think I'm just a little bitter and jealous about the outlet he has there. For me, those breakdown moments came down to me locked in my room with a turntable, a great big pair of AKG cans, and a bunch of XTC records.

Of course, I've always been a big of an odd duck in that I've always been genocidal rather than suicidal. Where the normal depressed kid stormed off, shouting about how they wished they were dead, I had a different take.

"I wish you were dead. All of you. The whole fucking species."

Fortunately, it was the early mid eighties and Reagan was king, so it wasn't entirely unlikely that we'd all get nuked, except for me, because I had all the handbooks I ordered from the local survivalist association and was convinced I'd survive so I could live in a mall and have an asymmetrical haircut and wear espadrilles all the time, with my turntable hooked up to speakers all over the place.

Teen fantasy is a hell of a drug.

I think about making an "it gets better" video sometimes, because I think I have a decent take on the whole thing, and some worthwhile advice for people, and I'm a decent speaker, but ultimately, "it" didn't get better.

I did.

I got better at understanding why people act the way they do. I got better at navigating the system and at finding the weak spots in my tormentors. I built a sense of my own worth that can't be easily knocked down because I could tell the difference between the truth and lies. I found the places, people, and things in the world that bring me joy, and cast off the old expectations. There are millions of reasons to be here, and I've got about nine hundred thousand left to find.

This kid is already on the right track, I suspect. In the other video, he's an annoying little brat living in the swirly, obnoxious emotional microclimates of youth, like many kids, judging from the video, but he's a kid. Those of you who got 'em probably know only too well what horrid little creatures they are. They're brilliant, amazing, wonderful, and occasionally so damned pretentious, arch, and intentionally stupid you just wish it wasn't against the law to eat them. Ask me, I know. I had a tape recorder running through most of my youth and the cassettes ain't flattering.

Still, and this may be an unpopular angle, "it," as in the amorphous, fuzzy, uncertain "it" of "it gets better" will only get better if you're very, very lucky, but you can get better. You can better the bullies, better the indifference, and better the whole muckety societal mess in which we're doomed to swim.

All the sort of weirdlove that you get from the internet, though—it's just something else entirely. This video's making the rounds amongst my FB, LJ, and G+ associates, and on a superficial level, the whole "you've got thousands of friends out there!" thing is sort of nice, in a cinematic "I'm Spartacus!" inspiring sort of way, except that movies end, and all of you who suddenly know and love and want to care for this kid, whether he's the real deal or just on a lark, won't be there in the morning, and won't be there at night, and won't be with him at school, and won't be there because you're not real, not in a way he can use.

It feels good to stand with the righteous, but the way to do it isn't to pile onto Jonah Mowry in a great big love ball—the way to do it is to find your own Jonah, in your own corner of the world, and to look out for him or for her. He's known now, and unlikely to slip through the cracks. The kid in your own life, the niece or the neighbor or the kid of a coworker who needs that attention is the one. Find her, find him, be vigilant, and provide just enough strength and just enough support and all the wisdom you can manifest to give that kid the chance to find the strength that's already there, untapped.

Things won't just get better. That's our job.

For every one of us who ever knew what it was like to wake up with that cloud of desolation lying over us like a hot, wet, heavy, foul-smelling blanket, and with the dread of going to school and dealing with the daily ugliness so painfully familiar, and for all of us who wake up now and love the world that's laid out before us like a big glittering puzzle that we're eager to solve and enjoy and explore—we've got work to do.

Like cartographers working our way back through the maze of long memory in order to map out a safe passage, we can say "I was there, too, and now life is so much more than I ever imagined it could be," and give our young fellow travelers a push in the right direction, intervening just enough along the way to keep them from harm when we can.
posted by sonascope at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't understand the "he's a fraud" claims. There are really four possibilities:

1. He's straight and did this to bring attention to gay bullying, by claiming he's gay. Okay, weird approach, but good intent.

2. He's straight and somehow mocking gays who are bullied. Unlikely, because by claiming he's gay, he would subject himself to bullying online and off. Also, he deserves an Oscar.

3. He's gay but has not been subject to bullying. This is perhaps unlikely, but if true, he's still bringing attention to the thousands of gay kids who are bullied.

4. He's telling the truth.
posted by desjardins at 12:33 PM on December 5, 2011

4. He's telling the truth.

It's #4.

The first video was made in August before going back to school about which he was scared. The video garnered no attention until now.

After having returned to school he eventually made friends.

He made the most recent video yesterday telling people that he's now happy. I take it that he's trying to slam those who having been writing vile things about him on the Internet these past two days. Just take a look at the YouTube comments, as well as some at Perez Hilton and other websites. It's kind of "you can't touch me now." And, he takes a last stab at those who mock him for being gay (ala an "Of course, I'm gay, idiots" approach.
posted by ericb at 1:50 PM on December 5, 2011

Example comment posted seconds ago on his first video:
posted by ericb at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2011

Another tasty YouTube comment: "Please, PLEASE kill yourself... for me? ♥"
posted by ericb at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2011

No offense, ericb, but YouTube comments are more likely than not representative of the dregs, the absolute shit, of humanity and you could find the same hate-filled comments in response to a video of a cute puppy or a plea to help end childhood starvation.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2011

Ivan --

True ... but, I suspect he's reading the comments at YouTube, Gawker, Perez Hilton, etc. (while, IMHO, he shouldn't.)
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2011

ericb: " It's #4. "

That's not the point? We get that.

desjardins was postulating why some folks are accusing him of making it up. To which the answer is simply, "they cynically think he's lying to get attention."
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2011

Some of his recent tweets:
i cant deal with all the hate anymore its starting to get tto me.

i cant deal with the hate and deth threats anymore its getting to me.

Made a video telling people why i was happy... What do they do... Twist it around so i look like a lier... Great.
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2011

zarq -- gotcha'.
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on December 5, 2011

His most recent tweet:
omg veryomes congradulating me... Huh wow... I kinda feel better....
posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2011

When I watch this, there's a part of me that's irritated that his grammar, spelling, and penmanship are so terrible ...

posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2011

When I watch this, there's a part of me that's irritated that his grammar, spelling, and penmanship are so terrible ...

Exactly -- if you spend all day at school getting harassed, how much do you actually learn?

I nearly failed out of high school because of shit like this. The first two years I got D's and Fs in the majority of my classes, and I ditched frequently because the Art and Theater buildings were the only places I felt safe. As in, physically safe. It's fortunate that I had a natural interest in reading and writing and wasn't pulled too far off track in that regard, but there are holes in my education that you could drive a Pride float through.

Here are some stats about gay teens and education.
posted by hermitosis at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I may be unusual in this regard, because my response to bullying was to spend my time reading and learning, which I generally did on my own anyway, thanks to the learning quirks that twice landed me in special education. School wasn't where I learned for the most part, except I lucked out in being sufficiently gifted with gab as to talk my way out of a few problematic classes for whole semesters to essentially give myself a "great books" education in the library. Of course, a traditional great books program doesn't count Douglas Adams or P.G. Wodehouse among the great books, but here we are.

So I'll cut him slack, but hope someone takes him under a wing that's not just protective. Kids need more than security—they need smarts, too, to best the stupid.
posted by sonascope at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2011

Bullied Teen Jonah Mowry Speaks, Responds To Claims His Video Was Fake!
In his own words!

Following the false claims made against him and all the hate thrown his way since his emotional video about being bullied went viral, 14 year old Jonah Mowry took to YouTube and wrote the following in the description to the clip above.

He says:


To all my friends and supporters,

I made this video 4 months ago just before school was about to start. I was 13. It was a very emotionally dark time in my life. I made the video at 4:00am in the morning; I hadn't been sleeping at night for a long time, too many things going on in my head. I was dreading going back to school and I had not come out to my family yet. Only my closest friends knew. I didn't know how to say what I needed to say. All I could think about were all the bad things that had been happening at school last year, every year for that matter. I just couldn't bare to go through that anymore. I was done being fake happy, pretending hateful words didn't hurt, done hiding it from my family.

So this video was made for my friends that had moved on to High School who were worried for me, to say to them that I was going to take a stand, and to the haters at my middle school that I'm not going anywhere. I am who I am. I posted the video here and told people were to find it. That was it.

My friends were moved by the video and thought I did something important. I was encouraged to upload it to my Facebook page so more people could see it. Maybe it could help someone else going through the same thing. So I linked it Dec. 1st. My Parents saw it for the first time Dec, 2nd.

Then….. all this happened.

I never expected in a million years that it would have such a wonderful impact on so many people. I am truly humbled and truly thankful for all the love, encouragement and support from people all over the world. It's been incredibly overwhelming. I don't know what to say. Thank you so, so much!

Lastly, yes you have seen me happy in a couple short videos replies I posted; I would think that would be a good thing, and yes I do have friends, my High School friends, and I have made friends because when I came out they realized that they had hurt me and that they fealt sorry. The video is real, and true.

In the last few months everything eventually came out in the open, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders; I'm happy, I'm excepted for who I am, I'm more confident and feel stronger every day.

Thank you all, Love and peace to all who are hurting.

Jonah Mowry"
posted by ericb at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm happy to see he found a proofreader!

posted by desjardins at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2011

Jonah Mowry's Mom Speaks Out.
Jonah Mowry has received A LOT of attention ever since he uploaded his powerful video on his experience with bullying.

Most of it has been positive. People without the need to further bully have seen the strong, young man he is. Of course, there has been some negative attention as well.

Some have actually had the audacity to question the reality behind the video and others are even saying bullying is "just something to get over."

Well now Jonah's mother is speaking out on all of it, and we want to listen:
First and foremost, I am proud of the responses we've gotten from people. I'm thankful. There are a lot of people that are giving their warm wishes and uplifting Jonah, and I think that's good.

I'm disappointed that people would question whether it's true. He is sick over all the horrible posts and so are we. It's very overwhelming. I'm disappointed that somebody could look at the first video and then look at the second and think it's a lie. He's a child. He's a 14-year-old boy. He's very young.
Yes, it's extremely disappointing how some could actually find this as a tool for their own negative behavior. But the important thing here is that Jonah is doing well, and he is much happier than he was when he made the first video!
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on December 6, 2011

Posted by Jonah 3 months ago on Formspring:
What is your main goal for this school year.

Make it through Alive. (im serious).
posted by ericb at 1:29 PM on December 6, 2011

I'm happy to see he found a proofreader!
"But [Peggy Sue] Mowry also said the family was disheartened by other vile comments that had been posted recently online.

"He is sick over all the horrible posts and so are we ... it's very overwhelming," said his mother, a 52-year-old hairdresser from Lake Forest, Calif.

Jonah's parents helped him craft a response to deal with rumors that he was a fake. His father is Kevin Mowry, a music instructor technician at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.

... "It had to be done," his mother told ABC. "So after school we had him sit down and compose it."*
posted by ericb at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2011

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