Brandon Vedas
February 5, 2003 11:21 PM   Subscribe

As an update to a difficult earlier thread, "Ripper" or Brandon Vedas has a new memorial site dedicated to "the education and prevention of future tragedies", and is up thanks in part to the work of his brother.
posted by mathowie (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Although I'm not generally a fan of doing updates to earlier threads (especially when they are not archived yet), I think a family member's tribute site to his brother is worthy of special mention. Also worth noting is that the chat logs are shown on the site, at his brother's request, which is much different than the earlier messages that were along the lines of "the family can't handle it, and they should be taken offline."

By using the story as a means of education and a warning to others, given the circumstances I think this is about the only way something good can come from this event; hopefully it deters and prevents many future deaths.
posted by mathowie at 11:25 PM on February 5, 2003

hopefully it deters and prevents many future deaths

Even one would be enough. Online feedback is extremely effective and the "kindness of strangers" effect has yet to be fully explored.

It's as if the general cynicism and snarkiness of the Internet, by providing a hard context to exceptional cases, makes concerted acts of humanity and sensibility to suffering all the more powerful.

As in "Why would all these people who supposedly couldn't care less, be telling me to pucker up and look on the bright side?"

It can be so easy to make a difference. I've seen it done on MeFi, albeit in non life-threatening situations. But still; it's a question of degree.

Very touching anyway. Thanks, Matt.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:34 PM on February 5, 2003

I will add this message to people not from MeFi, who may read this....

Brandon's death did not happen in #mefi.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:39 PM on February 5, 2003

FWIW, this NY Daily News article on Brandon was on Daypop for the last couple of days, I noticed. I just checked again, and it seems to have fallen off this afternoon.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:59 PM on February 5, 2003

people were requesting the logs be taken off because they were paranoid about being arrested.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:25 AM on February 6, 2003

Poor kid. I can't imagine how shitty and horrifying it must feel to have a site dedicated to one's own deceased brother, but I admire the fortitude and selflessness which may do a great deal toward awareness and prevention of similar tragedies in the future.

I think this is about the only way something good can come from this event.

posted by hama7 at 3:04 AM on February 6, 2003

Online suicides are nothing new, and in many ways, Brandon's case isn't unique. It's just better documented.

Howard Rheingold mentions a death on the WELL in "The Virtual Community" that was particularly touching, if I remember right. It's been out for ages, but it's still worth reading and provides valuable insight into the je ne sais quoi of communities.

After the first two suicide attempts on LiveJournal, I made a post about my previous experiences with online suicide and provided info to help others. I heard my post saved someone's life. I'd like to hope so.

When I first heard about Brandon Vedas, it really reminded me of a cam suicide attempt on LiveJournal in July 2001. There was an element of the crowd that was just completely merciless to her, both in egging her on and also in what they did once they found out.

Someone captured a picture from her cam while she was passed out and turned it in to a parody of the MasterCard "priceless" commercials. It was a real stream of poor taste and ridicule, while she was in a coma with damage to her internal organs and brain seizures. She recovered, but both her reputation and her internal organs never did.

Unfortunately, a few people on LJ like Kevin Hogue were successful. Kevin wasn't the only one, however. There's nothing quite as frustrating as reading an online suicide note, to try to find someone who may be on the floor dying somewhere, but whose identity seems to be impossible to trace... you ask friends, look for someone who might know where they live, and all the while you're waiting until all you can assume is that it would be too late to do much of anything.

I don't know all the answers to suicide, but I do know that if you really want to prevent it, you can't wait around for it to happen. Be nice to people today, I giess...
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:17 AM on February 6, 2003

Beyond merely the story of alienation and cyber- social atomization in the US, the "Ripper" thread remind me of this underlying trend: on the first "Ripper" post, I noted the fact of the seismic transition in the last two or three decades to the middle class two-income family - it now generally takes two wage earners to maintain a US middle class family at the expected level of affluence. I'll say it again - the US middle class is trying to tread water, slowly sinking, and in the process it's children are suffering. I do not mean to imply that this was necessarily true in the case of Brandon Vedas; his death was to me evocative of this larger trend I commented on.

I was listening to a bit on the radio this morning about James Gleick's (author of "Chaos") 1999 book, "Faster" - about how we're all speeding up, presumeably to stay competitive against the rising Chinese, and other developing world, economies.....

Apparently, you could in 1999 buy something called the "30 Second Bedtime Story". For "The Thirty Second Parent" and the "The Thirty Second Child", I guess. Will this 'multitasking', hyper-efficiency trend end as humans are gradually replaced with dedicated robots, and shoved to the margins like so much livestock in the new "Clearances" of the 21st century?

"...the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to..." - Ted Kaczynski, quoted in Bill Joy's article in Wired 10.04, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us"
posted by troutfishing at 4:27 AM on February 6, 2003

everytime bush rattles his sabre god kills a middle class kid.
posted by quonsar at 4:32 AM on February 6, 2003

"Why would all these people who supposedly couldn't care less, be telling me to pucker up and look on the bright side?"
That is a good point, MiguelCardoso and I hope that those who have seen the hyper-cynical membership of MeFi act with compassion and understanding in this situation can take some comfort that we are not as uncaring as it sometimes appears. I certainly hope that the exposure MeFi has given this tragic series of events can ignite a spark of hope in someone.
posted by dg at 5:15 AM on February 6, 2003

everytime quonsar prattles a quip metafilter mourns an otherwise worthy thread

(No matter what torrez sez! I kid because I love, you know that, right? Love the q...)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:15 AM on February 6, 2003

Every time a kid kills himself, you can count on pussified comments like "alienation and cyber- social atomization" for excuses, and pure crap.

I'll say it again - the US middle class is trying to tread water, slowly sinking, and in the process it's children are suffering.

Boo Hoo. See actual suffering, and not just "prozac-blame-my-parents-dipshit-victim suffering".

The world is very big and not so nice as you may think, but on we go, with whatever courage we have.
posted by hama7 at 5:28 AM on February 6, 2003

hama7 - You are your own worst critic.
posted by troutfishing at 5:35 AM on February 6, 2003

When I was in university, many many years ago, I used to be a little less... stable... than I am now.

I'd forgotten about most of my most egregious offenses against the steadfast friendship of my various friends and lovers and drinking buddies at the time, but I was reminded of one particular evening on the flight back to Korea from Vancouver about a month ago. Through sheer random chance, I was on the same flight as an old UBC friend of mine, who'd been living in Japan for the last decade, and had also come back to Canada for an Xmas visit and the wake of a recently-deceased mutual friend.

He told me about one night (which I'd forgotten about) when, drunker than fuck, at a party at the 17th floor residence quad at UBC of our dead friend, I'd climbed out and spidermanned around the narrow ledge, just to be amusing and shit when the party flagged, and how he was so angry at me for being so stupid, for taking such an idiotic chance just to impress. I vaguely remembered that I'd done it, and apologized for freaking him out, 15 years on.

I understand the impulse that led Brandon to his death. I used to be like that. I like drugs too, even if I don't do them anymore. But if I'd done what he did, I'd not expect that anyone would call me anything but an idiot afterwards. I'd hope, at least, though, that they'd miss me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:43 AM on February 6, 2003

I'd hope, at least, though, that they'd miss me.

They would. And we would. I would.

Everybody feels incoherence and emptiness about death and loss, and the worst part is, there really is no consolation at all, except faith, if you are fortunate enough to have it in whatever form.
posted by hama7 at 6:33 AM on February 6, 2003

everytime bush rattles his sabre god kills a middle class kid.

This is shitting on the thread, plain and simple. And its not even funny.

ob. on-topic comment: does anyone else find the memorial site a little, I dunno, weird? If it was my family member, I think I would be too upset by the whole thing to start planning an on-line tribute. I guess people deal with things in different ways, but I find "memorial" websites sort of trivializing.
posted by Mid at 6:53 AM on February 6, 2003

This wasn't a suicide.
posted by jpoulos at 7:21 AM on February 6, 2003

Mid - people express grief in many different ways, and sometimes won't cry, or grieve until years after a death. I saw my wife do this recently, over the death of her father 5 years ago. And sometimes others who are feeling that grief at the time get really angry at those people (who are holding it in, for whatever reason, conscious or not) who they perceive aren't expressing adequate, or appropriate levels of emotion ( was that hama7, commenting on my first comment on this post? ). Maybe Brandon's brother has no one he feels he can express it to? Who knows.
posted by troutfishing at 7:21 AM on February 6, 2003

hama7 - if someone is driven to end their life because of the problems they are experiencing, even if they are upper middle class, I think that is enough to say that their suffering is "real".

Your comments expose a cold and intentional indifference that worries me. I hope there are not many others who hold the same view.
posted by botono9 at 9:43 AM on February 6, 2003

Having recently spoken at a memorial service for a good friend who desperately wanted to live long enough to see his son grow up, I'm appalled at the amount of attention we're lavishing on an idiot who threw away his life to impress some other idiots in a chat room. Is all this publicity going to prevent more senseless deaths or will it prompt more immature attention seekers to imitation?
posted by timeistight at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2003

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, drug abuse, and so forth are all diseases. Humans suffering from these diseases deserve our compassion and understanding and help just as any victim of cancer deserves such. The pain is as real as that from bony metastasis.

The suggestion that their suffering is somehow not real or legitimate or worthy of our concern reeks of ignorance, if not worse.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:13 AM on February 6, 2003

I'm not suggesting that their pain isn't real; I'm suggesting that publicizing this tragedy in the name of preventing future deaths may have the opposite effect.
posted by timeistight at 10:24 AM on February 6, 2003

I think Mr. And_Mutilate was referring to hama7's ignorance (and worse).
posted by jpoulos at 10:28 AM on February 6, 2003

It's a beautiful site and a very noble thing to do. I hope all major sites, blogs, IRC channels etc spread the word about the Brandon's memorial site.
posted by 111 at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2003

I'm appalled at the amount of attention we're lavishing on an idiot who threw away his life

death is death and it's sad and difficult no matter how it comes about. Of course your friend deserves the attention of mourners but the fact that other people are mourning brandon doesn't take away from that. You can't compare tragedy like that; it just doesn't work.

I'm not sure people have any more control over the capacities of their minds & emotions than they do over those of their bodies (which is to say, we have limited ability to alter and perhaps improve what we're born with). So I'd tell you to chill out - this kid might have been as much a victim as your friend (who I assume died of some disease with an unknown or genetic cause) - but that might be a little hypocritical :)

If it was my family member, I think I would be too upset by the whole thing to start planning an on-line tribute.

If you spent a lot of time online anyway, and especially if the deceased spent a lot of time online, it would seem only natural, I 'd think. People in mourning commonly devote energy to memorials of one sort or another (the service, setting up foundations or grants, holding special events, etc). Anyway, the site is pretty small and was designed by someone else. He just wrote the little intro and maybe gathered some of the links - that wouldn't take much.
posted by mdn at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2003

Media stories about individual deaths by suicide may be newsworthy and need to be covered, but they also have the potential to do harm inadvertently. Research studies over the past three decades have convincingly demonstrated that certain ways of describing suicide in the news media contribute to what behavioral scientists call "suicide contagion" and the lay public often refers to as copycat suicides.
The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
posted by timeistight at 10:55 AM on February 6, 2003

If it was my family member, I think I would be too upset by the whole thing to start planning an on-line tribute.

If you look at the contact page, it looks as if his brother just wrote the welcome note on the home page, and that people from and elsewhere actually built the site (at least, that's the impression I got).

And what f_and_m said.
posted by biscotti at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2003

timeistight, I don't consider this a suicide, and I would hope that people in a position of being able to copycat what ripper did would instead wake up and think "I could die from fucking around at home with drugs?" I don't see how this would goad someone else into doing it, it appears very plainly that a kid that thought he was invincible and "could handle it" died, and I suspect there are many other young people that think the same way, but would think twice after seeing one of their own die.
posted by mathowie at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2003

This wasn't a suicide.
Funny how we have drifted into treating this as a suicide instead of a tragic accident, which is what it seems to be. My hope is that somewhere there is a kid who has said "man, taking all these drugs is not such a good idea after all" and has improved (or saved) his or her life because of it.

As far as the tribute site goes, it is simply an on-line version of putting a cross beside the road where someone is killed in a road accident. In this case, it has been put where those most at risk are likely to see it.
posted by dg at 2:18 PM on February 6, 2003

I agree that this wasn't a suicide but that doesn't mean publicizing it can't result in suicide contagion, not to mention macho, showoff, drug-taking contagion. I think the more attention this gets, the more likely it makes another similar tragedy.

Anyway, I'm just upset at the waste of life. I'll shut up now.
posted by timeistight at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2003

TisT -- there is a chapter on suicide contagion on a South Pacific island (can't remember which one) in Gladwell's The Tipping Point. It was one of the more interesting chapters in the (somewhat uneven) book. btw.
posted by Mid at 4:01 PM on February 6, 2003

hama7, if you think that's bad, what about the kid who got crushed and killed while tipping a soda machine in canada?
his parents put up a web site for him.. damn, i looked. it's offline now ( but the wayback machine can take you an archived version.

i feel so bad for him if he's some type of spirit and can see this. it's pretty pathetic- the parents recently attempted to sue Coca-Cola over it. I think a Darwin Award is in order, if it hasn't already been issued to him.
posted by shadow45 at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2003

I feel terrible for this boy's family, and I apologize for the curt tone of my above comment, but having recently experienced a similar tragedy with a person close to my family, *(not drug related, but the result was the same), my patience is a little shorter than usual with lit-crit rationalizations and excuses and things. So I'm sorry.
posted by hama7 at 11:56 PM on February 6, 2003


troutfishing: I am sorry I acted like an insufferable twit and dickwad when I responded to your comment. I know your intentions were good, and I hope you can accept my apology. My behavior was inexcusable, and I'm sorry.
posted by hama7 at 1:25 AM on February 7, 2003

After reading the transcripts, and a little bit of background about Brandon, I am left with the strong impression that it was *defintely* a suicide. This was not some 14-year-old kid who didn't know what he was taking, and who allowed others to egg him on. This was a 21-year-old who knew his drugs. I would not be surprised to learn that he planned the dosages and the sequence (e.g. wait until some of the "fun" stuff starts to kick in before taking the lethal dose of Methadone. Or whatever.). Even while messed up he was keeping track of the exact dosages, and there's no way he could have

I used to have a friend -- a best friend -- who planned his suicide years before he actually did it. Rat poison was at the top of the list for a long time, but the drawback was having to ingest so *much* of it. OD-ing in general tended to have promise, but there was always the danger of having a painful, tragic failure. He ended up doing a bunch of coke and hanging himself.
posted by greengirl at 1:22 PM on February 7, 2003

...and there's no way he could have *not* known that he was dealing with lethal dosages for several of those drugs at least.
posted by greengirl at 1:36 PM on February 7, 2003

Yes, it seems odd that anyone who looked at the circumstances would conclude that it was anything but suicide. According to his brother, he was taking medicaton perscribed for psychiatric reasons. It seems one of the people participating in the online chat has answered a few questions on an IRC news site. Believe at your own risk.
posted by yonderboy at 4:44 PM on February 7, 2003

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