Sunday 14 October 2012

Amanda Todd: The cruelty in all of us

On October 7, 2012, 15 year old Amanda Michelle Todd posted a YouTube video (at end of article) in which she showed a series of flashcards describing her experiences of being the target of bullying both on-line and in real life that had been going on for years. Watching the video and reading her story is both startling and perplexing. Why would classmates and total strangers go so far in displaying such cruelty towards Amanda? On October 10, 2012, Amanda committed suicide in her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada.

According to Amanda's YouTube story, this whole mess started three years ago when she was in 7th grade. She was using video chat on the Internet to meet new friends and during one of these sessions, somebody asked her to show her breasts and she did so. A year later, an anonymous user who seemed to know everything about her including her address, her school, her relatives, and her friends began blackmailing her: give me a show or I will send the pictures of your "boobs" around. The pictures began circling on the Internet and from there everything spiralled out of control. She began to suffer depression and anxiety not just from the pictures themselves, but from being subsequently ostracized by her peers. She turned to drugs and alcohol and had self-mutilated herself. She was even physically attacked at her school.

She tried to commit suicide once by drinking bleach but was rushed to the hospital and successfully treated. Amanda moved to another city to live with her mother but the postings on the Internet only got worse telling her to try a different bleach next time and expressing hope she would kill herself. On October 10, the bullies got their wish. But it still didn't stop. Tribute sites to the girl have received hateful comments and offensive images. (National Post Oct 14/2012)

This is a sad story, a very sad story. I am sure parents, pundits, and police will be analysing this one and making recommendations left, right, and center about the dangers of the Internet, posting pictures on the Internet, and doing anything remotely sexual on the Internet but to me, the far-reaching issue is the bullying. Why would one human being bully another? Why would one human being take some sort of pleasure in seeing another human being suffer pain, feel humiliation, and even commit suicide? Why is it that a particular person, in this case Amanda, becomes the lightning rod for the anger and hate of the bully and even for those who may part of the bully's audience? It is so startling to see this group mentality that I have to ask myself with apprehension if one day the crowd may not turn and make me the target of their displeasure.

I read the Wikipedia article Bullying but discovered that the supposed reasons explaining such behaviour are not necessarily conclusive. Studies have shown a variety of motives for bullying: envy, resentment, self-esteem, arrogance or narcissism. Bullying can be a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or boost self-esteem and by demeaning others, the abuser can feel empowered.

But is there more?

World War II
During World War II, the Japanese apparently looked down on prisoners. The story, as I remember it, was that the tradition of death instead of defeat or capture was deeply entrenched in the Japanese culture. Because prisoners had failed to assuage their own shame by committing suicide, the Japanese looked upon prisoners as being less than human, at least honourable human beings. It struck me that if you didn't think of another human being as a human being, someone worthy of honour and respect, but as less than human, mistreating them or killing them no longer seemed like something bad. We all step on a bug and squash it and we don't think twice about it. Could we arrive at a point where another human being would be as insignificant as that squashed bug?

James Byrd
In Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998, 3 white men gave a ride to James Byrd Jr., an African-American but instead of taking him home, they took him to a remote area and beat him unconscious. They then tied him by the ankles to their pickup truck and dragged him for 3 miles. He died when his body hit a culvert and both the right arm and head were severed. A subsequent autopsy suggested the man had been alive throughout his 3 mile ordeal.

Postscript: One of the three was executed by lethal injection. The second is on death row while appeals are pending and the third was sentenced to life in prison.

How can anyone do such a thing to another human being? Unless they didn't think of their victim as a human being.

Matthew Shepard
On the night of October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard a gay student at the University of Wyoming was visiting a bar in Laramie, Wyoming. Shortly after midnight, two men offered to give Shepard a ride home. They subsequently drove to a remote, rural area and proceeded to rob, pistol-whip, and torture Shepard, tying him to a fence and leaving him to die. Shepard succumbed to his injuries three days later in hospital.

Postscript: The two attackers both received two consequent life sentences.

How can anyone do such a thing to another human being? Unless they didn't think of their victim as a human being.

Aside: What has Obama accomplished?
Obama (Office of the President-Elect) made it a goal to strengthen civil rights. On October 28, 2009, he signed into law "The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" expanding the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The Nazis and the Jews
How did Hitler get the up-standing Christian population to accept and practise anti-Semitism?

Ten Responses to Jewish Lackeys by Kurt Hilmar Eitzen (1936) (published by Calvin College)
Background: The Nazis were always worried about those Germans who did not accept anti-Semitism. In this article from the party monthly for propagandists, the writer provides ten responses to the most common objections they encountered to Nazi anti-Semitic measures. These were arguments intended for everyday use in conversation with fellow citizens.

Argument 7: “The Jew is a human being too!” — Counterargument: “Of course the Jew is a human being too. None of us has ever doubted it. But a flea is also an animal. But not a very pleasant one. Since a flea is not a pleasant animal, we have no duty to protect and defend it, to take care of it so that it can bite and torment and torture us. Rather, we make it harmless. It is the same with the Jews.” {Joseph Goebbels).

What about you and me?
Chloe Jeffrey's of The Chloe Chronicles reminded me of the Nazis. In her posting "I Am Not Good" (Oct 5/2012), she talks about getting angry (She used the F word!) with a group of "good Christian women" who were getting all holy and righteous and standing in judgement of others doing what they considered to be shameful. What was so shameful? Getting a divorce, having an abortion, working, using birth control, etc. The list goes on but I think you get the idea. One group of people felt they were better than another group of people. And Chloe pushes this to wondering how good Christian Germans became Nazis.

Does a goldfish know that it is living in a fishbowl? Do we truly understand what we're doing and what's going on around us?

"We have met the enemy and he is us."
- Pogo by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913 - 1973)

In my 2010 posting "Extremism: I'm right and you're wrong" I talk about a number of extremist viewpoints that exist in our society and I point out how such viewpoints can lead to violence. Yes we need freedom of speech but at what point does freedom to speak your mind become freedom to incite hatred which may lead to violence? I end with this admonishment:

Stop. Think. Reflect. If you are about to rise up against your neighbor, something is very, very wrong.

Final Word
Amanda Todd's story is very, very sad. Yes, you can say she should be more careful on the Internet but millions use the Internet everyday without having anything remotely similar happening to them. Yes you can say don't lift your top on a webcam but how many teenagers (or older) do so without such repercussions on the Internet, in the videos "Girls Gone Wild", or in the various web sites dedicated to just that, posting naughty pictures of yourself?

"Everybody does stupid things; it shouldn't cost them everything they want in life."
- Gregory House, fictional character from the TV medical drama House

Okay, maybe Amanda made a mistake but it was a mistake for God's sake, not a capital crime. She paid for it with her life! I think it is a poor reflection on all of us as parents, on our culture and on our society, when we are responsible for producing the human beings who have such a disregard for the lives of others. These people are cruel. They are nasty. They are mean. These people could be Nazis.


Wikipedia: Suicide of Amanda Todd
Amanda Michelle Todd (died October 10, 2012) was a 15-year-old Canadian teenager who committed suicide attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website Facebook.

Wikipedia: Bullying
Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target".

Wikipedia: Kamikaze
The tradition of death instead of defeat, capture, and perceived shame was deeply entrenched in Japanese military culture. It was one of the primary traditions in the samurai life and the Bushido code: loyalty and honour until death.

Wikipedia: Murder of James Byrd, Jr.
James Byrd, Jr. (May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998) was an African-American who was murdered by three white men, of whom at least two were white supremacists, in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998.

Wikipedia: Matthew Shepard
Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming, U.S.A., in October 1998. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.

Wikipedia: Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Note: This is the original video. I have been given to understand the music in the soundtrack is copyrighted material. Some sites are showing the video without the music so this particular copy may disappear if there is a protest about the music. (I don't know if this music was the music originally in the video.)

Published on Sep 7, 2012 by TheSomebodytoknow
My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm
I'm struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I'm not doing this for attention. I'm doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I'd rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don't hate, although im sure I'll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I'm still here aren't I ?

Transcript of video

*I've decided to tell you about my never ending story
*In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcams
*Meet and talk to new people.
*Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc...
*Then wanted me to flash...
*So I did... 1 year later...
*I got a msg on facebook
*From him... Don't know how he knew me..
*It said... If you don't put on a show for me I will send ur boobs
*He knew my address, school, relavives, friends, family names.
*Christmas break....
*Knock at my door at 4am...
*It was the police... my photo was sent to everyone
*I then got really sick and got...
*Anxiety, major deppersion and panic disorder
*I then move and got into Drugs + Alcohol....
*My anxiety got worse... couldn't go out
*A year past and the guy came back with my new
*list of friends and school. But made a facebook page
*My boobs were his profile pic...
*Cried every night, lost all my friends and respect
*people had for me... again...
*Then nobody liked me
*name calling, judged...
*I can never get that Photo back
*It's out there forever...
*I Started cutting...
*I promised myself never again...
*Didn't have any friends and I sat at lunch alone
*So I moved Schools again...
*Everything was better even though I sat still alone
*At lunch in the library everyday.
*After a month later I started talking to an old guy friend
*We back and fourth texted and he started to say he..
*Like me... Led me on.. He had a girlfriend...
*Then he said come over my gf's on vacation
*So I did... huge mistake....
*He hooked up with me....
*I thought he liked me....
*1 week later I get a text get out of your school...
*His girlfriend and 15 others come including Hiself...
*The girl and 2 others just said look around nobody likes you
*In front of my new school (50) people...
*A guy than yelled just punch her already
*So she did... she threw me to the ground a punched me several times
*Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground.
*I felt like a joke in this world... I thought nobody deserves this :/
*I was alone.. I lied and said it was my fault and my idea
*I didn't want him getting hurt, I thought he really liked me.
*but he just wanted the sex... Someone yelled punch her already.
*Teachers ran over but I just went and layed in a ditch and my dad found me.
*I wanted to die so bad... When he brought me home I drank bleach...
*It killed me inside and I thought I was gonna actully die.
*Ambulence came and brought me to the hospital and flushed me.
*After I got home all i saw was on facebook - she deserved it did you wash the mud out of your hair? - I hope shes dead.
*Nobody cared... I moved away to another city to my moms.
*another school... I didn't wanna press charges because I wanted to move on.
*6 months has gone by... people are posting pics of bleach, clorex, and ditches.
*tagging me... I was doing a lot better too... They said...
*She should try a different bleach, I hope she dies this time and isn't so stupid.
*They said I hope she sees this and kills herself..
*Why do I get this? I messed up but why follow me.
*I left your guys city... Im constantly crying now..
*Everyday I think why am I still here?
*My anxiety is horrible now.. never went out this summer
*All from my past.. lifes never getting better.. cant go to school
*meet or be with people... constantly cutting. I'm really depressed
*Im on anti deppresants now and councelling and a month ago this summer
*I overdosed... In hospital for 2 days..
*Im stuck... whats left of me now... nothing stops
*I have nobody... I need someone :(
*My name is Amanda Todd....


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1 comment:

Pauline Gaines said...

I don't know what to say. All of this is so atrocious. You ask many good questions. I think bullies are able to suss out the most vulnerable people, and to bullies, someone who is vulnerable is "weak" and deserves to e smushed. So they are not even human.

There are so many Amandas out there -- all the sexting and internet porn lowers people's tolerance to sending photos of one's body parts. I have to wonder, since you mentioned that she had moved to be with her mother, where her father was, and if she had abandonment trauma which led her to do "stupid" things to fit in.

I think we've become a very shame-based culture. The stakes are so high, and fewer and fewer people have guarantees of a decent life. Shame-based people project their shame on to others.

I could go on...but RIP Amanda.