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That doesn’t fit my definition of ‘decent’

A few years ago, a Canadian teenager, Amanda Todd, killed herself after being harassed and extorted online. A man used flattery to get her to flash her breasts…and then used the photo he took to demand more, backed up by incessant threats online, revealing the photo to Todd’s friends, and promising to make her life hell forever. In at least one bit of justice, though, the Dutch police have now tracked down and charged the 35 year old man who preyed on teenagers worldwide through the internet. Do watch the video; the anger rush you’ll feel when you hear the jerk’s lawyer say that his client is “a decent man and a nice man” will make it worth it.

I pointed out back then that some members of the atheist community have a vile lack of empathy. I will mention it again. Miri rages against the online idiots who insist that internet activity can’t really do psychological harm — they diagnose freely over the internet, and claim that you can’t possibly develop stress disorders from the bullying tactics of the usual slymey suspects — Miri tears that argument up with basic scientific facts from the field of psychology (remember the days when skeptics at least paid lip service to science?)

I’m just going to point to Amanda Todd. Her death wasn’t virtual.

I’m also baffled by the reasoning: if it’s not ‘real’, if the only activities that can have a direct effect on someone’s sense of well-being are face-to-face, a punch in the nose, a bomb going off…then what the hell are you doing harassing people on the internet in the first place? Smart people who find themselves doing things over and over that they sincerely believe don’t work will stop doing them. I am compelled to believe that either they’re very stupid, or they are lying when they claim that their activities can’t possibly have an effect. Or both.

Comments

  1. anteprepro says

    Miri tears that argument up with basic scientific facts from the field of psychology (remember the days when skeptics at least paid lip service to science?

    I remember how anti-feminists would like to scoff and sneer about feminism because it was bad science or some shit. And yet, consistently, The Menz Brigade tends to be prolifically ignorant of any topic that half-way touches upon science. As depressing as all this shit is, at least that still bitterly entertains me.

  2. anteprepro says

    Riffing off Christophe Thill:

    You know all of those real crime shows and news stories? The ones where they finally find the killer? The ones where the friends and neighbors are all shocked? And say something like “I can’t believe it! He was the nicest guy and was the last person I would expect this from!” ? Well, that’s how I feel about this “decent and nice man” defense. It doesn’t prove shit. Predators don’t always make it obvious that they are predators. Sociopaths are very skilled at playing nice. Someone who is completely amoral in one context might seem just fine in any other.

  3. kestrel says

    This idea or claim that the internet is not real… There is such a disconnect between what people are saying and what they are doing. If it’s not real, why do they spend all their time obsessively stalking and harassing others? I mean, it’s not real, right? So why dedicate your life to it? Why not GET A LIFE and stop stalking and harassing people?

    Of course the internet clearly *is* real, and people are really being harmed by that harassment. I was just always struck how dishonest it was to claim how no one should worry about it because it’s “just” the internet, all the while that very person is CLEARLY spending every waking hour worrying about it themselves.

  4. azhael says

    I am compelled to believe that either they’re very stupid, or they are lying when they claim that their activities can’t possibly have an effect. Or both.

    They are definitely lying and they are fully aware of it. It´s nothing more than handwaving and infantile “i´m not responsible” bullshit. It´s exactly the same phenomenon as when somebody is being heavily bullied “in real life” and they end up commiting suicide. The bullies will automatically, in almost all cases, deny any responsability. They were just playing, or teasing, nothing they could be made responsible for. The real fault is the victim´s for being damaged and weak and killing themselves for something so silly and unimportant.

  5. says

    Another point I have to wonder about. Watch the video at the link, and they have excerpts from Amanda Todd’s videos, and they even show the topless flash (with black bars across her breasts).

    As for the perpetrator, all we get is a generic outline, and his name is not revealed.

    If the concern about harassment and bullying is negligible, WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCUSED? Note that I’m not saying an alleged perpetrator should be exposed, but it does seem to say that the law recognizes that the social stigma of being associated with these vile acts is so great that the person should be shielded from it. It is implicit in the law that being targeted with words, accusations, and threats should not be done lightly.

  6. says

    I get involuntary confused-face and reflexive baffled gestures every time I see the “Internet =/= Real Life” argument. It is just so fabulously ridiculous that putting a couple computer monitors and a vast series of tubes between two people would somehow make all of their interactions somehow “not real”. I’m still me. I’m not creating some digital Other that is interacting with your digital Other in some orthogonal sandbox universe that gets reset at midnight UTC or something. Seriously. What?

  7. borax says

    That one topless screen shot pissed me off. This young women killed herself over being exploited and the exploitation continues after she is dead. That shot was not needed for the story and only serves as needless titillation for creeps.

  8. anteprepro says

    borax

    That shot was not needed for the story and only serves as needless titillation for creeps.

    Also: slut shaming/victim blaming.
    It was completely unnecessary, considering that the real focus should be that a 35 year old man sexually harassed a 15 year old girl until she committed suicide.

  9. Dick the Damned says

    One thing that’s not been said about the internet creeps that harass & bully other people is that they’re cowards. (But i guess that’s obvious.)

  10. borax says

    anteprepro.
    I totally agree. This is one case where I hope stacking criminal charges puts this asshole away for a long time.

  11. nrdo says

    @ borax

    I don’t see that on the linked CBC article; is it in the video report? If so, it may be grounds for a complaint to the Ombudsman service. I would expect that kind of editorial decision from a trash tabloid but the CBC? Ugh. Maybe we could get them to do something about it.

  12. says

    I’m once again disgusted by “the internet isn’t real”. The internet isn’t some griefer-friendly MMO we can just quit playing. For many of us, it’s a large part of our social lives. It’s a large part of many people’s professional lives, too. You might as well say that mail and telephones aren’t real. Hell, I’d say the internet is more invasive than the telephone was originally, since there was a time you could switch to an unlisted number. Now, any sufficiently determined troll can find your phone number, email, or blog.

    Because we’re now in the information age, it’s easy to invade someone’s personal life for harassment purposes, and we need to adapt as a culture to prevent that. These people are living in dangerous denial if they think they can shrug off the internet is just some optional gamer fad. Victims shouldn’t have to deal with harassment by withdrawing from the internet, anyway. If withdrawing is all you do, it sends the message that harassment works, and that the harassers are the ones in control. It also sends the message that there are no safe places because no one will stand up for you.

  13. playonwords says

    [ MRA = "arsehole" size="Goatse"] But, but, but she must have wanted to flash her girlie bits and he was just being appreciative and it was his freeze peach that risked being limited and anyway this is in a socialist hell hole of a European country [ / MRA ]

    To the defense lawyer; remember to wash your mouth out with Lysol after this case.

  14. Who Cares says

    @PZ Myers(#7): Why he is being shielded like that? He is not yet convicted of this.
    When a person is publicly known as a suspect they generally are only named first name + initials and a black bar masking their eyes. Even convicted people get that.
    There was quite a bit of noise a few years back about the fact that the ministry of justice put up a most wanted page without that black bar.

  15. says

    PZ:

    I am compelled to believe that either they’re very stupid, or they are lying when they claim that their activities can’t possibly have an effect. Or both.

    Lying. They wouldn’t bother if it wouldn’t have an effect.

  16. Who Cares says

    Did a bit of rooting around on the local news.
    The guy isn’t as anonymous as suggested by the CBC piece. Rough living location, age and partial name are known. And as I said the name is of first name + initials: Aydin C.

    @nrdo(#13): it is at about 1 min 30 seconds in the video and Borax is right it should not be there, it is not needed.

    If people want I can translate the local news piece for more background information.

  17. unclefrogy says

    at the risk of making bald assertions or pop psychology I will speculate an understanding of why they can say it’s only the internet. It is really the same as how bullies can try to rationalize their behavior.
    It is partly an extension of the same behavior as the bullying they think they can assert anything and force agreement by the force of their personality and the sureness which masks their insecurity they think that is how arguments work that’s how reason works. As I understand it most abusers were abused hence the insecurity.
    The other thing is they really do not take the internet as real nor do they take their face to face bullying either. They have not learned that other people are as real as they are so the argument of “it is only the internet” is true but it is worse nothing is real to them they are locked in to re-enacting the abuse relationships that they learned in the past. They are trying to live in their heads and not face the reality of their lives both the past which is still present nor the impact they have in the present on people they barely recognize as real in themselves but mere stand-ins for the past.
    They are responsible for what they do and its effects but what to do with them I have no idea. I have an irrational reaction to them that makes it very difficult for me decide what should be done I am of two minds so I leave it to others to decide what should be done.
    Not being a tone toll here just trying to be honest on how I feel about this subject.
    uncle frogy

  18. Who Cares says

    @PZ Myers(#19):
    You need remedial reading lessons yourself.
    Seeing that I gave the explanation why dutch law enforcement does not give out the information that I’ve seen the US (and other nations) law enforcement give on suspects. That is not dismissing the rest of your argument, just pointing out that that this is standard practice in the Netherlands but not most nations. Any suspect or convict gets that treatment not just this guy.

  19. says

    “Who Cares” (everyone, about something):

    You are acting as if PZ wrote

    WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCUSED?

    instead of

    If the concern about harassment and bullying is negligible, WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCUSED?

    Do better.

  20. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    @21 Who Cares

    Nobody here needs you to explain why the identity of the accused is protected or that it’s standard procedure. The point is that the fact that we do it gives the lie to the claim that harassment and bullying are negligible concerns.

  21. Who Cares says

    @SallyStrange(#22):
    The thing is I’m not interpreting what PZ wrote as the first quote block. Seeing that that is how it comes across I’m currently trying to figure out how to rephrase what I wrote so I can keep what I wanted to write but make it clear that I read what PZ wrote as the second quote block.

  22. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Who Cares @ 24, what you wrote is in no way consistent with a response to the entire sentence in question. If you’re struggling so hard to make it appear like it is, it’s probably time to just concede that it’s not.

  23. Who Cares says

    @Inaji(#25): Can’t do that. Seeing that I seem to be going, according to the rest of the commenters, for cognitive dissonance and for agreeing with PZ and at the same time writing something that is interpreted as being against what he said.

    @Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm(#26):
    Actually it isn’t that hard. It is now to late for it seeing the derail this has caused.
    I guess it is a bit of blindness for living here and the anonymity of suspects (and the reasons for it) being the norm. Should have added something along the lines that the answer PZ gave to his own question is the main reason they do it.

    Anyhow I’m going to shut up about this one since all I’m doing now is derailing the thread. Yes I made a mess in the middle of the shop and have been called out for it.

    The offer to translate the local news still stands though.

  24. Terska says

    A friend of my kids committed suicide and the death was blamed on mental illness. Someone stole her identity and made her out to be a teen prostitute on line. The abuse started when she was only 12. Nothing was ever done about it even though it was reported to police. They used her real name and city on the profile so I imagine plenty of creeps bothered her about it. She was a popular and successful kid. I am still struggling with the injustice of what happened to her. The culprit was likely a peer that was jealous of her social status. The results of the bullying are probably a threat to the culprit’s well being too.

  25. hillaryrettig says

    Particularly angering that the many bullies who say the Internet isn’t real do their harassment under the safe cloak of anonymity.

    One thing that really would help is if more bystanders spoke up in the midst of bullying or harassment episodes. Too many just walk on by, and to paraphrase the great General David Morrison, “the standard you walk past is the standard you endorse.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U

    I’ve been picked on online (nothing like as serious as the incident under discussion), and it seemed that if just a single uninvolved person stood up and told the aggressor to back off, the aggressor would–and remarkably fast. However, that didn’t happen often, though.

    I wish more online bystanders would speak up.

  26. neuzelaar says

    PZ asked: If the concern about harassment and bullying is negligible, WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCUSED? Note that I’m not saying an alleged perpetrator should be exposed, but it does seem to say that the law recognizes that the social stigma of being associated with these vile acts is so great that the person should be shielded from it. It is implicit in the law that being targeted with words, accusations, and threats should not be done lightly.

    Its a sign of maturity of the society and of the justice system: In the Netherlands the full names of suspects are never released in the press, no matter what the crimes are. Justice is performed by a judge in the courtroom, not in the court of public opinion. Its indeed odd to see the contrast between the video of the victim (released by her mother, I presume), and anonymity of the alleged scumbag. But not releasing the name has nothing to with the nature of the crime. I

    Releasing the full name and mugshot of anyone arrested before proven guilty is obviously damaging for the person. So why is that the custom here in the USA? There are even companies (http://www.mugshotsonline.com/ ) that put mugshots on-line and then extort money to take it it off. All perfectly legal, just like the death penalty…..

  27. says

    If the concern about harassment and bullying is negligible, WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCUSED?

    Dutch law says the identity of the accused should be protected, but it’s not Dutch law that says the concern about internet harassment and bullying is negligable or “not real”. Online harassment is actually taken pretty fucking seriously here these days.

  28. Kees says

    Protecting the idenity of suspects isn’t even in Dutch law, it is just media practice. It may be that the CBC people could obtain the Todd video, but had to rely on their Dutch colleagues to supply the photo of the suspect.

  29. nrdo says

    For those who might be interested in crafting a response regarding the use of the actual extortion image in the piece, here’s a link to the relevant website:

    http://www.ombudsman.cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/

    If they receive enough complaints regarding this, they may adjust the editorial process. It’s in incredibly poor taste to splash images that caused the girl so much grief during her life on TV after her death. However, a successful complaint would probably have to discuss the issue of cyber-bullying more generally and the ramifications of using the images on living individuals (i.e. the families, other children etc.)

  30. says

    Translation of relevant section of that link: Public ministry (similar to DA) or police aren’t allowed to reveal personal details about suspects if they could lead to identication of said suspect.

  31. Pierce R. Butler says

    Who Cares @ # 16: … the ministry of justice put up a most wanted page without that black bar.

    ???

    If you want the public to call in tips to help find a person, or to back off from someone potentially dangerous, why conceal the most recognizable part of his/her face on your alert?

  32. thinksanddrinks says

    Bullies always have an effect. Their goal is to terrorize, and they often achieve it. For example, the “anti-feminist” (MRA) clowns/jerks/assholes/terrorists who threaten those they disagree with cause discomfort, fear, and terror in their victims.

    The only things bullies react to is counter-force. Find their identities and expose them. If they issue death or bodily harm threats, expose them to the police (it might not do much at first, but if some asshole keeps doing the same thing, it will finally get attention – I hope). If their identity is known, spread their comments around with attribution. If they threaten to sue, have others step up and spread it some more. (If they come after me, they should consider that not all retribution …).

    Please be aware that I am a BRA (Bozos Rights Advocate). Bozos have the right to free speech. The rest of us have the right of rebuttal. That seems to be something that such clowns do not understand. Criticism does not equal censorship. We can’t stop them from their asininity. They can’t stop us from exposing it.