Saturday, April 12, 2008

Florida Teen Beating and Net Neutrality

Atrocious acts are only proliferated through gross repetition, so you will not see the disturbing and widely circulated clip in which 8 Florida teens participate in the brutal beating of their sixteen year old peer here on My Friend Ivan, but for sake of context, you can find the footage here.

Watching the video and reading press coverage reveals that the act was absolutely baseless and at best animalistic. As the victim of pack aggression is being knocked unconscious, her attackers repeatedly call out, "why don't you like us!?" and, "come on...fight...defend yourself," clearly stupid motivation.

The teens' video never made it to its intended definition, YouTube, due to police intervention, but the very fact that the intended result was mass exposure via the video networking giant, coupled with the instigation lying in ill-placed comments on MySpace, has citizens, parents, and bureaucrats demanding implementation of legal restrictions on the various social networking sites. Polk Sheriff, Grady Judd, stated, "It's incumbent upon YouTube and MySpace to make drastic changes. If we desensitize kids to this kind of beating today, what's next?"

But, besides the fact that this knee jerk reaction steps on vulnerable constitutional toes, would it really solve anything? And really, are YouTube and MySpace to blame?

Desensitization has already occurred, Sheriff. The other night as I was watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which in itself trivializes and makes sport of Romanesque violence, I observed several commercials for video games that if purchased, allow the player to commit virtual atrocities that rival that of Chronus' treatment of his sons.

Sure, the voyeuristic nature of the alleged defendants may encourage delinquency to some extent for certain personalities, but I highly doubt they are the root of the problem. And besides, while a parent cannot be blamed for every pubescent mishap of their offspring, the fact that at least one of the parents defended and praised the actions of her daughter lends itself to suspicion of a faulty instillation of morality. Teens are not adults. The raging hormones, emotional stress of school, and many other factors do not allow for rational decision making, at least in this society. Thus, as parents do have rights over their children's time and activities, limiting internet usage is the only real solution in my mind.

Besides, justice is already being dolled out to the real perpetrators, not only by the US justice system, but by the very sites that are involved in the controversy. The unfortunate eternal memory of the internet will forever memorialize the faces of the aggressors and dub them delinquents, a sentence that in my opinion, is far more harsh then the crime, and bears witness to the fact that fate does not always heed the principal of Lex Talionis.

In every society, the desire for instant justice often leads to misplaced wrist slapping and and even more misplaced legislation, as exemplified in such pseudo fictional works as The Crucible and Fahrenheit 451.

Restrictions of sort do have to be placed on web based material, and already do exist. For example, besides a few perverts out there who may indeed read this post, very few would object to legislation that criminalizes circulating child pornography on the internet. And MySpace and YouTube abide by such legislation, the self impose higher standards, forbidding nudity and such objectionable content, and have implemented user friendly reporting procedures for this type of content.

Contrary to his party's historic commitment to minimizing government vestment in private affairs, congressman Tim Couch (R) wants to pass legislation that makes anonymous commenting on blog sites and social networking sites illegal to prevent ugly incidents such as the one described in this post. Besides the fact that this would solve nothing, in that it punishes the proprietors of such venues for a crime they did not commit, Couch's proposed legislation blatantly violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, making Couch's proposal itself criminal.

If the alleged comments made by the victim in the attack had actually been anonymous, requiring a false identity on MySpace, the attack might never occurred. It is the humble opinion of this blog author, that imposing legislation that limits freedom of speech on the last frontier, the world wide web, is a slippery slope that could lead to unlawful censorship of more historic forms of media, and perhaps even censorship of personal linguistic expression. Keep the net neutral!


WES ELLIS said...

I agree with you. There is something deeper than Myspace and Youtube, probably much deeper than just desensitization. There is dehumanization at play here as well. I don't think censuring things is the way to go.

I recently heard about a picture that was posted on "the door of discussion" here at Azusa Pacific University. The picture was a rather cryptic but powerful commentary on our distance (both geographically and otherwise) from the war in Iraq. It was posted to raise questions and to serve as a powerful commentary, but it was condemned and taken down in the name of censure. We shouldn't be too quick to censure things. But we need to be sensitive at the same time remembering that sensitivity without dialog breeds resentment.

Anonymous said...

Nice thoughts Nate.

Like Congressman Tim Couch, I am opposed to anonymous commenting on sites and blogs. I think it is abused by many to rant and rave and offend and do whatever they want "because they can" without ever having to take responsibility for it.

But the last thing that should be done to fix the problem is to make anonymous posting illegal. Beside being incredibly difficult to implement, it would be a clear infringement on the private sector that is the internet.