Bullsh!t on the internet, Hardin County-style
The website, as of Sunday night, was a raging hit, as far as internet buzz goes. Everybody was talking about it, and everybody was clicking it (which is the point of Facebook and the internet, after all).
But it was also the subject of a groundswell of calls to the Hardin County Sheriff’s Department, complaints from parents about their pre-teen kids being prominently featured on this site.
And of course, the sheriff’s department had no idea what to do about it, so they call Illinois State Police….who were in the area today in droves, which was what was prompting locals to tell us about the website. Which, incidentally, is no more. We’re not sure how that happened, unless it was “abuse” complaints to Facebook, but it was shut down at some point in time yesterday (Monday, July 25). We don’t know if the little punks who created it were duly punished by their parents (things like that still do happen these days, believe it or not), but one can hope.
However, this raises the sticky question of: was what they did wrong?
Morally and ethically, sure. Miss Manners-ly, you better believe it. Young men and women are supposed to be young men and women, not punks, misbehaved, obnoxious, pitiful little leech creatures who get their thrills by doing the ‘nyahnyah nyahnyahnay’ thing toward people they’re in school with. There’s a reason why other media, when they report on a 17-year-old being charged as an adult, calls that person a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ in their reports, but WE call them a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl,’ regardless of whether they’re being charged as an adult. We also call a 20-year-old a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ if they’re so charged….because if they’re going to act like a little kid, we’re going to refer to them as if they are.
But….is what they did with this web page illegal?
Unfortunately, that’s a little more gray. And here’s why.
The internet is a whole different animal when it comes to libel. In order for libel to stand up in a court of law, three points must be PROVEN: that the printed statement was WRONG, that the person responsible for printing it KNEW it was wrong, and that the person responsible for printing it did not do due diligence to prove whether it was factual or not and had ‘malice aforethought’ before they did not do that due diligence and subsequently published the libel.
All of that is tenuous to prove at best. Essentially, you have to be able to crawl inside the head of the person doing the libel and prove what they were thinking. And further, it’s up to the person making the complaint to prove that the libelous person is wrong…which in and of itself can be impossible.
So what might have happened here, horrific as it is, might have been that a bunch of delinquents, themselves of the young teen or pre-teen age, got on the innerwebs and started calling out their own bad behavior….with these other young people, who might have been part and parcel to the behavior without their parents knowing. And that, unfortunately, does not fit the standard of libel….because the things they would be saying at that juncture are true.
So regardless of the age of the people being written about, in order for there to be something ‘illegal’ (this in quotes because neither libel nor slander are crimes; they’re civil litigation) about it, even if it involves juveniles….well, there ISN’T anything illegal about it. Sadly. If we want a free country, where journalists can investigate what a village is doing with federal funds and how they’re using equipment provided by those funds, and if they’re misusing the funds, to write about it and let people know so they know how to vote next time there is an election, we have to allow a certain level of this bullshit. The only solution lies in parents controlling their rotten kids, and since we can’t beat our children anymore when they deserve it, the alternative becomes keeping their grubby little hands off anything resembling a computer. Yes, that means their own little PC they have in their rooms (why a parent would let a kid have their own computer, with all the porn that’s out there, is beyond me, but it happens), that means their cell phone (same premise here; if you want a kid to get into trouble, get them a cell phone; they can PLAN trouble with their friends….right up to and including making a Facebook page) and if necessary, that means forbidding them from going around anyone who HAS a cell phone or computer….and KEEPING them from going around such a thing until a discernible change has taken place.
It doesn’t help that you can’t threaten children with intervention by law enforcement in such a situation as this, so the action to take has to be considerably more dramatic. Believe me….we’ve had to do it. It does work. There’s too much out there that can destroy our kids. We need to do everything we can to keep them from it, before they do something stupid like the Facebook page we’re referencing, and destroy themselves and each other.
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