Parents in MySpace: disaster follows (potentially for the internet? See update below)

November 14, 2007 at 11:13 pm | In health, justice, media, MySpace, scandal | 5 Comments

My daughter told me about this story, and when I said that it must be some sort of fake “news,” she sent me the following link: St. Charles Journal – News – POKIN AROUND: A real person, a real death. Alas, it looks real enough (the “Pokin Around” part is a play on the columnist’s name, Steve Pokin).

I find this story so disturbing on so many levels that I don’t really want to go over it with commentary — I’m struck by the level of surveillance (and perhaps judgementalism) exercised by Megan’s parents, but admittedly I’m not a parent dealing with a teen who has issues like Megan’s. As for the rest, any sane person can draw their own conclusions. …Maybe, if your brain can handle it.

I’ll copy & paste relevant bits below, but I’d encourage interested readers to go to the story itself and follow the comments, which are also disturbing.

First, a quick synopsis: a 13-year old girl named Megan Meier, who was just days shy of her 14th birthday, commits suicide by hanging herself in her bedroom closet. The reason? She was being bullied by a “hot” 16-year old male, who had initially captured her heart on MySpace by making her feel valued, but who then turned on her. He cyberbullied her with taunts and finally told her that she was a horrible person who deserved to have a horrible life. After Megan’s death, her grieving parents learn that the “hot” 16-year old male was in fact a fictitious character created by the parents of one of Megan’s girl friends — a girl she had become estranged from. This girl — and her parents — can’t be named, apparently, not least because nothing can be decisively proven against them.

That’s the official story in skeletal form. There are other details that add to “understanding” the situation (perhaps), the setting, the timeline, and so on.

You read it and decide for yourself (read the comments, too — they’re part and parcel of the trauma). If it’s true, then… Well, then the barbarians aren’t at the gates, they’re well inside. Everything about this tale is weird.

A real person, a real death

His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!” Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.

Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he’s cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. “Do you know who he is?”

“No, but look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?”

Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh – under Tina’s watchful eye – became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.

(…snip…)

[Megan] loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.

She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.

But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5½ inches tall.

(…snip…)

Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.

(…snip…)

And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”

(…snip…)

Why did he suddenly think she was mean? Who had he been talking to?

Tina signed on. But she was in a hurry. She had to take her younger daughter, Allison, to the orthodontist.

Before Tina could get out the door it was clear Megan was upset. Josh still was sending troubling messages. And he apparently had shared some of Megan’s messages with others.

Tina recalled telling Megan to sign off.

“I will Mom,” Megan said. “Let me finish up.”

Tina was pressed for time. She had to go. But once at the orthodontist’s office she called Megan: Did you sign off?

“No, Mom. They are all being so mean to me.”

“You are not listening to me, Megan! Sign off, now!”

Fifteen minutes later, Megan called her mother. By now Megan was in tears.

“They are posting bulletins about me.” A bulletin is like a survey. “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”

Megan was sobbing hysterically. Tina was furious that she had not signed off.

Once Tina returned home she rushed into the basement where the computer was. Tina was shocked at the vulgar language her daughter was firing back at people.

“I am so aggravated at you for doing this!” she told Megan.

Megan ran from the computer and left, but not without first telling Tina, “You’re supposed to be my mom! You’re supposed to be on my side!”

(…snip…)

[After running to her room, while her parents stayed in the kitchen to chat, Megan hung herself.]

(…snip…)

Later that day, Ron opened his daughter’s MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw – one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.

It was from Josh and, according to Ron’s best recollection, it said, “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”

(…snip…)

[Now it moves from tragic to downright sordid:]

The day after Megan’s death, they went down the street to comfort the family of the girl who had once been Megan’s friend. They let the girl and her family know that although she and Megan had their ups and down, Megan valued her friendship.

They also attended the girl’s birthday party, although Ron had to leave when it came time to sing “Happy Birthday.” The Meiers went to the father’s 50th birthday celebration. In addition, the Meiers stored a foosball table, a Christmas gift, for that family.

Six weeks after Megan died, on a Saturday morning, a neighbor down the street, a different neighbor, one they didn’t know well, called and insisted that they meet that morning at a counselor’s office in northern O’Fallon.

The woman would not provide details. Ron and Tina went. Their grief counselor was there. As well as a counselor from Fort Zumwalt West Middle School.

The neighbor from down the street, a single mom with a daughter the same age as Megan, informed the Meiers that Josh Evans never existed.

She told the Meiers that Josh Evans was created by adults, a family on their block. These adults, she told the Meiers, were the parents of Megan’s former girlfriend, the one with whom she had a falling out. These were the people who’d asked the Meiers to store their foosball table.

(…snip…)

According to Tina, Megan had gone on vacations with this family. They knew how she struggled with depression, that she took medication.

“I know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck,” Tina says. “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old – with or without mental problems – it is absolutely vile.

“She wanted to get Megan to feel like she was liked by a boy and let everyone know this was a false MySpace and have everyone laugh at her.

“I don’t feel their intentions were for her to kill herself. But that’s how it ended.”

(…snip…)

The Suburban Journals have decided not to name the family out of consideration for their teenage daughter.

The mother declined comment.

Ugh.

Follow-up: I’m very sorry for the Meiers, but this sentence, from MySpace Prank Leads Teenager Girl to Suicide, makes me afraid, very afraid: “…Megan’s family wants that family to be held responsible for what they did, so they’re working with lawmakers to pass new legislation regulating the Internet.” I really don’t want the Tina Meiers of this world breathing down my or my children’s neck when we’re using what I hope will continue to be a free internet.

Van Jones: blending social justice and green initiative, ensuring that “green-collar” economies lift all boats

November 12, 2007 at 12:08 am | In green, justice, leadership | 1 Comment

A big thanks to Anna Fahey at the Sightline Institute for posting this entry, A Green Wave Shall Lift All Boats, about Van Jones. I confess that I hadn’t heard of Jones before, nor have I had enough time to explore his website and agenda with the full attention they deserve. But I think it’s pretty obvious that his is a seriously brilliant example of lateral thinking, and that his proposals have incredible potential.

From Fahey’s post:

Van Jones is a civil-rights lawyer and founder and executive director of an innovative nonprofit working to ensure that low-income, working poor, and minority youth have access to the coming wave of “green-collar” jobs. Jones — brought to Seattle by Climate Solutions , King County, El Centro de la Raza, Puget Sound Sage, and Earth Ministry — made a compelling case that social justice is the moral anchor that’s required to fuse the climate movement into a powerful and cohesive force. He sees that the solutions to global warming are the solutions to the biggest social and economic problems in urban and rural America.

Basically, his point is this: You can pass all the climate legislation you want but you have to provide the local workforce to make it happen on the ground. “We have to retrofit a nation,” he says. “No magical green fairies are going to come down and put up all those solar panels.” This is going to take skilled labor. “We can make a green pathway out of poverty.”

And it gets better, he says. These jobs can’t be outsourced. “You can’t put a building on a barge to Asia and weatherize it on the cheap.” This is about kitchen table issues: jobs, industry, manufacturing, health, education.

(…snip…)

As far as opportunity and partnership goes, Jones points to the galloping green economy, but asks: “Are we going to have eco-apartheid? Are we going to settle for that? Are we going to have a society divided between ecological-haves and ecological-have nots?” The green economy is growing, but it’s the most segregated part of the US economy. Jones asks: “We’ve worked for 200 years to integrate a poison and pollution based economy; what can we do to ensure the green economy has a place in it for everybody?”

Click through on Fahey’s post for the rest of her article, which includes many useful links, too. And support Van Jones’s efforts to bring about an economy that’s green and just.


Rough draft for a Black Friday Rag

November 25, 2005 at 1:07 pm | In guerilla_politics, homelessness, ideas, justice, local_not_global, offspring, politics, scandal, scenes_victoria, social_critique, street_life, victoria, writing, yulelogStories | Comments Off on Rough draft for a Black Friday Rag

This morning I read an interesting article about a singing iceberg, but more importantly, I heard the iceberg (link follows, to audiofile). Combined with the general level of continuing insanity, I was inspired to get the following rough draft onto paper (and now, inter-textually, onto the blog). Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not exactly Howl, I’m not a poet, but that don’t mean I don’t feel like howling along with singing icebergs, either….

The Sound of An Iceberg Singing

I heard the trash-trawler’s purloined shopping cart
Rattling past my house at eight.
The man pushing by, one of
A thousand in Victoria, drug-addicted,
Mentally ill, or simply
“Hard to house,”
One of the thousand
Homeless, he collects refundables
To trade for cash at the Bottle Depot recycling place.

Workers with earplugs, protection
Against the constant crash of breaking
Glass shattering, the empty wine bottles,
The softer thud
Of extruded plastic, now empty, once fruitjuice-full,
Tossed by earplugged workers into appropriately sorted bins.
But mostly it’s the hard, hard sound
Of glass — bottles of beer, bottles of beer,
Rivetting noise
Recycled into new bottles.

My son has been listening to the radio,
A Seattle station —
He comes to my room to spread the fantastical news
Police were called when earlybird “Black Friday” shoppers,
Mobbing a Renton, WA-Walmart’s electronic section,
Caused major damage to the aisles,
Crashing shelves, fragmenting TVs stereos computers,
Assembled in China
Where city centres relocate
To newly-paved-over farmland
,
The ageing infrastructure of the old centres
Abandoned to further decay.

Assembled in China where a factory explosion
(Would the trash-trawlers on the Pacific Rim have heard it?)
Pumped benzene into the Songhua River.
Harbin the city and its 4 million residents have
No clean water now rushing by.
The loud injection of chemicals into the river
Silently kills anyone who drinks from it.

In other news (still incredulous),
He tells me that a one-hundred pound woman
Won
The twelve-minute, ten-pound turkey eating competition
By gorging four pounds three-plus ounces of flesh.
This was news-worthy — previous winners
(As well as this year’s runners-up)
Were invariably heavy-weighted, veritable behemoths
Embodying the outsized rapaciousness
Of The Very Large.

A one-hundred pound woman seems anomalous,
A shifting centre, perhaps
A blurring line between the very fat
And those more slim.
AP News leads the news like this:
“It’s a question just begging to be asked: How much turkey can a person gobble down in 12 minutes?
But two hundred people die in twelve minutes
Of starvation. Every twelve minutes of everyday
(Did you think that was a question just begging to be asked?
Victoria, too, is full of beggars…)
…Even when Black Friday shoppers cause
Walmart shelves to crash and
Chinese manufacturers relocate entire cities
Poisoned by water, or not,
To paved-over farmlands where
Food no longer grows,
Even when the International Federation of Competitive Eating
Registers yet another Thanksgiving Day Triumph,
Even when the actually slim are able to join
The ranks of the utterly unbalanced,
Even when it all comes crashing down,
Unbalanced as it is.

A bit of fast-flowing water,
Perhaps the Songhua River’s,
Adds its sound to all the world’s sounds,
And that hell freezes over in Antarctica,
Although it will all thaw out soon enough,
And that’s what the iceberg’s singing.

(If you made it to here, that last link is to the audiofile of the singing iceberg. Make sure you listen to the whole thing, it’s interesting.)

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