Note: skip Day 17 if you are only interested in the story.
In the first part of Day 17, I said there would be insights, but there weren’t many. Maybe I said enough. And I tried to explain why I won’t leave the story and it’s protagonists alone, and maybe failed. In short, most of this, as I have previously stated is a lot to do with ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ (does that have any meaning outside of the UK?). I just want to work towards a conclusion. If people are interested, that’s a nice by-product. If anyone thinks, at the end of it all, that it was even 1% worthwhile, I would be happy.
It’s not done to, in some way, say ‘look at me, I’m right’ (that’s in response to feedback, by the way). All the way along, I’ve tried to encourage debate and discussion. It’s hard to cover every way of looking at the story, and if I were to try and provide every possible explanation, it would never end. Some of the chronology is flawed, but that’s mainly down to the amount of conflicting evidence, not me trying to bend the story to fit. When one side of the evidence seems to show that she was mainly in Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, but other, less reliable sources, imply that this isn’t true, it’s difficult to draw proper conclusions. And once one is aware of the extent of the lying about the one-off photo, it’s difficult to know where to look for the truth. But I’m doing my best.
I need to clear one thing out of the way. I was accused of lying. I have been accused of lying many times, and many times I have proved myself to be telling the truth, much to people’s chagrin. But I was, to a certain extent, hoisted by my own petard.
I have a theory. I have kidded people on that this is true. For my amusement and out of boredom, mostly. My theory – and it’s not too lunatic, given the circumstances (look at the stories of Megan Meier and Shannon Matthews for stories that are bizarre, yet true) is this: Amanda Todd is not dead, she’s under supervision and receiving therapy either to be released when she can cope, or when she can be trusted with a new identity. I will explain later. This is a theory. I will stick with it. Is it a lie? Well, no, not now. It is a theory. A speculation. Until proven otherwise, it is just a theory. That, I think, is my only real naughtiness in the story. If I have got certain things wrong, then those aren’t lies, they are mistakes. And I think I have made it clear in instances when I am not sure. I am not consciously telling lies. I seek only to get to the truth. It might be true she’s alive. It might not. We’ll see.
OK – on with today’s quest. To try and explain more about the purpose of this blog. Where do I start? There are so many reasons. So – in no particular order, let’s begin.
Firstly, this story undermines the case for mental illness and its treatment. Without doubt, the Amanda Todd story is as much about mental illness as it is about bullying. Forget the media hysteria about whether she was ‘murdered’ through the actions of bullies or a stalker – most of that is overblown nonsense which we will get to later. Underpinning the whole story is the spectre of mental illness and its effects.
We live in a society that is afraid to talk about some of its problems – particularly about mental illness. We can relatively easily say ‘I have cancer’ or ‘I have a disability’. It’s not always that easy, but today’s society is much, much better than it was. We have, to a certain extent, overcome the shame of ‘I have AIDS’, but there’s still a long way to go. But there are still problems about saying ‘I am mentally ill’ or admitting that one of our friends or family is ‘mentally ill’. A few celebrities do it, and more people are becoming less reticent. But in general, it’s still something that is seen as shameful.
I believe this story should have said a lot more about mental illness. Amanda clearly showed all the signs of it from an early age. We know that she had learning difficulties, and was exposed to ridicule for it. Depending on how you view her online activities, there were early signs of destructive behaviour patterns, of looking for attention in all the wrong places, or even of dangerous narcissism. Even if you take this out of the equation, there were huge danger signals that Amanda was in trouble. I’m no expert, but surely this looks like bipolar behaviour. At what point do you steer way from seeing it as just typical teenage activity, and begin to see it as something more than that?
Amanda turned to drugs and alcohol. Yet more signs of mental anguish that seem to have gone ignored – if not ignored, then badly managed. This is a sign of addictive behaviour, surely? And she just would not keep away from danger. However, even if we take all of it out of the equation, we still come to the bleach drinking episode. At this point, it was mentioned that she had PTSD. A bit over the top, maybe, but we can see how serious it was.
I’m veering off a bit again. The point I am trying to make is that mental illness seems to get always brushed to one side. It is important to note that the Jessica Laney case implied online bullying, and only later mentioned that she had been mentally ill; the film ‘Bully’ never mentioned the history of mental health; and the incredibly tragic events of Sandy Hook became more of a story about guns than of the mental health concerns of Adam Lanza. It’s simply not good enough.
Next? This story has been appropriated by the media to suit their own ends, and it has been misused. The media reporting of the event has been absolutely appalling and I will come to that in detail later.
As usual, there was indecent haste to be first with the news. Huge amounts of speculation and errors were reported. The ridiculous stories from the completely misinformed ‘Anonymous’ people became seen as fact. Their preposterous stories are still being given credibility – all because the media opted for sensationalism over the truth. And there has not been any effort by the media to ever apologise or seek to correct their mistakes. No difficult questions were ever asked. When it became obvious that there was more than one picture involved, the mainstream press ignored it, leaving it to the more salacious elements of Internet publishing to deal with.
The media had a brilliant opportunity to do good. With all the resources they have, they could have dealt with this story in depth. They could have investigated the BlogTV phenomenon properly; they could have properly exposed the burgeoning use of webcams by young girls; they could have highlighted the poor response from the RCMP and social services; and much more. But no – they went down the bullying route, sucked it dry of all available publicity and now, essentially, they’ve moved on, without hardly a mention of all the other problems.
Next? Perhaps a more personal thing. This story became, to some, yet another convenient stick with which to beat my gender – males. OK – so I am ashamed of what men do sometimes. But to use this story as an example of misogyny is wrong – completely so.
Google “Naomi Wolf Amanda Todd” for the full article. Here’s a quote:
‘In seventh grade, Todd had logged onto a webcam site where she met a 30-year-old man who cajoled her into showing him her breasts. When she sought to withdraw from the man’s persistent attentions, he contacted her via Facebook. He threatened to send the topless photos of her to “everyone” if she did not “put on a show”.’
It’s complete fabrication. There is no 30-year-old man. Never has been, never will be. It’s nonsense. And really – by now we know there was no cajoling. But she sees it as the truth. But it will have gone into some people’s brains as evidence to support what appalling specimens men are. The ‘lurking pedophile’ hysteria. Maybe we should know by now – it’s all the fault of men.
Articles have said it was the boy’s fault: he ‘used her low self-esteem to convince Todd to have sex with him, then pitted his girlfriend against her in a brutal confrontation that lead to Todd’s initial suicide attempt’ Really?
The articles repeatedly mention the ‘man’ involved. Not ‘kid’, ‘child’ or ‘adolescent’, but always ‘man’, and this is wrong. My research shows this: it is almost certain that the mythical online predator was aged from 14 to 17. The vast majority of BlogTV users are teens. There are a few online older people, but these are a minority (the worst offenders are looking elsewhere, believe you me). Even if the mythical stalker is who the zealots think he is, then he was 15-17 throughout this story – hardly a ‘man’, and definitely not thirty.
Google “Amanda Todd misogyny” to see how this has all become twisted. And note how the fact that it was GIRLS who attacked Amanda has either been ignored or (God knows how) been twisted to say it was the boy who instigated it.
I can, as near as it is possible to do so, guarantee you that all the people involved in this story are, or were, minors. Just trust me on this.
So – it should have been a story that highlighted mental illness, the media are appalling, the feminists use it to attack men. All things I want to deal with.
What next? Well, I’ve mentioned suicide ideation already, and how this story almost encouraged suicide. And I got rather bogged down with my views of how bad parenting should have been highlighted.
I’ll whizz through other points I want to make in this blog:
I’m angry that so many people, including me, fell for the story. There are now even more worrying ‘suicide notes’ – some fake, some real – all over Facebook and YouTube. It’s becoming a trend. Facebook and others should be more socially responsible – banning R.I.P. pages or limiting them to one, administered by family members, and banning suicide note videos, perhaps.
I’m angry that no-one has used the story as a huge warning against stripping online. The hard story – in which Amanda, as with hundreds of other girls, found great pleasure in going online to flash – has been overlooked.
I’m angry about the vigilante activity surrounding this. No criticism of the ‘Kill Whoever it is’ brigade, and the nutcase predator hunters.
I’m angry to think that parents are having, possibly, to deal with kids who have set Amanda Todd up as the perfect role model. Sure – as an anti-bullying figure – but not as a suicidal self-harmer. Some kids are placed in a dilemma here. They are encountering things – flashing, suicide, drugs, promiscuity – that they don’t know how to cope with – and words about their idol – whore, slut – that they don’t understand. How many kids will have found their way to BlogTV through this? How many kids will cut for attention, then make a video, just like their idol? Hopefully, I’m underestimating the ability of kids to make decent decisions. But it’s all a potential hazard. That’s why, in other countries, there are so many guidelines in place to stop this happening. Just maybe not in Canada.
And so on. Will I succeed in achieving anything? Will anyone go home and stop their child from going on BlogTV because of what I write here? Will any parent think about spending proper time with their kids, and monitoring their Internet activities? Will anything I write here benefit anyone at all? A large part of me says no, but hey: ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.
I’ve just briefly re-read this, and maybe I should correct myself. There HAVE been mentions in the media of all the things I’ve stated here. However, some of the articles have been wrong, or mixed in misleading data – mostly to say that Amanda’s photo was a one-off, or that the predator is some old guy. Other articles have been maybe too slight or too specific. One of my aims is to bring everything involved under one roof – this blog – and to sort out fact from fiction.
Thank you for your attention. Please – leave a comment!