Friday, August 15, 2008

What if All of This is Some Big Social Experiment?


Submitted for publication by Linda.


I'm back to the case of Megan Meier.

After Megan Meier committed suicide, a blog was started that garnered tremendous of attention.

The blog owner claimed to be a classmate of Megan Meier and eventually the third post on the blog claimed that the blog's owner was none other than Laurie Drew. Laurie Drew was the mother who made the fake teenage boy persona on Myspace whose rejection of Megan is believe to have caused her suicide.

There were numerous posts in which the blog owner claimed to have inside information. Numerous posts and comments about how they wanted to get their side, presumably the Drew side, of the story out. There were even posts that asked for prayers. There were also posts that pleaded for the need for "real" justice.

There were over 25,000 hits on the blog and guess what? It was a ruse. It was a kind of social experiment by a troll/hacker whose name is Jason Fortuny but who goes by the name Fortuny on the internet. He says that the purpose of the blog was to question the public's hunger for remorse and to question the enforceability of cyberharassing laws.

(Hat tip to Guinevere for the above article. Fortuny's connection to the blog can be found on p.3 of the above article)

So what if all of the hub-bub around the Gosselin Family is a kind of social experiment? What if some of these blogs exist to test the public's hunger for gossip or to test how far people will go to defend their position? Jason Fortuny says that even a "normal" person will do insane things on the internet. Imagine how the premise of protecting children can fan those flames?

I'm not convinced that every poster who claims to have "inside" information is actually who they say there are on either side. I'm not even convinced that a person defending the Gosselins in one post won't come back under another alias to disagree with their own argument. I'm not convinced of a lot on the blogosphere or on discussion boards. People can claim to be almost anyone.

We've got to be exercise caution about the blogosphere in the same way that we now know to exercise caution about political reporting and advertising for instance. Sometimes it turns out to be true. Sometimes it turns out to be a big ruse.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting theory - something to really think about.

Guinevere said...

I'm not convinced that every poster who claims to have "inside" information is actually who they say there are on either side. I'm not even convinced that a person defending the Gosselins in one post won't come back under another alias to disagree with their own argument. I'm not convinced of a lot on the blogosphere or on discussion boards. People can claim to be almost anyone.

Good points. We have more anonymity than I think we sometimes recognize when we are talking online.

It has occurred to me that some of the more vociferous posters over at GWoP may just be playing, "stirring up the crazy" as they say. I don't know if that makes them better or worse.

Anonymous said...

It could be very well that your neighbor or even your sister or mother are getting into a heated discussion with you on one of these blogs and you don't even know it because of the alias that everyone uses.

Anonymous said...

Linda,

One thing I feel very strongly about is that a great deal of information that is given out via these blogs is not true. If it was true, would people that feel so strongly about it be afraid to say who they really are?

chick said...

I think it's quite likely that some people are "stirring the pudding", but I also think that it's foolish to completely discount absolutely everything said by someone claiming to be an insider of some sort.

Juat like we do in our real lives, I think making sure we keep perspective and that we take any post with a grain or three of salt is the wise thing to do.

As one of my favorite talk radio hosts says, "Do not believe anything I say or anything you hear on this program unless you either already know it to be true or you verify it independently through reliable sources."

I think the extremists on both sides of the Gosselin issue have become so vociferous that it's hard to retain independent perspective.

Linda said...

anonymous 8:35 --

Mom, if that is you, sorry I didn't return your call today. I was swimming with the kids. (wink wink)

anonymous 8:37 --

I tend to think in the same way that you do that sometimes opinion is often presented as fact. When repeated over and over and over and over again it can rise to the level of truth in the minds of some people.

We were just discussing this with our kids. They are noticing the plethora of political advertising that dominates television lately. Even my ten year old noticed that the commercials tend to say little more than a criticism of the opposing side.

Anonymous said...

"I think the extremists on both sides of the Gosselin issue have become so vociferous that it's hard to retain independent perspective."

I think this is so true. But the key to this statement is the word extremists. Most of us are mildly in between and probably agree on quite a few things. We need to really keep that in mind when we discuss these issues.

Anonymous said...

What if all of this retoric is just one big publicity stunt that got out of hand?

Guinevere said...

I guess my problem with "extremists on both sides" is that I haven't seen anyone say that Kate poops rainbows and unicorns. I hear that there are supposedly rabid pro-Gosselin supporters, but I don't ever see posts from them. I only have to go over to the other blog to find posts that all but accuse Kate of being Satan.

I may be seen by some as an "extremist" because I argue forcefully, but I would say I'm not so much vehemently pro-Gosselin, as vehemently anti-crazy-stalker-women. I'm not anti-GWoP in the sense that I think everyone there is terrible, but I think the core of the blog and the people who run it are pretty sick puppies. And mean.

I tend to think in the same way that you do that sometimes opinion is often presented as fact. When repeated over and over and over and over again it can rise to the level of truth in the minds of some people.

I see that all the time with Kate stories - stuff like the fender-bender just keeps getting related as if it is fact, without a shred of evidence. It makes me more skeptical, rather than less.

Linda said...

Chick wrote:

"As one of my favorite talk radio hosts says, "Do not believe anything I say or anything you hear on this program unless you either already know it to be true or you verify it independently through reliable sources."

Great point. I take most information as second hand on blogs and discussion boards. And truthfully, I never seen a 22 minute as evidence that Kate is a woman of the year or the anti-Christ.
Editing can significantly alter (positively or negatively) what viewers see or don't see.

I would not consider this blog, the GwoP blog, Julie's blog or a discussion board to be a reliable source. That being said, I don't think that this blog has presented itself as containing FACTS.

chick said...

guinevere: "I guess my problem with "extremists on both sides" is that I haven't seen anyone say that Kate poops rainbows and unicorns. I hear that there are supposedly rabid pro-Gosselin supporters, but I don't ever see posts from them. I only have to go over to the other blog to find posts that all but accuse Kate of being Satan."

I don't think "rabid pro-gosselin" is an accurate a term as "pollyanna posters" might be. There are posters out there who, frankly, seem to never see anything at all wrong with the show, never question anything they hear about, never do anything but talk about how super Kate is, and how adorable the show is, and what a strong marriage Jon and Kate have, and what wonderful Christians they are, and on and on ad nauseum.

It's very similar to how teen girls love on their boy band idols. The object of adoration is almost elevated to a level of sainthood that is utterly unrealistic and out of touch with reality on all levels.

Those "defend the saintly Gosselins at any cost" people make my teeth ache, because they seem to be unwilling to question anything. In my mind, those are "sheeple". If I find a good example of such posts, I'll toss a link out.

guinevere: "I may be seen by some as an "extremist" because I argue forcefully, but I would say I'm not so much vehemently pro-Gosselin, as vehemently anti-crazy-stalker-women. I'm not anti-GWoP in the sense that I think everyone there is terrible, but I think the core of the blog and the people who run it are pretty sick puppies. And mean."

They are mean at times. No doubt. There's no need to mock Kate's penchant for sleeveless tops by calling her arms fat. That's idiotic. But if they wish to use their energy tracking G8 rumors down and discussing them, so be it.

That is, in a nutshell (pardon the pun), the price Jon and Kate are going to have to pay for their "celebrity" status. When you put your life out on a daily basis for public consumption, the public has this nasty habit of not always taking things at face value.

I am unaware of anyone who investigates the Dilley family, or the McCaughey family as passionately as some people investigate the Gosselins. I belive that the other families have chosen to live far more private lives, and that that decision has benefitted them and their children tremendously.

Food for thought:

google McCaughey - ~552,000 hits. Of the first 10 articles, only 5 are septuplet related.

google Dilley - ~1,390,000 hits. 2 of the first 10 are sextuplet related.

google Gosselin - ~2,230,000 hits. 5 of the first 13 (?) are sextuplet related.

anya said...

Chick said...

"I don't think "rabid pro-gosselin" is an accurate a term as "pollyanna posters" might be. There are posters out there who, frankly, seem to never see anything at all wrong with the show, never question anything they hear about, never do anything but talk about how super Kate is, and how adorable the show is, and what a strong marriage Jon and Kate have, and what wonderful Christians they are, and on and on ad nauseum."


Chick, have you really seen much of that flavor on this blog, because I haven't.

Obviously, there are many POV's that have been expressed, but what I have heard said MANY times from those of us who have defended the Gosselins is acknowledgment that both parents have flaws. Is Kate "super"? Super organized maybe!

Seriously, I don't think of this blog as a Facebook fan page. A lot of us may have quibbles with the Gosselins. We just don't believe anything they have done has made them deserving of the fervent and angry backlash they have received.

chick said...

No, I haven't seen the idolation for Kate here at this point Anya. Of course, I haven't exactly read every post or response, but that's not the feeling I get from what I have seen of GDNNOP.

I used the term "out there", meaning in the world of the internet. Sorry if that was unclear!

nomoredrama said...

Those "defend the saintly Gosselins at any cost" people make my teeth ache, because they seem to be unwilling to question anything. In my mind, those are "sheeple". If I find a good example of such posts, I'll toss a link out.

I agree. I think that blind acceptance is irresponsible. But the people who fit into THIS category are not publicly engaging in dangerous, borderline stalking behaviors (at least that I'm aware). The "haters" on the other hand (to use the derogatory term for the other side) seem to take great pleasure in violating boundaries, IMO. So much so that they post about it then call for the support of others. Case in point, there is chatter on the other board about getting info through the county on where the Gosselins are going to be moving...I'm sorry, that's scary and, to me, very sick and twisted.

That is, in a nutshell (pardon the pun), the price Jon and Kate are going to have to pay for their "celebrity" status.
I don't care how big of a celebrity you are, it's not the right of the public to invade the privacy and threaten the health, safety and well-being of a family or children because they have a reality show or any type of show.

And your food for though section. I know you were trying to show that since the Gosselins have a show, there is such a large amount of google hits for them as opposed to other families but I'd like to point out that even with staying private, the Dilley's have over million hits and the McCaugheys (do they even do specials?)...still have 500,000. I think this goes to show that people would be interested whether there was a show or not.

chick said...

nomoredrama, of course it isn't right that "celebrity" means people feel they have a right to invade said "celebrity's" privacy. But people who tend toward the obsessive are out there, and they have always been out there.

Celebrity is a nasty double edged sword. Sadly, no matter where the blame lies, it seems that G8 are starting to be nicked and cut by their "status".

And you were correct about the point I was trying to make about the various HOM families. I think a nearly 1 million hit defference is significant, but honestly, I think the difference would be much less if all 3 familes had shows.

If we saw the Dilley kids and their parents in the same sort of "if it bleeds it leads" show G8 have, people would be talking heatedly about them as well.

If the McCaughey's were filmed in a "good, bad, and ugly" series, people would be furious with those parents about something all the time.

Putting yourself out there for public consumption is riskier than skydiving without a parachute these days.

Tyra said...

’They are mean at times. No doubt. There's no need to mock Kate's penchant for sleeveless tops by calling her arms fat. That's idiotic. But if they wish to use their energy tracking G8 rumors down and discussing them, so be it..’

That’s not what I think of as the meanest thing about some of the more virulent anti-Kate bloggers. ‘Fat arms’ talk is just opinions, and I would hope those kind of opinions would be utterly meaningless to Kate Gosselin. It’s just internet chatter.

It’s when the word ‘advocacy’ came up that I started to dislike what they were about. They are incredible google-ers, I gotta say, but they are the worst leapers to conclusions, putting their research together to ‘support’ the conclusions they reached before they did their research. I find that personally offensive, whatever the subject. Any action seems to be condoned, regardless of consequences. Calling CPS, emailing pastors at churches where the Gosselins are scheduled to speak, sniping at Kate’s sister Clairissa on her blog when she wouldn’t tell them the ‘truth’ they wanted to hear about Kate.

Some of their ‘advocacy’ is not that offensive to me, like their contacting Paul Petersen (sic?). That, imo, was the kind of action that a person can take when they see something that disturbs them on a tv show: contact a well-respected child advocate and let him and his organization do some research and come to some reasonable conclusion about taking action. When and if that organization ever did take action, it would be about the issue of children on reality shows, and not about ‘getting’ Kate Gosselin.

The funny thing to me was how jubilant GWoP was about having Petersen respond to their email, while I was reassured by how cautious he was about throwing in with them. His statement was noncommittal, and I thought, ‘good, he’s careful, and probably does plenty of research before he takes any action.’

The GWoP site is so wrapped up in the personality issues they have with Kate, they could never be trusted as a reliable child advocacy group. That’s the flag they seem to wrap themselves in, anyway. It seems as if more than a few of them think they are on a ‘noble’ crusade. To me, it just seems like a rationalization to help everyone feel really good about themselves, while at the same time enjoying really vicious gossip.

Linda said...

Tyra,

You wrote:

"To me, it just seems like a rationalization to help everyone feel really good about themselves, while at the same time enjoying really vicious gossip."

I agree wholeheartedly. There are plenty of nasty internet chat-fests about the Gosselins. I don't like stuff like in the same way that I don't like alot tv gossip sights. What I find most offensive about the GwoP site is that they throw in a post here or there about child labor and they think they are talking about Kate's arms, earrings, and but for a "noble cause."

nomoredrama said...

nomoredrama, of course it isn't right that "celebrity" means people feel they have a right to invade said "celebrity's" privacy. But people who tend toward the obsessive are out there, and they have always been out there.


With all due respect, Chick, I thin k your argument is a dangerous one that has implications beyond just J&K. Yes, of course, obsessive people are out there but it's not as cut and dry as "IF you have a reality show THEN you will be stalked." If that were true, then there should be boards like GWoP for the LONG list of other reality TV families. The amount of hate for the Gosselins and the lengths that people are going to in order to get "info" about them is unique.

For you to basically imply (and pardon me if I am misreading you) that because the Gosselin's have a reality TV show, they are opening themselves up to stalking/risking the lives of their children...therefore the stalking is to be expected... really does not sit well with me.

When I go to a bar at night, there is a "risk" that I'll be hit and killed by a drunk driver. When I walk in center city Philly, especially alone, there is a "risk" that I will be mugged or worse....imagine the possibilities. But if any of those things were to happen, would you still argue that because I took the risk, I opened myself up to attack and therefore "I don't feel sorry for you"?

It is this "blame the victim" mentality that really strikes a nerve with me. Look back into the history of celebrities. For as many celebrities that have existed on earth, how many cases of severe stalking have you heard of? Stalking/Harassment are the exception, not the rule. Was there always a "chance" that this could happen...sure...but theres also a chance that every time you ride on a plane you can crash. The likelihood for this happening to a family with a reality show is, IMO, the same (could happen but not likely).

Putting yourself out there for public consumption is riskier than skydiving without a parachute these days.
Not exactly...sorry. If this were the norm, or even if was happening to just handful of other r-tv families then I'd certainly agree but it's not. J & K's situation is unique and I would have hoped that those who claim to want to "advocate" for the rights of the children would also want to protect their safety, not encourage this malicious invasion of their privacy.

anya said...

Tyra said...

"It’s when the word ‘advocacy’ came up that I started to dislike what they were about. They are incredible google-ers, I gotta say, but they are the worst leapers to conclusions, putting their research together to ‘support’ the conclusions they reached before they did their research. I find that personally offensive, whatever the subject. Any action seems to be condoned, regardless of consequences."


Exactly, it seems the more egregious or invasive a particular action is (hunting down disgruntled relatives of relatives, threatening or actually contacting authorities, a special section just to report ‘Gosselin sitings’), the more high 5’s they give each other. It leaves one wondering, where precisely is the line that they will not cross? Or does such a line exist?

Barbara in VA said...

There's nothing wrong with the word advocate or its derivitives. I'm an advocate for animal rights meaning I'm always speaking up for animals, giving money to the causes of caring for animals and doing my level best to see that people who mistreat them are held responsible and punished for doing so through the system we have in place in this country. Same thing goes for children, those on TV or otherwise, with whom I become familiar whether in person or as a result of specials brought to me on TV. How is that stalking someone? You know the old saying about they came for the old folks and I didn't stand up, they came for the black folks and I didn't stand up, they came for the jews and I didn't stand up -- then they came for me (and there was nobody to stand up). If you see something in society that worries you or makes you feel as though a wrong is being done to an innocent party, heck, stand up, call the authorities, what harm will that do? Bless the beasts and the children, in this world they have no choice, they have no voice.

So that's my soapbox stand for the day. Hope I'm not crossing any lines you don't like. But oh, well.
Barbara in VA

Anonymous said...

There have been several controversies lately with GWOP linking facebook pages discussing how many of Kate's fans are now turning. The real problem is people that are on facebook fan page are on GWOP as well, and have become nothing more than "cyber bullies". The are nasty to those that enjoy the show, post quotes from the blog that we do not know are actually true, and forever link the the blogs address to the posts. It has really become bad at this point, with people really becoming down right harassing. I don't understand that if they don't like the show, why are they still watching? IMO they are just trolling to get itself more members.

nomoredrama said...

Barbara,
Just speaking up is not stalking. Contacting family members who's names have never been mentioned on the show, driving by the home, contacting venues where they speak, trying to find out the location of where the family is building their new home, knowing the exact location of the beach house (and dollar amount)...That, is harassment and borderline stalking (and, by the way, ILLEGAL)

Fanny said...

Barbara in VA,

What have you seen on the show that qualifies as abuse and merits the help of the "authorities"? Is it just the fact that they are on tv?

Honestly, I'm not mocking you. I'm truly trying to see your side.

Barbara in VA said...

I don't anything about any house price or family members being contacted. The only comment I'll speak to is that of contacting someone who is an expert in child labor law to find out if this relatively new phenomenon of reality programming when using children has protection under the so-called Jackie Cooper law. I have not seen abuse on the show and I don't know any of the people involved in the show. I only wanted to find out from a legal standpoint whether or not the kids had any protections. And if not, why not.

If other authorities are referred to I don't know who they are or why they would be contacted. I do not have a clue if the children's interests, financially or otherwise, are being protected or not because they are not actors. And so I wanted to ask the question. Please remember that child actors from the 20s and before could be exploited and were exploited by their parents who were allowed to spend any and all money earned by those children in any way they saw fit. Of course, not saying that is the case here. Just asking the question.
Barbara in VA

Fanny said...

I am on the fence about the exposure thing. On one hand, it does worry me a little that the kids could be tormented by peers about what they said or did on camera. Kids can be cruel anyway so I'm afraid that might make it worse. I also worry about the exposure to people who may not be completely stable. Guess that explains my problem with gwop.

But on the other hand, I wonder what their lives would be like without the show. I have a hard time supporting my family on two incomes, and I have no where near that many kids. Yes, they have had help with donations and such, but as time goes on, I think a lot of that would fade away. They could be living in a house much smaller than the one they are in now, and let's face it, Kate would be Kate no matter what, so imagine Kate with the added financial stress! It's not just about the money. They would probably never experience most of what they have had they not done this show.


I truly can see both sides here, but from what I see, they look like normal, happy, healthy kids. I truly hope they stay that way.

bigsis88 said...

I agree with a lot of what you said Fanny, but the reason I don't watch the show anymore is because I don't think their exposure has been used appropriately. (I blame both the producers and the family, but moreso the producers because I think they edit for maximum drama.) The Gosselins haven't stuck to their mission statement and haven't "paid it forward". I don't care about their "freebies" and such (maybe because I am a ways off from having a family of my own), but I think it's disgraceful that they publicly stated their intentions of helping others out and have yet to do so (at least on a large scale).

nomoredrama said...

Barbara,
I agree that there is nothing wrong with asking. I do think that the question of how the children are benefiting should be asked.

I don't think anyone on here is saying that no one should question the family. We do it. I think there is a way to do it appropriately and a way to sensationalize that takes away all credibility and makes it about the sensationalism rather than the issue at hand. (BTW, I am not referring to you specifically in any of these posts...just so there is no confusion)

twinmom said...

Agreed. Who knows who is who in the internet and what is a lie and what is a truth? My truth is I happen to know more about the mechanics of this show being on TLC and the parent company and what they would be willing to do/not do. As I said in another comment TLC would not buy them a house! I am not a liar. I am not a crazy stalker. But I AM bugged by the mob attitude that seems to be gaining momentum and is almost something that we would find in the DSM! I was a social services student a few years ago. I have not finished my degree and have 2 years to go but I did take all of the psych/behavioral/family counseling courses first. I recognize some of the behaviors of Kate. I really think she had a tough, tough upbringing. Her rigidity re cleaning, no messes allowed or tolerated etc. are classic control issues. These control issues could be based on anxiety. I say could be because I don't know anything about this woman other than what I have seen in the episodes. I come away with the feelings that I have compassion for her because she obviously has been hurt by something in her younger days or was very closely controlled. Maybe that's why there isn't much contact with her family. Who knows? But I DO see her hug and kiss her children. I DO see her have joy in their accomplishments. She's no saint of a parent. Neither am I. But I don't see anything that would warrant the kind of hatred that I have seen on this site you are all talking about. Trust me. TLC is NOT looking at any blog daily to see how the wind is blowing LOL! And the only reason I am reading any of this stuff is that I have been sick for over a month and am requiring tons of rest. I have spent a lot of time on the computer just to pass the days and when some of this ugly stuff came up from a simple search I did on the name of a blog I was stunned at the vitriolic ravings I saw. My real concern is for who and what we have become when reading the horrible things that have been said about people the posters don't know! Thanks for the fair publishing of comments. For the record I posted on one of the blogs of the women who created/support/run GWoP. Imagine my laughter when I was called: "a conservative nut who wants to push their agenda on everyone else". HUH? I am not a conservative LOL! And so what if I was? Just bizarre.

nomoredrama said...

Twinmom!
Welcome! I think you speak a lot of truth in your posts. It's funny to me that anyone who knows a thing or two about children and/or mental health seems to be of the opinion that Kate loves her children. Do we think that Kate is perfect...HELL NO! But to make the accusations that are made is appalling. I also agree with your "assessment" of Kate's MH issues. It's clear that girlfriend has some issues but a lot of people do and that doesn't make them a "monster."

I am really interested to hear your opinions given that you work for TLC and know more about the ins and outs of the network than the average joe. Thanks for posting!

twinmom said...

Thanks for your kind response. Just to clear things up, I do not work for TLC. My family member is the one who works for the parent company and knows more than any of these so called "compassionate protectors of children" could even dream up.

Yes, even me, the novice at mental health issues knows that these children are NOT abused. I worked for a children's protection agency in conjunction with the Dept. of Family and Children Services. I know neglect and abuse, unfortunately.
We should all be concentrating on that, in my opinion, and putting all that energy over at that other site into positive action to make a difference in the really horrific things that are going on in every single state/city in this country. But people who enjoy sitting on a computer and bashing a TV family don't have the courage to face that horror and become an activist for children who really need help desperately. But that's another topic for another time and another place. Thanks again for presenting a fair and balanced picture here.

Kuromi said...

You know, Linda, I think you're really on to something. On the blog that's called something like "Kate Gosselin Time's Person Of The Year," there was a heated exchange between even-keeled critics and rabid pro-Gosselin-ers. The latter were sisters and would gang up together on someone, saying the craziest things like "I'm 16 but I know such-and-such" or "I'm a young single mom but I know more about raising kids..." The more I think about it, the more it seems like trolls had been having their way.

I think what's happened is this: Sadly, yes there are people who really truely do feel hate for people they've never met, but their numbers are few; the rest are trolls who are having great fun riling up both the crazies and the sane folk.

So I guess if someone seems hell-bent on being obtuse (and that is NOT the same as a debating oppponent with well-thought arguments), best to dismiss the person as a troll and move on. Or a crazy, and still move on.