Category Archives: Internet

More Than A Hate Crime at Rutgers University

I am unbelievably furious!  I have a new book coming out in January, entitled “Surviving Shark Attacks on Land.”  It has to do with betrayal and revenge.  18 year old Tyler Clementi didn’t survive his recent shark attack on land.  He killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in New York.  He posted a goodbye on his Facebook page just eight minutes before he ended his life.

The media has made a fuss over this story because he was gay.  That is not the story. The story is that he was betrayed in the most disgusting and egregious way by his own roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend.  They sneaked a camera into the dorm room and secretly taped Tyler Clementi having sex.  They callously “shared” (as it’s lovingly called) this tape with the Internet universe on the roommate’s network of “friends” (as they’re lovingly called).

The roommate bragged about his spying in a Twitter post.

The piece of garbage known as his roommate and his piece of garbage of a girlfriend have been arrested for invasion of privacy.  They intentionally betrayed the friendship between roommates and intentionally humiliated this young man in public.  There ought to be (and there may be) a more serious charge.

For those of you old enough to remember the original movie “M*A*S*H,” an audio version of this humiliation was perpetrated on “Hotlips” Houlihan as a “joke.”  She was devastated, and the audience and actors laughed.  Mainstreaming cruelty.

One 16 year old junior at Rutgers (the same school) defended the perpetrators:  “I’m really shocked.”  About what? “I wouldn’t expect Molly to do something like that.  Dharan was very friendly, open and social.”  And here it comes:  “They’re not like that.  It was probably a practical joke gone wrong.”

Bull.  They are exactly like that.  They intended to humiliate Tyler.  They intended to have a laugh at his expense.  They intended to gain notoriety by having produced this film for all to see for their “entertainment.”  They intended  to be cruel.  They were sharks, attacking by betraying a friend on the Internet.

Could Tyler have survived this attack?  Was suicide his only out? 

The problem is that if he reported them to the school (whether or not they got in trouble for it), it’s on the Internet, seen and downloaded again and again and again for all eternity. 

I know something about this sort of betrayal.  Made up, as well as real, photos of me are on the Internet for all eternity also.  I know personally the feeling of wanting to die…vanish…evaporate.  The pain of that humiliation was extraordinary.  Why did I survive and Tyler not?  Tyler was just 18 years old and did not have decades of adult life experiences, accomplishments, a network of support or perhaps just pure grit.  When someone so vulnerable is betrayed (and the word is betrayed), then life seems totally hopeless.  When people you expect to have some kindness use you to further their fun-loving reputation by humiliating you for all time, and you’re only a teenager, you feel you will never be able to show your face or trust anybody again.  Everything is magnified, including pain, when you’re a teenager.

Tyler would have survived had he believed he could live through this humiliation and hold up his head again.  That he was gay is not the issue.  Had he been straight, we’d be having the same conversation.  This is not about sexual orientation.  This is about the awful inhumanity that is mainstreamed most horrendously via the Internet.

My heart goes out to this boy…I know what he felt, and I wish I had been there to tell him so.

The Thought Police Are Coming For You

I’ve been sitting “shiva” for the past four weeks after I issued my apology for using a word on this radio program that I should not have used.

I’ve let the hounds of fury misinterpret and misrepresent my apology, as well as my decision to end my syndicated radio program at the end of the year.  I’ve been asked why didn’t I strike back?  Frankly, with folks like Al Sharpton and Howard Stern and Wanda Sykes and organizations like Media Matters, the NAACP, and the Urban League (to name only a few) pelting me with insults, calling me a racist, saying “good riddance”…..it was hard to get a word in edgewise.

But after my vacation, I’m all refreshed, and now it’s time to start putting a little civility back into this debate and clear up a couple of misconceptions.

First:  I am not leaving my radio program to be free to say the “N word.”  A lot of folks out there have reported that that is my intent!  That when I said I wanted my First Amendment rights back, it was for the right to say that word.  Can you believe that?  That’s wrong!  You won’t hear that word out of my mouth.

Second:  While I said something that offended some people, I took ownership of it.  I apologized (as you folks who listen to me every day know) and accepted responsibility – something others who are now attacking me have not done in their own lives, or don’t do until their PR agency tells them “You better!” so they go into rehab and all is forgiven.

Just this past week, Wanda Sykes was on Larry King.  Wanda Sykes (I call her an “offensive comedienne”) was the one who last year “joked” in front of President Obama that she hoped Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys would fail.  I find that incredibly offensive – i.e., to wish someone sickness and death.  She never apologized for that, and she was never asked to apologize for that.  She referred to Rush Limbaugh as the “20th hijacker” – again, I find that offensive and she never apologized.

Well, on Larry King, Larry asked her to “weigh in” about me.  I don’t know why Larry would do this, or why Wanda is an expert on me, but that’s TV.  It’s all about ratings.  So Larry asked Wanda about me, and this is what Wanda said (I’m quoting):

“I didn’t know that black people ever called her show or even listened to her show.  Black people don’t listen to Dr. Laura.  That’s a white people thing.  That’s a white people thing.”

Personally, I find that an offensive comment, and perhaps even a racist one.  It makes an assumption about a group of people, and that’s what racism is.  More importantly, it’s an inaccurate comment.  Contrary to Wanda’s uninformed opinion, I get calls and letters every day from people of all colors.

Now, I don’t see the Urban League, NAACP and Media Matters trying to shut down Wanda Sykes, who represents blacks badly, and I don’t see them demanding advertisers boycott her TV shows or asking stations and networks to punish her.  But you do see those organizations mobilizing to shut me down, shut down Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Andrew Breitbart – shut us all down, because we say something that apparently offends them.  No, it’s really about disagreeing with them.

I was very pleased to see this posting on the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications website.  This was put there by UNC Professor of Journalism Leroy Towns, a professor and research fellow.  On August 19 – two days after I appeared on Larry King – Professor Towns wrote this:

Make Sure Your Attitude is Politically Correct

Here’s further evidence the right of free speech is being replaced by The Right Not to Be Offended.

Talk show host Laura Schlessinger used the N-word (that’s the media-inspired euphemism for the real word) several times in her radio show. She immediately came under attack from the ultra-liberal group Media Matters and from critics in the media.  So she apologized and quit her radio show.

[Now even Professor Towns got the facts slightly wrong.  I apologized.  Then I was attacked, and then I announced I am leaving my radio show.  Now back to Professor Towns.]

That wasn’t good enough for Media Matters, according to the Associated Press:

”Media Matters’ Ari Rabin-Havt said the apology wasn’t accepted because his group was concerned about Schlessinger’s overall attitudes toward race, more than just the N-word.  And those attitudes weren’t addressed in the apology, he said.

There you have it.  Got attitude?  The thought police are coming for you.  Posted by Leroy Towns.

“The right of free speech is being replaced by the right not to be offended.”  That’s pretty serious stuff.  And it doesn’t start with the government.  It starts when small interest groups – groups that are supported and aided by political parties – decide they are the guardians of what is “politically correct.”  That’s how it started in Germany.  That’s how it started in Communist China.  That’s how it is right now in Iran.

So when I speak about leaving syndicated radio at the end of the year to regain my ability to speak freely, it is so I can speak freely without worry of saying something that will offend or disagree with some group of people (disagreement is offensive to some groups of people) and then having the collateral damage of advertisers, agencies and radio stations being threatened and attacked for supporting me.
 
So, I will stand on my own, ready for the slings and arrows, because I’m committed to helping you folks do and be better in your lives.

I want to emphasize one more time that what I’ve been dealing with for the past 30 years in the public arena are activist groups and politically motivated individuals taking exception to my differing point of view, who reframe it as “she’s offensive.”  Whether it’s my opinion on abortion, day care, “shack-ups,” intentionally having babies out-of-wedlock, time and again, people pretend to take offense at my opinion, but, in reality, merely want to shut down an opposing point of view.
 
And I promise you, I may be standing on my own, but I won’t be shut down.

Texting As An Obsession

I remember when people wrote long, heartfelt letters in longhand.  Then came the typewriter, which helped us lose the beauty of the handwritten word with lovely penmanship.  Then the telephone came along, where early “party lines” enabled snoopy neighbors to overhear your spoken sentiments.  After that, we had the fax machine which cut out the middleman in quick delivery.  Then emails quickly took control – you could write and write and get an almost instant response.  No waiting in anticipation at your mailbox for weeks hoping for that personal connection you started and which you hoped would be closed with a return missive.

And now we have devolved even more into text messaging.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I text message about five times each day, on average.  I do it for a quick alert – it’s better than hawks or carrier pigeons.  As far as interpersonal intimacy is concerned, however, there is none, except for “sexting,” which is anything but cherished intimacy.

A survey on the website mashable.com highlighted this ever-diminishing level of interest in true personal contact and showed:

For people under the age of 25:

 49% think it’s perfectly okay to text while eating
 24%….while using the toilet
 10%…while having sex [not to be confused with real sexual intimacy]

For people over the age of 25:

 27% think it’s okay to text while eating
 12%…while using the toilet
   6% …while having sex.

This brings multi-tasking to a new low.

I realize the younger generation believes valuing certain things like privacy and modesty is “old fashioned,” and these sorts of compulsive texting practices are harmless and they don’t see themselves as rude, inconsiderate or clueless, but when they turn 40 and have children, it’s amazing how many of them finally see the negativity in diminishing true intimacy and needing incessant and relatively meaningless interaction just for the sake of thinking they’re important, or because they don’t want a moment of “boredom,” or because they’re just making a frantic attempt to distract themselves from life’s responsibilities, obligations, challenges and fears.

Not being able to concentrate fully on one task, one in-depth interaction/conversation, not seeing important life experiences as serious and sacred is a problem.

Parents with minor children have a responsibility to help children curb their out-of-control impulses, whatever they are.  Make sure you have a contract with your phone provider that allows for up to 10-15 texts per day instead of the average of 100 texts per day kids are doing now.  Have them pick and choose what is most important to them to use up those precious texts.  Have them learn something about prioritizing and budgeting and making choices using some deep thought.

Parents, this is YOUR JOB:  to teach your children to moderate behavior in appropriate ways, or else you turn out-of-control children into out-of-control adults, for whom a million texts will be the way they measure their worth and their daily happiness.

Say No to Family Blogs

Today’s blog is from a listener and is a follow-up to a call she made to me on my radio program, but it could apply to any family:

I spoke with you…about my discouragement with my family relationships that have resulted from me blogging on my private family blog.  I was extremely shocked by your passionate response that I should shut the blog down and cease to communicate with others in that manner.

While at first I battled my defensive justifications as to why I should still blog, I wanted to thank you for helping me to look at the matter in a completely new light.  As I have pondered the situation, I have discovered some important elements I had not thought of before, mainly ‘Why Blogs Are Not Great Ways to Maintain Relationships:’”

1.  We don’t usually communicate in that way with people when we speak face-to-face.  In regular conversations with our friends or family, there should be an equal give and take.  You share; they listen.  Blog posts are typically one-sided conversations, where sharing ideas and thoughts don’t happen.  Yes, you can comment, but comments are typically short, on topic, and do not typically result in a sincerely valuable conversation.
2.  It’s not personalized to the individual to whom we are speaking, and can therefore come across as insensitive.

When I talk to someone face-to-face, I filter and screen my topics and thoughts according to the closeness of the relationship, as well as what their life situation might be.  With a blog audience (even a private one), my relationship closeness still varies widely.  In real life conversations, I would be more aware of what I share and with whom I choose to share it.  In addition, if I’m talking to a friend of mine who has struggled with infertility, I probably wouldn’t go on and on about how much I love being a mother and raising a baby.  She’s been trying to have a baby for several years, and is quite discouraged about that.  It would be rude and inconsiderate of me to do that.

Even though the topics we blog about may be neutral and positive, because we are not considering the personalized audience, we can often unknowingly offend people and likely even damage existing relationships.  Because we may not be considering the closeness of our relationships, we may be sharing things that are better left enjoyed and shared only with those closest to us.

Thank you for helping me see a different side.  I’ve taken an early retirement from blogging, and already am excited at the freedom I feel, and the prospect of maintaining and strengthening my relationships through good old-fashioned one-on -one personalized communication.

Sincerely,

B.

America’s Most Important Issues

Last week, I logged on to Google’s Blog Search just to see what some of the latest issues Americans seem to be concerned about.  Here are the ten most important issues on American minds last week (based upon “action” to these website stories, whatever that means):

1. Number One:  The results for American Idol.  God help us all.  “…Casey James was sent home, making way for shy rocker Lee DeWyze and earthy mama Crystal Bowersox to duke it out in the Season 9 finale.”  As I have never watched American Idol – ever, I have no clue who these people are, but apparently America is more concerned with them than any other story or event in the United States.

2. Number Two had some worldwide importance.  Apparently, there is or was a Facebook group that posted “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” which was in reaction to the apparent Islamic response (death threats) to anyone depicting Mohammed in any form.  Pakistan banned Facebook, because of this particular group which was testing the concept of free speech.  While this is still censorship, at least it wasn’t pushing for murder.

3. Number Three:  Megan Fox won’t be appearing in Transformers 3.   And….???

4. Number Four:  The President of Mexico trashed Arizona for policing its borders against the influx of illegal aliens from his country.  He did this at the White House, with President Obama smiling by his side.  I was fascinated to read about President Calderon’s comments against Arizona bearing the brunt of the expense of illegal aliens and finally fighting back within the law.  He was basically missing the point:  PEOPLE ARE DYING TO GET OUR OF HIS COUNTRY, and Obama is suggesting that the USA not be a sovereign state.  Well, my answer is to annex Mexico and finally make use of the resources to support their own people without violent drug wars and corruption.  I’m not sure Obama and Calderon actually read the Arizona law, which forbids profiling.

5. Number Five:  North Korea fired a torpedo that killed 46 and sank a Korean naval warship.  This is Korea’s worst military disaster since the Korean War.  Does anybody still laugh at the “axis of evil” comment of a prior president?

6. Number Six:  Google unveils the Chrome web store, and something about a Sports Illustrated app.  I’d say more about these technological advances if I understood them.

7. Number Seven:  Google launches Open Web M web video format based on VP8….huh?

8. Number Eight:  Kentucky’s senatorial candidate Rand Paul and Trey Grayson play “telephone.”  The burning question:  did Rand Paul (the victor in last Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary in Kentucky, diss the man he defeated?  Well, I guess if you’re unhappy about who won this race, find something to criticize.

9. Number Nine:  The mascots for the London 2012 Olympic Games are unveiled.  Ahh….you figure out what the heck they are.

10.  Number Ten:  And this will be very upsetting:  Actress Amanda Seyfried and actor Dominic Cooper have split up – evidently, he’s been fooling around with Lindsay Lohan at the Cannes Film Festival.  Over all these stories, this makes me the saddest – not because Amanda’s feelings are hurt, but because enough Americans cared about this situation to make it into the top ten.

Using the Web to Get Revenge

In a recent radio interview, I discussed the issue of “webtribution,” a term coined by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal to describe people who use the Internet to get revenge – i.e., publicly to hurt another human being with whom they are not happy.

The Internet is anonymous, immediate, and gratifying in the moment.  In human history, vengeance is not unfamiliar – people haven’t changed that much.  Their means of delivering pain has evolved from poison, duels, clever rumors, and Machiavellian manipulation to the world wide web.  In some ways, damaging someone’s reputation is akin to murdering them, as their reputation is devastated world-wide and forever, making it difficult for them to function in private relationships as well as in the community and at work.

To quote The Wall Street Journal:  “Most of us have heard of someone posting naked photos of an ‘ex’ online.  Or writing nasty reviews for a restaurant or book, not because they dislike the product, but because they dislike the person who created it.  Or signing up an acquaintance for [unwanted] e-mail advertising lists.” 

My opinion is that it should be illegal, as it is immoral, to post information or opinion about people without identifying yourself.  Obviously, it is also cowardly.  Google and all other such carriers should not permit anonymity.  That would immediately change the complexion of what is posted, and I don’t think they’d lose business, except from those who use the Internet for evil (terrorists of the international and interpersonal kind). 

Wife Turns in Pedophile Husband

I remember when the Unabomber was caught.  There was an uproar of indignation concerning the fact that it was his brother who “ratted” him out.  When his brother saw the published ramblings of the serial murderer known as the “Unabomber,” he recognized the sentiments, mentality, and writing style of his brother, and informed the police.  If memory serves me right, The Los Angeles Times had either an editorial or an op-ed piece castigating the brother for essentially “turning on blood.”

That was a morally repugnant point of view.  Protecting the innocent against evil is the responsibility of every human being, regardless of the “job description” of the evildoer – in this case, a sibling.

Fortunately, in England, a wife of twenty years understood her responsibility to others (in this case, children), and set aside emotional pain and potential embarrassment.  She set out to trap her husband, whom she suspected of being a pedophile.  Apparently, her husband chatted with teenagers as he groomed them for sex.

The wife pretended to be a 14 year old girl, and caught him in the act.  She was in the neighboring living room while he was in his study sweating over a hot computer, setting “her” up for a meeting to have sex.  He also used a webcam to carry out sex acts and send the videos over the Internet.  Our plucky wife watched this in absolute disgust and horror.

She then contacted police who seized his computer.  She didn’t march into his study to confront him, cry, or threaten.  Like a good citizen, she just turned it all over to the authorities.  GOOD FOR HER!

He only received three years of community service and was banned indefinitely from having access in person or online to children under the age of 18.  He also had to register as a sex offender, and, oh yes, she divorced him.

“I did the right thing, and I don’t regret it.  Now I just need some time to think and put this all behind me,” she said to a reporter.

She should have gotten a medal.

Giving Birth In Front of an Audience

During my college years in the Sixties, “empowerment” and “consciousness-raising” were the main focus of existence, even though these concepts were largely used to insist that you were a victim of something or someone just for being female.

Well, fast forward to now, and one young, married woman in her twenties has decided that giving birth live on the Internet is empowering to women!  The use of that term in this circumstance cracks me up.  I remember, during my loooong labor, my husband saying that he was going to leave to get a cup of coffee.  I threatened him with “if you leave…never come back!!”  I guess that threat was “empowerment,” but giving birth in public or private is one of our least powerful times.  We are completely at the mercy of a baby who is usually saying “Hell, no, I won’t go.”

Nonetheless, this woman has decided that taking something personal and making it public is empowering and educational and spreading joy.  Oh, puleeze!  In our sadly growing exhibitionist, voyeuristic, reality show mentality of a society, this is how people become “important,” known, and “famous.”

The point of “personal” is that something is perfected by its modesty, and sharing is not an issue of public promotion, but an opportunity for a few people to embrace a meaningful moment of experience.  Experiences and moments that are universal (like child-bearing) are not educational.  The childbirth is going to be posted on a mom website, which means that they’ve all been there and done that.

Her husband is marginalized.  She admits that he was “hesitant” at first, but I’m sure he ultimately had no say.  There aren’t too many decent men who want to share the birth of their first child with a camera crew and a blog audience – that makes Daddy less special and less involved.

It’s all just sad to me.  And what happens after the event, when the thrill, the attention and adrenaline of being in the spotlight goes away?  What is she going to do with this kid to keep the flow going?  Think Jon and Kate.  Think “sad” for the children who become the means of their parents’ moment in the light, in ways other than simply enjoying their first smiles and first steps.