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Rant about the MySpace Suicides

I originally wrote this rant as a message to the Public Access Providers of Halifax County, one of the programs I manage.

I’ve used an internal mailing list to keep everyone abreast of the developments in what has become known as the *MySpace Suicide*.

What’s the point of all this? We are part of the big machine that is supposed to teach humanity how to use science and technology ethically, right? But to many’s chagrin there is simply no ‘golden nugget’ or no simple answer. In this case, the foe is cyberbullying, in extremis, but the source is unexpected.

The fact that the police have now charged the 49yo mother in this case clearly demonstrate that the younger generation approach ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) much more ethically than their parental generation. In this case it’s the mother who misrepresented herself as a minor (boy, 16yo), and instructed her own teenaged daughter and her friends to “shut up”. The result is tragic, and the mother now faces 20 years of imprisonment.

"Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering Web site to bully or harass another person … needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences,"

The case of the MySpace Suicide is a gruesome event that anyone working in ICT, particularly at the community level, should be familiar with. I’ve attached last Thursday’s Yahoo News bulletin about the latest developments.

This is not intended to be fuel for the proponents of censorship: That would be a very myopic and sheltered vision. As public access providers our primary role is to provide unencumbered access to the World Wide Web, our secondary role is to continue to be seen worldwide as leaders in the free circulation of information. If there is a moral to the story it is that there are far greater injustices that have to be addressed on a much more grass roots level in order to evolve into and towards the ethical use of. When will our policy and decision makers realize that more streetlamps and condemnation are not the way to move forward?

We need to light the beacon of values and morals and that is only achieved with increases culture and arts funding. It is the fundamental basis of Victor Hugo’s 1848 speech to the Assemblée Nationale. Hugo voted against reforms in the French budget that proposed negligible cuts to arts and culture but strong investment in policing and, in particular, streetlamps.

"We provide street lamps for our cities, light them every night, and this is very well, street lamps on every corner, in every public place; but when will we understand that we cannot lift a dark soul without first brightly lighting our spirits?"

Hugo was arguing that there is always money for additional street lamps, but only ever economies for arts and letters. His argument was that if you'd only nourish the morals first, then you don't need more street lamps. Hugo was ostracized from the national assembly for taking a stand in human values and the greater good, rather than supporting the very myopic and short-term view of the current rule.

His vision is repeated today, and today, our MLAs and MPs that stand up and speak up for increased arts and culture funding continue to be ostracized. We see it annually with our own program, where each year we have to fight to justify a small pittance – despite our reach being so great it becomes immeasurable, even incontestable. A strong C@P Program, with resources abound, would go a long way in educating, shaping, and instilling ethical values in adults and children alike.

A strong program like ours could help prevent the next MySpace Suicide.


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