23 March 2009

The "Just Society"...

...craps its pants... yet again...

"I sat across the aisle from Stefanie's parents and relatives and distinctly remember wincing: Their gentle, beloved and loving girl was in her grave at 14, and the administration of justice was concerning itself with whether M.T. had a cushion."

"So much is upside down it is sometimes hard to fathom."

RELATED: Let's ask Joe Sixpack...


Neo Conservative said...

[full text of article follows]

The normal rules mean squat on the Web

March 23, 2009 at 8:48 AM EDT

It says much about the Web and the state of our world that there is an online group called "Free M.T.," she being the girl just convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of Stefanie Rengel.

And there's none of that nonsense about respecting statutory publication bans in cyberspace, either.

There, the girl's name so scrupulously guarded by the members of the dreaded mainstream press, because her identity is protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is spelled out loud and proud and there's an accompanying full-face photograph, with our heroine showing a fair bit of skin in a low-cut top.

The group, reports my stealth helper Iain Grant, a producer at CFRB radio where I'm a regular commentator, is still attracting new members (19 in the past few days) and new posts.

Among the latter, in the grunting pig English of the web, from a Central Technical School student, "M. baby my heart is with you I wish people could get to knoe how good of a person u really are...the systems fucked" and, from another called Cory, "definately doesn't seem like she would murder sumone...fucking media is gunna keep this girl locked up..".

Isn't it grand?

The normal rules mean squat on the Web. Publication bans imposed by law don't count, apparently not even to the authorities who would properly prosecute the regular press for such breaches. (The Globe, for instance, has to be careful not to reveal too much about this group, lest we be seen to guide people to learn the girl's identity.) Common courtesies are utterly non-existent.

It isn't just grammar and spelling and literacy that went flying out the door when the Internet came along.

For all that, one teenager has been convicted as the mastermind of the Stefanie's death and another who has yet to be tried is accused of being the actual killer, what never will be as clearly defined is the role that was played by the web - enabling and empowering at the least, I would argue, in the same way that those who like to have sex with children can feel part of a broader cyber 'community.'

The 17-year-old M.T. wasn't present when Stefanie was stabbed to death on Jan. 1, 2008, but was convicted as a party to the killing.

Her 19-year-old boyfriend, D.B., faces trial on the same charge later this year.

Yet if the plan was hatched in the head of one teenager and allegedly carried out at the hands of another, it certainly appears to have been fuelled by, and to have gathered momentum and heft to the participants, through the omnivorous chats they had on the Web.

M.T. and D.B. communicated compulsively - on MSN and Facebook, on cellphone and by text message.

Among the evidence introduced at the girl's trial were cell records showing the pair called or 'texted' one another more than 5,000 times in the four months before Stefanie's death, and Toronto Police recovered an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 MSN and Facebook posts between them from four computers the pair used.

Staggering as those numbers are, they don't begin to capture the frantic nature of the couple's communication - constantly accusing one another of cheating, he professing his love in the most florid language, she functioning as a self-appointed probation officer grilling him on his whereabouts - or the astonishing level of minutiae to which it descended.

Marshall Sack, M.T.'s lawyer, once described this as the "adolescent discourse...of 21st century youth." Even if the chats are stripped of their lethality, God help us all if Mr. Sack is right.

At minimum, such communication sounds the death knell of mystery in romance, puts a choke hold on privacy and redefines what is intimacy.

Consider the following exchanges, what I have come to consider The Toilet Conversations. For English speakers, "brb" is shorthand for "be right back", "lmao" is "laugh my ass off" and lmfao is "laugh my fucking ass off."

Bear in mind that at the time, M.T. was 15, D.B. 17, and they had been going out for about 10 months:

M.T: brb poop

D.B: kk

M.T: lmaoooooooooooooo

M.T: lmaooooooooo

M.T.: my poop was an 'O'


In another, it was D.B. at the uber-confessional wheel deluging M.T. with a barrage of messages:

D.B: brb major peepee

D.B: back...im srry u got mad at me....do you want me to leave you alone forever? M? srry pee turned into a piss and a shit


D.B: u know what? Its okay

D.B. you don't have to talk to me

They 'talked' in this fashion for hours at a stretch, sent pictures and links and songs to one another as they did, and discussed their sexual encounters and desires, sometimes in such detail that D.B., complaining of "blue balls," would ask for permission to look at porn or for the green light to masturbate.

They mewled to one another, took turns claiming to weep and to be suicidal - and in the next message, were shrieking aloud their boredom.

No wonder they were bored: They already knew who did what in the toilet and when; they already had had oral sex and intercourse (they claimed, pathetically, that each was the other's first "intercourse orgasm") in several positions; they were so comfortable with the patois of hard-core porn stars that he was talking wistfully of the day they could make their own porno.

As the trial was about to begin, Mr. Sack sought to have M.T. seated at the counsel table, not in the prisoner's box. She was just a kid, he said, and already her court day was so long and trying. It would be too cruel to expect her to also have to take the only uncushioned seat in the courtroom. And an extra sandwich at lunch too, he said; that would be nice.

I sat across the aisle from Stefanie's parents and relatives and distinctly remember wincing: Their gentle, beloved and loving girl was in her grave at 14, and the administration of justice was concerning itself with whether M.T. had a cushion.

So much is upside down it is sometimes hard to fathom.



Philanthropist said...

The state goes out of its way to enable these kids to act in these ways, disgusting.

Neo Conservative said...

i'm not gonna try make excuses for the nanny-state... but i believe a child's personality is pretty fully formed by the time the school system get hold of them.

most of the societal ills we see in kids... it's on mom & dad. no excuses.