This is one of those stories that you just can't stop thinking about and wondering what the hell is so wrong with people. You read the news and suddenly the whole hermit/Walden Pond thing just makes so much sense. If only there was a way to legislate against stupidity and viciousness. There isn't, but that didn't stop suburban St. Louis politicians from doing it anyway. Wrong as the underlying act was, heinous as it was, making online harassment, without a clearly stated threat, a punishable offense only makes things worse. Ninety percent of the blogosphere is prima facie harassment; they better get a lot more jails built and be ready to face a whole lotta 1st Amendment cases.
It's been hard to miss the story about the 13 year old girl who committed suicide after a MySpace boyfriend wooed, then cruelly mocked and dump her. The 'boyfriend' turned out to be the mom of her former best friend and only four houses down the leafy suburban cul de sac. As horrible as was a grown woman intentionally setting out to spy on a child (how dare she de-best friend her daughter), the details are even worse. The New York Times has the goods:
Megan Meier died believing that somewhere in this world lived a boy named Josh Evans who hated her. He was 16, owned a pet snake, and she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had.
Josh contacted Megan through her page on MySpace.com, the social networking Web site, said Megan's mother, Tina Meier. They flirted for weeks, but only online—Josh said his family had no phone. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour.
The next day, in his final message, said Megan's father, Ron Meier, Josh wrote, "The world would be a better place without you."
Sobbing, Megan ran into her bedroom closet. Her mother found her there, hanging from a belt. She was 13.
Six weeks after Megan's death, her parents learned that Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by Lori Drew, then 47, who lived four houses down the street in this rapidly growing community 35 miles northwest of St. Louis.
Prosecutors couldn't find a way to charge her with anything (imagine how hard they tried) and the world responded with death threats, outraged letters to editors and a deluge of colorful phone calls to the Drews. I was tempted to pile on myself (St. Louis is my hometown) but the prosecutors were right; this despicable woman has simply not committed a crime. There is no way that her vile words can be construed to constitute a threat, or even the suggestion that the poor little girl commit suicide (though Mrs. Drew knew the girl had contemplated suicide before and was on antidepressants). Nonetheless, the Board of Aldermen made internet harassment punishable by a $500 fine and up to 90 days behind bars. Given the low intellectual state of the internet, it can't be long before local police are logging hundreds of complaints a week alleging what will no doubt be undeniable cases of internet harassment. Then what?
Bad cases make bad law and this is one of the worst. Not only did this awful woman stalk and mentally torture a child with whose family she pretended to remain on good terms...no, you really have to read this for youself:
Shortly before Megan's death, the Meiers had agreed to store a foosball table the Drews had bought as a Christmas surprise for their children. When the Meiers learned about the MySpace hoax, they attacked the table with a sledgehammer and an ax, Ms. Meier said, and threw the pieces onto the Drews' driveway.
"I felt like such a fool," Mr. Meier said. "I'm supposed to protect my family, and here I allowed these people to inject themselves into our lives."
The police learned about the hoax when Ms. Drew filed a complaint about the damage to the foosball table. In the report, she stated that she felt the hoax "contributed to Megan's suicide, but she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral she found out Megan had tried to commit suicide before."
She went to the child's funeral? She filed a police report about the foosball table the dead girl's parents took an axe to instead of her own evil head?
If having evil in your heart was a crime, this heifer would be Public Enemy Number One. But it's not. Just like Drew, America needs to grow up and stop thinking it can legislate it's way into people's hearts. This is just one more callous bitch we'll have to tolerate polluting our planet with her amorality and hardheartedness. That sucks but we only degrade the rule of law with feel-good laws we can't, or won't, enforce.