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Have You Received the YouTube?

Have you received the email directing you to the YouTube clip that claims Oprah is anti-Christ?

If so, you have been exposed to a digital put-down; an example of the newest form of internet bullying. This modern outlet for malice has sparked efforts to criminalize or at the very least, censor internet character assassination.

Some of the more extreme cases, mostly involving minors, seem ridiculous on the surface. The victims could easily defend themselves simply by choosing not to read the posted material. It ?s only words. No sticks, no stones.

Upon consideration, though, we have been advised to be careful of sullying another ?s good name. Reputation has proven value. Consider brand equity, in the marketing industry. Brand equity, or the reputation of a product and recognition of a brand, has an actual dollar value. Similarly, honor, or a good name ? has been a prized personal quality throughout history. Maybe we shouldn ?t be so dismissive of the tangible damage a school-age child can suffer when peers undertake to humiliate him verbally, even if it takes place online rather than in the schoolyard.

These attempts devalue the victim ?s personal brand ? by undermining his or her reputation. Maybe we shouldn ?t be so surprised when it makes the victims ? lives unbearable.

Oprah is accustomed to media attacks and probably will not suffer in the same way as a child who is being tormented by cruel internet posts.

I am more interested in the mentality of those of us who read and forward these derogatory posts. I don ?t think Oprah ?s public life threatens me, as an LDS woman. In fact (although it is beside the point), I think she generates a great deal of positive energy with her philanthropy. I haven ?t observed anything in her philosophy that I find dangerous. Maybe our values don ?t match exactly, but variety is the basis of positive evolution. The strongest ideals will survive; the more sources of ideas, the better the odds of a successful outcome.

Far more important, what sort of person does it make me, if I view a damaging video clip, then forward it for the express purpose of harming another person ?s reputation? What if I just think it ?s fun to share a laugh at somebody else ?s expense? Bullying, gossip, lies, deliberate cruelty, or negative, destructive criticism harm their objects and can cause terrible anguish and long-term damage. Far worse is the harm the bully does to her own spirit.

But there ?s good news. That ?s the part we can control. It only takes a moment. Don ?t forward the cyber-slam. Respond to the sender with something generous and positive. Aw, I think Oprah ?s a pretty good kid overall. I ?m not going to forward this one. ?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • east-of-eden April 17, 2008, 5:32 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I think it is so right on. As a school teacher I see how damaging these kinds of attacks, games, teasings and pranks can be on a kid.

    Also, I would like to add to your essay….don’t forward the stuff with the fluffy bunnies, pleas for prayers, lost children alerts or ways to boycott the oil companies…..they are all hoaxes. A good place to check is Truth or Fiction or Snopes.

  • Ray April 17, 2008, 5:43 pm

    Just don’t forward ANYTHING that is mass-distributed and includes an attachment or link, regardless of content. If it is just a plain message, treat it like it was regular, old-fashioned snail mail. Would you pay 41 cents for each addressee to send it on through the mail? If so, go for it. If not, delete it and save the rest of us having to do so.

    That’s my rule.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 17, 2008, 8:42 pm

    For all you newbies, Kathy is really responsible for Mormon Momma. We “met” on a BYU A Cappella alumni email list and SHE contacted me to join the original Circle of Sisters on Meridian. Then we came here together.

    Now she’ll be writing her new column: Of Good Report.

    Kathy and I have only met in person once, for a BYU A Cappella reunion concert in…hmmm…1998, I think? But she’s one of my favorite people. She’s amazing and wise and grand.

  • kiar April 17, 2008, 11:43 pm

    awesome

  • klgreen1 April 18, 2008, 12:02 am

    Thanks for the reminder about forwarding spam; especially hoaxes. Those of us who spend a lot of time on line will receive a handful of standard forwarded messages dozens of times, sometimes over four or five years. How often have you asked yourself “Good grief! Is that goofy thing STILL going around?!” I love the postage stamp test! Great analogy.

  • facethemusic April 18, 2008, 6:51 am

    Hmmmm…. haven’t heard the one about Oprah being an Anti-Christ.
    I DID get the one about Obama, though.

    Yeah, I’ve received quite a few forwards about missing children as well, and they were hoaxes. Just kids thinking they’re having fun.
    The really sad thing is, people respond to them– they think they’ve seen the kid (who’s still alive, still at home, still going to the mall, etc) and the police department gets a million phone calls and it totally wastes their time.

    I love Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s book, The Ten Commandments, co-written with her Rabbi– I think his name is Vogel?
    In it, she and the Rabbi go through each of the commandments, explaining what they each meant in the Old world, in relation to Jewish law and customs, how they applied then, and how they apply now.
    Under “Thou shalt not kill”– they included the murder of someone’s reputation and how even though we haven’t killed the flesh, we can destroy lives by spreading rumors and lies about someone.

  • east-of-eden April 18, 2008, 1:07 pm

    even though we haven’t killed the flesh, we can destroy lives by spreading rumors and lies about someone

    You know that is so very true, thanks for pointing it out. I think this goes to the larger issue of what some might consider “harmless gossip” too. I know that the gossip problem is terrible in our very small town and very close knit ward. I’ve accidently fallen into the ward rumor mill a few times and it was no fun trying to get out. It’s also hard to want to trust people and want to be friends with the people in the ward, but always having that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to play my cards close, always play my cards close.

  • Lewis_Family April 18, 2008, 1:35 pm

    Growing up I always said ” sticks and stones may break bones but words can destroy a soul ” Sadly I learned that one right quick, I was the kid who got in trouble for saying these as opposed to physical fights and what not… I knew how to really hurt, and should have been wiser then, like I am now 😉

  • Tinkerbell April 18, 2008, 8:54 pm

    I haven’t seen this particular YouTube or email (I’m not actually a big fan of YouTube), so I can’t comment on that. I 100% agree that online slander is hurting reputations and kids. People can get nasty online in a way that they wouldn’t do in person. A good general rule is: Don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it in person. But, how many children know that? How many are taught? How many have parents who even have a clue of what is going on online? This post reminds me of the girl who committed suicide based on what an on-line “friend” said about her. It turned out that the “friend” was a neighborhood kid and mother!

    What can we do to protect our children, ourselves, our families from being on the receiving end of this type of bullying? Teachers routinely face this on-line bullying (and increasingly, bullying in the classroom). Respect in general seems to be eroding.

    I am leery of Oprah. To be honest, I have never watched an Oprah show. She does do a lot of good in the world, but it also seems that recently she is showcases more and more things that don’t fit with my sense of sensibilities (I only know from news reports). She does wield a lot of power just with her influence, and that makes me nervous as well. I hope this is not slander.

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