Kids Gloves On April 21, 2011 5:32 PM   Subscribe

The recent Kiki Kannibal post links to an interesting article (it may even be the "best of the web") but it certainly hasn't lead to the "best of MetaFilter".

Whatever the feelings (and specifics) around the subject of the article I think a major point has been lost: Kiki has been a teenager throughout this whole story. Teenagers (and even younger kids) have traditionally been given privileged legal (and journalistic) status within virtually every culture on the planet.

I'd like to suggest that it should work this way on MetaFilter as well - call it the "kid gloves" rule - where (within reason) any subject of a post under a certain age (18/16/14 ???) is given privileged status (1/2 the snark etc...)

Whatever the faults of Kiki/Rebeca Black/Star Wars Kid this stuff is only going to become more prominent and there is a good way to deal with it (chalk it up to kids on the lawn - and talk about it in a intellectualised sense) and a BAD WAY to deal with it (snark, hatred of parents reflected on kids, moaning about kids being attention seekers etc...)


I grew up with the 1990's net... and I did some really stupid things as a teenager - like spamming news groups with dumb images I thought were funny. Also growing up gay and posting dodgy personal ads on bdsm news groups, when I *really* didn't know what I wanted to come of it. I have to say it worked out quite well (because most people realised I was just a dumb kid on the net and didn't hold it against me too much).


Just because there are loads of money making bastards trying to exploit kids for cash and blame it on human nature it does't mean that we as a community have to go along with it.
posted by 40glocc to Etiquette/Policy at 5:32 PM (137 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Any time you try to get all of MetaFilter to do anything, you will fail. while I appreciate the "hey let's not be total assholes" suggestions here [and agree that thread is getting really sort of ugly which I can attribute to one or two comments] it might be worth asking what the thread was FOR. That is, what was a good set of talking points about that topic that wasn't a co-hating of someone? Or whether the co-hating was likely to be possibly avoided giving the strong feelings evoked by both the topic and the article that was linked to.

I sympathize, but honestly, I don't see how a thread on that topic was going to go any other way than exactly how it did go, no matter how you wrote it. Maybe a "look at these assholes" post about exploiting teenagers [along with an article that posts a lot of the salacious photos] just isn't a great post for MetaFilter?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Any time you try to get all of MetaFilter to do anything, you will fail.

Hey everyone: Breathe!
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are some fairly substantive critiques of that article in the comments--I don't know that it's anything resembling 'best of the web.' This is, of course, something about which reasonable people may reasonably disagree.
posted by box at 5:41 PM on April 21, 2011


Hey everyone: Breathe!

Ha. How many held their breath for a while just because jonmc said that? I know I did. Curse you, jonmc, for manipulating me like that!
posted by The World Famous at 5:42 PM on April 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


GIGO
posted by BeerFilter at 5:43 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't exactly the first lavishly-illustrated breathless jailbait story that has appeared in RS--do you think they belong on the list of money-making bastards?
posted by box at 5:44 PM on April 21, 2011


I sympathize, but honestly, I don't see how a thread on that topic was going to go any other way than exactly how it did go, no matter how you wrote it.

Yeah, this is pretty much the feeling I had as well. It's a hell of a conversational payload, basically a high-capacity gawk train no matter what, and I think it sucks that a couple people were being sort of buttheaded in there but I'm having trouble imagining something more likely to produce a bit of that even if people are mostly being decent.

I'd like to suggest that it should work this way on MetaFilter as well - call it the "kid gloves" rule - where (within reason) any subject of a post under a certain age (18/16/14 ???) is given privileged status (1/2 the snark etc...)

Heart's in the right place, but there's no way any sort of specific rule like this (whether conceived as a literal rule or just a social contract on metafilter) can stick unanimously as the way to be. People disagree about all kinds of things, including what is and isn't e.g. off limits for mockery; start with a provocative premise and it's likely at least a few people are going to elect to be provoked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:48 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think if we are already reading a story off a mainstream news site, it's gotta be considered fair game.

I'd feel less okay with it in other circumstances.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:53 PM on April 21, 2011


How many held their breath for a while just because jonmc said that?

MWAHAHAHA!
posted by jonmc at 5:59 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stand by my original comment of this being bigger than the post in question (and will become more of an issue as more kids grow up "online") but I do respect the general consensus that it is impractical.
posted by 40glocc at 6:01 PM on April 21, 2011


In a meta sense, the evolution of bad stuff in that thread kind of resembled whatever it was that made a pretty horrible life for the young woman and her family.
posted by localhuman at 6:01 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have seen worse tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
posted by clavdivs at 6:27 PM on April 21, 2011


dam it jonmc, do not use the breath mantra.
posted by clavdivs at 6:27 PM on April 21, 2011


Ommmm
Ommmm
Ommmm on the range.....
posted by jonmc at 6:31 PM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


From AZ, in the thread:

maybe it would be better if we hash out some of the questions raised by this, instead of just lump this into the useless category of "stuff MetaFilter doesn't do well."

I think most folks could tell from that thread that it was going to get ugly sooner or later. We don't need to put kid gloves on whenever kids are involved. We need to put them on whenever we realize that it's one of those kinds of threads. I'm disappointed at the tone used by a lot of people who I think knew that it was a thread that deserved a little more caution than MeFi normally needs.
posted by nathan v at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2011


I have not read the article; I did read the thread because the MeFi twitterstream was showing signs of upset.

I did not find it an upsetting thread.

Here's what I think went wrong: the FPP should have had a big "trigger warning" disclaimer.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2011


Here's what I think went wrong: the FPP should have had a big "trigger warning" disclaimer.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII don't think that word have stopped the jerkery found in the thread. Although a trigger warning would certainly be not out of place.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:37 PM on April 21, 2011


While I have the greatest respect for zarq, and should probably be saying this via email but here I am, I have to wonder what the hell thought process saw that article and thought "This would be PERFECT! for MetaFilter!" I'm not saying it was bad or uninteresting, but... as an FPP? I agree with jessamyn and cortex in failing to see how this thread could have gone any other way.
posted by sonika at 6:40 PM on April 21, 2011


What interests me, personally, is two things: one is that I never see the kind of lunatic vitriol aimed at Kiki springing up around male internet celebrities (unless I've missed some serious drama somewhere, always a possibility) and two, that the really inexcusable harassment they're subjected to is always excused as the natural consequence of their attention-seeking ways.

Always.

Even in cases where the girl kills herself, and the majority opinion becomes that things went much too far, there are always some diehard holdouts insisting that she brought it on herself. It's positively weird and my best working theory is that it's a toxic confluence of two major cultural memes: the first being that anyone who seeks fame willingly relinquishes any basic rights to privacy and a personal life and the second being that any woman who signals herself as available in any way automatically takes upon herself the obligation to be available for whatever her audience wants to inflict on her. People feel entitled to the personal space of women and celebrities, both psychic and actual; therefore when you have a celebrity who is a woman, and particularly one who is easily accessible by dint of being a "grassroots" celebrity whose fame comes primarily from online interactions, you have a toxic soup of entitled viciousness.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 6:43 PM on April 21, 2011 [59 favorites]


Two people have now questioned my motivations for posting. If you have something to ask me, kindly do it over memail rather than starting yet another shitstorm pileon in Meta? Thank you.
posted by zarq at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


(Can I ask as an aside what cred is needed to get an FPP deleted? I've asked to have a couple go away that I made that no one seemed to like and never heard a response. Yet Z implies he could ask to have this deleted and it would be.

I don't really care, I guess...if the standard is "you made it, it's not going away" that's fine, or "you made it, you can have it deleted" that's fine too. But "you made it, it stays; this other person made it, they can have it deleted" doesn't seem so cool.)
posted by maxwelton at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2011


I did not find it an upsetting thread. I suspect the people you think were jerky are the ones I think provided excellent counterbalance to RS's story.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]



call me when some nutter shoots the president trying to get the attention of a female internet celebrity..
posted by k5.user at 6:51 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got the impression that 99% of the people in that thread were blaming the parents, not Kiki herself. Reflecting back, I think only one commenter shat on her, the person suggesting she lied about the rape.
posted by schroedinger at 6:52 PM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only thing I thought was weird was the "Well I don't like the narrative of the story" complaint.

Wait, and there's nickrussels comment that exceeded expectations for conflationist insanity even after calibrating for the opening of WELL I DON'T WATCH TV BUT.

I dunno, I dunno.
posted by boo_radley at 6:52 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some people just can't seem to resist posting outragefilter, no matter how many times it goes badly for them.
posted by Gator at 6:54 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


f you have something to ask me, kindly do it over memail rather than starting yet another shitstorm pileon in Meta?

Apologies, that certainly wasn't my intention.
posted by sonika at 6:54 PM on April 21, 2011


Gator: "Some people just can't seem to resist posting outragefilter, no matter how many times it goes badly for them."

well if you dont want ur thread to go badly whd you post it, lol?
posted by boo_radley at 6:55 PM on April 21, 2011


There were disagreements in the thread, but I think they were civil. As I said, though, I think the people who showed up early to say "I didn't read the whole article and I hate everybody involved" were threads hitting.

This is a paraphrase, but it's how the comments read to me.

I do think we should be respectful of the fact that most of the details of the story happened to. child. I was a surprised at the number of "well, what did she expect" comments. I am almost 43 and an still surprised by responses online, and I have been online for almost two decades. I do 't know what she imagined. Not this, I expect.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:56 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, MetaFilter is hard on the iPad when you're at a calypso concert.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:58 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And drunk.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:59 PM on April 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Astro Zombie just said: "I do think we should be respectful of the fact that most of the details of the story happened to. child"

This is how I should have framed this metatalk. I didn't do it very well. I think he makes the point I originally wanted to make much better than I did.
posted by 40glocc at 7:05 PM on April 21, 2011


If you get a chance to see Mighty Sparrow live, take it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:10 PM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ok, more then 8 mai tais and someone grab AZs' ipad. "I can type while drunk" will not work, I know.
moreover, exchanges have gone awry over less contentious subject matter and I think the thread is indictitive to civility for example AZs polite suggestion to anig.
posted by clavdivs at 7:13 PM on April 21, 2011


(Can I ask as an aside what cred is needed to get an FPP deleted? I've asked to have a couple go away that I made that no one seemed to like and never heard a response. Yet Z implies he could ask to have this deleted and it would be.

I don't really care, I guess...if the standard is "you made it, it's not going away" that's fine, or "you made it, you can have it deleted" that's fine too. But "you made it, it stays; this other person made it, they can have it deleted" doesn't seem so cool.)


It's not a cred thing at all. The basic position we have is that asking us to delete a post that otherwise seems like it's going fine is not something that we're really hot on having people do, but in the odd case where it's causing someone significant emotional distress or something we'll think about it. It's not something that happens often in general, and it's very rare that someone brings up deleting a post that isn't also sort of going badly in one way or another at that.

And in the exceptional case that someone contacts us more than once about that, we are gonna have an "okay, you need to try and figure this out before you make posts" conversation because, again, it's not really something we want to do a lot of. And in the case of a post that's going fine as far as we can tell, it's a weird request to make because it's basically saying "hey, what the rest of the community thinks doesn't matter as much as my personal feelings about the post" which is problematic.

For what it's worth, we try to be really good about at least responding to folks contact form messages, even in the cases where the answer is basically "no". I see one contact form mail from you from last August that Jess did indeed respond to, essentially with "it seems like it isn't really going badly, are you really sure you want it deleted?", and I don't know if you replied directly to her but there was no response to the whole team. If there was some sort of mucked up communication there on our parts, I'm sorry about that, we weren't trying to blow you off.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:13 PM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The way I saw it the thread had a bumpy start, lumpy middle, and then there seemed to be a consensus that the parents bore a fair share of responsibility. And then celebrity roasts killed America.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:15 PM on April 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Gator: "26Some people just can't seem to resist posting outragefilter, no matter how many times it goes badly for them."

And some people can't resist taking cheap shots. So I guess we'll both never learn, huh?
posted by zarq at 7:18 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then celebrity roasts killed America.

Man, you're not kidding. Why didn't the audience dismember Trump and all of the roasters right then and there? If they loved America they would've made sure none of those people left that building alive or in less than a dozen bloody pieces.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:22 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


moreover, exchanges have gone awry over less contentious subject matter and I think the thread is indictitive to civility for example AZs polite suggestion to anig.

Are you talking about this?:

Could I ask you to back down from this accusation. It's not going to go well, it will derail the thread, and you have not one shred of evidence for taking this particular discussion off the tracks with your highly dubious hunch

I didn't think that was particularly polite, and in fact was one of the things I was talking about when I felt that this was a subject that deserved more careful attention to commenting tone than it was receiving.

I can talk about why I thought it was impolite, if you want; I can easily rephrase it to something that I would find de-escalatory, if you want.

It wouldn't have been as much of a problem in a different thread, of course.
posted by nathan v at 7:23 PM on April 21, 2011


For Metafilter that is a really polite way to say what was said.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:24 PM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


It was polite. You may not have appreciated the request, but I worded it with great care.

And that whole thing really was starting to tip into "the molested girl is lying" territory. When has that ever gone well?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:26 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


maxwelton: "(Can I ask as an aside what cred is needed to get an FPP deleted? I've asked to have a couple go away that I made that no one seemed to like and never heard a response. Yet Z implies he could ask to have this deleted and it would be."

Sorry maxwelton, that's not what I meant to imply.

To add to what cortex said: I can ask. Whether a post is deleted or not is entirely at the mods discretion. I have no more cred than any other MeFite in this regard. In fact, I suspect it unlikely they would be particularly happy with me if I asked now. You see, a post was deleted by cortex at my request once before, after a MeFite took it upon himself to go spam the website which was the subject of the post. I was told then that while asking to have my post was fine, the mods were reluctant to make a habit of it and such a request was unlikely to be allowed more than once.
posted by zarq at 7:28 PM on April 21, 2011


For clarification's sake, this is what Jessamyn said to me the last time this came up.
posted by zarq at 7:33 PM on April 21, 2011


And some people can't resist taking cheap shots. So I guess we'll both never learn, huh?

Yeah, it's not like the mods have ever said anything to you about this habit of yours.
posted by Gator at 7:35 PM on April 21, 2011


In fact, I suspect it unlikely they would be particularly happy with me if I asked now.

I think what we'd like is a little more before-posting "How do I think this is going to go on MeFi?" consideration. And no, we won't close that thread now.

I know you must be thinking about this. At the same time this is becoming something that is somewhat familiar: touchy topic post, badly going thread, MeTa thread, regretted post, etc. Sometimes all of these things aren't present but our general feeling is that if you're finding yourself in a situation where you are frequently remarking aloud in threads [or privately to the mods] that you'd like a post that you created removed, we think you need to possibly reconsider your posting routine. Because it's problematic to close threads by poster's request very often (wastes people's time, often causes MeTa threads and emails, makes people look askance at the person who did it). We'd prefer to do it once and then ask you next time to not make posts that you're going to regret.

We have people in AskMe and MeFi who post a lot and sometimes regret their posts. No big deal, but at some level the breakdown is not with the way the site responds to the threads (though that could certainly be improved upon) but the forgetting-or-whatever-it-is that causes the "Oh hey this is going badly again..." thing to be a surprise every time and not the way it seems to a lot of us which is practically inevitable.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:35 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "I know you must be thinking about this. At the same time this is becoming something that is somewhat familiar: touchy topic post, badly going thread, MeTa thread, regretted post, etc."

It's on my mind now, yes. Frankly, I have little desire to discuss it publicly while Gator is (predictably) sniping at me in this thread.

But I would like to point out that the rest of that paragraph does not apply to me at all. I've only once asked Team Mod for a post to be deleted. This is the first time (at least that I can recall?) that I've ever publicly on MeFi or MeTa or privately (has never happened in memail) pondered whether I should ask to have a post deleted.

If you meant to separate that graph into two sections, that's fine. But I want to make absolutely clear that this isn't something I make a habit of.

But yes, I'm now thinking quite hard about the fact that I've had a handful of posts (out of over 250, mind) that have gone poorly enough that I've wound up having to deal with their aftermath in MeTa.
posted by zarq at 7:44 PM on April 21, 2011


For Metafilter that is a really polite way to say what was said.

Kind of. It's certainly nowhere near as bad as things get! But it was also nowhere near as good as things get.

You may not have appreciated the request, but I worded it with great care.

I believe that you did, but I also believe you were angry, and that anger showed through despite your great care. I mean, I think it turned out okay, because I think the escalation stopped at a certain point. But not because of how carefully worded your comment was.

And that whole thing really was starting to tip into "the molested girl is lying" territory. When has that ever gone well?

No, that never goes well (which is a shame, but oh well), and I think the desire to have that discussion again was obvious-- which is exactly why I think the thread deserved not just regular old "be polite please" but "woah let's each be really careful of each other here." Because threads don't really tip-- they're pushed, and usually by people from more than one side of an issue.

(I want to be really careful here; this is still "woah careful" material to me, regardless of the background color, and I feel like I'm representing a minority viewpoint here, but I don't think it's a minority of one. Some things said in that thread made me angry too, and so I'm trying to take great care, and if anything I'm saying is offensive or unfair, hopefully you can forgive me. I wouldn't be bringing this up if I didn't have respect for your intelligence.)
posted by nathan v at 7:51 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a meta sense, the evolution of bad stuff in that thread kind of resembled whatever it was that made a pretty horrible life for the young woman and her family.

As one of the more trenchant critics of the article/family, I don't really agree. I have three problems with the whole affair: how Dan Cespedes was discussed, the implicit but unexamined dichotomy between autonomy and responsibility, and the extent to which political, gender, and social mores are substituted for serious consideration of the issues. I disagree intensely with some of the other positions articulated, which is probably going to lose me a few friends, but I'm not taking said critiques personally and don't mind being challenged even if I dispute the challenge itself.

1. Dan Cespedes
This is the 18 year old guy who is said to have picked out this Kiki girl on Myspace, seduced her over a few months, and had sex with her when she was just a few months over 14. This went on for a while until everyone involved moved house; some time later he was arrested by the police on seemingly-related charges, fled in handcuffs and suffered an injury that proved fatal. Due to the circumstances, we'll never know if he was really guilty of being a drug dealer and serial molester of teenage girls, but it certainly looks like that was the case. According to the story, he chatted up 18 different girls via MySpace or suchlike, and slept with several of them, all between 13 and 15.

Such behavior is reprehensible. And yet this Dan character was apparently only 19 at the time of his death, and thus still a teenager himself. Without giving him a pass on any crimes he might have committed, I have real trouble with people's cavalier dismissal of him as a 'serial rapist.' It seems unlikely to me that he was an angelic young man of 17 who suddenly grew horns the day he turned 18 and started raping hapless teenage-but-underage girls, as if he had crossed a threshold from childish innocence to adult depravity.

Does anyone really think he suddenly went from the light to the dark side in the space of a couple of months? I don't. My guess is that he started having sex when he was 15 or 16, maybe earlier - like a lot of teenagers do. This too is illegal under Florida law; as a matter of fact, anyone over the age of 14 is presumed to be capable of sexual assault in Florida; or put another way, 14 is the age of criminal responsibility for committing a sex crime, the point at which 'I didn't know what I was doing' is no longer available as a defense.

this Cespedes guy seems to have had a troubled background as well. His father had been deported to Peru (for molesting young girls, incidentally), his mother was a homophobe who repeatedly called the Ostrenga home to complain that Kiki was turning her some into a 'faggot,' and he had a sister of 29 who was just getting out of jail after a stint for armed robbery. Since I'm being an amateur psychologist here, I'm going to throw in the fact that an 11 year gap between siblings means Dan Cespedes was probably an 'accident' rather than the outcome of careful family planning. Everything in the story suggests that he was fairly high-strung and emotional, and a little digging gets me a picture of a stereotypical emo kid sporting a bad hairstyle almost identical to one displayed by Kiki Kannibal on the 2nd or 3rd page of the the RS article (memorial webpage, completely SFW, completely non-offensive).

Frankly, when I read the story first I was imagining some kind of slick Lothario with boy-band looks and a sleazy modus operandi for deflowering frightened young girls while he's whispering incomprehensible phrases in Spanish. But as soon as I looked into his background, what I find is a kid astonishingly similar to the subject of the story: an awkward looking skinny misfit with cheap digital camera, tight clothes, and the idea that styling his hair to resemble a raccoon hat would be a good fashion decision. There's a (SFW) picture of his tattoo in a New Times article touching on the story. According to the RS story, he also had her name tattooed on his stomach and had a Hello Kitty holding a balloon with her name on it tattooed on his ankle. This strikes me less as predatory than as pathetic.

It troubles me that Kirsten Ostrenga is held up as victim - guilelessly unaware that anyone might perceive her as a sex object while she explored her lingerie collection on Stickam, and even now stubbornly refusing to abandon an online personal brand that had become a hate magnet with catastrophic consequences for her family - while Daniel Cespedes, who seems at least as dysfunctional and socially marginalised, is casually dismissed as a serial rapist and general malefactor. But when you look at pictures of both of them, the similarity is painfully obvious. Dan Cespedes very likely broke the law in Florida, engaging in a string of inappropriate sexual encounters with younger girls. But at the same time, he was clearly an immature teenager himself, to the point that he was styling his hair to resemble his girlfriend.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:59 PM on April 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think Jessamyn's characterizatioon is a bit unfair. This was a good post. This is an increasingly common occurance, and is a worthwhile topic. Zarq was careful about not making then thread a a subject of contention, did not request a thread be closed, nor did he start this thread. I understand his concern about how the thread went, and the worst that can be said is ghat he articulated that concern. But this is a genuine trend online. Especially it seems to affect young women who attract attention online, and are the subjects of disproportionate abuse as a result, and that abuse is shrugged off, as, you know, what did hay expect?

It's a good link, from two reputable sources, and it's not zarq's fault that the conversation was contenious. His only error was publicly regretting posting it. But if he hadn't , I expect somebody else would have, and, if not this, another story that is similar. Because the future is not just that everybody will be famous for 15 minutes, but tha young girls who are famous for 15 minutes and haven't been entirely puritanical about the experience will be pilloried and biulliedmfor the experience, and this is a genuine and troubling trend online.

I'm not actually drunk, by the way. Although rum and coke goes exceptionally well with calypso.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:59 PM on April 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Only one person "desired" to discuss the possibility that the teenaged girl was lying about her rape, or that RS had at least done so. It came up very suddenly at a point in the thread when things where still fairly shaky, and - it being devoid of any evidence - served no purpose and was a derail. Whether AZ's "anger" was evident in his request isn't relevant; his request was well-warranted, timely, and very polite, especially within the context of the ugliness of the insinuation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:59 PM on April 21, 2011


Christ, I love my iPad, but it makes you seem like a moron when posting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never see the kind of lunatic vitriol aimed at Kiki springing up around male internet celebrities

Cory Doctorow comes to mind.

I think it is perfectly fine to say that the story was big on emotional appeal and light on actual factual evidence, rather like a True Crime, Nancy Grace, Dateline feature.

That doesn't mean that this girl deserved to be bullied, manipulated or raped.

And I think it's also fair to say that anyone who IS mindful that this is a story about a young girl can't help but wonder why her parents allowed their underaged child to get on MySpace (there are lots of tween and teen focused websites and forums she could have joined as an alternative), post incredibly inappropriate videos, date this Mr. MySpace guy and not kick him out even after he had clearly become obsessed with her, and continue to allow her to promote this online persona that has led to so much grief...well, the list goes on and on.
posted by misha at 8:09 PM on April 21, 2011


The lesson I'm learning: issues involving female early sex are third rail issues in MeFi/MeTa. Don't touch it or you'll be killed.

Nathanv, I agree. I also think you will be hated for what you wrote. Awfully close to the third rail.

Anig, I think you raise good points, though in a triggery way, and I am certain you are hated. You're pretty much pissing on the third rail there.

I wish that rail weren't powered, 'cause I think you have a valuable perspective, but I'm afraid it's 400V and nearly unlimited amperage.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on April 21, 2011


I didn't read the articles. I read the first paragraph of one, checked out her website a bit, and some of the images, and realized this was not going to be a story I wanted to read. If my one contribution to that thread is overly obnoxious or offensive I wouldn't be upset if it went away.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:19 PM on April 21, 2011


cortex, I apologize--I swear I sent another request via the contact form at some point. I suspect it was my very first post, way back in the day (in askme), that was immediately sort of thread-shit (the thread-shitting subsequently went away a few days later, probably during a cleaning sweep or something--I didn't request that particular service).

I guess I occasionally see "deleted at poster's request" and look into the thread and think "why? this seems to be OK" and leapt to a conclusion that wasn't warranted, namely that the deletion requests are arbitrarily enforced--and in conclusion I'd like to make a promise I know I will break, which is, in sum, to cease making lightly comprehensible run-on sentences just about everywhere I type on this site.
posted by maxwelton at 8:40 PM on April 21, 2011


the FPP should have had a big "trigger warning" disclaimer.

I strongly disagree. If people want to include trigger warnings in their posts, then they're free to, but I think it's totally wrong to castigate a poster for not including one. This is a general-interest site, not part of some particular recovery community.

First, we have no way of knowing what readers here find traumatic. It seems like it's customary to use "trigger warning" as a shorthand for "I'm going to talk about sexual violence now", but in terms of topics that might actually distress somebody with PTSD, it would be equally appropriate to use that warning for posts about, say, wartime atrocities or car accidents.

Second, "trigger warning" is a piece of internet pop-psychology jargon that's limited to specific communities. It's not a commonly-understood part of the language at large that a person on the street would understand. We have enough weird little shibboleths that are specific to this site without borrowing any more.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:40 PM on April 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


It occurs to me that I just called out Jess. That wasn't my intention. I thought to email her directly, but a public call out deserves a public response.

I understand her position. I think Zarq just has a yen for stories that are on the exposed nerve of the web. I don't think he intends it, but these are the stories that jump out at him, and so he posts them. And they are worthwhile stories. I fully believe that online bullying, and the weird world of teen quasi-celebrities, is going to be a big deal in the coming years, especially when coupled with this exponentially expanding culture of online bullying. And especially as that culture seems to especially target teenage girls who are precociously sexual, which the web simultaneously encourages and despises.

But because it's a new trend, and because these young women are naive and attention-seeking, there isn't a consensus regarding their treatment online, and MetaFilter is generally better than the rest of the web, but isn't so separate from it that there aren't people whose impulse is "who cares" or "what did she expect?"

So the thread has no consensus. And Zarq panics, because he thinks he's made trouble for the mods in the past, and really doesn't want to do so again. But his panic, when articulated, seems like more of the same: contentious thread, regretted.

Zarq has a lot to offer MetaFilter, and, though this thread might not have been the ideal of civility, I think it nonetheless demonstrates the fact. He's pointed a finger at a unsettled, but prevalent, online trend, and the thread wasn't mutual agreement precisely because it's unsettled. But they were good links, and the story is worth looking at. Just as MetaFilter shouldn't be defined by weak links that are justified because they lead to good conversation, it also shouldn't be defined by good links that lead to unsettled conversations.

That's what I was trying to say, and I regret if it sounded as though I had a complaint against Jess, who I have nothing but regret for. But the Mighty Sparrow was singing, and that can make it awfully hard to say precisely what you mean.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 PM on April 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Myspace is an internet community that can be cruel and cold hearted.
Facebook is an internet community that can be cruel and cold hearted.
Youtube is an internet community that can be cruel and cold hearted.
Slimepit (or whatever the hell that site was in the article) is an internet community that can be cruel and cold hearted.

Metafilter is an internet community.......
posted by c13 at 8:43 PM on April 21, 2011


Anig, I think you raise good points, though in a triggery way, and I am certain you are hated. You're pretty much pissing on the third rail there.

For whatever it's worth, I think anigbrowl's comments on the subject about the race and class issues involved in the reporting here are really illuminating.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 PM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man I must be dumb, because I really don't see this as a bad post. My blaming the parents seems rational to me, but I have (barely) enough objectivity to see my reaction as knee-jerk. I can see some responses being quite snippy, and some seem knee-jerky as well, but if I don't get my USRDA of other viewpoints, I am never going to see the ruts my thinking is in, or even that I may be in a rut. As is always the case on Metafilter, I get POV's I would never've thought of from wiser minds than mine, and I can put up with the miniscule amounts of percieved crap, for the copius gold in them thar hills. Maybe it's just my schitzophrenia showing, but Shine on you crazy metamuthafuckin diamonds, damn right it's still the best of the web. Go forth and look around a little. No. Comparison
posted by Redhush at 8:50 PM on April 21, 2011


2. Autonomy and responsibility

This similarity (between the two teens) raises some difficult questions. Do we really believe that something magical happens when people cross the threshold of being aged 18? If so, what about the possibility that Dan Cespedes might very well have had sex with some other underage girl when he was 17? Was that OK the day before his birthday, but wrong the day after? Does the morality of it depend on the age difference? Obviously, there's something qualitatively different between the ages of 12, 14, 16, and 18. In Florida, sex with someone 16-18 is generally wrong, but after 16 consent is a defense and it's a lesser offense with or without consent for anyone up to the age of 24, after which it can be a first class felony. As I mentioned in the thread, in theory two 15 year olds in Florida could have consensual sex but be found guilty of 2nd-class felonies for doing so, and get a 15 year jail sentence for their actions.

Also, at what point do young people begin to develop any kind of responsibility for their own sexuality? In Florida law, it's 14 (as of 2010; I did not take time to look into the historical statute and backdate it all to 2007, mind). Most likely this clause was added to ensure that young teenage rapists couldn't get off the hook by pleading childish incomprehension of strange new feelings brought on by unfamiliar hormones. If we look at the literature of sexual development, it's clear that some kids become sexual active and voracious as young as 10, and others might not really do so until 17, 18 or even later - but these are outliers towards the edge of the distribution. It's possible to imagine an 11-yo rapist, or a 19-yo who thinks babies are brought by the stork, but it's not useful or practical to legislate for such unusual cases. So the law sets the threshold of untouchability at 12, the threshold of criminal activity at 14, the threshold of consent at 16 (within certain limits) and the threshold of majority at 18.

Using these metrics, there's an argument that Kiki Kannibal (qua the confident and aggressive alter ego internet persona of Kirsten Ostrengo, socially awkward teenager) was engaging in illegal sexual exhibitionism on Stickam. we wouldn't have much sympathy for any prosecutor making that case, but is it qualitatively different from a 14-year old boy who flashes his dick or some kind of sexual display on his webcam? That may not get prosecuted much either, but if someone walked into their 14-yo daughter's room and found a 14-yo boy exploring his erection on her computer, you can bet there'd be trouble, and plenty of people calling him a rapist-in-waiting.

It's understandable, because biological gender differences put women at a significant physical disadvantage, both in resisting sexual assault and in dealing with the possible long-term consequences such as pregnancy, PTSD and so on. So people tend to be more protective of girls, and that's reflected in the way the laws are written and administered. At the same time, considerations of equality means that we (society, or at least the part of it friendly to feminism) want girls/women to be free to establish their own identities, explore and own their own sexuality, and express and assert their feelings, desires, and ideas about with the same freedom that boys/men have traditionally enjoyed, without having to trade in safety, integrity and autonomy. In short, females ought to be able to enjoy their femininity and sexuality without getting raped or assaulted, and without being told they were 'asking for it.'

Now, how does this play out online? KK prancing around in or partially out of her underwear on Stickam - most people would say it's foolish, but that she has a right to do so. Legally that's questionable, but as I said above the risk of prosecution is remote - it would usually only come into the picture if a girl was so out of parental control that her adult guardians called in the police as a last resort. A young man - let's call him JJ - doing the same thing on the same website at the same age...more likely to get in trouble, but still not that likely. For a 14 year old, the consensus seems to be that the parents bear more responsibility than the teenager, by failing to set boundaries of what constitutes safe and appropriate online (or indeed offline) behavior.

But if this is so, the we're saying that until they reach majority, teens can't be given full ownership of their sexuality, and so it would be appropriate for parents or school administrators to set policies mandating modest clothing, minimal internet autonomy, and monitoring of any sexual activity, up to and including medical examinations. In the extreme, this ends up in religious hyper-conservatism - more often directed at girls than boys, for the simple reason that girls are easier to police and have more trouble concealing any illicit sexual activity for the similar biological reasons to those that make them more vulnerable to abusive sexual contact.

So how much sexual exploration can a teenager (of any gender) engage in as an individual? I don't propose to answer that question because I don't know that a canonical or universal answer is even possible. But clearly there are multiple boundaries that individuals cross in different ways: of the individual in their own private space, in relation to the space shared with family or adult guardians, the wider institutional space of school or structured social activity, the legal space as discussed (and divided into 2-year chunks) above, the social and legal space of adult sexuality, and the 'biological' space of attraction and excitation from which people's feelings and impulses originate before being mediated (in most cases) by the social and legal norms of propriety and respect for others. My point is not to make a normative judgement that X is OK, Y is bad, and Z is good in one context and bad in another; rather, I'm saying that when we make such prescriptive statements then they come with implicit baggage. Freedom of decision or action comes with some liability for the consequences that may result; proscriptions on behavior manifest society's (or its adult nominees') right to regulate sexual behaviors even though such regulations are potentially oppressive.

In the context of this particular episode, I still think Dan Cespedes is a rather reprehensible character. But it's not so much because he had sex with a 14 year old when he was a ripe old age of 18; it's more because he seems to have left his brain in neutral and handed all the decision making over to his dick, and was following a life plan that amounted to 'take drugs get high ball virginz, I wonder why people make such a big deal about college lulz.' He was a callously irresponsible young man, and eventually paid for his irresponsibility with his life. But evil? I'm not at all sure of that. Whenever I try to compare his foolish behavior with KK's foolish behavior, I see only differences of degree.

Likewise, I don't hate Kiki Kannibal or indeed Kirsten Ostrenga. I think she too has been irresponsible to the point of reprehensibility. Unhappy with her social and/or family situation, she seemingly checked out, worked up this Gaga-type persona and handed decisions over to her vagina, with extremely unfortunate results. She did not ask to or deserve to be raped; legally it seems very likely that she was (though seeming falls short of knowing, for those of us who are simply reading about this). However, the highly sexualized presentation and online activity certainly raised the risk of a sexual assault, and I think this is what most people are blaming the parents for.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:53 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know anigbrowl every time you post on this subject the name Ernst Zündel pops into my head for some reason. I'll be expecting a 600 page screed any day now on how this girl was never sexual assaulted and even if she was it wasn't as bad as she makes it sound and it's all just a conspiracy being propagated by the mainstream media.
posted by MikeMc at 9:07 PM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kids on the lawn?! I hate those kids on my lawn! Goddamn kids on my perfectly manicured lawn! Get off my lawn you lousy kids!
posted by Slackermagee at 9:12 PM on April 21, 2011


...touchy topic post, badly going thread...,

We've touched on this before and it may be spitting in the wind, but I don't get the view, seemingly that going down certain roads is a guaranteed formula for trouble and so we shouldn't go down those roads or we should accept that trouble's gonna happen if we do.

Maybe it's unrealistic, but is it unthinkable that the threads could be monitored, things could be done to keep them from going badly?
posted by ambient2 at 9:38 PM on April 21, 2011


is it unthinkable that the threads could be monitored, things could be done to keep them from going badly?

We do this, but we can't prevent things from going badly, only clean up after the fact. We're a lightly moderated site so the concerns are

- not seeing people making problematic comments until after the fact [maybe only 30 minutes, but that's a lot of time in internet-time]
- other people responding to otherwise deleteable comments instead of flagging and moving on
- people predicting a thread's demise in the thread instead of going to MetaTalk
- dealing with the fallout of deleting comments or threads which is usually email and some other stuff

None of it is insurmountable certainly. But as we've said before it doesn't scale well. Most hours of the day we have one or two people paying partial attention to the entire site/email/flags/etc. This is unlikely to change in the near future. The site can only deal with a certain number of "high touch" posts in a given day before people are overwhelmed and babysitting them takes our time away from everything else we do on the site. So my general feeling is that we-as-mods can't really pay more attention to these sorts of threads [and resultant email and Meta threads and flags] than we do already. So the community has to do its bit to keep them going smoothly, but I think the combination of teen sexuality and bad parenting and internet exhibitionism made this topic a difficult one to steer well, by anyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:55 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading threads like this reminds me of how much faster some people type than I do. If I tried to produce some of the long posts above, I'd still be typing two days from now.

I think that it was a train-wreck of an article, about an attention-seeking person who was made the center of some very nasty attention; the article came complete with titillating photographs, quotes about bad parenting, and all the other doozies of modern pseudo-celebrity culture. If you were to scientifically design a mess, it would look like this.
posted by Forktine at 10:02 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl, I appreciate the way you are articulating your points, and they are food for thought, but I do not agree with this conclusion:

the highly sexualized presentation and online activity certainly raised the risk of a sexual assault, and I think this is what most people are blaming the parents for.

According to the facts we have at hand, I believe the relationship dynamic between Kiki and Dan would have been unchanged if they had met in school, at the mall, etc. It is a typical and sad teenage relationship; as you say yourself, Dan does not fit the definition of predator the way a 35-year-old doing the same thing would, maybe more of a 'player.'

The online aspect of her activities, imho, was the impetus for the rabid large-scale cyberbullying that spread into meatspace, and in turn contributing to a state of psychological distress for herself and the family, where they would consider filing assault charges against the boyfriend they had formerly welcomed the right thing to do. But I think she could have had a relationship like this with her first boyfriend without that aspect to the story. And the alleged assault didn't come from any stranger-danger catch-a-predator internet shenanigans.

Where I fault her parents for is failing to recognize that the all the sexual personae they were allowing her to exhibit with the lingerie modelling is, like, a big flashing neon sign that you're open for business, even if you don't understand the emotional implications that embarking on a sexual relationship will have, and failing to give her more guidance or boundries in that regard.

Additionally, I fault them for not pulling the plug on the KK personae once they were forced to move from the threats and it was clear the bullying was not going away.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:04 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the story was sad, and the debate in the comments was interesting. What do we gain by acting as if conflict and disagreement are bad things? I read mefi because more often than not it avoids an echo chamber type environment. I struggle to understand why contentious threads are treated as something to be avoided.

This is a contentious story. I may not agree with many of the comments made in the post, but so what? I don't understand all the concern about threads with controversial comments. There are always plenty of people willing to debate, so why are unpopular opinions treated as toxic? There are plenty of websites anyone can read that replicate a perfered viewpoint.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 10:13 PM on April 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


3. Gender and social mores (this part is shorter, but got interrupted by dinner)

What pisses me off about this RS article is, in a nutshell, exploitation and stereotyping. Kiki is supposedly driven out of her middle school by ethnic thuggery - someone in the thread went so far as to suggest that this makes her an indirect victim of white racism. From what I could glean, the school in question has a very average demographic with an involved parent body leading to a successful academic partnership between students, parents, and educators. I'm sure it has its ups and downs like any school, but the article just makes it sound like a hotbed of violence, resentment and prejudice, too awful for the reporter to even scrutinize independently.

there are 19 pictures of Kiki Kannibal accompanying the article. One is a dorky young pre-teen, one is a reflective 18 year old, and one is a rather arty study in color theory. The other 16 are all about how sexy Kiki, mostly because she is not wearing very much. It's not as gothy as that suicide girls website that was popular a few years ago, but it seems very similar to the non-explicit pinup shots that decorate the cover of magazines like Maxim. Is she underage in these photos? I have no idea, the story seems to imply that. Do they resemble commercial glamor photography or the sort of thing people find sexist in advertising? Undoubtedly.

In a nutshell, what bothers me about the whole article is the commodification of the very behavior that supposedly exposed her to trouble in the first place. Dan Cespedes is absent because he doesn't fit the narrative here; if there were actually a picture of him, it would be rather obvious that he was suffering from an emo identity crisis to such an extent that he had defined himself as a clone of Kiki, which doesn't support the narrative very well and is thus better excluded. I compared the story to True Crime and various sorts of pulp fiction because I think it's almost pure victim porn which relies on a malevolent but ill-defined othering, right-on but deeply flawed preconceptions of passivity, non-agency, and fatalist helplessness for emotional effect. Having been through an abusive meatgrinder of my own, I have a very low opinion of the way this situation has been handled and is being leveraged. As presented it really does not ring true to me, and I am just not able to take the story at face value. I realize that's going to offend some people. Sorry.

I'd like to restate, in case it's necessary, that my negativity here is largely directed at RS and to a slightly lesser extent at the almost wilfully passive and incompetent non-parenting going on. It is not meant as an attack on teenagers, women, or underage girls, and neither is it meant as an endorsement of exhibitionism, stalking, statutory rape, or any other kind of abusive behavior.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:57 PM on April 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'd like to thank you, anigbrowl, for your lucid, comprehensive take on it.

I'd like to not-thank you, MikeMc, for your attempt to shut anigbrowl down by comparing him to a holocaust denier. I am sorry you find anigbrowl's well-stated alternative viewpoint so threatening that you feel a need to be hostile to the point of Godwinning the thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on April 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Most hours of the day we have one or two people paying partial attention to the entire site/email/flags/etc

This place has a big and diverse population: that it moderates itself so well as to require only partial mod attention is very impressive.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:41 PM on April 21, 2011


the highly sexualized presentation and online activity certainly raised the risk of a sexual assault, and I think this is what most people are blaming the parents for.

[Rube R. Necker disagrees with this view, but] [w]here I fault her parents for is failing to recognize that the all the sexual personae they were allowing her to exhibit with the lingerie modelling is, like, a big flashing neon sign that you're open for business, even if you don't understand the emotional implications that embarking on a sexual relationship will have, and failing to give her more guidance or boundries in that regard.


This is what I was trying to say. The circumstances emphatically don't reduce the reprehensibility or the risk once a vulnerable person has come into the orbit of someone who preys on the vulnerable - the most normal, grounded kid could have run into the Dan guy and ended up being assaulted.

The risk I'm talking about is the unintentional advertising of vulnerability. Just like walking around a bad part of town counting your bankroll in public, the existence of your rights to your own property are not a prophylactic against robbers; they justify, rather than constitute, your defense.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:54 PM on April 21, 2011


You know anigbrowl every time you post on this subject the name Ernst Zündel pops into my head for some reason.

Yeah, seriously, go fuck yourself.
posted by phaedon at 12:11 AM on April 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'd like to restate, in case it's necessary, that my negativity here is largely directed at RS and to a slightly lesser extent at the almost wilfully passive and incompetent non-parenting going on.

Do you really need to read past this paragraph:

"The plan seemed OK to Kiki. But she was stuck at home and at a loss as to how to meet new friends. She wanted to reach out to the world beyond Coral Springs and find misfits like herself. So, with her parents' permission, she joined MySpace."

Yeah... rriigggght.
posted by phaedon at 12:14 AM on April 22, 2011


I suspect the word for her parents is spelled "pimp."
posted by five fresh fish at 12:41 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any time you try to get all of MetaFilter to do anything, you will fail.


Hooray !!!!! Welcome Back !!!!!
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:54 AM on April 22, 2011


Ok, one thing, you are talking about "sex", and that may be a discussion to have, but it seemed, in the original thread to be getting conflated with an opinion of the rape which cannot simply be interchanged; you are giving really "poetic" descriptions of the "tragedy" of this person, how he "rather obvious that he was suffering from an emo identity crisis to such an extent that he had defined himself as a clone of Kiki, which doesn't support the narrative very well and is thus better excluded."
so you are discussing a theoretical (your own narrative does not fit the information, the described relationship is nothing like this, nor in light of any of the subsequent details). Your comments imply to me talking about the Human Animal, but in the thread, about the article, about a person describing the experience of a rape, in the middle of crazy things about privacy, in the middle of a mess of other things, in the middle of some questionable parenting around solid lines, boundaries, raising eternal, heretofore unanswered questions on parental ability/role in regulating actions of offspring, on a continuum with allowance of freedoms, or absolutist 'autonomy'. But the thread became people were accusing everything about her of being "faked" or a "ploy"... or implying it is "asked for", if they aren't shuttered up (the only conceivable way of "actually" knowing what use of the internet occurring), because of the context, it becomes a referendum on "epinions", speculation, and, not that I expect anyone will hold back, it is what many define as the second rape, the public "weighing in" on things that are so far out of their knowledge base that the result is shaming and, in cases demonizing of victims, referendums on whether or not one will "grant" that she isn't lying, a 'worthy victim'. Or with mercy grant them "not at fault". For one, if you aren't the criminalist on the case, how is anyone on the internet qualified to "deem" that someone hasn't been raped.

It just seems like so many people across the internet become Jimmy Whales: Private Detective at Law, M.D. (master debunker), any time a woman gives any sort of even HINT of mention of the idea of a sexual assault.

Navigating not only the legalities, but the complexities of parenting, I mean, I see many threads that suggest "autonomy", but the countless people who are absolutely not looking out for any parents best interests. It isn't like there is a "universal", or even remotely obvious "rule guide" to parenting on the internet. Not to mention that there isn't even yet a ruleguide to "being a person, or individual, in interaction with the internet". Even professional public people seem to mess up on the internet, and can mistake the "audience scaling", and amplify a private message. Sure it is easy to monitor your children's internet usage when computers are big boxes, with monitors, or even the much smaller laptops; but the world is mobile (the west isn't so predominantly mobile in computing devices as the rest of the world, but India, and Africa are prime examples of the coming dominance of a mobile computing world, and some huge percentage of all of these innumerable phones have built in digital camera's (since like 2008) these are video cameras, with steadily increasing resolution, and uploading capabilities, MMS instantly with no un-send.

So, above, it is noted that, who in this world, receives vitriol so reflexively?
Cory Doctorow; so I figured Cory Doctorow would there-to-four likely have the most poignant things to say about this. We need a bill of rights for internet activities, not the "tough on crime" style rhetoric with laws stopping things; I mean a well thought out, broad, protective bill, ensuring some form of protections for identity; I mean active law, Positive Rigths system, the post related to so many topics, but in a intertwining of "Privacy", identity, and security. In a world where once people could "opt in", or opt out, it is snowballing to the point where the idea that likely with children born today, and certainly with a child born to a child born today, there will not be an option of "no connections". More and more business, governments, and logic are pushing "business" space online, and it is a good thing for anyone who sees pollution, and climate change, and any other thing and desires change. But if it is going to be promoted, there must be concerted efforts at deep security, recourse to abuse of privacy (phone companies giving blank slate wiretaps, or letting police surreptitiously pull info out, while simultaneously making it a chore for a rightful owner to navigate proprietary "phone info download" software, just to pull contacts out, or protections against the taking of targeted individuals liberty of access to digital 'spaces' (in a world where the ability to make money/find an efficient niche for products, is increasingly related to web access, and there are numerous places where laws banning people from the web, for downloading thing as many naive kids are doing each day, we one day soon will need to have these discussions surrounding rights, as the web integrates deeper with economic realities, or safety online. With such a bill of rights, these examples would simply be non-starters, rather than sad, seemingly unchangeable realities.


Fake Craigslist ads promoted her sexual services. She became a favored target of hackers, who hijacked her Stickam page and broadcast themselves; her phone was hacked, and her voicemails were posted online.


How much of the "perception" of this person and target is then shaded by the numerous people "being" her (200 imitators on Facebook in the article), and these people duplicating her. It is well documented that some people actually come to dislike "Cultifacts" simply for their popularity in the memespeheria
She found it in Stickam.com, a then-new site where teen users stream themselves live while IM'ing with viewers. I don't buy platitudes of "teaching" about privacy online; for one, privacy is not necessarily the optimal solution to a primary goal, how about protections of persistent total identity, a fully black-box absolute authenticated anonymizer; allowing scalable "identity opacity", wanna comment on the local paper editorial section; you don't need to use the name that your neighbours know. Want to vote in the next election, and feel confident that as we shift to digital ballot methods, voters are people, same thing system. The cadence of a cadre who vote for Nadre&Nader indeed.

this, and it actually contains all kinds of really important topics, topics which impact, and affect/effect a huge number of people; side note, there is increasingly both a mistating of the challenges of growing up today (true, bullies bullied since forever, society IS, however changing, and there is difference of scales between having lunch money stolen, or being beaten up physically, and the possible realm of total war, poisoned well, group-based, pack-mentality, massively multi-hater online shaming. When 10 000 people decide to act as one, particularly in the crossover from real-online, and back. It is hard to see how this is even conceivably "the same" story.

Isn't the larger the crowd, the more likely that said crowd is to just stand by in inaction as someone could be helped, collective inaction.
Future generations
Doctorow wants parents to acknowledge that “your kids will have lots of unsupervised internet use.” There is no way around that with the plethora of connected devices that are coming on to the market. Bearing that in mind, “the only thing you can do to keep them safe in their use of the internet is to instill good values and good sense.”
He contends that most parents threaten their children over their internet use by “spying on them” and their online habits and that we are teaching them to expect surveillance as the norm. But actually what we want to teach them is that “privacy is important and valuable. and you teach them that by not spying on them, which in turn teaches them not to be spied on.” Teach them not to be spied on.
Hopefully, “by the time they get to Facebook, they have some sense of why they should take counter-measures” before they “start haemorraghing information online”.

“The way they work is that the more you disclose about your life, the more the people who matter to you reward you with attention. And that’s a really powerful force for encouraging you to go on disclosing information.

The Role of the State
“States have to stop acting like the internet is just a playground for extracting data willy-nilly.” They need to act responsibly, so that organisation “start acting like gathering info on the internet only happens in the most narrow and closely judicially supervised circumstances that we know about”. The situation at the moment is that ISP’s currently log all the information that they can. Right now they are required to log information and keep it for ever. Doctorow believes that “they should be liable if they lose logs and there should be financial incentives for them to log as little data as possible”.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:58 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Call each other names, your voices rude, your voices rough.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:09 AM on April 22, 2011


Uh, yeah, trigger warning maximus. I just walked past that thread and the stink coming off it was something else. Definitely wasn't going inside.
posted by unSane at 5:11 AM on April 22, 2011


Two people have now questioned my motivations for posting. If you have something to ask me, kindly do it over memail rather than starting yet another shitstorm pileon in Meta?

Jesus, that whole paragraph is full of self absorbed whiny paranoia. Maybe you should start thinking about why you keep ending up in a "shitstorm pileon." Because your inability to see what part you play in this is got tiring a while ago.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 AM on April 22, 2011


Yeesh, Brandon, who died and made you hall montior.
posted by angrycat at 6:39 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was supposed to be hall monitor! I've been bus stop monitor allllllll last week!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:40 AM on April 22, 2011


Gotta pay your dues Marissa! One day....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 AM on April 22, 2011


We'll see who gets cutsies next week!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:49 AM on April 22, 2011


I suppose Zarq also played a part in your decision to behave like a total asshole to him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:06 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


That statement doesn't make sense AZ.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 AM on April 22, 2011


Well, let me clarify. You just accused him of being responsible for other people's behavior. I was asking if he was likewise responsible for your misbehavior?

But it was meant ironically. I don't actually want an answer. I just want you to be aware of how unpleasant and unwarranted that comment was.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:22 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The way it comes across to me is zarq repeatedly being in these shitstorms and not understanding his own part them via the topics of some of his posts, the framing of them and his response to critics.

Look, if he wants to post touchy subjects, fine. But getting repeatedly pissy about people getting touchy about touchy subjects seems odd.

If ya can't handle the heat...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on April 22, 2011


Do you think it might have been possible to phrase that differently? Because you offered up to him a blast of contempt and scorn that hardly seems deserved by the possibility that his framing of contentious subjects might stand being reevaluated.

And I am curious about how you think he framed this particular piece that insured a shitstorm. There's an implied accusation in your comment, and I am curious as to what, specifically, you think he did wrong here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:35 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Daniel Cespedes, who seems at least as dysfunctional and socially marginalised, is casually dismissed as a serial rapist and general malefactor. But when you look at pictures of both of them, the similarity is painfully obvious. Dan Cespedes very likely broke the law in Florida, engaging in a string of inappropriate sexual encounters with younger girls. But at the same time, he was clearly an immature teenager himself

Since I'm the only one in the thread who used the term "serial rapist" I'll respond and say that I do not think I was being dismissive. I used it in the context of someone else arguing that pedophile was an inappropriate term to use to describe Cespedes, which I thought was hairsplitting over labels. Your argument that "a string of inappropriate sexual encounters with younger girls" should not be dismissed as serial rape is similar in my opinion. I actually don't care what label is used and it makes no difference to me if you want to call what happened (assuming it did happen) rape or not.

According to the article, when Cespedes was around 18 years old, he purposely sought out junior-high aged girls online to date them. While pedophilia may not be the correct term, he clearly seemed to have an attraction to that particular age of girl, rather than people who were his own age and a more adult maturity level. Also according to the article, he engaged in what is very explicitly described as non-consensual sex. To me, that makes him seem like a creep who took advantage of immature girls, regardless of any laws and his exact age. As I said in the thread, it would have been interesting to hear alternate viewpoints in the story because it is very one-sided, but on the other hand I don't think it's dismissive to use the term rapist as shorthand for a longer and more nuanced description of Cespedes.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do you think it might have been possible to phrase that differently? Because you offered up to him a blast of contempt and scorn that hardly seems deserved by the possibility that his framing of contentious subjects might stand being reevaluated.

Would phrasing it differently helped? It doesn't seem to have, based on previous similar situations. He's already done the "I'm gonna get super mad and lash out" thing, so there doesn't seem to be a point to phrasing.

Otherwise, MeTa is where people are called out and things are questioned, if they need to be. His attempt to control and/or avoid that process via insisting people memail him struck me as odd. If you're gonna do or say things in public, you should be willing to deal with the consequences on those actions or statements in the public forum that is designed for that.

To put it another way, it would seem odd (to me) if I started insisting that people who had a problem with my comment memail me the complaints instead of bringing them up here.

And I am curious about how you think he framed this particular piece that insured a shitstorm. There's an implied accusation in your comment, and I am curious as to what, specifically, you think he did wrong here.

Honestly, I'm surprised that anyone is surprised the post went bad, it's a touchy subject touching on a lot of hot button issues. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would have been better to focus on the issue, rather than single person and leave out the link about the 'Most Hated Girl On The Internet,' which is pure link and flame bait based on the title alone.

As to zarq, I think he just needs to ignore the critics instead of attempting to reply to every point. If a post was made about the awesome medical benefits of strawberries, someone would complain about how they hate strawberries. You can't please everyone, so at some point one just has to let things go. If someone is being an ass to him, then let the comment stand as example of them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2011


Would phrasing it differently helped?

Yes. Of course it would have.

I'm surprised that anyone is surprised the post went bad, it's a touchy subject touching on a lot of hot button issues.

I don't actually think the post went bad, as I said at the start of this thread. What would you say is particularly wrong with the thread? People disagree, but are, for the most part, civil about it. And Zarq was responding to implications that he had some sort of motivations in posting the thread. I likewise ask that when somebody has an issue with me personally, they take it to MeMail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


If ya can't handle the heat...

I don't think it's about handling the heat (because really, do we want more heat and aggro here?) as it is being self-aware about one's role in creating the dynamics that make a shitstorm happen.
posted by Forktine at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The argument here is the argument in the thread, just applied to a different person.
posted by adipocere at 8:17 AM on April 22, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: As to zarq, I think he just needs to ignore the critics instead of attempting to reply to every point.

I wish others would take heed to this advice, especially those who feel the need to post a "public response" to their own "public call out".
posted by gman at 8:19 AM on April 22, 2011


And Zarq was responding to implications that he had some sort of motivations in posting the thread. I likewise ask that when somebody has an issue with me personally, they take it to MeMail.

I don't think it was people questioning zarq personally, but more a general questioning of why someone would think those links would be good to share with others.

What would you say is particularly wrong with the thread?

That the post was made, in that fashion. It's no better than schlocky CNN news item, seemingly saying "LOOK AT THOSE HORRIBLE THING" and dressing it as "Oh my, isn't this interesting?" It's that weird human impulse to slow down and gawk at the car wreck and constructing a post in that fashion isn't really useful, it just turns into a gossipy watercolor.


I don't think it's about handling the heat (because really, do we want more heat and aggro here?) as it is being self-aware about one's role in creating the dynamics that make a shitstorm happen.

Yes, that's a much better way of putting it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on April 22, 2011


That the post was made, in that fashion.

I disagree. The presentation was brief and brief and neutral, it's titles drawn from the titles of the articles it links to. And the most contentious thing about the thread was the threadshitting the occurred at the very start, consisting almost entirely of people who felt the need to tell us that they couldn't be bothered the read the articles.

It's a very interesting and, I think, important subject. It's not just a tale that invites us to gawk at weirdos misbehaving toward each other. We're experiencing yet another epochal shift as a result of the web: a concurrent rise of web celebrities, many of whom are young girls who experience the online world with a minimum of a sense of privacy, which the web encourages, and the rise of groups of very active and aggressive trolls, who particularly target young girls like this.

We're going to see a lot of this in the future. There are a lot of Kiki Kanibals and Rebecca Black in our future, and there are all sorts of issues that this raises. And while I agree that part of the problem is negligent parenting, I feel certain that parents are as naive as anybody about this trend -- it's still so new, and, while it's not unreasonable to expect some blowback against having a public persona, there is no way to predict just how large it will be, and just how virulent.

It's a worthwhile subject, and I think that we're getting caught up in who posted it and some minor disagreements in the thread to make this about Zarq, perhaps encouraged by his own defensiveness about the topic.

But the subject of this thread was not that Zarq got defensive. It was that people in the thrad seemed to forget that the subject of the thread was a little girl, and perhaps we should keep this in mind when commenting. I don't think that had anything to do with Zarq's framing, and had everything to do with a knee-jerk "attention seeker gets attention" response that mostly seemed to come from people who hadn't actually read he article.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 AM on April 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Yeah, seriously, go fuck yourself."

If I were that well hung I'd never have to leave the house. But seriously...

You'd be cool if in the next FPP that mentions the alleged sexual assault of a minor I said she was lying, the whole thing was a fiction and even if the fourteen year old girl did get fucked by an adult (in the legal sense at least) it wasn't necessarily statutory rape anyway? I'll dress it up nice if you like.

As for the Zundel thing I wasn't trying to Godwin anything, that's literally what popped into my head. I knew as soon as I threw that out there it was a bad choice but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But back to denial... There were a lot of calories spent by anigbrowl to seemingly give Daniel Cespedes a pass on his, alleged, statutory rapes. That's rapes as in more than one. Was he emotionally fucked up? Maybe. I have a nineteen year old son and I can see how something might happen. Once. Two, three or four times with girls as young as 12? That's not a coincidence, that's a very deliberate selection of targets. Unfortunately Daniel died attempting to escape police custody so we'll never get hear his side of the story.
posted by MikeMc at 8:44 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just a tale that invites us to gawk at weirdos misbehaving toward each other.

I don't disagree with your general assertions about the topic, but as this thread and that thread seem to indicate, one of the topics that people get drawn to out of the many interesting aspects of that post is RAPE OF A MINOR which is fine, not a topic we can't talk about, but one that gets people very very heated up in a very very short amount of time. This is 100% predictable. I think the general topic is actually pretty fascinating and I don't have that much trouble putting aside the more trainwrecky aspects of it to talk about the more philosophical aspects of it, but other people would prefer to discuss the trainwreck, at length, and talk about minor's vaginas. Okay. Again, it's just true, it's not a bad or a good thing really but it should also not be a surprising thing.

But put another way, posts about trainwrecks aren't immune from threads that turn into their own trainwrecks because the people that are part of trainwrecks in real life are also people that are on MetaFilter which is, in fact, real life.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:49 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the subject of this thread was not that Zarq got defensive

Sure, but my comment was directed at zarq's characterization of the shitstorms.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on April 22, 2011


I may be projecting here, but as a person who constantly says shit (at work, no less) that is not-so-politic, perhaps Zarq has a bit of a blind spot, and is aware of same, and is trying to work on it? Or is there a precedent of Zarq publishing MINOR RAPE threads in which shit went down and was Meta'd and stuff?
posted by angrycat at 9:03 AM on April 22, 2011


What I mean is, I blurt shit out that I shouldn't. I need a better filter. I'm aware and semi-ashamed of it. Also, it's my day off and I bet many of you are at work. Just had to say that.
posted by angrycat at 9:06 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: I blurt shit out that I shouldn't. I need a better filter.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:09 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: which is, in fact, real life.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this living?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a frequent poster to the Blue. The vast majority of my posts don't have argumentative threads and certainly don't wind up being called out in MeTa -- even when their topics could conceivably be problematic. But when a post or two does, the usual suspects now seem to go out of their way to demand to know my motivations for posting, then refuse to accept my answer.

I was not attempting to shut down discussion of the post. If someone has a problem with the content or framing of a post I make MeTa is the place to do so and I would not stand in the way of that. But attempting to assign nefarious motives to me for making an FPP sucks. Especially since I've made around 60 posts to the blue since January that cover a huge range of topics. So I asked people to take that stuff to MeMail rather than do so here. Whether they choose to do so is of course up to them. As is my choice to respond or not.

Brandon, I'm aware of many of the reasons why difficult topics may turn into difficult threads. I do consider what I'm posting and the reaction of the community before doing so. I've been making a concerted effort to be more careful about it since January. At least one of the mods is already aware of this.

AZ, thank you. Very, very much.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unhappy with her social and/or family situation, she seemingly checked out, worked up this Gaga-type persona and handed decisions over to her vagina, with extremely unfortunate results.

This sentence angers me. Dan Cespedes might arguably have been "making decisions with his dick", but to say this about Kiki seems to be misrepresentation of the highest order. Whatever wrongs she may have committed, Kiki was looking for validation, not sexual gratification. She was thinking like an angry, attention seeking child and I think it is ludicrous to say that what she really wanted was sex.
posted by Go Banana at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a variety of interesting responses here to what I posted yesterday that I'd like to (briefly) engage with below. Here, a few general comments resulting from sleeping on it and some email conversations with others in the main thread.

What upsets me so badly is that the problems here are rooted in a shortage of self-respect and personal responsibility - in fact, I suspect that if I kept digging into this the parents would turn out to have similar issues. The fact that the Mom got married when she was 18 and the hints of dreams abandoned makes me think of pregnancy, shotgun weddings, and all the baggage that can go with that. I was tempted to research it further but decided not to, because it would probably just make the whole thing even more depressing.

The potential problems and dangers that can result from such conditions are serious, and this story is involving precisely because of that. They run the gamut from the personal to the social, hurt feelings to death, and cross generational, cultural, and economic lines. But it seems to me that the primary issue here is dysfunction - damaged people making flawed decisions that lead to unwanted outcomes, first for themselves and then for others. Everyone involves needs (or needed, in the case of the dead guy) to be told 'you're doing it wrong,' with the emphasis on the repeating dysfunctional pattern. In an ideal world there'd be family and individual therapy for everyone involved, but if we had an ideal world to begin with then most of this dysfunctional behavior wouldn't be taking place anyway. In the real world we have to rely laws, imperfect institutions, and an uneven patchwork of social communities, and few people get all the resources they need to deal with problem situations. To the extent that problems are the result of a dysfunctional process and can't be resolved with a quick fix, they become more stressful, time-consuming and unpredictable. In cases like this, it's very tempting to paint the issue in simplistic terms, apportion blame accordingly, and overcompensate. This happens on the individual level, the family level, and right up to the legislative level, which is why we have so many examples of 'somebody's law,' legislation which is passed in the wake of a tragedy and is often draconian to the point of injustice. The RS article upsets me because it panders to this tendency in the worst way.

these events are tragic. I don't mean that in the 'oh how sad' sense, I mean it in the classical 'personal weakness can have drastic and hideous consequences' sense, the sort of tragedy that Sophocles and Shakespeare built plays around. The only difference between classical drama and this is the supposed ordinariness of the family, as opposed to being aristocrats or public figures at the outset of the story. In classical drama aristocracy is just a technique for quickly building audience identification - nobility or military office is universally agreed to be Important, and saves the dramatist from having to write several 'why should I care' scenes about a bunch of ordinary characters. But this is less of a social statement than for the purpose of analogizing with whatever private ranking scheme the audience members have for the individuals and families in their own life, allowing people to substitute themselves, their relatives, and their friends and enemies into the patterns examined in the play.

The essence of tragedy is that people are undone by their flaws: weakness leads to error, and compounded errors lead to suffering. Many of these plays have remained popular for centuries because they explore common and perennial human problems in an honest way - acknowledging the complexities, conflicts and difficulties of human life, instead of offering pat answers or religious edicts. Romeo and Juliet is one of the best-known literary works of all time, because illicit teen romance and related family feuds are such common situations. In that play a gangsterish young-man-about-town and a 13 year old girl fall in love, enabled by good-hearted but naive authority figures whose lack of worldly wisdom undermines the quality of their advice, with tragic results for everyone involved. Hamlet is about a young man who is so obsessed with an injury to his family that he drives his lover to suicide so he can stage a public performance about how evil his uncle is. This tale of woe from Florida reads like some unholy mashup of the two, with 'teh drama' turned up to 11 and the self-examination part reduced to a minimum.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:15 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just wanna know why AZ has nothing but regret for Jessamyn!
posted by lazaruslong at 2:27 PM on April 22, 2011


Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to Jessamyn
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:29 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marisa says: Only one person "desired" to discuss the possibility that the teenaged girl was lying about her rape, or that RS had at least done so. It came up very suddenly at a point in the thread when things where still fairly shaky, and - it being devoid of any evidence - served no purpose and was a derail.

The purpose served was to express my offense at the dishonesty and exploitation I perceived in the article, matters which I (obviously) feel strongly about. I don't see how this is any less valid than any other purpose others might have had in commenting.

I admit being indifferent to whether 'things were still fairly shaky' in the development of the thread, at the time and also right now. I don't know what criteria you are using there, or when or how you think such questions should be raised. Obviously, walking in and calling bullshit on multiple aspects of the story would disruptive to a victim who was attempting to open up about an abuse issue and needs a supportive environment within which to do so. But you know, we're not in a support group here and there's no victim present. There's a discussion of a sensationally titled cover story ('most hated girl on the internet') in a widely-read pop-culture magazine, and I went into some detail about why I considered it sensational, exploitational, and questionable.

I don't think that the sensitive/discomfiting nature of the subject matter gives the publisher, participants, or discussants a free pass to have the discussion develop a certain way, for the same reason that I don't think Nancy Grace or Dr. Phil or any of the other media figures who milk personal tragedy for profit should get a free pass or be exempt from criticism. The repackaging of human suffering as entertainment, and the elevation of condemnation over inquiry that accompanies it, strikes me as part of the problem. I'm sorry that my expression of these ideas has startled and upset people on MeFi that I like and respect, but I truly feel the narrative in the article was constructed on a foundation of race-baiting and authoritarianism.

Unhappy with her social and/or family situation, she seemingly checked out, worked up this Gaga-type persona and handed decisions over to her vagina, with extremely unfortunate results.

This sentence angers me. Dan Cespedes might arguably have been "making decisions with his dick", but to say this about Kiki seems to be misrepresentation of the highest order. Whatever wrongs she may have committed, Kiki was looking for validation, not sexual gratification. She was thinking like an angry, attention seeking child and I think it is ludicrous to say that what she really wanted was sex.


That is not what I am saying. I do not think she wanted sex, nor do I think that Dan Cespedes wanted sex. Both individuals strike me having emotional development problems, albeit for different reasons. Both expressed their emotional needs for individuality and autonomy via fairly predictable patterns of adolescent sexuality. Kirsten Ostrenga pursued validation by representing herself as Kiki Kannibal, a highly sexualized projection of herself designed to evoke affirmations of desirability as a substitute for whatever sort of love and approval was absent in her life at the time. I would not have used that phrase if she had, say, modeled herself after Strawberry Shortcake or some asexual feminine trope. Although some tropes (like school girl outfits) are sexualized because people make a fetish of repressed sexuality, that's not how Kiki Kannibal comes across in the photos accompanying the article. They present a very assertive and un-repressed sexuality, inviting and accessible rather than shy and retiring. Even the name suggests the character (as opposed to the person behind it) might be a bit of a man-eater.

What ought to have happened was for a responsible adult to say 'woah no, you are not going out (on the internet) un/dressed like that, because you are going to get entirely the wrong sort of attention - what's bothering you that you crave attention so badly?' After seeing the comments on the RS article by her mom, it seems like there is some really weird emotional dynamic going on there, which makes me wonder how much this Kiki Kannibal 'belongs' to Kirsten herself, but I don't really want to dig deeper into that. I'm starting to feel like she and her younger sister would be better off in care, and that the best thing that could happen is they leave home, change names, and are left alone to pursue some course of study or work instead of being some sort of webcam slave.

As I said above, when I first read the story I too imagined Dan Cespedes as a kind of selfish ass pursuing his own pleasure at the expense of naive girls' innocence. And I still think that's partly true. But when he turned out to be an awkward-looking emo kid that wears the same hairstyle as his girlfriend and has pictures of it tattooed on himself, I really had to hit the pause button and re-examine my starting assumptions and the tone of the article. That reeks of neediness, incomplete emotional development, and likewise, a rather desperate need for validation. Put that together with the reported elements in his family background as above, and I think there's a very high probability that he was seeking escape from an abusive and possibly dangerous family environment. It's like a checklist for 'at risk' youth - his immediate family (and most powerful role models) exemplify bigotry, legal and financial instability, and multiple kinds of criminal violence. If the allegations are true, his actions were definitely criminal, and demonstrated a pattern of pursuing his own needs at the expense of others.

Where I differ from others is about what those needs were. We can examine that without excusing the criminality of his actual behavior. I don't think it was as simple as sexual gratification; to me the needy behavior, abusive background, and obsequious respect towards adults suggest he was desperately looking for some sort of stable family environment, and had found young adolescent girls provided the easiest and least-threatening point of entry for that. Having attempted that with other girls, my guess is that he was quickly driven away by more vigilant parents. In the Ostrengas he found a family whose lack of structure and boundaries granted him easy access and were virtually the polar opposite of his home environment, headed by two adults who apparently allergic to confrontation, decision-making or discipline (according to them) or had some weird soft of codependent/proxy issues of their own (if my intuition is correct).


I can't give the people in this story a pass, but I can't simply condemn them either (apart from that weird stickdrama.com guy or whatever the site was, but everything I think about that has already been said and there seems to be a general consensus that he's a scumbag). There's a strong temptation to treat all this as a morality play with bright lines that divide the good people from the bad, and I think that this is very much part of the problem. The events described in the story would be legal in some paces and not in others, which is usually a warning sign that they're not necessarily as simple as presented. You have massively at-risk teenagers acting out in ways ranging from unwise to criminal, none of whom seem to have had any meaningful contact with social services or alternatives to their drastically irresponsible parents. It's more convenient for families with teenage girls that Dan Cespedes is dead, but it's hardly a satisfactory outcome - we don't want people dying as a matter of course when they come to the attention of the police, and there are many potential or actual sexual abusers who go unidentified, untreated or unrestrained who don't make themselves so easy to catch or conveniently self-destruct early on in their careers. Our institutions are inadequate in assisting those at risk, and our tendency to over-compensate for poor risk management with draconian penal policy discourages people from seeking help or facing up to their responsibilities when they do transgress, and which in many ways institutionalizes violence.

I'm inclined to think the main reason Dan Cespedes took a dive over the wall of a multi-story parking garage was not because he was an irredeemable criminal but because of the virtual certainty of being gang-raped at knifepoint in the correctional system within a very short time of his arrest. A spindly emo kid in the correctional system would be at high risk of that regardless of the charges, it's just that in a case like this it's virtually assured. It's not supposed to happen, but we all know that it does and that it's an endemic problem in our correctional system. The solution to the complex questions of inchoate sexuality, teenage autonomy, domestic instability and the risk of statutory or seductive rape is not super-prison-rape, but that's the likely result that we've come to accept and even tacitly endorse as the norm. Despite the awfulness of such an outcome, sexual assault and rape continues to be a real danger - mainly for women and girls, but just as problematic for boys, and various LGBT groups like transexuals etc. etc. etc.. The preventive and penal mechanisms that are in place to deal with the problem, both formal and informal, are only partially effective and when they fail, they fail pretty badly.

I have gone on at such lenght (or as someone said, expended many calories on it) not because I want to give someone a pass, but because I think we need to reject the temptation that this article panders to of accepting simplistic answers that allow us to reject what we fear, instead of engaging with our fears and asking how and why abuse happens and why our existing policies frequently fail to deter, detect or remediate it.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:44 PM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


> That is not what I am saying. I do not think she wanted sex, nor do I think that Dan Cespedes wanted sex. Both individuals strike me having emotional development problems, albeit for different reasons. Both expressed their emotional needs for individuality and autonomy via fairly predictable patterns of adolescent sexuality. Kirsten Ostrenga pursued validation by representing herself as Kiki Kannibal, a highly sexualized projection of herself designed to evoke affirmations of desirability as a substitute for whatever sort of love and approval was absent in her life at the time. I would not have used that phrase if she had, say, modeled herself after Strawberry Shortcake or some asexual feminine trope. Although some tropes (like school girl outfits) are sexualized because people make a fetish of repressed sexuality, that's not how Kiki Kannibal comes across in the photos accompanying the article. They present a very assertive and un-repressed sexuality, inviting and accessible rather than shy and retiring.

I haven't attentively read this whole thread, though I did read the RS article. For the most part, anigbrowl, I agree with your central points. However, I feel compelled to suggest that you are misunderstanding greatly what it's like to be a teenage girl in this country. I was quite "attention seeking," myself, and sexually assertive, to an extent, and would have seemed so in photos. But appearing sexual isn't really a message at all, it's a default. If you are coming of age, talented, and female, the message the media conveys to you is that your sexuality IS part of the presentation, whether as a coquette in a plaid skirt or a vamp or something nuance in between. That's part of what becoming an adult woman entails, a burgeoning awareness of being a subject of the gaze, all that. I would say that playing with that awareness doesn't really mean there's something wrong with a girl, on its own. Therefore, there is no blame for Kiki for performing her sexuality, in a general sense, from me, here. That she broadcast it so broadly and so lewdly and without intervention from her parents is exceptional.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:46 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Please let's not have trigger warnings here. I was on a female-only LJ community for a while, and it got to the point where every second post had [cut for triggers] or 'trigger warning' on it. There are certain things that upset me - I try and avoid the posts or articles or discussions on them. As someone up thread has said, there isn't such thing as a universal trigger save a warning on graphic descriptions of violence or abuse.
posted by mippy at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, without being rude about it, this is not a place where we're going to start having trigger warnings. We'll indicate blinky stuff for people with epislepsy, NSFW (nudity, gore, sound) and maybe spoilers and that's about it. If people want to do that to their own questions in AskMe, they are more than welcome to, but it's not something we're going to do in post-processing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Indeed, AV. I don't even hold the view that Kiki Kannibal should never have been allowed to appear in the public eye beyond the threshold of the girl's bedroom - people make stupid decisions, shit happens. What has perplexed me was why anyone would persist with publicly broadcasting that persona even after the broadcasting had become a magnet for 'internet hate machine.' Again, that seems like the sort of thing parents ought to be giving guidance about but failed or chose not to.

I'm not saying it's fair, of course, but at some point it's time to compare what one is likely to get out of it vs. what one is putting in. Maybe having the story in RS and the seemingly-inevitable appearances on the dr Phil show or Oprah or whatever will lead to big step forward...or it might just repeat the existing problem on an even larger and more stressful scale, I don't know. If the latter, what then? Change names and get on with life, or call local politicians to help draft 'Kiki's law'? Personally I'd cut my losses and reboot at this point, but it wouldn't surprise me if the family insists on riding the thing all the way down. I really can't make sense of their response up to now.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:20 PM on April 22, 2011


What has perplexed me was why anyone would persist with publicly broadcasting that persona even after the broadcasting had become a magnet for 'internet hate machine.'

I think part of it is that this public broadcast serves some need. I'm not talking cynically about an urge to fame, or to sell more jewelry. Putting yourself out there leaves you vulnerable to the sometimes-dangerous kooks and assholes, but it also introduces you to a lot of people who are going to tell you how amazing you are. I think that if you were to ask Ms. Kannibal if her internet celebrity was/is wholly harmful, she'd tell you that she also met some amazing friends. That's not what the article focuses on, so it's easy to miss, but it might be an important part of it.

The problem is that this sympathy-seeking behavior puts you in the way of the internet hate machine, which leaves you needing even more sympathy. I think Kannibal and crew must be asking themselves, "Isn't there some way to get support via the internet that doesn't also put you in the path of all of these people who hate you?" If she figures it out, I hope she publishes, because I want to know too.
posted by nathan v at 8:53 PM on April 22, 2011


I'm a little curious about why desire for sex is totally out of the question here. I mean, when I was 13, 14, that's all I thought about (in a very nebulous sense) and I certainly had plenty of it, unfortunately all by myself. The women I've been close enough to ask about that stage of their lives suggested it wasn't really all that different for them, though perhaps without the laser-like focus your average adolescent male has towards procuring orgasms.

I'm not suggesting this was the main motivation or even a strong one for Kiki, but I also don't think it can be completely dismissed as something that was not even on the radar.

(When I was a kid, I went to a four-year high school for my 9th grade year. It was not uncommon for the "prettiest" girls in my grade to be dating seniors. It passed without comment, other than grousing among the 9th grade boys who felt the older boys were "poaching." That's potentially 18-year-olds dating 14-year-olds, isn't it? It seems creepy now via my aged eyes, but I don't have the impression it was seen as a problem by either the kids or the adults around us back then...though I can't imagine the parents of a freshman jumping up-and-down with joy when their daughter introduced her 12th-grade beau.)
posted by maxwelton at 10:32 PM on April 22, 2011


It's not out of the question, but there's no evidence of it in the main story, she explicitly states that she was not read for sex with her then-boyfriend, rejected his advances multiple times until he crawled info bed with her her pressured her enough to stop protesting, and continued this pattern until the relationship ended. And I am not prepared to doubt here about this without compelling reason to do so, and also, while sicussing the generals of teen sexuality seems okay to me, the particulars of discussing this teen, especially as her sexual experience so dramatically abut the question of consent, makes me a little queasy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:53 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps those who are queasy should participate in a different thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:07 AM on April 23, 2011


The purpose served was to express my offense at the dishonesty and exploitation I perceived in the article, matters which I (obviously) feel strongly about. I don't see how this is any less valid than any other purpose others might have had in commenting.

What was bizarre to me was that there was no evidence of her having fictionalized events, or Rolling Stone having written the events any differently than what they were told. Your initial post dripped with sneer, tossing around these allegations of "dishonesty" at both her and RS, with nothing to back it up but your own suspicions. That's what I found disruptive and unhelpful.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2011


Why bother debating consent? It's he said, she said and he's dead. You can say maybe he didn't do it, but it's unresolvable. The only way the story changes is if she decides to say she lied, and why would she if she did?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:02 AM on April 23, 2011


Perhaps those who are queasy should participate in a different thread.

Perhaps the people who wish to police my participation in this thread should apply for a job as a moderator.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:55 AM on April 23, 2011


It's he said, she said and he's dead.

Not precisely. According to the story, there were other girls who came forward and said he had done the same to them. So it's more "he said, they said," and the preponderance of evidence seems to be that he had a consistent pattern of behavior.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This story reminded me of a somewhat similar one, involving a boy, from about six years ago. MeFi thread.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:51 AM on April 24, 2011


Hmm on rereading the thread, the story I referred to is maybe not as similar as I thought.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:02 AM on April 24, 2011


What was bizarre to me was that there was no evidence of her having fictionalized events, or Rolling Stone having written the events any differently than what they were told.

That latter is precisely the problem. It's a basic rule of (good) journalism that you don't take a single party's version of events at face value, but seek out independent sources to confirm or dispute their veracity. The bias was self-evident from the text of the article itself, and should have been a huge red flag to anyone reading. I did sneer at it, as I would at any article that relied so heavily on racial stereotyping to establish a context. I remain surprised at how many people just bought into that, and were willing to accept all sorts of wild and unlikely allegations without any evidence just because they came from Rolling Stone.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:16 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


That latter is precisely the problem. It's a basic rule of (good) journalism that you don't take a single party's version of events at face value, but seek out independent sources to confirm or dispute their veracity.

They did seek out other sources. The police confirmed. The family refused to comment. If you have another source, go ahead and suggest it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:26 AM on April 26, 2011


'...for any part of the story.' Stop being obtuse, and try doing some some research of your own - you'll notice contemporary news reports contradict multiple elements of the RS story, a great deal of which is implied rather than citing its sources. I am not here to give lessons in media literacy - especially not to you, since you work at a newspaper and should know better than to engage in this 'they wouldn't print it if it weren't true' nonsense.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:33 AM on April 26, 2011


No, you're apparently here to make accusations of media mistreatment without feeling obligated to back it up, and, if you're going to presume to take me to school, I'm going to ask you to do your work. You just made a claim of contemporary media accounts that contradict the story. I'd like a link, or I'd like you to check your tone, which just tipped over into uncivil, and with no cause other than I disagree with you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2011


Astro Zombie, you are not the arbiter of what constitutes polite discussion despite your repeated attempts to lay claim to such status. you can do your own Googling, because you haven't bothered to engage with any of the verifiable points I raised in the thread, from the mismatch between the description of the middle school at the outset of the article onwards.

You will not find one source in NEXIS to back up RS's claim of seven outstanding warrants; contemporary accounts suggest one criminal complaint against him, not seven. I really don't feel like reopening the RS article, but I don't recall any confirmatory quotes from members of the police either...nope, there aren't any...just a lot of reported speech. Here, you can start with the Miami Herald and WVSN, the local ABC affiliate.

But, as usual, the easiest path is to follow the money. From the article, with emphasis added by me: Fame wasn't Kiki's intention when she first logged on in 2006. She was just a lonely 13-year-old whose days at Sawgrass Springs Middle School had become a bullying hell. Her family had transplanted from the Chicago suburb of Streamwood for dad Scott's computer-engineering job. The Ostrengas and their three kids — Kyler, Kirsten and Dakota — were lured by promises of palm trees and sunshine. "I had this idea of Florida as this paradise," says mom Cathy, a forthright Midwesterner. Cathy was 18 when she met Scott; he was fronting a rock band with big dreams; she was putting herself through college, her sights set on law school. Instead, they married young, Cathy became a housewife, and Scott wound up in middle management. Moving to Florida was supposed to be an exciting jolt to their lives. "We thought it would be fun," says Cathy.

So why are there trademark filings for a Kiki Kannibal logo claiming the mark had been in use since 2005 and entered the stream of commerce in 2006? Go look up whois records for kikikannibal.com or the business filings for Kiki Kannibal LLC (2007). I don't want to start linking to pages with their current home address but you won't have to go very far before seeing what a facade the RS article is.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:21 PM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ouch. Anigbrowl for MeFi sleuth of the week. What strange new facts s/he's bringing to light.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:09 PM on April 26, 2011


I agree with some of anigbrowl's points and disagree with others, but DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYUMN, that trademark filing is quite suspicious.

I bet a shiny nickel that the parents are more "involved" than they are letting on.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:53 PM on April 26, 2011


You claimed there were stories actively disproving the claims, but instead you give me a single reference to a story that supports one of them. The fact that an older story doesn't have seven warrants disproved nothing -- that start may not have had all the fact, neither might all warrants have been files there. And the fact that you can't be arsed to link to the story suffered to me that you are not arguing in good faith. It's not my job to make your points for you. If you have real evidence, go ahead and link to it.

And I am the arbiter of what is uncivil to me. Going after me as a professional is exactly that. In fact, making this about me at all is uncivil. I have only ever discussed the subject. I have never made this about you personally. I would ask you give me the same courtesy, or, if you prefer, I'll just duck out of this discussion, and you get to have the thread by virtue of being the last loudmouth standing. Congratulations.

Your second point interesting, but I have only ever taken issue with your suggestion that her claims of sexual abuse are invented or exaggerated. I don't care why she got on the Web.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:27 AM on April 27, 2011


Ugh. IPad.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:03 AM on April 27, 2011


Your second point interesting, but I have only ever taken issue with your suggestion that her claims of sexual abuse are invented or exaggerated. I don't care why she got on the Web.

Well I don't think it helped that from the beginning you distilled anigbrowl's overall point that he thought the entire article was false into a single claim that he thought she lying about the rape. I know disputing a sexual abuse accusation is a big deal and the common knee jerk reaction by many to side against the accuser is extremely harmful, but in my opinion the fact that you immediately took anigbrowl's claim that the article is "an elaborate fiction designed to play on a particular set of prejudices" and framed it as "accusing a little girl and a nationally respected news magazine of lying about rape" didn't really help the discussion. That turned it into more of a binary choice of either accepting the article as a whole as fact or accusing a rape victim of lying. It's possible to both question the veracity of the overall article and be respectful of the sexual abuse claim.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:08 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Responding to one part of his critique is not the same thing as reducing it to being just that critique.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:18 AM on April 27, 2011


You know, if you had applied that same metric to my critique of the RS article, we wouldn't be having this pointless conversation.

I do not have a personal beef with you about this, although I do think you ought to re-examine your own role in the conversation; even before I joined the conversation, you were admonishing that 'saying [that one didn't RTFA] in this thread is threadshitting.' Later, you asked 'Does Rolling Stone actually call her Most Hated? I don't recall that in the article, and people are taking issue with it and criticizing RS over it.' And Zarq himself pointed out, that's the headline used on the magazine's cover. Independently of your disagreement with my remarks, you seem to have a strong reaction to any criticism of the article or its premise.

I've tried to phrase that as neutrally and factually as possible. Abuse and bullying are highly emotive issues for a lot of people, including myself, and they're emotive because such behavior can be truly life-wrecking for the individual and damaging for society as a whole. Indifference to or casual dismissal of these things is Part Of The Problem. But two wrongs don't make a right, and this article is wrong in so many ways.

I do not approve of or wish to link to the the posting online of police reports by that sleazy stickydrama.com guy, so I have tried to focus on other flaws in the article in an attempt to be sensitive. Those reposted documents in question are not lurid as such, but they do contradict the article. In the report of a crime made to police, it is stated that the daughter lied about her age and led Cespedes to believe that she was 17, and that the Ostrengas allowed Cespedes to live at their house beginning October 2006. The documents were obtained from evidentiary filings in case # 2009-81728-CA-01 Lourdes Cespedes vs. City of Aventura (The) in Miami-Dade Civil/Probate Court, a civil negligence action from which Scott and Cathy Ostrenga were removed as co-defendants on April 14th following a mediated settlement.

Neither the fact of the lawsuit nor the content of the republished documents were mentioned in the story, despite substantially deviating from the account given to readers. I don't want to explore this distasteful episode any further and at this point I wish I had never seen the thread in the first place.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


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