MySpace suicide scapegoat spectacle

The suicide of Megan Meier, a teen in my hometown, O’Fallon, Missouri, may have been spurred by Meier’s friend’s mother, Lori Drew, who may have approved, or failed to disapprove, of her daughter’s creation of a fake MySpace persona, “Josh,” who may have, after flirting with Megan and leading her on via MySpace message, told her that the world would be better off without her. Or Drew herself may have created the profile and sent the messages. This view, the one that indicts Drew, has proven popular among my former community, whose “response” is here: “Neighbors shun MySpace hoax family.”

The media aren’t doing nearly enough to show us Drew’s side or Drew period. Just read the CNN article; there are no facts about her substantive involvement until well toward the end, which most readers don’t reach. They’d rather paint this as yet another case of the idyllic middle-class suburban life gone awry than take a good long look at how those idyllic fantasies create environments in which people like Megan don’t get the help they need for mental illness. News networks encourage this sort of reckless idealization. Here is CNN:

The row of brick-facade homes, with basketball nets and American flags out front, was carved out of the woods and pastures in the mid-1990s. Between rooftops, residents can see the neon signs of the strip mall restaurants near a highway that carries commuters some 35 miles to jobs in downtown St. Louis. The subdivision and those surrounding it have street names evoking the good life, from Quaint Cottage Drive to Country Squire Circle.

Hey Meggers, look at our pretty street with dogs on walks and basketball hoops and well-kept lawns—cheer up!

If Drew did do what some say she did, it’s repugnant, but we’ve all done things that are close to as repugnant, if not more repugnant, than what she’s supposed to have done, so I don’t know how anyone can legitimately want to hold her legally responsible for the kid’s suicide. You’d have to make up laws to do it—and indeed they’re trying to do that very thing now, to make a law that would put future Lori Drews in jail, perhaps for life. This is the community’s response: make empty legal gestures and focus its hatred for itself on a naive and hapless scapegoat.

How, in light of this absurdity, can we care in the least about Drew’s potential personal moral bankruptcy? How, when the supposed moral bankruptcy of a single woman is merely a public spectacle to distract from, and thereby to enact, the glaring moral bankruptcy of society as a whole?




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