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Suicide Online

Posted on February 7, 2003 in IRC/Chat Scoundrels Suicide

blu has dug up an article about a 21 year old Arizona boy whose chat buddies encouraged him to dope and drink himself to annihilation.

He did. “I told u I was hardcore,” were his last coherent words.

Brandon Vedas, who press pundits styled as a “21 year old computer expert” (this sounds more like family boasting and press hyperbole to me), ate and drank a mix of Klonopin, Methadone, Restoril and alcohol for his last earthly meal. As he typed his last words, the “friends” who knew him as “Ripper” cheered his Belushi/Farley bash.

Veda’s family, who discovered the transcripts after his death, are understandably angry. They’re thinking of suing. A prosecutor is also investigating.

I’ve never encouraged friends to pursue the course of self destruction in chat. Stupid teenagers, in particular, love to press drunks to inebriate themselves even more. Drunk chatters make for dull chatter: it is no friend who laughs and tells you to drink more when you’ve had too much just because they think it is funny.

I’d like to see the online companions get themselves hung up on charges of aiding and abetting a sucide if there is such a crime. Or sued for every last penny they have for the rest of their life. An example should be made and the example should be taught to every teenager in America: it’s not funny to prod a person into self-destruction.

This is the kind of stuff that makes the headlines when frat boys kill one of their own by sticking a tube down his throat and pouring a few six packs of beer through it while he is unable to tell them that he’s drowning in the stuff.

Too often, they get a slap on the wrist and allowed to go on to become captains of industry and managers — your boss, in other words. One coverup is worth a lot of favors.

The parents want to go after the ISP, too, however. This concerns me for different reasons. What they want is either a constant, human monitor in every chat room or the abolition of chat. This is like holding a bar responsible because a table in the corner was used to plan a murder.

I worry: the insurance company vultures are beginning to circle Veda’s corpse. If they get involved, free services like blogspot and the various IRC chat rooms could disappear. The greatest enemy of Free Speech on the Net today are not governments: I have known many who live under otherwise repressive regimes who speak freely and without penalty on the net. (An exception that I heard about was the intervention of the Rome police against several Italian web sites because they’d posted uncomplimentary things about the Pope, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary.) Private industry hates the net because it is through this medium that much of the word about bad products and screwy marketing practices get out. We have more power today than our fathers and mothers did, who had to rely on stealthy use of office copy machines to get the word that they were getting screwed out. I don’t want my friends who struggle against cubicle capitalism to lose their voice.

I have never met a human being so worthless that I would counsel them to do the rest of us a favor and kill themselves. For this reason, from the beginning of City of the Silent, I’ve encouraged people to see cemeteries as a place for the living — not to rush to join the dead.

For a list of sites about suicide prevention, click here.

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