Teen Suicide, Media Excess, Palin and Bullies, Again

A horrible story made even worse by our excesses of media. Try to fully engage and consider this awful story while attempting to ignore the unstoppable video-with-commercials that ABC News plops into almost all of its pages, and which cannot be stopped while in commercial mode.

The story is shattering — two young teenage girls committed suicide together, and yes, bullying once again seems to lie at the heart of their hopelessness:

The bodies of best friends Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz, both 14, were discovered Saturday by Fentress’ mother, Tracy Morrison.

Haylee’s aunt, Robin Settle, said the girl had recently moved to the rural town of Lynd, Minn., and had complained to her family that she felt ostracized and bullied. Settle also said there are indications that the girls had planned their deaths for a long time, even including funeral details in a good-bye note.

“I’m shocked and I’m mad and I’m sad…I don’t understand the mentality of kids torturing other kids, kids having to go through this. They don’t think they have anywhere to go to,” Settle told ABC News.com.

I am broken-hearted for these children, and for their families. It saddens me to think that these girls felt they were out of options particularly in this of all weeks — when we anticipate the singular event that so charged the world with hope, and wherein we hear the ancient prayer/chant:

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

But I am also disturbed, once again, by the shallow manner in which we are encouraged away from a story this ghastly and disturbing; before we even get a chance to process it, we’re hit with a sexed-up shopping commercial that is supposed to mesmerize us with images and “clever” (read increasingly adolescent) double entendres.

From a guest-post at CBS News, on the value of TV Journalism in an internet age:

[The news broadcast] is hobbled by the constraints of time – when you only have 22 minutes to skim the big stories every report is as penetrating as a prop-knife . . .

A news broadcast may be forced to break to their increasingly geriatric-focused commercials in order to meet their payrolls, but really, must we have to endure the same superficial news presentation and crass commercialism on the internet where, presumably, there are a multitude of opportunities to encourage a shopping click-through, and so a little discretion might be worthwhile? Did ABC News really need to throw a sexy-babe commercial right behind a story about a teenage girl who was bullied to her death in part because she wasn’t sexy enough?

Obviously, ABC News is not an innovator here, but they are extremely aggressive about plopping commercial/news/commerical videos into all of their stories — so much so that I will often bypass a story link if I see it involves ABC, because I resent not being able to read a story without their noisy video intrusions.

A simple start-stop button would be enormously appreciated, because as an adult I do like feeling as though I have choices in what I see and hear, and when.

But more importantly, in a society short on empathy, long on self-absorption and attention-span-challenged, shouldn’t we consider how incongruous and socially unhelpful it is to watch a tv reporter make a sad face while closing a grim story, to be followed in a mille-second (less time than it takes to heave a sigh) by cheesy encouragement to just go shopping?

Speaking of diminished empathy and bullying, I wonder if our socially mindless media excesses are partially to blame for this kind of really obnoxious and reprehensible garbage. You don’t have to be a Sarah Palin fan to find that creepy piece both infantile and (again) mind-numbingly adolescent.

I won’t link to it directly. But ultimately, I feel sorry for whoever wrote that. It says more about the writer than anyone else, and I am sure considers himself “tolerant” and “compassionate” and the farthest thing from a bully. If only that darn Sarah Palin didn’t force him to speak his truth! Ugh.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Not our fault Anchoress! The devil makes U>S do all these evil, crazy, silly things we do!

    If only Jesus would come back and clean “IT” all UP and then tell U>S what is truly right and wrong, then we good humans could team UP together and start all over like the family of Noah did.

    OK then! How about we agree all to follow The Ten Commandment of Moses?

    I hear ya! No body is perfect, so what if we invite Jesus again on Good Friday and ask Him if He’ll stay for Good on Easter?

    I hear ya! Did any body check with The Easter Bunny on that? :(

    God Bless Peace

  • Mylea

    poor things I am 15 years old and I myself have tried to commit suicide along with cutting, almost became anorexic and was touched inappropriately by a priest and I am struggling with my faith and hope since I am about to do confirmation I hope that will help me

  • Mel

    Mylea – at 15 that was my story, but it was a family member not a priest. At 42, I want you to know there is Hope because Jesus shed His blood for you and He is “enthralled with your beauty”. The day I read that in the Psalms, I truly began to heal. Let love heal you.

    As the mother of an autistic kid, I boil over when I read things like that about developmentally disabled children. I have found them to be God’s most honest expression of love and truth.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    The death of children affects me that way too, and doubly for suicides. It seems so meaningless and those poor young lives were snuffed out. I don’t know if we can stop bullying, but we have to do a better job toughening up our kids so that stuff rolls off their backs. The problem is at both ends.

  • http://www.sthubertsrosary.com shana

    One of my daughters has moderate Asperger’s, to the point that her IQ is very high except for a particular test in verbal expression, where she is considered mentally retarded by the particular test score. She jokes that she is a cross between Einstein and Patrick Starfish.

    AFter the battery of tests, the psychologist gave her a long interview, asking her many questions. She had expressed her disdain for liberal politics in general, and he asked her (with a little condescension) why she would tend to conservatism rather than liberalism. She said that she really loathed liberals because they talk about peace and tolerance but if most of them could find a legal way to kill people like her and her mentally retarded, autistic brother, they would do it, in the womb or out, just like they kill the unborn with Down syndrome and other handicapped people like Terri Schaivo. She didn’t feel safe with people like that.

    He sat rather still for a moment, and then he changed the subject. Must have hit a nerve.

  • TerryC

    If you use Firefox I would recommend Flashblock. It turns off all Flash and replaces them with a window that allows you to view the flash video if you wish by clicking the button, else you can just ignore it.
    An absolute must when visiting many sites, like ABC.

  • Montjoie

    We should probably have a big, intrusive and expensive federal program to prevent bullying.

  • Greta

    The left has lost all sense of morals which is not surprising. The German people lost their way and morals disappeared with millions killed in the holocaust. Now, the liberals in this country have been supporting abortion since 1973 and about three times as many innocent people have died at the lefts altar of abortion. Why would anyone be surprised to see them go after a handicapped child.

    Of course this same Democratic Party was also the party of slavery, torture, lynching, and much more for over 150 years so they lost their way morally long ago. The Democratic Party should have been banned after the civil war like the evil parties were banned in Germany and Japan after WWII. Even the sainted FDR was guilty of support when he first indicated he would support a anti lynching law before the election and then refused to do so watching it go down to defeat. That action doomed the blacks to continued beatings, torture, and lynching for another 30 years. Why did FDR do this? Because he did not want to upset the base of his party in the South.

  • BBC

    When I was in school, there was certainly bullying, but it was never allowed to continue to the point of suicide. It was dealt with immediately & directly by parents, teachers or the kids themselves. Perhaps, there was something to the old discipline and respect system.

  • Jim Hicks

    Okay, I’m old. I turn 60 this year. But I remember bullying as a part of life when I went to school. For a guy, you talked with your dad, built up your muscles and dealt with it.

    I cannot relate to girls who become so upset they take their life. Is it the fault of parents who have sheltered kids too much, worried about their “self-esteem” and taught them that life will always be rosy? Are we neglecting to notice that girls tend to be very brutle with other girls these days? In certain female oriented professions, such as nursing, the brutality continues after high school and into college and their professional life. My wife was a nurse, and the stories I’ve heard are terrible.

    I do not remember the girl brutality issue issue being so bad in the 60′s. I would like to see comments from women my age. If this is a new and growing trend, it is an issue society in general and the church in particular must address.

  • Gerry

    There’s no commercial for those of us using AdBlockPlus

  • Doc

    Thomas Sowell wrote a very timely piece the other day on the phone bleats about bullying from the teachers and the government. They intend to do nothing beyond their pious pronouncements, which are about as effective as telling Qaddafi that his murdering of his citizens is “unacceptable” and that he “must go”. It is the trial lawyers and the activist judges who have permitted anarchy in the schools by making discipline ineffective, if not illegal. This whole culture is summed up in Zell Miller’s book, A Deficit of Decency. Just one more reason to homeschool. And the critics say that homeschoolers are antisocial. What a crock.

    I agree with Greta that the acceptance of abortion can do nothing but diminish the very concept of valuing human life.

    And what exactly was the point of Victor’s snarky comment?

  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    Yes bullying has existed since children of the same age were put into a room together.

    The problem with today’s bullies is there is no respite for the bullied – it’s a 24/7 ordeal. Between texting, Facebook and other cyber-options there is no escape.

    I was horribly bullied in school back in the 1970s into the early 80s. I was teased, assaulted and 2 boys tried to rape me in the hallway while the rest of my classmates watched for teachers coming. Did I contemplate suicide? You bet – the torment is horrifying; and the bullied frequently don’t tell anyone how bad it really is for fear of disappointing their parents or, worse, calling attention to themselves thru complaining about the bullying. The only reason my parents learned about the attempted rape was because my clothing was torn and a radio, that belonged to my mother, was broken. Hard to explain all that away as clumsiness. The school did act on the complaint my parents forced me to make; in the absence of formal policies for these kinds of things the boys were suspended and required to write letters of apology to me and to my parents.

    Bullying is a vicious cycle that you can’t crawl out of on your own yet you don’t really know who to turn to for help – or even acknowledge that you need help at all. And in today’s fast-food society of 24/7 access – it is magnified.

  • http://friarsfires.blogspot.com Brett

    Neil Postman’s work noted the problem of broadcast news being unable to allow viewers the time to process and react to what they were seeing and hearing before shifting to the next story, which may or may not have the same kind of emotional impact, or before the TelePrompTer readers pitched to someone else with some ad-libbed banter.

    It kind of goes double for stupid commercials.

  • Mutnodjmet

    Anchoress: I hesitate to share this with you, but it ties into your post today: Teen Beaten, Shot, Burned In Sleeping Bag — Killed in Teen Love Triangle.

    My son is approaching his tweens, and I am deeply worried about what he will experience in Middle School. I am grateful that our parish has a great program for teens, however the level of bullying seems to be even more horrendous than it was when I was a teen. God, please help the young people.

  • sj

    Greta, the anti-lynching bill that FDR refused to support was the Costigan-Wagner Bill; Costigan and Wagner were both left wing Democrats so your attempt to label the entire party is a little off base.

  • Jen

    I saw this terrible story this morning and I, too, was heartbroken for these girls. Then very angry toward the culture that is feeding this out-of-control vanity and viciousness that young girls today seem to have adopted as their M.O. Frankly, the kids at that school don’t need a grief counselor this week — they need to be smacked upside the head. They don’t need coddling — they need to be confronted with their shallowness, materialism, and self-centeredness and given the opportunity to be ashamed of themselves.

    May God grant mercy and peace to those two girls who took their lives.

  • Old Fan

    The nasty nature of these times is truly regretful.

    The study of history may suggest society is actually improving, but it is sad to see this sad nonsense continues.

    Humanity is human, and we see many destructive fools encouraged for some mindless rationale.

    Remember how they treated GW Bush and his Family?

    Democratic Partisans grew with insecurity after the Carter Malaise and the Clinton Malfeasance. Some will definitely need professional help, after encountering the insane Pelosi offering, and the utter failure of ‘smart power’.

    But we know many on the other side, actually treated GW Bush and others with the same ugly lack of decency. Even Mrs. Palin, who is so horribly treated, turned and demeaned the House Republicans.

    It is rare when we find a fine Ronald Reagan, a decent GW Bush, an enlightened Condi Rice, etc., who are able to be professional, kind, above the nasty embrace while advocating beliefs.

    Paul Ryan shows some of the sincere class, we need more of these fine human beings. It is hard, but we must encourage the best for all.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Jen, yes—the kids who were behind this need a smack upside the head, not more coddling and soft-soaping.

    And, if anyone faces a problem like the one described in #13, an actual criminal assault—do not go through the school. Call the police—and your shark lawyer!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Old Fan, I’m not really sure how George W. Bush, Paul Ryan or politicians in general come into a story about bullying, and attacks on kids. . . but, okay.

    Thing is, Politicians are 1. Adults, and. . . 2. Must be prepared to take the heat of poltics, and their opponents’ slanders. Kids, without the help of friendly adults, interested in their safety, have no real defense against the unchecked viciousness of other kids out to get them. And I’d like to see the children of politicians, any politician, Democrat or Republican, left completely alone!

    What happened to these poor girls, and the hit piece of Trig Palin, are merely a symptom; our society is failing our kids.

  • Andy

    Old Fan
    Bringing adults who elect to be in the public eye to a story about children being bullied and attacked makes no sense – I agree with Rhinestone Suderman – this is a story about society, all facets of it failing kids. Maybe if we focused on the needs of our children then the attacks on adults by adults who act like bullied children would not happen.

  • http://marycatelli.livejournal.com/ Mary

    The displaying of ads is probably completely automated, so no human actually decided to do it.

  • Greta

    sj, yes, the bill was presented by the two democrats. Do you have any idea of the total numbers of democrats in both houses at this time under FDR? In the senate there wer 76 democrats to 16 republicans. In the house there were 344 democrats to 88 republicans. FDR had won the election by 46 states to two for the republicans. FDR had promised to support the bill to stop lynching. He refused to do so after the election and even though there were enough votes to override a filibuster. FDR had other agenda to pass and did not want to upset those such as Jimmy Byrnes who FDR soon appointed to the supreme court. Byrnes was a white supremacist senator from South Carolina. He soon found he was bored on the court and resigned and FDR brought him into the White House as a trusted advisor, kind of like czar of the day. He considered putting him on the ballot for his last presidential campaign because he thought he was best qualified to be president but gave up on that because of his strong racist background and the fact the unions hated him. Truman got the nod with the side agreement that Jimmy would get powerful position in Truman administration and he did as Secretary of State. You see it was the democratic party that allowed hundreds more blacks to be lynched rather than offend others in their party. The anti lynching law had a poll rating of over 70% pro in the country and even had 60% in the south. However, many of the democrats were also KKK members as well as this was the method used to control power and votes for their party dominance in the south.

    The democrats have ths support of black votes because they have paid for it with programs that were supposed to help them such as welfare. Instead, the black family has been destroyed at the hands of the same party that kept them as slaves and for 100 years after the war used the KKK and terror to keep them from rights. People need to learn history.

  • Brenda

    Three years ago, when my son was 15, I was called into the office at school in this small town we call home. Across from the Principal was the Chief of Police. According to their story, my son had threatened to come into school and shoot 3 people who were on a list. He was summarily suspended that day and he would not be able to return without a psychological assessment. This was 14 days before the end of school.

    To make this even worse, the principal assembled the entire 9th grade class, told them that the ‘threat had been taken care of.’ He lied, there was no threat. He also told the students that if they saw my Son in town to immediately call the police. So you see, the principal was complicit in this act of bullying. He branded my son a homicidal maniac.

    There was no list; not written nor mental. I’ve had 5 people ask the same question, twice without my presence. There is no gun in this house that could be concealed and taken to school. The reason these kids made up this story? My son wore an Army jacket to school. The kids saw the backwards flag on the jacket and started calling my son a Nazi. Then they started telling him they were going to kill him.

    So my son spends 3 months in counseling he didn’t really need until the principal ‘dealt’ with this mess. Had this principal contacted me from day 1, the outcome would have probably been better for my son, but no. The principal decided to see if my son could handle this on his own.

    I still blame the principal for this and I have yet to forgive him for what he’s put my son and this family through. Every Sunday I have to sit in Mass with that man knowing what damage he’s done to this family.

    We transferred our son to another school district 15 miles away. Every day for the last 3 years we have to get up early to get him to school. It’s one of the reasons I’ve not worked outside the home for the last few years.

    Moral: Don’t trust the teachers, nor the administrators to help you. They won’t. In fact, they will make it worse. Trust yourself; trust in God but don’t trust fellow man.

  • sj

    This isn’t really the topic or day for this discussion but I think U.S. history illustrates that neither one of the two parties can achieve an overwhelming majority without yoking significantly disparate elements together and the instability that that yoking creates leads parties to fly apart after a few decades. Between 1948 and 1980, that happened to the Democratic party.

  • Lisa

    For parents with children in public high schools who are having problems please look into the alternate options that your state legally allows. In my state students can take courses at community colleges, enabling the student to accumulate both high school and college credits (and graduate earlier). Also consider what used to be called the VoTech schools. In the past these schools were stigmatized, but today many of the VoTech schools are way ahead of their college prep counterparts, especially in the engineering and computer courses. Besides, some of the best jobs are in the trades. Sometimes just taking a child away from the stifling high school environment is enough to make a world of change.

    It may not be financially possible for all families, but I encourage parents with school aged children to seriously consider home school or private/parochial school for their children. It is the only way the k-12 government monopoly will be broken. Charter schools will help because they weaken the Union chokehold, but Charters are public schools too.

    It is the parents duty and right to educate their children, we need to take back that authority.

  • Greta

    sj, the topic is bullying by one person or group on another for an extended period of time which causes great harm. My point is that if you want to see what may be the greatest form of evil by one group on another in the history of mankind, you would be hard pressed to find one more evil than that of the Democatic Party on the African American race.

    Yes, the party by 1948 was starting to change, but not by clear choice. The polls were clear and outright racist were wearing thin, even in many southern states where the party still had strong control. In fact, the party had made changes before 1948 with FDR to a big government liberal socialist policy which on the surface looked good to those in need and many blacks responded, especially those in northern cities. Despite this, FDR and his party with huge majorities in both houses refused to get on board with the anti lynching law and FDR did reward one of the biggest supporters of the block with an appointment to the Supreme Court and later considered him for VP on his fourth term. LBJ knew that the party was losing the southern states as the non racist conservatives in the Party did not like the socialist liberal agenda and were starting to flee to the Republican Party as did Ronald Reagan and many more. The party has gone further left with each election adopting along the way programs such as abortion and gay marriage. The old racist had no where to go as the party was going liberal and the Republican Party had no use for any racist sentiment nor did America to a very large extent.

    What the Democatic Party did over those 200 years and continue today is fact. If one looks at the black family unit in 1950 compared to today, you see that many have been devasted largely because the democrats brought in federal big government programs. It allowed the poor black mom to live, but not enought to escape poverty for generation after generation while the black dad walked away. It fostered liberal programs in favor of criminals versus victims which allowed the neighborhoods to turn into drug dens and violence. The democatic party sold their soul to the unions such as the teachers unions, 2 of which are in the top 5 donors which forced to to fight any competition in the schools, even through vouchers for the poor which condemned black children in large numbers to a life without education as witnessed in Waiting for Superman.

    So if this is change by democrats for the poor blacks from the 150 prior years of slavery, terror, lynching, and denial of constitutional civil rights, then the change certainly does not give them much hope. And after the first black President, it does not look like anything has changed because he is tied to the unions and tied to the same evil Democratic Party and its long history of being the biggest bully on any block. After this much time, you should surely be able to tell the tree by its fruit.

  • dry valleys

    Black working-class men can’t provide for their wives and children for the exact same reason that white working-class men can’t, which is that neoliberalism (a undeniably right-wing ideology whose main US proponent was Reagan, and which Democrats have only ever mitigated rather than abolish) has destroyed the opportunities for a semi- or unskilled man to keep a household on his wages.

    It is good that career women have more opportunities, and I hope they do even better as barriers continue to be swept away. But the fact is that the woman waiting tables or stacking shelves because her husband doesn’t earn enough at the warehouse is not “liberated”, she is every bit as badly off as her mother.

    Until we address the fact that people NEED to have two-incomes or face destitution, nothing will change. The fact is that welfare dependency, single parenthood, lack of fatherly responsibility and increased crime all follow in the wake of neoliberalism increasing inequalities.

    If I say to you that the solution is to restrict the activities of banks and large corporations and otherwise make use of organised state action (increasing unemployment benefit would be an excellent place to start) then I would be accused of being opposed to freedom. This is confusing because I’ve always been an opponent of arresting people without charge, making people carry ID cards and otherwise apologise to the government for exisiting, and the other restrictions on civil liberties imposed on both sides of the Atlantic.

    To confuse corporations’ freedom to do whatever the hell they like to their employees and the environment with actual individual liberty is one of the great deceits which has been perpetrated by the supporters of “libertarianism”.

    They blame people for taking out loans, as if the fault were somehow evenly shared with bankers. Yet the reason they did this was that they could not meet basic needs, let alone the “aspirational” lifestyle which was sold to consumers in an attempt to hide the fact that true prosperity moves further away every year.

    I would support Obama’s reelection but I don’t expect much to change. All I can think about is that people can withdraw their current accounts, savings and mortgages from the banks which needed bailouts to cooperative and mutual banks and building societies which didn’t and never will. I still don’t think it is an alternative to the Evil State. (Just like David Camoron is realising that charities are neither willing nor able to take on the government’s functions).

  • dry valleys

    I value as much as anyone else the society based around stable nuclear families and strong local communities, and I think these needn’t be as repressive as they sometimes were in the past because it is easier to be, for example, a gay couple or a single person.

    Yet neoliberalism not only undermines these values far more than social tolerance ever did, it also causes the social tension that makes a repressive state necessary. The central paradox of “libertarianism” is that letting businesses do whatever they like will make individual liberty impossible because it will lead to rising social tension which can only be kept down by repression.

    That is why the USA has such a huge prison population, the highest in the world by sare of population and Britain also has a very high rate compared to European countries, because it is more neoliberal and less social democratic.

    Think it’s time to stop now :)

  • Greta

    The bully government of the left continues its attack on America as seen with the huge increases in energy costs as candidate Obama promised. I am sure he believes that Americans use to much energy relative to our population. He also is beholding to those who have bought into the global climate change and who center their blame on the USA and as such, must be forced to bow down in shame. Since Obama has been in office: we have seen huge increase in ever more repressive EPA regulations which they could not get passed in congress; we have seen attacks on long time friends who have not only helped us with peace in the Middle East like Mubarack and Eygpt and this has sent strong signals to others in the region that they cannot count on the USA. The result is a once strong friend in Saudi Arabia and other smaller states that help us with oil, that they cannot count on the USA and to the people in their country and the radical Islamist that time is ripe for unrest. Saudi recently increased their ties to Russia and China and sent a strong message that this oil price problem is not one where they will pump more, but in fact are going to pump less. We are in this crisis because for 40 years, the eco freaks have held the Democrats to block every drilling possible leaving us totally vulnerable. Each time they said drilling will not help because it would take 10 years to get oil to flow and that does not help today. One reason it takes so long is their envionmental buddies bully through use of courts every tactic possible to drive up costs to explore and drill in the USA. What once took less than a year now takes almost 5 years. Meanwhile, green technologies we do not know will ever work unless energy prices on everything else triples are their answer with none in sight that can equal our past energy resource prices.

    We now have energy we can obtain oil with new technologies where U.S. oil-shale alone could give us three times as much crude oil as the whole of Saudi Arabia.

    It might not be as cheap as gas used to be, but the simple fact we bring it to market will drive down the cost of oil everywhere. It is far closer and real than any green technology and we are seeing nothing in the Obama administration to pursue it..Wonder why…Because they are bullies who want to force the American people to do what they want us to do and could care less about the poor and middle class getting killed on rising prices on gas and everything else that uses transportation or oil to produce and deliver. First it was ObamaCare taking away our freedom and driving up the cost of healthcare while it adds death panels (yes they are in the bill and real) IPAB. Remember that acronym. It stand for The Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB is the real death panel that the democrats denied, the true seat of rationing, and the royal road to health-care socialism. Well now they want to force us travel in America as they decide we should travel and drive what they say and use what energy they decide in the amounts they allow. Next time you fill your tank with a bank loan, remember it is ObamaGas you are paying for because he planned to give it to you and has delivered the first installment, it will only get worse.