Internet fame can be bittersweet. Just ask Rebecca Black, the “artist” (and trust me I use that term very loosely) behind the “hit” song (also used loosely) Friday.
Friday, the product of a $2000 investment by Rebecca’s parents, was designed to give the slightly awkward looking 8th grader her taste of 15 minutes in the spotlight. However, her rise to YouTube stardom is not the result of the positive reception we are used to seeing. As one comment points out – “we don’t hate you because you’re famous, you’re famous because we hate you.” This statement is, for the most part true. Black’s song has only acquired the number of views, and sales on iTunes, because it has been made fun of all over the place. One great example, a parody made by Conan O’Brien, entitled “Thursday,” can be seen here:
Rebecca is now complaining of cyberbullying. That’s right. She is on T.V. opposing the same exact conduct, i.e. making fun of this terrible-ass song, that got her on television in the first place. Usually, I could care less about one girl’s problem with an online video. However, I decided to comment on this when I saw others posting, in fact calling for, some legal remedy to the problem. Some supporters were so outraged that they even suggested that the posters of mean comments (and thousands of dislikes on YouTube) should be prosecuted, in court court, for cyberbullying.
Rebecca. This is America. Toughen up. We used to make steel in this country.
Cyberbullying has received a lot of press in recent years. We have almost all heard the story about the psycho mother who used myspace to harass a teenage girl so much that she killed herself. While I certainly agree that in some cases things need to be dealt with differently, the psycho-mother is just one such example. I disagree generally with imposing any such legal remedy for bullying, cyberbullying and the like.
The problem, and what bothers me, is the type of society that we would create if we expected/and allowed the law to micromanage every aspect of our lives. If cyberbullying is a problem, what is the next step? Will we start handing out citations on the playground asking students to appear in town court? While I concede the the overall effects are not good, certain things are best left outside the law. I think bullying, in most contexts is one of them. The expectation that there is a legal remedy for everything is just more evidence of the American compulsion to utter those three small words – “I’ll sue you” – for almost everything unpleasant that happens. Someone needs to spread the word that there are times in life where things suck and all you can do is move on.
The legal argument against a remedy in Rebecca’s case is rather simple. The law has long recognized a very simple principal that if you want something kept secret, the only way to do so is to keep it to your self. (See Smith, Miller, and Hoffa for those of you so legally inclined.) If you don’t want to be made fun of for something, don’t post it to the internet. It is naive to expect, in the interconnected world of Web 2.0+, every response to something will be positive. It is the freedom to create, share, and express things that both suck and don’t suck that makes the internet such a dynamic and amazing resource. Discouraging that potential to protect someone from the honest criticism of their crappy song is simply going to far.
Other relevant links behind this story are bellow: