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June 11, 2007 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-06-11

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Monday, June 11, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

EMMARIE HUETTEMAN
Blog bullies

GARY GRACA
The Paris privilege

w A s a teenager, I spent count-
less hours justifying my
online journal to my par-
ents. To them, it was beyond com-
prehension
why I'd High school
want to .
waite togirls are the
anything real Internet
vaguely predators.
personal
in a forum
anyone could read, especially with
so many Internet predators. And,
after all, "when I was your age,
I didn't want people to read my
diary."
It's not a diary, I'd argue, or
at least it wasn't to me. It was a
way of communicating with my
friends. I wrote about what hap-
pened at school, who everyone
was dating and other gossip, and
my friends could add their two-
cents on the comments page. I was
just another normal, awkward
teenager leaving a trail of seem-
ingly inconsequential thought
on the Internet. But somehow, it
made me feel connected know-
ing that someone knew my exact
mood at that moment (based on
LiveJournal's canned list of emo-
tions, everything from quixotic to
bitchy) and my side of the latest
gossip.
But after a while, my friends'
responses became less and less
friendly. The gossip became mean-
spirited as people surreptitiously
targeted one another in their
entries. Comment sections became
battlefields for heated debates and
even unprovoked personal attacks.
At least a couple fifteen-year-old
girls cried.
While our society assumes
that only pre-teens (and sketchy
adults masquerading as teenagers
on the Internet) use websites like
LiveJournal, such sites have unar-
guably revolutionized commu-
nication for our generation, and
not necessarily for the best. With
access to the Internet, anyone can
author a blog - whether that per-
son has something worth saying or
not. But by giving adolescents the
opportunity to voice their opin-
ions in public - an opportunity
once reserved for the supposedly
more responsible members of the
media - the Internet has allowed
them to elevate high school drama
to a tabloid-like level of sophisti-
cation.
Worse still, there's a degree

of suspended reality involved in
Internet communication. With-
out face-to-face interaction, we
can't actually experience the con-
sequences of our words, making it
easy to hurt others without a sec-
ond thought. On LiveJournal, we
can gossip about our friends just as
much as we gossip about our foes,
publicly humiliating them without
having to actually say it, let alone
to their faces. Our generation has
given "talking behind her back" a
whole new meaning.
Unfortunately, it seems these
incidents could grow with us,
evolving from bouts of teenage
drama to cases of adult immatu-
rity. Forget about the kids who
can't write academic papers with-
out a ll or two; what about the
ones who keep their blogs into
adulthood, thinking it's okay to
write frankly about how much
they hate their bosses in order to
unwind after a long day?
I guess I can't blame my par-
ents for wondering. Why do we
want to share personal details
with an unseen audience, poised
for judgment? We all have differ-
ent motives. Maybe we're curi-
ous, participating to find out what
other people are writing about
themselves. Maybe we're bored,
treating Internet communica-
tion like the next fad after Beanie
Babies. Maybe we're lonely, writ-
ing in the hopes that someone will
read and understand us a little bet-
ter. And yeah, maybe we're a little
naive, too trusting that society will
do the proverbial "right thing" and
not harm us with the information
we willingly supply. But too often,
it does harm us - not necessarily
in the form of the Internet preda-
tor that every parent so fervently
fears, but in the form of the eighth-
grade bully who grows into the
college bully.
It would be easy to separate
myself from that adolescent, armed
with naivety and ablog, but it would
be a lie. I gave up my LiveJournal in
last August, finally convinced that
I could not win the battle against
hurtful, guiltless semantics by try-
ing to be reasonable. Maybe the
most mature decision our genera-
tion can make is just to leave some
things unsaid.
Emmarie Huetteman is the
summer associate editorial
page editor. She coo he reached
at huetteme tiamichedu.

Normally I don't mind when
people are infatuated with
celebrity gossip stories.
Granted, I would rather have peo-
ple talking
about more Hilton's deal
important s
issues like should be
the war in given to more
Iraq, but it's ill inmates.
endearing to
know that
celebrities are real people with
problems too. And when those
problems are like Anna Nicole
Smith's untimely death and the
ensuing paternity battle or Britney
Spears's impromptu haircut, they
are interesting and, God forbid,
maybe even amusing.
But Paris Hilton and her adven-
tures at the Los Angeles County
Jail are different. Hilton's story
provided a media opportunity
more important than the ordinary
celebrity shenanigans that grace
the headlines everyday. For once,
millions of Americans were on the
brinkofbeingexposed to theunfair
and brutal realities of country's
prison systems, but what followed
was coverage that devolved into a
melodrama about celebrity privi-
lege and public outrage. Instead
of using Hilton's trivial story as a
platform to educate an interested
audience, the media treated it as a
spectacle.
Although the frenzy that fol-
lowed Hilton's release from jail
on Thursday would make anyone
think otherwise, maybe - just
maybe - releasing the socialite
who everyone loves to hate from
jail and putting her on a restric-

tive probation was the right thing
to do. At the very least, Hilton
could possibly have valid medical
concerns. The heiress is currently
taking psychotropic medications
and has a history of depression
and anxiety. Additionally, she has
not eaten since returning to jail
and has been moved to the medi-
cal ward out of concern for her
health.
The fact that the public prac-
tically started to gather up its
pitchforks and lanterns for an old-
fashioned mob riot doesn't change
these concerns. And the fact that
other prisoners have more seri-
ous medical concerns and are still
incarcerated doesn't justify keep-
ing her in prison either. If nothing
else, Hilton's release only proves
that more prisoners should be
receiving similar medical releases.
The reality is that prisons are not
hospitals or asylums.
Although it's easy to forget,
roughly one in every 32 Ameri-
cans is either in prison, on parole
or on probation, according to U.S.
Bureau of Justice statistics cal-
culated in 2005. Of those people
who are incarcerated, more than
half reported symptoms of men-
tal illness in 2006. According to
a 1999 study, roughly one-sixth
have medical concerns not relat-
ed to colds, injuries or surgeries.
This includes more than 23,000
prisoners with HIV/AIDS. Just
like the situation on the outside,
these medical concerns are only
made worse by the aging of the
population.
And in the same waythatregular
people with cancer, hepatitis, dia-

betes or mental illnesses require
expensive and continuous care, so
do prisoners. But what prisoners
usually receive is something closer
to negligence.
California's corrections system
is a good example of this. In one
2004 incident, a prisoner receiv-
ing dialysis removed his shunt.
While the patient screamed for
help, it was reported that the pris-
on's guards were too busy watch-
ing the Super Bowl to come to his
aid and the patient bled to death.
This incident was one of many that
led to a federal class-action law-
suit that found California's prison
system to be so deplorable that it
violates the minimal benchmarks
of the Eighth Amendment.
But how many of the news sto-
ries about Hilton mentioned these
realities?
I don't mind that Hilton was
released from prison. For once,
the justice system may have been
using other available options to
get prisoners the care they need
and to ease the drain on taxpayers,
who provide these prisoners with
their expensive medical care. It's
just sad that using these options
had to come in such a shady way.
But more importantly, I was
hoping that Hilton's "celebrity
privilege" would be extended to
more of America's ill inmates.
After Hilton was brought back to
jail literally kicking and scream-
ing, there doesn't seem like there
is much hope for that.
Gary Graca-is the summer
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at gmgraca@umich.edu.

CHRIS KOSLOWSKI I

I m planning to write a Global
Wairing bohe thicasiromer.
What should I call i
H owiaboutIcalmudHerei a
my Stupid Book a

o a yow, O on dy gusogoiig
to and realac e that no
aanyr how r iy rmes you call i
e ntcommie y or
iresoorihie pollung way of lie
destroyig our plnet a

How about traalar, or Howgl
Learned to Finall Admra that land
my Gshcl Warengiionsre
lIredihly Moton
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MO E NINE LETTERS
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