The World Wide Schoolyard

Earlier this month, the news media was all atwitter over a new wave of violence in our schools. And they have all the evidence they need because the people perpetrating that violence have filmed it and put the video up on such sites as YouTube.

First, it was wanna-be Fight Club participants putting their fights online, and couple of days ago a 13 year-old girl was badly burned when two teenage boys held her down and tried to set her shirt on fire (apparently they’d done this to themselves after being inspired by a Jackass-style extreme stunt video).

The two teenage boys are now charged and in custody and the 13-year-old girl is expected to make a full recovery. That’s good news. But my complaint about the media coverage is the amount of attention the Internet is getting as a possible enabler of these activities. One expert brought before the camera said that keeping things off the Internet is hard, citing the attempts to shut down Napster and stop file sharing.

The fact that the question was even asked suggests that the reporter and others like her are giving some thought to shutting down or cutting off access to sites like YouTube in order to deal with the problem of teenage violence.

But exactly what is the problem, here?

Think back to your own days as a teenager and what do you remember? Students fighting each other for kicks? Like that’s never been done before. Teenagers turning off their brains an acting out stupid pranks? We’ve all been there. Bullying? Sadly, not new.

The only thing different today is that, thanks to the Internet, images of school fights and stupid pranks can now be uploaded and broadcast across the world with a few keystrokes. But revealing incidents that have always taken place does not make give these incidents new and sinister import. Suggestions that we, basically, shut down portions of the Internet, is shooting the messenger.

The Internet has put new tools in the hands of bad people, making things like bullying more challenging to counter, but the Internet has also put new tools into the hands of authorities to deal with these problems. For instance, those idiots that have filmed their Fight Club battles and uploaded their videos onto YouTube have basically handed evidence over to the school principal who could forward the evidence over to police, if need be.

So, I could do without the tinge of hysteria that have accompanied these media reports about the terrible things the Internet has unleashed. This is the world as it has always been. Now that the Internet has made you aware of it, maybe you’ll do something about it.

And that means tackling the problems at the source.

It’s worth noting that the story has faded away quickly, suggesting a media pile-on rather than a genuine interest in a new wave of school violence.

The Kennedy-Dion Alliance?

The rumours that Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion might be forging an alliance is, in my opinion, the best news the Liberals have encountered for some time. Ignatieff scotched his leadership chances earlier this month by flip-flopping on Israel and Lebanon like a fish out of water, and Bob Rae just has too much baggage to carry the Liberals in Ontario.

It remains to be seen how they agree who gets the nod over the other, but Stephane Dion has the experience to be a good leader for the Liberals, and Gerard Kennedy has the youth and intelligence to bolster Liberal fortunes in Ontario and the West, and he makes a good heir apparent. It’s a neat throwback to the sort of French/English balance that the Liberals were able to achieve when they were on their game.

As long as Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff accept defeat gracefully and turn their attention towards rebuilding the party, the Liberals should be a force to be reckoned with, and that’s good for democracy. I stand by my predictions of a third consecutive minority parliament following an election in the spring of 2007.

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