Opinion – Trigger warnings: Suicide/Bullying

By: Chris Burke

While The 1837 Society, being a forum for discussions and opinions, encourages free expression, all negative comments about this story and Amanda Todd will be removed.  My tolerance for such intolerance is nonexistent.- Chris

Amanda Todd, a 16-year old girl who committed suicide on October 10th, has drawn the attention of people across the country, and has reignited the debate around bullying, and how it should be addressed.  For this week’s post, I’m shifting away from my usual political focus to write about a story that has hit close to home though I’m sure some form of politics will spring up.

The death of Amanda Todd is a tragedy, a tragedy that was preventable.  Now before I go into reasons about why her death was preventable, I want to address some suggestions for prevention that are incorrect.  Amanda Todd’s death was the result of persistent bullying and cyber-bullying mixed with depression.  It was not the result of any decision made by Amanda Todd.  I had stated over Facebook that we need to start addressing cyber-bullying, a response I received to this statement was that Amanda Todd should have taken action to avoid the bullies, and sought out help.  Apparently, the fact that she switched schools and moved to a new town (which wasn’t enough to stop her online tormentors from tracing her) was lost on the person suggesting she should have taken action.  Saying that Amanda Todd should’ve taken action to avoid the bullying is victim blaming.  It switches the blame from the tormentors to the tormented.

Her death was preventable.  All the warning signs were there: depression, self-harm, feelings of isolation, and loss.  I do not know if she was receiving any therapeutic treatment, but I will say that if you notice a friend exhibiting these signs then a push for therapy is warranted.  A stronger stance against bullying and cyber-bullying should have been taken, there needs to be real consequences for such behaviour.  However, even this seemingly uncontroversial stance has been met with resistance.  Calls to make cyber-bullying a crime have been responded to with cries about the need to defend free speech, and complaints of censorship.  Whenever a case like this comes up, when someone is clearly acting in a despicable manner, the heroes of free speech rise up to defend that side, while acting like criticism of hate speech is not an exercise of free speech.

A recent incident on the popular social media site Reddit illustrates this claim further. One member was ousted for being the source of much misogynistic (some of which could be considered child porn) and racist content.   The defenders of “free speech” quickly came out of the woodwork to denounce this member’s critics, defend his free speech rights, and attempt to censor those who criticized him, hypocrisy abounds!  I’ll wrap up my thoughts on free speech by referring readers to Jason Thibeault, who gets it right when he says that those running to the defense of free speech, in the case of cyber-bullying against Amanda Todd, don’t believe in free speech.  They believe in freedom from criticism of speech.  They want to believe, and act, as if words have no consequences, as if you can say anything you want and get away with it.  We have seen the damage this attitude can have.  It can kill.  It’s time for there to be consequences for actions if we want to put a stop to tragedies like this.

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