27 February 2007

Alas, a lover's scourn is revealed as a hoax

For all the things that my dear home base is known for, one of them is its many academic-leading and sports-dominating universities. For such a limited geographical area, we feature the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Duke University (Durham), North Carolina State University (Raleigh), the fine womens' school at Meredith College (Raleigh), and the perennial rivals and traditionally African-American universities of Shaw University (Raleigh) and North Carolina Central University (Durham). And that's just the major colleges and universities within a 45 minute drive of one another...there's even more in the outlying regions and countless other community and/or technical colleges. No matter if it's football (NCSU, NCCU and Shaw most years), basketball (pretty much everybody, the Duke womens' basketball team finished their season unbeaten this weekend and ranked No. 1 nationally, for instance), soccer (UNC), baseball (NCSU), lacrosse (Duke, before and after the scandalized days) and of course academics (which also includes everyone, although Duke's near-Ivy League status is considered the standard to compare to)...the colleges and universities here are known for having an intelligent, and very competitive, student body. And damn creative to boot.

Well apparently, 'media savvy' should be added to that long list of trademarks...although I'm not sure this is a particularly strong asset as it's been introduced here recently. Not being a Facebook regular...I'm barely a contributor to the whole MySpace scene, and that's pretty much only to keep in contact with other music fans, if that gives you any idea...I had no idea that UNC's infamous "Pit" (a brick-heavy meeting point by the Student Union and Undergraduate Library, best known previously from last year's vengeful attempted murder by a local pizza delivery man with a SUV) was the place to be this past Valentine's Day. Two local students...she from NCSU and he from UNC...had been dating (a totally common occurrence, although sports watching can be strained as a result) for a few months. She, it was alleged, was getting some on the side, though. He, it was alleged, had found out and planned a confrontation. So the notice went out in some form on Facebook...Valentine's Day, The Pit, be there or be square, yada yada yada. Eventually, like some call-out to an afternoon fight in grade school, the day rolled around and quite the group of spectators appeared. A YouTube video was made, of course...he was filmed making his allegations, she was filmed responding in such a verbal diatribe of profanity a sailor would be proud. Video of the incident made the rounds at YouTube, as thousands upon thousands watched "The Breakup". You can watch one of the videos here (yes, there is more than one out there for viewing)...this one's complete with The Loreleis campus group singing The Dixie Chicks' "I'm Not Ready to Play Nice":

The local papers, The Daily Tar Heel (the UNC student-run newspaper) and The Chapel Hill News, (the local Chapel Hill and surrounding areas local community newspaper) have covered the publicity melee in fact. Rumours started to swirl from the onset that perhaps not everything on tape was truly as it seemed in real life. The DTH has had an interesting Letters to the Editor dialogue going on, if nothing else, ever since and today it finally weighs in with a limited Opinion piece. Somehow (and don't ask me how exactly) this little 'incident' became news...across several mainstream outlets.

If only the whole affair had been true. Painfully sad, perhaps, but true.

Today the good folks over at MSNBC (good Lord, MSNBC is even reporting on this??) confirm that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. Ryan Burke, 'the vengeful male who confronted his girlfriend on her cheating', if you will, confirmed it. From that same MSNBC article:
Ryan Burke confessed Monday that the confrontation, which became an instant hit on YouTube.com, was all a stunt to show the power of Internet communities and the amount of money that companies make from them. The pair weren’t even dating.

Okkkkkkkkk. Methinks Mr. Burke may have missed the bigger meaning: how it was all a stunt to show how gullible people are to witness, document, and perhaps participate in, their 15 seconds of fame...no matter the reason behind it. Truly, if it was a 'real' relationship, no person in their right mind would break up in such a public manner...because there is no telling what a scorned or angry lover will say or do when cornered so badly, especially when being called derogatory names. A small group of witnesses to protect himself/herself, perhaps...a whole gathering of spectators whom he/she doesn't know, no. Emotions are fickle things to be certain, and are not too easily taken with being manipulated on a regular basis. I'm not sure how many 'believers' of these videos were in existence (I hope not many), but the 'validity' of the stunt is not really in question. What is: the fact that thousands of people felt public humiliation to this degree was entertaining and acceptable.

There are limitless opportunities to stage such painful events from everyday life, and I'm confident that Mr. Burke et al has only encouraged more of the same. The differences between this display and what I may buy as a consumer knowing I'm buying a performance is wide. Regardless of the 'back story' involved, the fact that the 'assaulted' party was a woman is troubling, given that violence against women, disrespect of women, and date rape on campus continues to increase. If the same had been done to a member of any number of other minority groups (esp those based on race or sexual orientation)...hoax or no...I feel hopeful there would have been an outcry; the fact this hasn't been so much with a woman is disappointing. In short, it encourages others to pick up in real life where Mr Burke and his co-conspirators left off, and it encourages these actions against women. While this show may have ended as a hoax, someday the calls for "punch her", and "she's a slut" (or "he's a fag", or "she's stupid", or countless others) won't be ignored in real life. The sad thing is one gets a nauseating feeling that something akin to this hoax will show up as a new show (and be a big ratings winner) on MTV.

Isn't it interesting that the more we 'progress' in our leisure choices, the more we repeat our history of 'need' for revenge, humiliation, and mob thinking? It's a fine, fine line between providing people some entertainment and providing people what they really want to see in its basest forms...and we're all contributing to that. After all, our Roman ancestors enjoyed their games, too.

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