Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death of the new famous

©Associated Press
It had to happen sooner or later. The Internet has been such a birthing chamber for new celebrities that its stars have now become stalked and hunted down like trophies for jealous web surfers. The term for these cyber stalkers who - like Mark David Chapman - profess both a love for famous persons and a desire to kill them, is haters. The colloquialism was first used within the past half-decade to describe Internet users who, because of jealousy or envy, post abusive or profane comments. Psychologically, they are compelled to find chinks in the armor of rising stars in order to make themselves appear better. Google's You Tube is very much aware of the potential for stalking, but the very nature of Internet users to post personal information or their video images creates the environment for fame and with it attendant scrutiny by the public. In the case of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent," the Internet established her as an overnight star. This led to an international singing career, but created a psychological episode in which she broke down, unable to deal with the sudden pressures of celebrity. Judson Laipply 's "Evolution of Dance" established him as an Internet sensation with now over five million hits of interested viewers. Like some Ponzi scheme gone awry, Internet surfers sent that video to five or ten or their friends and they to five or ten more and so on until the subject of the video entered the arena of celebrity and popular sub-culture. Unfortunately, while millions of hits on a video mean the potential for great success, there is also a potential danger of cyber stalking and assassination. There is a seamy sub-culture to the Internet of which few people are fully exposed and this has come to light with the Sunday slaying of New Orleans bounce rapper and comedian Messy Mya (real name Anthony Barre). The Internet had been the launching pad for his career and, sadly enough, after being fatally shot, curious bystanders could not contain themselves, snapping pictures of his body and posting them on Twitter via the third party Twitpic application. Several outraged protestors alerted Twitter, which has since removed the offensive photos. But the real story here is not that unfeeling idiots with camera phones could snap away and post these pictures. The real tragedy here is that Messy Mya was shot in the first place after leaving his girlfriend's shower for what would have been the upcoming birth of his first child. He was shot for no apparent reason other than his recently acquired fame. "Gangsta" rappers like Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.) are two of the most well-known victims of violence aimed at hip hop stars, but they were high-selling artists with a marked degree of visibility. Hardly anyone outside of You Tube or other places on the Internet where videos might be posted knew Barre as a "star." Another rapidly rising Internet star, Asia McGowan from Oakland, was similarly killed last year by a fan with whom she unwittingly went out on a date. The only motivation for her killing was the star status she had found on her video blogs on the Internet. Ironically, she posted a video derailing her haters and simply advised them to ignore their intended victims. In the end, though, these tragedies serve as a cautionary tale. Internet wannabe stars should not post videos or pursue a high visibility career on the Internet without considering that by doing so, they are putting themselves in harm's way. Cyber bullying which results in suicides by harassed teens has grabbed a number of headlines recently. While bullying is an identified major problem, it would seem that stalking victims through the Internet and planning their demise ramps up this inappropriate behavior another notch. It is yet another aspect of how out of sorts some sectors of our society have become. Simply put, kill a star and you gain his fame. There can be no redemption for souls who go down this tortuous path. In the meantime there is yet another family in mourning wondering why this horrible tragedy had to occur and why they will never again see their 22-year-old relative alive. Adding to the suffering for the family is that Barre's mother was herself a victim of foul play, killed in a hail of gunfire by a boyfriend nine years ago. It was in fact Barre and his sister who called police to the scene. My sympathies go out to the family. If it wasn't so sad, it would make great fodder for the Internet.

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