Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Perplexing Punishment Poll

For the past w
eek the Newport-Mesa has been abuzz with comments about the arrest of two Newport Harbor Freshman girls for beating a younger student from Ensign Middle School - an event that was video recorded by another onlooker and posted on YouTube and advertised on MySpace. Several articles were published in all the local newspapers and coverage provided by local television stations. You can refresh your memory on those articles HERE, HERE and HERE.


Opinions of residents as represented by postings on the Daily Pilot blog were scathing - criticizing not only the girls, but their parents, too. Speculation about the ethnicity of the girls added to the intensity of the situation. Some folks assumed they were Latinas and posted vicious comments accordingly. Others assumed, because of the school and the location - Pinkley Park in Costa Mesa - that the perpetrators were "white rich kids". One pro-Aryan blog operator took umbrage, HERE at that assertion and attempted to deflect that criticism back on the brown-skinned residents of our community. In his mind, apparently, it was a foregone conclusion that only Latinos would do such a thing.

One distressing by-product of this whole issue is a little poll the Daily Pi
lot has been running for a few days. The question they asked was, "Should the two Newport Harbor High girls who allegedly beat another girl - a beating aired on YouTube and a MySpace account - be prosecuted as adults?" I've been taking a peek at the results a few times a day and, as of the very wee hours of the morning Wednesday as I type these words, the results so far are shown below. These percentages have remained fairly constant for the past couple days, bouncing between 68% and 70% - Yes. By the time you read this and visit the page, HERE, the numbers will have changed but I doubt the percentages will shift much.


Now, I admit to participating in this survey early-on - I read it and, in a knee-jerk reaction, hit that "Yes" button without giving it too much thought. I wouldn't be too surprised if many of the other 244 voters who voted "Yes" reacted similarly. This is a very emotional issue and was even more so in the beginning when the news media reported - inaccurately - that the victim was developmentally disabled. That report, provided by the Newport Beach Police, was false, but spread like wildfire throughout our communities before it was corrected.


With the value of a little hindsight and the passage of several days, I find myself wanting to recant my vote - not possible, since the Pilot permits only one vote per computer. As I think about it today I'm trying to imagine a circumstance that would justify prosecuting these girls as adults. No, this was not just a case of teenage taunting - the girls apparently beat the stuffing out of their victim. Yes, the victim will likely suffer the emotional scars of this attack for a long time - perhaps forever. Yes, the perpetrators should be punished severely for their act. The girl who photographed and posted it on YouTube and the other who just stood and watched should also be punished for being willing accomplices. I just don't think this crime - while vicious and thoughtless - reaches the standard of a crime to be punished as an adult.


I can hear some of you now, yelling at me for taking such a mild stance on this issue. You may be right. I suspect that, if I were a parent of the victim, I'd be looking for the harshest penalty available for the perpetrators. I just keep coming back to the fact that these were 14 year old girls, many of whom can be scatter-brained, loud, rude, thoughtless, self-centered, insecure, emotional basket cases. I hope the investigation reveals that this was just a spontaneous, thoughtless act and not some gang initiation (as has been speculated by some) or part of a pattern of behavior by these two girls.


I hope this issue will be resolved soon, and that the community will be fully apprised of the resolution. These girls, as minors, have special rights that must be respected. The community, however, has rights, too. We should expect to be told of the resolution so we can put this terrible event behind us.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Daily Pilot Blog Registration Implemented

After a couple years of hosting what has some times turned out to be a free-for-all on their blog, the management of the Daily Pilot has implemented a registration program today for those hoping to post comments on their articles online.


It took me less than one minute to fill out the online registration form, which include
d an "identity" - I used my own name, as I have done in the past - a password and personal information. That information - name, address, email address and telephone number - is the same information a person would have to provide if submitting a commentary or letter to the editor to the print edition. None of that personal information will be visible to online readers.

I posted a comment using the new system and it seemed to work just as it had be
fore except that my "identity" was pre-printed on the form. The process of submitting multi-part comments works the same as before, as well. I posted a 2-part comment, just to test it. I assume it will work if there are more segments, too.


I'm going to be very, very interested - and I'm sure the editors are too - to see h
ow this impacts the volume of comments. I'm also going to be interested to see if it affects the civility of comments posted. I suspect nothing will change with those of us who use our own names and probably not for those who consistently use a single fictitious "identity". What I suspect will happen is that those few posters who have used multiple names to puff up their side of a debate will slink back into the shadows now that their technique, if you can call it that, will be exposed. We'll know pretty darn soon.

If this registration works as apparently intended the meaningful debate of important issues should continue in the online version of the Daily Pilot. Folks can retain their anonymity - to the reading public - and still post their views. There's one guy in town for whom this is going to put a real crimp in his game plan. He's been arguably the most prolific poster on the Daily Pilot blog, using upwards of 70 or so fictitious identities along the way. He'
ll either have to adopt one identity or simply quit posting. Now, wouldn't that be a shame?


So, this is "clean slate" time. I'm looking forward to spirited discussions on the Daily Pilot blog and invite each of you to participate as your passion moves you. The Daily Pilot blog is a tremendous community asset and should be a great tool to enhance the debate of important issues in our area. This change should help it fulfill that promise.

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