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A stone`s throw
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, 02 May 2006 05:57

I had planned to title this article "Collateral damage" to expand upon a reply that I wrote to Anon and Alicia in the comments section of my Scripting Aphrodites article. Upon further investigation however it became clear that the phrase does not really capture my intended point. Perhaps then, it is time to return to basics--chaos theory or the butterfly effect, to be precise. The latter is a fairly recent theory (as science goes) that was proffered by mathematician, Edward Norton Lorenz in 1963. He is most well known for his mathematical proof--the Lorenz Attractor( image). Then again, this theory isnt exactly what I had in mind either. At least, not with regard to the more obscure outcomes of various tragedies--forgotten victims and sweeping generalizations. On the other hand, it does provide a provocative starting point--or might that be ending point? Lets take a look.


In its simplest form the butterfly effect involves physical reciprocity--where two or more physical entities cannot interact without in some way effecting each other. For example, if you were to toss a stone into a still pond, the resulting ripples are dependent upon the size, shape, and depth of the pond, the size, shape, mass, trajectory, and velocity of the stone, and the characteristics of the water into which it falls. If you were to concurrently toss two or more stones into that same still pond, the resulting ripples would move out from the point where each stone made contact with the water, yet change in shape as the ripples collide, one with the other. Now, take this model and apply it such that the pond is the atmosphere and the stones are butterflies. Without physical boundaries the ripples (air currents) move infinitely outward. That is, until they collide with other ripples (air currents) and/or physical entities, which in turn, set into motion yet more ripples (air currents). Some call it weather.

In the social pond, and in the context of criminology, the stones come in the form of tragic tales of lives destroyed. Talking heads compete in a perpetual volley as they attempt to outdo each other with grotesquely sensational headlines during the ensuing feeding frenzy. They don their plastic masks of compassion while revealing gruesome details and trotting out this expert or that--turning the victims into paper-doll cutouts of someones poorly written pulp fiction. Upon hearing of yet another tragedy, the media maelstrom moves on and the talking heads scurry away as quickly as they had arrived--leaving the bewildered victims caught in the nightmare that is now their life. All but forgotten in the cave of time.

As more people begin turning to the blogsphere for their news--victims and spectators alike--the stones tossed in the form of words create unpredictable, often chaotic, ripples, indicating that the social pond is changing once more. When faced with those events that not only challenge our core belief in humanity but also give us a glimpse into the minds of alleged killers--vis-à-vis Steve Huffs blogroll of evil--we find ourselves in somewhat uncharted waters. For the victims are no longer voiceless puppets in interviews designed to increase ratings, only to be tossed aside at days end. Curious onlookers and victims alike, gather to read the unfolding drama, exchanging prayers, hugs, and sorrow. Others engage in innuendo, rumors, half-truths, and sweeping generalizations--their vapid pearls carelessly tossed into the hungry maw that we call cyberspace.

For those on the receiving end--the forgotten victims who are no less surprised and dismayed than the greater community, yet who have the additional burden of having to deal with the profound betrayal meted out by someone they thought they knew, and for some, someone they love--the next big shock is to find themselves placed upon the hot-seat, next to an alleged perpetrator, as strangers trot their online postings to various message boards and blogs, while making unkind, sometimes vitriolic, comments in response to whatever it is they may have written in ages past. Thus leaving a rather unsavory taint in the metaphorical air.

It is easy to lose our manners, to forget, when participating online--where words (stones) can be transmitted (thrown) with the ease of a keystroke. It is quite understandable that many feel a sense of outrage when learning of news such as the murder of Jamie Rose Bolin and the later news of the Richardson family murders in Canada--especially so if any of the victims are children. Even so, recklessly casting allegations and/or engaging in sweeping generalizations does not one person any good--not one man, not one woman, not one child. And to those who enter into anothers "space" whether it be to fling invectives, preach the gospel, and/or demand the individual denounce their relationship to the alleged perpetrator(s), I have but one question. Were you not taught that such behavior is not only intrusive but obscenely gauche and inconsiderate?

Whatever the case, at best, such meddling by uninvited interlopers will be shrugged off as nothing more than a nuisance that goes with the territory. At worst, such irresponsible nastiness could push the forgotten victim(s) over the edge and into suicidal depression. Welcome to a dark side of the internet that has received little to no attention. That is until Steve Huff raised its specter in two of his crime library articles-- Kevin Underwoods former friends react in cyberspace and Friend of Kevin Underwoods [sic] fears he had a list. I must admit, I was heartened to see these articles. Simply because, in true form, Steve once again brought a human face to the forgotten victims. In this case, those who were at one time associated with an alleged perpetrator.

In the end, the blogsphere is vast and ever growing. Yet it is still fairly new. And this means that those who participate in the crime blogging community have a truly golden opportunity to shape the social pond as it relates to individuals who find themselves unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight of public scrutiny. The responsibility is self-evident. Remember the human and avoid as much as is possible tossing stones without considerable aforethought. In this context we would do well to heed the Law of Unintended Consequences proposed by Robert King Merton in his 1936 publication," The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action." For it is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago. And even more so when considering potential outcomes of words written.


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