Thursday, August 20, 2009

Star Wars Kid, the Internet and public stupidity

Recently a blog ran an article bewailing the fate of the Star Wars Kid. As I've always hated light sabers and Star Wars, I was intrigued.

"Privacy As We Know It Just Died -- and the Internet Killed It"

This is the famous viral video of a fat kid using a golf ball retriever as a light saber. He slashes around with it in a clunky dorky manner. Somebody videotaped it, obviously with his knowledge. Now it is said that the internet has "destroyed his privacy" and exposed him to worldwide humiliation and ridicule.

Here's what the blog said:

Millions of people know him as the "Star Wars Kid." However, his notoriety is not for a Nobel Prize-winning scientific discovery, a spectacular sports play, or an Academy Award-winning big-screen performance. Rather, his notoriety is for one of the most embarrassing moments in his life which has been viewed by millions over the Internet.

In 2008, the story of the Star Wars Kid was reported in Scientific American Magazine.

In 2002, as a 15-year-old, he was videotaped waving around a golf ball retriever while pretending it was a light saber. Without the help of the expert choreographers who worked on the Star Wars movies, he stumbled around awkwardly in the video. Unfortunately, this video was uploaded secretly to an Internet video site by some of the boy's "friends."

It became an instant hit with millions of fans. All across the Internet, people started mocking him, making fun of him for being pudgy, awkward, and a nerd. Several remixed videos of the Star Wars Kid popped up, adorned with special effects.

People edited the original video to make the golf ball retriever glow like a light saber. They even added Star Wars music to the video and mixed it with other movies. His image appeared in a video game and on television shows such as Family Guy and South Park.

However, his instant fame involved constant ridicule, misfortune, and torment. For a 15-year-old boy, it is one thing to be teased by classmates at school, but quite another to be ridiculed by millions all over the world.

As the Internet has moved from a niche phenomenon to mass adoption in recent years, this same fate has been shared by others on a smaller scale over and over again.

While I'm sorry a young boy was mocked, the lesson in this, for me, is not how horrible the Internet is. It wasn't the Internet that made that boy act stupidly. It wasn't the Internet that videotaped him. It wasn't the Internet that posted the video to YouTube. Why blame the Internet for anything?

The blog post goes on to say that North Carolina privacy law "does not apply to situations involving the use of public records or acts that were lawfully observable by the public without mechanical means, and as to which the offended person has no reasonable expectation of privacy."

Our "expectations of privacy" must change. I think it's good that people have to be aware that what they're doing and saying could come back to haunt them. While there will be abuses, there will also be good resulting from such "citizen surveillance".

Don't blame the Internet for privacy vanishing. Word of mouth gossip and cave paintings began the trend toward public dissemination of other people's follies and foibles.

Shame on the Internet?

That's like blaming Alexander Graham Bell for robo-calls and telemarketing scams.

My advice: quit doing stupid things publicly.

If you're so worried about your "privacy", then realize that everything you say and do, in a blog, an email, or in real life, could be held against you. It can be quoted, videotaped, and spread all over the world.

Don't blame the Internet or YouTube or blogs. They've helped information to be distributed worldwide, causing much good to occur as a result. Lives have been saved, criminals have been caught, people have learned new skills and gained new friends, all thanks to the Internet.

The Internet, webcams, YouTube, blogs, video chat rooms, status updaters, mobile computing are part of our world now. Deal with it.

Don't blame technology.

Blame yourself for acting or talking so dumb. Stop doing things you might regret later. It's a rule of blogocombat: don't do anything that might later be used against you by an opponent. Go back over videos you've uploaded yourself, and delete any that make you look ridiculous.

Learn how to take advantage of the technology, instead of whining and complaining about it.

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