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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A word on the facebook dad

Normally, when a topic gets really hot for one reason or another, I tend to stay away from posting about it.  Most of the time it's because there are so many people saying what I'd already be saying, I see no need to add my own voice. 

So when the story came out with the dad responding to something his daughter wrote on facebook and ended with him shooting her laptop and posting the video on her facebook page, I wasn't going to bother writing about it.  I'd shared it myself, but that was about it.  I wasn't surprised it went viral.

What I found interesting is the reactions the video got, and that's what prompted me to throw in my own two cents.  Here's the video, just in case you've been living in a cave and haven't seen it yet.  Or if you're one of those who've refused to see it because you heard such terrible things about it.  If you're one of those, it's not as bad as it's been made out to be.  Go ahead and watch it.  It won't claim your immortal soul and plunge you into the depths of despair.

So there you have it.

As people have been sharing this video, tweeting about it, blogging about it, writing articles about it, and just plain adding to the din, the usual sorts gravitated to different camps about it.

On the one hand, you've got the people lauding him as a hero.  Father of the year, best dad ever, and so on and so forth.  On that side, I really didn't see much I didn't expect.  A lot of people out there could really empathize with this dad.  At the most extreme, some people said some pretty nasty things about the daughter that were uncalled for and unwarranted, but for the most part, there was a lot of understanding about the father's anger and frustration.

Then there's the other side, and this is the one that I found fascinating.  It wasn't just that they disagreed with this dad and what he did.  They were horrified.  Saddened.  Depressed.  Feeling that this just showed how terrible the world was becoming.  Doom. Gloom.  Terror.  Woe.

One of the first things I noticed is that many completely disregarded the daughter's role in triggering the situation.  It didn't matter to them that the daughter had posted a rant online that portrayed herself as a slave and victim of her parents' cruelty, or that she had actually lied to make her own case sound so much worse.  They weren't bothered by her class-ist reference to the "cleaning lady."  It didn't matter that she was rude and crude.  It didn't matter that she exemplified the white privilege this side tends to rail against. It didn't matter that she used facebook as a soapbox to rant against her parents, for all the world to see, except for her parents, whom she thought she could block from seeing it.  Nope. She was just an innocent child and the dad was an ogre, humiliating her online for no valid reason.  He was labelled cruel and abusive, and if they bothered to note the daughter's part in all this at all, it was to blame the dad.

It was all rather fascinating to watch this side of the equation play out.  We don't actually know a whole lot about this family and how they got to this point in their lives, but I quickly noticed a whole lot of projection happening.  People who had experienced parental disciplinary action that they felt scarred them for life would project those events onto this family, with this dad standing in for their own parents' cruelty.  Interestingly, they often referred to being punished for something they didn't actually do, whereas in this video, there was no question that the daughter had done what she did.  This wasn't some guy going off the deep end with no evidence - he had the evidence right there in his hand, and he'd found it in the laptop he had worked long and hard to fix up for his daughter.

A lot of people were distressed over how this dad had humiliated his daughter, and I'm sure they're right that she has been humiliated by it.  Of course, they don't care that she had humiliated her parents and their "cleaning lady" online herself, and these folks don't seem to have any problem with that.

Then there was the really over-the-top commentary.  There were people predicting that this daughter will someday end up shooting her parents/boyfriend/insert whoever else here as a direct result of this horrible, horrible parenting.  Others suggest the daughter is going to shoot herself.  Some predicted that she will leave home at 18 and never have contact with her parents again (usually from people who went on to say how they had left their own parents young, and how they'd never forgiven them for being such terrible parents).  I've seen people actually advise the daughter to run away from home, while others recommended she exact revenge by doing this like using her dad's toothbrush to scrub the toilet.  Others suggest that the father should shoot himself because he was so cruel to his daughter by posting this video.  There's more and worse, but that's just a sampling.

As I was reading from a lot of parents talking about how much they had a problem with this, I began to notice something.

The one thing they all agreed with was that he was a bad parent.  Why?  Well, he humiliated his daughter, of course.  And he smokes.  He's got a gun.  He shot the laptop instead of donating it to charity.  He has a southern accent.  He disrespected his daughter.  He clearly doesn't love his daughter.  He's a redneck. Her mother should have stopped him.  His wife is just as bad because she told him to throw in a shot for her.

This whole thing, of course, is all his fault.  You see, if he had respected his daughter first, she would never had done what she did.  If he had been a good parent, he would never humiliate his daughter online like this.  If he were a good parent, he wouldn't have a gun to shoot the laptop with (and we all know those gun owners; they're just a thread away from going into rampages - a laptop today, a human tomorrow, that sort of thing).

They, of course, would NEVER do something like this!  They respect their children too much. They would never be so cruel.  They would never shoot anything.  They would never...

... and that's when it became glaringly obvious to me.  It wasn't about the dad and his daughter at all.  It was all about them.  You see, only a bad parent would do something like this, and since they would never do something like this, THEY were clearly good parents.  They were superior to the redneck with the cowboy Tilley hat and the cigarette and the Colt .45  By running on about how terrible this guy was, how wrong he was, or psychoanalysing him as someone who is clearly [fill in diagnosis by projection here] and unfit to be a parent, they were able to turn the spotlight on themselves over what wonderful parents THEY were, because they weren't like him.

Chances are, this dad probably regrets putting up this video.  He was clearly very angry when he made it, and I doubt it occurred to him that it would get beyond his daughter's facebook friends; his target audience.  People - even IT people - can forget that the internet is forever.  How could he predict that it would be taken up by newspapers and go viral?  Yet his daughter had been warned.  While such a public display might be considered too much, he was following through with the consequences he's warned her of. 

In reading comments from his detractors, I began to detect a hint of resentment, and even perhaps some jealousy.  Here is a guy with a "went uphill both ways, barefoot" type of history, and he has clearly made a success of himself. He mentioned being an IT guy, which can pay pretty darn good.  They live on an acreage, and he can afford to buy his daughter a laptop and all the stuff that comes with such a purchase, along with other electronic toys for her.  He can afford a video camera, and he can afford a gun and ammunition.  He's also willing to work out exchanges of service, such as with their "cleaning lady" that showed he wasn't the greedy, money obsessed sort, either.  He's got what a lot of people wish they had.

In condemning this man for being a bad parent, his detractors seek to elevate themselves above him.  THEY would never do such things, sure, but then they likely couldn't afford to buy their own kids all the electronic gadgets they wish.  And how many could forfeit payment and barter for services, instead?  THEY would never humiliate their child, but they probably don't know what their kids are doing behind their backs any more than this dad did until he stumbled on it (and I've encountered more than a few parents, including home schooling parents, blissfully in denial that their kids were completely messed up).  THEY would never smoke or own a gun, and they certainly wouldn't destroy something that could be donated to charity.

I suspect these folks would have been much happier if Mr. Cowboy Hat, with his cigarette and Colt .45 and his pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps work ethic went back to the trailer park where he belongs, and they could go back to living their superior little lives and never have to look at their own lives in comparison.

update:  If you want to see what this dad has to say for himself about all this, his facebook page is public.  And for those freaking out, yes, he has been visited by the police.

uppderdate:  Response to Dr. Phil.


  1. I am in yet another category. I don't applaud or blame the dad here, i pity him. The fact is that shooting her laptop and grounding her will not have the desired effect. She is spoiled, self absorbed, arrogant and self pitying. His reaction will not cure these ills as they cannot be cured so easily. While he may have made a start, he will have to wait until she grows up (if she ever does) before she becomes someone to be proud of. The problem was not that she posted that rant, it is that she feels that way in the first place.
    As a child is a product of the parents, i do suspect he is a bad parent, trying a little too late to sort his child out.

    1. I see your point. Unfortunately, I don't believe "a child is a product of the parents" is true any longer. Especially when it comes to teens. They are now the product of years of school indoctrination. Parents are the enemy, and a great deal of effort is being made to gets kids away from their parents as early as possible. The "system" is now what is teaching our children, not things like reading, writing, math, history or science, but "values" - and those "values" are often in direct conflict with what the parents want or believe. The result is increasing numbers of graduates who are barely literate, can't do simple arithmetic without a calculator, have no understanding of grammar or spelling, but they will tell you that people are a virus destroying the earth, and it's their parent's fault.


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