As a card carrying liberal apologist, I’ve got my “defense of our immoral society” argument down pat. Frankly it’s rare that I even think about an argument anymore, I’m on auto-pilot. You know this routine:

Step One: Bad event happens.

Step Two: Curmudgeon drops pinochle hand and mutters that things were better in his day.

Step Three: I reach behind my back and yank string.

Step Four: Word emit from my mouth: “Sure the 50’s were great…for you! What if you were a woman or black man you selfish geezer!”

Step Five: Old timer shakes head, pours himself a gimlet, toddles back to confusing card game.

Step Six: Warmth of moral superiority rushes through body.

Mission ‘complished!

The majority of the time this response is adequate. Hell occasionally it’s even correct. Just like it’s absurd to play a game with 52 face cards, it’s also absurd to overly idolize the past. I could type words in this space in an effort to convince you this is true but let’s go with some traffic-building examples instead:

Example One: Wombat Wear

Yup, it’s an ad hyping the benefits of a wombat coat. It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that times are tough when wombat is selling.

Example Two: Undie Odor

It’s not so much that her cooter smells bad — that happens — it’s the fact her husband no longer loves her because her cooter smells bad. This is how shit went down in the 50’s. I love you. Oh wait you have feminine odor? I no longer love you. It was fickle as hell.

Example Three: Ward Cleaver’s Pimp Hand

That’s right. In the idyllic 1950’s a bad cup of joe earned you a marital beat-down.

In short the “good old days” sucked. But it’s a logical fallacy to assume our times are any better. Although I enjoy my wombat-free existence, sometimes a story comes around that makes me believe the pinochle set may be onto something. That maybe in gaining our innumerable freedoms we’ve lost a little something.

Well kids, today is one those days. The cause of my recriminations? The news that six Florida high school girls beat up a fellow classmate for “dissing them” on MySpace. This is the part of the story where a “Blockquote” seems most appropriate:

According to an arrest report, two girls confronted the victim when she walked in, yelling and threatening her. The report then described how another girl struck her in the head several times and then slammed her head into the bedroom wall, knocking her unconscious.

The victim said she was on the couch when she woke up, surrounded by the six girls. She then said the teens blocked the door, held her down and began beating her. According to police two teenage boys waited outside the home as lookouts. The victim was taken to the hospital by ambulance and treated for concussion, damage to her left eye, left ear, and numerous bruises.

Stories like this are pretty common today. If anything the degree of their assault was relatively tame by today’s standards. What’s disturbing about this story is not their diffident callousness or the sex of the assailants but something more devious; their motivation. And what was that motivation?

Fame.

Yup, the reason why this story is getting press is not the act but the reason they were caught: they videotaped the assault and planned to promote it on YouTube. This isn’t as stupid as it might sound. Although as an item of evidence the tape is damning, as an item of promotion the thing is solid gold! Every brat under 25 knows that the surest path to cash and glory in today’s America is to ignore the moral ramifications and tape yourself doing something stupid, nasty, or illegal. How else do you think Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton got their fame? It’s like Jimbo from the Simpsons once said: “Videotaping this crime spree is the best idea we ever had!”

Wait a minute, you’re thinking, those are all sex purveyors. Well violence works too. Martin Sargeant’s “Internet Superstar” is one of the most popular viral video sites on the web. He’s considered a “comic genius.” And, yet, in the past week alone, he has devoted two segments to purely violent video clips. Monday’s video was on “Gymastic’s Disasters.” (Because you know how funny it is watching young girls break their pelvises). And last week he did a mini-feature on “Fat Kids Hurting Themselves.” And yes he calls them fat kids. And yes the “humor” comes from the kids hurting themselves. And no, it’s not all that funny.

But it’s not just the snarks who profit from YouTube violence, it’s the “responsible media outlets” as well. This cheerleader video has only been out two days and already a host of “responsible adults” have cashed in:

The Press. The press generally doesn’t release the names of minor-criminals or victims of any age. Here, however, they not only released the names, they showed the (humiliating) footage so many times today I thought it was Thong Song II. Why? Could it be because they knew it would be popular, knew it would circulate around the Internet, and knew they could stick a 30 second ad on the front?

YouTube. YouTube’s entire business model is “Improper Shit.” If it weren’t for pirated movies, teenage strip teases and underage fights, YouTube would have about eight videos. Could they implement a monitoring program to ensure they aren’t violating the laws or promoting violence? Sure. Then they could all look for new jobs too.

The Sheriff. The Sheriff’s job is to apprehend criminals, protect victims, and get convictions. What part of that requires releasing this video? Did it help him identify the assailants? No, they were in custody. Did it help the victim come to terms with the crime? Not likely. Did it taint the jury pool? Absolutely. But, you know, Sheriff gotta get famous yo.

Here’s the Point

The Press has Tourette-ishly castigated these girls as immoral trailer-trash who should be tried as “adults” and “locked away.” While the outrage is understandable, the target is off. Our criminal justice system treats juveniles differently than adults because of a lack of culpability. Kids aren’t expected to have the same moral cognizance and understanding that adults possess.

The people who disseminated this videotape have no such excuse. Each of these entities is run by adults; persons presumed to have the morals and experience to understand the ramifications of their actions. And don’t tell me this was shown for journalistic integrity or to inform the public — the girls weren’t “on the lamb,” this isn’t a “trend among the kids” — it’s just exploitation. MSNBC made ad dollars, YouTube got clicks, Martin Sargeant has more footage for his “Beaten Teens” tape, and the Sheriff has his face on national television.

Meanwhile the victim in this case, Victoria Lindsey, sits in a hospital room with a detached retina and the embarrassment that comes with being known as the “chick who got her ass kicked.” An embarrassment whose grip reaches around the globe. And the girls — whose muffin-tops have grown fat from a steady diet of crap served up as “news” — are only now starting to get this “wasn’t such a great idea after all.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not excusing these girls. I’m just suggesting that growing up in a trailer alone does not result in six seemingly normal girls coming together to violently and remorselessly perpetrate violence like this. It goes without saying that teenagers are more susceptible to outside influences like the press, peer pressure, and social standing. And where do those influences come from? You guessed it. The same idiots who are calling for their lock-up.

The long and short of the matter is that, on this point at least, the old man is right: things did used to be better.

“Your dern tooting they were!”

Calm down old man, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

“Yeah but you ever see a broken clock score a winner with a 400 Jack set!?”

Can’t say I have old man…can’t say I have.

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