Blog insults prompt suicide?

Guys! I really need to say that I hate this word ‘wanker’. Yeah, I know what it really means and what it has come to mean! Last week I heard this word spoken about the young Gogarty on his Guardian blog attempt and he fled the whole scene of blogging in a jiffy. The next week I noticed this word again at AgencySpy, that insider-written, biting blog of the advertising industry. The blogger was bitching about Paul Tilley, the creative director of DDB Chicago quoting the memo circulated by Tilley asking team members to give ‘one degree more’. The insider, calling himself superspy, didn’t like Tilley’s memo, not a bit of it. So he went to the extent of saying “This guy needs to go back to management 101. He writes the most demoralizing emails. Yet, at one point, Paul thought he could make it as a game show host. Doesn’t one need to be charming for that?”

Paul TilleyThe comments that poured in were even more vitriolic. And it was here that George Parker (no less a person that the author of the AdScam blog) said, “This guy is a wanker” and it hit me, oh my god here is somebody who warrants the w-word again. Parker went on to spit more fire and had really hearty company; 58 responses of varying degree of venom. I turned the page with the thought, boy, some is sure loved here!

This was on Feb 19th, and on February 22nd, a man jumped to death from the 22nd floor of a Fairmount hotel. It was Paul Tilley. (Yes, the same Paul Tilley who spearheaded the campaign for the ‘Dell dude’ campaign and “I’m loving it’ campaign for the McDonalds. ) The debate now is what drove Paul to death? There seems to be no other public reasons so the blogs are abuzz with the accusation that Paul was disturbed enough by the blog to take his life. The verdict is certainly suicide and the family has declined to comment.

The blogger superspy has now put up an RIP on the AgencySpy blog on Feb 24 with expressions of condolences and sympathies. The blog has gone abuzz again; this time with counter accusations on the whys and hows of the situation. The vitriol does not seem to have subsided; in fact it pains me to see how one forgets the truth of death and the pain of a family already struggling to hold their emotions. The response to the RIP has gone past 116 in number and some of it begs the commenters to hold their opinions in deference to the bereaved family. People like an uncle, a cousin, a relative by marriage of Tilley have asked for peace. The truth remains is that Paul is gone for ever and will be missed by his family but forgotten by the rest of the world as they get back to their new victims.

The question is not whether Paul actually did make the jump taunted by the blog, but how much influence cyberspace and its commentaries have on the psychology of web citizens. The New York Times quotes Dr. Gregory K. Brown, a specialist on suicide at the University of Pennsylvania. “Public humiliation could play a role in suicide because hopelessness is often a major risk factor, and if you’ve been publicly humiliated and your reputation has been tarnished forever, you could see how someone could become hopeless. Such situations, could contribute to feeling that life is unbearable.

And unlike some other forms of public humiliation, online insults can live on forever. Whether that increases suicide risk, is an open question, although it’s plausible that’s the case, we know very little about the role of the Internet.

Techgoss note:  The links to comments and RIP are

http://agencyspy.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/bitch-please-ddbs-one-degree-more/

http://agencyspy.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/rip-paul-tilley/

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