Sunday, February 19, 2012

On the inalienable right to shoot laptops, beat your children, and indoctrinate them in your own religion

Update 1: How do you think Tommy Jordan will spend his $50,000 prize from Google for his antics?

Update 2: I agree with Anonymous (see Comments) that a secondary moral lesson in the Story of Tommy Jordan is about the oxymoron of online privacy. However, Mr. Jordan’s methods do nothing “to socialize, to internalize [those] values” either.

Tommy Jordan got what he deserves: a long chat with (and some parenting tips from) North Carolina Child Protective Services. No, I didn’t call them. But I'm glad someone did! 

Public humiliation and graphic violence (against laptops…or whatever), are bad parenting because they are bad examples. Yes, it may make some parents feel good. Yes, I have no doubt the cops said “Kudos, sir” to Jordan. But that doesn’t make it right.

Is it “child abuse?” We should not fail to recognize that the difference is one of degree, not kind. As Elizabeth Wilson notes: “Destruction of property is almost always included in the definitions of domestic violence.” So the best we can say about Jordan’s outburst is: “Well, at least he isn’t beating his children or indoctrinating them in his own religion.” Well, not on YouTube anyway.

In educating children, particularly very young children, we're socializing them—teaching them to live in the world, that violence is not an appropriate solution to problems. Yes, the Power Rangers and other so-called heroes use violence. The producers say, “They're doing it to a good end,” but the end doesn't justify the means. We're teaching kids that violence is an appropriate mechanism for problem solving. That's disastrous. If you don't like what you see in society, you drop a bomb, or pull a knife or pistol…But I know words can work. I've watched it work on our playgrounds. You must learn that in life. But we don't learn it. We whack our spouse and we whack our kids. Corporal punishment doesn't work; we should be teaching positive discipline. When we teach corporal punishment, we're teaching violence as an appropriate solution to problems. Surveys of prison inmates have shown that over ninety percent were subjected to corporal punishment when they were young. Did it work with them? Obviously not. You've got to take the more patient approach and reach the minds of children—teach them to socialize, to internalize values. Then they're going to be good when they're away from you. That's what positive discipline does.

- Bob Keeshan (TV's Captain Kangaroo). 1996.

I expect to hear more from the Tommy Jordan school of parenting before the US election is over. The Right has been trying to use “parental rights” as a wedge issue in the culture war for some time now, and an Optional Protocol to the 20+ year-old (but still not ratified by the US) Convention on the Rights of the Child will open for signatures on February 28th. Like with other issues, don’t expect to learn much by following the public debate by the candidates. And please be careful with those rusty butter knives.


  1. Please. First of all, if you are in the computer industry you should abstain from commenting on this for obvious reasons. Second, blocking access to Facebook is child abuse? Seriously? You betray some far right leaning attitudes with your hyperbolic concern over "property rights." So, let me turn that on its head for you: was it the child's notebook or the parent's? If the child paid for it, how was that accomplished? Allowance from the parent? Would the child have been able to purchase the notebook had the parent not been feeding and housing the child? If it was the parent's notebook, clearly he has a right to do with it at he chooses. In either case, your argument fall flat.

  2. Anonymous: you obviously missed my point completely. Try reading again, maybe slowly. And try clicking a few links and reading them. Namely these:

    And you will find that my argument has ZERO to do with the fact that a laptop or Facebook was involved in this sad story.

    You can replace "laptop" with "pet rock" and my argument still stands.

  3. This is a blog posting that keeps on giving! "Doctor Phil"? Really? You're admonishing me for not heeding the advice of that buffoon? Perhaps you should read the articles you reference. Here's a quote from your second link: "Whatever happened to simply talking with one’s children? Privately? Resolving family issues within the confines of, well, family?" Here's a clue for you, toddler: Facebook happened. How many family dinners have you been to where everyone has their heads down futzing with their smart phones? People don't speak to one another anymore, they "text" (so much for English btw, I guess anything can be a verb now). It is inconsistent to simultaneously criticize the actions of this father and lament the fact that families don't speak to one another IRL anymore. Facebook and MySpace before it have done more to destroy actual communication between living human beings than anything else in memory. Anything that is done by anyone to diminish, however slightly, the use of either promotes better communication and understanding.

  4. >>Anonymous: Anything that is done by anyone to diminish, however slightly, the use of either promotes better communication and understanding.

    So based on this (emphasis added) we can clearly beat, torture, or kill our children to keep them off Facebook. Seriously? You're kidding right?

  5. This Calgary Herald columnist also gets it just about right.

  6. Beating and torture and assassinations and lions and tigers and bears. That's what I meant. Not. Clearly not. But destruction of an electronic device? Absolutely. From your first link: "The record of their dispute is now permanently public, attached to Jordan's daughter's name - and his own - for good." Exactly the lesson taught. If more of the megalomaniacal lessor minds who use Facebook on a regular basis will be aghast and fearful that this same humiliation might be visited upon them, it might help expedite the demise of Facebook. For, prior to "updating my status" the unreasoning Facebook user might ask himself, "Who needs the humiliation?" Of course, that's giving Facebook users a lot of credit for reasoning that is likely undeserved among the vast majority. All well informed minds realize that Facebook is an anathema to an actual life, with actual human interactions and relationships. If this event gives pause to even one of the teeming masses plastering private information all over Facebook for the benefit of multi-national corporations, it was a deed worth doing.

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  8. This isn't about destruction of an electronic device. It's about public humiliation of your children, which you admit is acceptable to discourage Facebook usage. I disagree.

    But I'm willing to assume I don't for the purpose or argument, and my next question would be is a firearm, electronic device, and YouTube video enough? Or maybe you would support this form as well? :)

  9. Almost. You're getting a little closer. Another week or two and you might actually get it (if you can stay off of Facebook for that long).The children are humiliating themselves via Facebook. Anyone using that "tool" is, by definition, humiliating themselves. How? At once, they are permanently demonstrating to the entire world their narcissism and their willingness, neigh, eagerness to become a useful idiot for corporations and other thugs. If the man's daughter was truly humiliated on a grand scale, eventually, one hopes, she will come to understand that Facebook itself was the source of that humiliation. I'm sure the vast majority of Facebook users do not think deeply enough about what they are doing to realize that they are not Facebook customers, but Facebook products. Spectacular humiliation may be the only way to make that clear to the marching morons comprising Facebook users.

    There. Now, I'm done. :0)