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The Life and Death of a False Warrior

By shirobara in Culture
Tue May 22, 2001 at 02:47:27 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

My intentions were good, but that does not begin to excuse me for what I have done. - Debbie

On May 14, 2001, a popular weblogger died of an aneurysm related to treatments for leukemia. She and her mother had been chronicling their experiences for almost a year in their journals, Living Colours (google cache) and Journey Towards the Rainbow (google cache). Though both of them were faced with a painful situation, they pressed on with humor, dignity and seriousness.

Webloggers mourned the passing of one of their own, writing their thoughts in their weblogs, flooding her mother with condolences and posting messages about her on message boards. But a few observers had doubts, and their questioning sparked a storm of controversy leading to a full confession: The writer of the weblog, Kaycee Nicole, was not a real person.

Note: I have archived a few of Kaycee's weblog entries in my diary since they are no longer available online. They will help put the article in context.

I. The Warrior

Her name was not Kaycee and she was not my daughter, but I loved her as if she had been. And I grieve her loss. - Debbie

She called herself Kaycee and she was seventeen years old. She seemed just about perfect - she represented herself as intelligent, thoughtful, full of life, athletic and stunningly beautiful. She had a wonderful mother and family and many friends. She was a presence in her online community, CollegeClub.com, where she maintained a website and was involved with the Love channel. Later, she also became a part of the fledgling online community, Citizen X, founded by John Styn (Halcyon), someone she had known from CollegeClub. Through Citizen X, she met Randall Van Der Woning, (bwg), a writer and "web-mangler" living in Hong Kong. She became close friends with Halcyon and bwg. Then, after a routine checkup in June 1999, her doctor informed her that she had leukemia.

II. The Saga

The blog was about the lives of three people who suffered, one with breast cancer, one with leukemia, and one with Liver cancer. Each were strong, vibrant, and loving individuals. Each were real. Each died much too soon. - Debbie

The leukemia went into remission sometime late in the year, and Kaycee shared the news of its presence and absence with her friends Halcyon and bwg. But in January the cancer returned. Around August, her friends decided that it would be good for Kaycee to have a weblog where she could "get her message out" and have a place to put her feelings. She had kept an online journal of sorts before on her College Club page, but this new page would be devoted to her thoughts. After a while, Kaycee announced that her mother, Debbie, would be keeping her own weblog. Kaycee's weblog was called Living Colours and Debbie's weblog was called Journey Towards the Rainbow. Kaycee described the process for updating the weblog in one of her entries. Most of the time she would write in her journal, her mom would type it and e-mail it to bwg who would edit it and post it.

Kaycee and her mother wrote in their weblogs almost every day. Kaycee talked about her experiences and her friends; Debbie talked about her children and Kaycee's experiences. Nothing was held back - both of them posted intimate details about their family life. Kaycee wrote emotionally about her father, who had abandoned her when she was diagnosed. Debbie wrote about her family relations and past histories. Yet neither writer was bitter. At most, Kaycee and her mother were extremely, extremely reflective and serious. But they were never angry about the cancer that sapped away Kaycee's life. Kaycee was always high-spirited, vowing to fight and never give up, while Debbie was infinitely patient and supportive. Given the circumstances she described and the things she left unsaid, Kaycee would have had a perfect right to have a weblog consisting of "why me?" Yet she didn't. She called herself the Warrior, a nickname gleaned from one of her favorite songs. No matter how hard her situation got, she was continually cheerful and she fought hard for her life.

I am to blame for wanting to tell their stories. I am to blame for weaving the lives of all three together. I chose to share their voices as one rather than three separately. I wrote their thoughts, their humorous sides, their struggles, their fears. - Debbie

And so Kaycee's life continued with accounts of treatments and sudden health problems. Then the entries picked up in tone. Suddenly the nurses were cheerfully joking with Kaycee, and every word written on both blogs seemed a little more light-hearted. Kaycee had finally beaten the cancer and in March she was discharged from the hospital. Her weblog became a joy to read at this time - no more posts by bwg detailing a crisis, no more thoughtless doctors or social workers, just charming accounts of a life led in the sun after all the time in the shade. She was happy and her mom was happy and everyone who read her page was happy for her.

Then one day she posted that she was finally taking that trip to the ocean she'd always wanted to go on, and that she was doing it because she might not have another chance soon. She didn't go into a lot of detail, but she wrote that she had a problem with her liver and it would eventually kill her. Writing that, she wrote, was the second hardest thing she'd ever had to do. The hardest thing was telling her mother.

She continued posting to her weblog. She posted about her friends she was visiting in Florida and the experiences she had at the ocean and driving with her mother. She arrived home safely, spent some time with her family and passed away on May 14, 2001. It was quick, and she had her mother by her side.

III. The Investigation

What I did was wrong and I apologise for it. I regret any pain I caused but I do not regret putting their thoughts out to be read. - Debbie

Webloggers everywhere paid tribute to one of their own with short posts and long posts and pictures Kaycee had loved. Metafilter had a discussion where many people posted empty space - a moment of silence in a medium given to many words. Blogger posted a note for her on their front page. Message boards sprouted in places where Kaycee had made an impression, and hundreds of people had something to say about her life and theirs. There seemed to be nothing but love for the extraordinary girl and the sweetness and hope she had left behind.

Yet with some it didn't sit quite right. There had always been a couple of doubters, but they had, on the whole, been ignored or been informed that yes, Kaycee was real because several people had talked to her on the phone, received letters from her and known her before her weblogging days. But after her death, two webloggers had doubts about the situation. One of them, Saundra of Headspace, wrote about it in her weblog. She first wrote a satirical article about how to fake your life and death online. The next day, she wrote that she was indeed talking about Kaycee Nicole - that she would be "horrified and mortified" if she was wrong but she was fairly sure she wasn't. Later on, she revealed that her friend Becky had also had doubts, but was afraid to voice them publicly.

The idea that perhaps Kaycee wasn't a real person was picked up on Metafilter, a "community weblog" where people can post stories and comment on them. At first, people were unshakable in their defense of Kaycee. Redgie posted "Do I think Kaycee is real? YES. I have read her blogs many a time, and they are too emotional, too touching, and too compelling NOT to be real." Others decided that whether or not she was 100% real, she had still inspired worthwhile feelings of goodwill and love in them - one poster compared her to Santa Claus. But others gave thought to the question and tried to find evidence of her existence.

Many noted they had talked to both Kaycee and Debbie on the phone, but no one had actually met either one of them. People combed the weblogs for clues, coming up with bizarre and speculative theories. Finally someone noted that Kaycee had linked to a New York Times article that quoted a girl called Kaycee Swenson. The facts given in the article fit; Kaycee was a high school senior from the Kansas area, and she had taken courses at a local college the year before. She also had many friends online, and she loved basketball. Now there was a last name to link to the first and middle names. Someone found another personal page that Kaycee had made that was hosted on a Geocities N'Sync fan site created by Kelli Swenson and her friends. The N'Sync fansite had a link to the Swenson family's homepage. The Swenson's homepage featured a few pictures, a paragraph or two on the family's situation and a poem written by a woman named Debbie Swenson - a poem that was on Kaycee's College Club website. There was a mother, a daughter and brother whose ages seemed to fit with Kaycee's description of her siblings, and a father. The details about moving seemed correct. There was even a poem on the page that was mirrored on Kaycee's page. Yet there was no mention of Kaycee on this family page. Other searches and leads were quickly becoming fruitless. Everyone had a theory, but no one had any answers, nor did anyone really expect to have any thorough answers. For their parts, Kaycee's friends stood by her. Yet they, too, could not help doubting. Halcyon related his feelings while bwg did his best to defend his friend.

Finally, Debbie e-mailed her final weblog entry to bwg; her essay was stunning and her follow-up phone conversation with bwg on May 20th was even more bizarre. She was not Kaycee's mother. It was she who had written Kaycee's weblog as well as her own. It was not a full account of the real Kaycee's life (though she insisted there was a real "Kaycee") , but was rather a combination of the stories of three people, one with breast cancer, one with leukemia and one with liver cancer. "My intentions were good," she wrote, "but that does not begin to excuse me for what I have done. My only desire was to share their triumphs and tragedies in a way that showed their strength, the strength of their families. Those were not false. What they went through was real, I felt a great need to tell the stories of three courageous people who wanted nothing but to be well and live happily into their prime."

It did not take long for everyone to note exactly what road was paved with good intentions. Webloggers who had not updated their pages since Kaycee's death seemed slightly confused, as they re-evaluated their feelings for a girl they had loved in the previous entry. People wanted more than the scant explanation they had been given. bwg and others asked who they had truly been dealing with - who had they talked to on the phone? Who had received their gifts? Who was it that they mourned for? Those who had read the weblog for a long time were faced with the realization that the hope and inspiration they had drawn from it had been falsified - what then, many wondered, do the emotions they have mean? Those who had recently been attracted to the weblog because of the Blogger post or all the public grieving were fascinated; without any emotional attachment, they were free to think about it in less idealistic ways.

The main question on everyone's thoughts was a question of motive - why would a woman come up with such an elaborate fabrication, creating a life for months and months? People speculated wildly about a mental illness, or perhaps a woman simply snapping at the loss of three people close to her - the three people Debbie confessed to making one story out of. Others decided that it was all a twisted joke - that someone was getting off on causing grief and playing on people's naivete and sympathy. Others raised the possibility that someone was benefiting financially - that there had been a PayPal account, an Amazon wish list and e-mails circulated to ask for money. bwg denies all three and though I don't have any way of really verifying it, I do not recall ever seeing a PayPal account or a wish list. Other people have, however, reported an e-mail specifically asking for money. However, the idea that it was one gigantic scam doesn't seem terribly likely; as my boyfriend noted, if someone wanted to con people out of money, they really could have done a better job. Others speculated that it was an experiment of some sort. Every new detail made the old details even more confusing. Most people despaired of ever knowing the truth. (On a side note, the activity on the site was hard on Metafilter's server - as a joke, this error message was put up until the problems could be resolved, confusing many posters.)

IV. The Resolution

I alone bear the shame for what I have done, but it was not done for any reason other than sharing the love for life they gave to those they loved. - Debbie

Metafilter members were not about to give up so easily. They formed a Yahoo club to talk about the case. They got involved in ways besides combing Google - calling the pastor of a church the Swenson family had attended, calling newspapers in Kansas for more information, finding the identity of the girl - who is very much alive - whose pictures Kaycee had used to establish her own identity on her various pages. Details were checked and discarded or investigated. A FAQ was put online.

Finally, after days of rumors and research, things seemed to be clearing up. bwg wrote on the 22nd that "word is spreading like wildfire. authorities are involved. reporters are involved." Apparently, Kaycee was a persona made up by Debbie's daughter Kelli and her friends. Kelli used pictures of a popular and beautiful local student and made up her personality. At some point, for an as-of-yet unknown reason, Debbie took over the persona and used her to tell the stories of three cancer victims she had supposedly known. It was Debbie who was involved with CollegeClub and CitizenX, and it was she who wrote every entry in Kaycee's weblog, as well as in her own. There was no daughter named Kaycee; no one has been able to locate a girl in Kansas who recently died from leukemia. It was all Debbie's fabrication. But perhaps even this is false, and the real story is much more complicated.

I have written this as much for me as for anybody else, to make sense of it in my own mind. I read Kaycee's weblog and Debbie's weblog every day for six months. When bwg posted that Kaycee had some terrible complication, I prayed for strength and health for her and her mother. When I read of Kaycee's passing, I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. I believed because I could not fathom an alternative; on the night of the first Metafilter post, I read both Metafilter and Kaycee's site until 4:00 AM. Even if it was often cloying and sentimental, it just didn't seem possible for it to be fabricated. Knowing what I know now, her diary reads like a life too perfectly led and chronicled - but at the time it was just a life, struggling and hoping. But even now, it seems impossible that everything I read over the course of six months was a falsehood, even though all the evidence screams that it is.

And now I know - there was no Kaycee Nicole who wrote a beautiful diary and died of leukemia. There wasn't even a Kaycee to start with. In a way it is comforting - I loved a construct, I gave her a piece of my soul, and when the construct died I had her memories and she had some of my soul. But if the memories and words I loved were embellished and falsified, then whose were they? If the answer is no one's, or Debbie's, then to me they are invalid. A girl I cared about didn't die because she never existed, and her death and her nonexistence were not the same. Her death had some meaning but, despite Debbie's best efforts, the end result came down to nothing.


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Kaycee was...
o ...the construct of a woman trying to tell true stories. 15%
o ...a Lifetime channel experiment. 14%
o ...the result of hard work by a band of trolls. 19%
o ...a real person whose identity is being protected. 1%
o ...destined to be a Salon headline. 19%
o ...Inoshiro. 5%
o ...Anne Marie. 21%
o ...a teenage Christ-figure. 2%

Votes: 71
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Yahoo
o Google
o Living Colours
o google cache
o Journey Towards the Rainbow
o writing their thoughts in their weblogs
o posting messages about her on message boards
o I have archived a few of Kaycee's weblog entries in my diary since they are no longer available online. They will help put the article in context.
o CollegeClu b.com
o maintained a website
o Love channel
o Citizen X
o John Styn (Halcyon)
o Randall Van Der Woning, (bwg)
o an online journal of sorts before on her College Club page
o a nickname gleaned from one of her favorite songs
o short posts
o long posts
o Metafilter
o discussion where many people posted empty space
o Blogger
o note for her on their front page
o Message boards
o Headspace
o how to fake your life and death online
o was indeed talking about Kaycee Nicole
o Becky
o perhaps Kaycee wasn't a real person
o Do I think Kaycee is real? YES.
o one poster compared her to Santa Claus.
o New York Times article
o another personal page that Kaycee had made
o Geocities N'Sync fan site
o Swenson family's homepage
o a poem that was on Kaycee's College Club website.
o Halcyon related his feelings
o bwg did his best to defend his friend.
o her final weblog entry
o follow-up phone conversation with bwg on May 20th
o re-evaluat ed their feelings for a girl they had loved in the previous entry
o the realization that the hope and inspiration they had drawn from it had been falsified
o this error message
o confusing many posters
o a Yahoo club to talk about the case
o Google [2]
o whose pictures Kaycee had used to establish her own identity on her various pages
o A FAQ was put online
o Also by shirobara

Display: Sort:
The Life and Death of a False Warrior | 111 comments (103 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Welcome, class (4.20 / 29) (#7)
by trhurler on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:46:50 AM EST

Today, we're teaching you why emotional attachment to people you've never met is not a good idea.

Sorry; I understand that this does matter to you, but this sort of thing has been happening since well before I ever knew there was an internet, and it seems that certain actions are heavily encouraged by the medium, because this particular one is all too common. I suggest you get your human contact from that real world thing that pops into view when you remove yourself from the chair with the keyboard and all. You can still get duped, but it isn't nearly as easy to do it.

Look on the bright side, though. At least you aren't planning to marry someone you've never met... those are always fun.

And when you consider that Siggy is second only to trhurler as far as posters whose name at the top of a comment fill me with forboding, that's sayin
duped (4.14 / 7) (#18)
by alprazolam on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:13:07 PM EST

I suggest you get your human contact from that real world ... [y]ou can still get duped, but it isn't nearly as easy to do it.

It's not easy, but it happens a lot more than you might think. This is a good reason you should never really form an emotional attachment to anything, because you're always vulnerable to being misled. If you never have any sort of feelings for anyone or anything, you can never be 'hurt' emotionally.

[ Parent ]

Er... (3.50 / 4) (#24)
by trhurler on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:41:47 PM EST

Yeah. I used that particular "solution" when I was young. As a result, I'm still screwed up in some ways. Take my word: it won't last forever, and when it fails, it fails spectacularly. Sometimes I still get that feeling of being apart from everything back, but you can't keep it all the time forever.

The secret is to convince yourself that there is a discrepancy between what you perceive(and to some extent, create,) and what really is, and that usually it is small, but that if it is large, then you may have strong emotional responses to a fiction, and that the only thing to do is to acknowledge that this person or thing is fictitious and move on. Not particularly fun, but unless you can find a way to be omniscient, it is as good as you're going to do.

And when you consider that Siggy is second only to trhurler as far as posters whose name at the top of a comment fill me with forboding, that's sayin
[ Parent ]
so (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by alprazolam on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:42:27 PM EST

what's the difference between doing that in 'real life' and online?

[ Parent ]
Precisely... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by trhurler on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:53:37 PM EST

except for one minor thing: in real life, the typical expectation is that you've got a fairly good idea of what's going on. An online forum doesn't offer that. In real life, faking my own death, for instance, aside from being illegal, would be horrendously difficult to pull off, even for a few days. On the other hand, if I wanted to "die" to k5, it would be relatively trivial to pull off, and even though some few would doubt the veracity of the information they received, most would not, even after these two recent stories. That difference is the key - the difficulty of lying to people is reduced vastly by this medium of communication as compared to direct personal contact.

I don't put the kind of trust that leads to emotional responses of any significance from me in anyone unless I either have met that person or trust someone else who has.

And when you consider that Siggy is second only to trhurler as far as posters whose name at the top of a comment fill me with forboding, that's sayin
[ Parent ]
kaycee (4.00 / 3) (#36)
by alprazolam on Tue May 22, 2001 at 06:09:14 PM EST

people had spoken to 'her' on the phone, you might even wonder if 'debbie' would have tried to pull something off if she couldn't get around meeting people in public.

my point is that, while you can't believe everything you see, you also can't assume everybody you meet online is an attempt to dupe people. there's a line you have to walk of being able to trust people and to handle the trust being broken, and not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt. just like you can't avoid emotions in 'real life' if you spend enough time online you're kidding yourself if you think you can avoid any sort of emotional response (good or bad) to anybody.

[ Parent ]

identification (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by kubalaa on Tue May 22, 2001 at 07:15:38 PM EST

You know what this reminds me of; identification protocols. If I remember correctly, Bruce Schneier said that good identification uses at least two of the following: who you are, what you know, and what you have. So who you are is a username, what you know is a password, and what you have is an ID card, for example. The important thing to realize is that at some point, whether you get access to information doesn't depend on YOU (since "you" changes from moment to moment), but on some more abstract quality, such as what you once did, or even better, what you are likely to do in the future. The ideal security control would be a psychology test which decides whether you're likely to do something bad with your access. So even if yesterday you got authorization to view the information, if today you went crazy the system won't let you in.

My point as it relates to this article is that you should be aware of what you are relating to when you are relating to a person, because it's never really a person, it's an image or a sound or a name or an experience. If you feel something for this abstract person who writes diary entries, that's okay. Finding out the person is fake shouldn't change anything, since your feelings for them are based only on the diary entries and their un-reality does not change those.

(I don't take myself seriously, of course.)

[ Parent ]

dangerous stuff (none / 0) (#64)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:30:40 PM EST

I don't put the kind of trust that leads to emotional responses of any significance from me in anyone unless I either have met that person or trust someone else who has.

But then you should realize that people constantly have their mind working on thoughts someone has posted (being their own honest emotions, be it trolled fiction emotions or factual statements), readers DO get occupied thinking for hours and hours about what they read, investing research, navel-gazing self-analysis and constant doubt about the validity of what they are reading. They are caught in the process. Sometimes for months and years, more or less dependent on the time their real life situations allows them to spend in "being caught up".

I do think it's the responsibility of any user of this medium to avoid as much as possible to misguide readers into researching fabricated lies. It's simply unethical to do so.

And a potential worldwide audience has the right to ask to adapt the technology of media so that the media serves its needs and protects them for the sake of their own sanity, instead of allowing the technology to let the media goof off and become a means to enhance mental dillusions, mental manipulation and mental fixation or obsession.

It's always easy to be enthusiastic about the progress and wonders of new technological developments until you realize what two-sided beast you have created. Any responsible scientist would not hesitate to admit that and NEVER play the devil's advocate by blurring reality and fiction. He ALWAYS would use his own knowledge to make his findings of facts and truth as understandable to the public as possible with the least amount of false statements, simplification of complex theories forces him to make.

I just watched the documentary on Robotics and it was interesting to see how the main developers at CMU and in Japan (Sony) were clearly trying to do the best they could to precisely draw the lines between current facts, possible future developments and imaginative phantasy szenarios, which some interviewed science fiction writers were painting. I couldn't help but thinking, if the science fiction writers were really aware about their own role they play to a large audience of young, enthusiastic wannabe computer scientists.

But I am new to this and right now have no idea how "real" the mingling of science and fiction in people's minds really is.

Anyhow, it's dangerous stuff (and to prevent the usual criticism - it's not a gender thingy, women scientists and female readers are as caught and fascinated and/or prone to cave into illusions as anybody else).

[ Parent ]

So then... (1.00 / 1) (#67)
by trhurler on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:27:41 PM EST

What you're saying is, people are generally insecure, spineless, foolish, overtrusting lamers who seek validation through the views of others, and you think this is my problem? If you're a nervous wreck who can't help but become emotionally involved in everything around you, then hide in your basement if you have to, but don't expect me to accomodate your neuroses, because unless you're a friend of mine, I really don't care.

And when you consider that Siggy is second only to trhurler as far as posters whose name at the top of a comment fill me with forboding, that's sayin
[ Parent ]
Did I say that ? (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 03:23:37 PM EST

Where ? - Do you mean, you were saying what you are saying ?

No further comment. I think your comment speaks wonderfully for yourself.

[ Parent ]
Ah (none / 0) (#70)
by trhurler on Wed May 23, 2001 at 03:32:05 PM EST

So, is it high school debate team or university student council? :) (Sorry, I can't resist... it's so... easy.)

You did specifically say that it is immoral to deceive people on matters such as death because they get drawn into the deception and spend time and emotional energy on it. What I specifically said is bullshit. Why this would be hard to understand, I do not know.

"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why should we let them have ideas?" -- Josef Stalin

[ Parent ]
Thanks for proving my point (none / 0) (#72)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 04:33:45 PM EST

What I specifically said is bullshit

Why you are saying it then ?

Why this would be hard to understand, I do not know.

That seems to be a problem then, for you, that is.

Anyhow, thanks for the reactions. I think they demonstrate so well my point and helped me to get closer to understand, what I am trying to understand.

[ Parent ]

So, (2.50 / 2) (#73)
by trhurler on Wed May 23, 2001 at 04:57:29 PM EST

Better keep the day job. By the way, when you said you were leaving, why didn't you keep your word? We were just about to start the big celebration when you started posting your inane drivel again. Now I've been asked to try to drive you off for good, and I imagine it is possible, but I really have better stuff to do. Go post on plastic; someone there might even think you were funny - that is, if "someone" was a crack addled hooker gone crazy from syphillis.

(Now we find out who mami's "spare" accounts are. Watch closely, kids, because soon enough, I may not be able to:)

Oh, and mami, anytime you want to explain why it is that anyone should care about other peoples' gullibility and emotional fragility, please do so. I'm still all ears for that:)

"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why should we let them have ideas?" -- Josef Stalin

[ Parent ]
it's up to you to read a thread or not (none / 0) (#85)
by mami on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:32:06 AM EST

By the way, when you said you were leaving, why didn't you keep your word?

The answer is in the same thread you were referring to.

[ Parent ]

but how .. (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by lokmant on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:11:03 PM EST

can you not have any emotional attachment and stay human at the same time?
"fashionably sensitive, but too cool to care" (jewel)
[ Parent ]
5 .. spot on. (3.50 / 2) (#55)
by Afty on Wed May 23, 2001 at 06:26:00 AM EST

It's time people stopped using the internet as a replacement for social contact and realised it is best used to 'enhance', not negate, the need for social interaction.

[ Parent ]
Remote emotional attachments (4.50 / 4) (#86)
by l0gichunt3r on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:45:09 AM EST

I don't think it's fair nor plausable to say that one should never form an emotional attachment to someone they have never met. Sympathy and empathy for people we do not know is often the root cause of charity and other beneficial factors in life. Most major religions are based on creating emotional attachments to a person or being that one will never know, (at least not on this earth). Also most of our entertainment media is entertaining because we do form those emotional attachments. I agree that one should try to be smarter and recognize a relationship for what it is, however that doesn't mean that people are dumb or should feel ashamed because they do form emotional attachments to someone they haven't met face to face.

[ Parent ]
A Question; An Answer (4.40 / 10) (#10)
by dram on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:23:33 PM EST

I ask a question;

Why is it that we consider good movies and books ones that draw us in while stories, like this one, are considered wrong and looked down upon?

Both, this story and any movie or book, are just as real. They both came out of the head of somebody that is very smart and creative. Is the fact that we get totally drawn into these stories on the web why we don't like them? Is it that we get completely tricked and are made to feel as if we are not as intelligent as the people writing these stories? Or is it that we where lied to? We know movies are not real, but we thought that this story was.

I don't think that we care about being lied to. I think that people's egos get hurt. Many people on the internet pride themselves on being smart and being able to catch onto things. The Jargon File says about Trolls, "If you don't fall for the joke, you get to be in on it." People don't like falling for things and when they do they resent the people that tricked them. These people that can write these stories should be applauded for their imagination and talent for making people believe a story, authors have been trying to do this for years. So I say, bravo.


There is just one thing wrong with it (4.50 / 6) (#13)
by mami on Tue May 22, 2001 at 02:19:11 PM EST

Debbie might be a great writer, she should write a book, make a movie or whatever. She can do this under her real name or a pseudonym, but a publisher or any other entity somewhere must be able to clearly indentify the author and be able to certify that the story is fiction or documentary.

Publishing on the web under a realistic name, making people believe of the existences of her fictional characters in real life, is nothing but completely unethical.

Considering the subject area she was dealing with and having seen real people close to me going through the described diseases with survivors and deaths, I can only say, hopefully she will not be confronted with the real thing. She might be up for a surprise about "her own real feelings" confrontated with the real thing, once she has had the chance to experience them.

There is a discussion I would want to see triggered by this story, which interests me, that of the meaning of feelings generated by trolling stories and their ramifications on our real life.

Therefore, even if I hate what has happened, I vote the story up.

[ Parent ]
My take on it... (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by CyberQuog on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:34:35 PM EST

What if a book was published under a pseudonym, and it is written in an autobiographical style about a girl who dies of cancer, it is an extremly well written book, and a lot of people mourn the death of the charecter in the book. It is then discovered that the book is not an autobiography at all, but a fictional work. Does this make the book any less interesting? I would say no, in fact, i would say that this makes the book more interesting because this is not someones life that was simply written down, but this is someones world which they created in their head and then wrote on paper.

As had been said in previous posts, just because the person is not real does not invalidate the emotions you have felt. You still care about the charecter. What does it matter if the charecter existed in the real world or not, you never saw them in the real world, you never interacted with them in the real world, they've only existed on paper (or this case a web log), and still do exist in the mind of the reader.

On a lighter note, could this be considered one of the greatest trolls of all time?

[ Parent ]
If you have read the story .. (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by lokmant on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:08:57 PM EST

then you would they did interact with each other. people exchanged instant messages with Kaycee, sent her gifts, and also talked several times on the phone with 'her'. there are no excuses for messing around with people's emotions like that.

the next time i tell a lie, i'll just say 'but it is just like reading fiction.'
"fashionably sensitive, but too cool to care" (jewel)
[ Parent ]

See, that's the problem (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:13:49 AM EST

First a serious response to your lighter note. I am committed to never troll. I am not an idiot to do this to myself. I am your guinee pig reader, giving my honest emotional and non technical answers to the geek community, who has in my mind lost its mind, not recognizing the danger they engage in, when obfuscating the lines between fiction and reality.

I said that already in another post, the story itself can be written as perfectly as it ever could have been written, the fact of being fiction or not has no influence on the actual "spiritual value" of the meaning of the words.

But, if you allow an author (on a medium like the web or even to a lesser extent in printed media - I wonder even if it's legal for an author to tell his publisher that it's an autobiography when in fact it's fiction), to lie about his words being facts or fiction, you deny the reader to draw correct conclusions. And that's almost criminal.

Let's say the diaries of the Anne Frank had been fiction. Of course they would still have huge appeal to the readership. But it is absolutely necessary to tell the truth about what it is.

Let's take the autobiographies of holocaust survivors. What would you say, if one famous book author of such an autobiography, would tell you twenty years later that it was all fiction ? Wouldn't you as an author have made yourself a collaborateur of all people, who happen to like to promote the idea that "Auschwitz is a lie" ? Still convinced that it's a good idea to lie about fact and fiction ?

Let's take the documentary I saw this evening on WETA public TV "The Lost Children of Rockdale County". A very "telling" story, which Frontline put together. It's a documentary. Imagine two years later the authors and producers came up and said: "Oh, we thought this is a huge problem our kids have in today's society. We thought, we absolutely should make people aware of it and discuss it. That's why we made this documentary, just to let you know, in fact, it was all fiction".

If that would ever happen and be allowed, just imagine the social uproar that would cause. You are playing with very dangerous fire here.

[ Parent ]
On a related note... (5.00 / 3) (#53)
by rbeier on Wed May 23, 2001 at 03:47:13 AM EST

Let's take the autobiographies of holocaust survivors. What would you say, if one famous book author of such an autobiography, would tell you twenty years later that it was all fiction ?
The New Republic had an interesting article on this topic. A man named Wilkomirski apparently deluded himself into believing that he was a Holocaust survivor; he published a critically acclaimed account of his experiences. It turns out that he was living a peaceful life in Switzerland the whole time...

[ Parent ]
Oh my, thanks for that link (none / 0) (#60)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:29:09 AM EST

SSIA - I am always shocked when reality and facts prove my imaginary fears and suspicions to be valid. Thank you for pointing me to that story.

[ Parent ]
I have To disagree... (4.33 / 3) (#26)
by tudlio on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:54:19 PM EST

...while it's undoubtedly true that people on the net want to be seen as smart, I think the feeling of betrayal is what bothers people here. Anytime you create a work of art, especially if you're telling a story, you make an implicit compact with your readership. You say, "Put aside your skepticism for a little while, I'm going to tell you a story. You're going to care about what happens, you're going to get involved in the story, but when I'm done you can go back to your real life."

Debbie never gave her readers the opportunity to establish that emotional distance.

insert self-deprecatory humor here
[ Parent ]
I agree.. (4.33 / 3) (#35)
by nickco on Tue May 22, 2001 at 06:03:36 PM EST

completely :)

After reviewing the archived logs, I am surprised that this person was able to dupe so many people. Brace yourself for a generalization here; the content of these logs do not bring to mind the writings of a 19 year old girl. In fact, the first thing I thought of was a bad romance novel. I mean, let's look at this post:

Mom was curled up in a chair next to my bed sleeping with a cover pulled up to her chin.
She didn't look comfortable at all but she had the kutest expression on her face.
Her head was tilted in this ackward position and a few strands of her hair were touching her cheek.
A ray of sunshine seemed to spotlight her and I felt the peacefulness wrap me in it's warmth.
I realised she always makes me feel wrapped in sunshine.

Uh, yeah.
I can appreciate the emotional state of a terminally ill 19 year old, but come on.

At some points in the logs, I could possibly perceive a 19 year old, but the total feeling was something else entirely. I realize my feelings are colored by the fact that I know this to be a hoax, but I'm still surprised that so many people would become so attached to a virtually fictional(actually fictional, now) character.


You know I remember suiting up for the basketball game. The coach told me he needed me to be the leader. When I step onto the court I tune out everything and give my full attention to the game. I know I was all over the court, hustling after the ball. Woop there it is! I was having an awesome game. I busted some three's and lifted my arm...Yes! Swish!

I play basketball every day, and I've never heard anyone under 40 say 'bust a three'. Not to mention the use of extremely outdated slang. 'Woop there it is'? Obviously the fabricator has only a casual relationship with what's 'hip' :)

Anyway, interesting article!

[ Parent ]
WILLING suspension of disbelief (none / 0) (#111)
by error 404 on Tue May 29, 2001 at 05:01:15 PM EST

In a work of fiction, the reader/viewer/whatever is given the option to go along with the fiction.

In this case, the reader is the victim of a fraud.

If nothing else, this violates the aesthetics of the situation. The excerpts that I've seen are not art. A 19 year old in terminal pain is to be given uncritical sympathy, support, and any available help. An author writing that kind of shlock would be better served with criticism and the best help would be served up cold and hard by a sadistic editor.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Nihilism (4.41 / 12) (#11)
by DranoK on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:34:15 PM EST

The author seems to completely neglect the ancient concept which still thirves among some Buddhists that 'everything is an illusion'. What we see, what we touch, what we read; all refer to simple abstractions and not to reality. In that sense fictional accounts of little hobbits named Frodo can be just as real as a Presidential election. Reality(sic) cannot be defined nor viewed impartially nor measured accurately; there is no way to know what is real and what is not real. You might think you know, but you are only considering the societal abstractions consructed to filter reality and make sense of it; you cannot view baseline reality as there exists no meaning at baseline - you can only view the abstractions.

Thus there are a number of realities you can subscribe to in this case. You mentioned some of them. An evil scammer. The emotions were real so Kaycee was real, even if she didn't exist; she was real in people's hearts. Kaycee was not real and it was wrong for Debbie to make her seem real. There are an infinite number of other realities which would give some kind of meaning to this account.

Point is, in cases like this, it is patheticly pointless to attempt to find what 'really' happened; I doubt even Debbie could answer that. Things have a nature of evolving; we as humans love to place meaning in everything, but most things do not have root meaning. Meaning is interpreted by the observer.

So you need to decide how you want to feel. Choose your own abstraction of reality. But don't try to find the 'one True reality' because there cannot be one.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

Oh, poo... (3.45 / 11) (#12)
by Burrito Supreme Dictator on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:37:52 PM EST

First the Anandtech woman, then this...

Next thing you know, we'll be finding out that the Delhi monkey-god was really just some ordinary, run-of-the-mill space aliens playing a cruel prank.


Some of us loved that monkey-god, dammit!

-- This space devoted to wasting your bandwidth. (A token gesture, to be sure, in these days of high-speed connections. But it's the thought that counts, right?) --

A lesson learned! (2.45 / 11) (#14)
by xmutex on Tue May 22, 2001 at 03:06:38 PM EST

This is the reason why you don't "give a piece of your soul" and other nonsense to people you've never met.

Sheesh. These bLog "communities" are just filled to the brim with sad people are simply desparate to conenct anyone and this sort of stupid crap can so easily happen.

Man, people are gullible and naive, and this just goes to show: don't be a moron.

bullet the blue sky

True (none / 0) (#77)
by ozjimbob on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:45:17 PM EST

Too true. Never believe anything you read online. This applies especially to a) Slashdot headline and b) weblogs. If you got sucked in by this, you're the kind of person who passes on those emails about "Poor timmy dying of cancer needs you to pass this email on to every one you know".

Yeah I know I'm a hopeless cynic, but I'm the one laughing while the gullible ones feel like they've been slapped in the face.
I still believe in revolution, I just don't capitalize it anymore.
[ Parent ]
What is real? (4.18 / 11) (#15)
by jd on Tue May 22, 2001 at 03:35:59 PM EST

If your feelings are real, then the event itself is irrelevent. (After all, you can't =KNOW= that the event was real or not, ever.)

Your thoughts and your feelings are ALL you can be sure of. Be proud of them, and fashion them into a force to be proud of.

Do that, and what do the cynics matter? Have they ever really mattered? After all, the worst a cynic can do is hurt our thoughts & feelings. And if we've not given those value, then nothing of value has been hurt.

More people have cried real tears, watching "Cry Freedom" than have wept on-line over a real person suffering. Real is what you make of it.

AI (none / 0) (#17)
by CaseyB on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:05:42 PM EST

This comment could almost be a set-up for Spielberg's new artificial kid tear-jerker. :) No doubt loads of philisophical discussion on this precise topic will follow the release.

[ Parent ]
I don't 'get' the blogging thing (3.25 / 8) (#16)
by Pope on Tue May 22, 2001 at 03:36:21 PM EST

Well, first of all I hate the term "blog," so that may not be a good sign. :)
I just don't understand the need people have to maintain online diaries. Why are you so intersted in having complete strangers read your private thoughts? And if indeed they are supposed to be private, why are they online? Keep it on your desktop, or better yet in a real paper journal.


"Turn your tails and run, In fear of the approaching years, in fear of the Ouch Monkeys" Julian Cope
"Private thoughts" (4.60 / 5) (#23)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:40:31 PM EST

Because they are rarely, if ever, "private thoughts". More usually, they are the sort of "thoughts" you'd normally bore coworkers at the water-cooler with.

What they are, really, are public thoughts with no thought given to reader interest. In other words, normally when a person writes something for "public" consumption, he makes a conscious effort to engage reader interest. A blog is different only in that the writer is merely throwing out whatever public thoughts occur to him. The closest paper approximation is probably a writer's journal, which is full of random thoughts that might someday be pulled into a story or an essay.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Exhibitionism (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by Blackfell on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:34:58 PM EST

...is the name of the game. It's sort of like a mental striptease. The fact that this is usually done under a pseudonym is much like the glass window or a 'no-touch' rule. It just provides a degree of separation that wouldn't exist otherwise.
Written by a single drunk monkey with a copy of MS Word 2000.
[ Parent ]
there are things you would like to discuss (none / 0) (#49)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:41:36 AM EST

for which you can't burden the K5 site with a story submission. It could be a story suggestion, which you would have liked to discussed and just have no stamina to write up in a fashion that it's acceptable for submission, or you know in advance that the herd is beating you up, ignoring or denying your thought's relevance. Sometimes it's just questions you might have when you don't fully understand how K5 works.

[ Parent ]
Reasons (none / 0) (#75)
by Dolohov on Wed May 23, 2001 at 09:39:33 PM EST

I keep an online journal, and it serves two purposes for me. First, the same as an ordinary journal, to let me work out my thoughts and perspective on things in my life as they happen and to give a semi-accurate record for me for afterward, and second as a cheap and easy to to apprise my friends of the goings-on in my life. I mean, they're really the only ones who read it anyway. Strangers might take a look and find it amusing to watch me bitch about my classes and my job, but I don't care whether they find it interesting. *shrug* YMMV.

[ Parent ]
Why? In my case: Craft. (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by Clint on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:49:59 AM EST

I've always enjoyed writing, but have gotten rusty at it. I really enjoy writing essays. Honestly, I don't know or care if anyone reads them. I just use the thought that someone could be reading what I post as a focus to write each essay well. It works pretty well, I dislike the stuff that I post much less than the stuff I don't. :)

I think I'm an aberration, though. I'm not in "the community"; I don't read other people's diaries, because they are typically the stuff you mention... the stuff that's too boring for your friends to listen about.


[ Parent ]
My thoughts about online diaries (none / 0) (#95)
by WWWWolf on Thu May 24, 2001 at 06:03:05 PM EST

(I mostly keep my diaries and daylogs in Everything2 and Advogato...)

Why are you so intersted in having complete strangers read your private thoughts?

My reason:

I'm thinking aloud.


I just wish to tell what I think. Not specifically or for specific people, but generally, to people in general.

What I write to my diaries are just weird occurences, more or less cool observations and stuff I've done.

...I sometimes keep forwarding all these jokes and ideas and tales about weird things and sagas about heroic battles where I wielded shiny xemacs blade and mowed down tons of bugs and such... I wrote that down and told that to some people. Well, heck. I might as well tell stuff like that to *everybody*. =)

I don't know how people react to my ideas and things. People rarely comment on my daylogs. Sometimes it's a verbal hug, sometimes good advice, sometimes something else.

And as for "private thoughts"... well, I try to avoid writing about things like love and sex (aside of rare cases, such as when I came out =) and "private" matters, but... what harm is in telling what I think of some things, ideas or recent happenings? Maybe my stuff will bring something to think to people.

(...or something for people to pass on... "Well, that was bad, but I heard of a guy who once had a 12-hour defrag..." =)

I try to tell about things in a way that won't hurt anyone. (For example, I'm under NDA now - so I tell everyone that I work for A Company and work on A Project. =)

I sometimes read some other peoples' journals (from E2), but that's rare. (For E2 users: No, I don't votedump them. =)

BTW, I don't like the word "blog" either. Either full "weblog" or more legible "online diary" is cool.

(Not a good time to type, it's getting late... beware of typos and brain glitches in the above text! =)

-- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...

[ Parent ]
the good, the bad, and the cynical (4.37 / 8) (#19)
by Kellnerin on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:27:31 PM EST

Thank you, shirobara, for a well-written article (and I don't give out compliments lightly). I applaud you for sharing your complex feelings about having been taken in by Debbie and opening yourself up to the swift and loud cries of "Sucker!"

But wait, how do we know you really read Kaycee and Debbie's weblogs, and felt for them and their situation? Maybe you're just another manipulative sociopath manufacturing a story about your so-called personal experience just looking for sympathy! After all, streetlawyer isn't really gone, he was just pretending! Blah -- that's the kind of cynicism that makes me despair. Yes, we all know that You Never Really Know Anyone Else (least of all on the internet), and you should Trust No One. That's all well and good, but in my strange, naive way, I'm more heartened by the fact that people are able to sympathize with someone's plight and offer their support, than by a bunch of people debating each other on a purely objective level, conceding only as much as logic dictates.

Not that I don't value calm, rational debate, and nor am I suggesting that we believe everything we read (after all little Jimmy has cancer and all he really wants is for a lot of people to send him email), but I do think that the ability to empathize is one of our strengths as humans. It's a shame that people can take advantage of this and make the ones who take that leap end up looking the fool, but I for one would rather live among people who are willing to give rather than dismissing other people out of hand.

For Debbie to have deceived so many people was wrong, but some good may yet come out of it. Though it was based on false premises, her story is still powerful, and your reactions and feelings were (are) real. The end result does not have to come down to nothing. Now that you've had a glimpse of what it's like to live with leukemia, why not donate to cancer research, and have a chance of helping real people, whether it's "Kaycee" or not. It's better than saying "Ignore this! It's just a troll! Why care about people you've never even met anyway." I have a feeling you'll be a great deal more skeptical in the future, which is probably a good thing, but I hope you (and others like you) never lose the ability to trust and to give.

I'm done gushing now, and will be adopting my cool, detached persona again shortly.

--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--

your post is living proof of what's wrong (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by mami on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:33:17 AM EST

But wait, how do we know you really read Kaycee and Debbie's weblogs, and felt for them and their situation? Maybe you're just another manipulative sociopath manufacturing a story about your so-called personal experience just looking for sympathy!

Because we don't know this, and you feel compelled to post this comment, that IS what is wrong. The story per se might be as powerful as hell, but if it were, the story would have been powerful even if the author had told the audience that it was fiction.

If the author of the weblogs fears her story wouldn't cause the reactions and "real" feelings, he/she is only been able to observe in faking her story as being a documentary and not fiction, then the author is just a weakling.

The author does harm the audience. The story itself does loose completely its validity, because the audience didn't even have the chance to judge the weblogs as "fiction". The author is a coward. It might have been that many people would have felt about a fictious weblog as postivie as they did with a real one. But denying the readership to make that judgement for themselves in being truthful, is the cheapest act, I can think of an author doing.

If the story were that compelling, why was the author so coward to admit its status ?

And your suggestion in the end (to donate money to cancer research) I find bluntly insulting. If people want to know how it is to live with cancer, go in a hospital and do an internship or become an nurse aids for some time. May you get the real picture, may you check on your real feelings to real life situations, then check back and see if your real reactions to real things, cause you to donate some money for the real thing.

Your guinee pig reader - always at your service to prove your thesis wrong with an emotional response, doing my duty to make K5 a better place.

[ Parent ]

Hacker Culture: Originally Just a Dream (4.22 / 9) (#21)
by snowlion on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:37:11 PM EST

The Guy I Almost Was is partly about the original hacker culture reported by various magazines which was, for the most part, fictional and imaginary, and yet served as much of the inspiration for the current culture.

Regarding the case above of the fictional cancer victim... I don't know; I have little sympathy for overly-emotional "YOU MUST LIVE!!!" cross-support groups, for whom life consists of rapid alternation between giving support or receiving it. Yeeeechchch... That's no way to live a life. I don't understand it.

Map Your Thoughts
Nothing wrong with what Debbie did (3.25 / 8) (#22)
by sabaka00 on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:39:05 PM EST

I don't understand why anyone would think that what Debbie did was wrong. How is the weblog any different from a work of fiction? If you say because no one knew it was fiction, then let me remind people of the popular movie "Fargo." At the end of "Fargo," it claims that the story is real with names and faces changed. In fact, that was a lie meant to make the movie more powerful. To me, it seems this is exactly what Debbie did; her portraying the life of Kaycee as a real person made the work of fiction that much better. Debbie is an author, not a scam artist.

Not that this really matters either way, but did Debbie/Kaycee actually go out and defend her story whenever there was doubt and actually say, "I promise you this is all real," or did she just let people believe it was all real and keep the truth to herself?

Why I disagree with you (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by theboz on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:49:04 PM EST

While you do have a point, part of being a society is that you should not lie to people. What is a lie? A lie is fiction told to another person as if it were real. That is what this case is. Now, you say what harm could it have done, clearly it has done emotional harm to the people who believed this person they had chatted with and such, a friend, had died. If in real life I meet a girl and tell her I love her and am single and stuff, then she later finds out I really have a family and five kids, she has every right to be angry. I don't see a difference here.

While I do agree that this woman may not have committed a crime according to law, she has messed with all of these people's minds, and that is clearly wrong, and she deserves every bit of anger people feel towards her.

[ Parent ]

Now, why I disagree with you (none / 0) (#37)
by sabaka00 on Tue May 22, 2001 at 06:21:20 PM EST

theboz, by your thinking, every song, written work, and movie that isn't not entirely based on fact and lets the audience/reader/listener believe in it is just a piece of trash that is spreading a lie. Now, for the people that have called Kaycee/Debbie and had somehow duped them into thinking they were really talking to Kaycee (I still don't quite understand how she did this), I feel Debbie had definitely done something underhanded and immoral in that situation. Still, in all likelyhood, the number of people who did this is very very small compared to the people who were just entertained by reading the two weblogs. The fact that Debbie didn't reveal the truth that her story was a work of fiction is not immoral. From the sounds of it, Debbie seemed to want to raise awareness about the horrors of cancer by telling the stories about her three friends who died from it. To do this, she created this perfect inspirational girl and gave her cancer, then documented the girl's battles with cancer and the girl's mother's feelings as well. If you feel it is immoral to write a book and say it is a true story, when it is really a bunch of true stories mixed together, then Debbie did something immoral.

As far as your comment about real life, a written work is not real life; it is a form of entertainment. If Debbie hired a child actress to go around telling everyone that she has cancer, then Debbie would be doing something just as immoral as what Debbie did with the phone calls. Finally, Debbie didn't mess with people's minds. She wrote a story that was compelling and passionate, but it seems to have gotten the point across a little too well.

[ Parent ]
Perfect is not inspirational (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by PurpleRabbits on Fri May 25, 2001 at 06:44:31 AM EST

From the sounds of it, Debbie seemed to want to raise awareness about the horrors of cancer by telling the stories about her three friends who died from it. To do this, she created this perfect inspirational girl and gave her cancer, then documented the girl's battles with cancer and the girl's mother's feelings as well.

I'm trying to avoid commenting on whether it's always immoral to present fiction as fact, but here are some of the problems with it in this case:

1. The story didn't just present fuzzy things like courage and inspiration. It documented the girl's battles with cancer - i.e. gave a blow by blow account of the progress of an illness that people really suffer from. Readers have no way of knowing if this is accurate, but I doubt it, as the treatments and relapses will have been presented at dramatically appropriate points in the story rather than in a medically accurate way. For people with cancer and their friends who are seeking support 'inspiration' is of no use without facts. And this story was the antithesis of that. (And I don't believe in the other three friends with cancer for one tiny moment.)

2. By telling the girl's stories and the mother's, Debbie gets sympathy twice over. That's like posting follow-ups to yourself saying what a cool person you are. Ew!

3. Debbie made the perfect inspirational girl. Kaycee was always brave and never angry. She never asked "why me?", mother and daughter were a perfect family unit and never blamed each other, etc etc. This is not going to help people deal with real life-threatening illnesses which produce all these bad, imperfect feelings. It may make some people feel warm and fuzzy, but won't that make it harder for those who can't live up to that fictional ideal in real life?

-- You wouldn't really want a cheese hat - it would melt.
[ Parent ]

Fiction vs. lies (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 22, 2001 at 10:00:49 PM EST

I don't suppose you've seen Galaxy Quest, have you?

Its main plot involves a race of aliens who don't have any concept of fiction. They believe that transmissions from Earth are historical archives, and don't understand the difference between fiction and deception.

Granted, the line here is blurred somewhat, as it was presented as something which people assume to be real, but is that really any different than the aliens in Galaxy Quest who don't know that a television program isn't real?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

The difference I see here (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by theboz on Wed May 23, 2001 at 08:32:30 AM EST

As you said, the people on Earth were not aware of the fact that the aliens saw and believed their cheesy TV show would be taken as historical documents. When the aliens contacted members of the show, the right thing to do would have been to let them know the truth rather than play with this charade.

I think this is a little different, because it was in a place that was expected to be somewhat realistic. While nobody signs a contract saying they won't lie on a blog, and it's not illegal, it's still a wrong thing to do in my opinion. Also, this woman didn't just lie on a website, she actually chatted and spoke on the phone with people. That makes it more than fiction since she was actively hiding the truth rather than just presenting a story. If it was just lying on a website, that would not be as bad as the elaborate means she has used to make this person seem real and lie to all the "fans" that read the site. It is a blurry line that will seperate a lie from fiction sometimes, I think she clearly went to the side of lying.

[ Parent ]

But it's the Internet (none / 0) (#61)
by fluffy grue on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:42:23 AM EST

Tim Allen's character did try to explain to them that it was fiction, but they didn't understand what he meant. In their context, anything broadcast must be true. Is that any more naive than Earthlings' apparent belief that anything put on the Internet must be true?

Then again, that statement wouldn't be so farfetched.

I don't believe that anyone ever stated that kaycee's weblog was truthful, or even that kaycee existed. People only assumed it to be, because of their expectations. Honestly, when I first saw the weblog, I thought, "This could be true, in which case it's sad, or this could be fiction, in which case it's very well-done." My hunch was that it was fiction, simply because I'm used to things of this nature on the Internet not being true.

I do agree that crossing the line and bringing it into RL (with the phone) was immoral, though one could argue that it only made it into interactive fiction. (I'm only playing devil's advocate regarding the usage of the telephone, though.)

BTW, I'm well aware that legality is not the same thing as morality. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Mail Fraud? (none / 0) (#66)
by nitefall on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:16:30 PM EST

I never did read the Weblog in question so I don't know all the facts... But I did read the bit that was reposted (linked in the main article) It seems to me that there may be a bit of mail fraud here. I don't know all the laws pertaining to it, but I people are sending thigs to a Kaycee... and Kaycee didn't get them, who did? Are they guilty of opening somebody else's mail?

Just my 2˘ though...


[ Parent ]
Two things wrong. (5.00 / 4) (#27)
by dhartung on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:57:41 PM EST

Sabaka, if it were just a fictional weblog, people would not be so worked up. After all, there are actually at least half-a-dozen pseudo blogs out there created mainly for humor purposes that I can think of, blogs nobody would take seriously. To answer your question, yes, Debbie DID go out there are whip up support, finding new venues to drop into and say "for Kaycee's friends, here's an update", a thinly veiled excuse. Perhaps she honestly thought she was bringing a little light into some peoples' lives, but that's a pretty shiny veneer to put on the whole affair.

What makes most people mad, speaking as one who's been closely observant of the center of the Metafilter action, are two things specifically. First, Debbie arguably solicited gifts and money; at any rate she did not refuse them. Nobody knows exactly how much of this largesse made its way to a PO Box in Peabody, Kansas; hopefully the people who were duped in this way will have the courage to report it to the criminal investigators, who are on the case.

Second, Debbie abused the images of a young woman, apparently an acquaintance of her family (small town), distributing them around the web as if they were the fictional Kaycee. This girl's privacy is forever invaded in a very weird and disturbing way. In other words, to perpetrate her fiction, she roped in an unwilling and unknowing innocent victim.

Beyond that, maybe this is a third, is that she deliberately cultivated friendships online involving instant messages, voicemails, and even intercontinental telephone calls, always using this false persona. I'd be pretty miffed if someone did that to me. There are at the very least a couple of dozen victims of that aspect of the shenanigans. They were duped, conned, scammed; some of them were used (like her web-host). Many of the people who are angry are either in this group or personally know someone in it. They're not just angry at some random weblog out there for not being true; they're angry because they or their friends were used. Real people were played. In the same sense that a troll doesn't often appear to believe that the pixels dancing on his TV screen represent real live people in a forum they love, this person didn't take into account the consequences of deceiving people with intimacy. At the very least it was cruelly unfair.
-- Before the Harper's Index: the Harper's Hash Table
[ Parent ]

Oh what a wicked web we weave (1.71 / 7) (#28)
by Jack Wagner on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:01:07 PM EST

I think Elmer J Fudd said it best, or was it Bugs Bunny... either way they nailed it. This Debby woman should be strung up by her shorties and stoned in public. She betrayed a public trust. She commited an act of fraud. She is a hearltess cold woman with issues.

But this does not take away from the simple fact that most people are sheep. They will believe things at face value even though life has shown them over and over that they should trust nobody. But hey, don't get me wrong, I make a huge salary from people who trust me with my consulting company, so I'm not complaining. I view it as a matter of natural selection, if you are a sheep then it's natural for your money to come to me, because I'm wise like a wolf. Anyways, not to plug my company because I need no plugs, but I stand behind my statement. She should be stoned in public for such a hearltess act.

Wagner LLC Consulting - Getting it right the first time
Performance art (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by electricbarbarella on Wed May 23, 2001 at 03:56:35 PM EST


Why is this such a horrible malicious fraud, and not performance art?

Is the page at Realdoll Cam any different?

Why did people want to believe this person? Why did they want to believe that a young girl was dying of cancer? Why did they believe a web page?

On a personal note, I laughed my ass off when I found out the full depth of this performance. "Kaycee" was brilliantly rendered by a person who has a grip on character work in acting that I can only dream of.

-Andy Martin, Home of the Whopper.
Not everything is quantifiable.
[ Parent ]
She did more than performance art. (none / 0) (#97)
by John Milton on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:06:20 AM EST

She talked with people on the telephone. She drew them into her life. She deceived people and made them care about her. Then she used her emotional power to hurt them. She's a shithead in virtual space or real space.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Emotional Pornography (4.10 / 10) (#33)
by gonerill on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:49:14 PM EST

I've seen this sort of thing pop up before: there was an incident on the discussion board of epicurious.com (of all places) a few years ago where a woman appeared to sicken and die over a period of a few months. It later turned out to be a fake, or at least extremely suspicious.

There's a kind of pornography of the emotions at work here. We get to participate in the apparently terminal illness of an attractive, intelligent person, which in its own perverse way is an edifying and almost enjoyable experience. We soldier bravely with them, like supporting characters in some tearjerker movie, wallowing in their pain and feeling good about how much we care. Of course, we don't want to get too involved, because real death, and the real grief that follows it, is much, much harder to be brave about. Better, easier and more edifying to stick to the ersatz online alternative, posting "moments of silence" and all that nonsense.

What strikes me most is the way that Debbie is cashing-in on this orgy of feeling twice over --- first by faking the diary, and then by wallowing in her own confession and inviting others to forgive her. It's a little like that psychiatric disorder where mothers injure their babies in order to get sympathy and attention from friends and doctors.

FYI (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by MisterX on Wed May 23, 2001 at 04:14:37 AM EST

It's a little like that psychiatric disorder where mothers injure their babies in order to get sympathy and attention from friends and doctors

This is known as Munchausen by Proxy aka Facticious Disorder by Proxy.

[ Parent ]
Virtual Realities (4.62 / 8) (#39)
by Eloquence on Tue May 22, 2001 at 07:38:34 PM EST

Those who are skeptical whether an identity like that of Kaycee or those who were related to her could be faked convincingly should be taught a lesson in faking. And one particular good example for the art of faking is the case of Kirk Allen. It's not a very well-known story outside of UFO circles, I think, so it is worth repeating here. I heard about the case of Kirk Allen originally in Jacques Vallče's Revelations. Alien Contact and Human Deception, an excellent book about the UFO myth and the realities behind it. Here is an excerpt from an online description I found of the case:

Dr. Lindner [a psychotherapist] got a call from a physician "at a government installation in the Southwest." One of the scientists (Lindner says a physicist) at the government lab was exhibiting signs of psychosis, claiming he was from another planet. Lindner gave this man the pseudonym "Kirk Allen." One of Allen's supervisors at the government lab noticed him writing pages and pages of hieroglyphs. When questioned about the odd symbols, Allen apologized and promised to spend more time on this planet, i.e., earth!

Because of the sensitive nature of this scientist's work for the U.S. government [one word: H-Bomb!], Dr. Lindner was asked to treat this physicist as soon as possible. Allen was sent off to Baltimore, where Dr. Lindner had his practice.


Over time, Kirk Allen's psychological problems took the form of believing he was an extraterrestrial, temporarily trapped in the guise of an ordinary earthman. Using the novels he read as a starting point, he began to compile lists of planets he had visited, complete with details of their geography, flora and fauna, civilizations, and politics. This started in his teens and continued to his thirties. It didn't seem to interfere with his college education or his subsequent career as a physicist. But by his thirties, Allen's accumulated "alien" knowledge began to crowd out the mundane details of his real life, and his colleagues recognized the depths of his delusions for the first time.

"Kirk Allen" wasn't simply some Burroughsian swashbuckler -- he was, in his mind, the emperor of a vast galactic realm. He traveled the cosmos surveying his conquered worlds, and recorded his findings in meticulous detail. Because of his training in math and science, Allen's phantom worlds were far more fully realized than any in ordinary science fiction, and light-years more sophisticated than anything found in Oahspe, Urantia, or the Ummo papers. When Kirk Allen "discovered" a planet, he worked out its orbital mechanics with the precision of, well, an Ivy League physicist. Once Dr. Lindner obtained Allen's confidence he was shown the following documentation of Kirk Allen's cosmos:

  • An autobiography of Allen, 12,000 pages long, in 200 chapters. Appended to this were a further 2,000 pages of notes and annotations. Many of these notes were written in shorthand that Allen himself had devised.
  • A glossary of names and terms, over 100 pages long.
  • 82 maps, drawn to scale in full color, consisting of 23 planetary maps in four projections, 31 continents on these planets, the rest being maps of cities on those planets.
  • 161 architectural drawings, to scale and extensively annotated, some in color.
  • 12 genealogical tables.
  • 18 pages describing the galaxy in which Kirk Allen lived, with four astronomical charts, and nine star maps.
  • A 200 page history of the empire ruled by Kirk Allen, with 3 pages of important historical events, battles, etc.
  • 44 file folders containing up to 20 pages each of memoranda on the different planets Kirk Allen ruled or visited. These had titles like "The Metabiology of the Valley Dwellers," "The Transportation System of Seraneb," "The Application of Unified Field Theory and the Mechanics of the Stardrive to Space Travel," "Anthropological Studies on Srom Olma I," "Plant Biology and Genetic Science of Srom Olma I," and much more.
  • 306 drawings, some painted, of extraterrestrial machines, animals, clothing, instruments, people, plants, insects, weapons, vehicles, buildings, even furniture.

Dr. Lindner was almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Allen's delusions. He had Allen submit to extensive physical and neurological tests, all of which came back normal. Allen's problem was entirely mental, and he developed curiously familiar theories to account for his presence on earth. A reader of the works of Charles Fort, Allen decided he had been teleported to earth, and that undefined "psychic" organs in his body allowed him to return (at least astrally) to his home galaxy whenever he wished. In another context Kirk Allen might have become a famous UFO contactee, the founder of a cult, or at least the center of a large controversy. Imagine, government physicist, Ivy League graduate, the extraterrestrial among us -- what kind of impact would Kirk Allen have had if he had come to the attention the gullible public instead of Dr. Lindner?

Lindner's psychoanalysis of Kirk Allen took the form of going through the myriad details of his delusion, searching for inconsistencies that might shock Allen back to reality. There weren't many. Allen's galaxy was measured in units called "ecapalim," equal to one and five-sixteenths miles. He produced calculations of orbits and planetary sizes in this bizarre fraction, converting them to miles for Dr. Lindner's benefit.

Eventually the strain of such scrutiny took the escapism out of Allen's delusions, and they lost value for him. He abandoned them, but kept up the pretense for Dr. Lindner for some time, just to humor his inquisitive therapist! The ironic fact was, by the end of his treatment, Allen's fantasies had ensnared Lindner, a science fiction fan from way back. Allen eventually confessed that he no longer believed in his own delusions, and that he had pretended to for weeks just to satisfy Dr. Lindner.

How many Kirk Allens are there? Not many, but there are people who are similarly imaginative in other fields. Religions are just much an expression of this fact as online realities such as the one documented in the above article. They can be entertaining as long as they are clearly denoted as the fantasies they are, but when they are presented as fact, they can become dangerous, even deadly, as any Heaven's Gate cult member would testify. The human mind is able to produce incredible alternative realities -- the resulting capability for selective perception is equally astounding. Like it or not, the worldview of many of us has little to do with how the world really is.

Let science and skepticism be your guide, online and offline -- don't be fooled by your emotions, for they are the tools of the animals out of which we have evolved.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Blah (3.33 / 3) (#43)
by delmoi on Tue May 22, 2001 at 09:45:25 PM EST

You just made all that up and you know it :P
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Not really (2.00 / 1) (#109)
by Steeltoe on Mon May 28, 2001 at 10:10:31 AM EST

No he didn't. Looks like hogwash, but kind of reminded me of Billy Meyer. Except that that story is much more researched and widely known. Impressive amount of details and photos.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Surprisingly Similar To My Recent Thoughts (3.57 / 7) (#40)
by Carnage4Life on Tue May 22, 2001 at 08:00:39 PM EST

I am currently in Nigeria and had a rather morbid thought while flying home. What would happen to my life in the U.S. specificaly my life online if I died in a plane crash?

Once C4L stopped posting to K5 and Slashdot, would anyone wonder if he was dead or would anyone even care? Who would tell my internship recruiter that there was a good reason I didn't make it in to work? Would the people who I'm only in contact with via ICQ and email ever learn the truth or would be an annoying mystery that they'd forever question?

The above questions made me wonder whether I should start work on scripts that would post death notices to my popular online hangouts, modify my homepage and send out appropriate emails if I hadn't performed a specific action once a set amount of time had gone by (e.g. logged into my Linux box in over a month).

I later considered that my plans were melodramatic and were probably just caused by jitters evoked by long distance flying (10 hour flights tend to do that) but now that I've seen first hand how attached people can be to people they've never met my ideas don't seem so ridiculous in the cold light of day. Methinks this should be expanded upon in a diary entry.

Not quite the best plan (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by delmoi on Tue May 22, 2001 at 09:39:08 PM EST

But, what would happen if for some reason you couldn't get to your linux box for a month or wern't dead?

A better solution would be to give instructions in your will to notify apropriate locations. You'd want to have a real person, I think, rather then a computer program fire off the C4L deathwatch mailing list :P

Are you Ebo or Yoruba?
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Still in the planning stages (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by Carnage4Life on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:21:44 PM EST

But, what would happen if for some reason you couldn't get to your linux box for a month or wern't dead?

Yeah, I thought of that. If I do decide to go this route then my "Death Protocols" will not depend on a single event nor have a single point of failure. More like if I haven't logged into any machines on a particular list and certain accounts aren't active (bank, insurance, etc) then activate the "C4L is dead" reactions.

A better solution would be to give instructions in your will to notify apropriate locations. You'd want to have a real person, I think, rather then a computer program fire off the C4L deathwatch mailing list :P

Yeah but there are a few problems with that
  1. Not geeky enough. :)
  2. Writing a will at 23 seems extremely morbid while writing a bunch of Perl scripts less so. (Yeah, it makes little sense, humor me)
  3. I dislike dealing with lawyers except when absolutely necessary.
Are you Ebo or Yoruba?

Yoruba. The proper spelling for the other is Ibo or Igbo not Ebo, unless you were trying for another Nigerian ethnic group which I do not know (which is likely since it is claimed that there are over a hundred).

[ Parent ]
Death Plans (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by anonymoushero on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:41:05 PM EST

I have physical instructions and scripts for people who know me in real life to execute (including <shudder> passwords), if/when I die. People will get notified (but it's woefully out of date, for example it doesn't close out *all* accounts, like this one). But making it auto-magic should be a last resort, it's easy to get incommunicando, or forget a password, or lose online access.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Interesting... (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by theboz on Wed May 23, 2001 at 08:58:44 AM EST

I have thought about this myself. It's not too much of a concern since most of the people I actively talk to online know me in real life anyways, but still there may be a few that would wonder. I probably should write down everything in general, not just online but more importantly who to tell in real life such as my employer, in case of an emergency.

As far as passwords I could probably give my fiancee the password to the program on my palm pilot that I use to track my passwords, that way if she ever needed to use them she would know it and I wouldn't have to keep my account information in an unsecure place like on a piece of paper inside my apartment.

Anyways, the scripts might be a little much, but having someone to do all the notifications for you would work, although I wouldn't make it in an official manner to avoid all the lawyers and stuff.

[ Parent ]

I have had the manual version in place for a while (4.00 / 2) (#92)
by LegionDaMany on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:11:50 PM EST

My best friend holds a list of email addresses, that I update when necessary, of people to notify if anything untoward happens to me. If I'm in the hospital for more than a couple of days ... the top few members of the list are notified. If I'm going to be incapacitated for a longer period of time ... over a couple of weeks ... then most of the list gets notified. If I'm incapacitated for an indeterminate period of time or dead ... the whole list gets the mail.

Then he and I almost got in a car accident together one night. And I gave the same instructions to my parents, with a backup list and directions on where to find the primary list in his house if the house wasn't destroyed.

Morbid ... sure ... but there are people on that list that don't need to be wondering about me.

My accounts can go jump in a lake ... whoever is tying up my financial affairs can deal with the minimal debts they might incur.

Call me Legion for I am Many ...
[ Parent ]
What's so wrong about the deception (4.36 / 11) (#42)
by Wondertoad on Tue May 22, 2001 at 09:40:01 PM EST

So far I see a lot of comments saying that it's hard to pin down what's wrong with what was done, or maybe that it was even a good thing to have done.

Folks, weblogger Aaron Barnhart has leukemia. He runs the site TV Barn. Click on "What's ailing me" near the top of his page to read the entries that relate to his treatment.

But... is it a fake?

No. He's a TV critic for a major city newspaper. His stories of fighting the illness reference many real people and places (docs and hospitals). If it were a fake, he surely would have been found out by now.

But didn't you wonder whether it was a fake for a moment there? (Maybe you still wonder a little?)

If there is any true tragedy in the faking of such a story, it's that burned once, we are all that much more unlikely to put out our hearts for sufferers we encounter in the future. Far from bringing out our humanity, this story has yanked a little humanity from us. Learn not to get burned again? Now the rest of your life will be that much less personal, less meaningful.

There is certainly more than enough tragedy in the world, and no need to invent more of it. My heart pours out for Mr. Barnhart, whose criticism and articles have been an absolute joy to read for the past few years, and I hope and expect to continue to read his future articles for many fall seasons to come.

.....Wow..... (3.25 / 4) (#48)
by nitefall on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:39:42 AM EST

So, not being much of a "blogger" (never knew the term existed until today) I had never heard of this whole show.... Don't know where to begin... I have gone throught all the links in this story... It would seam that Debbie, If there is such a person... needs to seek professional help in a big way. The whole thing is just strange. I knew from reading this story first that it was a large three ring circus, however reading the excerpts posted to your diary was a very interesting experience.. I began to feel as if it was all real... I had to pinch myself in the ass to be sure I was still here... All very sad really --nitefall

What a shock! (4.28 / 7) (#50)
by tokage on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:07:03 AM EST

Anyone who's been online for any amount of time would realize that people often do something strange, called lying. They invent a persona for themselves for various reasons. Being online from '89 or so and on IRC from late '91, I've been witness to all manner of deception. Men pretending to be women and vice versa is quite common, but on occasion you'll run into a more in depth fabrication. Once, in my early years of being online, a girl had me convinced that her boyfriend was abusing her, so like the chump I am I tried to help her, sent her some money to get away from him even. Turns out, the boyfriend was a fabrication, the girl was just some bored college student. A strange story, this person we knew for several years on IRC created a persona of a young, abused girl, claimed to have an abortion at 14. This continued over the course of at least 3 years, including him pretending to become a lesbian, pretending to hate men(me especially, I have a charming effect on people sometimes), pretending to lose his job, girlfriend, all kinds of strange things. I personally was not overconcerned when I found out she was a man, getting kind of jaded and apathetic towards the whole thing. I can recall many stories like those. This is not to say that these things do not occur in the 'real' world. People pretend to be what they want in both mediums, it's just harder to detect online.

Why do people do these things, you ask? Different reasons, I'll warrant. Some are discontent with their lives, feel they don't get enough attention. Maybe some have an instinctual grasp of acting, putting themselves in someone else's shoes, and get a sense of artistic pleasure from a well crafted and executed persona. Some people just wish to see a little how it feels to be a woman, how they're treated. I personally have amused myself by going on IRC into the nutty little happy channels like #femhumiliationsex(dalnet, most amusing channel), #dogsex, #gaydadsonsex(efnet) and trolling those people. It's also entertaining when someone assumes you to be a woman and starts msging you in a channel, oftentimes it's funny to go along with it for a while, then paste interesting parts of the conversation. My opinion is - people who join channels like that, or private message people unwarranted with text like that deserve what they get. Sadly, I'm no longer really entertained by such things and just put people on /ignore a lot. There are some dark recesses on the 'net.

Anyway, being online creates a (false) sense of anonymity. People are more likely to go over the top, troll, flame, pretend to be what they're not. Those of us who have been online for a long time are mostly tired of that behavior now. In fact, I'd warrant most of us are tired of what the Internet as a whole has become(yes, the www is not the Internet).

I think that in an instance like the author posted, it's best to not totally write off how you felt, what you thought, etc. Caring about someone you haven't met isn't wrong. Yes, I would be angry and frustrated as well after having put so much time and emotional energy in following the developments of that persona. The person controlling Kaycee had no right to do what they did. The fact that it was carried out to such an extreme in my opinion shows some kind of psychological problems. Regardless of the intent, deception is not a valid way to get your point across. It's a lesson for those who would pretend to be other than what they are - eventually, the facade is going to fail and you will be known as a fraud, the more in-depth the persona the more likely people are to check into it. Luckily, you can just sign up with another ISP and do it again. Ah, the joys of being online.

You better pray to God there's some Thorazine in that bag, otherwise you're in bad fucking trouble.

I hate this (4.50 / 10) (#52)
by Ender Ryan on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:56:12 AM EST

First, I'd like to express my sympathy for everyone who loved Kaycee only to find out she was a work of fiction. That has to be extremely hard to deal with. It would be like someone altering the timeline causing a friend to have never exist or something(what an analogy, can you tell I'm a geek?).

It's very interesting, I wonder what this woman's motivation was. You can be sure it was not even close to her excuses. She knew what she was doing was wrong, she knew she was in a way raping peoples' minds, and it's not as if she was doing it for some greater good. My best guess is that she WANTS to be in that situation, have a daughter dying of cancer. I know it sounds strange, but some people feel a very strange need to be in the middle of some type of crisis, real or made up, it doesn't matter as long as people pitty them.

People who do this sort of thing are usually compulsive liars, obviously. This is such an odd thing, people who feel this need to make things up and get people to believe them. I have known a handful of people like this in my life. Once you get to know a few really well, you learn to spot them. They usually have similar mannerisms, very subtle though, most people don't notice for years. You can always see it in their eyes when they are lying, hear it in their voice, in the wording they use, even in the things they lie about, it's almost like they are another person during a "lying session". I cannot explain how to spot them, you just learn to, even when there is no logical reason to suspect anything. It's WAY more subtle than that.

My ex-step-mother was like that. She deceived my family for years. She sort of created this fantasy where my brothers and I were these evil, lying, scheming, violent, sexually perverse, lazy (etc. etc. etc., you get the friggin point) people who were tormenting her and ruining her marriage to my father. Ironically, we were in part responsible for helping them keep their marriage together through rough times. She didn't believe her own lies at all, it wasn't that sort of thing. I confronted her about this several times and she always admitted her guilt to me, but she had this need to carry on this fantasy with everyone.

My family was terribly hurt when they started to learn the truth, 1 or 2 are still in denial.

What's the point I'm trying to make...? I don't know, don't read sob stories online or something, you usually just end up being a victim of a perverse person who has some strange need to lie or be a victim or something.

It's really amazing how some of the readers just got a sense that things just didn't add up. Human intuition is incredible. Try designing an AI that can do that...

Why oh why am I still awake?

Posting without previewing, I'll probably regret it in the morning...

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

Web of trust (5.00 / 3) (#98)
by John Milton on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:32:42 AM EST

I'm sorry. I didn't read your full post. The first few paragraphs reminded me of something. I had a friend who was one of those crisis lovers. She liked being the center of attention and having people hold her hand so to speak. It's a sickness. You're right. These people usually are pathological liars.

She really gained my trust. People like that seem to know how to get under your skin better than most. She really f***ed with my head and messed me around big time. She told me her boyfriend had beat her, and she thought she was pregnant. After a while, it became obvious that she was full of it.

This is nothing new. The internet just helps it a little bit by removing points of reference. In real life, there is a web of trust that you can rely on. I eventually found our her deception by talking to her friends, and her stories started getting pretty unbelievable.

Being duped and betrayed like this is just a slap in the face. For most people, giving your feelings to another is very hard. Their the most personal thing we have. No one wants to have their feelings treated like toilet paper.

This doesn't mean that I don't trust people. It just means that I don't trust people I don't have any reference to. In any community, you have to build that web of trust. Someone that you trust knows them and says their okay. That's really how all communities work. As an example, someone recently posted a rather blatant attempt to yank K5 around with a cancer story. If that poster had been someone K5 knew and trusted for some time, they might have succeeded.

Don't stop trusting people. Just don't trust them off the bat. Don't trust people who have an issue either. As you pointed out, real people don't go out of their way to tell strangers about their problems. If you have a friend online who you've known for some time, don't be afraid to trust them if they tell you they've come down with a disease. On the other hand, if someone sets up a website chronicling their struggle, leave them alone. What right do they have to demand absolute strangers to care about them?

People can hurt you, but they can only destroy your emotions if you let them. There is nothing unworthy in empathy. The fact that it was deception only speaks of the deciever.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Wouldn't that mean ...we need two webs ? (4.00 / 1) (#102)
by mami on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:19:24 AM EST

It seems to me you are saying that an online community can only generate a web of trust, if all members of that online community knew each other in person in real life ? Or did I misunderstand you ?

But isn't that also impossible, as anonymity allows that any real person can appear under his real identity plus a lot of other ones ?

How hard would it be to know a person even in real life that well, that you could trust that person never to appear online in several personalities ?

Isn't the fact that you can't prevent anonymity on the web technically, the reason for the impossibility to ever create trustworthy online communities ?

Then, what's the meaning of an online community ? What would you prefer the web to be, a more trustful, less anonymous community, or a place which protects anonymity and allows you to speak more freely without fear ? So you trade the more freedom to speak against less trustworthyness about what you and others have to say ? Seems to me a loose-loose situation ?

That's a theoretical question, just pretend it would be possible to create a web, which people could use only under their real identity. Would you think we should have two webs, one which allows anonymity and one which makes anonymous participation impossible ?

[ Parent ]

It's tough (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by John Milton on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:53:53 PM EST

No I wasn't saying that we all have to know each other personally. I realise that trusting people online is always going to be different from trusting people offline. Really, I was thinking more along the lines of a seniority. I don't expect people to believe me if I say I have cancer, because I haven't been here long. We establish trust online the same way we do offline. We trust people, because experience has taught us that they can be trusted.

If someone on K5 told me they had cancer, I would go through a mental procedure. First, I'd check to see how long they've been here. Then I'd try to remember if they had a habit of trolling. I'd also look to see who their supporters and enemies were. You can judge a lot about people by who hates them. This is what I do in real life too. Obviously, there is additional risk, because they could be playing all those parts. I'm willing to take that risk.

As long as they're not asking for money, I don't see why I should even question their motives. Unless someone has something to gain, I don't usually doubt someone who says they have cancer. In this case, it was obvious what the gain was. Being the center of attention. As I've said in another comment, I immediately suspect people who draw attention to their plight. Most people don't do this. Setting up a web page chronicling your struggle is a big turn off for me. You are essentially defining your life by your illness.

Yes, you have a good point. The medium offers new ways to sucker people, but if I can pollyanna for a little bit, I still believe that people are basically honest. Sometimes we don't mention little embarrassing details of our lives, but most of us either are honest or say right up front that it's no ones business.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
I just though to this (none / 0) (#106)
by John Milton on Sat May 26, 2001 at 02:06:26 PM EST

As an aside, there should be some kind of mechanism in place to verify these cases. I don't know anyone who has been helped by the make a wish foundation, but I trust that they are real people. There should be something similar for the web. Sort of like fairtunes for diseases. That way people won't get caught up in little johnny scams.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
What strikes me the most (4.60 / 5) (#58)
by fragnabbit on Wed May 23, 2001 at 09:52:03 AM EST

interesting (or scary if you're into the whole conspiracy thing) is the amount of information that the "investigators" were able to put together around this fictitional person.

It's kinda nice to think you can be anonymous, but there's always those little droppings that you leave around everywhere. Maybe fragnabbit really does have an identity...

But, that's just me...

New Face of Fiction (4.25 / 8) (#59)
by DangerGrrl on Wed May 23, 2001 at 10:22:03 AM EST

I think Bloggers and other web journals are just a new vehical for writers to use. This woman captivated an audiance and was able to bring out emotions based on her writings. She also seems to have used it as a catharsis in dealing with her actual friends illnesses.

I think you can no more say that this woman is in need of psychiatirc treatment than, say, the guys who did The Blair Witch Project or going back even further, the original 1940's radio broadcast version of War of the Worlds. It was a work of fiction - believed to be true. Those who are upset are so because they can not believe that they could get emotional over a work of fiction... Or are selfish in their dissapointment that it someone didn't actualy die to justify their greiving.

I only hope some day I can write as well as this woman did.

I do many things well, none of which generate income.
complete bs (4.75 / 4) (#80)
by Ender Ryan on Thu May 24, 2001 at 09:33:06 AM EST

You can justify it all you like by saying it "was a work of fiction", but the truth is she purposefully deceived many people for her own personal gain, whatever her motivation was...

Think about it this way. The people who read her stories and actually spoke with her came to love Kaycee, like they would anyone else. She became their friend. Let's take this a bit farther, and let's say that your wife isn't real, she's a robot made by someone who wanted to test it out, or something. How would you like that? You wouldn't, and the only differnece with the two situations is that a spouse usually means more to you than a friend, especially one you only speak to online. Either way, it's not nice to fuck with peoples' minds.

If she needed help dealing with her real friends' sicknesses, then she should have talked about her real friends.

This isn't comparable to War of the Worlds, or the Blair Witch Project as they were for entertainment, and both weren't expected to actually fool anyone.

BTW, before War of the Worlds ran, they said that it wasn't real.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

Agreed ... (4.33 / 3) (#90)
by LegionDaMany on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:32:28 PM EST

She could have ... should have ... said up front that all of this was a work of fiction to help herself grieve or honor their memories.

Call me Legion for I am Many ...
[ Parent ]
I've wondered the same about people I know online. (4.40 / 5) (#62)
by grahamsz on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:14:39 PM EST

I spent a long time stressing myself out about in a girl in south africa i used to chat to. She was pretty messed up and way too far into drugs for a normal 16 yr old.

We chatted quite a lot over a short period of time and the she just clean out vanished. She'd tried to kill herself before and all i'm left with are a few log files and a letter written on black paper.

I doubt i'm ever likely to know what happened. Worse still I know similarly messed up people now and feel that I should help them, not that I know how.
Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today
FYI (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by unstable on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:26:22 PM EST

MSNBC has picked up on the story here

Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

Get real. (3.75 / 4) (#65)
by tkatchev on Wed May 23, 2001 at 12:49:52 PM EST

What all this boils down to is that online
communication does not and cannot compare
to real-life. The difference is so vast that
you can't really begin to compare the two --
it's really two completely different things.

(It's somewhat like the difference between
porn magazines and marriage -- porn may be
fun, but trying to replace a real-life
relationship with porn is just ... sad.)

Trying to translate your experiences in the
real world to the online is simply setting
yourself up for a great disappointment.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

What difference does the medium make? (5.00 / 3) (#82)
by PhoenixSEC on Thu May 24, 2001 at 10:45:09 AM EST

I'll admit that I haven't followed the lives of Kaycee and Debbie, but from what I have read, it seems that people had talked to them on the phone, even met them in person; someone can lie in 'real-life' just as easily as online. Halycon's (sp) entries have a good note on this, saying that when you open yourself up to somebody, no matter how you do it, you have risk.

Putting yourself (or your experiences) online is simply a way of sharing with others; no different than talking to someone in person, on the phone, or printing an article in a newspaper. People seem to forget that the Internet is just a medium for people to communicate, not another world to live in.

I was in a relationship with someone for over two years when I found out she was after money. I was lied to, and I wasn't sure how to deal with it. Something I had put myself into (the relationship : ) for quite some time, something I had been with through good times and bad was suddenly gone. Does it mean the whole relationship was void? Does it mean that what I felt had any less value? Because we lived a good distance away from each other, we spent a lot of time on the phone and chatting online... does that lessen anything?

For every hoax online, I can show you someone genuine as well. But more importantly, for every hoax online, I can show you a 'real' person who is the cause of it.


[ Parent ]
this shit can happen in real life too (3.00 / 2) (#88)
by mushroom on Thu May 24, 2001 at 12:02:12 PM EST

no examples come to mind except for spies, and for a book i saw about a dude who went undercover into soviet eastern germany as a reporter in the late 40s to see what life was like there. hell all undercover people, like those people the FBI/etc place into the mafia, or into foreign governments, or into anything.... anyways you get the point i hope.

[ Parent ]
Reality. (3.75 / 8) (#68)
by Signal 11 on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:40:46 PM EST

What is and is not real when it comes to yourself?

The fact of the matter is you can wear any mask, any clothes, be anyone, and do anything, if you put your mind to it. The question of who you 'really are' is a moot point, as is the difference between fiction and reality online... ultimately, this is a shared reality, not based on any physical constraints.

How often we rail against people who drag real-world constraints like 'property' and 'ownership' into this world, yet how easily we are fooled into using other familiar constructs of the physical world online...

Ultimately, it doesn't matter who you are online. Sadly, too many people take this medium far too seriously... probably because they forget it's entirely imaginary and transient.

My damned phone is ringing again... ... POST ...

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

total nonsense (3.66 / 3) (#79)
by Ender Ryan on Thu May 24, 2001 at 09:17:12 AM EST

The internet is a communication medim, just like telephones, telegraphs, television etc. It's not imaginary, it's whatever people make it.

The only difference with the internet and other mediums is that it's a little easier to fool people on the internet. You should know Siggy, you like to use the net as a playground.

Also, it's not that people take the net too seriously, it's that they have compassion for other people and are too gullible.

It's unfortuneate that people like to use the net to play pretend and don't consider the fact that it's not very polite to fuck with people's minds.

I'd also like to point out that it DOES matter who you really are, because no matter what it WILL show, even in this medium that is so good at hiding the truth. You of all people should realize this Siggy. There were about 10 people on slashdot who knew you were just trolling, and there were a few people who's intuition told them that something was amiss in this current situation.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

Rather ironic (2.66 / 3) (#74)
by psctsh on Wed May 23, 2001 at 05:48:12 PM EST

I hadn't followed this closely, especially considering I heard about it here, but it seems that kezdeth has more of a reason to be pissed off than ever before. Assuming kezdeth's still around. Also assuming kezdeth wasn't trolling in the first place. Actually, forget it--I don't have enough information to add to this conversation.

Why to Affect Suffering? (4.66 / 6) (#76)
by localroger on Wed May 23, 2001 at 10:45:10 PM EST

Most of the responses to this story (which is typical of several others I've heard through the years) have boiled down to "why do it?" and "who cares why, they should [insert punishment]."

Suffering is, for all its unpleasantness, a multifaceted source of power. Besides the obvious compassion points you get a sense of inner power for having survived something most people haven't. Often you find hidden reserves of talent and strength you never knew you had. As Colin Wilson put it in A Criminal History of Mankind, man is an animal who shows his best when he is 'up against a wall.' Wilson also quotes (IIRC) Dostoevsky, who was put through a mock execution, as recalling that at that moment when you know you are about to die nothing is boring.

Of course, the problem with really being 'up against the wall' is that you are about to die. It's kind of hard to carry that experience forward to create a New and Improved (or even more self-satisfied) You.

There are lesser examples of this. There are daredevils like Robbie Knievel who risk their lives partly for a living but more because it makes them feel alive. Most of us don't feel like jumping over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle (we rightly know we'd probably screw it up anyway) but we can get a lot of the same thrill by forking over seven bucks to ride a roller coaster. And this I think is the essence of the riddle of people like Kaycee.

Constructing the persona of a person with serious problems and setting that persona loose in a forum like the net where it is believable (if you have that talent) allows you to collect some of the positive elements of that experience without having to experience any of the negative effects. It's really the same as the difference between my riding the roller coaster at NYNY vs Robbie Knievel jumping his cycle between two 20 story buildings -- he might have died, and I almost certainly would not. Of course I didn't make the money, go on national TV, and all the other razzmatazz either; but Kaycee didn't have to actually experience the pain and die at the end either.

There are other parallels to this in the world of sadomasochism, with most practitioners preferring the submissive/bottom role. It really seems that (at least some) human beings have a need to be restrained and to suffer, and that in societies where our needs are met some of us will go to incredible lengths to find vicarious manners in which to suffer. When you look at the effort put forth by someone like Kaycee, it is truly amazing. They do it because they are drawing power from it -- not from the misplaced sympathy of others so much as from the vicarious experience of the suffering itself. The participation of others isn't the primary motivation; that just makes the vicarious experience more real.

I don't feel sorry for Kaycee, or for those she fooled. All were getting their jollies in distinctly unhealthy ways IMHO. And you can expect more of the same behavior in the future, because it seems to be wired in.

I can haz blog!

umm... you lost me at the end there (4.00 / 1) (#78)
by Ender Ryan on Thu May 24, 2001 at 08:55:00 AM EST

"<i>I don't feel sorry for Kaycee, or for those she fooled. All were getting their jollies in distinctly unhealthy ways IMHO. And you can expect more of the same behavior in the future, because it seems to be wired in.</i>"

Ok, WTF? Kaycee wasn't real, so of course you don't feel sorry for her. And what's this about the people she fooled, you don't feel sorry for them?

WTF? The people she fooled were not "getting their jollies" (maybe a small percentage were), they were showing compassion for what they thought was another human being.

I agree with everything else you said though.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

Clarification (5.00 / 2) (#107)
by localroger on Sat May 26, 2001 at 05:16:04 PM EST

And what's this about the people she fooled, you don't feel sorry for them?

Not really. My reason for that is the same, but stems from a different source, than my lack of compassion for the author of the fictional diary.

There are actually several questions here:

  • Why do people post their intimate feelings in this way?
  • Why would someone fake such posts (covered that one)
  • Why does anybody read such diaries?

There are several answers to the first question, some more noble than others. The fact is, most of our lives are not the stuff of high drama, and if they are then we have better things to do than spend n hours a day pounding the record onto the Web. I suspect most bloggers are motivated the same way we are at places like K5 and /. and on usenet; in this media culture the publication of our lives makes life itself seem more real. It's the same thing Colin Wilson said about people who hang mirrors over their beds; it's a way of convincing yourself that your life is actually happening, that it is real and important and visceral.

Note that some people are better at this than others, which is why places like K5 and /. have rating systems and usenet has moderated forums.

Now, to the subject of this comment: the folks who read blogs. If a blog is genuine then it is most likely to be long and mundane. I would expect that the interesting blogs get more traffic than the mundane ones, which is one source of validation for the authors (and part of the motivation I covered in the first post). The thing is, what makes an interesting blog interesting is that it is a record of someone else's interesting life. Surely more people read the blog of someone who is dying of cancer than that of Joe who has gone to his job at the record store the same way every weekday for the last 144 weeks -- just a suspicion I have.

Now, what often makes a life interesting is suffering and angst. The next question is why browse blogs for such tidbits when better constructed more reliable stories abound in literature? The answer, of course, is that the suffering and angst in a blog are (supposedly) real.

Now, I don't doubt that the compassion of the blog readers is genuine; the definition of entertainment is that you use a constructed experience to alter your feelings. What bothers me about the whole thing is that it seems just a bit vampiric. Let's face it, reading a blog is a very cheap way to experience compassion for someone dying of cancer; it's a roller coaster just like the one Kaycee rode, where you have a safe distance from the emotions you're generating just in case they get out of hand. It's more thrilling and immersive than reading a mere novel since it has that frisson of reality, but it's still safely behind a glass screen in case the monsters get to look too realistic.

So, to reiterate, I think the readers of Kaycee's blog were drawing the same vicarious thrill out of their enhanced (but still safely distant) Brush with the Big C that Kaycee got at an even closer distance. But just as Kaycee never had cancer, her readers never knew anyone with cancer. This would have been true even had Kaycee been real. This is why I think the whole phenomenon should be perceived as an elaborate form of masturbation.

P.S. I am aware of the irony that I am posting this in a public forum similar in many ways to a blog. It's not my only vice.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I see your point (none / 0) (#108)
by Ender Ryan on Sat May 26, 2001 at 11:57:56 PM EST

I see your point, and I agree. I guess it really depends on the blog and the people who participate.

Personally, I prefer the real world for giving/receiving kindness and compassion when life gets tough.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

That means you cave in ? (none / 0) (#83)
by mami on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:14:58 AM EST

Suffering is, for all its unpleasantness, a multifaceted source of power

When you look at the effort put forth by someone like Kaycee, it is truly amazing. They do it because they are drawing power from it -- not from the misplaced sympathy of others so much as from the vicarious experience of the suffering itself. The participation of others isn't the primary motivation; that just makes the vicarious experience more real.

And you think these sickly motivations for grabbing power is something we should not counterbalance ? If your answer is yes, my question is how ? Considering that the technology and medium of the web is so far uncontrollable and the legal framework more or less a crutch about to break under the weight of the absolute freedom to abuse the system, I like an answer to that.

I remember having seen this sig in the early days I started using the web. "There are no victims, only volunteers". I got pretty worked out about the meaning of this sig. Let's for a moment pretend I would take that sig's meaning as being truthful (which I definitely don't do), then how would you think that a technology (invented incidentically as everything), which we can't control, wouldn't cause victims without volunteering ?

[ Parent ]

in other words (none / 0) (#84)
by mami on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:28:16 AM EST

then how would you think that a technology (invented incidentically as everything), which we can't control, wouldn't cause victims without volunteering ?

Before that gets misunderstood, let me try to formulate it clearer. What I meant to say is that a technology, which we can't control, will automatically cause victims, even if they would never volunteer to become victims and would fight it to the end (risking their lives for it).

Hope that makes it clearer.

[ Parent ]

Makes me wonder... (3.80 / 5) (#81)
by thomas on Thu May 24, 2001 at 09:49:23 AM EST

This makes me wonder what would happen if The Bible were ever proven to be a work of fiction?

(PLEASE don't start a religious flamewar over this... I said "if")

On another note, I don't really think there was anything so wrong with this. OK, so the phone calls and photos might have been going over the top a little... but the story itself served it's purpose, to bring out an emotional response from the readers.

The fact that the person wasn't "real" doesn't make the emotional response any less real. How many of us have an emotional response to works of fiction we KNOW are fictional?

and who's to say that Kaycee wasn't real? She might not have existed in flesh and blood, but she existed in someone's imagination. I feel that that, too, is in a way it's own reality.

If someone were to develop a true artificial intelligence, could you say that it isn't "real"? Or maybe it is "real" because it "exists" in the transistors of a computer... in that case, Kaycee is just as real, existing in the neurons of a human brain.

and, what's "real"? Is the tabletop below your monitor actually "solid"? even though it's almost entirely empty space, with a neutrons, protons, and electrons taking up miniscule amounts of space and bound together with extremely strong forces?

hrm... ok.... enough incoherent blathering. It's 2am... I should really go to bed.

War never determines who is right; only who is left.

This was done with the Princess Bride too (5.00 / 2) (#89)
by Mtgman on Thu May 24, 2001 at 02:42:02 PM EST

Anyone who has ever read the book <A HREF="http://shop.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=034543014X"><UL>The Princess Bride</UL></A> probably remembers how it was all told as a semi-autobiography. William Goldman relates intimate details about his childhood and family life in the "notes" he makes on "S. Morgenstern's Classic". It is completely believable, everything from an immigrant father who has problems adjusting to American Society, to the wise old lady down the street, frustrations with his career and wife. He bares his soul in that book. Then you find out that it's all a lie. He made it all up. There never was an S. Morgenstern and the way this book brought out his true nature as a lover of literature and inspired him to become a writer all feels like a sham.

I remember reading that book for the first time. I felt sorry for him because he had problems with a cold, overanalytical wife and an apathetic son whom he had trouble relating to. Years later I found out that he made up the entire story. Now I don't know if he was ever even married or had a son. I accepted the novel as a work of fiction, but the notes by the man who "abridged" it were presented as fact. When I discovered that the fact was indeed fiction, it shocked me. I might feel even more offended if I had been communicating with Mr. Goldman on a personal basis for some time through the net or in some other medium.

Sometimes telling the nature of a story as true/untrue ruins the story, but I think intentional deception is even worse than "ruining" the story.


Fargo (5.00 / 2) (#93)
by ucblockhead on Thu May 24, 2001 at 05:19:05 PM EST

The movie "Fargo" begins with words indicating that what you are about to see is a dramatization of a true story. That is a crock of shit, and was done for affect. The story is completely fiction.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Eaters of the Dead (5.00 / 2) (#94)
by 42 on Thu May 24, 2001 at 05:58:17 PM EST

...aka "The 13th Warrior" also had the same problem. Of course, if you have read a recent edition of the book, there is a postscript where Michael Crichton himself explains that the "notes" and other scholarly comments littered throughout the book are nothing but fiction. However, I think Mr. Crichton can be excused - he does go on to give a good reason as to why he wrote the book the way he did.

Of course, if you had read the original edition of the book, you would have been very confused. Just as people watching "Fargo" were (see the post by ucblockhead in this thread)

[ Parent ]

Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card (none / 0) (#103)
by Locke on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:49:02 PM EST

When the Lost Boys first appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine as a short story it was presented as autobiographical about an emotionally charged time in OSC's life and included his actual family. I'll try to avoid any spoilers and only say it was tragedy in which one of the characters was an invention. People took it as a true story and were horribly upset when it was revealed that it was in fact only semi-autobiographical containing a fictional character and fictional events. In later reprints he added an introduction to warn people and when the short story was turned into a novel he changed all the names.

I think this kind of thing happens fairly often in literature and I generally find it adds a layer of intrigue. But I can certainly see how those not in the know would come away feeling very cheated.

[ Parent ]

This is why the Captain has a charter (4.50 / 2) (#91)
by Denor on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:07:40 PM EST

My other account was created a while ago when I saw some folks creating alternate personalities in the diaries sections, and elsewhere. I wanted to do likewise because I had a story which could be told well in diary format, and I wanted to create a character people would like and enjoy reading about.

What I most certainly didn't want was to make people think that my alternate character was real. Mainly to avoid exactly this kind of mess, but also because I didn't want to deceive people. I think I accomplished this by making him the Captain of a spaceship ("...if you think Captain Ledford is an actual spacecraft pilot then you have other problems to deal with") but to make doubly sure, I created a set of rules that effectively became his charter.

I think this has worked out pretty well; I had some folks who followed the captain's adventures and enjoyes it, and I don't get anyone who thinks I'm suckering them, or will be disappointed when they find out he's not real. And I have fun doing it.

And yes, I will start writing those diaries again now that I have internet access back. :)


if this wern't so stupid it would be funny (2.25 / 4) (#96)
by Shren on Thu May 24, 2001 at 08:15:33 PM EST

A con woman picking a disease of the month generates a community full of sympathy. Good thing that she didn't try it here - we've got a reputation for pissing all over people who come looking for something as rediculous as sympathy or human contact.

You're being a little harsh (4.00 / 2) (#99)
by John Milton on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:49:01 AM EST

I've seen a lot of human contact here. A real person usually doesn't look for sympathy by announcing their illness to a group of total strangers. I immediately distrust people like that. I assume your referencing a recent poster here. He was given a lot of sympathy, and then he went crazy. Real people rarely draw attention to their illnesses. Most only want to talk about them with close friends.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Kaycee / Keyser and The Usual Suspects (4.00 / 1) (#101)
by Yanna on Fri May 25, 2001 at 07:43:05 AM EST

Is it just me or the name Kaycee sounds almost as "Keyser", the master of disguise in The Usual Suspects (Keyser Soze)?

It got me thinking. It wouldn't be the first time that a writer who wanted to impersonate someone, gave some kind of "hint" for the conoscieur.

Kaycee/ Keyser would be a pretty brilliant one for such a trick.

Anyway, this sort of thing is nothing new. In any case, it could be a kind of "The war of the worlds" in the Internet era.

I hope that freezes your'(sic) and Yanna's smiles into grinning super power morons for eternity. mami

War of the worlds (none / 0) (#105)
by ODiV on Fri May 25, 2001 at 03:24:29 PM EST

IIRC during the War of the Worlds broadcast, about every half hour or so, O.W. had to say that, yes, it was all an act... So this is a little different.

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
I married someone I met on the net (2.00 / 2) (#110)
by GoingWare on Tue May 29, 2001 at 06:30:59 AM EST

Last summer I married a woman I met on the Internet. We got together when she sent me an e-mail to say she liked my web page. Not that the page was so stupendous, she just thought it was nice of me to have written it and wrote to say so. We started corresponding, and after a few weeks I asked for her phone number. At the time she lived in Nova Scotia and I in California.

You can bet that we spent lots of time face-to-face before getting married. Actually our original plan to meet was for me to send her a plane ticket and she'd fly out to meet me. This was in the middle of an icy canadian winter. But her friends talked some sense into her about how she shouldn't fly out to California to go spend time with some stranger she met on the net until they'd all had a chance to meet me first. So instead I flew to Nova Scotia in the middle of January to meet her.

I satisfied her friends' interrogations, and we got along well and stuff, and she did fly out to California a few weeks later. She eventually came out to live with me there (on a TN-1 visa) after a total of 5 trips, one of which I went to meet her parents. Hmm, she went to meet mine too on one of our trips.

Even so, things weren't like normal dating for the early part of our relationship. In many ways it was advantageous, because all we had was the telephone and the internet and so we had to say what we wanted to say out loud. It helped a lot for me because I'm quite shy. I do better on the phone than in person with most people. But it wasn't quite right when we would get together in person because our time was so limited, and one of us was away from home.

It's been challenging, because we are such different people. I think if we had met in real life at first we might have thought each other too different, and maybe not have gotten together. We have dramatically different styles. I like to stay up all night but she keeps much more conventional hours. I'm quite introverted but she is quite bold. We're from different countries.

Interestingly she is much more skeptical of communicating with strangers on the internet than she used to be and says "look what happened when I did it before" as a reason why!

I am the K5 user now known as MichaelCrawford. I am not my corporation.

The Life and Death of a False Warrior | 111 comments (103 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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