Going Viral

I’ve been watching, with morbid fascination, a developing news story about a video that shows an Aransas County Court judge beating his daughter for illegally downloading a video game from the Internet.

The seven minute long video was recorded by the daughter, Hillary Adams–who clearly knew what was about to happen to her–back in 2004, but she had always kept it to herself until she uploaded it to YouTube on Thursday of last week (27th Oct 2011), apparently in response to some recent harassment by her father, Judge William Adams.

There it sat on YouTube, virtually unnoticed, until last night (1st Nov), when Hillary herself posted a link to the video on Reddit. (If you want to watch the video, follow the link. It’s too disturbing to embed into this post.) By the time I became aware of it this morning, via a news story on TorrentFreak, it had already garnered over 500,000 views. I suspect it will have been viewed by well over a million people by the end of the day.

It was interesting to see how news of the video spread through the Internet. When I first searched for the story on Google News, there were just a couple of dozen link to reports, most of them in blogs, or at sites that specialize in dredging up the latest viral story to hit the web.

By this time, the Aransas County court house was being bombarded with phone calls, (they put up a notice asking people to stop calling) and within the next hour, some of the local south Texas news outlets–TV station news and newspaper web sites–were hot on the trail. First they were posting short pieces with the barest of information about the video, but soon they were updating their articles with quotes from the daughter, the mother, and then finally the villain of the piece, Judge Adams himself. Corpus Cristi TV station KRIS now has six stories on this one news item alone.

Concurrently, the story was hitting the national and international press. Not surprisingly, the British Daily Mail, which loves juicy stories like this that provoke moral outrage was one of the first, if not the first major newspaper outlet to publish a story about it (the story up there now is very different from the original), but by early afternoon, CNN, the Fox, ABC News, and the rest had all picked it up.

I’m not sure Hillary Adams was expecting to happen, but I suspect she is somewhat astounded by the amount of coverage her video has gained, all in less than a day.

The other interesting thing is, even though Adams provided most of the information people needed to understand the context of the beating incident with the video, that didn’t stop some of the major outlets from getting a few of the more important facts wrong. In some cases she was depicted as a mentally disabled girl, and in others she was disabled. In fact, she’s neither. She suffers from ataxic cerebral palsy which can make it difficult for a sufferer to move in a coordinate fashion, but one quick look at her other uploaded videos shows her to be a bright young woman and an accomplished pianist, so any disability she has is very mild.

There were also a couple of calls for the Child Protective Services to get involved, even though she was 16 at the time the video was made, and that was seven years ago. You do the math. Fortunately for the press, the internet is a very forgiving place and you can quickly send mistakes and glaring inaccuracies down the memory hole, never to be mentioned again.

Another fascinating aspect to the story is how easily people can jump to a very specific conclusion about a family’s history from just one seven minute video. Don’t get me wrong. There is no way to sugarcoat what is shown in the video. There is absolutely no excuse for subjecting any child to the kind of beating and abuse William Adams inflicted on his daughter. I don’t know how illegal his behavior is, but any time you have to raise your hand to a child, it’s because you have failed as a parent.

After clicking on a few links, I came across an old blog that Hillary Adams had written between the age of 19 and 21, and it tells a more complicated story.

You would think that being subjected to such abusive treatment from her father (and this was not the only time) their relationship would be pretty cut and dried, but from reading some of the old entries from her blog, that is definitely not the case. For one, even though her mother tells us that she escaped her abusive marriage, Hillary continued to live with her father after the separation (she was 19 or 20 at the time), and there are several comments about her dad in her blog that any teenage daughter might make — being excited to go with him to Six Flags for the first time, going to buy a car with him, expressing her love for him, and so on. The only hint that all was not well in their relationship is when she’s about to finally moving out of the house (at the age of 20), saying that it is her father’s behavior that has forced the issue. Even then, she tells her friends that he’s been nice to her recently and that she is glad that not to be moving out on such a negative note.

Of course, it is often the case with abusive relationships that the abuser can turn on the charm and everything is sweetness and light for a time, and that might well be the case here, but given the overall content of her journal (i.e. not for parents’ eyes!) I believe Hillary when she said today that she wants her dad to get the help he needs, not to see him punished.

Finally, one does have to wonder about the mindset of a father who clearly doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, even after all this time:

“She’s mad because I’ve ordered her to bring the car back, in a nutshell, but yeah that’s me, I lost my temper,” Adams told us. “Her mother was there, she wasn’t hurt.. it was a long time ago.. I really don’t want to get into this right now because as you can see my life’s been made very difficult over this child,” Adams continued.

When asked if he felt he was going to face any suspension or discipline from the state over the video Adams responded, “In my mind I have not done anything wrong other than discipline my child when she was caught stealing. I did lose my temper, I’ve apologized.. it looks worse than it is.”

He can bluster all he wants about discipline, but the bolded part of his comment says it all. “This child” is the cause of all his current trouble, and that’s all he cares about.

Fortunately, having had a glimpse into his daughter’s life, she seems to have grown up to be an extremely talented, musical, well-adjusted young woman, with plenty of friends and in a healthy relationship with her boyfriend. She’s definitely a little on the wild side, but she seems to be living life to the full, and that’s what really matters.

Good for her.

Update: I knew she was a smart lass. Here’s a tweet of hers from the day she posted the video on YouTube:

The more I learn about theism, the more atheist I become. #fb

27 Oct via Twitter for iPhone


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