Video

Bullied to death: the last testament of Amanda Todd

12 Jan

amanda-toddI cry easily at movies. Not just Schindler’s List or the ending of Titanic, but Lord of the Rings or The Lion King. But I’ve never cried at a short, not until today. The story of Amanda Todd will break your heart in nine minutes flat.

Her death, and the video she made six weeks before her death, were reported three months ago, but they passed me by until I read about them just now on cult musician Amanda Palmer’s blog. The video is stark, and beautifully simple: a 15-year-old girl tells her story by holding up hand-written cue cards, in the manner of Bob Dylan on Subterranean Homesick Blues. Fixed camera, black and white, no frills. Yet it’s had 25 million views on YouTube.

She tells of the adult cyberstalker who duped her, aged 12, into flashing him in a video chat, and then blackmailed her with the pictures. Of how her whole school found out, and bullied and ostracised her for it. Of how, when she moved, the whole of her next school found out. And then…

Well. Watch the video. It’s even more heart-wrenching to know that it is effectively her suicide note. The opening cue-card reads, “Hello. I’ve decided to tell you about my never-ending story.” In fact her story ended six weeks later. (Blog continues under the video.)

The manner of filming is as powerful as the message. There is no distraction; the cards demand your concentration. Crucially, Amanda’s full face is never seen: only her mouth and her ringleted hair. By not putting a specific face on her suffering, she becomes the Everywoman of bullying victims. This story is not just hers, but that of anyone who has ever put on a brave face in public and cried alone.

It would be nice if Amanda became Malala, the Pakistani teenager who narrowly survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to attend school; or the unnamed 23-year-old victim whose horrific rape and murder in Delhi has stirred India to action; or the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire to protest persecution in south Vietnam or the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It would be nice if her death were not wholly the futile, senseless, tragic waste that suicides are. It would be nice if something positive were to come of her suffering. If in death she had the power to change minds that in life she lacked.

We should all try to make it so.

Hatred can only survive without empathy, and it’s a hard heart who could not feel for this lonely, persecuted girl. And all the millions out there just like her.

Her mother has said, “I think the video should be shared and used as an anti-bullying tool. That is what my daughter would have wanted.” It should be required viewing for all teenagers, hard as it is to watch. And if in future they see someone being bullied, or reaching out in any way for help, I like to think they will not so easily turn aside.

There are, tragically, many other stories like Amanda Todd’s. Read my second blog on the subject here

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16 Responses to “Bullied to death: the last testament of Amanda Todd”

  1. igorgoldkind January 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I saw her video through Amanda Palmer’s blog as well, interestingly whilst Palmer was dealing with her own net-hostility by Googling the phrase ‘I hate Amanda . . .’ before she could finish, Google had filled in Todd and thus the link was revealed. It’s criminal that there was no one to stick up for Amanda Todd, to explain that the world is by a default a hostile, judgment-ridden place and that her self-awareness was worth more than all the judgements of her peers put together. It’s a shame that there was no one like Amanda Palmer around to tell her to take pride in being a freak by telling everyone else to f***k off. She obviously had a talent for self-expression; another potential artist literally bites the dust.

    • dominicwells January 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      You’re so right, Igor. There’s a video around of her singing, too. Not at all a bad voice.

  2. Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    This is done for the lulz, right? Firstly, the wretched Amanda Todd story should be over and done with now – it is just so old that no-one really cares – so stop milking it. Secondly, the story is so fake as to be risible – I assume you don’t know the full story, and her online history as the ‘pornstar’ of BlogTV? No? – well save your tears, bro. The story is fake.

    • dominicwells January 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Hi Philip: I’m not saying you’re wrong, and if you have any further evidence I would be interested if you would share it, but as a journalist I operate on reliability of sources and balance of probabilities. There is a tendency for anything that comes out to be labelled as fake. The Moon landings, for instance, I personally believe on balance of probabilities and sources actually happened and were not faked, though you’ll find plenty who think otherwise.
      In Amanda Todd’s case she has a family, interviewed extensively at the time by major press outlets (mostly in Canada, where they lived) and on television. One of the most detailed is from the Vancouver Sun, here: http://tinyurl.com/bjrjsfs. The police have been looking extensively into the case, and while they haven’t yet found the cyberstalker, they did find at least one paedophile connected with Amanda’s case, and have found no evidence that the story is fake. There have been fake fundraising sites set up following her death, see ABC News here: http://tinyurl.com/95yowrj. But those are not connected with Amanda or her family. The hacker group Anonymous have also muddied the waters somewhat with conflicting statements, see comment on this here: http://tinyurl.com/arb2hnp.
      That said, is every single detail in Amanda Todd’s video true? Not necessarily. When people tell their own stories, they may embellish or omit certain details to make themselves look better. Regarding Blog TV, there is a long article on the Daily Dot here: http://tinyurl.com/8kvjxzl. It suggests she might possibly have exposed herself on the site more often than she admitted, but this does not, surely, at such a young age, make you a porn star, and it does not make her the only pubescent child to have such poor judgement with hormones flowing, as the article sadly makes clear.
      However, the key points of Amanda’s video — that she was persecuted by someone who had filmed her on Blog TV and tracked her to different schools, and that her schoolmates then made her life a misery to the point where she felt she had no other option but to end it — are not merely alleged by her, but are supported by her family, and accepted by the police.

      • igorgoldkind January 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

        It’s indicative of our times in the battle between taxonomies and folksonomies; conspiracies, hoaxes, satirical send ups and socio-art projects that we find it so much more difficult to discern reality from its presentation. There are benefits to be gained of course, from doubting every fact and scrutinizing every account of an event. We are less prone to both propaganda and marketing and we are less likely to follow a swarm of lemmings off a precipice of reason. However, our inbuilt cynicism can work against us as much as it serves as a moral safety valve. It can make us so skeptical of received information that we can wind up suspecting even the daylight as an elaborate ruse of the night. And when all facts are suspended in disbelief then the idea of a fact itself becomes dubious and what’s real and what’s not real melts into a moral pot of preferred accounts.
        As you say, your experience as a journalist sways you to “personally believe in a balance of probabilities and sources”; corroboration is where folksonomie and scientific verification intersect. And although there’s always the possibility of dark forces rigging every result, stuffing every expert and white washing every account, the probability against it increases in direct proportion to the extent. Contemplate the number of Nasa scientists, engineers, bureaucrats and government officials (and their families), would have had to be coerced or bought off to pull off a fake moon landing.
        In the case of Amanda Todd, Amanda’s parents are very much at the forefront of the video promotion, in (what I believe is an honest), effort to expose the dangers of bullying. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/amanda-todd-heartbroken-father-of-suicide-1383939
        Like you Dominic, I’m open to review contradictory evidence; but I would be astounded to discover the video and the girl’s tragic suicide was faked. That said,when I first saw the trailer for McFarlane’s film Ted, I thought it was a parody send up of bad Hollywood comedies. Anything is possible.

      • Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

        Seriously, you are way behind the story. I wish you would just get the story right. I assume you have seen the pictures of her – easily available. And the video in which she prances around, doing it for fun. She was on Omegle, UStream, TinyChat, BlogTV – she was all over. The Daily Dot is poor reporting as usual. You should rely more on the Capper Awards, where it is stated that she was actually IP banned from BlogTV – and that is serious stuff. You really have fallen for this pathetic pile of crap, without asking the basic questions. I’ve copied this from my page, which completely destroys the story:
        OK – if you saw my page, loads of it is already explained, and I’ve finished with this page. But if you want a quick explanation:
        1. We all know by now that the one-off photo was a complete lie, as we have seen all the other pics of her online and we know she even got banned at one point.
        2. She says she cut, but if you look closely, none of her pics show any scars, or any marks, and she always nearly wears short sleeves – not the sign of a cutter.
        3. She was supposedly stalked, but over two years no-one’s been caught – not the slightest hint of a trail. Yet, if he sent pics of her to friends, if he blackmailed, there would have been emails, FB pages, loads of stuff to follow – we don’t even have a name, or pretend name.
        4. If she was so stalked and frightened to go online, why was she still online from December 2010, when it all started. If she was lying low, why was she doing Pruitt covers on YouTube. Why wasn’t she kept off?
        5. Mother gives contradictory stories: she knew about the video; she helped with the video; she didn’t know until after. They knew about the stalker; they didn’t know about the stalker. Amanda had no friends; she had loads of friends.
        6. No funeral records. Pictures of everything else – her memorial service was broadcast live. But no record of funeral, service, church, priest/pastor, no gravestone or urn of ashes, no nothing.
        7. No names of the bullies; no evidence of the bullies; not even a gossip about them. No school punishments.
        8. Under-age sex is a felony. But no record of the guy she supposedly hooked up with, who would have been at least told off.
        9. The ‘4 hour before death’ video was actually made in Jan 2011.
        10. Her mother says that she was taken off online for six months, but she was still there.
        11. Amanda’s online history shows only one move in the last 4 years – from her father’s house in Maple Ridge to her mother’s in Port Coquitlam (5 miles) – hardly moving cities on multiple occasions.
        12. She moved school once in the last two years – from Maple Ridge to CABE (a school for kids with special needs).
        And the list goes on. It’s all a pack of lies.
        Honestly, it’s tiresome. Any evidence you want (or extreme lack of it, more like) I can supply. Just don’t ask for the pics – they are ilegal. Try googling ‘Amanda Todd 4chan’ or ‘Amanda Todd blogtv’ images (and remember – switch moderation OFF duh) – they are nearly always there.

      • Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

        “The police have been looking extensively into the case, and while they haven’t yet found the cyberstalker, they did find at least one paedophile connected with Amanda’s case.” Utter drivel – if you piece together the chronology, and ALL the news, there’s no evidence that the police found a name – wouldn’t they have said that? To rely on mom’s word and the report you quote is poor – the jigsaw is complex, but the finding of a paedophile is a gross exaggeration. If you can find a quote DIRECTLY from the police, then that will be a miracle.

      • Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

        “It suggests she might possibly have exposed herself on the site more often than she admitted” sure – she was IP banned, quite a feat. “at such a young age, make you a porn star” – sorry, I was using her school nickname. “it does not make her the only pubescent child to have such poor judgement with hormones flowing” – one mistake maybe, but exposure on many occasions from 2009-2010, and getting banned is a bit more than ‘hormones’.
        “However, the key points of Amanda’s video — that she was persecuted by someone who had filmed her on BlogTV” actually that’s not her story. Her story says she was tricked while talking to friends. “and tracked her to different schools” rubbish – two schools in this time, and there was no need to track her – she gave EVERY SINGLE detail of herself online. “her schoolmates then made her life a misery to the point where she felt she had no other option but to end it” maybe true, but mom says she had loads of friends, and many friends turned up to her memorial service. “are not merely alleged by her” to cover her behaviour, to make it look like coercion rather than narcissism on a large scale – “but are supported by her family” to make it look like they were not the most negligent parents on earth with a well-known BlogTV star for a daughter “and accepted by the police” who haven’t done much in 2 years!!!! LOL

      • Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

        For the truth: It’s all there. The ‘still alive’ bit is a bit over the top, but most of the pointers are there. Too many holes in the story – just disengage the emotions for a minute, and look more journalistically: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Philip-Rose/447862891942778?ref=hl

  3. Philip Rose January 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Quick correction: Maple Ridge to Coquitlam is 15 miles, not 5. Seriously, guize – it’s all baloney, driven out of control by the Anonymous crap and all the RIP pages. LOL

    • dominicwells January 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Hi Philip — Thanks for your replies. I’ve got so interested in researching this that I haven’t started a commissioned feature with deadline of tomorrow, so just a quick response before I switch to writing that. It’s clear you have looked into this in some detail, and as I said I keep an open mind and have no particular axe to grind, so unlike most of the posters on your FB page I am certainly not going to dismiss what you say out of hand. However, holes in any story do not necessarily make for out and out fiction; as I said, narrators are always unreliable, especially teenagers, and that goes double for troubled ones. Whatever the degrees of “blame” — eg whether she was the innocent semi-angel she makes out, or a troubled young girl who found validation in the sexual approval of others — my heart still goes out to anyone whose life is so miserable they feel no hope for the future, and that suicide is the only option.
      Most interesting, then, is your more recent and more radical suggestion that the whole video story and subsequent suicide were faked in order to give Amanda a false identity and a new life; a suggestion inspired mostly, as I understand it, by having found no evidence of an actual funeral, gravestone etc rather than the public memorial service. It’s superficially attractive as it would at least establish a plausible motive for parents and, obviously, police to collude in a fiction.
      But really — when you consider reports such as this from the National Post, http://tinyurl.com/ahgld5y, that the Coroners’ Service has issued a statement about her death, and that 25 police are working on the case, is that really plausible? What a monumental deception to pull off. For the parents as well, who have now become quite high-profile and easily recognised, and thus could never again be seen with their daughter for fear of her new identity being revealed. The lack of concrete details about her death are, I understand, fairly common in cases of teen suicide, due to an agreement among press and police that publicising them may inspire copycat suicides; not publicising the whereabouts of a funeral or gravestone would also avoid unwanted attention of fans and detractors. You yourself say, just now, that the suggestion that she didn’t actually kill herself is “a bit over the top”, so I’m not sure you’re buying this one yourself.
      As to the so-called blackmail, without wanting to go into naming any paedophiles or suspected paedophiles, UK libel laws being what they are, there is a suggestion on an in-depth site I read that Amanda informed the Cappers in 2010 through an intermediary that she was being blackmailed. Plus it was reported at the time in the Mail, “During a memorial for Todd on Monday, her friends said they have been aware of a man in his 30s ‘stalking’ their friend for years. ‘There were multiple accounts with random names,’ one friend told QMI Agency. ‘There were Twitter accounts also used.'”
      But maybe you’re right. Maybe there was no blackmailing, just a girl trying to shift the blame for her online activities, to her friends as well as family. Maybe even, as you also suggest, there was no bullying. Why then would she take her own life? Assuming still that she did, since as I say I’m far from sold on the notion that she didn’t. All very interesting, anyway, and I thank you for taking the time to raise your doubts about holes in her video testimony, some of which seem quite justified — even if, as I say, they don’t necessarily constitute out-and-out fakery.
      Darn, I said “quick response”, and I’m still here hundreds of words later. Back to work…

      • Philip Rose January 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

        Dominic – I can supply you with virtually every single detail of this. There just so much to work with – I know all of her online identities, what she wrote and what she did. The story is far, far more complex than you know. You may want to research Jessi Slaughter – I believe that the Todd story has many parallels, except they decided to eradicate Amanda’s identity completely. I know the site that supplies all the BlogTV caps. And I can supply you with another interesting story, showing a series of faked suicides – try this FB page and see my comments under Kat Fike’s posts and others: http://www.facebook.com/AmandaTodd1996.2012
        Regarding holes in the story: why would police turn up at 4am? And did you know that (also verifiable) they turned up due to COMPLAINTS from the public regarding her online antics? Now – regarding the Capper awards. These were dated December 2010, and I have a feeling they precipitated the above calls to the police. Now – police turned up supposedly on December 23rd, 2010. Shock horror! Get her offline. But she’s still there three weeks later on UStream, complaining that there is a moderator and her friend says ‘They like to see me’. So what happened there? Hardly an anxious response to online stalking.
        The original Capper ‘I am being blackmailed’ nonsense is also in January 2011, though there is another where the comments are dated October 2011. Why did no-one come forward then? And if she was blackmailed, why did she simply not put ‘I am being blackmailed by xxxxxx’? Why no names? As usual with ‘conspiracy’ plots, there is a distinct lack of names – no names of bullies, no name of the school where it took place, no nothing. Yet there is so much info about everything else.
        Coming back to the fakery. We are led to believe she had social anxiety and that the Internet was a no-go area for her – it was a danger zone. Yet we have the famous video, and the video of her singing the Pruitt cover song. If she is so stalked why put on ‘Hello, it’s me again’ videos? If she’s so socially anxious, why advertise herself? You HAVE to ask questions. At this point, the story splits: mine says that the authorities stepped in to protect her – they had warned her time and time again to keep away, but time and time again she went back on to the very medium that was killing her. If the story is true, then I’m guessing that she got spotted again, and the online messages began again. She was well-known – it wouldn’t have taken her enemies 5 minutes to recognise her again. If – in the story – people were sending messages like ‘drink bleach’ and so on before now, seriously, would you go back online with a video channel?
        The key to why it was so botched is this: they cooked up a story, thinking that it would stay local. They had NO idea that Anonymous would poke their noses in, and no idea that it would go viral. Hence the holes in the story – no-one imagined it would be examined.
        Last but not least. A profiler, or watcher of body language, would say that there weren’t many signs of grief from the mother. And mother keeps re-telling the story: from a one-off photo taken by chance, to her knowing about the Capper community and her daughter’s ‘celebrity’; from being socially anxious and friendless to a gregarious person surrounded by friends; from a virtual recluse to someone who was out on the town late at night; from her knowing of the video and helping, to not knowing until after is is made. Inconsistency after inconsistency.
        btw – I contacted the RCMP on their FB page saying it’s about time they owned up. They deleted all references to the case from the page. I’m not sure how much I’ve covered here, but believe me I know a hell of a lot about this case. It’s definitely not what it seems.

      • Philip Rose January 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

        btw – please tell me you don’t think that Kody Maxson is 30? I would scream if you didn’t know all the facts about that! LOL

      • Philip Rose January 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

        A little gift for you. Note four things: the video from Mandaa&Shyy was recorded January 2011 (three weeks after the shock of the police arriving December 23rd 2010); this video is the ‘4 hours before death’ video that has been cut short and received over a million hits on YouTube; she says something like ‘damn, there’s a moderator’ (9:23) and her friend says (10:38) ‘They like to see me’ – see me what?; last sign in to the account? October 26th 2012, 16 days after death. By whom? And why not erased? I rest my case for now. http://199.66.238.62/user/AmandaTodd

  4. dominicwells January 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Thanks again. As I said, it seems plausible that Amanda might concoct a blackmail story to deflect responsibility from her online activities. Not saying she did, but there is plausible motive there. Less plausible that parents and police would collude in a massive cover-up, especially if there was in fact no blackmail. As to her going back online… some kids do dumb things, so can’t say anything one way or the other. And if her mother has story-shifts, again people may not always tell the whole truth at all times for fear of making themselves or a loved one look bad (and as to grief, it affects all of us in very different ways). As to the four hours before death video, I’d assumed it was trumped-up after her death by randomers (like the fake morgue shots at the time), but I wouldn’t know. Certainly doesn’t seem to be a video that adds credence in any way to a suicide, so don’t see why it would be part of any possible fake. As to the sign-on two weeks after death, no idea! Possibly someone else using the account, whether hacker, family or police gaining access to check what Amanda had been up to? So, I know I don’t have all the answers, nor am likely to. But thank you for posing the questions.

    • Philip Rose January 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      Not bored with it quite yet, though? The problems don’t stem from blackmail. (Did you research Jessi Slaughter btw?). This is my scenario:
      Young kid goes online April 2008. Like most kids, becomes remarkably adept at registering online and all the technology.
      She’s 12, nearly 13. Hormones rampaging. Talking with boys (early video proof online) also hormones rampaging.
      This girl craves attention. Parents splitting up, combined with a certain amount of narcissism – a bad mix.
      Girl quickly learns that flashing gets attention. Video shows her and her friend aged about 13 having a laugh and flashing.
      Girl gets semi-addicted. Flashes more and more. It becomes a habit. She does more than just flash. This gives her a thrill. Then……..
      She gets caught (December 2010) – her photos have gone viral in the local community – some kid or kids have got hold of them and within nanoseconds they are all over.
      Police arrive. Big hooha, with possible social services sanctions. Parents claim ignorance, she claims ‘stalker made me do it’.
      It calms down, but her behaviour has been busted. With it out in the open, kids round on her like the little savages they are. She digs even deeper holes – sex, drink, drugs. She’s out of control.
      Parents allow her back on Facebook, but notoriety kills her again. She is recognised. By this time, her mental state is weak. They MUST get her off the Internet – this will keep happening.
      Final straw. After being hospitalised and God knows what, she goes back on with another attention seeking video. A bit more mature, but deadly. She does a Pruitt cover – BAM! – she’s recognised again.
      Because by now she’s doomed to repeat the same actions, and will always be too stupid to keep away from the Internet, she is again hospitalised – this time to protect her fully, without any access to online.
      The suicide enables complete recovery. She daren’t appear as Amanda Todd again – all the photos will just keep getting thrown at her. So she will resurface either as someone else, or when she is strong enough to cope.
      Do you get that story? Rather plausible, I think.

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