Darth Mauled

For Chapter 14: "Nobody is Safe from Everybody"

By Published on .

In the last post, we discovered how viscious people can be when they target someone for online abuse.

Once again, though, my boiled soul has suffered nothing compared to Ghyslain Raza, the Quebec teenager you know as the Star Wars Kid.

In 2003, Ghyslain went into his school's media room and taped himself mimicking the character Darth Maul's "light saber" sequence from "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace." He says he was choreographing a bit for a student video he was producing, but that hardly matters. What matters is that he left the tape in the camera, and it was later discovered by a classmate – who was struck by how unlike Darth Maul the chubby Ghyslain appeared – especially since the weapon was not actually a light saber but in fact a telescoping golf-ball retriever.

That kid showed it to another kid, who showed it to another, who converted it to a .wav file and posted it online. Four years later, Star Wars Kid has been seen online – and laughed at – an estimated 1 billion times, making Ghyslain undoubtedly the most ridiculed among all the ridiculed fat kids in human history.

According to depositions in a lawsuit filed by his family against his classmates, the boy spiraled into a depression and was forced to leave school – where, when he entered the cafeteria, fellow students had been shouting, in unison, "Star Wars!"

He has also been the constant victim of cyber-bullying, mainly focused on his weight. Even after the boy's suffering had been widely reported, he generated astonishingly little sympathy online. One anonymous, and sadly typical, poster had this to say in 2006 after the lawsuit was settled:

"Ironically, for me, knowing the kid is actually a whiny little bitch makes it even funnier to see him dance around like an idiot. Instead of kinda identifying with him in doing something a little goofy, I now just think he's a douche bag and deserves to be the laughing stock of the internet." Don't be especially shocked by the epithet.

To this day, if you Google "Star Wars Kid" and "douchebag," you get 597 results.

It would be nice to shrug that off, and say "He's young. This, too, shall pass. Get back up on the horse, kid. Time heals all wounds." Would that it were so, but such commonplaces do not necessarily apply to the digital world. On the internet, wounds last forever.

"My clients wait for something to go away. Then they find out it just doesn't," says Nino Kader, founder of International Reputation Management, a Washington, DC p.r. firm dedicated specifically to the realities of the internet -- "which in my opinion," Kader says, "is going to become the legacy of record for anyone who ever existed on the planet."

Never mind what Andy Warhol said. In the future, everybody will be slandered in perpetuity.
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