A safe, legal, even ethical lynch mob justice for Megan Meier

All indications are that the people who taunted Megan Meier to suicide on Myspace are getting plenty of harassment themselves now. Some would call it karma; but breaking more laws doesn’t make things right.

Buried in the comments on a couple of stories, I found perhaps the only legal and ethical way of getting back at the Myspace hoaxers.The catch is that to participate effectively, you have to be a St. Charles County resident. But that’s OK because there are 42,000 households there, and they’re the ones in the most immediate danger anyway.

The hoaxers run a business. They print a coupon flier/magazine that goes out in the area. I won’t print its full name since a Google search on the publication name takes you right to a name and address, but it contains the words "home town."

The idea I found was to take the publication, contact the businesses advertising in it, and tell them that you won’t be doing business with them for as long as they continue to do business with this particular publication, because its owner harassed Megan Meier, contributing to her suicide.

If they ask more questions, you can fill them in on the details–mention it’s been in the St. Charles Journal and on KTVI-TV news. You might even suggest they contact the publisher and ask her what she has to say about it.

If enough local residents start contacting her advertisers, they will start pulling their ads. Some may pull them right away out of a sense of outrage. Others may wait until they start thinking they’re losing more business than they’re gaining by advertising. If they express a fear of losing business, suggest an alternative publication–there appear to be competitors called Value Pages and Flash Flyer. If you’re a St. Charles resident, you’ll probably know more about them than I do.

It doesn’t matter. Tell the person on the other end what you’re doing and why, be polite and civil, and thank him or her for their time and consideration. But above all else, remember that the person on the other end might have no idea. After all, the business has never been named in any of the news accounts.

All it takes is a handful of advertisers canceling to make her feel some hurt. If she bleeds advertisers for a while, one of two things could ultimately happen. She could print a public apology. Or, if she continues to lack remorse and over the course of the next few weeks or months has difficulty keeping enough advertisers to pay the bills, the business could fold.

Even if it doesn’t get that extreme, she may have to take a pay cut, and she’ll probably have to work a little bit harder to try to get replacements for the advertisers she loses, and that has a fringe benefit: She’ll have less time for Myspace.

None of these things will bring Megan Meier back. But they will hold the person most responsible for her death accountable for her actions, no matter what the local authorities or the Meiers might be willing or able to do on their own.

And unlike harassing mail or phone calls or visits, it’s perfectly legal and ethical.

Update: The story aired on CNN, and although CNN didn’t report the name of the other family, they did show the police report. The name of the other family was visible and legible. I was about 90% certain I had the right person. Now I’m 100%.

Don’t waste your time calling the business. Grab your copy of the most recent issue of Home Town Family Savings, and start calling the businesses that advertised in it. Let the advertisers call her and ask her to explain herself.

7 thoughts on “A safe, legal, even ethical lynch mob justice for Megan Meier

  • November 17, 2007 at 1:25 pm
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    Dave,
    Were you aware that the young girl was on medication for depression? The article referenced below states her parents are divorcing. The girl never had a chance.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21844203/

    • November 17, 2007 at 9:35 pm
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      Yes, she was on medication AND THE NEIGHBOR KNEW. Yet another reason the behavior was inexcusable. She knew exactly what she was messing with, and didn’t care.

      The parents separated after Megan’s death, so as far as I know that wasn’t a factor. But even without that in play, she was extremely vulnerable–more so than a typical 13-year-old.

      • November 18, 2007 at 2:20 pm
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        If the neighbor knew, then there should be grounds for a manslaughter charge.
        Has the feds looked into this? A sharp federal prosecutor has his choice of laws he could prosecute.
        At the very least, child endangerment is available to the prosecutors, if they can prove the adults knew of the child’s depression and treatment.

        • November 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm
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          As far as I know, so far only local authorities have looked into it. Hopefully with this case getting national attention now, maybe someone on the federal level would be willing to have a look-see.

    • November 20, 2007 at 7:56 am
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      I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this "she didn’t stand a chance" comment. Sure her parents were going through a tough time and yes she was on medication.

      But saying "she didn’t stand a chance" sounds like you’re writing her off. LOTS of kids are in the same situation, and they all deserve better than what this young woman got. It isn’t a white picket-fence, Ozzie and Harriet world out there and, as a society, we need to value real kids in the real world. Not dismiss them just because they’re not all shiny & happy…

    • November 19, 2007 at 12:36 pm
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      Both the Inquirer story and the story it references oversimplify the matter far too much, but I really don’t like how the Inquirer portrays the former friend and her mother as victims.

      It’s an interesting argument that withholding the information did more harm than good but I’m not sure I believe it. I do think withholding the name delayed the lynch mob and made it smaller. Anyone with a phone book would have been able to locate the family.

      It’s interesting that even now, with the information plastered dozens or even hundreds of places on the Web, there are still people asking where to find it. So finding the information still takes some level of search engine savvy. I think an angry mob of 2,000 people across the United States does less damage than an angry mob of 10,000 locals.

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