Monday, October 19, 2009

Twitter, Mommy Bloggers, the TSA, and Internet Fueled Hysteria

I don't think I've ever weighed in on one of these Twitter kerfuffles before, but the latest one regarding Nic's (from My Bottle's Up) claims that the TSA separated her from her child while going through Atlanta's airport security and the TSA's blogged response to her post have me almost as engrossed as Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski once did.

I find myself going back to Google to see what new perspectives have been added; if Nic has said anything else and/or if the TSA has offered up any more insight into what did or didn't happen. Nic responded to their initial release of hastily edited together footage of her trip through security by saying that it had been doctored. The TSA then released complete security footage today from 9 different angles. Nic has, sadly, been quiet since then. Probably because the new footage really doesn't leave anything out. It clearly shows that Nic is never separated from her baby.

I really wanted to believe her. I mean, something must've happened for such an emotional post centered around such a serious accusation. Right? (Certainly she thought about the fact that the security agents on hand could lose their jobs if they really did break the rule of never separating children from their parents! Right??)

I really gave her the benefit of the doubt. I couldn't bring myself to echo others who instantly called her a liar after the TSA first posted its response. I admit that I really didn't believe the first footage the TSA released, I agreed that it definitely could've been edited to look like nothing happened. There were short gaps of unaccounted time. It left room for interpretation. I tweeted as much and instantly attracted some heinous twitter troll. A person who seems to have opened a twitter account for the express purpose of monitoring every tweet regarding the TSA and @MyBottlesUp and messaging anyone who dared to show support for her or belief in her claims. I noted another person constantly tweeting negatively about her, using the twitter name @mybottlesupliar. Who are these people, I asked? Don't they have lives? Aren't they so pathetic for not having anything better to do than exacerbate this situation on twitter, I thought? How can they, and hundreds of other verbose online people, be so positive that she is not telling the truth. And, beyond that, reading her blog and then pronouncing her "crazy" or "unstable."

I almost felt like I, too, was being attacked. Why did I feel that way? I barely know Nic! I've followed her on twitter since I joined up a year ago and I've read a few posts on her blog. Why should I care so much that she be telling the truth? And then, I couldn't help but wonder what would people say if they read my blog looking for out-of-context bad-parenting jokes and references to drinking or medications? Ay carumba!

I believed Nic at first and continued to show support for her because she is one of us. I may not want to associate with all the mommy-blogger iterations that are out there....

But I do associate strongly with this wonderful, supportive, sometimes downright magical community of moms that blog about their lives openly, humorously, and honestly. I love these moms and dads who put it all out there for the world to see, should the world care to look.

So, I don't want to believe that Nic is lying about her run-in with the TSA! If she has fabricated the whole thing, well then who's to say that I haven't been lying about my move to England, or that so-and-so hasn't been lying about being out of work, or that the other blogger hasn't been lying about a husband with cancer?

I don't want to believe that my internet friends might be lying to me. I don't want it all to be fiction.

I don't want one person to negate all that we stand for because she was naive enough to think that if she stretched the truth just a bit more then maybe, just maybe her "mommy's-lark" blog could turn itself into an honest-to-goodness money-making venture.

I just can't live my life like that. I want to trust people and have, thus far, lived a pretty charmed life for being that way.

Ultimately, I fear that this sort of bizarre thing could happen to any one of us. Any sort of claim that we make in our writing could turn into a massive internet feeding frenzy with you or me, not on the feeding side, but being eaten.

I hope if that day ever comes for me, that you will give me the benefit of the doubt, too. And wait patiently for a response, rather than decrying my actions to anyone who will listen to fill the void.


  1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

    One of the qualities I admire most about you is your attention to and serious regard for detail.

    The fact that you watched BOTH TSA videos, when I couldn't even sit through the edited version, for instance. The fact that you've followed up by reading all the available online commentary--a couple examples.

    Plus, you articulated one of my dark fears about these blog relationships...all the what if? What if my heart is hung up on a scam?

    Great post. Miss you.

  2. Benefit of the doubt is one thing, accusing the TSA of doctoring video to refute a nobody blogger is something else. Personally I didn't question her when she posted the story, or even when she started her quest to sell the story- none of that played in until the videos were released.

    I think there does come a point where benefit of the doubt ends, and common sense must begin.

    Either way you look at it, I commend you on a very thought-provoking, well-written post. :)

  3. I don't read Nic's blog, but a friend emailed me when the tweets first starting flying, with a comment that it seemed like total BS (she's like a blog bs detective!).

    I think that we spend so much energy defending our community that we sometimes lose sight that it's made up of people who, at times, suck.

    Is Nic lying or is the TSA engaged in a conspiracy to target and discredit?

    I tried explaining this whole thing to my husband over the weekend, but then I had to stop because I was worried that he was going to cut my vocal cords or something. (Ok, I didn't REALLY think that he was going to do that.)

  4. I confess that I had not heard this story before but I would have believed her as well thinking that certainly these bloggers, whose lives I feel like I'm sometimes living myself, would lie in such a gross and perverse manner.

    It sickens me to hear this stuff and I love you for putting out there the whole story for people like me who are clearly out of the loop to read and see. I refuse to believe that this is nothing more than an aberrant case of a mommy blogger who is clearly nuts and choose to go on believing that by in large people are good, decent and honest. Lots of love to you and I miss you as well

  5. The whole thing sucks a duck.

    But it's not the first time I've seen or personally experienced a blogging betrayal of this level.

    It IS the first time I've seen mainstream attention turned on a "nobody" blogger though, and yikes-o-matic it got UGLY out there.

    I understand hurt and outrage, ESPECIALLY from those who are A. close to Nic or B. affiliated with TSA.

    But I do NOT understand why some people are so so so so emotionally invested in this issue. I mean, the lady who faked a DEAD BABY with a DOLL earlier this year didn't get this much attention. Strange.

  6. Very well put. It's a completely fascinating story. When I read her first blog post, I was taken aback by her overly emotional writing, but still thought that what supposedly happened was awful. I can't imagine how nauseous she's feeling right about now from the fall-out.

    Just know that when I tweeted last week about my cat throwing up, I was being 100% honest.

  7. I understand being angry, but I don't really understand how people don't stop to think about that person...she's a person...and exaggerating the truth like this for whatever gain screams something very sad to me. People want attention. Sometimes they REALLY screw up in how they try to get it. What I ask myself is WHY, what does she need, you know? Because I care, I wish her wounds, the ones that drove her to do something so dysfunctional weren't there. That's what the "benefit of the doubt" care about more than the controversy, but the person too. For me, anyway.

    Great post, lady.

  8. I agree with @MommyMelee - it's mind boggling, I haven't even been able to wrap my mind around what's been happening over this past weekend.

  9. @MommyMelee-- is it the fellow bloggers' outrage that you think is out of proportion or the fact that this has gotten national coverage?

  10. I got a lil caught up in the 'news' because, well, it's like a train wreck and I couldn't help it.

    And I loved reading the logical posts by you and MaggieDammit.

    Also the "chose an identity" below? When we leave posts - that's making me giggle w/ this whole ordeal. Like "who am I online today?"

  11. I'm with suburban oblivion. That said, it does bother me greatly that someone would take advantage of the goodwill of "friends" on the internet this way.

  12. Living the sheltered self-immersed life that I do this is all news to me.

    But I for one believe you have moved to England. I spotted a car driving on the wrong side of the road and knew it was you...

  13. That story did leave me questioning it's authenticity, too.


  14. Okay Amy. I had heard a little about this last week but then Deb let me know the updates this morning and I have gone and read the past two posts from Nic and watched the entire TSA footage that covers all of the seconds in that time span. Yep, I watched the clock tick. Hi Ann. :-)

    I have to be honest, even though I, like you, tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and trust from the outset, when I read Nic's account of the incident, I was all, She's stretching this puppy. The tone and drama of her recount was an obvious sign to me that she was filtering this account. In bold letters she wrote several times. TSA TOOK MY CHILD FROM ME. ETC. This is language to incite fear and anger amongst parents and it has NO place in the blogosphere in my opinion. I don't believe in exaggerated, emotional, untruths being protected by free speech. Sorry.

    I'd like to think that Nic did not know the firestorm she was about to start, but I kinda think she did.

    Great post as usual Amy. I also believe in this community of moms and writers and it's sad that stories like this take over.

  15. Never read her blog before, so of course I had to

    If we say: Ok, it didn't happen and the TSA was in the right (and that would be kinda nice, right?) I wonder how much of her account we could attribute to the fact that she was panicked?

    Panic attacks can distort your perception of the event in mind-blowing ways. So while baby may have not ever left her sight, in HER mind he was snatched and whisked away (increasing the panic, increasing the feelings of injustice...)

    She clearly admits to having one, and seems to have some experience having them (what with the Xanax and all) so- it could be possible?

    And if that's true, well shoot, it's kinda hard to not have some sympathy. Not an excuse to lie, but maybe an explanation for why she thought it happened?

  16. Great post, Amy. I'm not sure if I would feel betrayed (blogwise) per se if the entire thing was blown out of porportion (I did read her account and see both videos which severely discredit her accusations) but we are a community who feed off of each other's emotions. We are also known to attack each other as well, which is what I don't like. I've always felt that in the end, it's not really what you say, but how you say it. And she said it loud.

  17. @MarinkaNYC I thought the outrage from like, random Fark message board people was especially out of proportion.

    I also think it's strange that so many more people seem to be upset about this than there were about, for instance, the woman who faked a pregnancy and dead child, or the blogger who poisoned her own daughter with feces to keep her gravely ill.

  18. I never read her blog until last night when I realized I missed yet another big blogging drama. Gah. There seems to be so many people fabricating the truth or what not for attention.

    The people I do read, I feel as they are my "friends" and I feel like I can hear their voices. I would be crushed if they lied.

    I guess I should come clean to you. Im not a mother of three children living in Ohio. Im actually a man living in his parents basement in Kansas.

  19. The blogosphere is always filled with all sorts of wacky stories. Some are filled with hope others with tragedy.

    You just take it as it comes. One person doesn't make or break a community unless you let it happen.

  20. Don't know much about this incident, but what is with parents using their children to get their 15-minutes? We've had this "balloon boy" incident over here and it makes me wonder if we are living in a world where people think is okay to cry "wolfe" if it gets them attention.

  21. It's hard not to make connections here in bloggyland.
    "Friends" can be made so much quicker here than in real life.
    And it does hurt to get played, but you learn from that day on that people and stories in this "mirror" may not be as they appear.

    Peace - Rene

  22. I was away over the weekend and this is the first I've ever heard of any of it.

    Your thoughts on hating the idea that anyone you read is lying reminded me of a manicurist I used to go to who told me about her 12 year old son's online girlfriend. Being of pre-myspace/facebook age in the late '90s, I had zero experience with meeting people through websites. So this young couple was one of the first online relationships ever brought to my attention. She told me about how cute they were and that they were talking about meeting soon. Then she told me that her boyfriend's take was, "yeah - 'she's' probably some fat 40 year old guy." This of course cracked me up at the time, but, hmmmm....that's actually a valid concern - who knows what is real and what isn't...

    But I also like Heather's point of *why* someone would feel they had to create drama to get attention. Is there that much pressure to get readers? It does seem rather sad to me... I'm curious about the videos, etc. But I think I'll forgo the rubbernecking and just hope that everyone's alright now.

    No worries about my blog being a sham - I'm just as boring in real life as I am online!

  23. i just wish we could all gather someplace fun and drink coffee and wine and martinis and discuss this in person. it makes my head hurt to try to write my feelings about this. of course my husband can't believe my outrage. i think his exact quote was "oh now THERE'S a surprise... someone on the internet was lying!" he's just jaded and cynical and doesn't get it like we do.

  24. Sorry Amy, but come on....have faith in everyone, sure, I'd encourage that. But like Lee says, she wrote in caps THEY TOOK MY BABY, and that incites fear, anger, reaction, and "team Nic" mentalities which are not founded on truth, principle, or anything relating to either. What possible benefit is there in that kind of bullshit? The woman needs a slap. That's just irresponsible bullshit, and who needs it??

    And you raised a point that I want to add to: her bullshit makes us doubt others. Her bullshit makes the rest of those who are hinged to the truth and reality look like we're questionable, that there MAY be a shadow of lies to our tales; maybe I didn't REALLY hit a big truck and nearly die, maybe it was just a slight accident and I'm lying to get readers.

    People like her? Downright embarrassing.....

  25. I don't know the full story. Like you, I don't know her. While it was probably a lie, I am still holding on the hope that it was one of those exaggerations you make when you are upset, such as when your older brother grabs your arm as a child and you run to your mother and say, "He hit me!" That type of lie. Rather than something just used for blogging traffic, cause it makes such little sense to me.

  26. A year ago I came back from a gig in Ohio with a check for $1000. hidden underneath the bottom flap of my carry-on.

    When I got back to L.A. I went to remove it and it was gone. I had to call the booker and tell her what happened. She sounded like she didn't believe me and she's one of my FRIENDS.

    At one point, the TSA guy turned his back to me and groped my bag. There's no doubt he stole it.

    Lesson learned. Never go to Ohio.

  27. No offense, but how could anyone could read Nic's blog post and not think that it's very likely a work of fiction? Maybe it seemed more convincing on Twitter, but on her blog it's the most melodramatic piece of hysteria I've ever read. She uses every cheap trick from the Lifetime channel of women's horror film screen writing!

    Maybe the lesson here isn't that you can't trust other mom bloggers--there are always going to be people who can't tell truth from fiction in their own lives-- but that we need to look around for the whole story before we believe tweets and respond to them in support or otherwise.

  28. If you aren't really in England we are SO in a fight.

  29. You don't want to believe that she could be lying because she is one of our own, a writer, a mommy. Why would she lie? Doesn't she know how easy it is to be caught? Hasn't she been watching "America's Top Grossness" or "Liars Caught on Tape"?

    Human beings like to be right. We like to have a lot of people in their corner. And we're delightfully gullible. She brought a lot of people in, the TSA defended itself and now she's gone silent.



  30. Like you, I tend to err on the side of trust. I simply prefer living that way and unless I have been seeing some serious red flags I always start with benefit of the doubt.

    Having said that, I've developed some good bullshit detectors and when I first read Nic's story
    when Maggie (Dammit) linked to it -it just seemed weird. Something was off about it.

    I don't feel angry, I don't feel betrayed... I just feel sad, mostly, about whatever it is that caused her to elaborate/make up the thing. And I think Nic should be treated with compassion, not hatemail and if I was ever doubtful about you I'd start with benefit of the doubt and end with compassion if I thought you were lying.

  31. Wait, what? You're not in England? You're in CANADA, you say?

    Internet rumors FTW!

    I fell for Nic's post, too. Albeit cautiously. I'm still not totally convinced it was intentional, but I'm a trusting soul.

  32. Ok, WOW - am I out of the loop!

    I hadn't heard of this at all, probably because I haven't been on Twitter much, and then today I see this already on 3 blogs.

    Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if either party was being less than truthful. Many writers and bloggers embellish things to make them funnier, more dramatic, more interesting... and sometimes some people just overdo it. So that could have happened. On the other hand, if TSA had made a mistake I doubt they would own up to it, because it would be a HUGE problem.

    I honestly haven't looked at the surveillance videos from all angles, because I'm lazy and I don't care that much - I've had a bit of drama myself this past week and I'm not looking for more.

    But this wouldn't be the first time a blogger makes stuff up. Remember a few months ago, the one who made up the story of her being pregnant with a terminally ill baby? And then posted photos of one of those creepy realistic dolls?

    And shortly before, there was that blogger who was found to have made up a whole bunch of crap about her new house she was going to buy, some mc mansion, and a lot of other stuff about her life. It sucks that people feel the need to come up with this crap. I can't help but feel that if they put half the amount of thought and energy they into their life than what they put into coming up with BS, that they'd have a better life and something real to talk about.

    And if that's mean, I'm sorry, but I can't stand liars, mostly because I'm usually the sucker on the other end.

  33. Wow..I'm just learning that TSA responded. I still feel badly for her...but am confused about the discrepancy.
    But that's where it ends. It's just confusion...and then we move on. That's really all it should be. No attacks. Just move along.
    And what's this about a fake baby doll?! Good lord. That might elicit a bit more than confusion from me...

  34. Oh, and what's with this "nobody blogger" shit? That's kind of over-the-top obnoxious No one is a "nobody" right? Fundamental lesson for all humanity...right?


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.