Posts Tagged ‘i am adam lanza’

On the internet, there’s always a backlash.

In early November New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared, just a few days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York and New Jersey, that the New York City Marathon would still take place. The backlash to this decision, personified in the comments section of an online New York Times article, was so severe that a few days later Bloomberg went back on his word and canceled the event.

In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Bloomberg was in the news again, urging President Obama to take action on gun control, telling us that conversation alone won’t help curb the national epidemic of gun violence–we need action. (Arianna Huffington expressed similar sentiments.)

And of course we hope our politicians will take swift action to rewrite our gun control laws and reexamine the way we treat mental illness in this country.  Meanwhile for the rest of us, the conversation continues–especially online.

On Monday I came across the now-famous “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” blog post by Liza Long, a mother who documented her own struggles with her mentally ill 13-year-old son named “Michael” (not his real name).

Long was lauded by many for her bravery in telling her story, as an overwhelmed and “terrified” mother of child she believes is dangerous enough to be compared to Lanza, Dylan Kleibold, and their ilk. (I won’t retell her story, but I recommend you read it for yourself at the link above.)

And then came the backlash.

Just a day later I came across an Adam Lanza article on Slate.com in which Long is criticized for being an “imposter.” The author of that piece, Hanna Rosin, implies that it is Long herself, not her son “Michael,” who  may be suffering from mental illness. Using another blogger’s research, she points to examples from some of Long’s other writings where she appears frazzled, frustrated, and overly dramatic about her home situation with “Michael.” And she criticizes Long’s willingness to out her son with only a thin veil of anonymity, a fake first name. Further, she compares Long’s described situation to those parents featured in a May 2012 New York Times article, “Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?” and concludes that Long’s  “Michael” is not nearly as bad as those children.

Without being in Long’s household on a daily basis, it’s impossible to know whether she’s giving us an accurate representation of what goes on with “Michael,” and if the situation is really as dire as she makes it sound. As a non-parent, I can barely comprehend what it feels like to deal with an ugly tantrum in a grocery store, no less a son who grabs a knife and threatens to kill his mother and himself.

We certainly can see why Slate for running their backlash story, which I’m sure has brought a lot of traffic to their site as it piggybacks Long’s original post. Once again the conversation continues in the comments section, where some readers have defended Long, while others agree with Rosin.

But is this a case where the backlash is ultimately harmful to progress? We can poke holes in Long’s story all day long, or point to her earlier writings and label her as a fraud, a mentally ill person, a bad mother. However in doing this, many are now dismissing her message outright–which is that she worries that her son, one day, may be capable of committing mass murder on the scale of Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Virginia Tech.

Maybe she’s right; we hope she’s wrong. But is tearing her down truly the best way to make use of her story? Even if we believe Long’s account is a “false alarm,” are we in a position as a country to take that chance? And perhaps the scariest question of all: would we have dismissed a blog post by the real Adam Lanza’s mother just as quickly?

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