The Things That Will Follow You Forever

Oh, the things I’ve done. I’m incredibly lucky that the internet wasn’t around when I was a teenager. Otherwise, I’m sure there would be at least one viral video of me ________ the _______ from the _________ with my __________ as everyone _________ around me. (Redacted for your own peace of mind.) Today, however, the internet has made it very possible for things to follow you from your younger years into your adult years, and for those things to have an impact on your life. Even when you were probably not trying to become “viral” on YouTube, you might do something so incredibly stupid that you do go viral.

Exhibit A: Marine Sergeant Joshua Brightman

According to his blog, Mr. Brightman is:

“…a retired Marine. He did 6 deployments, 2 of those to Afghanistan, where he was wounded in action. Joshua Brightman has served all over the world including 3 humanitarian missions in the Philippines, Thailand and Japan. When SGT Joshua Brightman was wounded he was shot through his hand while leading his squad on a patrol and received a Purple Heart and a Navy Achievement Medal with a V Device for Valor for his actions on the day he was wounded.”

Thanks for your service, Mr. Brightman. However, the reason I came to know Mr. Brightman is this video of him having a bit of a road rage incident at Camp Pendleton a few years back:

It’s kind of sad to see because, in my opinion, Mr. Brightman is having some sort of a meltdown that goes way beyond what the situation calls for. To me, he seems like a person in dire need of some psychiatric intervention, or, at the very least, counseling.

After the video was posted online, it was picked up by the local news:

The local news also found another video of Mr. Brightman, one that showed a softer side to him:

A few days later, his father spoke out:

A quick aside: I don’t know when the video happened in relation to a mention of an injured hand from a gun shot wound that Mr. Brightman mentions on his blog and which caused him to be “medically retired”:

“Joshua Brightman retired from the United States Marine Corps in late 2013. Joshua Brightman was medically retired due to the loss of movement in his hand from a gunshot wound sustained in combat in Afghanistan. Joshua Brightman was stationed at Camp Pendleton California. Camp Pendleton is a Marine Base located in southern California. He had 7 surgeries in an attempt to repair the damage from the gunshot wound.”

It probably — I hope — happened after the road rage incident, as it appears that his hands were quite capable of operating the door and banging on the car. There are several blog posts about this whole thing out there, from the analysis of a mental health expert to commentary from strangers.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s go on to exhibit B.

Exhibit B: Tolly Carr

By all accounts, Tolly Carr was doing very well as the morning news anchor for WXII in North Carolina. One night, however, he had a little too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a car. He lost control of the car and hit a pedestrian, a man walking home from work. The pedestrian died and Mr. Carr was charged with Felony Death by Vehicle. Like in Exhibit A, here are the eternal videos and links to the story of Mr. Carr.

First, the report of the accident:

Then, a video about the victim:

Truly, this was a great loss. While out on bail, Mr. Carr talked to a church:

No prayers for the family of the victim. Great. And he needs money? Nice.

Like God, the internet remembers eternally. Unlike God, the internet doesn’t forgive.

Mr. Carr would plead guilty and serve two years for killing someone while driving drunk. Here he was at his sentencing hearing:

Here’s an account of what would wait for him after those two years:

“As he completes probation and tries to rejoin society, Carr faces some of the usual challenges of being a felon, along with the uncommon task of rebuilding a public reputation.

Carr had been a homegrown role model — he attended Winston-Salem State University, where he would later teach, and worked his way up the ladder at WXII-TV over seven years to become one of the station’s morning anchors.

People familiar with television media work said that Carr’s celebrity status will continue to raise questions about whether he has shown publicly that he takes responsibility for his actions.

“Tragedies like these take their toll first and foremost on the victims and their families — and then on the lives of those high-profile individuals who have committed them,” said Jill Geisler, the leadership and management leader at Poynter, a school for journalists.

“Unlike many other ex-offenders, he is a public figure,” she said, “and no doubt a lightning rod for criticism because of the magnitude of his crime.”

Carr declined an interview request for this story; so did Bokhoven’s family.”

It has to be rough, right? One minute you’re a local celebrity, then you make one big mistake one night, and the next day you’re a pariah. But you’re not so much of a pariah that you don’t get work back in television… Sort of. See, Mr. Carr decided to appear in a local TV commercial titled — of all things — “Driving Dead”:

“Immediately following the incident, Carr did and said all of the right things. He spoke to church and school groups, and anyone else who would listen to his apology, and he led them to believe that his drunken state was a first-time occurrence. Most people bought his act without knowing what really happened or why. Meanwhile, Bokhoven’s family sought a wrongful death jury trial so that the public would know the gruesome details of Casey’s death, and get a true picture of Carr’s real personality. But in November 2008, the Bokhovens settled with Tolly, who agreed to make a “confession of judgment” and to make restitution to the victim’s family beginning one year after his release from prison. That release came in 2009, and over the past few years, Carr has been working for a local video-production company.

After receiving e-mails from Casey’s friends and family, I was convinced that their wounds would never heal if Tolly sought an on-air job in this market. And so, in my Dec. 5, 2008 column I urged Carr to stay out of the limelight, or else move to another state if he felt compelled to return to TV anchor work. But arrogant, insensitive people rarely change their stripes, and earlier this month, Carr thought it would be okay to appear on camera in a commercial for Frank Myers Auto Maxx, in which he pretended to be an anchorman in a spoof of the The Walking Dead.

Myers often produces commercials with holiday themes, and this one was made for the Halloween season. According to a report on JournalNow.com, the TV spot attempted to compare old cars with zombies, and it aired throughout the weekend before Myers pulled it on Monday, after having received complaints from viewers who understood what Myers and Carr didn’t: It was in VERY bad taste.

When asked for a statement by the Winston-Salem Journal’s “Ask Sam” column, owner Tracy Myers said, “I obviously didn’t use good judgment when I asked Mr. Carr to be featured in the TV commercial… I understand how Mr. Carr’s appearance in the commercial could be considered offensive and in bad taste”. Tracy’s non-apology missed the mark. He merely admitted that the spot “could be considered” offensive, which is code for “I don’t think it was offensive.” Still, Myers isn’t the villain in this drama. Carr should have known better, but again, an arrogant, insensitive person never knows better.

There are those who say Carr should be left alone by media jerks like me. After all, he served his time (albeit not nearly enough). And, as Tracy Myers said, “everyone deserves a second chance.” Well, Tolly DID get his second chance. It’s called being free to walk around and enjoy living. Casey Bokhoven didn’t get that second chance, and the man responsible has no business being in the public eye.”

But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a hyper-connected world. Within minutes of reading about Mr. Carr, I was able to find his current LinkedIn account where he states where he currently works. I was able to find his blog and his Twitter account. Honestly, part of me wanted to ask him if he learned his lesson. But that’s not my job to do. Is it?

Analysis and Introspection

As I stated above, we live in a hyper-connected world with near unlimited broadband and almost infinite storage space online. There are videos on YouTube going back to its inception, some even earlier that have been transferred from film to digital. There are videos of kids doing stupid — sometimes illegal — things and laughing about it. A lot of those kids are adults now, and I am willing to bet that there are many doctors, lawyers, and other responsible people among them.

Some of them may never have grown up. Who knows?

Yet their story is now written on the internet. My story is written on the internet. A quick Google search of my name will tell you that I’ve had this blog since 2004, albeit in other sites and with other nicknames. It will tell you that I once got in a tremendous spat with a total stranger over my work in epidemiology, so much so that he threatened the entire Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with a lawsuit. You might even find out — and be horrified/surprised — to know that I committed suicide in West Texas when the police surrounded my home. (It wasn’t me, but someone who shared my first, middle and last names.) And you can see my academic trayectory through it as well… From where I did my undergrad (and maybe some pictures from then), to where I am working on my doctoral degree (and a lot of pictures from now).

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You might even find out who I went to New York City with once back in 2002.

If you’re young and foolish, as all young people are, take it from me that you need to be very, very careful about what you post online and what you do in life. It may seem like nobody’s watching, but most of what we do nowadays is digitally recorded one way or another. It may be that your internet browsing history might contain some questionable search terms. It could also be that you got curious one day and wanted to know exactly what is so appealing about an actor’s genitalia.

I’m just saying that Michael Fassbender was very good in Shame.

Heck, don’t take it from me. Take it from the two exhibits above. Be mindful of how you act, or, as an old Chinese proverb states, “If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.”

Then again, young people don’t think about the consequences… So I might wasting my time here. I hope not.

 

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen