The Saga of Sister Kiki
David Brooks with a frightening story about what parents and schools have to deal with these days:
Lonely at school, she took refuge by creating an online persona, Kiki Kannibal, posting photos of herself with various hairstyles and looks — goth one day; sexually charged, Lady Gaga-style temptress the next.
Though 13, Ostrenga was a phenomenally good shape-shifter. The photos often show her in her underwear or short skirts, with lurid make-up, edgy poses and pouty come-hither expressions. In them, you see the child's ability to mimic the looks and attitudes of what she admires — in this case the cult of high-fashion celebrity as glamorized in Vogue or Cosmopolitan, on E!, TMZ, "Real World" and a thousand other outlets.
In sports, speed and strength are king. In music, talent and application are king. But online, eyeballs and page-views are king. Achievement is redefined as the ability to attract attention. And, with today's technology, this sort of celebrity is not just a dream. Young people can create it for themselves.
Kiki must have sensed the tremendous erotic capital that a pretty, vulnerable, barely pubescent girl possesses on the Internet — even if she didn't understand the consequences of her appeal. Sure enough, she became a MySpace sensation. Two million people are recorded to have logged on to her live stream video. Before long, there were 530 Facebook profiles from people claiming to be her (none of them were). She became an object of celebration, ridicule and hatred.
People talk about the online "community," but it's more accurate to see the response as a guerrilla war. Ostrenga made an aggressive bid for attention. Other people made a bid for attention by savaging her. Most of the viciousness hurled her way can't be quoted here, but the article in Rolling Stone accurately described the mob-like behavior: death threats, savage sexual appraisals. "I know where you live, and I'm gonna kill" your cat, one person flamed. "Kiki go die you ugly [expletive]," another wrote.
Ostrenga inspired a wave of ridicule and defense, which spilled over into real life, including a punch to the head at a concert and the word "slut" painted in giant letters across her garage.
She was contacted by an 18-year-old man named Danny Cespedes, who charmed Kiki and her parents and became intertwined with their household. Unbeknownst to them, Danny had tried to seduce a string of young girls, some as young as 12. After her mother discovered that he had forced himself on Kiki one night, the Ostrengas pressed charges. As he was being arrested, he jumped off the second floor of a parking garage and ended up in a coma. He died two months later.
Next, she was victimized by the owner of a for-profit, teen-exploitation site called Stickydrama. The site's owner both organized mass hate sessions against Kiki and invited her to live with him and become one of the site's exhibitionist playthings. "If I can't have you, I will destroy you," he wrote in a Twitter message, according to Rolling Stone.
June 23, 2011