Sam Leeson is dead. The 13 year old boy killed himself on Thursday June 5th after a campaign of online and real life harassment just because he liked emo and Heavy Metal. Another case of bullicide just like others we have covered.
This was a tragedy. Obviously those who immediately to blame are those bullies who victimised an innocent directly just because he liked a certain type of music and dressed in a certain way.
Behind them however a heavy weight of responsibility rests on the Daily Mail and other media sources who repeated and in some cases sensationalized the reports of Hannah Bond's death and others. Let us examine the time line of events to see what happened:
16 Aug 2006
“ EMO cult warning for parents” The Daily Mail
The Daily Mail publishes a spectacularly inaccurate article. No research evidence is used to back up its conclusions. The article is frequently quoted on anti Emo websites in the next few years. It sparks a wave of criticism from MCR and their fans.
March 25, 2007
"Who said Romance was dead?" TIM DE LISLE
Mail on Sunday, March 25, 2007 Sunday SECTION: FB 04; Pg. 72
In a review of a My Chmical Romance gig a Mail reporter states:
My Chemical Romance are loud, dark, heavily made-up and suddenly
They have even been accused of leading a cult of self-harm, although the
evidence is slight. The subject of self-harm does crop up in chatrooms populated
by the band's fans but they can hardly be blamed for that and their response has
been clear enough: 'We do not encourage self-harm.' They frighten some parents,
but others are here with their children, and some older people are even here of
their own accord. Behind me, two men are reminiscing about a gig by The Damned
My Chemical Romance are not so much objectionable as
puzzlingly hard to place not quite punk, not quite emo, not quite metal. At last
summer's Reading Festival they were pelted with bottles by fans of the veteran
death-metal band Slayer."
It is significant that this report completely contradicts what the Mail claimed about MCR in 2006 and in 2008. Which is correct?
September 22 2007
Hannah Bond commits suicide in East Peckham
January 23rd 2008
Beginning of wave of irresponsible coverage of Bridgend suicides by national media including the Mail which is later criticised as irresponsible by the police and The Samaritans. It is interesting to note that of the 20 young people who have died in Bridgend only one of them seems to be a fan of alternative music. Statistically given the chart success of Emo and metal bands this is well below average. None of the coroner reports has highlighted musical choice as a factor in the Bridgend deaths.
May 8th 2008
Following the verdict of the coroner’s court this local Newspaper article this forms the basis for coverage by national media.
Teenage girl's music obsession suicide link
May 8th 2008
Link to Hannah's bebo tribute page posted online on 4 chan. Immediately it is spammed massively with anti-emo insults .
May 9th 2008 - Telegraph, Mail and Sun
The press sieze on the coroner and local press report. This coverage triggers a further mass wave of anti emo propaganda on the internet. Some of this is the work of elements in association with the Internet group Anonymous. The rest comes from the ongoing sites which ferment anti-emo prejudice. Many of these are frequented by listeners of other alternative music especially metal.
May 14, 2008 Wednesday
Mail publishes a good letter criticising its coverage. Unfortunately it ignores everything it says in an article a few days later:
I'M A 14-YEAR-OLD who loves emo music, but I cannot associate it with the
unfortunate suicide of a 13-year-old girl (Mail). Emo is a music genre, not a
fashion. It doesn't glamorise death it makes people fear it
There's too much labelling and stereotyping these days. Many
people who have read about the new emo 'trend' have bullied me more than before,
because I fitted into the 'emo' description by liking rock music and dying my
hair black. This made my school life utter chaos and it has only recently
started to improve. Why do the newspapers never pick on any other genre or
scene? It's always emo that is under attack and normally without explaining the
difference between emo and goth. There's no way in which you can blame My
Chemical Romance for the suicide of teenagers. The lead singer, Gerard Way, is
one of my few idols.
He's always telling people 'not to kill
themselves because it's not worth it' and that 'you shouldn't let people get you
down'. The group has never promoted suicide. Gerard tells all girls to respect
themselves and not to do as men tell them. He gave me confidence hope,
The main character in the song The Black Parade was a cancer
victim, not a suicide victim. The lyrics mean that despite the fact that you're
dead, we still love you and cherish the memories. They do not mean 'die now and
we'll all remember and glorify you'.
You can't blame music for the
loss of children's lives there are such things as bullying and
SOPHIE BROWN (14), Llandybie, Carms..
16 May 2008
"Why no child is safe from the sinister cult of emo"
By TOM RAWSTORNE Daily Mail 16 May 2008
The Mail continues to distort the truth. This contains a number of inaccurate and misleading statements including the following:
1 - MCR is defiantly an Emo band. – As the Mail reported in 2007 MCR’s association with Emo is questionable.
2 - ) “the 'black parade' is a place where all emos believe they will go when they die” - This is blatantanly untrue. All emos don't belive anything of the kind.
3 - The rate of self harm has indeed risen from as the article states "New figures show that the number of children admitted to hospital due to injuries inflicted on themselves has risen by a third in five years.In 2002/03 there were 11,891 such admissions; in 2006/07 this had risen to 15,955". - However what the Mail does not mention is that the rate of suicide has dropped in that same time period. If Emo/MCR causes suicide it should have peaked in 2006 with MCR reaching no 1. In fact the peak was 1998 long before MCR was formed or emo was popular in the UK.
4 – The article does not mention that MCR has consistently campaigned against Youth suicide and self-harm despite the Mail on Sunday mentioning it in print in 2007.
Like earlier articles this generates a wave of internet controversy.
Mail publishes another letter criticising its coverage:
" I FOUND it very difficult to read Tom Rawstorne s article on Hannah Bond s
suicide because I m a 15-year-old girl who is stereotyped by my peers as emo .
This is because I listen to bands such as My Chemical Romance and wear clothes
that are apparently emo (skinny jeans, studded belts, band tees, hoodies). I
wouldn t mind being stereotyped so much most teenagers are put into some
stereotype. What I mind is going into school every day and having to put up with
people shouting such horrific things as Why aren t you dead, emo? and Emo, go
slit your wrists and die . All this because of how I dress and the bad press my
favourite band gets? Rather unfair, I think....
AOIFE MULLEN, Drogheda, Co
Sat May 31st - MCR/Emo March against Daily Mail's biased reporting.
The Mail claims its reporting is fair and balanced.
Thurs June 5th - Sam Leeson kills himself
Online bullying of Emos certainly has peaked in the last month. There are a number of reports I am gathering that this carried over into real life with an increase in bullying of emos in school and elsewhere.
If I was working for the Daily Mail I would hang my head in shame. The Daily Mail claimed its reports were balanced they were not an example of balanced reporting can be seen in the Times or BBC's reports on the same issue. They created an atmosphere which supported and justified and irrational prejudice. Just like in the 1930s when the Mail headline read "Hurrah for the Black Shirts" their biased reporting has now come back to haunt them.
Alterophobia is in position of interesting new evidence which further highlights the media's irresponsibility in this matter.