Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hannah Bond - Press/Coroner blame another suicide on Emo

Once again a Coroner and other media sources have blamed a form of music for teenage depression and suicide without any firm evidence. Leading to headlines like these:

Popular schoolgirl dies in 'emo sucide cult', United Kingdom - 7 May 2008

Roger Sykes, the coroner who recorded a verdict of suicide, found aspects of the youth movement, which began in America, “very disturbing”.

He said: “A girl of 13 years old has taken her own life for no reason that by anyone could be found to be justifiable.

“It is a terrible and tragic explanation to what happened. It is not glamorous, just simply a tragic loss of such a young life.”

Maidstone Coroners’ Court heard that Hannah, of East Peckham, Kent, had lived a double life, outwardly a bright fun-loving family-orientated schoolgirl, but inwardly a devotee of “emo” which stands for emotional.

She had secretly chatted to “emo” followers online all over the world, talking about death and the glamorisation of hanging and speaking about “the black parade” - a place where “emos” believe they go after they die.

She had even scratched her wrists in a form of self-harm often seen as a form of initiation into the popular fashion and lifestyle fad followed by young people who dress in black like their older “Goth” crowd.

On her page on Bebo, the online networking site, she told friends with names like Sam Suicide, that she was obsessed with the American band My Chemical Romance, who hit number one with their last album The Black Parade.

In a tribute book dedicated to Hannah at her school, one of her friends wrote, “I hope you enjoy the black parade”, and it emerged another “emo” girl at Hannah’s school, Mascalls Secondary School in Paddock Wood, Kent, had tried to kill herself a year ago.

Her mother Heather, a housewife, told the court how she originally thought “emo” was a harmless youth movement.

She said: “She called emo a fashion and I thought it was normal. I didn’t know about the cuts. She used to wear Emo bracelets so her wrists were concealed.

“Hannah was just a normal girl. She had loads of friends. She could be a bit moody but I thought it was just because she was a teenager. In the months before she had become obsessed with the internet.

“But there were no signs this was going to happen. She had everything to live for.”

Her father Raymond, a martial arts instructor who broke down as he gave evidence, said he had noticed the marks on her wrist.

He said: “We discussed it when I noticed the marks. When I was younger I was a punk and we used to do tattoos and things, but I wasn’t angry with her because she promised me she would never do it again.

“Although she was in touch with emos all over the world, particularly in America, she was still in touch with the same girl she always was.

“The night before she died she came into my room and gave me a kiss on the cheek and said 'I love you dad.’”

Vanessa Everett, her headteacher, told the inquest that none of her teachers felt she had any issues.

“She was a popular and bright girl who had achieved merits day in and day out right up until the day of her death,” she said.

She said they had been aware of “superficial self-harm” among younger students who had joined the emo clan, but said it was difficult to determine those intent on harming themselves and those using it as “a fashion statement.”

What is 'emo'?

Emo, which stands for "emotional, is a youth movement based around dark music, dark clothing and a dark view of the world.

It was pioneered in America and emo followers adhere to a host of cult-like conventions to demonstrate dedication to this new wave of pop music and lifestyle.

The emo brand of music sounds much like indie or rock, but it takes its unique name from the emotional lyrics and melancholy themes.

One of the forerunners of this genre is the band My Chemical Romance from New Jersey, America.

While most fans simply enjoy the music and dress, others take their fascination to a sinister level.

They indulge in self-harming and become obsessed with death and suicide.

The Daily Mail happy as this "backs" the lies it told back in 2006 shouts:

Girl, 13, hangs herself after becoming obesssed with 'suicide cult ...
Daily Mail, UK - 7 May 2008

Suicide CULT !!! This is nonsense of the worst order.

The Sun reveals that:
Her headteacher Vanessa Everett told the inquest other emo pupils had self-harmed. She said it was "probable" Hannah was motivated by the failed suicide of another girl pupil who was also an emo fan... On the night Hannah died she argued with her mum after she was barred from staying at a friend’s.
Suicide of Hannah, the secret 'emo'
The Sun, UK - 7 May 2008

So perhaps it was something connected with that argument rather than emo. Mind you the Sun also says she was a Secret Emo which doesn't seem to be true.

In the recent wave of teen suicides in Bridgend only one person involved had any interest in alternative music. Why did the other people there kill themselves exactly? Another one died the same day Hannah's verdict was announced. Perhaps listening to chart music causes suicide, or having normal hair styles? In all those cases the suicide was sudden and out of character.

In fact is far more likely that Hannah and her friend responded to the media's sensationalised reporting of the teenage suicides in Bridgend and killed herself because of that. Unlike blaming emo which as has been pointed out here has never had any study showing there was any increase in suicide or self harm connected to it there are a large numbers of academic studies which link increases in teenage suicides to how the press report them. Why do the press not report these FACTS rather than talking about unsubstantiated and unproven allegations?

And remember these ideas linking Emos to self harm and suicide are frequently used to justify attacks on Emos as in Mexico.

Meanwhile in an example of decent reporting The Times actually looks at the wider context. Why can't the rest of the media be similarly responsible?

All this darkness and introspection can seem alarming to parents who drop in and see what looks like a glorification of unhappiness, but most online emo hangouts reveal little that’s different from run-of-the-mill teen angst. In a feature published previously in The Times, Andy Greenwald found that emo bands and their fans were unexpectedly clean living. “I could not have picked a duller genre in terms of spending time on tour buses and not being able to get a beer,” he said. “These guys don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. They like comics and video games and art. And the kids ‘hang out’ in MySpace. If you live in the suburbs and don’t have a car, here is this place where life goes on 24/7 and you are plugged into a community immediately, and you have the freedom online to have a second, heroic version of yourself.”

When a young person commits suicide, there is of course an understandable urge to find someone or something to blame, but today’s emo forums don’t differ all that much from non-emo forums. One discussion group at does include the alarming topic heading of “Cutting… is it worth it?”, referring to the habit of self-harm which some have associated with emo culture, but the resounding reply from the online community is: “Don’t do it. Seek help” – but expressed a little more robustly.

Much more common are questions about being a better emo. Discussions centre around the clothes to wear, the mannerisms to adopt and the music to love or hate – even, rather touchingly, whether it’s OK for straight emo boys to kiss each other (the answer seems to be yes). Plenty more words are spent rubbishing bands deemed to have jeopardised their credibility, but emo groups generally seem to be far more accommodating and peaceable than the rival teen tribes that line up against them, crashing online forums to attack their dress sense and taste in music.

Even in their more emotionally charged moments, the emo forums seem to have more to do with adolescent self-dramatisation than anything more sinister. In any case, most psychologists suggest that expressing feelings of angst or depression is healthier than bottling them up.

Emo culture is, if anything, a celebration of the unbottling of angst. It may not be all that appealing to an outsider, but it is probably not too different from many adolescents’ playground conversations. Ultimately, reactions to the emo web culture will probably depend on the preconceptions of the observer: those who find young people frightening and incomprehensible will find it frightening and incomprehensible, while others will see nothing more or less remarkable than a group of like-minded teenagers trying out an identity as they struggle their way into adulthood.

Emo on the web: exploring a subculture
Times Online, UK - 8 May 2008

Likewise NME reports that EMO fans (who remember number in the hundreds of thousands) deny the nonsense.
  1. Emo fans defend their music against suicide claims | News | NME.COM
    Emo fans have contacted NME.COM to defend their music against claims it inspired 13 year-old Hannah Bond to commit suicide.

Punk news tells it like it is:
Emo blamed in suicide of 13-year old

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Early Day Motion launched while the attacks go on

The Early Day Motion was tabled by Janet Anderson on April 30th and has 4 signatures so far. This is a development of the petition and the plan for a Debate in Parliament which we posted about earlier.


Here is the only news report on it.

MP's fight in Sophie's memory
Lancashire Telegraph, UK - 2 May 2008

Quote - Mrs Anderson told the House of Commons that she was appalled by the murder of former Haslingden High School pupil Sophie and the vicious attack on Robert.

She welcomed the news that their attackers had been "appropriately dealt with by the courts". But she called on the Government to review the scope of legislation on hate crimes and "assess whether there is a need for an amendment to include crimes perpetrated on innocent victims like Sophie and Rob merely because of their appearance."

The motion has been signed by Hyndburn MP Greg Pope, Mansfield MP Alan Meale and MP for Sunderland North, Bill Etherington.

How EDMs work is explained here:

UK Parliament - Early Day Motions Home Page

Early day motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few EDMs are actually debated. Instead, they are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.

An MP can add their signature to an EDM to show their support.
Please write to your MP about this issue and ask them to back the call for a debate on this issue buy signing the EDM.

There was an excellent article in Evening Standard on Friday covering the whole issue of Sophie and subcultural attacks which mentions this blog:

Off the record David Smyth
Standing up for goths
This is London, UK -
2 May 2008

Number 10 has responded with a polite no', because “these are not intrinsic characteristics of a person and could be potentially be very wide ranging, including for example allegiance to football teams — which makes this a very difficult category to legislate for”.

Yet as the blog Alterophobia ( exhaustively details, abuse against people who align themselves with goth culture is rife worldwide. And if any alternative lifestyle is as intrinsic to a person's being as a religious faith, it is this one. Appropriately for a murky world fascinated by vampires, goth is the subculture that never dies. Indeed, it is more popular than ever.

Meanwhile the attacks go on:

Boy viciously attacked for phone
Blackpool Gazette, UK - 1 May 2008

POLICE said a "vicious" robbery where a gang of youths stamped on a teenager's head could have left him seriously injured.
The 16-year-old Montgomery High School pupil was thrown to the ground and "punched, kicked and stamped on" by thugs who stole his mobile telephone.

Detectives believe the youngster was targeted because he and a friend were dressed like skateboarders and wearing baggy clothing – in scenes reminiscent of the recent murder of Bacup goth Sophie Lancaster.

The attack took place after the pair noticed they were being followed when they left Stanley Park and headed up Kenwyn Avenue at around 4pm on Sunday.

PC Jo Stubbs, of Blackpool Police's robbery squad, said: "This was a vicious and unprovokd attack.

"He could have been left with far more serious injuries.

"A witness who was with him at the time said it happened so quickly he had no time to react. He has been left with concussion and both of them are quite shaken up."

Officers have released a CCTV image of four youths they wish to speak to in relation to the attack.One was described as having olive skin, of slim build, around 16-years-old, 5ft 10in tall, wearing a top with a light blue upper and darker lower half. He also wore a baseball cap with a raised peak.The other three were all white and also around 16.

Two wore the same tracksuit with a white stripe down the sides while the other wore dark clothing.Anyone with information, can contact Blackpool Police on (01253) 293933 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
And on:

Three youths attack 'Goth'
Spalding Today, UK - 2 May 2008

A Spalding man was attacked by three youths as he walked home with his family from a memorial concert for murdered Lancashire "Goth" Sophie Lancaster.
The man was attacked in Sainsbury's car park, Holland Market, Spalding, while with his daughter, his partner, his partner's daughter and her boyfriend between 1am and 1.15am on Saturday.

He was taken to Boston's Pilgrim Hospital with a hairline jaw fracture, a black eye and a cut on his nose.

The victim is a member of metal band DGAS which had performed at the concert in aid of S.O.P.H.I.E (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) at Spalding United's clubhouse on Friday night.

Sophie Lancaster (20) was kicked and stamped to death in August because she looked like a goth. Two teenagers were handed life sentences for her murder on Monday.

The unnamed Spalding victim was among many at the concert wearing Goth-style clothes and that is believed to have been the motive behind the attack.

DGAS band manager Mandy Kunaht said: "He was dressed in black as were the others he was with and the boys simply started shouting abuse at them and followed them as they went home.

"He was mostly concerned about the safety of the children and his partner and so he asked them what they wanted and they jumped on him.

"We are really shocked and disgusted. The irony of it happening right after a concert for Sophie is ridiculous."

More than 100 people attended the Spalding concert, which raised £330.

It was one of a number of memorial events held across the country.

Police are studying CCTV footage which could help catch the attackers.

Sophie verdict - the aftermath

Big interview with Sophie's mum:
Mother of murdered Goth Sophie Lancaster: I'll make sure my ..., UK May 3rd

She was also on BBC according to a myspace bulletin:

"if any of you are up and about​ or would​ like to set your video​s to recor​d,​ Sylvi​a,​ Suzan​ne,​(​Sophi​e'​s frien​d)​ and I are on BBC'​s Sunda​y Life at 10 Am, it shoul​d be a good oppor​tunit​y for us to talk about​ the campa​ign etc

"It's good to get diver​se cover​age and this is an ethic​al and relig​ious progr​am that is this week talki​ng at lengt​h about​ what it's like to be "​diffe​rent"​ and getti​ng abuse​ for it

"will keep you poste​d on event​s


What is particularly interesting is that US sources have virtually not mentioned the Sophie story despite blanket coverage in the UK. Once again contrasting with the goth bus saga coverage which was covered abroad.

Interesting article on the thugs background.

Feral' killer is former Whitworth High pupil
Rochdale Observer, UK - 2 May 2008

2/ 5/2008

ONE OF the two teenage thugs given long prison sentences this week for the murder of a student in a Bacup park is a former Whitworth High School pupil.

Fifteen-year-old Brendan Harris, who was ordered to be detained for a minimum of 18 years by a judge at Preston Crown Court for the brutal slaying of Sophie Lancaster, was a student at Whitworth until 2006 when he moved to Scotland.

Harris returned to the Rossendale area and attended Fearns Community Sports College in Stacksteads.

Convicted of murder along with Harris was Ryan Herbert, of Bacup, who was told he would serve a minimum of 16 years.

One of Harris’s classmates at Fearns was 16-year-old Danny Hulme, of Landgate, Shawforth, who, along with his brother Joseph, was sent to prison for a minimum of five years and 10 months for the grievous bodily harm of Robert Maltby, Miss Lancaster’s boyfriend.

Judge Anthony Russell described the attack on Mr Maltby as the worst case of grievous bodily harm he had encountered in 30 years.

It was while cradling the badly injured Mr Maltby in her arms that the thugs then turned on Miss Lancaster. She was kicked and stamped to death while pleading for them to stop beating her boyfriend.

The Hulmes, along with a third youth, Daniel Mallett, aged 17, of Bacup, carried out a brutal attack on Mr Maltby in Stubbylee Park simply because he was dressed as a goth.

The Judge, who lifted reporting restrictions allowing the Observer to identify the two Hulmes, said: "This was feral thuggery. It raises serious questions about the sort of society which exists in this country. This terrible case has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it.

"At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for doing so, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour degrades humanity itself."

The court was told that the two Hulmes and Mallett played no part in the attack on Miss Lancaster. During the 45-minute sentencing Danny Hulme sat with his head bowed. He wiped tears from his eyes several times. His brother kept looking at the floor. Their mother fled the court in tears.

Paul Reid QC, for Joseph Hulme, said his client had been brought up to be responsible.

He said: "Mr and Mrs Hulme feel let down by their sons. Joseph cannot offer any reason why he became involved – perhaps peer influence.

"Young people get involved in dreadful incidents, getting swept on by what is going on around them."

Representing Danny Hulme, Anthony Cross QC said his client had never been in trouble before, adding: "He was an ordinary young boy coming from a home encouraging good behaviour. There had been no warning signs."

In Bacup youth workers look for more cash...

Service looking for more cash for young
Lancashire Telegraph, UK - 1 May 2008

Sophie's death has been linked with drink now skunk:
Hippie dream, modern nightmare, UK
4 May 2008

And last week the mother of Sophie Lancaster, the 20-year-old goth murdered by two binge-drinking teenagers, claimed the rise of skunk was now one of the biggest causes of problems among young people. 'It's so much stronger now than normal cannabis and young people are smoking it from 9am and thinking it's OK,' said Sylvia Lancaster. 'I have worked with young people over a number of years and I believe that one of the biggest issues facing us is skunk.'