News World Keaton Jones: Online storm leaves victim behind
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Keaton Jones: Online storm leaves victim behind

Keaton Jones
Keaton Jones (centre) pictured with Tennessee Vols quarter-back Jarrett Guarantano. Photo: Twitter
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So, we all know one human year allegedly equals seven dog years. But what is an internet day? Sometimes it feels like a decade’s worth of online action can happen in just a few hours.

You might have been following the curious case of Keaton Jones, the 11-year-old kid from Tennessee who cried in the car about school bullies pouring milk over him and teasing him about his nose, as his mum, Kimberly, videoed his tears – because we’re in an age where that’s what you do when your bullied son is crying.

“Why do bullies do that?” Keaton asked. “Why are they so cruel?”

That was on Friday. Over the weekend, the world went nuts at poor Keaton’s anguish.

Ms Jones’ video climbed past 20 million views and a GoFundMe campaign raked in more than $US50,000 ($66,000). More to the point, miserable little Keaton found he had a whole bunch of new and powerful Best Friends Forever!

Celebrities fell over themselves to stand with Keaton. Before you could say ‘Google search’, politicians, sports stars, Hollywood headliners, musicians like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and even Snoop Dogg were in his camp. Tennessee football star Jarrett Guarantano posed with him, Keaton’s eyes shining. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and The Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, personally invited the pre-teen to the Avengers: Infinity War world premiere.

Bullied Keaton had become a frickin’ Avenger!

But then, came Monday.

Somebody did say ‘Google search’ and found a photo of Ms Jones, the mum, laughing next to a Confederate flag and somebody else claimed she had bullied black people online. Boom, the internet turned, and poor Keaton lost a bunch of his new A-list friends in the blink of a pixel.

The GoFundMe campaign was frozen and where once there was a loving Katy Perry tweet, now there was an Instagram page saying: ‘The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.’

What a wild weekend, even for social media:

You poor kid!

We love you!

Whoa, about your mum …

She did what?

We’re done! Screw you!

Delete delete delete

Go back to racist Tennessee, you rednecks!

Celebrities out!

Due diligence is not much of a thing in the heat of an internet frenzy.

Now it’s mid-week and I can’t help wondering about Keaton. Even if his mum is the kind of Confederate lover many of us despise (which she disputes, by the way, saying that flag pic was a joke), what of her son?

Knowing the voracious appetite of the internet, for the next scandal, for the next outrage-in-a-minute, we may never find out. He’ll be left in the cyber dust and never heard of again.

It will be just him, back at school, at lunchtime, waiting for milk to be poured on him. For his nose to be poked.

Faced with those same cruel bullies, but now armed with a world wide web’s worth of celebrity-laced humiliation as fresh ammunition.

The point of Keaton’s original tear-stained monologue – all those decades ago, on Friday – was that bullying is not okay; that mob-rule against an innocent person is not okay.

A whole six days before any of this, a porn actress, August Ames, expressed her concern about ‘performing’ with a crossover actor who had been in gay porn. Twitter labelled her a homophobe (she was bisexual), and a porn peer suggested she take a cyanide pill. After two days of Twitter-storms, she sent a final message to the haters, walked to a local park in the real world and ended her life.

A whole two days after her initial tweet, her brother was blaming cyberbullies and she was dead.

Maybe I got the original question wrong.

Maybe the question shouldn’t be how long is an internet day?

Maybe the question, for Keaton, for August and for whoever is next, should be: how do we survive that day?

Nick Place is a fiction author, journalist and media operative.

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