No doubt many of you will have seen the viral video posted by the mother of Quaden Bayles, a child with dwarfism who was allegedly bullied at school.
Famous actors, sports stars and media personalities rallied in support of the disabled kid. If only the same could be said of over 90% of the 256,700 people that shared his GoFundMe page instead of contributing themselves. That’s right, in today’s virtue signalling world, appealing that you care about social justice is enough.
Although the ugly side of social media is never far away. It didn’t take long for trolls seeking to demonize anyone by dredging up the past and drawing conclusions in haste. Digital footprints have a half-life of infinity.
Some suggested that his mother was abusing his skills as an actor, influencer and model to make some extra money by boosting his profile. If this was a stunt, which we sincerely hope it wasn’t, that would be an even more despicable act at the hands of those who should be protecting his best interests.
Ultimately, 9-yo Quaden Bayles should simply not be in the firing line. Sadly he will be collateral damage as a growing number have taken upon themselves to savage him and his mother. That is not to condone any alleged deceptive behaviour but it throws up the growing dangers of social media. An exponential number of people seem so desperate to have their profiles go viral that they are resorting to ever more extreme actions to achieve it.
The GoFundMe account to support Quaden has amassed c.US$455,000 from 20,100 people for him and his mother to go to Disneyland. As doubt to the authenticity of the bullying claim does the rounds in cyberspace, the mother is being attacked for using his disability to raise some quick cash via GoFundMe. The facts don’t show that.
First, she didn’t ask to set up the GoFundMe account. Comedian Brad Williams did. Second, the organiser clearly stated that “after all the flights, hotel, tickets, and food is paid for, any excess money will be donated to anti-bullying/anti-abuse charities.”
We won’t bother to make some sort of woke comment to condemn bullying of any sort because that should be the default setting for anyone with at least two brain cells. There are no points for publicly broadcasting one is against attacking a child with a disability. Or without one for that matter.
Still in this day and age, we should never underestimate the actions of some who gladly look to hijack a “trending” cause for their own social media exposure.
Hollywood is a great example. How so many actors and actresses came out and rallied behind the #MeToo movement despite Harvey Weinstein being the worst kept secret in movies. Celebrities rushed to condemn his actions on Twitter despite wearing black ball gowns with the surface area of three postage stamps held together with dental floss to protest sexual assault. That’s right, when it comes to career progression and fame, expedience by remaining silent trumped principle.
If people wish to part with their money on GoFundMe we think they bear all the personal responsibility of doing so. At the very least, GoFundMe should consider a 7-day cooling-off period where the money is held in trust such that the impulsive have an avenue to reverse a decision if any misrepresentation which changes their decision crops up. The cross-jurisdictional nightmare of charging a fundraiser for potential fraud makes it too complex, much less for the generally small average size of individual donations.
Today, social media is judge and jury. People are smeared before getting a chance to prove their innocence. For all of the video footage and pictures of Quaden Bayles dressed in designer fashion several years prior to his emotional plea this week, it doesn’t automatically cancel out the chances he was bullied by his peers who probably don’t know any better. He may have given as good as he got. He is only 9-yo. It is ultimately irrelevant. We know bullying has dreadful consequences, sometimes fatal. It shouldn’t just come down to seeing a video of a disabled kid before we do something about it.
Unfortunately, the lessons about the dangers of bullying so many demand kids are taught aren’t practised by the very adults on social media who should know better.