What kind of ghoulish people stand around and yell for a man on a window ledge to “jump”? Well, the same sort of people who coached a suicidal nineteen-year-old into taking her own life in 2003.
Except those people did more than yell one word. They talked her into it, and through it, over a period of months. They even gave her advice on the logistics of poisoning herself.
These people never shouted anything, but they sent it to Suzanne over the internet, through a usenet group called alt.suicide.holiday.
If Suzanne Gonzales had been my daughter, my first impulse would be to respond to this den of online nihilist monsters with a private detective, a shotgun, and some Hefty bags. But Suzanne Gonzales’ parents have cooler heads, and a better plan.
Together with my friend Jeff Harrell (who blogs here), they’re lobbying for H.R. 940: the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007. The law makes it a crime to use the internet (or “interstate commerce”) to teach someone who is thinking of committing suicide to commit suicide. The text of the bill is here, and it seems narrowly drafted enough that it won’t criminalize any speech except the sort of incitement-plus-information that helped kill Suzanne Gonzales. Already the bill has bipartisan sponsorship; but even well-intended bills often fall through the cracks without some momentum behind them.
I’m not endorsing the bill, but I do encourage you take a look at the site and blog Jeff’s put together and give it some serious thought. It is a restriction on speech, and therefore not to be taken lightly, but it seems a reasonable one.
Exit question: won’t this be more grounds to stop someone encouraging and supporting suicide bombers over Al-Qaeda’s usenet groups? An extra five years–or life if they go through with it–might make chickenhawk jihadis and Islamofascist imams think twice before hitting “post”.