This weekend I found out that a longtime poster on my site’s message board was convicted for pedophilia. He faces a possible ten years in prison. As a pedophile. In a place that is as unkind to pedophiles as any can be. Scary stuff. Here’s the details, gleaned from here:
“A Bronx, New York, man today admitted soliciting a female minor to produce sexually explicit images and using Craigslist to advertise sexual encounters with the minor, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced
Gabriel Toro, 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of online enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual conduct.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
Toro admitted that between December 2011 and August 2014, he used the internet to induce a 14-year-old girl to engage in criminal sexual conduct including taking pictures of her genitals for him. Toro also admitted to distributing images of the girl to another individual and posting advertisements on Craigslist for individuals to have sex with the minor in exchange for money.
The charge to which Toro pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. Toro will be required to register as a sex offender. Sentencing is scheduled for June 25, 2015.”
Terrifying? Yeah. Scary on a wide variety of levels and in this world where the behaviors of kids and young people are being brought into stark contrast it seems wise to share this sad and avoidable situation on here. If a child is bullied, it’s big news now. If a child threatens someone bodily harm, it’s big news now. If someone makes a threat on a message board whether it be violence to one, terrorism to many, or whatever the case may be it’s big news now.
The sad fact is that Gabriel Toro had a reputation on our message boards for many years as a person who should be on some sort of watchlist for the exact kind of behavior which probably ruined the life of an innocent girl. It’s foolhardy to point a finger at ourselves, especially considering how different the internet has gotten even in the last few years. Long after Gabriel/Fabfunk was a fixture here. It’s stupid to point fingers but it’s also stupid to ignore that what we did was simply not enough. We made jokes. We banned him from the site. We made light of it. As the site runner I accepted the pageviews and moved on with my day. He became a punchline here but it cost us nothing and it did nothing other than amuse us. Years later as his career as an online critic grew so too did his access, resources, and whatever psychological impulses he’d kept at bay. Eventually (hopefully only this one time) he took action on those impulses and someone suffered. It’s not our responsibility but in all honesty we saw it coming and even joked about it, so maybe it’s time this amazing technological advance that allows us to communicate in a way never seen before can be used as a means to prevent this kind of real-world horror from happening.
The internet allows us to be who we aren’t. Nebbishes are tough guys on the internet. You can insult your heroes on Twitter just as easy as praise them. You can chat with like-minded folks with ease and you can flame war against those who don’t freely and without punishment. Sort of. I think it’s safe to say that in every tragic story of a human being snapping and doing something horrible there were people around them who had a clue. Saw it coming. Skimming through ancient message board posts on my own site there’s proof in spades. If you look at it through today’s truth. Now, looking back at Fabfunk is disgusting. Back then it was just internet role-playing or so it appeared. We should have been better people. Or at least, we should have not allowed that kind of creepy shit to spread here.
You never know someone’s true soul from text on a screen.
There’s simply too much left out in the way of tone, body language, and the way a human eye doesn’t know how to really lie when you’re staring deep into it. I’ll compare a recent event that still stings me.
A few years ago at a screening for the Evil Dead remake I made a joke about rape. About tree rape, since it’s something anyone who knows those movies know is a big part of their notoriety. I figured, since it’s a tree rape joke in an Evil Dead screening I was in good company. And frankly if it were 1999 I would have been. But overnight I was labeled pro-rape. I became for a short time the internet face of men who condone rape. Now I am a product of a family who played George Carlin records in the 70’s 80’s, and 90’s nonstop and many of his beliefs are mine whether by osmosis or simple kismet. Anyone who had any sort of regular contact with me knew I, as the father of a young girl and the most doting father ever, would never come even close to finding rape acceptable. Can I joke? Yes. I trust and still trust George Carlin’s take on such things but anyone who’d question my intent would be unfounded. But I shouldn’t have said it and it set my online career back permanently. And anyone who even sort of knew me knew it was just not a fair situation. I shouldn’t have said it and I own the results of it. But what I did was very small potatoes compared to some of the stuff that happened on my site’s boards under what we assumed was pretend from Mr. Toro.
And we let it happen. And so did many other sites.
So if a guy like me who is pretty much an open book and obviously not a deviant in any way can get labeled and attacked for one incident how can someone like that get by for over a decade without any repercussions? Part of it is because the world is much more raw now. Too many very public injustices have happened. Too many school shootings and suicides and fraternity rapes and every scary thing under the sun have gotten big bold ink and become talking points for it not to be an instant issue. And it should be. I’m under the assumption the ultimate endgame for all of us is to prevent this kind of shit from happening if at all possible. I work in a bar in a wealthy part of town and the amount of hatred and wished violence against Barack Obama is embarrassing, scandalous, and quite frankly treasonous. I know for a fact I’ve been in the presence of people who would gladly put a bullet in the man without a moment’s hesitation. Granted, I live deep in the epicenter of a scarily Conservative region where people love their guns like I love my kids. You can’t report these people. You can’t see the warning signs and expect any sort of response other than “Hell Yeah!” here. But if any one of us saw a grown man watching an underage child in a manner unbecoming we’d probably report them. Or have words with them. But on the internet it’s impossible to know intent. And there’s not enough accountability. Still.
When I was an internet personality it was trolls. Trolls abusing my name. Lying. Posting Photoshopped pictures of my newborn daughter as a corpse and jokes about my recently dead father. That was the mental and emotional damage I had to take. I had no repercussion. I had no way of getting those anonymous people outed in their workplaces, homes, and social groups even though their behavior was befitting the kind of person who would do harm to another. There were just hidden cowards who had an easy and gullible target. Mr. Toro’s behavior was public. And not anonymous. And he was allowed to have a career and overcome message board banning with ease. To a scary and what will surely be horrible end. His life for all intents and purposes will never be the same and the victim of his crime is worse off than he is. I had my little feelings hurt. A girl had her life ruined. The breadth of the damage is unpredictable but there has to be accountability.
We are a generation of armchair activists. It’s the fucking least we can do, protect the next in line.
I think we failed her and I think we failed him too.
I think we had a potentially dangerous person here. It’s not ego when I say we probably could have handled ourselves better. A malleable young mind is still potentially good. Maybe his was and maybe we should have been less lazy and aloof.
I don’t know what the future holds for this site. I know my days are winding down, though I recently have secured a new domain and for some insane reason desire starting this new website with the aim of surpassing CHUD on every level. A fool’s errand. I’m 43. I was 25 when I started this place. I’ve been ridden hard and put away wet by the web. I’ve had great friendships, great enemyships, and been all over the world. I’ve had readers meet here and get married. I’ve had readers die. I’ve had readers contemplate suicide and be saved by other readers. So much life and love has passed through this portal but I can’t get fucking Gabriel Toro out of my head. Now THAT would have been something to be proud of. Nipping THAT in the bud. Either reaching into a young mind and helping him find a straighter path, scaring the shit out of him, or if all else failed not giving him a place to publicly share his real feelings masquerading as satire.
I think Gabriel Toro’s story needs to go viral. I think every talkback and message board needs to know his story.
Not to glorify him but to shine a light on others like him. And also to remind people that not everyone is like him. The words are harmless most of the time on the web. Useless even. There has never been a greater group of people assembled in history and there has never been a group with as little of interest to actually say. It’s a selfie world and that’s not really a world at all. I made a rape joke and it wasn’t a great joke but a little research would have erased any fears that I was a threat. Gabriel made tons of creepy sexually perverse comments and they eventually bore fruit. Eventually we have to know when there’s smoke in situations like this. We can’t expect the law to catch every terrorist, rapist, molester, and assassin before they act but we certainly can be better attuned to see the signs. And be better attuned to not be too lazy to make the effort to let others know.
This isn’t Salem and these people aren’t witches. They’re you and me and they’re five feet away or one click away.
Do better. I plan to. We all should. The fact this site will forever come up when people search for Gabriel Toro is on us. Let’s be better.
I’ll end with this, a short film Gabriel acted in. If the subject matter discussed and sight of him doesn’t send chills down your spine a little you haven’t been paying attention.