Jennifer Petkov is You

 

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Image by Elisabeth Moore via Flickr

 

Jennier Petkov has the dubious honor of being the 85th most googled term this afternoon thanks to her stunningly self-absorbed Housewife of New Jersey via Michigan turn on a local news channel.

In case you’ve missed Jennifer, she’s the trending troll de jour due to her harpy-ish harassment of her neighbor’s dying grand-daughter, and her relentless campaign to mock the death of the little girl’s mother.

Mother and daughter carried the deadly Huntington’s gene. The mother passed away at 24 and the now seven-year old daughter is in the last stages of a disease that eats away brain tissue.

What would drive someone to mock and torment the terminally ill?

It’s the culmination of a two-year feud that began when Jennifer mistakenly believed that her neighbors had deliberately excluded her son from a birthday party. I believe there was a bouncy house involved. The Trojan War and WWI were bouncy house snubs, I believe.

Regardless, the battle was afoot and has trampled all over Jennifer’s neighborhood and with a little help front Photoshop, she took it to Facebook even.

Enter the press. And cue the clever pot-stirrer who uploaded this clip to YouTube:

My favorite part … aside from the head bobbing – their heads always bob – why? … is when the near speechless reporter asks Jennifer why she would do such a thing.

Her answer was basically because she could and it was fun.

“Take it or leave it,” she says as her final justification.

And here is where she is you.

Just like Christine O’Donnell is you.

And Glenn Beck is you.

And that incredibly pouty, spoiled football player’s wife on The View is you.

The feeling that personal entitlement is all and that change, or meeting half way, is for the weak, those who aren’t strong enough (or too cognizant of the interconnectedness of humanity).

I wouldn’t defend Jennifer, but she is hardly an anomaly. The people bashing her today are Jennifer. Those who dedicated hate pages across the Social Mediascape to shame her and “give her a dose of her own medicine” are her too.

Jennifer’s mean girl ways are a timely find. Bullying is all over the news. Much hand-wringing and wondering why.

But there is nothing to wonder about. Bullying is part of who we are. It’s steeped in our culture of “take me or leave me”. The idea that we are free to impose, judge, forcibly coerce and bare our teeth like the Darwinian creatures we are is exactly what makes it possible for teens to mimic their same-sex fearing parents when they pick at their gay classmates until the whites of their bones show.

Sarah Palin‘s eye rolls. Rachel Maddow‘s contempt. Bill O’Reilly’s brow-beating. Jon Stewart‘s mockery. It’s Jennifer with a polish and book smarts, but it’s Jennifer no less. We are a nation of bullies. Our politics, our religions, our social fabric really is based on the idea that if the cause is perceived righteous – anything that has to be said or done to get the masses to line up and bleat is justified.

Just last evening, my oldest nephew pulled a “take it or leave it” on me. He’d spent the day before stirring the family crisis pot with teen angst and over-reaction that culminated in him “running away” for the night to make his point. When I talked with him the next day – after all the adults had made contact, assessed the actual facts and were on the same united page – he admitted that perhaps he’d gotten a bit overwrought,

“But it’s who I am,” he said, “and I can’t change it.”

I disagreed, and I still do. People are who they want to be. Their words and actions are who they are. Hurtfulness, manipulations that add up to bullying behavior aren’t justified by the ends no matter how heinous or righteous the cause. Jennifer was wrong, but the people who are harassing her right now are wrong too. They are bullies too.

Jennifer’s cause was the selfish preservation of face. She over-reacted two years ago but couldn’t admit it. She fell back on learned behavior that is not so different from what many people do on smaller scales in their places of work and within their families or social networks.

But any time words – or worse – are used to twist facts or to wound, it’s bullying. We Americans are mean girls at our core.  Hypocrites. Just like Jennifer.

“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” – author unknown

Comments are now closed.

21 responses to “Jennifer Petkov is You

  1. Pingback: 2010 Top Ten Posts « anniegirl1138

  2. anniegirl, I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by posting such a comment.maybe the house next to the petkov family is for sale.I think you & the petkov’s would be great neighbors. you both seem to have the same mental defect. if your goal was to piss people off and make them dislike you I think you have suceeded. upholding an adult who is bullying a termanally ill 7 yr old is just sick. by putting down people who are putting down petkov makes you the same as them. I think your 15 min is up.

    • Not sure what comment you are referring to. The post itself perhaps? Just pointing out that harassing bullies is not a solution, and that bullying is our culture. It’s what passes for entertainment, debate and justice more often than it should.

      I don’t seek to put anyone down. Just call attention and make people think. If you feel put down, that’s yours to sort out.

    • Robert. Thank you. I agree with your comments 100%. I tried to use a reasonable approach but when someone is so blinded by Political Correctness discussion is useless. You hit them along side of the head with a 2 X 4 first to get their attention. Anyone who sides with the Petkovs is no better than them.

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  4. Of all the things I read on the internet today regarding Jennifer Petkov, yours might be the second most Jennifer Petkovish. I think you’re trying to open up a dialogue, but it’s so coated in disillusionment and bitterness. What these people did is in no way ok. And you’re the first person I’ve heard even mention their son. None of the scorn has been directed at him.

    “When no one likes you already, what do you have to gain by changing your behavior?” You gain a start. And apology is effort. And sincere effort has to be appreciated on some level.

    “These disgruntled folks will find each other and then what?” You get the French Revolution and the Tea Party Movement.

    • Disillusionment or reality? Sad too because as a blogger for a website, I traffic in this type of content and it weighs on me more and more. The Internet as a weapon though isn’t something I created, and an apology that comes only after you’ve flogged someone publicly? That’s not a start of anything positive. Cooperation can be twisted out of anyone. And her apology didn’t read sincere – just defeated.

      Totally agree with the French Revolution/Tea Party Movement. Both angry, marginalized mobs whipped into a frenzy by people smart enough to use them (though the Mob turned on the manipulators in France – something to think about.)

  5. This Message is for Jenifer and Scott Petkov
    Trust me there is a special place in Hell waiting for you two.
    You should be ashamed.
    If you have a problem with Grandmother take it up with her not the granddaughter Kathleen.
    shame shame on the two of you.

    • Linda, while I appreciate your anger comes from a place of compassion for family, the expression of it only adds to the problem.

      And though I agree that they should be ashamed, if you watched the clip, it probably occurred to you – as it did me – that they probably aren’t capable of experiencing that kind of introspection or remorse, which is why the attacks on them will do little but to reinforce her apparent need to be arrogant and defiant.

      Our society is so good at reacting after the fact. We completely fall down on preventing or shutting down this type of behavior at it’s inception. What if this story hadn’t made the news – because this type of neighborhood terrorism is not uncommon? And what about the Petkovs’ son? Should he rot in the media hellstorm with his parents? Victimized in a way no more fair than the little girl his mother taunted?

      Whether there is a hell or not (my personal take is that it’s a Christian fairy story), the Petkovs are experiencing one of those rare instances of “instant karma” where the negative actions they’ve put out have come back to bite them personally. Though, I doubt, they are learning anything from it. And if they are not learning anything, what’s the point?

      • anniegirl1138 Since there aparently no laws to prevent this kind of behavior, you say “And if they are not learning anything, what’s the point?” The point is PUNISHMENT.
        Your do nothing approach means we can do anything we want without consequenses. I feel sorry for their son. It would be nice if child protective services could find a relative to put the child with as these two are obviously unfit parents.

        • Ah, but “punishment” and “revenge” are two different things and what is going on is the latter. And I am not suggesting that nothing be done. Certainly, the Petkovs owe … but what? And how? And who are any of us to decide that? And when the “punishment” exceeds the crime? Takes on collateral damage aspects?

          It seems to me that in the simple realm of consequences, they were in play. No one in that neighbor likes the Petkovs. They are well-known to the local police. They’ve been hauled into court. When you are already a pariah, what else can society at large do that hasn’t been done? When no one likes you already, what do you have to gain by changing your behavior? I see nothing in this scenario where forgiveness or being allowed back into community exist for the Petkovs. Especially now that she is an Internet search term. Maybe that’s okay? But what do we as a society do with outcasts? These disgruntled folks will find each other and then what? Surely nothing positive will come of that. And why take someone on the margins and shove them over the cliff?

        • I believe you are living in La La land especially when you compare peoples reactions to the vile actions of the Petkov’s, with the Tea Party Movement. Wake up. If everyone is allowed to do whatever they wish with no consequence for their actions a total breakdown of a civilized society will result. Sometimes when actions are this twisted it may be necessary to “push them off the cliff”.

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  7. Our mutual friend Elizabeth at Gifts of the Journey recommended that I stop by and I’m glad I did. You present a very compelling argument and an interesting take on bullying. I agree that we all have the potential in us to bully others to one degree or another. I disagree that we all are capable of the type of vitriol and savagery seen in the actions of Jennifer and some others you have mentioned. It takes someone with some pretty disturbing and frightening issues to be capable of that kind of viciousness — issues that seriously need to be addressed with therapy and probably medication.

    I like your writing and the passion you infuse in your argument and have signed up to receive notices of future posts. Keep writing. Yours is definitely a voice needed in what is mostly a pretty mundane blogosphere.

    • Well thank you. I am glad you stopped by and took the time to comment.

      I think though that we fool ourselves when we think that people like Jennifer are anomalies. Perhaps it is my time spent teaching public school, but she is not an isolated case. Many people have that capacity for blind rage and more so when they are on the marginal edges of society whether socially, economically or educationally.

      I also think that the lesser versions of bullying that pass for entertainment make this type of thing more possible because it becomes acceptable. Reality television – of all forms – is an excellent example of the many uses/types of bullying. News networks
      too teach people that it is okay to bully if you believe you are in the right.

      And of course, there is the whole thing on “what makes right or wrong?” We’ve become quite subjective on the issue.

      Again, thanks for your take.

  8. Ok…I understand what you are trying to say, BUT I do find fault with you comparing that woman (Jennifer P. ) to Elisabeth H. on The View (even to your other name references but I won’t go into those). Before you brand me as “One of Those Types”, I am not a die hard Republican. I am somewhere in the middle of the road who wishes that both political parties would stop pandering to their fringe radical groups and start concentrating on the masses who are in the middle. That being said, I don’t get people’s distaste for EH . I really don’t. She is young, beautiful, idealistic, sometimes unrealistic, has good points that she brings up, has bad points that she brings up, sometimes can’t deliver her thoughts eloquently, etc…. and to say that she somehow harbors feelings like Jennifer, is just mean and cruel to write. If you are a watcher of The View, Joy is really the one who says nasty comments, doesn’t back up what she says, does not abide the saying “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” but she gets away with it because her nasty comments are couched in comedy. I truly believe that the main reason EH gets hate mail, isn’t based off of what she says, as much as it is her looks. Sad, but true. Women (not all, but a lot) hate when there is a pretty woman, with a seemingly happy marriage, cute kids and a great job. They can’t stand it. Drives women nuts, instead of fixing what is wrong in their own world, they want to bring down someone else who has what they want. If EH was a radical Democrat, she would still garner dislike because of her looks. It’s a fact. So, to get back to your original reason for writing your post….There are moments in everyone’s lives where we do things, say things, we are not proud of or wish we could change. That being said, I am not Jennifer, EH is not Jennifer and I am going to assume You are not Jennifer. That kind of hate and venom doesn’t exist in all of us, just a few who get the media to latch on to them because they are so unique.

    ***Disclaimer*** I do not know EH, personally or otherwise, I just think that she gets a bad rap.

    • As far as Elizabeth goes, she is an example of what I mean by “righteous” bullying. She is not unusual in the world of social commentators or entertainers as beacons of opinion.

      But we are all Jennifer. Especially if we believe that victimizing is an acceptable form of retribution. I am betting that Jennifer’s little boy is being targeted as we speak. Is that okay? For many of us, it is. We will think “well, that’s what happens when you are socially unacceptable. your kids get bullied. take it or leave it.”

      In our country, we never want to look too closely at the things that make us uncomfortable because we might see ourselves in the gray areas.

      Elizabeth (and thanks for supplying her name) is just behaving in a manner that gets her attention and lets her be on tv. Her shrillness and her obvious disrespect is no different from the eye-rolls she gets from Whoopi or the looks of motherly disapproval she gets from Barbara. It’s not different from Keith Olberman’s “righteous rants” or Sean Hannity’s dripping with contempt commentary. But it’s teaching us that scorn and ridicule are acceptable weapons when we are “right” and our way of thinking is better than someone else’s.

      We all do this. We are all Jennifer (minus the hearse though I am betting most of us use FB or other Internet sites as a means of reaching out and making a very sharp point).

      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your taking the time to share another viewpoint with those who read this.

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