Sunday, June 07, 2009

Time To Close The Book On Shadowhare

After several quiet weeks, "Shadowhare" made another public appearance, this one at Mt. Adams Pavilion.  (His appearance was not spontaneous; it had been listed as a selling point for the DERF Happy Hour in the Enquirer's "Five things to do:  Friday" feature.)  Mayoral candidate Jason Haap (through his own alter-ego, political performance artist "Dean of Cincinnati") currently has several Shadowhare-related posts, including video of the young, masked man at the Beacon.

I think it's time the media--both "mainstream" and "alternate"--stop giving "Shadowhare" the attention he so obviously craves.  (Yes, I know:  I just wrote a blog post calling attention to someone I think we should all ignore.)  Based on what I saw in the videos at the Beacon, I strongly suspect that there are is some sort of mental illness that underlies Shadowhare's behavior.  Even Jason's co-blogger, Justin Jeffre, agrees that Shadowhare may have a problem:
I feel sorry for the guy if he really suffered the kind of abuse that he claims he did, but I think this guy might have some serious mental health issues and should probably talk to a mental health professional.
So who cares?  If all Shadowhare does is show up and entertain drunk YP's on a Friday night, what's the harm?  The problem is twofold.  First, I doubt he's going to stop at just entertainment.  Eventually, he's going to do something dangerous.  He'll hurt himself or someone else.  And then we'll all wring our hands at why we didn't get this troubled young man some help, rather than encouragement.  Second, he encourages and emboldens others to act without appropriate training or knowledge.  If he continues to garner attention, someone who is like him--ill but functional--will think "crime-fighting" in a mask is appropriate, attempt it, and get hurt.

A couple caveats:

I don't have any formal training in diagnosing mental illness.  But I work with individuals who suffer from various mental illnesses on a daily or weekly basis, and watching the videos reminds me of the interactions I've had with some of them.

Second, I don't blame or in any way condemn Jason for posting about Shadowhare.  Shadowhare was first publicized by the traditional media, and the blogs have simply followed along.  (Jason, of course, is behaving typically--like a pitbull with a young child's leg in its jaws--by putting up multiple posts, suggesting (or at least hinting) that Shadowhare should be prosecuted, and posting about a fictional organization that jokingly opposes superheroes.)  But maybe, on careful reflection, those of us in the "alternative media" should show the restraint and responsibility so often lacking in the legacy media these days.  And in the meantime, we'll all hope that there's someone in "Shadowhare's" life who is close enough to him to get him the help he needs.

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