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Alex Pasternack

Alex Pasternack

Posted: June 1, 2010 01:33 PM

After Lawsuits and Therapy, Cyber-Bullied "Star Wars Kid" Returns

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It may be the most legendary monument to the internet's 15 megabytes of fame - or unintentional infamy: eight years ago, private footage of a heavy-set teenager, spinning nearly uncontrollably while wielding an imaginary-lightsaber, as if in an audition tape for Star Wars, was uploaded to the web and passed around.

Within days it was well on its way to becoming the most popular viral video of all time. It's since been viewed by over 1 billion people. (If, somehow, you haven't seen it, watch here.)

Not as many people know the rest of the story: Ghyslain Raza - or to the internet, Star Wars Kid - didn't feel famous, or funny. He felt harassed, the victim of the most visible bullying in history. Ghyslain dropped out of his Quebec high school, was diagnosed with depression, and checked into a psychiatric ward for children.

Ghyslain and his parents would later sue the families of the three classmates who leaked the video in 2003, for around $250,000. According to the lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement, "Ghyslain had to endure, and still endures today, harassment and derision from his high school mates and the public at large."

But after eight years of laughs at his expense - and a few campaigns in his defense - Ghyslain is back. Now in his early 20s, he's reemerged as the president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivieres, a conservation society that aims to preserve the cultural heritage of his hometown of Trois-Rivieres.

Revenge of the Sith this isn't, but he's putting his litigious experience to some use, getting his law degree at McGill University in Montreal.

The vicissitudes of the internet are now well known, thanks in parts to tales like Ghyslain's, and Alexey "Impossible Is Nothing" Vayner, whom I interviewed recently in a documentary. But cyberbullying and trolling have only grown more intense since "Star Wars Kid," due to the increasing tendency to share, the decline of privacy, and the morally-fluid culture of anonymity that has grown around message boards like 4chan.

Read the rest at Motherboard.tv

 

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