GANGSTER’S PARADISE

Thank you Helena for being my first guest to submit on this theme! You never know who is on the other end of the keyboard. I knew Helena before I KNEW who HE was!

HELENA

(a cover of a Coolio tune…. except, shit, son, let’s face it — Coolio COMPLETELY stole this from the great Stevie Wonder)

Hello, my name’s Helena Hann-Basquiat.

Except it’s not, is it?

I’m a thirty-something woman who lives with her niece, the fabulous Countess Penelope of Arcadia (or Penny, if you like).

Except I’m not, am I?

And yet for two years, I wrote as this character I created — I interacted with people on Twitter and Facebook and WordPress as Helena, and while I gave hints that I wasn’t exactly that — that Helena was a character — never did I give away the truth.

Why did I do this?

For anonymity. Because I didn’t want people to know me — I just wanted them to enjoy the writing, and as I became comfortable behind that mask, I was able to tell some very personal stories through Helena.

But the reasons for my anonymity were never diabolical or creepy — I wasn’t trying to infiltrate or insinuate myself into places for less than noble reasons. But I could have, couldn’t I?

As I grew closer to some people to the point where friendship began, I revealed my true identity to them — my integrity demanded it. I didn’t feel right in continuing a façade with someone I considered a friend.

Some of you grew to really love Helena, and were glad to find out that only some of Helena was a lie, and now that you have a chance to get to know the person behind Helena, you realized that I was there all along.

But let me repeat something for any parents who might be reading this, whose children are all over social media without any rules or restraints, or indeed, using common sense.

I convincingly pretended to be something else every day for two years. I was upfront with the fact that I was something of a character, right down to the choice of my name, but you know, I could have called myself Hayden, said I was a high school senior, and started chatting up your sons and daughters.

The Internet (and social media like Facebook, Tumblr, etc…) gives an artificial sense of intimacy. People feel like they connect with others, but there is a trust that is given far too freely. I tend to treat the internet like Hannibal Lector — in the film Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster’s character is going to interview him for the first time in the Prison hospital, and she is told: “Don’t tell him anything personal — you don’t want Hannibal Lector crawling around in your head.”

How much do we share on line? Enough to profile us, that’s how much.

I write horror. So I tend to be able to take my mind to some dark fucking places, and I’ll tell you what — if I wanted to stalk and seduce your teenage daughter, it would be a piece of cake. I know her favourite bands, I know her favourite movies, I’ve seen pictures of her and all her friends, tagged with their names. I know what school she goes to.

All I would have to do to infiltrate myself into your daughter’s life would be to create a Facebook profile under a fake name (after all, it let me do it for Helena Hann-Basquiat), download some fake pictures of some teenage guy (a good looking one of course), fill my wall with all the same sorts of stuff she does, comment on a couple of her pictures (because everything is shared publicly, because even though Facebook has privacy settings, your daughter hasn’t bothered because TLDR when it came to the fine print) (TLDR = Too Long, Didn’t Read… the lazy slacker eye roll).

Then at some point, I’d make a friend request and she would likely click yes because she’d have no reason not to — unless someone like her mother and father have told her not to accept friend requests from strangers.

I think a healthy dose of paranoia can be a good thing when it comes to the Internet. How well do you REALLY know these people from all over the world?

“Oh, I can accept him as a friend, he lives in England and I’m in America.”

Does he? Where do I live? Do you know?

I’m never going to embrace 100% transparency. However, a note to those who call me friend – my policy is that once you are actually behind the curtain — that is, if we’ve spoken on the phone — then you are my friend and I would never betray that. Ironically, at that point, I’m an open book (and yes, that’s the correct usage of the word irony).

Your children are growing up in a gangster’s paradise, this Internet generation. There is no accountability, no policing, rules are something that are laughable — it truly is anarchy, and often times, the strongest rule over the meek. Just step into any forum where someone is bullying another in the comments and see what I mean.

The Internet is a strange, dangerous place — much like the ocean. It can be wonderful and fascinating, but there is so much under the surface that we aren’t even aware of before it’s too late.

Cue Jaws Theme song. Fade to black.


helena-h-bBIO:

The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Her books are available HERE in e-book for Kindle and/or paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or http://whoisjessica.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

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19 thoughts on “GANGSTER’S PARADISE

  1. It’s chilling, and what you said about getting to know someone under a pseudonym – I remember a series of adverts which were run here a number of years back, which said along the lines of “What’s your daughter’s favourite tv show? Her favourite band? Her favourite colour? The meal she likes to eat with friends? What she’d like to be when she grows up? What’s in her bag? Don’t know? A pedophile does!”…grooming is real. I’ve known a family affected. No. Broken by it. And it is every bit as evil and monstrous and destructive and divisive and seductive and terrifying as people think. Every. Single. Bit.

    Hasty, this is SUCH important stuff. Thank you.

    Helena – great post. I assume vidchat and WhatsApp count as ‘on the phone’ 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • The thing is, not all strangers are creepy. Not all priests are pedophiles, not everyone from Texas is a gun-toting racist redneck, and not all Muslims are terrorists. But some of all of the above are. It’s learning to differentiate and actually make smart decisions about what information you are willing to offer to a stranger, just in case that stranger happens to be one of the aforementioned weirdos.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Until people reach a certain level of trust that comes tempered with maturity and wisdom (and I’d love to say that adults possess this, but shit…) on-line contacts should be held at arm’s length. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship with these people, you just have to be aware of the nature of the relationship, and that is, that it is essentially a double-blind. Once trust has developed, it may become something more. But children lack the maturity and wisdom of experience to be making those kinds of decisions, and so should probably be given guidelines by their parents, such as “If you don’t know them in real life, you do not give them so much as your real name, let alone pictures, names of friends, etc…” Just my policy.

      Like

  2. You have just described my worst nightmare when it comes to my kids on the internet. THIS is exactly why I am up their ass about it. Thank you for saying what so clearly needs to be said (and doing it with such crazy finesse!). Perfect!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My only daughter is 30, but that doesn’t mean that she is safe on the internet. For that matter, neither am I, if I don’t remain vigilant about my personal information. This is a powerful piece, Helena. It is a hell of a wake-up call for some of us and a powerful reminder for the rest. Two thumbs up.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank god my kids are adults…but my grandkids aren’t. A good reminder, Helena. Kids are gullible. The danger is they won’t admit it. Anyone who makes them feel like a grown up is all good to them. Scary. Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is wonderful, Helena! It’s great that you used your situation as an example of how easy it is to pretend to be someone else. I had that paranoia through my kids’ teenage years (and I still do) and had strict rules they had to abide by. It didn’t mean that they didn’t do things without my knowing (i’m not that naive) but generally, they listened to my warnings. Phew! Good advice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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