Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

9 Die in Japan Suicides Tied to Phones (or Vans)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Okay, I'm getting very, very, very bored of articles which still think you can argue for technological determism regarding the internet. Earlier this year we had the joyous span of articles which suggested the web causes cannibalism. Now, apparently it causes suicide. The New York Times begins an article thus:
9 Die in Japan Suicides Tied to Web
By JAMES BROOKE

Published: October 13, 2004

TOKYO, Oct. 12 - Nine people were found dead on Tuesday in two rented cars with the windows sealed and charcoal burners at their feet in pacts that the police said were facilitated by Internet suicide sites.

The police said that in the first car, a minivan that had been rented for the day, they found seven bodies, including teenagers and a 33-year-old woman who had left a note for her children. Parked on a mountain road in a Tokyo suburb, the gray van had been wrapped in blue plastic sheets with the windows taped closed. Inside, the woman's body was in the driver's seat, and there were three bodies on each of the van bench seats. All were believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Mother is going to die, but I was happy that I could give birth to you," said a note found next to the driver, according to Kyodo News. An empty package of sleeping pills was found near the van.

The group may have come together through a suicide message board on the Internet, Japanese news media quoted the police as saying. Japan has a suicide rate about twice the rate of the United States, and there are Web sites where people discuss suicide and suicide techniques. Some Web sites even sell kits offering "painless" suicide.

Using a cellphone, one of the seven in the van e-mailed a friend in northern Japan on Monday evening, giving the approximate location of the van, a police spokesman for Saitama, a Tokyo suburb, told Agence France-Presse. All the van's occupants were dead by the time the police arrived, just after dawn.
Some books contain information about suicide and even painless sucide. Do we see "books may have caused suicide"? Not recently, no. So some people made a suicide pact via a discussion board. "The internet made them...". They also arranged to meet by mobile phone. "Mobile phones made them...". In fact, they died in vans "Vans caused suicide pact...". Do you see a trend? No single factor outside the people caused them to do anything. They used a number of technologies and even a number of communication technololgies to meet and commit suicide together. The internet is as much to "blame" as cellphones/mobile phones ... i.e. not very much at all. So reporters, stop suggesting technological determinism as a way of attracting readers to your crappy articles or the internet may cause certains journos to have laptops sticking out of places from which, I assure you, the sun doesn't shine! Grrr.

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