Nasty comment on Amanda Todd memorial page gets Ontario man fired

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Justin Hutchings is an example of the law of unintended consequences.

He's been fired from his job with a London, Ont., clothing store after posting an intentionally cruel comment on a Facebook page dedicated to Amanda Todd, the Vancouver-area teen who killed herself after years of bullying in school and cyberspace.

According to the Toronto Star, Calgary mother Christine Claveau spotted Hutchings' post — "Thank God this bitch is dead" — and emailed his employer, Mr. Big & Tall Menswear, to complain.

"Our company ethics are based on tolerance, respect and fair and honourable treatment of all individuals, internally, with our customers and the population as a whole," Kamy Scarlett, senior vice-president store operations and corporate human resources of the store's parent company, Grafton-Fraser Inc., told the Star.

[ Related: In wake of Amanda Todd suicide can we legislate being nice? ]

Claveau said she didn't intend for Hutchings to be fired but then again he probably didn't intend it either when he gratuitously insulted a dead girl he'd never met and poured salt in her family's open wound.

Hutchings' reaction to his outing wasn't contrition; it was rationalization.

He was just trying to "stir up the pot," Hutchings told the Star.

"It was more or less a social experiment than anything. Just to see if I could put the most blasphemous thing on there," he said.

Well, you win, man. Your prize is a pink slip.

"I did this because if there was so much caring and so much emphasis on the fact that people actually care now that she's dead, then how come society didn't step in when she was alive?" Hutchings explained.

That's an excellent point. Why not just say that? Expressing joy at Todd's death perhaps was a little to hard for most of us to grasp as your critique of the hypocrisy of society.

But I'm not sure I buy the explanation, anyway. It's more likely Hutchings was part of that large community of Internet trolls who enjoy trying to get a rise out of people.

[ Related: Internet 'trolls' use cloak of anonymity to torment Amanda Todd in death ]

Well, it worked, but he forgot the first rule of trolling: Ya gotta stay on the down-low, dude! Most trolls post anonymously.

But it turns out even that's no guarantee your nastiness won't come back to bite you. Just ask Michael Brutsch. The Texas financial services employee was fired after an article on Gawker.com exposed him as "the biggest troll on the web."

Brutsch, who lives in Arlington, Tex., posted on the popular site Reddit under the handle Violentacrez. According to Gawker's Adrian Chen, he was catholic (here meaning universal and comprehensive) in his range of targets.

"If you are capable of being offended, Brutsch has almost certainly done something that would offend you, then did his best to rub your face in it," Chen wrote, as noted in an article on the outing on Salon.com.

"His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit. At the time I called Brutsch, his latest project was moderating a new section of Reddit where users posted covert photos they had taken of women in public, usually close-ups of their asses or breasts, for a voyeuristic sexual thrill. It was called 'Creepshots.' "

[ Related: Why it's so hard to catch online predators ]

Chen's investigation revealed Violentcrez to be a 49-year-old programmer with a disabled wife. After trying to persuade Chen not to expose him — even offering to become Chen's "sockpuppet" as a mole on Reddit — Brutsch posted the news himself on Reddit under his own name.

It not only cost him his job but also the health insurance he and his wife needed.

See, there's those unintended consequences again.

Brutsch's outing sparked a fierce debate on the web, according to Salon, on whether Chen had broken the "Internet code" by publishing personal information about a troll who was doing nothing illegal, however despicable it might have been.

In the end, though, Brutsch took responsibility for his activities and their consequences.

"As for deserving it, VA [Violentacrez] did go out of his way to make people mad, even if it was only on the internet," he wrote on his Reddit post, according to Salon. "I really have no one to blame but myself."