Mommy blogger Katie Vyktoriah's Huffington Post article "What Happened When My Son Wore A Pink Headband To Walmart" went immensely viral, striking a chord with LGBT allies and friends on Facebook.
The story of how two year old boy Dexter was cruelly bullied by a man who could have walked out of an Aaron Sorkin liberal wet dream was so dramatic, so infuriating... and so, so probably not true.
Now that we have the benefit of hindsight and the later Katie Vyktoriah updates, the tale seems so much like that those of us who first experienced the internet via message boards remember so well -- the member who was always battling one looming pity-laden disaster or another, who leveled up in misery until "dying" or being found out.
Internet old hands probably initially had some quiet alarm bells go off reading the story when they reached the byline, "Katie Vyktoriah," as a creative respelling is one hallmark of the Internet Tragedy Queen.
But the tale itself was believable enough if you didn't have the backstory, despite what now clearly reads as a dramatic fiction -- complete with a villain and a "fug" of cigarette smoke and "pong" of beer.
Credit for breaking the Katie Vyktoria pink heaband yarn wide open can't alas go to The Inquisitr -- we merely got out the popcorn and watched as Get Off My Internets unraveled the whole tale.
So, let's walk it on back. Late last week, HuffPo posted Vyktoria's story about how she'd taken little Dexter to Walmart while the tot ROCKED (all caps) a pink headband.
Two girls asked if he was a boy, she says, and then a man came in out of nowhere, smacked Dexter, said he'd get shot, and waltz off as you do after putting your hands on someone else's child in public.
Another "red flag" was in the narrative here... instead of describing what happened next, the mommy blogger began a dramatic "let me remind you, Dexter is two... " bit, which was... unusual. No mention of police, managers, or even an iPhone snap.
Of course, many bought it hook line and sinker. But not GOMI, who did some digging, followed by newspapers, who are always slow on this sorta business.
GOMI reports after the Katie Vyktoriah pink headband post went viral:
"Now removed from her site claims included having survived 3 failed kidnapping attempts and 1 successful one; claiming to be a stewardess for an airline and quitting just weeks before the flight crashed twice in three months; that she was 'meant to be in NYC on 9/11, but I cancelled last minute;' that she missed catching a train that later crashed... Other claims include suffering from Celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, BPD, manic depression, ADHD, and apparently her breasts are so spectacular they cause bar fights."
Pause for a second here to acknowledge everyone on the internet knows someone like this. Continue.
The Orlando Sentinel now reports the mommy blogger was "Baker acted," which we think has something to do with being put away in Florida so you don't do anything to harm yourself or others.
Perhaps most telling is after the mommy blogger (real name Kathleen Carpenter) was released, she told The Ledger that she "doesn't care whether deputies find proof in the Wal-Mart surveillance footage... I don't think it will do any good … I just want it to go away."
Sound like the words of a mom whose kid was smacked by a fug-ponging stranger? Or a dad? In the end, stories like Carpenter's narrative really do a lot more harm than good to the very issues they're meant to highlight, and some actually bullied gay or perceived gay kid will now face scrutiny or disbelief as people remember what happened this time.
Antics like this do very real harm to the issue of legit bullying, and it's not cool to make up a story for sympathy by using the plight of actually at-risk people. Of course, there is an outlying possibility the story happened in part or even completely as Carpenter describes, but no proof has emerged since the tale hit and the blogger herself has retreated from the spotlight despite an outpouring of supportive comments.
Update: Watermark Online obtained a police report that neither confirms nor disproves Carpenter's story, and the document read in part:
"At this time, there are no charges against the unidentified male and we were unable to obtain video of the incident, as Walmart Loss Prevention was not on site. Based on the continuing media response through Facebook and generated response to the incident by online subscribers, possible video of the incident may be obtained and viewed to in fact verify that the incident actually did occur or if it was all made up."
Mark Reed, Carpenter's boyfriend, says she stands by the story -- but says the couple declined to call police despite the fact the child was in some way allegedly touched by the purported assailant:
"It was horrible what happened but we didn't think it was against the law so we didn't call police. She was angry so she wrote about it as the 'bigger pictures society that we live in' kind of story... I never thought for a minute she was lying. We have had a lot of positive response, but we had had threats."
So as the Katie Vyktoriah pink headband story falls apart, we should thank the real heroes here -- the people like GOMI, who were always the brave ones interrupting the "hugs, vibes and prayers" brigade and say, "hey, something about this whole story feels off."