The Compass

Preventing The Next Chris Chan

Alexander Wacker, Compass Reporter

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The facts of online and real life bullying, what they can turn someone into, and which role net neutrality plays in this scenario.

Born the 24th of February, 1982 to Robert and Barbara Chandler, Christopher Weston Chandler, better known as “Chris Chan”, began his life as a fairly normal boy. He would later be diagnosed with autism. However, signs of his mental illness didn’t appear until he was a toddler. The cause for it was most likely the age of his parents during his birth, Barbara being 41, and Robert being 55. Chris, however, believes his autism stems from an incident with an abusive babysitter. When Chris was only 18 months old, his babysitter, whom he calls “Roach”, locked him in his room after becoming very angry at Chris’ annoyance. Allegedly, this incident deeply traumatized Chris, causing him to not speak for the next six years. Despite Chris’ claim, this was likely not the source of his autism, as Chris’ age during this occurrence was the prime age for people with congenital autism to start showing symptoms. Following this event, Chris had to go to James Madison University for speech therapy, where he was finally diagnosed with autism. According to Chris, the doctor thought Chris would never make it to high school, and never even learn to write his own name.

   Abuse of this child didn’t stop there. In that same decade, Chris was playmates with a girl named Sarah Nicole Hammer. Sarah had convinced Chris that Casper the Friendly Ghost was real, and lived in a crawlspace under her house. Upon investigation, Sarah locked Chris in there for an unknown amount of time. Strangely enough, though, Chris didn’t hold any grudges over it and has learned to let the situation go. While incidents such as this probably didn’t cause Chris’ autism, they certainly contributed to its growth and severity. An unfortunate effect of this ever-growing autism was extreme gullibility. The first recorded example of this occurred on a trip to Chris’ local mall in 1989. At the mall, Chris met an animatronic bear named Leonard Bearstein. Due to poor audio devices on the bear, when Chris gave Leonard his name, the person operating the animatronic misheard him and thought Christopher said his name was Christian. Christopher didn’t just see this as a simple mistake, he saw it as a sign from God. After this, he legally changed his name to Christian Weston Chandler.

   The newly renamed “Christian” then spent the next year of his life at Nathanael Greene Elementary school, where he went to the fourth grade. It didn’t take long for his parents to pull him out of this school over a puzzling dispute. According to Christian, the school’s faculty forcefully restrained Chris and forced him to sit on the principal’s lap. It was likely that this story was embellished by Chris’ parents, rather than actually coming from his memory. After this allegedly traumatic event, Chris began to grow a fear and hatred for homosexuals. Once again, this was probably caused by Chris’ parent’s embellishment of the story, and not caused by the legitimate trauma he suffered. The event was taken to court, where Green County sought to send Chris to a school for mentally challenged children. Both of Chris’ parents outright rejected this idea, as they believed schools for mentally deficient children still used their cruel and abusive tactics, a belief which was blatantly untrue at the time. In order to avoid this happening to Chris, Barbara and Robert homeschooled him up until the fifth grade. However, it grew very difficult for them to legally homeschool Chris in that area, so Chris and Robert moved to Richmond, where Chris could continue his education in a different school system.

   Around the same time, Chris entered the Sonic the Hedgehog Watch and Win Sweepstakes, and against all odds, he won. The grand prize was a one-thousand dollar worth shopping spree, which Chris experienced on his twelfth birthday. WVIR-TV covered the event with a heavy focus on Chris’ autism, and how it was such a great accomplishment for someone with so many setbacks like Chris to win something so huge and meaningful to him. According to sonichu.com, the most reliable and expansive website pertaining to information on Chris Chan, this event is the most solid piece of proof that Chris is, in fact, sincere in the things he claims about his life. Despite this seemingly being a positive event in Chris’ life, it would later cause many of his faults to show. He would later grow to think that because of his autism, he should be able to get whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He attempted to win many other competitions involving prizes, however, he came out the loser most times. This infuriated Chris, causing him to have a deep hatred for the winner, no matter their age. Specifically, in 2007, Chris entered the Chop Chop Master Onion’s Rap Showdown, a contest to promote a game called PaRappa the Rapper. The contest involved performing one of three raps from the game. Chris became one of the top ten finalists during the competition, despite breaking the rules. The instructions were to sing the exact words of one of the three chosen raps. Chris, however, inserted his own lyrics. Even after coming so far though, Chris lost to someone named Adam Stackhouse. For a very long time, Chris held yet another grudge against this person.

   Chris matured little to none from this time to when he entered high school, likely because of the way he was treated by the people he trusted, and the things they taught him. He became very antisocial, only interacting with people at school, and as little as possible. He used his free time to play video games at home and reading Goosebumps novels, which he was arguably too old for, despite his immature tendencies. There were, however, a few girls Chris called his friends. In his own words, they were his “Gal-pals”. Years after Chris’ high school years were over, October 2013, to be specific, one of these friends stated, “I let Christian hang out with us mainly because we felt sorry for him. He sort of latched onto us, like he expected us to protect him. He was like a lost little boy. Sometimes I think he saw us as sort of mother figures, which seems a little creepy now, but Christian seemed harmless enough back then, and we didn’t mind him hanging out with us. As far as socializing goes, we didn’t really hang with him outside of school, except for the time we went to his 18th birthday party.” Chris took great offense to this, however, over a year later, it was later revealed that the statement was fabricated by trolls, in an attempt to get Chris to leave his former “gal-pals” alone. This wasn’t enough for Chris though, as he had already committed to hating these girls. Three years after the reveal, in 2017, Chris reminisced on his high school days, saying that these friends of his were only nice to him because the principal asked them to be kind out of pity. Chris went down saying, “The ONLY way I will ever let their more recent deeds be forgiven is if they all genuinely want to be friends [with] me again; at the least to take a few minutes out of their lives to apologize.”

   Chris’ high school life wasn’t all bad though, as he discovered an interest of his that would later be one of the driving factors that would lead him to become somewhat famous. He believed himself to be very talented at drawing comics. His most famous character is “Sonichu”, a blatant combination of the two popular video game characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pikachu. His art brought him joy at times, but also frustration on many occasions. Chris recalls himself being an honor roll student during this time, claiming to also have acquired his infamous “Amnyfest Ring” during this time. He claimed the ring to be his, “source of power”, a claim which highlights his truly skewed view of the world, which was not caused by him, but the people around him. Believing this ring gave him his “powers” along with his drawing talents, Chris entered an art contest at his school with his style of art, expecting to win. At his high school graduation, when the award was given to someone else, Christian ran out of his own graduation crying. He claims he should’ve won the award for how hard he worked in spite of his autism, not for the quality of his art. During the graduation, he also became fearful because he realized that one day, probably very soon, he would, in fact, have to grow up.

   This marks the time Chris would become the person he is known as in recent times. After coming out of high school, he had decided his main purpose in life was to find a girl he could spend the rest of his life with. This stage of his life began to be known as the “Love Quest” or “Sweetheart Search”. The end goal of Chris’ quest was to marry a girl whom he loved and to have a daughter named Crystal. In hindsight, Chris believed he should remain the same person he was in his high school years, only because of the amount of female attention he got during these times. In February of 2003, Chris had discovered that his old playmate, Sarah Hammer, had begun dating Wes Iseli, an amateur magician. In Chris’ comics, he portrayed Wes Iseli as an evil hedgehog. Chris’ habit of drawing people he doesn’t like as the antagonists in his comics was a common sight to find when reading them.

   The discovery of his old friend having a boyfriend motivated Chris to find a partner of his own, but he was infuriated to find out that nearly every girl he attempted to talk to had a boyfriend. Chris tried many ways to attract a mate, the most famous being his signs. His signs contained many details about himself, which were meant to attract partners who may have found this details attractive. Chris would frequently loiter around public areas with one of his signs, either holding it up or wearing it on his chest. These signs got him in trouble with the authorities, with them claiming that they solicited sex, which wasn’t entirely untrue. The most notable run-in with authorities was with the PVCC dean, Mary Lee Walsh. Angered by her attempt to silence him, Chris would attempt to curse her by very loudly shouting nonsensical magic spells.

   Over time, Chris would continue his immature antics, with not much changing. He would continue to draw comics and continue his attempt at attaining girlfriend. However, everything soon changed when an anonymous 4chan user posted an image of Chris’ character, Sonichu. It’s important to note that everything that happened to Chris up to this time was absolutely nothing compared to what many internet users had in store for Chris. The 4chan post quickly garnered a ton of attention, which opened the outlet for other social media users to post about Chris, and even for people to post stories detailing their personal accounts of Chris. Still, though, Chris wasn’t the massive internet phenomenon he’s known as today. That transformation happened when his life story made its way onto Encyclopedia Dramatica, a satirical wiki page. After the entry on Chris was posted on ED, Chris found out about it immediately. Many felt pity for Chris, however, many others, arguably more, sought to make Chris’ life even harder. They did so by contacting him pretending to be people he would normally trust, such as possible love interests, comic publishers, video game developers, and many other fake personas. One by one, these people gained the trust of Chris, only to stab him in the back by revealing their true identities. Many people who poked fun at Chris failed to see the real damage they were doing to him. Slowly but surely, they were breaking this man, and no one noticed. Not the bullies, not Chris’ parents, not Chris’ few friends, and not even Chris himself. The effects of all the harassment didn’t go unnoticed for long, though. Many people began to see that Chris began acting strange, even for himself. He developed an extreme case of paranoia, causing him to trust virtually no one. Chris himself was even quoted saying, “I am the high-functioning autistic person who was heavily emotionally damaged, artistic inspiration lost with paranoia, deception, blackmail and plain hurtful words from those bottom-feeding Trolls.”

   August of 2008, Chris told his fans to help him contact Nintendo to convince them to create a game based on his character, Sonichu. One man saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. He emailed Chris whilst pretending to be the video game developer, Shigeru Miyamoto. The first of the many emails attempted to lightly insult Sonichu, by calling the character unoriginal. After many other messages, Chris finally received one that actually stated interest in creating this game for Chris. Of course, it was not the real Shigeru Miyamoto, it was another troll. Chris, however, wasn’t quick to realize this. He sent countless responses to this person, attempting to arrange a meeting to discuss his game. The troll did, in fact, arrange a meeting with Chris. However, before he could create the game of his dreams, he got a legitimate response from Nintendo. Thinking that the real Nintendo and the fake were one and the same, Chris would send emails to both. Unfortunately for the trolls, the response email from the real Nintendo made Chris realize that this was all an elaborate joke. However, Chris never admitted that he was fooled. He consistently claimed that his attempts to contact Nintendo were successful, only because of the one legitimate email from them that was only meant to clear things up. Even if Chris didn’t see it, this specific situation and similar ones to come would completely destroy the parts of him that previous events in his life didn’t already.

   The most notable of the trolls that interacted with Chris was Julie, also known as Blue Spike. She had gained Chris’ trust and befriended him, and they even considered themselves in a romantic relationship. For a while, she remained a girlfriend of Chris, however, Chris soon had to rescue her from her evil brother, Max, who kidnapped her in Ohio. Chris’ parents were of course not amused by all of this. They warned him of the possibility of her being a troll, but still, blinded by love, Chris traveled to Ohio. Upon arrival, Chris realized he had the wrong address. He stood in front of the residence of an old woman, clearly not the girl he was looking to rescue. Chris would be later manipulated by Julie to take part in many sexual acts and record them. Max had also taken control of Chris’ PlayStation Network and Yahoo accounts, and threatened to sell it if Chris didn’t declare Billy Mays the mayor of his fictional town, CWCville, and also perform many sexual acts with Chris’ Sonichu medallion. After many days of seemingly torturing Chris, Julie and Max finally revealed themselves to be the same person. They were, in fact, a thirteen-year-old boy, not a woman Chris’ age. This event inspired many like it, which only furthered Chris’ insanity.

   At this point, Chris was completely scarred. There was no coming back from what the internet had done to him. However, there may be some promise of stopping situations like this from happening in the future. With the recent removal of net neutrality, online bullying and harassment might be reduced. In theory, without net neutrality, internet providers can punish certain websites and services that allow harassment, or even punish websites and services that have very loose rules on bullying and harassment. There isn’t much of a business incentive to do so, but there’s still the possibility of providers to do it out of personal interest alone. In an interview with Blake Reid of Colorado Law, he was quoted saying, “Online harassment and bullying are largely functions of platform policies; while net neutrality leaves the door open for competition among platforms, it’s not clear to me that platforms compete in any significant way on the basis of their anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies. As a result, I think any effect of net neutrality on harassment and bullying is likely to be pretty indirect and attenuated. However, there is a parallel discussion in the tech policy world about applying neutrality-like policies and other regulations to online platforms in addition to ISPs. Some of those discussions could lead to more direct impacts on harassment and bullying.” However, limiting online harassment has the unfortunate side effect of possibly silencing individuals speech simply based on their viewpoints or politics. On this topic, Reid said, “The internet, along with the platforms that sit atop it, has become the most powerful conduit for speech that humanity has ever had. Net neutrality ensures that internet service providers are not able to discriminate against particular speakers or platforms, which helps protect speakers’ ability to use the platforms of their choice and say what they want.” And on the topic of which types of speech would be limited, Reid said, “It’s not yet clear whether any will be. The removal of the FCC’s Open Internet rules could still be reversed in court or in Congress, and even if not, by a new administration in 2019 or 2021. The most that I think you’re likely to see before then is increasingly sophisticated zero-rating arrangements that exempt certain applications, particularly video, audio, and gaming applications that require significant capacity from data caps. You may also see blocking of certain high-bandwidth applications on wireless networks. However, I don’t think any ISP will have the temerity to discriminate against individual speakers based on their viewpoints, which would give lawmakers all the evidence they need to reinstate very strict rules. On the other hand, if Republicans retain control of Congress and the White House in 2021 or the balance of power lines up in a way that it doesn’t look like rules will be restored any sooner than 2023 or 2025, however, it’s very hard to predict what might happen.”

   Online and real-life bullying will affect someone’s personality greatly, sometimes to the point where the way they act is completely out of character for them. Rivkah Horowitz, a therapist, said this in an interview, “In my career, I have had many clients who suffered bullying. The bullying can be at school and/or at home. Bullying at school or home can be quite destructive depending on other factors such as support and the person’s ability to respond. The effects can last a lifetime. The child will often internalize the bullying believing he or she is to blame, that they are weak and helpless becomes their identity and effects their sense of self worth and leads to anxiety.” These symptoms are very easily seen in Chris and are presumably even amplified by his autism.

   Today, Chris identifies as a lesbian woman named Christine and still searches for that one dream girl. The same tactics are used, and the only thing that has appeared to change is sexuality. Regularly, Chris is spotted at conventions and other public events, acting in the exact same way as those famous YouTube videos. The events of Chris’ past still seem to linger around, with the story of his entire life explained in detail on many websites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica and Sonichu.com. Chris has changed for the worse since childhood, there’s no doubt about that, and it seems as though it’s going to stay that way.

   Cases like Chris’ aren’t unique on an individual scale. However, Chris’ circumstances are likely some of the most documented in history. Everything in his life seemed to be against him, and the effects it had on him were easy to see. Perhaps cases like this can be prevented in the future, or perhaps not. The removal of net neutrality certainly opens the opportunity for this to be prevented, but the power is still in the hands of internet providers. It’s up to them whether these situations continue on or not. The morality of even attempting to stop something like this is still a factor, though. Silencing bullying and harassment in a situation could possibly including silencing the person in the same position as Chris, or even restricting them from the internet. Solving a problem like this seems to be almost impossible, with no solution being beneficial to every party, but then again, that’s what makes it such a large and unnoticed issue.

 

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