The violence of the viral | Press


the Star Wars Who ?

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boy, like star wars kidNamed after one of the most viral sequences on the internet, from the paleolithic era of the internet, dating back to 2002. To this day, it remains a cult clip, founder of a certain digital virality.

the star wars kid he became, reluctantly, a celebrity on what was still called the information superhighway at the turn of the millennium.

I remember the sequence: we see a teenager, dressed like a teenager, awkward as teenagers can be, engage in an imaginary lightsaber fight on camera, alone, with comical abandon…


Ghyslain Raza, 15, in the video star wars kidissued in 2002

The teenager was Ghyslain Raza, 15, from Trois-Rivières, PQ

He knew they were filming him, he told me in an interview at the National Film Office (ONF) facilities, which is producing a documentary about his life, which will be released next week. He knew because he was the one who had activated the camera.

“I was participating in a school project, I needed a sequence to rehearse with the editing software…”

The footage was not intended to be publicly “consumed”. However, she traveled all over the world when she was later found by a classmate who showed her to other teenagers…

And one of them uploaded it to the Kazaa file sharing site. The sequence has become, about sharing, star wars kid.

It went viral, as we didn’t say at the time. And this virus attacked the young Raza on three fronts, rotting his existence in the process.

The media front: media from all over the world have been interested in the virality of star wars kid. the New York Times talked about the phenomenon, on the cover. The Quebec media wanted above all to speak with the teenager, with his family, in search of the scoop.

The digital front: the “netizens”, as they were called, commented on the teenager in the video, from Tokyo to Cabano… With all the crap it takes to make life hell for a human being, in this specific case a human who had just turned 15.

The front of reality, of real life: Ghyslain Raza became the laughingstock of some colleagues, who openly mocked him. You know how mean teenagers can be…

The young Raza was one of the first victims of these web slips that erase the borders of the real and the virtual: “The humiliation that they make you live does not stop, it follows you everywhere…”

He had become a distraction for his private school.

“The Seminary asked me not to come back after the summer…

“Because you were a distraction?”

– Yes. “

He has that crooked smile. She doesn’t want him at the Séminaire Saint-Joseph, the establishment. Also, in the documentary In the Shadow of the Star Wars Child1, which focuses on his ordeal, we see him conversing with teenagers from the Séminaire about the dangers of digital technology. But for more than 10 years, Ghyslain Raza went underground. In 2013 he gave an interview to the journalist Jonathan Trudel, from the magazine Newstwowhich presented him as “the first victim of cyberbullying on a planetary scale”.

After this interview, Ghyslain Raza closed the hatches again: no interview, no comments, thanks for your call…

Ghyslain Raza is particularly angry at the media that tracked him down in 2002. The documentary sends chills down the spine of the herd effect that can take over the media, when they want news, when they want an interview, when they track the “good.” history.

He, 20 years later, still wonders where the “news” was, in the sequence that starred him: “We are talking about a 15-year-old boy. Was it okay to identify him, say the name of his school, spread his image? I I think not. Why did the media talk about it? Was it in the public interest? »

Twenty years later, virality is a fact of life, not just virtual life. The virtual is embedded in the real and vice versa. But you can’t imagine how, 20 years ago, in 2002, these things were new, unusual. We can’t imagine how abnormal it was to go “viral” for a 15-year-old boy – yes, a boy – in 2002… Abnormal and violent.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily normal today. But the children growing up in a digital age, where everyone films themselves, everyone gets on stage. There is an understanding of codes that did not exist in 2002. In fact, there were no codes in 2002.

And the bar of virality is now higher: we see Ghyslain playing Star Wars in the footage, and it’s obvious that today the video probably wouldn’t even have 1000 views on YouTube. But in 2002, Ghyslain Raza was the canary in the digital mine, he was cannon fodder for virality.

As the village became global thanks to the WWW, Ghyslain Raza, 15, from Trois-Rivières, had to isolate himself to protect himself from the world, real and virtual. His parents had to pick up the phone (there were calls from all over the world, in all languages, for interviews), they had to leave the house for a while (a photographer had tried to capture their image between the living room curtains) and the high school room he did it alone, with a private teacher (the Seminary having asked him not to bother the students again)…

Twenty years later, he notes: “I was a victim of that, but around me, in Trois-Rivières, there was a curious twist. As my parents sued the parents of the teens who had broadcast the footage, I went from victim to executioner. They said that he had not really suffered. That my parents wanted to earn money. It was doubly hard…”

No one, says Ghyslain Raza, not the media, not Internet users, not even his own school, saw what was hidden behind the star wars kid : the life of a 15-year-old boy who was given over to the entire virtual and real universe. And it was of an impossible violence, a violence that prophesied that of modern social networks.

“No one supported you?

“Apart from my parents, apart from my lawyers, Kathleen Rouillard and François Vigeant, no. SUBWAYme Vigeant sent out a press release, at the time, to remind me that I was a child…”

I ask him to tell me about his parents. And there, imperceptibly, I feel that Ghyslain Raza is approaching, I feel that I am walking through a high security zone:

“I’m not going to speak for them. They had a really hard time. But they were my rock in those turbulent times. They never let me down.

“Did you like the documentary?” »

Ghyslain smiles, searching for his words.

“I’ll keep their reaction to myself, but… They liked it. »

Ghyslain Raza agreed to participate in the documentary to go beyond his own history of stigmatization, to launch a social reflection. We see him in the documentary talking to teenagers his age, in 2002. He liked their openness, their benevolence: “Young people have new reflexes, they have a greater awareness. »

But the objective of this documentary, what is it? What do you want to provoke in the public space, with In the Shadow of the Star Wars Child ?

“You have to know how to put compassion back into what you do. It is important to maintain empathy and compassion in public discourse.

— Not only the media, because now we are all media?

– Exactly. »

I took notes, I looked at this colossus with such a calm and gentle tone. And I thought there was some kind of miracle in front of me. How do we survive this? Bullying is already a thing. Worldwide bullying? It’s something else next level, as the young people say. That Ghyslain Raza has not committed suicide is something of a miracle.

How, then, trust the Other?

Ghyslain thinks about it. He replies that it took him a year before he trusted himself to start trusting others again. I tell him that it is little, a year, in view of the trauma. Answer: “I can’t say if it’s a short time or not. But he was well surrounded. There is this teacher who gave me private lessons, between seminary and high school…”

And Ghyslain Raza explains to me the effect of this personal teacher, the influence he had on him, that he saw that he was something more than this viral sequence, that he was not the star wars kidthat he was just a self-constructing teenager.

“I owe this life lesson to this teacher,” he told me. The relationship with others is the most beautiful thing in life. I owe him this life lesson that you have to take the risk of trusting others…”

Reflexively accurate, I ask Ghyslain who this teacher is. Answer: This teacher who tutored you for a year doesn’t want light, so… he will remain anonymous.

“But without this teacher, would you have missed this life lesson?”

– I dont know. But I’m glad I didn’t miss…

I ask him if he is on Facebook, more or less convinced, with the question, that he is not: Facebook is the place of all the lights, of all the staging of the self, of all the fights and, also, of all the modern bullying. Answer. I’m here, with my real name. But all the security settings on my Facebook account are maxed out, she says with a smile. I mainly use it to communicate directly with people…”

And then, he points out, anyway, he is not one of those who spread his life on social networks. He does not judge those who do. It’s just not his cup of tea, Ghyslain Raza, 34, graduate student in law, survivor of the first virtual packages.

“I tend, to put it silly and flatly, to prefer the real thing. I prefer a conversation on the phone, rather than consulting a Facebook feed. I tend to keep my social life down to earth. »

Have you ever met those who, as teenagers, decided to give their moment of authenticity to the internet without their consent?

” No. ”

Have you forgiven?

“I told director Mathieu Fournier in the film: to forgive, you have to be forgiven. »

He remembers that day, in the Seminary, when he faked a furious battle with a lightsaber. The editing software had bugs. At first he imitated the scene cautiously, slowly, without abandon. The software was always crashing, resulting in a stream that was too slow.

“I decided to do it one last time, faster. It had been a frustrating night. I decided to let go of my madness. I got carried away and that was what contributed to the virality: each one projected what they wanted in these images…”

By the way, Ghyslain, your relationship with Star Warswhat is it, are you a big fan?

Ghyslain Raza’s response is very ironic: “Not really. »

1. The documentary will air on Télé-Québec on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.


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