Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Welcome to Missouri: No Meanies Allowed

Ever been insulted by someone? Especially by someone older? Well, it's time to move to Missouri, because there your tormentor is now a criminal! And if the person insulting you is over 21 and you're under 18, your tormentor is a felon! How cool is that! I think every teenage nerd in the country just started trying to convince their parents to move to St. Louis.

All kidding aside, the legislation is the predictably over-the-top and stupid reaction to the Megan Meier tragedy, where the mother of young Ms. Meier's enemy "drove" her to commit suicide. What the mother did was despicable, but illegal? Come on. Suicide may be triggered by emotional distress, but 99.999999999% of the time it's the result of latent mental illness. You want to fix the problem of kids killing themselves and others (see Columbine, etc.) because they've been picked on? Remove our society's stupid-ass stigma against seeking mental health assistance. Criminalizing meanies isn't the answer, and I'm pretty sure it's unconstitutional anyway.

(Also, isn't "emotional distress" already an oft-abused tort?)


Mike said...

Your excessive use of the number 9 has caused me great mental anguish and emotional distress. I hope you're happy.

So many 9's... so many 9's... so cold... so very very cold...

Ben said...

Your link doesn't seem to be working.

So, basing this purely on your blog post and having never heard of this case, it sounds to me like the young Ms. Meiers might've had a claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. This might have been one of those times where it was not an abuse of that tort, which is supposed to be reserved for the truly outrageous instances of emotional torment.

But yeah, criminalizing being mean....good luck enforcing that one.

Jeff, how do you propose the Missouri legislature remove society's stupid-ass stigma against seeking mental health assistance? THAT'S a law I'd like to see....if for nothing more than the humor value of seeing someone try to legislate attitudes.

Jeff said...

Ben: Link worked for me. Either way, news reports are all over on this - the one I linked to was from Volokh's website (scroll down about a fifth of the way). The link from Radley Balko's blog ( should work as well.

Yeah, attitudes toward mental health are completely not legislatable, and I didn't mean to imply that the MO Leg. should take up that task. Rather, I think we as a society should use cases like Ms. Meier's and other cases of depressed/disturbed teens to start doing that. Instead, we choose to ignore the much-needed introspection about a societal injustice and turn to the legislature to administer some sort of solution from on high. And that's just intellectual laziness on our part as members of this society.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I can think of some easy legislative ways to start us on the road to better mental health.

First, make discrimination on the basis of mental health illegal. Try to protect people's jobs and social standing when they seek help.

Second, require insurances to cover it and/or increase the ease of access to mental health services. Certain insurances are required to cover other things, so why not mental health?

Third, fund education/research in the mental health field. We subsidize other health education/research, so why not this?

Those 3 things are just easy and obvious ways of legislating an improved attitude towards mental health.

Jeremy said...

Welcome to Missouri, er, I mean New France.

Barzelay said...

She was already so clearly liable for civil damages that she was clearly fucked anyway. Plus, her reputation is now completely fucked. Throwing her in jail would only barely make her more fucked than she already is fucked.