Shakespeare begins Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It with the immortal words, “All the world’s a stage.” In this play, he catalogs the seven stages of a man’s life. Among them is the competitive phase of life which Shakespeare calls “the soldier.” At this age, people seek to gain recognition, even though it may be short lived and at the cost of their own lives. As Shakespeare puts it, they are:
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.
These nine words sum up the millions spawned by the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial of two high school football players. They were found guilty of raping a teenage girl who was reportedly so drunk that she could not consent to sex, although the defense disputed her state of consciousness at the trial.
This is not the first time things got out of control at a party that mixed minors with alcohol. So what made this case so notorious? In my opinion, the case made national headlines because:
- Teens at the party posted videos and pictures of the event on social media sites 
- Those who witnessed the rape made hundreds of tweets about it, yet did nothing to stop it or report it to authorities 
- Prosecutors used this trail of online evidence to convict the teens 
- An online video showed males joking about the victim callously and remorselessly, exemplifying what some call a “culture of rape” and others call “cultural rot” 
- Two girls reportedly threatened on Twitter to kill the victim and may now be prosecuted separately for their threats 
- These teens claimed that they did not think they were committing crimes
- Social media, rivals of mainstream media, were at the heart of the affair
It was a Shakespearean tragedy in every sense of the phrase and a perfect media firestorm. The case involved a small town, teenagers, football, rape, alcohol, the Internet, YouTube, Twitter, ruined lives, rival mediums, outrage and more. Even hackers got in on the action when Anonymous posted the video. See Anonymous Leaks Horrifying Video of Steubenville High Schoolers Joking About Raping a Teenager ‘Deader than Trayvon Martin’. (Warning: This is about ten minutes long and emotionally difficult to watch.)
The video above, even though it focuses primarily on one male, clearly shows that several were competing with each other to describe the events of that night in the most degrading terms possible. That the video was later posted online and used as evidence in a felony trial makes Shakespeare’s words seem prophetic.
“Seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon’s mouth.”
As I’ve been writing these 522 words, the number of search results reported by Google on “Steubenville rape” increased by more than one million (from 219,000,000 to 220,000,000). The Internet truly has become the stage where tragedies like this play out.