Star Wars Kid Blog Charity: Help, Publicity Stunt or Fraud?

Filed as General, News on May 20, 2003 10:28 pm

by Duncan

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The rising profile of the “Star Wars Kid” video, which has supposedly resulted in millions of downloads from the internet, has also given the opportunity to 2 bloggers, Andy Baio and Jish Mukerji to raise their profiles through a donation drive for the Star Wars Kid, an overweight teenager from Canada.

For those who have not jumped on the bandwagon nor had there inboxes inundated, the video shows a lone, overweight teenager fighting a mock battle with a broomstick lightsaber. In the two-minute video, the teenager twirls the broomstick ever more energetically while generating his own lightsaber sound effects. The video is both amusing and excruciating at the same time.

One site hosting a copy of the video and receiving plenty of traffic was that of Andy Baio. To list his blog posting of April 29:
“If you’re going to videotape your Star Wars fighting skills on a school camera, remember to remove the cassette when you’re done. Watch this embarrassingly good video” with appropriate link. Far from being a charitable contributor to the unfortunate young lad in the clip, Andy Baio was helping spread his misery to a willing audience.

Yet, The Blog Herald now reads that Mr Baio leads a fundraising drive for the Star Wars Kid himself, “Ghyslain”.

The spin goes like this;
“I thought he deserved better. This video was uploaded to humiliate an awkward and overweight computer geek” says Baio on Wired.com, and in the New York Times: “”I personally feel that he is like me and all of my friends,” Baio is quoted as saying.

The Blog Herald asks, is this how you treat your friends? Wired states “Baio claims 1.1 million downloads from his site alone, a total of 2.3 terabytes of data.” Thats 1.1 million people visiting Baio’s site, a sure rise on his previous figures.

And along for the ride in Jish Mukerji, interviewer and front man for the ever guilt ridden Baio. To Mukerji’s credit, the Blog Herald was unable to find any links to the video on the main page of his blog, however, he joins Baio in promoting the supposed fundraising drive.

And it is with the fundraising drive that more questions are raised than answered.

Never one for modesty, Mr Baio has now given interviews to Wired, the New York Times and Wired.com as to how he wants to help buy Ghyslain an iPod, but encourages payments to a personal PayPal account with no 3rd party guarantees that the money will be used in full for the purpose it was given. There is no disclosure of screen shots from his PayPal account showing the actual amount given, despite varying figures in the press and on both involved blogs, there is no indication as to what will occur with extra funds after the iPod is purchased…… there is nothing but a link with a request for money.

If a stranger knocked on the door asking for money with no identification or guarantee that the donation would be receive by the needy would you willingly hand over your cash?

The Blog Herald wishes to believe that this is all innocent fundraising…..

Time will tell if Mr Baio will come clean on the matter.

Duncan Riley
(c) The Blog Herald
cc licence some right reserved
see www.blogherald.com for more details.

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  1. By Alc posted on May 20, 2003 at 11:54 pm
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    Kinda harsh, isn’t it? He’s said that he’ll provide proof… if he doesn’t, he will be the no. 1 most hated man on the net. The NY times would probably run another piece on the scam. Hardly profitable, is it? Neither is 2.3 terrabytes of data transfer, for that matter…
    Also, I would have thought that the varied reported amounts of money are due to the money increasing over time.

    Why the hostility? I would have thought you would have been pleased that fellow bloggers had been part of a big time news story… the file would have spread anyway. If you’re doing this to capitalise on the poularity of the story and attract some of the attention towards your site, I hope you don’t succed.

    A few words of advice: cynicism towards charity wins you no friends.

  2. By Phil posted on May 21, 2003 at 12:02 am
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    While I absolutely agree that a healthy dose of skepticism is in order when handing out $3000 to some random person over the internet to send to a kid in Canada, there is no reason to believe Andy will do anything except what he has stated. From the beginning he’s said the money will be collected for a week, and then proof will be provided when they money and/or gifts have been sent to Ghyslain.

    As for the about-face you describe as “spin,” one can enjoy the video, while simultaneously feeling bad that this kid was put on display. It’s funny because likely you did stuff like this when you were a kid. I know I did.

    I think it’s great that the kid’s going to get a little (or big) reward for his humiliation. Your article comes off as bitter that your weblog isn’t recieving the attention and traffic that Mr. Baio’s is.

  3. By Greg posted on May 21, 2003 at 12:39 am
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    I know Andy personally, and I know he is completely honest when he says all the money will go toward items for the kid.

  4. By Anil posted on May 21, 2003 at 1:44 am
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    It’s legitimate to question the line of where enjoying the video becomes exploitation, no matter how well-intentioned anyone involved is. But the idea to raise money for buying the kid an iPod came up in a conversation between me and Andy, and I know that he’s absolutely 100% trustworthy in that regard. Whether it’s simply people assauging their guilt for laughing at a kid or it’s a legitimate show of sympathy for someone they identify with, the reality is that a bunch of strangers are doing something nice for a teenager, and I think that’s a good thing.

  5. By a2k posted on May 21, 2003 at 7:48 am
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    What we should really be worried about are all of the kids who previously made fun of kids like Ghyslain but – upon seeing his new-found fame and cool apple gear – are suddenly releasing videos of their own in an attempt to repeat his success.

  6. By Derek posted on May 22, 2003 at 2:58 am
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    I think it’s far more likely that this is a publicity stunt for you. After all, blogherald.com has only been around for three months (whereas Jish and Waxy have been going for years). What better way to get noticed than to crap on something so positive and beloved by the communty?

  7. By Mike posted on May 30, 2003 at 4:31 am
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    Dude! What is all this? The video is funny as crap, so what if the kid is embarressed? I think this Baio guy wimped out, he had the right idea to exploit Ghyslain (or Fat Star Wars Kid, as I call him) because it’s FSWK’s fault completely. Screw the fundraiser. Any funny fat kid can do what he did. Don’t give him money, you bunch of fatheads.

  8. By Kimberly posted on May 31, 2003 at 2:52 pm
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    Yikes, aren’t we a little bitter?

  9. By Beth posted on June 3, 2003 at 11:06 pm
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    I don’t have an opinion on whether Baio is honest or not, but I think he may not be as innocent/worthy of lauding as many are making him out to be. For example, Baio said he’s withholding Ghyslain’s last name because he’s a minor….when you download the video, it shows Ghyslain’s last name clearly….so while he may not be mentioning Ghyslain’s last name in press reports, Ghyslain’s last name is clear to all when you do what Baio wants you to do…go to his site and view the video.

  10. By kellie posted on June 5, 2003 at 8:44 am
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    the video is ludicrous. ridiculous!!
    there’s no reason why this kid should get money, that’s scandalous… tell him to stop being such a loser PLEASE. or else i might just have to smack some sense into this kid!!!

  11. MT Mafia come after WordPressMarch 31, 2005 at 3:26 am
  12. By Andy posted on December 6, 2004 at 10:08 am
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    What are you all thinking? The kid is a big fat loser and he doesnt deserve anything for that. Just because he made an idiot out of himself doesnt mean he should get free stuff. It is his own fault.

  13. By Mike posted on May 8, 2005 at 4:39 pm
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    Publicity stunts and fraud are the same things fella

  14. By Aquarius posted on September 15, 2005 at 11:23 am
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    Aside from those last two lovely posts (maybe someone would like to remove the teen rape one before someone else unwittingly thinks they’re going to read an on-topic follow-up article?), is there anything new on this?

    I’m disgusted by the idea that this was “all Ghyslain’s fault.” Yes, any SW fan (or any fan of ANYTHING, for that matter) has probaby done some pretty geeky things. I don’t know even one human being who hasn’t done something that he’d be mortified about if “everybody” found out.

    Yeah, leaving the tape in the machine and not keeping it or destroying it was pretty dumb, but most likely an accident. What is inexcusable is exploiting that simply for the sake of cruelty. It would’ve been another thing altogether if Ghyslain was in on it, thinking “yeah, that’s pretty funny, let’s put it out there.” But this was a stunt to humiliate him. Anyone who would need to torture another human being that way to stroke their own ego is pathetic, regardless of how geeky the person is that they’re making miserable.

    Does anyone know if the kid ever got the iPod?

  15. By Robert posted on January 18, 2006 at 8:29 am
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    I think the kid deserves something for entertaining us all so much…in the end, shit hapens and embarressing stuff happens, Ghyslain needs to realise that it wont be every day he runs into someone who recognises him as SWK…

    As for the video…its funny cause we all at one time or another pretended to be a ninja (in this case a Jedi) his mistake….was filming it.

    Also, i think that a lot of the above comments were very harsh, after all the kid reated badly and is undergoing therapy, not to mention leaving school to finish at home…

    Robert.

  16. By Robert posted on January 18, 2006 at 8:31 am
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    Sorry just to followup, will there be any investigfation into wheter he got the iPod, as the guys said he signed for it…

    Also, I really hope someone takes a stand against this a STOP showing the video, let it die!