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The Internet, that daily source of information upon which so many of us depend for so much — from the daily news to updates on friends and their status — cannot only be an avenue offering help for today and even hope for tomorrow, but also unfortunately, an escort to our demise, bouncing us along the boulevard of broken dreams, pointing us finally to the exit ramp that lands us in a parking lot bounded by past mistakes.
Was Manti Te’o duped by an online prank or was he part of the hoax? In either case, his story never will be the same, although his career as an athlete can continue.
Not so for the young lady who until last week was a science teacher in a middle school in Oxnard, Calif. Stacie Halas is the victim of her own petard — the Internet itself serving as her grand inquisitor, revealing the intimacies of a salacious past she failed to elude. Apparently she wanted to close permanently the door to her brief stint in the world of pornography.
The only problem was that some of the other teachers discovered on the Internet that Stacie Halas was at least for a time, a porno star.
Halas was fired. Not a surprise. She appealed. Last week, she lost her appeal. Not a surprise, either.
What is astonishing is that Halas apparently thought her past would go undetected, even though she had made not one but several films in her few months in the porn industry. She went by a stage name in her movies, but sooner or later the truth would out. It most always does.
Especially when it’s available to replay on the Internet.
Last April, ABC’s 20/20 highlighted the story of Natalie Oliveros, a porn star, who now is intent on shielding her 10-year-old son from knowing anything about her career in porn.
“I've been trying to knock down all the smut and all the nudity when you Google me that comes up. It's not just about me but it's about Luchino (her son) and his friends,” she said. “I still would be devastated if he saw this stuff on the Internet.”
Eventually, either he will find it, or someone will show it to him.
Once again we should be reminded (how long did those involved in the Manti Te’o hoax think the mythical online woman’s identity or lack thereof would stay under the radar screen?) that the Internet doesn’t forgive and forget: it simply reveals and remembers.
To be sure, Stacie Halas committed no crime. In response to the ruling against her, Ms. Halas’ attorney underscored that she “is more than just an individual fighting for her job as a teacher. I think she’s representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody.”
That much is true. And what about the biblical King David — as well as the modern Bill Clinton? Didn’t they get entangled in embarrassing sex scandals and still retain their high positions as leaders in the land?
Indeed they did. But neither did Bathsheba or Monica film their trysts and post them on YouTube.
I don’t know if Stacie Halas thinks her involvement in porn was immoral; nor do I know if her seeking a new career path was accompanied by a desire for forgiveness: She may have simply wanted to start over and move on.
But the Internet will forever stymie that effort. The judge in the case concluded that Halas’ “pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede her from being an effective teacher and respected colleague.”
And the superintendent of the Oxnard school district said, “Maybe it’s not a crime as far as the penal code is concerned, but we feel it’s a crime as far as moral turpitude is concerned.”
Or as Ulysses Everett McGill told Delmar O’Donnell in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? when Delmar claimed he and Pete had been redeemed and therefore should be exonerated from their crimes, “Even if that that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi’s a little more hard-nosed.”
So is the internet.
As another movie character, Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) put it in the film, The Natural, “Some mistakes you never quit paying for.”
Especially those that can be viewed time and time again with a simple click of a button.
David B. Whitlock of Lebanon is a Baptist minister and author of “Life Matters.” He can be reached at email@example.com.