Once Kickstarter got big, I suppose this was always going to be the next big thing. A platform where you can ask for a bunch of people to help you realize your idea for app-controlled motorized venetian blinds naturally leads to platforms where you can just ask people to give you money for, you know, whatever. Like helping get their son out of jail!
Last week, you may have seen the photo of Jeremy Meeks – the photogenic mugshot guy. He was arrested on Friday for a whole host of felonies, including firearm possession, street gang membership, and parole violations. Now, Katherine Angier, Meeks’ mother, is trying to take advantage of her son’s Internet fame by raising money on GoFundMe, which is like Kickstarter, but without all of those pesky standards. Her goal is $25,000 for her son’s legal defense, of which $4,232 has been raised. Angier says that her son was on his way to work, and has become a dedicated family man after prior mistakes, which I would imagine have something to do with those parole violations he’s accused of.
The fact is, unless the total is raised by other family members, this probably won’t succeed. Internet fame often lasts literally 15 minutes, and pretty much everyone is going to forget about Meeks by the end of this week, tops. But, it’s hard to blame Angier for trying—she needs money to try to get her so cleared, and this is one way to do it.
But, let’s not mince words. This is the new con. I’m not going to play judge, jury, and executioner here—Meeks may well be wrongly accused, or stereotyped, as his mother has suggested on her GoFundMe page. That Meeks is on parole doesn’t do much to inspire confidence, but I’m not going to be so cynical as to say people can’t change.
It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s very possible to know that hoaxes like this are becoming the new norm. We just saw a perfect example of this, when the story about the girl with facial injuries who was asked to leave a KFC in Mississippi proved to be an outright fabrication. In that case, the need for money to help pay for medical costs might have been genuine—in all of this, there’s something to be said about intolerable medical and legal costs. But, there are thousands upon thousands of people who need the same kind of help nationwide, and it might leave a sour taste in your mouth if you end up giving money to the one who lied to you for attention.
Again, maybe Angier is telling the truth about her son. Maybe. But, if you’re willing to give a stranger on the Internet money based on their unverified word alone, I have a friend I’d love you to meet. He’s a Nigerian prince, and he really needs your help.