LDS, modern problems, narcissists, religion, social media, true crime, videos, YouTube

Monetizing kids for better living through YouTube!

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt on YouTube.

A good Thursday morning to you all… One more day before Mr. Bill comes home and tells me about his TDY days in Bavaria. I’ve been passing the time in the usual way, reading a book, watching a lot of YouTube videos, and scanning social media. One person who is all over the news this week, besides Donald Trump of course, is a Utah woman named Ruby Franke. Ruby Franke is yet another now disgraced former YouTube star.

A few years ago, I might have been all over 41 year old Ruby, who ran a now defunct channel called 8 Passengers. Ruby is a mother of six and an evidently devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like a lot of church going folks, Ruby decided to turn her large family into YouTube (or reality TV) fame. She’s now in deep trouble, because although people had been trying to sound the alarm for years about her parenting methods, this week two of her children were discovered malnourished, with one asking neighbors for food and water. There was also evidence that at least one of the children had evidence of having been restrained with duct tape and rope. Ruby Franke, separated from her husband, Kevin, is now being charged with six felony counts of child abuse. Four of her six children have been removed from her custody.

I should mention that Ruby’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, has also been arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse. Hildebrandt also has a rather checkered past in Utah, according to some sources who are coming out now. She and Ruby started another YouTube channel called ConneXions, which is also now defunct. However, Jodi’s ConneXions Web site is still live at this writing. Hildebrandt was a mental health therapist in Utah, but had her license suspended in 2012 after violating client confidentiality by disclosing the client’s alleged “porn addiction” to LDS church leaders. If you know anything about Mormonism, you know that looking at pornography and engaging in masturbation is a big “no no”.

Ruby talking about her daughter in diapers “stinking”… I’m really glad I never discovered this channel when it was still active. Yuck.

I’ve seen Ruby’s face all over the place this week. She’s an attractive woman, with a nice, wholesome image. She has a good figure, a pretty face, and dresses modestly. Her kids, from what I’ve seen, always look clean and are dressed well in the photos I’ve seen of them. And yet, her twelve year old son– the one who asked for help from neighbors– is malnourished. He was found with duct tape on his arms and legs. He was one of Ruby’s projects– she put him and his siblings out there on YouTube to rack up views and income as she dispensed some highly questionable parenting tips.

YouTuber kyeluh talks about how awful and disturbing Ruby’s content was before she finally got busted.

As I mentioned up post, I would have probably been all over this story a few years ago, before Bill and his younger daughter reconnected. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Mormonism, or really most strict religions. But Mormonism happened to affect us more than the other religions did, so I specifically focused a lot on that faith. Of course, Mormons certainly don’t corner the market on abuse. But a lot of people in strict religions use God as a reason to be strict and abusive, especially toward those who have less power in those communities… that is, children, and often women.

These days, I’m somewhat less interested in upbraiding the Mormons. I still don’t like the belief system, but I find myself grateful that some people in the church were willing and able to help Bill’s daughter get away from her mother. On the other hand, Ex used Mormonism as a means of controlling her husbands and kids, and as a source of shame. I don’t respect the church for that, because the religion aided her in her parental alienation goals. She used its teachings as a means of separating her children from their fathers and other people in the family who threatened her.

I don’t know a whole lot about Ruby Franke yet, but I suspect the church had a lot to do with her bad decisions. Everything from that whitewashed, clean cut, “wholesome” image, to the decision to have six kids, to the decision to put them on YouTube as an example of people living clean, “godly” lifestyles… it can all be traced to man made religions that impress upon people that image is important, and can be monetized. People lap up their examples, which is evidenced by ratings, merchandise sales, advertising, and views. The money comes and fame grows, with everyone smiling and happy… until the truth comes out and people are exposed for being frauds.

Religion can also lead people to have some pretty warped ideas about life, too. Especially when a person already has a mental illness. I look at child murderer Lori Vallow Daybell for confirmation on that notion. Lori Vallow Daybell was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering two of her three children and her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Like Franke, Lori Vallow Daybell is LDS, and had some really whacked out conspiracy theories about the “end times”. Her ideas were shaped, in part, by books written by her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, who wrote about the end times, and perhaps by significant mental health issues.

My post title singles out YouTube for this “monetizing kids” phenomenon, but I really should include reality TV as well. For years, we’ve watched people like Jon and Kate Gosselin, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and Barry and Kim Plath put their large families on TV for fun and profit. All three of these families are very large, and two of them profess to be deeply religious. Of the three families who made it big on TLC, only Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar remain “happily” married, although they certainly have some serious problems going on now. Two of their daughters have written books against the IBLP belief system they were raised in, and we all know where Josh Duggar is right now. Barry and Kim Plath announced that they were divorcing last year, and Jon and Kate Gosselin famously split up years ago.

Life is expensive, especially in the United States. It’s hard for people to make ends meet in the traditional way. Just now, for instance, I’m reading a book about a woman who graduated from Juilliard and found herself unemployable. She turned to escort work to pay her bills, also dabbling in phone sex. Her book is interesting, so far. At times it’s even funny. I’m sure there were times when she didn’t laugh, she’d have to cry. Personally, I find her decision to turn to being an escort kind of sad. I will probably be finished with the book very soon and will elaborate more when I review it. I mainly find it sad, though, because she felt the need to resort to that work to get out of debt. I didn’t get the sense that she, at least initially, really wanted to be a sex worker because it was something she enjoyed doing. She simply wanted to keep the bill collectors at bay. But at least in doing that work, she was only exploiting herself– an independently functioning adult who can consent and realize the risks. Kids on YouTube videos are often not being given a choice in whether or not they want to perform on camera.

I have no doubt that having a lot of kids– especially when your image conscious religious beliefs encourage it– is challenging on many levels. First, there’s the prospect of having that many children and raising them properly. Then there’s the prospect of being able to financially support that many children. I think in the Duggars’ case, having more children was actually a source of income. They got paid whenever anyone got pregnant and gave birth on camera! And then there’s the prospect of being arrested for doing something “wrong”.

I don’t know how today’s parents manage, to be honest. I think of my own upbringing and realize that my parents probably would have been reported to CPS a bunch of times in today’s world. We expect children to be supervised 24/7 until they’re pretty mature, but we also expect parents to support their children. Child care costs a bundle– sometimes more than a job pays. So, if you have an attractive family, and some kind of compelling “hook”, why not go on YouTube or reality TV to make some money? I’m sure Ruby Franke is now discovering why that idea may not have been a good one… Her own videos are providing a lot of evidence against her.

Yesterday, I was watching a video about Ruby Franke and someone mentioned that her case reminded them of the Turpin Family in California. I’m not sure Ruby’s case is quite that severe, at this point. She doesn’t have as many kids, and from what I understand, they weren’t living in complete filth, with no access to the outside world whatsoever. Ruby Franke’s children were seen on video, at least, and her eldest child, 20 year old Shari, is in college. She had enough freedom to be able to repeatedly call CPS on her mother, although they did nothing about her reports until just now. The Turpin kids didn’t have that much freedom, even though some of them were well into adulthood when they were finally liberated. There are some similarities, though.

Discussion about Ruby Franke and her family…

I’m sure someone will write a book about Ruby Franke and her family. And I’m sure I’ll probably read it, if I’m capable. Cases like hers are difficult, as in the United States, many people have this idea that parents should have a lot of freedom in how they raise their children. On the other hand, how child abuse cases are handled has a lot to do with the jurisdiction and local politics. Also, a lot depends on how well funded and staffed protection agencies are. In some areas, the standard for what is considered child abuse is set very high. All I know is that, at this point, it sounds like people tried to speak up about Ruby Franke, and no one took the alarms seriously… until her son was found malnourished and wearing duct tape. Malnourishment doesn’t just happen overnight, so it looks like the alleged abuse has been going on for some time now.

Anyway, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for what happens in Ruby Franke’s case. Maybe I’ll write more about it, although one of the main reasons I’m just addressing it today is because so many people are already covering Ruby Franke. I was actually trying to avoid finding out about it, but YouTube is loaded with people talking about Ruby Franke, such that I keep seeing her face everywhere. So, I guess that’s a sign I should write about Ruby, too…

Well, I have to do the dreaded vacuum chore today, practice guitar, and walk Noyzi, so I guess I’ll end today’s post. I hope you have a good day… and that your weather is as perfect as Germany’s is right now. <3

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disasters, Duggars, Reality TV, transportation, YouTube

Jim Bob’s auditions, Derick’s defection, Josh in prison, and the world’s oldest profession…

Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed, watching some of the old episodes of the Duggars’ reality show that have been recently posted on YouTube. They’ve brought back a lot of repressed memories. I did used to watch the show, back in the days before we knew the truth about Josh Duggar. Even before I knew about the Duggar family, I found super large families interesting. It’s probably because of my dad’s experiences growing up in a big family. My dad and his siblings always seemed very close-knit and loving, even if my experiences as my dad’s daughter seemed to be less like that.

My dad was one of nine children, and I always thought that was a huge family. By today’s standards, it is a huge family. But my dad’s family still had fewer than half of the kids in the Duggar family. In fact, compared to the Duggars, my dad’s family almost looks petite.

Back when their reality show premiered, I thought the Duggars were fascinating. Most of the kids were cute and precocious. Even Josh, back in the day, seemed benign in his brightly colored polo shirts and khaki pants, with his neatly cut hair. It wasn’t until the specials turned into a show that I realized how smug and glib Josh appeared to be. But then there was Jim Bob… and Jim Bob frequently came off like a blockhead– a heavily shellacked blockhead. Sometimes he said things that made it sound like he’d been inhaling too much hairspray, or something. But then, after watching the Duggars for awhile, I realized that Jim Bob is quite narcissistic and uses people, especially his family. For years, he’s used his own children as a source of power and money.

Yesterday, I watched the Duggars, then listened to a couple of YouTubers opine about them and their family. One v-logger, in particular, highlighted Jim Bob’s lengthy application/questionnaire that he handed out to his daughters’ suitors. The v-logger commented that the questionnaire seemed almost akin to an audition. The young men who came a’courtin’, had to explain their religious beliefs, and describe how they planned to support the Duggar daughters.

An interesting video by kyeluh about Jill, and her upbringing in a cult.

It dawned on me that Jim Bob was holding auditions, to keep the gravy train rolling. It mattered less if the potential suitor was a good match and had things in common and basic chemistry with his daughters. He was looking for guys who were reasonably attractive, loyal, hard working, and, above all, malleable, and willing to submit to Jim Bob’s authority. So far, it doesn’t look like Boob is the best judge of character, even with that lengthy audition/questionnaire he makes his potential sons-in-law fill out for him. Ben Seewald seems to be the only one who stays totally loyal to Boob, besides Boob’s own sons. The other sons-in-law mostly seem interested in actually being the “headship”, rather than allowing Boob to stay in that role.

Then I thought about how Jim Bob had basically “prostituted” his children to TLC, using a contract in which he collected all of the money from the episodes of the Duggar series and specials, supposedly to dole out the money to the participants. However, Jill Dillard and her husband, Derick, later sued Jim Bob so they could get paid for their participation on Counting On. It’s been widely reported that Jill was basically paid minimum wage, and the cost for pursuing that money, as well as being allowed to live life on her own terms, was being ostracized from her family.

I remember when I first saw Derick Dillard. I thought he seemed reasonably intelligent. I even kind of liked him. He did, at the very least, seem to really love Jill, anyway, and God knows she needed someone to show her some authentic love. Then later, Derick was criticized for making transphobic comments about fellow TLC reality star, Jazz Jennings. It got to the point at which he was no longer on Counting On. At first, I thought TLC gave him the ax because of all of those transphobic comments he made about Jazz Jennings, and the backlash resulting from them. Later, I read that he and Jill had decided to leave the show, because they weren’t getting paid, and because they didn’t enjoy having their personal lives plastered all over a reality show solely for Jim Bob’s profit.

I also realized, sad as it is, that a lot of Americans probably have feelings that are similar to Derick Dillard’s when it comes to issues regarding the LGBTQ community. While I disagree with Derick’s opinions regarding that community, I can also understand why he still has a voice. It’s because many people agree with him, but aren’t saying so out loud. They don’t want to be lectured or canceled. It’s sort of the same reason why Donald Trump is popular, in spite of being an obvious and major narcissistic dickhead.

It would be nice if every person’s controversial and problematic views evolved at the same time, but that’s not reality. The truth is, it takes time to change public sentiment. That’s why we still have issues with racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. Loftily telling someone to “educate themselves”, when they have an opinion that isn’t politically correct, isn’t likely to end with positive results. People don’t like to be told what to do or how to think or what their opinions should be, even if more progressive people have come to different conclusions. Telling them that they have to change their views is going to result in a lot of defiance, and championing of those who are bolder about expressing their opinions.

So, instead of disliking Derick Dillard simply because he made those offensive, transphobic comments, which are right in line with his conservative Christian beliefs, I choose to look at him in a more positive light. I don’t agree with his ignorant comments about people who aren’t heterosexual, but I like that he encourages Jill to live a less constrained life. I like that he seems to love her very much. I love that he took on Jim Bob, and doesn’t let Jim Bob run his or Jill’s lives. I love that Jill does more of what she wants, and their sons go to public school, where they are exposed to people who aren’t just like them. I love that Derick insisted on being paid for the work that he and Jill did.

Jim Bob acts like a pimp, and his wife and children, and now his grandchildren, are pressed into service to make money for him, just as if they were prostitutes for TLC. I’m glad Derick stopped allowing Jim Bob to prostitute him and Jill, using them for his personal gain. While some people may not like that I use the terms “pimp” and “prostitute” to describe Jim Bob and his family, if you look up the definition for “prostitute”, you will find that it’s not always a word that’s used for sex workers. It’s also used for people who surrender their self-respect and misuse their talents for personal gain. A pimp is a “go-between”– a “purveyor” of services rendered, especially if they’re sexual. But, if you think about it, Jim Bob kind of does sell off his offspring, if not for reality entertainment value, then for their abilities to reproduce and make more bodies who can be raised to think the way he does.

The Duggars, and the people who have married into that family, are all conservative Christians. Most of them hail from the southern United States, which is Bible Belt territory. I think it’s unrealistic to expect most of them to change their beliefs about homosexuality and transgendered people on a dime. It would be nice if they could instantly join us in the 21st century and stop being homophobic and transphobic, but that isn’t reality. While I think their show should have been canceled ages ago, I also think the fact that it wasn’t is a sign that a lot of Americans are, deep down, more like them than they’d like to admit, political correctness be damned.

Maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Duggars had a reality show for so long. If anything, the show and the incredible fall from grace the Duggars are experiencing, shines a light on the very disturbing and destructive IBLP and ATI cult formed by Bill Gothard. If not for the Duggars, would most of us even know about Bill Gothard? I don’t think I would. Maybe I would have eventually gotten around to reading a book about fundies, but it takes more time and effort to read a book than watching a TV show.

Personally, I think it’s better to try to understand the Duggars where they are, and realize that for now, they are homophobic and transphobic, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. We have to work with what we have. They aren’t going to change their beliefs simply because I tell them they need to educate themselves. They have to want to change. And right now, they have bigger fish to fry, as eldest son Josh awaits his sentencing and trip to federal prison. Speaking of which…

Lately I’ve also been watching videos made by former prisoners. I’ve been watching Jessica Kent, who served time in New York and Arkansas, for some time, but I’ve also watched a few videos by Christina Randall, a winsome YouTuber from Florida who did time in prison there. Recently, I saw her video about what it’s like to be transferred to prison, and how terrible an experience that was. I think Josh has some terrible days ahead of him, but at least he won’t be pregnant when he goes to prison.

This is actually a pretty harrowing video. Being transported to prison sounds pretty hellish.
Jessica’s experience. She was pregnant when she went on that horrible five hour drive to prison.

I don’t have any pity for Josh. I don’t think he is someone who should ever be on the outside, mainly because people like him can’t be rehabilitated without extreme measures. Basically, he’d probably need to be castrated to have any hope of quelling his deviant desires. We know that’s not going to happen. He poses a danger to the world’s most innocent and fragile people. But even though I don’t pity him, I also know that he’s going to be in for a rough time. And I know that in spite of how I feel about his family– especially his father– there are people in that family who love him in spite of what he’s done. So I have some compassion for them, and basic compassion for Josh, because he is still a human being who has done really terrible, monstrous things.

Josh is not ever going to be trustworthy, especially around children. And it is sad for his SEVEN children than their father is a sexual deviant who is going to prison. Although it would probably be sadder for them if he had been acquitted, and allowed to raise them, since it’s likely that they were victimized by him. The sad fact is, people who look at what he was looking at usually have to produce it themselves, in order to be trusted in that sick community. I would be surprised if Anna doesn’t get investigated, too.

Of course, not everyone in the Duggar family is guilty, and they shouldn’t all have to pay for Josh’s mistakes, or the fact that the patriarch trotted them out on reality TV so he could make a fast buck. They can’t help being who they are, or how they were raised… and even if the world is telling them they should be different, it’s a scary proposition to reject one’s family and upbringing, and the ideals that they learned during their formative years. I have hope that some of them will break away and have the courage to live life on their own terms, rather than being Boob’s enslaved prostitutes for publicity.

Anyway… this whole fiasco has been an epic shitshow. It’s really something to watch the oldest episodes of the Duggars’ reality show and see just how deceptive they were, and how much “actual reality” was being obscured by “reality TV”. It’s always sad when someone’s image is significantly less than the reality of who they really are becomes obvious. But I do take heart when I see glimmers of hope and light, and I do see those when I see Derick Dillard take on Jim Bob and Josh. No, he’s not perfect, and I certainly don’t agree with his homophobic or transphobic opinions, or his conservative political views. But I think it’s a beautiful thing that he supports his wife in her recovery, and doesn’t let Jim Bob whore him out to the highest bidder. That’s got to count for something.

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