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”.
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.
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.
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