Schadenfreude: "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune. "

On March 13, Tara Rose McAvoy died after being struck by a train near Austin, Texas.

McAvoy, 18, was walking ... near railroad tracks when she was struck by a Union Pacific train, authorities said. A witness told Austin television station KTBC the train sounded its horn right up until the accident occurred.... McAvoy graduated last year from the Texas School for the Deaf, attended Austin Community College and then started at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in January, but had returned to Texas... (Read full story on CNN site).

McAvoy was also the reigning "Miss Deaf Texas." News accounts reported that she was text messaging on her cell phone when hit by the train.

No sooner was news of her death reported than cyberspace's forums and blogs were humming with the ... hilarity... of it all.

"This morning on I read the teaser headline 'Miss Deaf Texas Struck By Train, Killed' and immediately laughed," wrote BohemianPuck. "I'm sorry, but someone at CNN must have been cracking up a storm too and thought it would be funny to report it."

Hundreds of bloggers took up the "I had to laugh" theme: Here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. And there was still more "... laughing incessantly about text-messaging deaf chicks and high-speed trains." (Ace Cowboy).

A deaf reader sent Ragged Edge what seemed like hundreds of links to these kinds of comments:

"I know, I know... I shouldn't laugh -- it's terribly un-funny ... buuuuuut ... I mean, if the headline weren't enough, '... the train sounded its horn right up until the accident occurred.' Yes; I bet he did" (blogger Dave). "Terrible that someone died, but I can't say that I didn't chuckle at the irony of it" ( Obake ). "I feel like a bad person. I laughed my ass off" (Russ0943).

Of course the "I felt like a bad person" is a conceit. If they'd really felt bad, they wouldn't have done it, eh?

"When I read this news item this morning, my first reaction was to begin snickering," wrote Greg Z. Newcombe on his LiveJournal blog:

The pure irony of this story means it will probably end up a Darwin award, if nothing else, so I’m certain I won’t be the only one to see something funny about this. Yes, it’s a tragedy for the family, but it begs the question: if you were totally deaf, like Miss McAvoy, why walk along railroad tracks and risk not being able to hear a train coming?

I can recall from interviewing deaf students during my college newspaper days that many of them could feel the vibration of music so they could dance, so perhaps Miss McAvoy thought she’d feel the train, but obviously that wasn’t the case.

If her other senses were heightened at all, apparently common sense was not one of them.

So perhaps I’m a terrible, horrible, evil person with a terrible, horrible, evil sense of humor, but at least this teaches us all a valuable lesson: the blind should not drive across a minefield, the totally paralyzed should not attempt skydiving, and the deaf shouldn’t walk places where a 3- ton diesel locomotive can sneak up on them.

Chris Brewer, like many commenters, thinks that the fact that McAvoy was text messaging on her phone was terribly humorous: "texting on device that should be of no use to you = plain dumb." It seems clear that most folks don't realize that deaf people use cell phones for text messaging. The ignoramuses seem to assume that because it's called a "phone" a deaf person has no use of it.

There were Darwin Award jokes aplenty: "Deaf pageant queen + train tracks = Darwin Award" (Sonny Snow). "[S]he could live into eternity on the internets with a Darwin Award" (Blue Hole). "Y'all ain't listening to me, but at least you can hear me. That's the important thing. You can hear me, because you've got ears...Unless you're deaf" (Hobo). "Dumbass gets hit by a train" (John James). And, "Well, at least editing the sash to say "Miss Dead Texas" will be easy" (Cap'n Profanity).

From Casperitis we have this:

Why is a deaf girl walking down the train tracks? I mean...I think this is just another case of natural selection. How long could a person with that little common sense really survive in this world anyway?

In the blog entry How not to be deaf, Ciavarro writes,

The train was blowing its horn for miles, but nope, Miss Deaf Texas didn't hear.

Because she's deaf.

So now she's dead.

What the hell is Miss Deaf Texas doing strolling along railroad tracks anyways?

... Miss Deaf Texas probably wasn't the sharpest handicap on the short bus.

Not very bright, that Miss Deaf Texas....

I wonder how many other handicapped beauty pageants they have in Texas. Miss Peg Leg Texas would be a show stopper. Miss Wheelchair-bound Lump of Flesh is my personal favourite.

...Miss Deaf Texas got run over by a train that she couldn't hear.

Because she's a deaf beauty queen.

Who walks on railroad tracks for fun.

But can't hear coming trains.

So now she's dead.

Darwinism at its finest.

Ciavarro began this rant by apologizing in advance -- so, in today's if-I-blog-it-it's-cool culture, that makes it OK.

Rachel Hollis is outraged, and emails Ciavarro,

I am pretty upset with the joke about Miss Deaf Texas. She did not walk on the track. She was walking by the track to go to her mom's work. The snowplow on the train struck her. ...The media is making her sound like a retard. ..... Deaf people are not handicapped, we just can't hear.

Ciavarro oesn't care. "The actual facts of someone getting run over by a train isn't funny. It's actually probably pretty gross," he replies. "But someone getting run over by a train IS funny, if you cartoonize it.... That's what I do Rachel. I make a cartoon out of myself, life, the world, and Miss Deaf Texas."

Later, he says, " I just read the email again (I didn't really read it the first time) and it looks like I've just made enemies out of deaf America. ..."

And not a moment too soon.

And, of course, Rachel Hollis sees nothing wrong with using the word "retard." Sigh.

The combined vitriol and ignorance offered up by posts like these in the blogosphere really makes you wonder. Or not wonder -- that is, not wonder why discrimination is so rampant. It seems clear, if this is a window into the unadulterated feelings of the blogging public.

And then we have Chiara Fucarino's commentary, which can make you wonder all the more about discrimination.

Known as "Chilfu" on LiveJournal, Fucarino is prompted by McAvoy's death to write, "If you're deaf, and if you want a bit of respect from your own country then shut the fuck up and work for a living or start attaining your goals like a normal American then people will start taking you seriously. Oh, and don't get hit by a train like this idiot." This nasty bit is smack-dab in the middle of her much longer rant against deaf people that starts with....

Why do deaf people constantly hide behind the ADA law, yet bitch and whine about how they're treated as inferior beings?

It's because they don't take I. King Jordan's cheesy quote, "Deaf people can do anything but hear" seriously, as the majority of the deaf population has made no progress in the past ten years to improve their careers, if there were any to begin with, but instead sit on their couches like goddamn cripples, waiting for their SSI checks and food stamps to arrive in the mail every month; and after they spend long, hard days sitting on their fat asses in front of the computer meeting 15-year-olds in chatrooms, they finally recieve the government-issued money and spend it all on drugs and booze, which leads them to a visit at the hospital in order to get their stomachs pumped from excessive drinking, which they paid for with Medicare.

Oh, did I mention that they miss their college classes, which Vocational Rehabiliation (in other words, a government organization hardworking Americans' tax money goes to) paid for... (Read entire rant.).

"Chilfu" herself is deaf. (Or else she's making it all up, which, giving the phenomenon which is blogging, is entirely possible.) She has nearly 1,000 comments posted to what she wrote.

A good many agree with her.

March 28, 2006 - World-O-Blogs Department | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

There’s a protest going on among the Deaf communities and a memo has been making its way among several Deaf blogs…Two radio stations made light of the tragedy, Wild 94.9 and 104.1 HAWK, both from California. Here’s a portion of the story:

"Wild 94.9 a "popular" hip hop radio station in the Bay Area has picked up the story and are making light of "the Miss Deaf Texas who died in the train accident" with comments such as "why was she on a cell phone she has some hearing??" And "we want to hear from the Deaf people (said in a joking way)". They were also making loud train wreck sounds (on air) with the calls they're getting and "pretending" they couldn't hear the callers. According to one of the listeners, they are saying "it's only a few people calling in to complain - that they are people who work with "deaf special ed. kids" and saying they are "special"."

"104.1 HAWK is where the mockery comments made by Bob and Tom ( ) were heard: "She is not 'def" (as in being cool) but D E A F, ha ha, I repeat, she is not "def" but D E A F, haha. Why would a deaf girl walk by the train? Of course, the train killed her."

Oh, the inhumanity of it all!

Posted by: Rita M. LeDrew on March 29, 2006 11:11 AM

Re Schadenfreude, the comments in the cited blogs take my breath can people be so cruel? I don't understand.......

Posted by: John Page Garrett on April 2, 2006 05:40 AM

I hate people sometimes.

Posted by: The Angry Gimp on April 2, 2006 09:50 PM

Just reading this and seeing how many people laughed at the death of someone had me crying and outraged.

What cruel, inhumane and wicked people. They should all be ashamed of themselves. But with cold hardened hearts like that, I doubt they know what the word 'shame' means.

This literally took my breath away to see so much hatred from those bloggers and the radio stations making fun of this tragedy.

The death of this young gal is a very sad thing.

My condolences to the family and friends of Miss Tara Rose McAvoy.

Denise Gilmore

Posted by: Denise on April 15, 2006 02:56 AM

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