Gene Leonhardt, the father of Internet “thing” Jessi Slaughter, and the man who gave us “you dun goofed” and “I backtraced it” has died at the age of 53. That is so young! Earlier this year, Gene Leonhardt was arrested and charged on suspicion of child abuse and Jessi was removed from her home, so a story that started out kind of sad got REAL sad. Mr. Leonhardt died on August 11th, the day Jessi Slaughter posted an apology video (for everything, but in particular for the false allegations of rape, eek!), of a heart attack. The story is currently up on DailyWhat and BoingBoing, both citing KnowYourMeme, but for those of you who have been on the Internet for too many years who now have permanently heavy-lidded eyes and mistrust in your heart, prop them lids up with some toothpicks and trust that there is also a legitimate death announcement in the Charleston Gazette. (Phew?)

It is always weird, every single time, to write about someone dying on a blog. Very few forms of tribute to the passing of a human life are more meaningless than this form of tribute. In the case of Gene Leonhardt, it does seem vaguely appropriate, although I’m not even sure what that means. Also, I take it back. The most appropriate form of tribute to the passing of Gene Leonhardt would have been absolute Internet silence on the matter. Somehow, everyone would align their brain-chips or whatever and we would all silently agree that we have done enough to this family, and that now, with Mr. Leonhardt’s passing, it is time for the Internet to let them go with the hope that somehow they might put things back together. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS IDEA, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS! Just kidding. Hush.

Of course, what I have suggested as an appropriate on-line tribute to Gene Leonhardt is also what I think would be an appropriate on-line tribute to everyone who dies, which is to say: no on-line tribute. But that seems unlikely at this point. Oh well. JOIN OUR FACEBOOK GROUP AND ALSO FOLLOW US ON TWITTER.

R.I.P. Gene Leonhardt.

Comments (37)
  1. His heart dun goofed.

  2. Ugh. I never liked this meme; from the very start when it involved a little girl crying it just made me feel icky. I don’t think it’s right to mock this man for defending his clearly agitated daughter, regardless of how ignorantly he does so. And then the allegations of abuse and then it tursn out she lied about them? Were ALL of the allegations lies? Or just some of them? I do not know. I just really feel like this whole thing is a prime example of the internet at its absolute worst.

    • Agreed. If there ever was a case to be made about how awful the 4Chan trolls are, it’s the harassment of this family.

    • Seriously, hasn’t this poor girl gone through enough, now she’s gotta deal with people coming up with snarky “jokes” about her dad’s death? Thanks, Internet. I have so much hope in humankind now.

    • I am truly honestly not writing this as an attack on you but as a sincere question -

      This meme (which I also think is gross) crosses the line for you but posting a photoshopped picture of Rhianna with a bruise on her eye is acceptable internet behavior?

      Again – not trying to be a jerk! Really! I just don’t know how to work this question without sounding like one. :(

      • word*** this question. Now I really AM a jerk.

      • that was yesterday…lets let that one go. today is a new day.

      • Yeah, my line tends to lay a little farther down the line than average, but even I have limits. Making children cry is definitely one of those limits. It’s also the difference between a stupid joke ABOUT someone, rather than direct, malicious attacks. My comments may be in poor taste more often than not, but they never go to the extent of invading someone’s personal life.

      • And for the record, I didn’t think you were being rude at all. I’d have to be one hell of a hypocrite to complain that some stranger on the internet was rude to me.

        • I hear what you are saying, but I can’t say I really agree that the joking about a victim of domestic violence counts as a stupid or silly joke. (Not that Rihanna in general is off limits but jokes specifically about that incident get under my skin a bit.) But you know, who am I to define the lines of taste? And you are right that in this case it involves a child, which really kicks up the whole terrible factor.

          Thanks for the response. I didn’t want you to think I was over here stomping my feet and yelling, “the nerve of that facetaco!” I am always paranoid about my tone online.

          • Yeah, it’s hard to gauge how you’ll be received when there’s no tone or inflection behind your words. It’s funny, though, I had a very similar conversation at about the same time you posted your intitial comment, with a co-worker who was surprised that I did not enjoy his story about shooting an opossum with a BB gun. Basically, the way I laid it out for him was, I’m all for making terrible and tasteless jokes that involve grown people with fully-developed mental capacity. But leave the children, animals, and mentally handicapped people out of it.

  3. On the subject of not talking about the subject, WOOOHHOOOOO no more exceedingly obnoxious Miracle Whip ad that expands itself and makes me accidentally click it every time.

  4. Somehow, everyone would align their brain-chips or whatever and we would all silently agree that we have done enough to this family, and that now, with Mr. Leonhardt’s passing, it is time for the Internet to let them go with the hope that somehow they might put things back together.

    That might be my favorite statement on Videogum, ever (aside from fart jokes, lets be honest). RIP, Mr. Leonhardt. May I suggest a videogum everywhere mission? We can all leave the family alone and instead google cute animal videos?

  5. “Condolences will never be the same”
    -Winning Youtube comment

  6. I think it’s strange to talk about whether the internet is any more or less appropriate than other mediums to discuss or pay tribute to certain things. The internet, and electronic media in general, are just how we communicate now. It’s not as though our ancestors cut down all of those trees because they felt paper added gravitas to what they were trying to say. They just didn’t happen to have the internet.

    • I think it’s just the fact that having such a wide range of content available in one medium tends to lower the integrity of it all. Having an obituary open in one tab and Harry Potter slashfic open in another just seems wrong.

      • It’s also the immediacy of which you can express your thoughts. Our ancestors sent letters or wrote things in the paper, and it took time before you could reply; this time could be used to let anger and quick-triggeredness subside and formulate rational responses. I think the internet is less appropriate to pay tribute because, in general, there is much less thought paid to our responses. We know not what we post.

      • Why? The newspaper has horoscopes and obituaries side by side, along with murder stories and puzzles for kids.

        Besides, I think talking about the range of things on the internet in that way is like saying it’s weird that the world of magazines contains both Hustler and Good Housekeeping.

        • The Internet by its very nature is casual, ephemeral, and lazy. JUST LIKE LIFE! I see your point, and I don’t disagree, and I’m not talking about someone on LiveJournal posting their personal thoughts about a subject (or human being) that is important to them. I do think that the business model, at least at the moment, for most professional websites, and I’m going to take the liberty of lumping Videogum into that category, is one that favors quantity over quality, which leads, and here I am DEFINITELY lumping Videogum into this category, to people posting things simply because they feel an urgency and a pressure to put something new up on a site to get pageviews and to feed the beast and it doesn’t matter if it’s talking about someone dying or a Sesame Street NWA mash-up. Is this any different than how it was with newspapers? I genuinely do not know the answer to that question. To your point, most newspapers in the world are (or were) total garbage. But they at least shrouded themselves, for the most part, in an air of seriousness that the Internet doesn’t even attempt to front. Is this more honest? In some ways, yes! But it is also why it’s just a lacking medium to discuss important things. (Not to mention the breathing toilet that is Internet comment sections for the most part.)

          So, yes, this is the way we communicate now. And it kind of sucks! I’m not saying that it sucks more than the ways that we communicated in the past sucked. Those sucked too. We really are not every good at it even after all these years. But the way we communicate now sucks in very specific and identifiable ways and so just because we do it this way instead of that way doesn’t mean this way is particularly good. You know?

          • Because anonymity should fit into this discussion as well, but because I am lazy I will let someone else explain.

          • What you’re saying is true, but I find it problematic to talk about the internet as one big thing. It is many things, just like the printed word or recorded sound. And the internet can’t put up a front of seriousness because there is nobody in charge of it as a whole. Some day, most publications (both serious and ridiculous) will stop making hard copies altogether. If the New York Times did that tomorrow, it wouldn’t be any less The Times just because it was only available on the internet.

        • I think the problem lies with the power individuals have on the internet. Some asshole who runs a blog in New Jersey has the same megaphone as the New York Times, who has the same megaphone as Perez Hilton. So everything as a whole gets leveled, and loses its effectiveness. I know I for one consider print media to be head and shoulders above any internet based media. I know that’s not the case, but it’s just the pre-internet man in me talking.

          • the difference between print media and the internet is basically the filter of an editor. the internet has no filter. and sometimes the toxic shit rises to the top and gets all the attention…in this case a seriously damaged family…simply because people have chosen to laugh at how they’re “acting out” b/c of these issues rather than address their own issues that have turned them into people that harass others anonymously…

            but this is the way the world has always worked, with people, things, events, everything…the great-to-good always gets attention, and the awful/shit stuff gets attention, while the 99% of the stuff that lies in the middle of those two extremes passes through unnoticed. it’s life…and its the internet.

        • Honestly, ask any sociologist (I’m sure you know hundreds of them as we all do) and they will tell you that two of the major qualities which make the Internet the dually great and terrible thing we know it to be are that it is a) non-censored, and b) anonymous. People will say it brings out the worst in people but in actuality it brings out the honesty in people. It offers people the opportunity to say what they really mean whereas social constructs lacking anonymity tend to dictate that people keep certain opinions to themselves for the sake of keeping the peace.

          • Took way too long to type that, and now I realize it was REDUNDANT AS HELL so feel free to downvote it out of existence.

          • i would agree to that. and you see attention given to comments people at Facebook have made about removing anonymity from the internet…and as a person hiding behind an Avatar, i agree 100% that it will certainly force us to take more consideration into what we are saying online.

          • Are you suggesting we use Facebook Connect on Videogum? See, I KNEW Explainer Guy was Kelly all along. Save it for the weekly giveaway contest! We won’t fall victim to these mind games, Kelly, NICE TRY

    • This is actually a response to your comment about the New York Times (see below): well, no. The New York Times IS a print newspaper, and as such it operates under the structural guidelines of that medium. So it’s just simply not the same thing. Does consumption of the New York Times take place on the Internet? Yes. But that is like saying that a YouTube uploaded by some teenager is therefore equivalent and to be judged by the same merits as a network sitcom streaming on Hulu. What you’re saying is that both of these things live side-by-side on the Internet, but I think that’s kind of disingenuous. It’s factually accurate, but there are certain modes of communication and dissemination and expression that were created specifically for the Internet, and they are fundamentally different from the “older media” that is just digitized and put on-line. Those are the modes I’m talking about here.

  7. I sort of feel bad about this. I mean I laughed, really, really, really, really hard at this family. And quite clearly this family has some fucking issues.And I just laughed and laughed. Ugh internet guilt. Yikes.

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