Report 2: The end of an era

As per Christian Iglesias’ note, the search for Crystal Eagle is over. Thus, so is this chapter of my blog, and perhaps most of my readership’s interest in it.

First of all, I would like to thank you people for even just reading this. As of now, my blog has exceeded 1,000 views; not bad for a blog that has only been around two weeks or so and has been neglected for half of that. Writers, even those who claim they write for themselves first and foremost, like to be read. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many readers in my life; guess it’s high time I tried getting published in Heights or something. 😆 (But seriously, guys, if you think you can write or have some artistic talent, send some of your work. Heights’ 60th year is a great time to be published.)

Thank you, too, to the people who actually responded to this blog by commenting on it. It’s really nice to have people comment, even if the comments are not so nice, because at least you know you are being read. Extra thanks to those who provided me with clarifications and other clues; even if at the end the investigation failed, the help was very much appreciated.

Now, my thoughts on the way this ended. I feel that I must forewarn you that this part of my article is very moralist and even turns to Church teaching a couple of times. I am not a particularly religious person, but I do feel my moral compass and the Church’s point roughly to the same north.

Before the moralizing begins, I would like to make a few remarks on some particularly interesting allegations:

At first, I suspected the same thing. Seeing the name of the author and the title of the entry, I thought it was gonna be a confession. When I opened the link, what I saw was a rather brazen confession on how exactly he claims to have brought justice by forcing Crystal Eagle to end her blog through what is essentially cyberterrorism and blackmail.

Furthermore, I found it a little hard to believe that Crystal Eagle, who had seemed to be very meticulous in covering her tracks, fell so easily to an infected PDF file. I’d’ve thought her computer would’ve been protected enough to intercept it. I can’t speak for the security capacities of Windows 7, as I don’t run it, but Vista is extremely naggy every time a file is about to be executed, and is adamant about refusing to copy files to protected folders without admin permission; I’d’ve thought that UAC or something would’ve nagged her about the file being copied. Plus, any decent antivirus, I thought, would’ve caught it.

However, many antivirus programs, especially the free ones, are too dependent on virus databases and can easily be bypassed by custom scripted programs; being an amateur programmer myself, I had been able to use ActionScript to write an insidious Flash program that would eat up your PC’s memory and cause it to crash. Mr. Iglesias may have done the same. Furthermore, it’s way too easy to unwittingly catch insidious viruses, especially when using the terminals in school and having people put USBs in your computer that have been God-knows-where; I bet there are a million and one unseen viruses in my computer even as I have AVG 2012, Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and Destroy all installed. Once one piece of malware gets into the system, perhaps even UAC would be unable to prevent more from entering.

Besides, even if, hypothetically, Christian Iglesias was Crystal Eagle, he’d have put himself up for something even worse; personally, I’d rather be accused of being a hate blogger and potentially thrown out of school than possibly face criminal charges for hacking and blackmail. (Somebody clarify this for me once and for all. My knowledge on Philippine law regarding these is spotty at best.)

Finally, my gut tells me it isn’t him. I don’t know him personally, but from what I’ve seen so far he looks to me like the kind of person who, even in the face of evidence, would have his friends behind him saying “No way.” I know how this feels; someone emailed me his suspect. While there was some evidence to suggest it, I had to say, “There’s no way it’s him,” and sure enough I was right.

In short, I have no evidence to cast into doubt the veracity of Mr. Iglesias’ story, and for now we can just assume it’s true. So on to the next part of this lengthy entry.

Believe it or not, what led me to begin this hunt for Crystal Eagle is, for the most part, my strong sense of morality and justice. Admittedly, I’m not terribly close to most of the victims (remember, I’m an introvert), and while I am somewhat acquainted with Job de Leon I thought his entry was particularly amusing (and I’m sure he shares my sentiments). However, regardless of who it is, defamation and slander are that–defamation and slander–and they are intrinsically wrong. Seeing someone go about doing this to others, even those many people seemed to hate, honestly made me sick to my stomach, and I was determined to, through all legal means, unmask her.

Germain Grisez (whose article I have been reading for Th131, and who is fast becoming one of my favorite moral theologians) argues that the morality of the action is determined by the intent, not by the outward manifestation. Admittedly this is a tricky argument; I get it, to some extent, but at times even I have a hard time explaining it. One example of this would be his opinions on contraception: he believes that if a couple is taking drugs in order to avoid having babies after sex, then they are sinning; however, one who is taking a drug for an ailment that happens to have a contraceptive side effect will not sin provided that the contraceptive effect is in no way part of the reason for taking the drug.

Thus, at first look, one would think that Grisez is defending Crystal Eagle; one might argue that she was trying to do something positive, and it just so happened that these people got stepped on along the way. However, the thing is that as Crystal Eagle posted some of those trashy, bashing articles, the intent of causing change became harder and harder to see, even for someone like me who had, occasionally slipshod research and poor writing aside, actually approved of the pre-Ian Agatep articles. Furthermore, even if we assume that the desire for positive change remained intact, we have to scrutinize the means by which she intended to effect this change. Publicly bashing Ateneans wasn’t just an incidental effect of attempting to effect this change; it was part of her means of doing it. So was the blackmail to which she subjected the Sanggu. The first one I find objectionable, even as some approved of it; the second, I’m sure, we can agree on.

For a more practical objection, I feel that, even assuming noble intent, her most recent blog entries did nothing but hurt people and sow a culture of malevolence and hatred within the Ateneo community. Just because something isn’t morally evil (the Church refers to this as formal sin) doesn’t mean that the material sin is something that is overlooked. For an extreme example, if we have a mentally unhinged man who believes that everyone is a danger to him and must be killed, we don’t just let him go around killing everyone, even if he isn’t sinning, simply because, frankly, it would suck if we let him have his way.

However, this does not mean that I approve of what Mr. Iglesias claims to have done. As a matter of fact, if I were to apply this same moral metric, Mr. Iglesias has done something that is just as deplorable as what Crystal Eagle had been doing, and this one is easier to establish: Deliberately sending someone a malicious file inevitably has, as its intent, illegally obtaining sensitive information. As for its more tangible, material effects, imagine how the person behind the Crystal Eagle mask feels about having her privacy intruded upon, about having been blackmailed herself. Imagine the chilling effect this may have on people who may have more legitimate criticisms of the systems and will now not voice them out of fear that, if they do, death by PDF or some other similar means may come their way.

Anyway, what can we take home from all of this?

First of all, follow your heart. Your ordo amoris, your τελος, whatever you wish to call it. Crystal Eagle kept saying this in her now-deleted blog. She had said that any mentor, real or imaginary, would say that, and I would know she spoke the truth. I have watched enough action movies and shounen animé to know. No less than my own father, a man I hold in the highest esteem, told me, “Life is too short to be doing something you don’t like.”

However, you have to remember that our existence is inseparable from our existence within a community. As Gabriel Marcel put it, esse est coesse. We must live in a way that does not impinge on others’ abilities for self-actualization. As the cofounders of Ketchh (of whom Mr. Iglesias is one) love to put it, walang basagan ng trip. If your heart leads you to live in a way that causes other people to suffer unduly, something is seriously wrong, and you need help.

Another thing: we are free to be critical, but we must remain respectful of our targets of criticism. The human element is not something that we can just so easily ignore. Condemn the wrong actions, but not the person. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is one thing that we, myself included, tend to be forgetting way too much these days, and it gets in the way of constructive dialogue. Even if you were doing something wrong, why would you change it for someone who undermines and attacks your humanity? Pride would tell you to keep doing it. This is all good sense and human decency, but I feel we really need more of this these days.

Now that the preachiest part of the blog is more or less over, I would like to move on to some slightly more personal things. Inevitably people would wonder how I feel about having “failed” (as one commenter so kindly put it) to capture Crystal Eagle myself. Well, I have to admit it’s a little bit sad, but not very. It’s humbling, though, as apart from my strong sense of justice I had also wished to one-up The Lucius Project, whom I felt weren’t doing a good enough job investigating Crystal Eagle. In the end, they probably got more things right than I did. It stings a bit, but it’s not so bad.

I do wish, though, that I’d been able to do more for this little project of mine, both in the investigation and the reporting. For the former, I felt that I hadn’t been aggressive enough in gathering information and asking around, and this probably led the aforementioned commenter to think I had done none of that at all. I was just about to step it up, then the case came to the abrupt end it did. For the latter, I felt that I may have had a bit of an excuse; I had projects and long exams to study for, and those were really more important than this. Still, though, I did have a good deal of free time, and I spent it on other things instead of this blog.

Another thing I greatly regret is that, while I had spent a good deal of time and effort putting together a primer on proof and conjecture (which I may yet rewrite and submit for publication in one of Ateneo’s future Sci10 textbooks; all those who wish to send their children here, watch out), I had failed to write one on ethics and my personal rules of engagement. The former may have cemented my imaginary stature as a person of mathematical mind; the latter would have established me as a morally upright champion of the law, which totally would have been badass even if it would have thrown some potential readers off my blog (read: caused them to turn into ash). Part of my attempt to make up for that was the previous part of this article, though it doesn’t say anything about my rules of engagement.

Saying “better late than never,” I’ll lay them out here:

Everyone is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. I touched on this very slightly in the primer on proof and conjecture; this site alone could not prove that anyone was guilty, but give people a place to start investigating. This blog wasn’t going to be the final blow to Crystal Eagle; it was only to lead the community in the right direction in finding her. Without conclusive evidence, which this blog itself could not provide, there was no way to establish guilt.

No naming of names unless other people had named them first. This was a rule I tried my darndest to be careful with. This whole thing was a messy affair that could potentially have damaged the reputations of those involved, so I did not want to unduly tie people into it. If I named anyone, it was only the people mentioned by name in Crystal Eagle’s blog, or in the comments section, or on Facebook pages that are visible to the public anyway. Even if everyone presumably knows some of the unnamed people, I could never be too careful, and so chose to err on the side of caution (thus me refusing to name outright Cate’s alleged current flame).

In hindsight, though, maybe it was good that I didn’t publish this, as this probably would’ve been an open invitation to people to start flinging accusations left and right just so that I would investigate.

All testimony and evidence must be obtained legally and ethically, and used so. No hacking, no forced confessions, no coercion. When I asked people about the investigation, there was no attempt to deceive them that it was to be used in another way/not to be used in this way at all. Even if admittedly I haven’t been very upfront about this at times (I can’t go around telling everyone, hi, I’m terradamnata and I’m investigating Crystal Eagle, mind answering a few questions?), if asked what for I would not lie. Admittedly, I hadn’t carried out much inquiry beyond my circle, who pretty much knew that I was running this blog.

This is the rule which Mr. Iglesias ran afoul of, by the way.

Protect the witnesses. This one I cannot expound on enough. I follow strict confidentiality laws, and even give people the option of hiding their identities from me should they have any doubt on that. This is because, even though I was writing alone, this blog was a community project–I had hoped to lead concerned Ateneans to catch the criminal through dissemination of information and knowledge. I needed others to work with me, and of course people probably wouldn’t have worked with me if they felt that they were at grave risk.

As difficult as this could be at times, I tried my hardest to follow these rules. After all, what good would it be if, for a project driven by my sense of morality, I had resorted to immoral and unethical methods? Again, I don’t have a lot of Nietzsche, and I have been told by some of the difficulties they have had in getting his books; however, this one aphorism I am sure you all know: Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. In English, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

Now, even with all the regrets and the heaviness and the headaches that came with this project, I have to say I actually had fun doing this. I love to write, and having enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie’s works, as well as Detective Conan and Detective School Q, relished the idea of being part of my own detective story. It was living some sort of childhood dream, even though reality didn’t quite match up with expectations, and instead of being Holmes or Poirot or Conan I ended up being some sort of Lestrade or Hastings or Kogoro Mouri. Not gonna be too bummed about that.

As for where this blog will go next, I am not really certain, if it will go anywhere at all. Admittedly, while I am a talented writer, I struggle to find inspiration at times, and without the impetus of the Crystal Eagle case I may find it hard to maintain a blog regularly. I will try, though, and wherever this blog goes, I hope you will follow it the way you did over the past two weeks.

And with that I end this chapter of my blog’s life. terradamnata, signing out for now.

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One response to “Report 2: The end of an era

  1. Yes, it is all over.

    The Crystal Eagle saga has ended.

    Now, it is time to move on.

    However, before we part I would like to commend you.

    Despite stupidity, you kept your ground.

    So then, I bid you farewell.

    Until out paths meet again.

    -The Sorrow

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