Is it a good thing that Matthew Cordle has admitted to killing another man due to drunk driving? Yes. It will give his family closure, solve the crime, and demonstrate that it’s not OK to drink and drive. Is it OK that a nonprofit startup used this to promote itself? No it damn well isn’t.
Cordle’s full story is sadly fairly typical. Cordle made a serious mistake, and somebody else paid the price. The startup, on the other hand, didn’t have to cash in on it.
And make no mistake: That’s what this video is. Because I Said I Would has gotten enormous publicity out of releasing this video. And there is no way to slice that that is not awful.
First of all, one has to wonder what the family of the victim, who was publicly identified, feels about having a public confession posted for literally the entire world to see. If the media hasn’t already reached them for comment, they will. So they’ll get to relive their loss all over again, but under an Internet microscope. They will get to experience it again when five years pass, when somebody does a news piece on the “social relevance of YouTube”, whenever something similar happens, when Cordle comes up for parole because now the family’s name will come up in a Google search. They have been fed, against their will, to the news maw.
Secondly, Cordle may be paroled one day; although he has yet to be charged, it’s clear that he will be. And one day, he may forgive himself for what he did; Cordle doesn’t seem to be doing this for the attention but because he rightly feels guilty for his crime. And Cordle volunteered for this, obviously.
But he’s always going to be the YouTube murder guy. If he’d gone to the police, this case would have made the local news and he probably would have had to move if he ever got out. But there’s nowhere to move to, now. This will likely be the first thing tagged to the name for the rest of his life.
Finally, this is an advertisement. It is not a “documentary”, or a “slice of life”, or any of the nice terms people will apply to this. It is an ad. It demonstrates the product and shows us its use. It is carefully keyed to appeal to our emotions. It is designed to get our attention. Charitably one could say that Because I Said I Would lost sight of how this move might be interpreted in light of the gravity of the situation, but even so.
Because I Said I Would is a charitable startup with a nice mission; making promises and keeping them. But if you want to think about actions and consequences, it would have been a good step to consider the fallout of getting attention.