From a deep dark internet connection

Written Monday, April 17. Originally for my ethics class.

Actions can be thoughtless. Actions can be completely impulsive and have no moral backing. But to understand the moral value behind an action, the person must have a preconceived notion of cause and effect. If you do something, there will be an effect and what does that effect impact around you. You would have to understand good behavior vs bad behavior and what category does this action fall under. Steve Stephens, a 37 year old man from Cleveland, Ohio left his girlfriend Friday, April 14th. On Easter Sunday, he goes live on Facebook to broadcast himself leaving his car, walking over to stranger, Robert Godwin Sr., pulling out a gun and shooting him in the head. He goes live a few hours later, this time taking a phone call explaining to a friend that he “just snapped” and killed 14 people. The moral value of an action depends on the effect of the action. The moral value in this moment is the actual law, not what is written in the Bible or a person’s moral compass. Stephens is aware of the effects of killing somebody. He didn’t, in that instance, hold any moral value Robert Godwin Sr’s death. I think Stephens considered the effect of having the police chase him, possibly going viral on Facebook and being covered in the news as a positive effect.

A bit more back story to the case, Stephens went live three different times during Easter Sunday. The timeline of the videos is somewhat unclear since his page was taken down by Facebook themselves and the videos re-uploaded by different users. In two of them he explains what brought him to killing. Starting in 2015, Stephens filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. While talking directly to the camera, he details how his money problems began with gambling. He claims he only gambled because of his girlfriend, Joy Lane. January he gets sued for back rent from a former landlord. Continuing in a long rant while parked in front of Lane’s job, he says they were going to get married, she’s crazy, he left her, he feels like he has nothing left, he hates his job as a counselor to teens and young adults and that he is going to kill as many people around her job as possible because it’s “her fault”. This is vital information when considering his mental state, speaking openly about the actual effects of his murders.

Aristotle said, “To judge from the lives that men lead, most men, and men of the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify the good, or happiness, with pleasure; which is the reason why they love the life of enjoyment.” The effect of being good is happiness. Aristotle discusses that the meaning of “being good” has many different definitions and depends on the person, comparatively to how medicine is prescribed. There is no set moral guide until you get to political laws which are set in place to cover the overarching majority. For Stephens, the effect of murder is attention. He associates attention to be good, and what will get other people’s attention without harming himself? From one of his broadcasts, Stephens says that he called his mother the day before to tell her that he was “on some suicidal shit, about to start blasting [people].” Him saying this is so key to the reason why he started killing people, solely to    get attention. He didn’t want to harm himself, even after saying he was suicidal, he immediately said he wanted to “blast” other people. Obviously both statements are harmful and should have been taken seriously when he initially said them to his mother but it’s still unclear what kind of person he was prior to these events. The statements do however read like nobody took him serious and he was being erratic out of attention seeking. Whether it was from his mom, his girlfriend or from the police. On Easter morning he posted “you have 4 minuets to tell me why I shouldn’t be on death row. #teamdeathrow.” Along with broadcasting the murder itself, his state of mind sounds desperate for somebody to notice him.

What is most horrifying about this case is how it completely played out on social media, from the actual murder to his confession. Many of his friends viewed all three of the live streams and frantically commented about what they were watching. But shouldn’t somebody watching these events happen at home morally know to call the police? Or get involved in some way? What is the moral value of avoiding action?

Currently Steve Stephens is still on the lose. The search was just made nationwide and his family posted on his Twitter that they don’t consider him part of the family anymore. This case made me question my own morals, just from viewing the broadcasts. I thought his actions could really help define the topic based on the cause and effects.


UPDATE: Steve killed himself.

Rest in peace, Robert Godwin Sr.


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