- The creator of the popular YouTube Channel, “Fantastic Adventures” has been arrested for seven counts of child abuse, among other charges.
- Machelle Hackney is being accused of pepper spraying, beating, and locking her seven adopted children in a closet when she was unhappy with their performances for videos on the channel.
- YouTube has now demonetized the channel, which has 800,000 subscribers.
Machelle Hackney is Arrested
A mother in Arizona was arrested on charges of child abuse after allegedly abusing her seven adopted children when they did not perform as directed for videos on her YouTube channel.
Machelle Hackney was arrested on Friday in her residence in Maricopa, Arizona. She runs a YouTube channel called “Fantastic Adventures” which has garnered close to 800,000 subscribers and has over 240 million channel views.
According to the court records obtained by local news sources in Arizona, Hackney would physically abuse her children when they messed up lines or didn’t take her direction when making videos for the channel. These videos were generally sketches featuring the seven children, where they acted out fantasy-themed adventures.
She is being accused of locking her children in a closet, starving them, forcing them to take ice baths, pepper spraying their whole bodies, including their faces and genitalia, and beating them with belts, brushes, and hangers. On at least one occasion, one of her sons bled when the tip of his penis was pinched.
Hackney says she has punished her children in the past but denies these allegations. Instead, she claims she would have them stand in a corner, spank them, or ground them.
Her biological adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, who appear on the channel, have also been arrested on charges of not reporting child abuse.
Police Discover Children During Wellness Check
Hackney’s 19-year-old biological daughter contacted authorities last week after one of her adopted siblings told her what was going on. This prompted the police to conduct a wellness check, where they found the seven children to appearing pale and malnourished, one of whom was in a closet wearing only a pull-up diaper.
The children told officers they were hungry and thirsty. One child drank three 16 ounce water bottles in less than 20 minutes. However, another child was afraid to eat because they feared their mother would smell the food on their breath.
The police also obtained a search warrant and found bottles of pepper spray in Hackney’s room, which was located next to the closet the children were often locked in.
While being interviewed by police, some of the children told officers that they had been subject to numerous forms of abuse.
One of the kids told police, “I either get beat with a hanger or belt, or a brush, or get pepper sprayed from head to toe.”
The children who spoke also said their mother had pulled them out of school so they could focus on making YouTube videos. However, some of the kids could not even go through with the interviews, as they were shaking and afraid.
Only one of Hackney’s sons, Logan, spoke to officer’s confirming that he knew of some of the abuse going on. He said he and his brother Ryan had considered telling the police, but never acted on it. They would also try to sneak food to their siblings when they could.
The Department of Child Safety has taken the seven children out of Hackney’s custody.
YouTube has demonetized the videos on the “Fantastic Adventures” channel, but it still remains up.
YouTube gave a statement to the Washington Post saying they take safety on YouTube seriously, adding:
“We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we’re made aware of serious allegations of this nature we take action, which may include suspending monetization, or, upon conclusion of an investigation, terminating channels.”
This is the same statement YouTube used following the arrest of Ian Rylett earlier this month. Rylett, the owner of the SevenAwesomeKids network, pled guilty to child abuse.
See What Others Are Saying: (The Washington Post) (FOX 10) (AZ Central)
Elijah Daniel Buys Michigan Town and Renames It “Gay Hell”
- Social media star Elijah Daniel has purchased the small town of Hell, Michigan and renamed it “Gay Hell,” where only pride flags can be flown.
- Daniel says the move was made in response to the Trump administration recently rejecting requests to fly pride flags on flagpoles at U.S. embassies during Pride Month.
- He hopes that presenting issues in fun or humorous ways will encourage his young audience to become involved in politics.
Social media influencer Elijah Daniel is making headlines again for another creative stunt he pulled to bring attention to LGBTQ issues.
On Monday, the 25-year-old comedian and internet personality announced that he had purchased a small town in Michigan named Hell and has renamed it “Gay Hell.”
In a tweet revealing the move, Daniel explained that he purchased the town in response to the Trump administration recently rejecting requests from U.S. embassies to fly the pride flag on flagpoles during Pride Month.
“Ahead of pride month Trump’s administration put a ban on embassy’s flying pride flags,” he wrote. “So as of today, I am now the owner of Hell, Michigan.”
“The only flags allowed to fly are pride,” Daniel added.
Daniel also included photos from his newly renamed town. “Gay Hell, Mi has everything. A library, a place to lock your love in Gay Hell, and even a WEDDING CHAPEL TO GET GAY MARRIED IN HELL!”
As far as why he purchased Hell, Daniel told NBC News, “I have a young audience who is 16 to 24 who would not be involved in politics if it wasn’t in a funny or meme way.”
“I’m just trying to have fun and get my audience politically active.”
Daniel did not reveal how much it cost him to purchased Gay Hell, but he did confirm that he will only be the temporary owner of the town. According to the Detroit Free Press, the five-acre town is a commercial property that was on the market in 2016 for about $900,000.
His move was praised by many on social media. Massive beauty YouTuber Jeffree Star tweeted that he was also interested in purchasing land in Gay Hell.
Musician Awsten Knight, a member of the band Waterparks, and YouTuber Jessie Paege tweeted about wanting to go to the town.
suddenly i’m moving— Jessie Paege (@jessiepaege) June 18, 2019
U.S. Flag Policy
Outrage over the flag policy sparked earlier this month after NBC News reported that U.S. embassies in at least four countries were denied the ability to fly the pride flag during Pride Month. Those four countries were Israel, Germany, Brazil, and Latvia.
The report noted that during the Obama administration, the government had granted blanket permission to embassies overseas to fly the pride flag during June. But State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a press conference last week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “has the position that, as it relates to the flagpole, that only the American flag should be flown there.”
Vice President Mike Pence also defended the move, telling NBC News that “it’s the right decision.”
“When it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies,” Pence said.
Pence also said that the administration had “put no restrictions” on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies.
This is far from Daniel’s first eye-catching act linked to LGBT issues and politics. In August of 2017, the social media star made headlines when he served as the mayor of Hell for one day and banned straight people. He was impeached shortly after.
At that time he said the move was in response to Trump’s travel ban. “My ban is a copy-and-paste of Trump’s Muslim ban, but with heterosexuals instead,” he told HuffPost at the time.
That same year he released “The Holy Bible But Gayer,” in which God is Rihanna, Donald Trump is Satan, Eve is renamed Steve, and Jesus turns water into mimosas.
Are Instagram Influencers Flocking to Chernobyl? Not Exactly
- On Sunday, a tweet called out “Instagram Influencers” for using Chernobyl as a backdrop for their social media posts.
- The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was home to one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters in 1986.
- After a closer look, it seems that the visitors in the viral post are not all “Instagram influencers” as the tweet suggest, but instead regular tourists.
- Since the airing of the HBO series Chernobyl, the site has a 30 to 40 percent increase in visitors.
The Viral Tweet
A tweet posted Sunday that criticizes Instagram influencers for treating Chernobyl like a new photo hot spot went viral, but that’s not exactly the case.
The tweet shows four pictures of different “influencers” using the toxic nuclear power plant as the backdrop for their photos.
However, after further investigation, it seems that only the first photo of a woman in protective gear was shared by a user with a significant following. That user is Julia Baessler, who has over 300,000 followers.
The other three photos were taken from Instagram accounts with much lower follower counts, ranging from 200 to 1,500.
On top of that, as many social media users have pointed out, in her caption, Baessler, talks about the terrible tragedy that took place at Chernobyl. “Yesterday I had the chance to visit one of the most fascinating but also most terrible places on earth- control room number 4 ChNPP,” her caption read.
“The actions taken in this room 33 years ago led to the worlds worst nuclear disaster. Standing there is just indescribable, it’s shocking and something I will never forget :pray:”
Baessler further explained her trip in an interview with Business Insider.
“Because of the engineering work of my boyfriend we were able to get a special admission to go inside control room 4 which is actually not accessible for visitors,” Baessler told BI. “I left those stories online because they are full of informations [sic] and I really want to spread them but I don’t want to be seen as an influencer going to Chernobyl because it’s trendy now. that’s not true,”
Another photo from the tweet showcased a man holding a Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting radiation. The Instagram user who posted the photo actually wasn’t the photographer or the person in the image. He only reposted it. Patrick Smith, an airline pilot, took the photo back in October of 2006.
The woman who posed next to the burnt bus, Irene Vivch, said she posted the photo because she is from Ukraine and stated so in her caption. She called the site, “an eternal monument to the horrid cruelty of the Soviet regime.”
Vivch told the Atlantic, “Chernobyl made a massive impression on me … So I made a big Instagram post about it describing my feelings.”
Trips to Chernobyl
In May, HBO aired a new series, Chernobyl, that focused on the 1986 nuclear reactor malfunction at the power plant that caused radioactive particles to cover the surrounding area. At least 30 plant operators and first responders died in the weeks following the accident. To this day, there is still debate on the total possible deaths from cancer caused by the radioactivity, with estimations between 9,000 and 115,000.
According to reports, since the release of the show, trips to the site have jumped dramatically. One tour guide has said in the month of May alone, trips increased 30 percent. The guide also added that trips for the rest of the summer were up 40 percent.
“Many people come here, they ask a lot of questions about the TV show, about all the events. People are getting more and more curious,” Viktoria Brozhko, a tour guide, told Reuters.
Craig Mazin, the writer and executive producer of the HBO series, responded on Tuesday to the impact his show has had. In his post, he reminded people visiting the area to have respect for those who suffered from the tragedy that occurred there.
Chernobyl is not the first site of a tragedy to be used as an Instagram background. In 2014, a girl took a smiling selfie at the concentration camp, Auschwitz and she received massive backlash. The concentration camp museum even tweeted this past March asking people to people respect the site.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Atlantic) (Reuters)
Drug Charges Against Russian Reporter Dropped After Protests
- Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was released Tuesday after Russian officials dropped drug charges that had been brought against him last week.
- Golunov said that he had been framed because of his reporting on government corruption.
- Russian journalists responded by launching a multi-day protest, and prominent Russian newspapers called for his release in a move experts have said was unprecedented.
Russian government authorities dropped drug trafficking charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov Tuesday, following significant backlash and protests from Russian journalists and media over his arrest.
Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement that the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” Kolokoltsev said in the statement.
Golunov was arrested and detained by police on Thursday, and after an invasive search, the officers claimed to have found drugs in his backpack. The police also said they found more drugs and other paraphernalia when they searched his apartment.
He was later charged with drug trafficking and taken to prison, though he denied the charges and said he was framed because of his reporting on high-level Russian corruption.
Suspicion Around Arrest
Others were quick to echo Golunov’s accusation against the police.
Golunov, who is well-known in Russia for his investigative work, had been writing for an online publication called Meduza, which is Russian-owned but is operated in Latvia to avoid persecution.
Following Golunov’s arrest, Meduza published a statement online defending him and arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated. “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent,” the statement said. “Moreover, we have reason to believe that Goll-Loo-Noff is being persecuted because of his journalistic activities.”
Meduza also outlined suspicious activities surrounding Golunov’s arrest. According to the statement, Golunov’s lawyers requested that the police test his hands and nails to see if he had touched narcotics. The police refused.
Meduza also said that Golunov had been beaten by police when he was detained, but when he and his lawyer requested he go to a hospital he was again denied. Meduza additionally noted that Golunov had received threats over his work in recent months
Following the arrest, the police launched their own publicity campaign, publishing nine “incriminating” pictures of drugs and a pharmaceutical scale that they claimed they took at Golunov’s apartment.
However, several journalists quickly established that the pictures were not actually taken in his apartment. Shortly after, the police backtracked and admitted that most of the pictures were in fact taken elsewhere.
After the police fumble, even the Russian government acknowledged that there was conflicting information in the case.
“We have paid attention to the corrections that were later published, and we also proceed from the fact that there are several issues that are in need of a clarification,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
On Friday, Russian journalists launched a protest in front of the police headquarters in Moscow.
Under Russian law, protestors are required to get permits two weeks before planned demonstrations, but the protestors came up with a clever solution. Instead of all protesting together, activists took turns standing one at a time and holding a sign for 15 minutes or so and then passing the post off to the next person.
People lined up down the block to take turns to be the one-person protest. Reportedly, the line was so long that people waited for hours.
Unsurprisingly, police special forces moved quickly to detain about a dozen protestors, including some prominent Russian journalists who were held in custody for a little while before being released.
However, the line kept getting longer and longer, and those protests continued all weekend, even moving to the court where Golunov was set to appear for a hearing.
At the same time, a number of Russian celebrities and artists took to social media to call for Golunov’s release, and argued that his arrest was a violation of freedom of speech and an important test case for rule of law.
Russian Newspapers Express Support
The most surprising move came on Monday, when three leading Russian business newspapers published the same exact front pages with the headline: “I/We are Ivan Golunov.”
While all three of those newspapers are private rather than state-owned, all of them are usually very loyal to the Russian government.
After that, even a few very prominent pro-government broadcasters express skepticism about the case. Additionally, a petition calling for Golunov’s release reportedly received 7,500 signatures from other journalists, including those who worked for state-owned outlets.
As a result, experts have described the act as an unprecedented expression of solidarity with another journalist, as well as an unprecedented defiance of the Kremlin.
While Golunov’s release is an exciting and watershed moment for journalists in Russia, many wonder if it is just a one-off occurrence. Russia has long been criticized for its treatment of independent journalists, and just recently, have significantly ramped up their censorship efforts in the past few months.
In March, Vladimir Putin signed two new laws that would punish anyone who spread “fake news” or insulted the government with heavy fines and jail time. Under those laws, online media can be reported to the government, which then can block access to websites if the content that violates the law.
Golunov’s arrest was also not an isolated incident. On Friday, Meduza published an article listing 8 other journalists and activists who have gotten prison time for “drug charges” over the last few years.