IS FLORIDA ACTUALLY WEIRD?

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IS FLORIDA ACTUALLY WEIRD?

Mr. Don Stark poses for his mock mug shot imitating the classic Florida man.

Mr. Don Stark poses for his mock mug shot imitating the classic Florida man.

Micaela Zelk

Mr. Don Stark poses for his mock mug shot imitating the classic Florida man.

Micaela Zelk

Micaela Zelk

Mr. Don Stark poses for his mock mug shot imitating the classic Florida man.

Micaela Zelk, Co-Content Manager

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On August 16, 2016, Austin Harouff was found grunting and growling over the body of John Stevens, ripping chunks of flesh off of Stevens’ face with his bare teeth. The story has gotten national attention for its outlandishly macabre nature, but for many, the initial astonishment faded once Harouff’s home state was revealed: Florida.

The Sunshine State has a certain reputation, especially on the internet, of being an idiosyncratic and bizarre place. The meme usually entails linking an article, principally those with “Florida Man” in the headline, detailing a peculiar and anomalous crime or event. For example, the headline topping Esquire’s Best Florida Man Headlines of 2015 is “Florida Man Covers Himself in Ashes, Says He’s a 400-Year-Old Indian, Crashes Stolen Car”. There is even a Twitter account with 363,000 followers with the motive of spreading the “real-life stories of the world’s worst superhero.”

There are many theories as to why this phenomenon exists. When fellow Noles were asked what makes Florida so crazy, the speculations were very similar to those which are the most popular.

Senior Sophia Urena said, “I think Florida has so many weird incidents because of the unique and diverse group of people in our society, We have people moving to Florida from all over, including foreign countries, making Florida more susceptible than say, Nebraska.”

A common theory on the internet is that the combination of ranking as the fourth most populated state at 19,552,860, along with being a hodge-podge of “old people, immigrants, the very religious, carpetbaggers and nouveau riche from the rest of the country, rednecks, and tourists,” as stated by Allison Ford with More.com, to be the reason for the high density of strange occurrences. With such a large population and diverse cast, unprecedented crimes are bound to happen more frequently.

Senior Ruth Nguyen hypothesized, “The strangeness of Florida news is probably because of the party culture of Miami and southern Florida. When people are under the influence, they are more likely to do crazy things.”

This theory also ties in with the diverse population, as a major chunk of people currently in Florida at any time are not actually Floridians, as tourism is the state’s top industry. In 2015 alone, 105 million people visited Florida. Many of these tourists are looking for experiences that they would not share with their mother, such as doing drugs and going to parties. Of course, when under the influence of any drug, decision-making skills are hindered, thus generating these unique headlines.

Heather Smart, the resident officer for Seminole High School, speculates, “Florida is just perceived to be crazy. . . [As an officer,] I hear about the stories that make national news just like any other person.”

When asked whether she had any weird experiences as an officer, Smart could not recall any. Smart’s dilemma is the likely answer as to why Florida is “crazy.”

Thanks to a law established 1909, Florida has a public government, so any email, photo, or video produced by any public office is easily accessible to anyone. Public officials are also required to open all their meetings— even unofficial ones— to the public.”  Because of this, any police report is automatically made public, whereas for other states, reports have to be processed for days to weeks or are never made public for the offender’s privacy.  

Within the 24-hour news cycle, journalists are looking for controversial stories that require little effort, a bill Florida arrests can fulfill. Now, after countless articles featuring a “Florida Man” committing a sordid crime never before seen, Florida not so proudly possesses this reputation. Florida is not any more eccentric than any other state; we are simply exposed to Florida’s eccentric more often.

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