Turning Himself In To The Internet

by Katie Zavadski

Matthew Cordle hit and killed Vincent Canzani while driving drunk. Joel Oliphint has the inside story of his viral video confession, which got him a sentence of six-and-a-half years:

The video’s shock factor (“I killed a man”), professional production (good lighting and editing, emotional music), and storytelling (building drama by obfuscating then revealing Cordle’s identity) all contributed to its appeal. But another aspect is Cordle’s averageness. He doesn’t come across like an actor. He’s focused, though not particularly poised. He seems like a regular, middle-class kid with whom millions of YouTube viewers could identify. Before the crash, Cordle’s sister Grace says she thought of him as “just a normal teenage kid. The problem is, he’s not a teenager anymore.” Chances are you know more than a few people like that — the man-child who never quite left his teenage years behind, going from job to job and partying hard on the weekends. The driven types could relate to him too; self-medicating a quarter-life crisis with massive amounts of alcohol is what a lot of middle-class kids call “college.” …

It’s true the video was not solely for the message and Canzani. It was for Cordle’s benefit, too, at least mentally and emotionally. The video didn’t alleviate the guilt of taking another man’s life, but admitting his guilt in a public way enabled Cordle to grapple with and accept it. This was something active when everything since the crash had been suffocatingly passive.