In her book Well, that Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist, author, comedian, and YouTube boss Franchesca Ramsey shuts down anyone who tries to justify their terrible behavior by shrugging it off as just a joke. “It’s just not funny to disrespect other people’s beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, or identities when those are deeply rooted in longstanding oppression,” she writes. “Jokes that punch down on marginalized people require no creativity because they’ve existed since the beginning of time.”
Scraping the filling out of some Oreos, replacing it with toothpaste, and then giving the cookies to a homeless man just to watch his horrified reaction when he realizes what he’s bitten into is 100 percent punching down. It’s an awful thing to do even if you don’t film it and upload the video to your own YouTube channel so your equally awful subscribers can watch a stranger’s misfortune.
That’s exactly what a then-19-year-old YouTuber named ReSet did in early 2017, and last week, he appeared in a Spanish court after being charged with a crime against moral integrity. Judge Rosa Aragonés sentenced ReSet—whose real name is Kanghua Ren—to 15 months in prison, ordered him to pay €20,000 ($22,400) in damages to his victim and ordered him to shutter his YouTube channel and other social media accounts for the next five years. (As the New York Times reports, the sentence is deferred, and as a first-time offender, Ren probably won’t spend a day in jail.)
Again, ReSet chose to do this after being challenged by one of his followers to prank someone with toothpaste-filled Oreos. He found his victim, a man identified only as Gheorghe L., begging outside a Lidl supermarket in Barcelona, and gave him the tainted cookies and a €20 note. “Maybe I’ve gone a bit far,” ReSet said in the now-deleted video. “But look at the positive side: this will help him clean his teeth. I think he hasn’t cleaned them since he became poor.”
In an interview with El Pais, Gheorghe L. admitted that he vomited within five minutes of eating two of the Oreos. (The Romanian-born Gheorghe also said that it was the worst treatment he’d ever received during his time living on the streets.) After receiving criticism for that video, ReSet went back to the Lidl and found Gheorghe again, giving him another €20—and he also offered €300 to the man’s daughter, in an attempt to convince the family not to take legal action.
“People exaggerate over jokes in the street on a beggar, when surely if it’s done to a normal person they wouldn’t say anything,” ReSet said in a follow-up video, because he’s the worst.
On Friday, Judge Aragonés ruled that the original Oreo video was “a clear and unambiguous act of humiliating content” which caused “physical suffering” to the victim. After learning that ReSet earned €2,000 in advertising revenue from the video, she ordered him to pay ten times that amount in compensation to Gheorghe. “[ReSet] humiliated and vexed a vulnerable person, homeless, of a much older age, who does not speak the official languages and has deteriorated due to street life and alcoholism," she said.
ReSet has yet to comply with the ruling; as of this writing, his YouTube channel is still active. He posted a new video on Sunday (which we will not link to) and essentially called the entire situation fake news. “Do not believe everything the newspapers say. They are not completely false, but they make up the words to make people look bad (in this case, me),” he wrote in the video’s description, adding “What did I do to earn your hatred?”
Is that rhetorical? Or does he need to hear “feeding toothpaste to a homeless man” one more time?
This article originally appeared on VICE US.