Over the course of America's ever-growing addiction to Serial, Sarah Koenig's radio show investigating the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Sayed, we've heard from a number of varyingly controversial witnesses. The mysterious Asia, the "smoking gun" Nisha, the show's catalyst Rabia Chaudry, various friends and neighbors, and of course, Jay. But, so far, we've heard very little on Hae's behalf, until now.
On November 18, in a post on the Serial subreddit, a user claiming to be Hae's little brother spoke out about the increasingly popular show and his reaction to it as someone so close to the case. Let's be clear: This person's identity cannot be verified beyond any shadow of a doubt. We spoke to a moderator of the subreddit, Jake, who viewed now-deleted screenshots from the original post of messages the user had received from Serial producers Koenig and Dana Civvis. He explained: "I personally have confidence in his validity, however I wouldn’t say so to the extent that ought be necessary for journalists."
"As title states, I am Hae's little brother. Do not ask me anything. I probably will read comments/questions but will not reply or answer any questions.
"To prove that I am her brother I was thinking putting up Hae's baby pictures but I don't want it to be used by the media. So I give you an info that wasn't in the podcast. Hae's cousin was in kindergarten at Campfield Early Learning Center. Our cousin is now college student about to graduate. That's how long it has been.
"If you google map it, you kinda get the idea what Hae had to drive everyday right after school. I believe Campfield let out at 3pm. So she didn't have alot of time to mess around. Since our grandparents were expecting our cousin few mins after school. It was Hae's first time failing to pick her cousin up from school...
"Don't care if you believe me or not. I am just big fan/user of Reddit. When I found out there was subreddit for this, I had to do AMA for Reddit community. But sorry I won't be answering any questions because... TO ME ITS REAL LIFE. To you listeners, its another murder mystery, crime drama, another episode of CSI. You weren't there to see your mom crying every night, having a heart attack when she got the new that the body was found, and going to court almost everyday for a year seeing your mom weeping,crying and fainting. You don't know what we went through. Especially to those who are demanding our family response and having a meetup... you guys are disgusting. Shame on you. I pray that you don't have to go through what we went through and have your story blasted to 5mil listeners.
"Can't believe how popular this podcast got. I didn't know until I got a call from my cousin (Same cousin Hae picked up from school) to tell me that there was a podcast about my sister. I have been listening since ep1 and kept it secret from the family. I googled it and found this subreddit, and a today news(?). Although I do not like the fact that SK pick our story to cover, she is an awesome narrator/ writer/ investigator. No wonder why this podcast is so popular. I have not contacted SK, and probably will not. Being a media person that she is, she wants some big ending. you can tell my her reaction to innocent project taking her case and private investigator. Either she is bias or want some kinda big ending to this podcast. This is my opinion on her bias. NOTHING ELSE (you know what I am taking about...)
"Like I stated before, no one knows about this podcast other than myself and my cousin. My mom doesn't know. Depending on how this show ends, I will tell her and maybe a REDDIT interview. I think mail chimp got too much publicity out of this. Maybe if this post goes on front page!?!?!? (sorry Reddit joke...)."
The post goes on with a few short updates and notes about identity verification. In short: Hae's brother is both shocked and appalled by the popularity of the podcast, which his parents apparently don't know anything about. And, he's not thrilled with the way people are viewing it as entertainment. But, he's not blaming Sarah Koenig for that, either.
If indeed this is Hae's brother (we've reached out to the user, but haven't been able to get in touch with him yet), this is a piece of the puzzle that Sarah Koenig hasn't been able to get her hands on yet. Not evidence, not something that will prove Adnan guilty or innocent — he deliberately stays away from that — but certainly a crucial perspective if we're to truly understand the extent of this crime and how it affected this community. /u/brotherofhae has made no further posts of any kind on Reddit since the original posting, and while clearly a regular redditor, he or she presumably operates under a different account most of the time.
More than anything, though, this adds further weight to the nagging question: Is there something morally unsettling with this podcast, and the fanatic obsession that follows it? When I've explored this question in the past, I've always felt that keeping Hae's family in mind should be a sort of moral compass for how we should talk about the show. Imagining their reactions to hearing us squeal over new evidence in our amateur discussions is a sobering thought. Now, we don't have to imagine — we have, it seems, a statement from an actual family member clearly stating how painful it is to listen to this and to see people go wild for the "story" and, let's be honest, practically swoon over Adnan.
"You guys are disgusting. Shame on you. I pray that you don't have to go through what we went through and have your story blasted to 5mil listeners." It doesn't get much clearer than that.
Our own Kelsey Miller also interviewed Rabia Chaudry, the fervent Adnan supporter who initially got Koenig on the case, and Chaudry — despite being in a distinctly different position from Hae's family — had a similar response. "I've been asked by friends to come and be part of their listening parties," she said, "and I’m like, 'This is not a party for me.' If you want to have a discussion, I’m willing to do that. But, this is too personal for me, and it’s really painful."