Image Source: The Verge.
Before the Internet took off, snuff content was the ultimate taboo in entertainment. In 1999, the Nick Cage film, 8mm (see the trailer here), treated snuff as the most frightening subculture - the darkest underground beneath many undergrounds. Then the Web made it possible for almost anyone to visit these sub-basements, anytime, anywhere. What happens when that material goes mainstream, becomes part of a lifestyle, and hovers between the disconnected safety of the virtual, and a terrifying reality? There's a line in the movie, 8mm. Joaquin Phoenix's character says: "You dance with the Devil, the Devil don't change. The Devil changes you."
Rotten.com homepage screenshot. Image Source: Rotten.com via Wiki.
There is a lot of talk these days about freedom of information. Is it a limitless virtue? Is it dangerous? There is less talk about the responsibility we bear to one another as we are increasingly burdened with knowledge of everything and anything. In a way, the Internet provides an answer to its own problem: where information pools, new communities gather. Members of these groups develop their own way of doing things; they cultivate their own kind of camaraderie; they set the boundaries and rules for their members to follow; leaders and moderators set the tone.
But what happens when a subculture, nursing its own private logic, crosses a line that nearly everyone agrees should not be crossed? Gore and shock communities are an example. Rotten.com, founded in 1996, is one of the oldest shock sites on the Web. Anyone who has clicked through a few of Rotten's pages will understand that its images are worlds away from the glitzed-up, CGI-laden, candied violence shown every day in the popular media. From murder scenes, to war images, to autopsies, beheadings and suicides, this site and its successors are no joke. They offer the real thing. Even more oddly, they are sort of cosy about it. They nurture groups of people with like interests, who defy any stereotype in their search for the 'real truth' about the world:
many gore site users keep their hobby on the downlow: they have professional jobs, families, social skills. GoreGrish.com's Niki has a job in the medical field in the UK (she declined to be more specific) and originally sought out gore sites so she would "not be shocked" by anything she was likely to see at work.
SAF ... a soft-spoken 30-year old from Massachusetts, downloaded [Luka Magnotta's snuff film] 1 Lunatic 1 Icepick while setting the table for dinner for his wife and two young children. He's a volunteer moderator at GoreGrish.com, monitoring site activity and staying in touch over IRC during the day at his job as a building materials salesman. Although his wife knows about and accepts his hobby, his coworkers have no idea what he's up to.
"The people I work with are old blood. They have ties to the Pilgrims," says SAF. "They're conservative."
Ultimately, what they all seem to share is a compulsive curiosity about human nature and frailty, and a firm belief that the mainstream media does a disservice by censoring "what's really going on."
"We live in the developed world, and we don't have exposure to how people actually treat each other," says Kingfate ... a 20-year-old Midwestern GoreGrish.com member. "[Gore sites] keep us rooted in reality."
Magnotta posted his 2012 Montreal murder of victim Lin Jun on two online forums. Those who saw his film balanced in a grey area. Most grasped that they had just watched a real, brand new, snuff film. But they remained blasé. Magnotta's film included murder, necrophilia and cannibalism, but according to a report from The Verge, the forum members who saw the film were mostly concerned about Magnotta's choice of background soundtrack - New Order's True Faith:
The video of Magnotta apparently killing what authorities now believe was Chinese student Jun Lin to the soundtrack of New Order's "True Faith," was available online roughly 5 days before authorities became aware of him. Entitled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick, It was emailed by an unidentified person to TheYNC.com and BestGore.com, and reblogged by GoreGrish.com. Most viewers of the video, judging from their comments, were somewhat shocked, but mostly detached.
"There are speculations that 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick may be an actual snuff film – produced by some crazy psycho who was paid to murder a person and film it on camera,” BestGore.com website operator, Mark Marek, wrote in an intro to the video. "Though as with everything that starts going viral on the internet, the chances of the reality being blown out of proportions [sic] are quite substantial." ...Over on TheYNC.com, most members seemed to believe the video depicted a real murder, but few could agree on whether New Order had been a good band or not. Many wished there had been more "gurgling" or otherwise eerie sound effects. The fact that most of the video's action takes place with an already dead corpse was a big point of contention.
And then somebody from BestGore.com thought to call the authorities, and suddenly the Luka Magnotta video stopped being an abstraction.
So - the people who seek gore online to find unvarnished, genuine, horror complained when it wasn't more like a movie? Magnotta is a criminal to serve this kind of public. He is a media hound. His own Website declares: Dreams Turn Into Reality For Those Who Aggressively Pursue Them."I think the biggest shock was that we had witnessed it before the media got ahold of it," said Niki of GoreGrish.com. "And, it was like: 'Ah shit! This is big.'"
Before the murder, the gore forums jeered at Magnotta when he posted his first films killing kittens. So he upped the ante to prove to the community that he was the real thing. 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick was nearly an interactive murder between him, the gore forums, and then the wider public. He set up the whole murder as a psychotic Millennial media event; he mailed body parts to the leaders of the top Canadian political parties, and checked the media coverage of his crime as he fled to Europe.
The people on the shock and gore online communities weren't ready for Magnotta. But he was ready for them.
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