Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: Mainstream Gore

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."
Ironically, when gore and shock forums come under scrutiny, as happened with the Canadian Luka Magnotta murder case, forum members defend themselves based on their virtual position. It is an entirely different matter to view snuff films than it is to participate in them. And technically, viewing this material is not illegal. But what happens when criminals feed off of, or perform for, an audience of virtual voyeurs?

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.
"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.'"
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

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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  1. Too dark for me. I'll stick with the made up gore and mayhem caused by Jason and Michael.

    1. I hear you, Joe. It's too dark for me too! But I found it amazing that stuff this horrifying is so readily accessible, and that it is desensitizing those exposed to it. The Internet really is like the wild west. It can be dangerous, and much more 'real' than it initially appears. That was my main point - not just the shocking subject matter, but the fact that we have to diminish our sense of dislocation from what we see in the virtual world.

      There was always a sense that scary stories had some connection to reality. But the monster and reality have never been so close to one another. In the past (and still today), believers might go to a church and be frightened by talk of hell. And from the 18th -20th centuries, people might get a thrilling scare from a gothic novel, painting or movie. BUT hell was supposed to be another realm. You can put a Stephen King novel down. It's not real.

      The Internet is different: you can get way too close to true horror. Because it's virtual, Web content looks like the old scary stories. But it is transmitting the *real* thing that looks like the *fabled* thing. This creates a false sense of security. People think they can engage with this stuff and not be transformed by it. And they are misled by the false safety that they can turn the computer off.

      Those were some of the things I wanted to touch on in this post - in short - that we are responsible for the information we see. And whereas once things were hushed up, censored and hidden, now you can see almost anything. But people don't understand they are responsible for the knowledge they acquire, no matter how far 'out there' it is.

    2. I totally agree with you. And it does make it a scary place. Have to sort of be careful where you step on the internet, because you just never know what's lurking behind that link. Some must get a huge thrill out of it, but me, it makes me wary.

    3. It's a big, big world out there. I can't tell if people throw everything out there because they just don't care or they pretend to themselves that nothing bad can happen. There's never been something like the Web in history - ever - so I can see how there would be a good thirty years where most of the planet is obsessed with it, but are pretty much exploring without a roadmap, no headlights and no brakes.