I’m calling it here, right now. With all we’ve seen in the silly realm of moral panics on anything adults find new, be it tabletop role-playing games, video games, and, you know, chess, the horrifying story that is coming out of Wisconsin is going to end up in some media outlet somewhere decrying ghost stories on the internet and blaming them for this tragedy.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, nearly stabbed their friend to death and left her in the woods, claiming that they wanted to become proxies for the Slender Man. If you aren’t familiar with the story behind the Slender Man, “he” is the creation of Eric Knudsen, who edited some photographs as part of a submission to the Something Awful forums. In other words, he just made the whole thing up, which was the entire point. The whole point of the forum was to do photo-editing to create the appearance of something supernatural, and Knudson added to his edits some text that created a minor back story to the Slender Man. From there, the whole thing went viral and the legend has metastasized, in a manner of speaking. That brings us back to Waukesha and the original article about the attempted murder.
Prosecutors say two 12-year-old southeastern Wisconsin girls stabbed their 12-year-old friend nearly to death in the woods to please a mythological creature they learned about online. One of the girls told a detective they were trying to become “proxies” of Slender Man, a mythological demon-like character they learned about on creepypasta.wikia.com, a website about horror stories and legends. They planned to run away to the demon’s forest mansion after the slaying, the complaint said.
You can already feel it, can’t you? That incredible dismay in your being because you know that somehow this whole story is going to get spun into something on the internet causing two, otherwise-sweet twelve-year-olds to become knife-wielding maniacs? Yeah, that’s probably going to happen. Here’s the thing: it had better happen, because if the same media that is going to blurt out “Video games!” or “Violent movies!” any time we’re faced with a tragedy, doesn’t simply blame the medium rather than the perpetrators then they just aren’t being consistent.
Me? Well, I’d rather build a reputation on being able to look at a couple of clearly disturbed young girls and calling them what they are rather than consistently looking for an out in the form of a media scapegoat, but then again I’m not the cable news networks. When little girls are talking about seeing myths in their dreams, being told by myths to do things, or myths threatening their families, the problem isn’t with the myth or the medium on which the myth was delivered.
by Timothy Geigner, techdirt