Why did so many journalists take this book seriously, just because it wad found at a crime scene?
Rebecca Chandler and Raven Larrabee — the duo behind a Milwaukee sexual/cutting incident gone wrong — may be out on bail, but the hysteria over their supposedly occult-fueled tryst still hasn’t died down.
It was only a matter of time before the authors of the books found at the crime scene got wind of the story reporters were spinning. Somehow, the presence of such humor texts as The Werewolf’s Guide to Life, or the high-level occult tome The Necromantic Ritual Book, turned an off-the-beaten-path sexual encounter (one the participants admitted got out of hand) into something “Satanic” (or even Twilight-inspired). If police had found a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, would they have blamed the bouillabaisse?
Leilah Wendell, author of The Necromantic Ritual Book, was livid about the association of her book with the crime. In a Facebook post, she said:
People seriously need to READ THE BOOKS they are accusing BEFORE looking like ignorant idiots. Two mentally disturbed children and another equally disturbed and obviously lonely individual does NOT a satanic orgy make. Get your facts straight and for the love of whatever you believe in, STOP going for shock value and appeasing the media frenzy and get these people the help they need … NOW!
Ritch Duncan, one of the co-authors of The Werewolf’s Guide to Life, was frightened and baffled by the media frenzy, as he wrote in Salon. “I called my coauthor Bob, and after rereading the article and several others, I was relieved to discover that the victim of the encounter was not dead, would apparently make a full recovery, and did not appear to be pressing charges. … Bob reminded me that our book is shelved in the humor section, and there is nothing in it that encourages violence. Even if one were deluded enough to believe it was true, it’s still 200 pages of instruction on how NOT to hurt yourself or others.”
Now, I’m a reporter by trade, and when I first read the articles mentioning this book, my initial instinct was to look it up on Amazon to see what kind of book it was. This takes roughly 10 seconds. I find it difficult believe that this action didn’t occur to others reporting on the story — and yet somehow, that’s exactly what happened. Lots of journalists took it on faith that the book was meant to be taken seriously, and that it might have had something to do with the attack. Duncan writes:
Even worse than being misrepresented in the media was how lazy it all seemed to be. If the reporters charged with covering this story actually spent five seconds looking up what the book was about (they certainly had the time to do a Google search and steal an image of the cover), they could have mentioned it was filed under the “humor/parody” section. … But as I read more of these stories, I came to the depressing conclusion that it wasn’t laziness to blame, it was tailoring. In story after story, the facts of the case actually seemed less important than the details that appealed to a particular website’s niche. Those that worked were pushed forward, and those that weren’t got held back.
Granted, Web sites and blogs aren’t the same thing as newspaper articles. Still, bloggers are beholden to defamation laws and should behave accordingly. And readers should be very, very careful not to take what they read — in newspapers or online — at simple face value. Look at a writer’s sources. Who are they quoting? What are the facts, and where did that information come from? Think it through. Try to see the real human beings behind the headlines. And don’t support sites that care more about their hit counts than they do about the people they’re exploiting to get those hit counts.