Tag Archives: stabbing

The Slender Man, Fakelore, and Moral Panic

I recently wrote a guest post for the Wild Hunt, looking at the reporting on a horrific teen crime in Wisconsin and its supposed connections to a fictional Internet figure known as Slender Man. Click in through to see the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

Such approaches to the attack suggest that the Internet in general, and the Slender Man story in particular, are to blame. Put another way, they imply that without Creepypasta’s wiki, the girls never would have stabbed their classmate. Even the mainstream press has done everything it can to connect the Milwaukee stabbing with the Slender Man story in readers’ minds: most are referring to it as the “Slenderman stabbing” now. In other places, headlines have made clear what they want readers to think: “Fantasy ‘Slender Man’ Meme Inspires Horrific Wisconsin Stabbing,” “Demonic Creature ‘Slender Man’ Motive For Waukesha Teen Stabbing?” “Could a fictional Internet character drive kids to kill?”

Black-clad Denver stabber is probably not “goth”

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises”: not a goth.

A small article crossed my path this week about a violent break-in in Denver. Police say man forced his way into a woman’s condo, stabbed her, and left. They described him as “dressed in goth attire.”

Hmm. So he looked like this? Probably not. Here’s what they said:

The man, who was white and appeared to be in his 20s, was “dressed in all black,” she said, including a black cap and black eye liner.

So, he was basically dressed like anyone else trying to look like an outlaw? Hm.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone specifically dressing up like a goth to go and commit a crime. My guess is that the perp knew the victim, and that his choice of clothing (or eyeliner, if that’s what it was) had little to do with it.

The police’s choice to use the word “goth” in his description doesn’t help — it seems unlikely that this is someone who “dresses goth” habitually. As regular readers know, goths are generally nonviolent to a fault, often unwilling to defend themselves when directly attacked. All this does is reinforce wrong-headed ideas about goth culture — and not even in the name of tracking down a man who hurt someone.

That may be one reason that parents worry when their kids participate in goth culture. A teen recently wrote to the wonderful Ultimate Goth Guide site, asking for advice because her mom is clamping down on her style:

I’m afraid to talk to [my mom]. She thinks Goths are a bunch of depressed druggies who are crazed over horror, death, blood and guts. She refuses to listen if I start to explain otherwise. Any ideas? I need help!

The girl has already toned down her appearance, but it hasn’t helped. Amy Asphodel, who runs the site, has some excellent advice, including 1) continuing to dress goth but not using the term; 2) making compromises, but saving favorite pieces of goth clothing for when she moves out, and 3) asking her mom which clothes she objects to most, and working around that.

Parents, when your kids try to communicate with you, welcome it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. This is a way to build bridges, to understand each other better, to love more and worry less.

Video games: educational, or crime-sparking? Informed & uninformed voices in the debate

As teachers look for ways to bring video games into the classroom, a law-enforcement leader says they’re making teens get stabby.

Many people look at the hours that kids spend playing video games and worry about them wasting their time. Others, such as seventh-grade teacher Joel Bonasera, look at those hours and see an opportunity to harness kids’ passion and teach them something.

Apparently Bonasera was, at first, surprised to find that a girl in her class liked killing bad guys in Call of Duty as much as the boys do. That made him realize the pervasive lure of gaming in his kids’ lives. Although he recognized he couldn’t bring a first-person shooter into the classroom, he did discover another popular game around which he could create lesson plans: Minecraft.

As the name suggests, Minecraft offers players the opportunity to build things — houses, fortresses, gardens — using 3D cubes. You also dig for minerals. For many players, it’s creative, fun, and a little bit addictive. So, Bonasera sits his students down in front of the game…

And then he builds a lesson around the game.

“While you’re doing it, just write your thoughts down over here about what you’re doing. Okay, next week let’s plan out what you’re going to do and show the mathematical reason behind that. Okay, the week after that, let’s make a full blown blueprint.”

Other teachers are finding ways to tie video games into their lessons — connecting the hero’s journey in World of Warcraft to a reading of Tolkein’s book The Hobbit, for example.

Meanwhile, in Australia, at least one law-enforcement officer believes video games are to blame for an increase in teen knife violence.

New South Wales’ Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said recently that he believes young people are being desensitized by playing video games for hours. He didn’t specify which video games — or whether knife fighting was involved in them.

He said he had reached the conclusion that there was “nothing more potentially damaging than the sort of violence they’re being exposed to, be it in movies, be it in console games they’re playing.”

“You get rewarded for killing people, raping women, stealing money from prostitutes, driving cars crashing and killing people.

“That’s not going to affect the vast majority but it’s only got to affect one or two and what have you got? You’ve got some potentially really disturbed young person out there who’s got access to weapons like knives or is good with the fist, can go out there and almost live that life now in the streets of modern Australia. That’s concerning.”

However, what concerns me is something he says toward the end of the article:

“We grab them off the streets, children 14-13, who are drunk that we come across in the city in the Cross and in Oxford St.

“We ring parents and say ‘little Johnny’s down here, you better come in and get him’. And parents don’t even care. They say ‘he got there and can get his way back’.”

So he really thinks that video-game violence is inspiring these kids more than the treatment they’re receiving from their parents? Now, I’m certain we’re both generalizing: Scipione probably doesn’t receive that response from every parent of a kid who’s drunk and fighting. Nor is every parent who responds that way necessarily nonchalant or uncaring. At some point when kids act out, parents often would rather see them face police consequences, and maybe that’s what these parents are doing. However, this comment suggests frayed relationships between kids and parents, and that’s something much more likely to spark juvenile crime than blowing off some steam in a video game. In fact, kids with access to video games would probably be less likely to stab someone.

It’s true that with video games, they’re not all good or all bad. There can be video games that make sense in the classroom, and other video games probably best suited for late nights with friends. You can’t say that just because they’re good enough for school, there’s no way a video game could inspire a bad idea. Many — probably most — video games teach people valuable skills. And, once in a while, someone plays one and winds up hurting someone in reality, whether that act was influenced by the game or not. Heck, there’s no saying Minecraft, cute as it is, couldn’t feed someone’s fury — if that someone was already in a furious place.

However, it’s worth pointing out the contrast in these perspectives, in part because Bonasera saw a way to harness kids’ love of video game and turn it into something powerful and educational. Scipione, on the other hand, saw a month-long blip in knife crime, didn’t know what could have caused it, and blamed it on gaming — without even knowing the perpetrators’ gaming habits. Whose perspective is more thoughtful and informed? Given that, which one seems more worth heeding?

Investigative reporters uncover sex-crazed werewolf roommates in Milwaukee … or not

Milwaukee roommates Rebecca Chandler (left) and Raven “Scarlett” Larrabee were recently arrested for allegedly assaulting an Arizona man who had a threesome with them.

There’s nothing that turns reporters on more than a story of a sexy threesome gone wrong — especially when it involves young women, right? Now that Amanda Knox has been exonerated (and her prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, is now being prosecuted for abuse of office in a separate case), the media must turn its attention elsewhere to get its fix.

Enter two young Milwaukee women, Rebecca Chandler and Raven “Scarlett” Larrabee. Allegedly, the ladies invited an Arizona man to their apartment. After trekking across the country (by bus!) on the promise of some booty, the gentleman found himself reportedly tied up by Chandler and Larrabee, who then stabbed or cut him more than 300 times. He didn’t die, but instead managed to call the police.

Not exciting enough? Reporters caught wind of the fact that the following books had been found in the ladies’ apartment:

* The Werewolf’s Guide to Life: A Manual for the Newly Bitten by Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers (which, if you can’t tell from the title, is tongue-in-cheek);

* “A necromantic ritual book,” title and author not supplied;

* “A black folder called ‘Intro to Sigilborne Spirits.'”

Faced with this latter unknown volume, one reporter diligently went online to connect her own dots, speculating, “According to various websites, Sigilborne spirits include female werewolf spirits who engage in sexual acts.”

Really? Really?

My guess is that this reporter knows about as much about werewolf mythology and “sigilborne spirits” as she does about brain cancer. However, if she were writing about someone with brain cancer, she’d talk to a brain surgeon or oncologist, right? But when it comes to information about the occult — a complicated and varied subject poorly understood by the public — the Internet can provide you with all the information you need.

As a blogger at Gawker astutely pointed out, these books sound like something Chandler and Larrabee picked up at Hot Topic. They don’t sound like the impetus for a long-range sexual lure or stabbing.

Let’s get back to the story at hand:

[Chandler told police] she’d been having sex with the man and that the cutting was consensual but quickly got out of hand.

After she was arrested, Chandler told police her roommate, whom she called Scarlett, had done the majority of the cutting. She said Scarlett is “possibly involved in Satanic or occult activities.” She claimed she didn’t know Scarlett’s full name, but that her DNA could be found on a hair brush.

Weird, right? She doesn’t even know her roommate’s real name, but they planned this elaborate sexual event? On top of that, Chandler speculates that Larrabee might be involved in the occult. If she is, so what? That isn’t against the law. What is against the law is physically harming someone against their will — and whether the occult was involved (and there’s no evidence to suggest it was) is irrelevant to the legalities of the incident. All this speculation does is make it seem sexier, more alluring, more fun to talk about —

— unless you’re a law-abiding practicing occultist, and now you’re even more unwilling to be open about your faiths and practices because, on top of everything else, now people will think you’re a sex-crazed person who will cut them if they’re reckless enough to go to bed with you.