Slenderman: Just Another Modern Myth

dhumvati

From ModernMythology:

As most of you likely know by now, two pre-teens attempted to kill a friend as a sacrificial offering to the mythical creature ‘slenderman,’ a clear product of internet lore. Unsurprisingly, people are immediately looking to place blame, in a sense themselves literalizing and mistaking how myths and narratives function psychologically in the first place,

Such stories have appeared often on CreepyPasta, a creative writing and microfiction site dedicated not only to horror and thriller-type stories, but also supernatural, mythological and science fiction genres as well. The goal originally was to create short, compelling, easily shareable pieces of fiction that often spread around the Web. Now the site has a vast following and serves as, among other things, a creative writing and “hivemind” outlet where stories like that of the Slenderman breed and spread. According to the criminal complaint in the recent Wisconsin stabbing case, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were fans of CreepyPasta.

An administrator from CreepyPasta was quick to issue a statement when the site started getting attention through Geyser and Weier’s alleged crime. In the lengthy piece, which HLN obtained Tuesday, the administrator admits they are not personal fans of the Slenderman lore, that the site encourages creativity, community and self-expression, that the site was not initially meant for young teenagers, and, most aggressively, that a site that encourages what could be seen as morbid expression is not at fault when two teenagers allegedly attempt to take another’s life.

“But if I may be so bold, I don’t believe that it’s the fault of Slenderman or horror writing in general that this happened,” the admin writes. “I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they certainly gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends. For someone to make the jump from reading a creepy story that is — at least on this website, once again, I can’t speak for all creepypasta websites — being presented as 100% fiction into actually using it as a motive to plot and murder another human being — something else has to be going on there.”

Let’s get some things clear. Slenderman is not materially real, any more than religious myths such as tales of Hanuman or Jesus Christ, and likely will never take on the cultural magnetism to live for such a time. But historic age does not change the ontology of a concept, it remains nevertheless concept, yet at the same time a kind of living apparition of our own minds, and to the extent that they influence our experience, yes, they are real. Which is so often too much for people to bear, they want something to either be “real” or “not,” without taking any time to examine what they might mean in the first place.

When we try to find meaning, we look to narratives. It’s impossible to say which will satisfy us emotionally — so that we might invest in them — and which won’t. But before anyone looks to place blame on the internet or slenderman or pasta or whatever crusade might serve their own needs, they might consider asking some obvious questions. From an earlier article on ModernMythology,

Narrative and myths plays the principal role in our lives, both from the inside out (sense- and identity-making), from the outside in (narratives place ourselves in relation to one another, conceptualizing the structure and nature of the outside world), and they are also self perpetuating (narratives as pedagogical or even mimetic device).

This cannot be emphasized enough. The entirety of our lives that don’t arise through independent natural process are story. Even those can only be understood when they’re brought into relation through narrative processes. We can agree or disagree about whether a given narrative is good or bad, accurate or not, but this is in a sense adding a layer, not cutting down to some underlying truth. This is why the metaphor I so frequently refer back to for the self is the palimpsest. We can never hope to somehow clear away or sidestep the “mythic process.”

If we have any doubt about the centrality of narrative in our extended, communal, and personal lives, one need only turn on the news or witness how, without changing ones own behavior, another may change their story from how amazing and wonderful you are to how awful and villainous. What has changed in this case except their internal narrative? The levels and dimensions of this process are quite simply endless, and try as we might to extricate ourselves, it is our investment in a particular narrative over another that defines belief.

With these two individuals we get nowhere by learning they did it to satisfy a narrative — that’s all anyone does, and we don’t oughtn’t consider it normal behavior to try to kill someone for Slenderman or Mohammed or Jesus Christ.  (Again, not to draw cultural equivalency between these, but the difference is of quantity rather than kind.) So we are left as every with asking for the “why” behind the why, and without considerable direct analysis, that’s not possible. The reason we make up the stories we do around such crimes is simply to serve our own narrative need: for simplicity and simple, direct meaning.

James Curcio

I was raped by a family of polar bears as a child and now have a deep seated terror of peanut butter. Psychological transference is weird. Author, artist, freak. http://www.jamescurcio.com
  • BuzzCoastin

    when W. invaded Iraq based on a myth of WMDz
    and after he knifed Iraq to the point of death
    no one blamed the source of his mythos
    no one thought it was a crime

    • Andrew

      Well, lots of people thought it was a crime (unimportant people, like us), but point taken.

  • Ted Heistman

    I think the bleeding heart reaction is pretty retarded. They blame the meme, and assume the horrific violence was caused by gullibility on the part of the murderous knife wielding girls.

    I see it, essentially, as the work of two nascent serial killers/psychopaths. The meme was merely a pretense.

    • Oginikwe

      “They blame the meme, and assume the horrific violence was caused by
      gullibility on the part of the murderous knife wielding girls.”
      Where? I haven’t see this going on anywhere.

      But, we do have a problem distinguishing between reality and unreality. We hardly know what “real” food is now–I’ve pondered “nondairy creamer” for years; when we still had mainstream television, I was appalled at the number of commercials using cgi people instead of actual actors, and the MSM makes it damn hard to tell the difference between fact, opinion, and outright fiction. After one of our national shootings, a fundamentalist friend explained to me that the shooters are taken over by the devil and then when the devil leaves them and they realize what they have done, that is why they then turn their guns on themselves. I stupidly looked at him and said, “Whut?” because I really just couldn’t believe what he was telling me. For him, that is his reality: some malicious, mythological spirit turns people into Flip Wilson–“The devil made me do it.” We used to call that “schizophrenia,” now we call it “religion.”

      • Ted Heistman

        I think empathy can go too far. It goes to far when you try to have it towards people incapable of it.

        • Oginikwe

          “You seem to be trying really hard to put yourself into the shoes of killers.”
          Nope. I understand adolescent development: adolescents are not simply “small adults.” Human beings are complex and the changes that adolescents go through are like the changes from a caterpillar to a butterfly. These two girls are barely adolescents–they still have their babyfat.

          We don’t know what went awry here but it will come out. I refuse to put these children on trial and convict them on a website as you have already done. I am not prepared to write them off as “too damaged.” You even refer to them as “killers” when they have not killed anyone. Not yet, not for lack of trying, and it is doubtful that they will ever get that opportunity again.

          No one said anything about forgive and forget. No one. “Try and convict” isn’t right, either, when no one knows exactly what has gone on here but since you are comfortable with that, fine. But don’t expect everyone to agree with you that these twelve-year-old girls should be just written off. That is the nature of tragedies like these: no one wins–not the perpetrators and certainly not the trusting victim who thought she was spending time with real friends and not some skewed murderous children.

          Making this a partisan issue, thinking that you and you alone are righteous and informed, is, really, just beyond the pale. One of the good things about this website is that it is seldom partisan. I’m sorry that you felt the need to make that generalization based on your clearly limited information.

          • Ted Heistman

            Donate money to the victim if you are so compassionate. All your compassion seems reserved for the perpetrators. It is a left wing paradigm. Its just the way you see things.

            If you think normal 12 year old kids are prone to stabbing their friends untul they grow up more you are whacked.

          • Jin The Ninja

            this was a horrific act. horrifying on every level. simply trying to weigh the issue through a holistic frame- trying to better understand from multiple vantages, and not screaming for their execution- i hardly consider that ‘left wing’ – rather, sane.

          • Ted Heistman

            I am not screaming for their execution. I am just saying spending the next 60 years in a cage doped up on anti-psychotics seems to be a fate worse than death. If it were me, I would rather be dead.

            I also don’t buy this line of bullshit that normal 12 year olds haven’t developed empathy yet and don’t know its wrong to stab others.

            When I was 12 I rescued a baby rabbit from some younger kids who had broken into its nest. They had accidentally squeezed most of them to death. I raised the survivor, and released it back into the wild.

            My Dad raised a baby bird when he was a kid. Normal kids have empathy. Its not something that happend when you turn 18.

            Kids who torture animals are aberrations. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these girls did that.

          • Jin The Ninja

            neither would i.
            i do personally find animal torture, horrendous and aberrant.
            i think many people do.
            i find it very hard to watch films where animals are murdered.

            if you frame it as ‘you’d prefer to die over being caged and drugged.’ well it comes across a lot better, and it makes a lot more sense now. i don’t disagree with you here.

            the world is a fucked up place, maybe they didn’t develop empathy, maybe their family life is rife with sickness and darkness, maybe they are sociopaths. i don’t know, i’d prefer to figure it out before i make up my mind.

          • Ted Heistman

            Her Dad’s email address is “ILOVEEVIL666” and his twitter handle is “Deadboy420” Not a sign of a parent with his shit together. Possibly he is a sociopath. That condition is known to be genetic. Really this is a debate about the nature of evil.

            The left wing idea is that it doesn’t exist. Everyone is good, but may seem to do bad things because of sociological forces.

            Also there seem to be little contests about how compassionate people can be for the lowest dregs of society, death row inmates etc. Which in some sense is good. Some of them are falsely convicted and become exonerated.But the reality is that some people are evil and incapable of reform.

            Its just a weird mystery.

          • Jin The Ninja

            i think you’re confusing compassion for inquiry.
            evil exists, but it’s rare and mysterious.
            one can believe ‘people’ are ‘good’ (what value does ‘good’ and ‘evil’ hold subjectively/culturally is important here)- but can also believe ‘some’ people are ‘evil.’
            i prefer to think of it as most people are neutral/benign, but we all can choose evil or good. the world is mostly gray, black and white is a hard scheme to live by.

          • Ted Heistman

            I think you like to argue with whatever I say, weather or not you have a point.

          • Jin The Ninja

            i made my point without being combative, untoward, or personally attacking you. but i did make a point. i am sorry you cannot see beyond our past interactions to read that.

          • Ken Warren

            Trying to understand why something happened does not mean you’re automatically trying to “forgive” the perpetrators. Rather, it’s a way of figuring out how to avoid the same type of thing from happening again.

            And yes, it does work. Despite media panic attempts, we’re living in one of the safest periods of known human history, right now.

          • Ted Heistman

            so you think they should tried as adults or no? What is your position?

          • Ted Heistman

            You really think that a minor who is an “infant in the eyes of the law” is actually a real infant? Do you really think magical transformations in development happen suddenly at various arbitrary ages like 16, 18, 21?

            Do you remember anything from your own childhood? Do you know any 12 year olds. Normal 12 year old girls don’t have empathy yet? Why do people let them babysit kids?

          • Jin The Ninja

            safe if you don’t live in a 3rd world country, or/and are brown.

        • Echar Lailoken

          Some people are murderers.They need to be removed from society in order for people to be safe.

          Why not be honest and say “they should be killed, without empathy”?

  • Ted Heistman

    Bleeding heart: “Oh, these poor poor girls, taken advantage of by this evil meme and that evil heartless judge.”

    Me: “What about the innocent girl who got stabbed 19 times? What about the public at large? Shouldn’t these people be protected? Who cares why these girls are so fucked up, the point now is to keep them away from everybody”

    • Andrew

      Me: “Shit happens.”

      • Ted Heistman

        Its just weird that people take what the perpetrators say at face value. As if a person capable of killing another person in cold blood is incapable of fibbing. Maybe the less dominant girl, is really slow and easily led and thinks maybe they were doing it to impress “slender man” but I’m willing to bet the mastermind girl is a young psychopath looking for a thrill.

        • Oginikwe

          I don’t think anyone is taking what they say at “face value.” Clearly, something else is at play here but it takes time to find out exactly what that “something else” is.

  • Ted Heistman

    Here is a fundraiser to help the victim http://www.gofundme.com/heartsforhealingwi

  • Echar Lailoken

    I think you intended this message for Ted?

    • Felix Ray

      Yep.