Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Jaded Society

Like many children in my generation, I grew up with violence that poured forth from the box of light in the living room.  It was disguised in colorful cartoons with talking animals who could be victimized in one scene yet live and breathe in the next; it was invited in when movies with titles like "Hellraiser" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" were rented and popped into VCRs at sleepovers where parents kept out of the way.    

Who knows how many dramatized murders I, or anyone else, have seen.

I've always had a gross fascination with gore.  I grew up on a steady diet of horror movies in dark rooms, eyes wide with excitement and fear.  I was reading yellowed, well-worn Stephen King novels when other kids my age were just discovering RL Stein.  I couldn't read enough about real-life serial killers - especially if the books had pictures.

There's a dark side to humanity that exists beneath the relatively still surface of average life, a curling, fetid reality that many of us will never experience, though we may gaze into it briefly when we read the news.  I was enthralled by it - an innocent fascination that wanted to peel back the pretty wool over our eyes and see the grit we spend so much time denying.

It was a morbid curiosity that brought me to the dark corners of the internet where you can see anything you want to see, and don't want to see.  I still can't shake those cobwebs loose.

Let's just get it out there:  I've seen a snuff film.  I've seen a few, actually.  Quite a few.  They come with little stories attached to make you feel better about what you're watching, like being told that the man being burnt alive by his neighbors was a rapist so he deserved it; it's okay to watch.  The men being beheaded in the Middle East were part of a war, something we accept every day; it's okay to watch.  The man cutting himself open and pulling out his intestines was on drugs, and he did it to himself; it's okay to watch.

We've seen all of this before anyway, haven't we?  We just call it something else.  We call it "Rambo."  We call it "The Shining."  We call it "Saw," we call it "Cannibal Holocaust," we call it "Natural Born Killers."  

But we haven't seen it before, really seen it.  No one reading this, I'm sure, has ever murdered anyone.

The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs

In Ukraine, in the months of June and July of 2007, two 19-year-old men went on a killing spree.  They killed two people the first night, and wouldn't stop until 21 people were dead.  One of those people was Sergei Yatzenko, and I watched him die.

His death wasn't scripted; he was not an actor.  Sergei Yatzenko was just a man living his life - he was a father who had survived recurring bouts with cancer enjoying a beautiful summer day on his motorcycle, not knowing that his innocent life would come to an end that very afternoon at the hand of two thrill-killers who would record the gruesome scene, their laughter serving as a soundtrack.

The video shown in court as evidence was brutal.  For four agonizing minutes, Yatzenko is beat in the head repeatedly with a hammer, his face broken and puckered like cracked glass.  He would lapse in and out of consciousness, gasping and sputtering through the blood that pooled in the grooves of his collapsed skull.  The boy who recorded it would laugh; the attacker would remark that he could see the man's brain, which he proceeded to stab with a screwdriver.  

For how hardened I thought I had become, for how thick I would have sworn my skin was, I couldn't watch much of it.  My blood pressure dropped, my vision blurred, my skin grew cold.  I was shaking, despite the hot summer air hanging thick in my eleventh-floor apartment.  My throat pinched shut, and I almost vomited.

That day, as I lay on the floor cradling my face in my hands trying to do the impossible - to un-see what I had just seen - was the last day that I ever looked at anything like that again.  My "fascination" and "morbid curiosity" had left forever.

Luka Rocco Magnotta

Fast-forward to ten days ago when dismembered body parts started their journey through the Canadian mail system, sent by a narcissist who would do anything for notoriety.  He recorded himself killing, dismembering and violating his boyfriend, a 33-yr-old student from China named Lin Jun.  He posted it to the internet, and it has been viewed almost one million times, an innocent man being murdered again and again with every person who clicked the link.

People treated it like entertainment.  They recorded themselves watching the video and posted their reactions on YouTube.  Go ahead and search for "One Lunatic, One Ice Pick Reactions" and you will see an assortment of faces:  Some mortified, terrified; others, apathetic; some people laughed or joked.

I was innocent and curious once, but now what I see disgusts me.  I see otherwise good people crawling into the shadows of the internet where lurk all manner of perversions, a place that used to only exist in filthy dark alleys, a place where only the depraved were brave enough to go - now available to all at the simple touch of a button.  I see souls leaving bodies piece by piece, but leaving behind a living shell this time.  I see people laughing at brutalities none should ever witness.  I see a society becoming jaded to these horrors, and it terrifies me.


I had to stop writing this blog halfway through as the memory of what I had seen had given me a panic attack.  I urge you all not to seek out the Magnotta film.  You will never be the same.