from the media-hype dept
Since we originally predicted and then witnessed major media outlets losing their minds over the horrific attempted murder committed by two young girls in Wisconsin, you may have heard that there has been a second attempted killing by another young girl that’s also being billed as a “Slender Man killing.” In this latest case, a young girl wore a white mask and attempted to stab her mother. She too is supposedly involved in the Creepypasta community and was interested in the Slender Man story. Media outlets, that really ought to know better, have since been knocking each other over in an attempt to shine the largest spotlight on an internet community that enjoys telling each other ghost stories in an attempt to assign blame for the horrors on which they report. It turns out that, should they delve a little deeper to understand what the Slender Man community is all about, perhaps they should be turning that spotlight on themselves instead.
Fruzsina Eordogh, who appears to be well informed about how the Creepypasta community and the Slender Man myth operates, outlines the folly that is mass media reporting on the two attacks. He claims there have been two glaring omissions in the reporting, the first of which is an absolute refusal to include the attention multipliers of online myth disseminators like Pew Die Pie. Pew Die Pie is something of a YouTube celebrity and his work includes Slender Man videos.
The little girls first tried to stab their friend in a public restroom, then in the woods. Both scenes, of Slender Man catching up with you in a public restroom and in the woods, happen in the first episode of Pew Die Pie’s Slender Man video series. Is Pew Die Pie responsible for the stabbings? No, of course not.
In the case of the 13-year-old girl, her mother mentioned her daughter plays Minecraft, and the ultimate bad guy in the game is Enderman, a creepy figure the creator of Minecraft admitted to being inspired by Slender Man. Is Minecraft responsible for the stabbings? Again, no, of course not, but yet again every outlet has failed to mention the Slender Man-inspired monster in Minecraft.
Understanding the point of the above is key: nobody is blaming Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, or anyone else using the myth to tell stories for the killings. The sole point being made is that you have to understand the way the Slender Man community works: it is built off of gaining recognition in wider audiences. That’s the whole point of the community, to expand upon the myth by creating doctored pictures, telling wilder stories, and getting Slender Man out there as widely as possible. The whole myth started with fictional photographs and news reports. That’s the point. And guess how you take that to the next level?
Think of Slender Man as a community art project, where for years now adults, teens and tweens have been fabricating fake news articles, photographs, and even video games and comics, about Slender Man, this all-powerful, all-knowing spectre-monster with long arms (shaped like claws, or tree branches, or tentacles depending on the artist) that mind controls and kills people. When these two Wisconsin girls say they wanted to honor the Slender Man myth, to make him “real” and prove the “skeptics wrong,” it sounds more like they wanted to participate in the community by creating the most credible news article about Slender Man ever. They didn’t want to make him real by doing another photoshop, that’s already been done. So how do you make the most credible news article about Slender Man? You actually go out and make Slender Man happen in a way the news can cover.
And, because these kids have a basic understanding of the world in which they live, they likely damn well knew the mass media would gobble this up like pigs at a trough. The girls in Wisconsin did more to propel the Slender Man myth into the public consciousness than anyone had before and the news outlets were their tools and unwitting conspirators. By the time the ink was dry on the Wisconsin story, a young girl in Ohio would have all the confirmation required on how to keep the news multiplier going in favor of Slender Man. Slender Man has jumped out of the fictional realm now, like the Poltergeist leaping from a television, and the news is the highway it took to get there.
Any media outlet that reports on this story and fails to mention that they as an outlet are now contributing to the Slender Man myth, is laughably ignorant and dangerous. The press does not exist in a vacuum. The press cannot blame CreepyPasta and memes but not blame itself or Pew Die Pie. In fact, the primary driver of the Slender Man myth is no longer Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, CreepyPasta, reddit, 4chan or Something Awful, but the press itself.
At some point all the people of our world are going to have to sit down and have a long conversation about how our news media operates to glorify some of the horrors we face. Murderers, school shooters, and terrorists all rely on the clockwork-like commitment of mass media to turn them into what they most want to be: a spectacle. We don’t have to play along, but we do. That part’s on us. But it’s also on a media culture that prefers to keep the important role that they play out of the story.