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Research & Sources of inspiration

What makes killers so fascinating and what makes people so fascinated with killers are one and the same question. Luke Magnotta was unknown to the world until Canadian government officials received dismembered body parts, but when he was arrested a week later in June 4th his story and name became infamous. He had made a video (named 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick) of himself killing, severing and eating his victim – the video circulated online leading to an international manhunt, arrest and eventually the celebrity status he had wanted.

This ties in with another of Jean Baudrillard’s theories of globilsation, how the 9/11 attacks were caused by advances in technology rather than religion. Snuff films are supposed to not exist, but thanks to the internet and cheap cameras, people’s ability to film and distribute torture and death has become a whole lot easier.

Plenty of gore and shock sites exist (documentingreality, rotten, goregrish) and contain a lot of sick material that has been collected from real life killings and torture, either from places of civil unrest or drug cartel beheadings. Even to the point where a real snuff video might surface and the users of such sites see it first-hand. One of the earliest sites dedicated to vile content was Rotten.com established in 1996, originally featuring disgusting medical conditions and other accidents. By the 2000s many more shock sites appeared and disturbing video became much easier thanks to advances in internet technology.

In 2009, two Russian teenagers were found guilty of murdering 21 people during a two month spree, whilst filming several of their murders (dubbing it 3 Guys 1 Hammer). Whilst this footage appealed to some people it was ultimately used for their conviction at trial.

Armin Meiwes was a German man who gained international notoriety for killing and eating a voluntary victim in 2001 that he had found on the internet. He filmed himself cutting up the victim and eating various body parts. The video was only shown to journalists and court members and has not yet made its way online – but there are many that anticipate its arrival. The video too secured his sentence, even though the victim was completely voluntary and that he had released those who wer enot confortable with the whole process.

Marek (one of the admins) from BestGore.com states that “Bad guys evolve as fast as the rest of the society, we live in an internet age. It’s only normal that the internet became the communication platform for the perpetrators…You won’t see perpetrators mailing letters with words cut out of a newspaper glued onto it to draw attention to their crimes anymore. [A] new generation of violent people will use the internet as a platform of choice for various purposes.” Violence has always existed, but it’s coming to a point where one’s sick actions can be easily shown to the wide world for a simple celebrity status.

Sources

Secret world of the suburban cannibal – http://www.theage.com.au. 2012. Secret world of the suburban cannibal – http://www.theage.com.au. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/14/1073877901829.html. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

Snuff: Murder and torture on the internet, and the people who watch it | The Verge. 2012. Snuff: Murder and torture on the internet, and the people who watch it | The Verge. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/13/3076557/snuff-murder-torture-internet-people-who-watch-it. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

William Pawlett, 2007. Jean Baudrillard: Against Banality (Key Sociologists). Edition. Routledge.

Prosopagnosia is defined as “An inability or difficulty in recognizing familiar faces; it may be congenital or result from injury or disease of the brain.” (The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary) More specifically, damage to the underside of both occipital lobes. It is important to remember that whilst the ability to recognise faces is impaired, sufferers can still recognise objects and voices. The specific brain area associated with the disorder is the fusiform gyrus which activates specifically in response to faces – hence people recognising faces more effectively than similar inanimate objects. If that area is damaged then the ability to recognised faces falls in the less sensitive object recognition system.

With face blindness it is important to look at films that portray the subject (carefully or not) as well as look at accounts from real life stories for a more accurate representation. Compared to schizophrenia, the amount of media based on prosopagnosia is very low. There is only one feature length film: Faces in the Crowd (Magnat, 2011) and two short films: Prosopagnosia (Kiejzer, 2011) and In Vivid Detail (Bratt, 2007), probably due to the rarity of the condition.

Case Study: Faces in the Crowd

The film focuses on a woman who develops prosopagnosia after surviving an attack from a serial killer, who then closes in on her after finding about her condition. At first the whole story concept of the film seems to be over the top and somewhat blown out of proportion, maybe a tad unrealistic and silly. Jovovich however did a very convincing job for a person suffering with the disorder and her portrayal of prosopagnosia is quite realistic – the special effects with the changing faces is very well done and her reactions are powerful. We can see how her life was perfect beforehand, and after she receives brain damage her life just flips over – the difference is quite significant. There was one important flaw though; she could have recognised people’s voices, which are just as significant as faces.

Looking at forums too was important as I wanted to see how people told their story from their own perspective. I found the following account on a support site and it was rather intriguing:

“The man stood in my department. He didn’t come up to me; he didn’t interrupt me, or ask for help. I’d been a bit swamped that day, and only just now was able to look at him. He just stood there, patiently waiting for…what? What was he waiting for? I was supposed to leave in a few minutes, why was he just standing there? After a few moments, the penny dropped. It was my husband, and he’d come to pick me up from work.”

This story was the basis for my original idea because it sounded very dramatic and with some stylised shots it could become very interesting a short film, unfortunately it one fundamental flaw: why couldn’t the husband just shout her name or text/phone her? Surely the wife would recognise his clothing or his voice.

Sources

Faces in the Crowd, 2011. [DVD] Julien Magnat, United States: Voltage Pictures.

Prosopagnosia (Face Blind). 2012. Prosopagnosia (Face Blind). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.squidoo.com/faceblind. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

prosopagnosia – definition of prosopagnosia in the Medical dictionary – by the Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. 2012. prosopagnosia – definition of prosopagnosia in the Medical dictionary – by the Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/prosopagnosia. [Accessed 29 November 2012].

‘Internet trolling’ is a fairly new phenomena that has been appearing more and more often in the media. Whilst its definition varies across news articles, the most accurate definition of an internet troll is “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument” (UrbanDictionary.com). However, trolls can reach out to almost any part of the internet, including popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Looking at recent events in the news – what trolls have done and why.

Notable cases include the Twitter troll Reece Messer who taunted the Olympic diver Tom Daley with the messages like:  “you let your dad down i hope you know that.” Once these tweets were brought to the attention of the public, the troll was forced to apologise. Whilst Tom Daley is a celebrity and has the power of his followers to expose this troll, other users are not so fortunate. Messer was described as a “product of a broken, dysfunctional upbringing” living an isolated life, constantly getting into trouble and surviving on many state benefits.

Then there was Sean Duffy, a Facebook troll who was jailed for mocking multiple teen tribute pages. He posted offensive videos on YouTube taunting the dead and their families, photoshopped offensive pictures and even created fake tribute pages in their name. Duffy was described as an individual who lived an isolated life and had been bullied himself at school and work, and was given a prison sentence due to the severity of his trolling.

Recently a Reddit user was unmasked as ‘the biggest troll on the internet’ for posting and moderating disturbing content on a variety of Reddit sub-forums. The content was vile and kept gaining notoriety until Michael Brutsch was exposed as the man behind it all. What’s interesting for me is not what he did, but why he did it. Using his anonymity, writing offensive messages and encouraging others to do the same enabled him to deal with the stress of working as a computer programmer. He also got the biggest thrill from setting up web forums with sinister names and posting controversial content into them. ‘I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.’ He said in an interview, and that he needed to keep his anonymity to protect his ability to express things many people think but hardly anyone says.

All of these trolls have one thing in common: once they are discovered, named and shamed all their acts of internet trolling suddenly stop and of course: apologies. Their power of anonymity disappears once they are discovered.

Sources

Adrian Chen. (2012). Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web. Available: http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.

BBC. (2012). Facebook ‘troll’ Sean Duffy sentenced for offensive Sophie Taylor image. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-17385042. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.

Daily Mail Reporter. (2012). Internet troll behind Reddit ‘Creepshot’ forum where users post sexual pictures of unsuspecting girls fired from his job after his identity is revealed Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2218204/Michael-Brutsch-Internet-troll-Reddit-Creepshot-forum-fired.html . Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.

Paul Cockerton. (2012). “You let your dad down”: Twitter troll taunts Tom Daley about dead father after diver misses out on Olympics medal. Available: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tom-daley-twitter-troll-taunts-1190741. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.

Steven Morris. (2011). Internet troll jailed after mocking deaths of teenagers. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012