The two obvious problems with the media’s coverage of the Slender Man stabbing

In the past week, there have been two heavily publicized instances of little girls stabbing their loved ones in the name of Slender Man; the first being the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged last week as adults for stabbing their “best friend” last year, the second a 13-year-old in Ohio who tried to stab her mom while wearing a white mask. The media has tripped over themselves trying to explain Slender Man, and inadvertently (or purposefully) demonized Creepypasta, unsupervised Internet usage and online culture. Even those outlets that did not demonize these suspects still failed to properly portray the reach of Slender Man and the stabbings in context of the Slender Man community.

Like all killings the media takes a shine to, a large roster of armchair psychologists have come out of the woodwork to bloviate on Slender Man. Everyone, including those not qualified, especially those not qualified, are theorizing on online culture while completely glossing over the community aspect of a phenomenon like Slender Man. Folks that are qualified to write about online culture, like this lady at the Washington Post, this lady at the Verge and this gentlemen at the Awl (not linking to said trollish article), have also massively fumbled to explain these stabbings in context of the community. (Why the Verge is linking to the awful tone-deaf Awl piece is beyond comprehension, but that’s a post for another matter.)

So here’s the first thing wrong with all this Slender Man stabbing coverage: the absence of Pew Die Pie and adequate mentions of Slender Man in video games

Why is top YouTube celebrity Pew Die Pie important? Well, a large portion of his fan base comprises of girls in the same age range as the little girls stabbing their loved ones. Teens and tweens don’t watch TV as much any more, they watch YouTube and play video games. Pew Die Pie’s main claim to fame is his Slender Man videos and many little girls got into Slender Man because of his charming accent, golden locks and good looks. My now-13-year old brother used to complain all the time about how all the girls in his class are obsessed with Pew Die Pie, and subsequently Slender Man because of Pew Die Pie. My evidence is anecdotal, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the case of the Wisconsin girls, they cite and favor video game lore; they want to go to Slender Man’s mansion, which only exists in the video game. A video game made popular by Pew Die Pie.

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.

The second thing wrong with all this Slender Man coverage: it glosses over the role of the community WHICH NOW INCLUDES THE PRESS in perpetuating the Slender Man myth.

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.

Not only that, but these two little girls then gave their best friend the ultimate Slender Man experience by becoming Slender Man for her. It’s sick and it’s twisted, but if we are charging them as mentally fit adults we can’t say they didn’t know the line between reality and fantasy because mentally fit adults do know the line between reality and fantasy. Unless, you have two girls purposefully blurring the line between fantasy and reality in order to contribute to this online community producing Slender Man lore.  Slender Man wipes memories and mind controls, remember, which is convenient for all three girls then, including the one in Ohio who say she doesn’t remember anything after trying to stab her mother.

The Wisconsin girls completely changed the meme and contributed significantly to the Slender Man community/phenomenon with their attempted murder, and by doing so in this way, have completely changed the narrative of Slender Man lore. Slender Man used to just be a fantasy. Now he is a reality. He is a reality because anyone can become a proxy for Slender Man if he or she wishes. This is evident in the stabbing of the 13-year-old girl who tried to stab her mother. Three little girls have now stabbed two people in the name of Slender Man, not in a fan fiction or in a video game, but in very, very real life. Like all things digital these days, these girls got instant feedback for it too.  And not just from online.

The Verge almost got this right, when they quoted psychologist Peter Langman:

Online communities may provide stronger reinforcement than other forms of media, Langman says, because other people are providing feedback. 

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.

 


The Wall Street Journal continues to botch YouTube coverage

I am browsing Twitter past everyone’s bed-time, like I do, and I come across a The Next Web article (courtesy of Steffen Konrath) about The Wall Street Journal’s latest reporting snafu.

The WSJ had erroneously reported Google is pledging an additional $200 million in its premium content channel’s marketing budget. This caused a “rais[ing of] eyebrows” as it made the pledged total marketing budget $400 million. That’s a shit ton of money, especially when you consider Google only gave 150 million to the content creators.  A 150 million pie being split with 100 channels!  “Channels,” which equate to established YouTube celebrities AND people like Felicia Day, Deepak Chopra and Kevin Smith, AND their entire film and production crews. (Tiny pie slices, ’cause we’re all on diets, right?)

Established YouTubers have complained about this injustice, this discrepancy in funding which they claim proves Google doesn’t take what they do seriously – (how can you compete with TV if you don’t invest properly in the content, Google!?) – and this additional $200 million figure (and slight) was cause for more complaint.

According to this executive, the funding his company received from Google allows it to spend about $1,000 a minute on each video production made for its channel.

“But $1,000 a finished minute is not enough,” he explained. “You need to get to around $2,100. At $1,000 a minute, you’re pulling favors every time you do a shoot. If you’re just pulling a location permit in L.A., it’s going to cost you $900.”

Long story short, Google told TNW they are not investing $400 million. The WSJ was confusing that time in May when Google pledged $200 towards marketing its premium content. Oops!!

Shortly after that WSJ article was posted, RWW founder Richard MacManus sends me a link to it on skype:

[7/31/2012 3:57:39 PM] Richard MacManus: Have you seen this Fruzsina? http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10000872396390444840104577549632241258356-lMyQjAxMTAyMDMwMDAzODA3Wj.html

[7/31/2012 3:58:14 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: no!

[7/31/2012 3:58:32 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: the wall street journal always publishes news that is years old, pretending it’s fresh

[7/31/2012 3:59:00 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: google already pledged 200 mil in advertising

[7/31/2012 4:04:03 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: I don’t find anything informative about this article…

[7/31/2012 4:04:15 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: it has a nice chart

So, you know that part in the skype chat where I said the WSJ likes to publish news that is “years old, pretending it’s fresh?” I was referring to this time in February 2012 when the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Ray William Johnson being YouTube’s first millionaire. (RWJ became YouTube’s first millionaire in April 2011.)

Please note the 49 comments on that RWJ article, many of which are from YouTubers pointing out various factual inaccuracies in the article.  RWJ even ranted about how horrible the article was in an episode of his show (a very rare move)… and it looks like the WSJ NEVER BOTHERED to correct all of those factual inaccuracies, nor did they apologize.

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Corporations, Companies, and Supporters of SOPA

If this Pastebin document, created by Anonymous members involved in Operation Hiroshima, is to be believed, the following companies lobbied Congress in support of SOPA.

I smell a boycott… and the weird thing about this list is, how are most of these companies affected by online piracy? Especially all these clothing companies…

PetMeds

3M 

ABRO Industries, Inc.

Acushnet Company

Adidas America 

Bose Coporation

Burberry

CBS Corporation

Chanel USA

Coach

Columbia Sportswear

Dolce & Gabbana

Electronic Arts, Inc. (individuals within have voiced opposition?)

Entertainment Software Association

Read the rest of this entry »


THIS IS A SELF-BRANDING POST

Really, I am writing this all for a piece I am posting on my recently resuscitated hyper-local blog the Albany Park Post (hopefully), in which I explain how EveryBlock broke my heart.

You could also call this a “self-promotional” post, and when I feel like updating my “about” page, I will probably replace the text with the following:

I was hired by the Daily Dot officially in June. This is my first real grown up job, so I don’t want to fuck it up. I work way more than 8 hours a day, leaving very little time for other blogging. This explains my silence across multiple platforms I used to write on.

The Daily Dot’s public beta launched in September.

Since our public beta launch in September, my work has been linked to  (or can I cheat like every other writer and say “featured”?) on The New Yorker, the New York Times, Media Bistro, TechCrunch, TechMeme, USA Today, Gawker, Venture Beat, Time Magazine, The Daily What, others I can’t even remember but appreciate dearly, and most recently, Time Out Chicago and  The Atlantic.

I was also interviewed by the Guardian, and Sky News.

July 20, 2012 edit: my hyperlocal blog on Windy Citizen, which I will insist until my dying day was the uncredited prototype for EveryBlock, has gone down with the Windy Citizen site. All of my writing there, covering local crime, police meetings, criticisms of my alderman, attempts at fostering civic pride, garbage pick-ups and community gatherings, have disappeared. Thankfully, in a fit of unusual foresight,  the post I wrote “THIS IS A SELF-BRANDING POST”  to link to  was copied onto the original blogspot site.


Happy Birthday, Raquel Welch!

Yes, I know it is also Freddie Mercury’s birthday. Considering all the digital love he’s gotten (which he deserves, don’t get me wrong, even if he is dead), I thought I’d share with who ever is reading this blog my favorite videos of Welch. If you don’t know who she is, go skim her wikipedia page first please.

These are all found on YouTube, because my new job is to cover YouTube…

I first came upon Rachel Welch, like most of America,  when I watched One Million Years B.C.  (Starting the Earth’s Children book series in Junior High will do that) It is only fitting that I begin this video list with a compilation of her from One Million Years B.C.

I don’t expect you, dear reader, to watch all of the above video, but I do expect you to watch all of the one below. It’s only 3 minutes long, and while there is no dialog until the very end, I can promise it is engaging. It’s literally one of the best fan compilations on YouTube.

Read the rest of this entry »


Dead Squirrel Girl’s Parents Defend Video: “We Hoped It Would Touch People”

The Daily Dot, the Internet’s hometown newspaper, is launching this summer—but we’ve already started searching out the best untold stories in the Web’s community. Here’s one from correspondent Fruzsina Eördögh, about two parents who posted a video of their daughter that some viewers found a little too viral.

She’s known on the Internet as “Dead Squirrel Girl”: Thea, a three-year-old dancing in what some see as macabre fashion with a just-killed rodent. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times — and the parents have been judged by the Internet and found wanting. But instead of reblogging the video with a snappy witticism about parenting, the Daily Dot actually called Thea’s mom and dad.

Here’s their story.

Three years ago, Sean Leonard, an acupuncturist and artist in Sarasota, Fla., was out walking his greyhound Ivy. They came upon a squirrel and before Leonard could intervene, Ivy snapped its neck with a ferocious shake. Leonard returned home to tell his wife, who suggested they collect the squirrel and bury it in their garden, as a gentle way of introducing their 3-year-old daughter, Thea, to the concept of death.

When the parents re-emerged from the house after collecting a shovel, Thea had picked up the squirrel—and Leonard, who had wanted to document the event, had his camera rolling.

“She was in ecstasy holding the squirrel, snuggling it,” said Leonard. “She was smothering it with love, and at that point we knew nothing would be accomplished by stripping her of it.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Game of Thrones is one of the most feminist shows on TV

I watched the second episode of Game of Thrones last night, and I was even more pleased with the adaptation of the book than I was last week. After the episode ended though, the first thing I thought about was Ginia Bellafante.

Like most female fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I was very disappointed in Bellafante’s review of the first episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, but I passed off her disregard for the show (and fantasy in general) as part of the same sentiment older women have for video games – the view that fantasy (and video games) are just for children or young males. When Bellafante says she doesn’t know any woman that likes fantasy, I believe her. She is from a time before video games, before the rise of the internet.   Bellafante’s culturally learned distaste for the fantasy genre (and most geek culture) is also indicative of her outdated view of gender constructs.  Ilana Teitelbaum writes it well in her Dear New York Times: A Game of Thrones is not just for Boys: Read the rest of this entry »


Gamers have an Image Problem

Abstract: This image problem is rooted in a failure by the mainstream media (and film) to treat video games as an acceptable pastime, making gaming “a dirty word“, and perpetuating the notion that women shouldn’t have authorship over technology around them. The male gaming community is only partially responsible, and this will be discussed in a subsequent post. This post was formulated after analyzing video game coverage by major female-oriented publications and by my personal memory of video game scenes in movies.

“One of the things we were trying to combat with 3G was how girls are discouraged from learning anything about technology beyond how to use it, [not] to be responsible or have a form of authorship with it.” - Terence Hannum, Internship and External Relations Coordinator at Columbia College

Any female in her 20′s that plays video games knows gaming has an image problem. Not only does the community you play in make you feel unwelcome a la the blog “Fat, Ugly or Slutty“,  your parents find your enjoyment of video games off-putting, as do 30-somethings co-workers. I’ve had more than one conversation at slightly older dinner parties become painfully awkward when I mention I like/want to write about video games. The women scan the room and decide it is time to mingle. Then I am left with some guy, and as the silence continues between us, I begin to question his intentions. Sometimes I can see this male have an OMG-GIRL-GAMER-freak-out moment, all in the eyes, and when it abides he hesitantly remarks I must be the male gamer fantasy or some other weird crap.  Then I decide it is time to mingle.

My mom keeps thinking I will grow out of my love of video games. She is not impressed when I tell her I am laying down plumbing because my city’s population explosion is  forcing me to expand my city limits.

There is a common thread behind these awkward interactions: people born before the 80′s view video games as either a waste of time or a childish hobby. How can that be, when video games have been around for 30 years  - and adults now play video games and teachers use video games as part of their curriculum? Read the rest of this entry »


Balancing the Budget is Easy

Will Congress balance the budget? Will there be a government shut-down? Are we going to rob from the rich to give to the poor, or are we going to rob from the poor to give to the rich? Are we going to become communists? Are we going to become corporate fascists? Are we all going to die? 

Every time I feel myself getting sucked into the media hysteria that is the budget deficit, I go back to an interactive deficit puzzle  created presumably by the New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt in November of last year.

This interactive deficit puzzle has soothed me many times, and each time I begin the puzzle, I am reminded of how simple and effective it is. I can balance the budget without hurting the elderly or the poor, and upon balancing the budget, I am left feeling joyful. My euphoria only lasts for a few minutes though, because in completing Leonhardt’s puzzle, I am left wondering why the budget has taken months to balance when I can balance it in less than five minutes… has every member of Congress sat down and used a tool like this?

I know all those fogies in Congress probably don’t remember anything from their last economics class, so maybe a puzzle/tool/application like Leonhardt’s  would be most helpful in getting these elected officials to think about budget deficit concepts in terms of money and not social agenda.  Leonhardt’s project breaks down US spending and tax areas in concise and understandable language, and with its point and click format, even new computer-using Congressmen can understand how to solve the deficit.

Can’t the Speaker of the House and Joe Biden send out a mass e-mail to all Congressmen demanding everyone use Leonhardt’s interactive puzzle before the next session? That mass e-mail should close with a line something like… “Any elected official that refuses to use Leonhardt’s puzzle because it is on the New York Times site will be barred from the floor.”

Lucien Moore House in ruins

^^ If the rest of the United States looks like this, I just might move to Canada. Collecting firewood is only fun the first couple of times… ^^

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New Yorkers (and the world) need to chill out over the Great Bronx Zoo Cobra Escape

Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atk...

There's this rumor going around saying Lilith slept with snakes...

So, I am not a “snake expert”, and the post below is based off my limited experiences with snakes at friends houses and from my observations at the zoo. Oh, and, the fact that snakes are cold-blooded, meaning snakes are the temperature of their surroundings.

Psst, New Yorkers! The cobra is a cold-blooded reptile, and it’s 40 degrees outside! Why would the escaped cobra even leave the Reptile building?

Because there is obviously nothing to fear, I have to assume this is all because New York,  New York was feeling jealous over all the national (and international) media attention Chicago’s been getting because of our newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As proof of how awesome our new mayor is, his fake twitter account is being made into a book.  Does Mayor Bloomberg even have a fake twitter (a good one)? And are the tweets of the fake Bronx Zoo Cobra  going to be made into a book? I scoff at myself for even posing the question. Well, maybe if the cobra actually kills someone.

You can probably tell, I don’t find the fake Bronx Zoo Cobra twitter account funny mainly because I refuse to forget that snakes are cold-blooded… (just like how squirrels can’t pickpocket people because they don’t have hands – I’m looking at you, Justin Kaufmann-)

As to why journalists (and their readers/viewers) have eaten this silly story up, my  guess is the escaped  Bronx Zoo cobra story lightens an otherwise somber international community worried about Japan, Libya, and budget deficits.

UPDATE: Before I hit the Publish button I  google-newsed “bronx zoo cobra”, and do you know what was at the top of my search? The Egyptian cobra was found inside the Reptile building. I am soooo good.

Like me, the director of the Bronx Zoo Jim Breheny also doesn’t understand all the hub-bub over the snake, as evident by his behavior in the above press conference video.


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