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Is the connection between "social media" and "true crime entertainment" getting worse, or am I just paying more attention to it lately? whyIn 2021 it was the murder of Gabby Petito, a woman who caught the world's attention when she disappeared while traveling with her boyfriend. TikTok was inundated with absolutely disgusting people claiming they could psychically sense what happened and where she was, ending up dead in a national forest in Wyoming. Her boyfriend eventually admitted to killing her before shooting himself. Was one of the "means" correct? Who cares. They all speculated based on the details they feverishly dug up from the victim's social media and what little the police leaked to the public, and exploited a gruesome example of domestic violence to gain likes, followers or favorites or whatever they thought was worth winning more than your own humanity.
The latest version of this highly annoying circus comes in the fatal stabbings of four University of Idaho students in November. The case immediately became a source of information for true crime YouTubers, TikTokkers and podcasters, who took whatever was being reported in the news and dutifully relayed it to their audiences, along with naturally melancholic music, garish visuals and speculation as to what was happening could happened. .
For six weeks, all the general public knew was that four college students who were sleeping in the same house were mysteriously stabbed to death one night, while two other roommates on a lower floor were unharmed. In the same way,as I reported last week, the anti-vaccinationists used the time between Damar Hamlin's collapse during Monday Night Football and the real doctors who treated them to report what had happened, the fake fortune tellers on TikTok used those six weeks to sell their exploitative crap about what they think after happened to this house that night.
Here's an example: Tarot reader Ashley Guillard amassed 2.6 million likes on TikTok and claimed her magic cards told her the killer was Rebecca Scofield, a history professor at the University of Idaho. Why Scofield? Because Guillard ran a classic "psychic" scam where you have a guess and if it's true, you're hailed as a true psychic and fame and fortune are yours. When you make mistakes, find excuses, manipulate people's memories, delete those old TikToks, highlight other things you got right and hope people forget that nostalgia.
Unfortunately for Guillard, she's not good enough at the convention. He continued to molest Scofield and made up completely ridiculous stories like an affair he had with one of the murdered students, which convinced Guillard's fans to frame Scofield for the horrific crime, leading them to molest Scofield, which ultimately led to Scofield.file a lawsuit against Guillard for defamationafter Guillard allegedly ignored two cease and desist letters. You know I'm not the biggest fan of defamation suits, but sometimes they're necessary; I'm not sure if that will make things better or worse for Scofield, but I certainly understand why he would do it.
In late December, authorities finally arrested their prime suspect: Bryan Christopher Kohberger, a graduate student at nearby Washington State University (which is out of state, but only a 10-minute drive away). This prison inspired a new onenowof vultures to sell their nonsense: the amateur criminal psychologists who are not only certain that the police have caught the right suspect, but have come up with whole theories as to why they did it.
From this recording, the most prominent narrative I've seen is thisKohberger murdered four innocent people because they intimidated him. (For girls.)
Sarah Healey, who attended Pleasant Valley High School with Kohberger, said he was shy and reserved around himself and a small group of friends, but some of his classmates, especially the girls, made fun of Kohberger and threw things at him. .
"It was bad," Healey said. "Something was definitely wrong with him, like we couldn't quite pinpoint what it was. I remember once I was walking down the hall and he stopped me and said, 'Do you want to come out?'"
At the time, they didn't know each other or hang out in the same social circles, Healey said.
"It was just weird," he said. "But Bryan was bullied a lot and I never got a chance to say anything to defend him because he was always running away."
Healey said she heard other girls tell Kohberger at her school, "Go away, you asshole," or "I don't want to date you."
"Honestly, I think that's what caused it because he didn't get the right kind of help and it was mostly the women who bothered him," Healey said.
So that's how it all started: Mainstream news (Fox, in this case) desperately searched for information on this guy, found a girl willing to cover what he looked like in high school, and used her guess as a headline . This has now been picked up on social media, as init is videowhich YouTube actually recommended to me, in which a "licensed professional consultant" racked up half a million views by slowly repeating it as fact.
There are some problems with this narrative. First of all, Kohberger is 28 years old. IF someone bullied you in high school, it was at least a decade ago. So you're telling me when he was a teenager some girls told him to go away and TEN YEARS LATER he hit back by accidentally killing four people. uh huh To the right.
Second, WAS IT "Bullying"? I'm hesitant to question the judgment or memory of any random girl who went to the same school as him ten years ago, but when you tell me a young girl said to a young boy, "I don't want to go out with you "I would say personally. It's about "setting healthy boundaries," not "bullying."
Others who knew Kohberger in high school pointed out that indeed he dida heroin addict, which, yeah, I don't know, but I think it's pretty understandable not to want to date a heroin addict in high school. Ah, several of your ex-colleagues tooreported that he really was a tyrant. So.
Disinformation spreads so easily thanks to a confluence of events: First, there's the mainstream media's 24-hour news cycle, which demands information as quickly as possible, relying on whatever they can get their hands on. Then there's the vicious circle of social media, which requires the same rapid response with even less fact-checking or independent investigation.
Finally, this story satisfies our preconceived notions and desires: no one wants to believe that terrible things happen to normal people for no reason. If we can blame the victims, great! Now we don't have to worry about similar things happening to us because WE are good and loving and don't bully. If we can't blame the victims, at least we can come up with a good story to explain why the killer did what he did: Of course bad teenagers are to blame! Girls, with all your meanness and bullying. Girls are the reason men kill girls.
We also now have a built-in assumption that bullied children will attack and kill, dating back at least to America's first great school shooting(™), Columbine. Remember that? I know we've had so many pictures since then that it now seems strange that the whole country has been captivated by this story for months:in April 1999, two teenagers stormed the school, shooting and killing 12 students and a teacher and injuring 21 others.
I remember the outcome when the news reported that these two killers committed this act because they were intimidated. They told us they were part of what they called a "trench coat mob", that they were quiet, weird goth kids who got pushed around and bullied by the popular kids, jocks and cheerleaders, for which they ended up blowing up and getting revenge you. you. . It made sense to the general public: of course, children who are bullied don't last long and now we have a simple explanation as to why this happened and how we can prevent it in the future. Take action against bullies! Keep the guns but the bad teens just gotta go.
The only problem is that the "thug" explanation was dead wrong, based on the mainstream media desperately filling in the blanks before they had all the information.Agree as Dave Cullen, author of several books on mass shootings, including Columbine, there was a group of idiots at Columbine High School who called themselves the "Trench Coat Mob", but the two killers didn't even belong to that group; The killers' classmates reported that THEY were the ones who bullied others, including one who had spent the year before the murders threatening his classmates to the pointThe parents of one child contacted the policeand called for help (which the cops ignored).
Like most things, things are more complicated than we wish, more complicated than headlines can easily convey, and more complicated than we can comprehend in the minutes, hours, or days following a terrible tragedy. . in a place where we don't live for people we don't know.
Unfortunately, that's not how we built our society: we now want to know as much as we can, and when we don't get the truth, we settle for a lie that's comforting, intriguing, or meaningful. Don't believe it and don't reward the vultures.