In Slender Man, We’ve Created a Monster

Interview

Friday, June 13, 2014

A chalk drawing of Slender Man in Raleigh, NC A chalk drawing of Slender Man in Raleigh, NC (mdl70/flickr)

The alleged stabbing of a 12-year-old girl by two of her friends last week sent the media scrambling for an explanation. According to police, the attackers said they believed in Slender Man, a fictional creation of online horror forums where fans post short stories and fake documentary photographs of a tall, faceless monster who abducts children.

If that account is correct, what would it mean for fan fiction to motivate a real-life attempted murder? Do internet message boards dangerously blur the line between imagination and reality? Or is the media’s rush to place blame a dumbing-down of a complex situation?

Rebecca Traister wrote an article in The New Republic that tried to find some answers. She tells Kurt Andersen that there’s nothing new about pre-teens getting carried away by their imaginations. “People have taken this immediate blame-the-internet stance,” she says. “Taking cultural cues and making them your own — that is not a habit invented by internet technology. When you’re telling ghost stories around a campfire, you’re doing a version of that.”

Like the death metal scare of the 80s and 90s, Traister says, the panic over Slender Man doesn’t say as much about online horror as it does about our culture’s anxiety about the power of the internet.

    Music Playlist
  • The New San Francisco Bay Blues (Instrumental)
    Artist: Hurray for the Riff Raff

    Live Performance

Guests:

Rebecca Traister

Produced by:

Matt Frassica

Comments [4]

John A

Is Kurt showing an interest to the tune of 'where does evil come from, where does it start?' I sure have that interest and have been seeing a bit too much use of satanism in myriad places across the Internet. Does culture's interest in satanic images snowball? Now that would be a story for the ages.

Jun. 16 2014 12:18 AM
suzinne from bronx

Can kids really be this impressionable these days? These girls were 12 years old, and that's not all that young. What is wrong with kids these days? Growing up in the 60s and 70s, you didn't hear about kids killing other kids every other week. If it happened it was an anomaly. What this says to me is there is something extremely toxic that's creating all these disturbances.

Jun. 15 2014 03:55 PM
rz from Uptown

The statements by the host and commentator that people have an expectation of veracity from media (online and otherwise) is an assumption that reveals the age of both host and commentator.

Jun. 15 2014 02:26 PM
QD from DC

Anyone who does the barest amount of research, that is, wikipedeing Slenderman and googling the statements of the accused, can easily see that the two have nothing to do with each other at al. Slenderman is not a character who runs websites, does not demand human sacrifice and similar crap, etc. He's actually notable as staring in one of the most non-violent horror games ever created-- in Slender, the protagonist is armed only with a flashlight, and when he dies, the screen simply goes fuzzy as Slenderman looms. The end.

Jun. 15 2014 10:52 AM

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