In these days of pervasive violence in movies, TV, video games and the daily news, it takes a lot to shock me. But every now and then, something does. A year ago, there was Newtown. Now we have 12-year-old killer girls in Wisconsin: Two middle school girls are accused of stabbed another girl 19 times. How could this happen? What was going on inside these girls’ heads?
This tragic incident raises so many issues that need close examination. First, did the girls think the Internet character Slender Man was real? Don’t 12-year-olds recognize that an animated character is not real? This question is complicated.
The visual, print and internet media are full of ghost stories, witchcraft and demons. Many are documentaries, sometimes involving “scientific” investigations. It is conceivable the girls thought the character was an artist’s rendition or avatar of a real entity.
But that doesn’t explain why the two would cold-heartedly plot and carry out a vicious stabbing. Psychological evaluations will inevitably reveal mental disorders, neuro-psychological anomalies, family dysfunction. Still there remains the essential question of how omnipresent violent themes in our culture feed into a perfect storm of deadly actions. Both the First and Second amendments surely must have reasonable limits to protect the young and the innocent.