Two Wisconsin girls (ages 12 and 13) are on trial for stabbing another girl 19 times and leaving her for dead under the premises of wanting to appease the Slenderman. Amazingly, the girl survived and the perpetrators are now going to be tried as adults. This case has brought into view once again popular culture's effects on troubled people.
This is not the first case of this nature where an online or gaming cult figure was a reportedly motivating component for a murder or horrendous crime. Even today, we deal with the effects of mindless Pokemon Go chasers riding in cars while staring at their cell phones and people wandering onto private property and walking off cliffs while playing.
Can we blame the culture?
I don't think so.
As much as we'd like to say music, video games, fictional characters and the like can motivate mayhem, we can't. They are simply an inspiration for madness that exists. It is not the reason, so much as the excuse. The reason is a broken mind, a sociopath, the inspiration for the particular mania is anything that person identifies with to the point of obsession. When they are caught, it comes to be the excuse. I think we can all agree, Slenderman did not make these girls do the horrific crime they undertook (above).
So, if we don't blame faucets for OCD people washing their hands, but accept that their brain issue has focused on germs and sees hand washing as the answer, then we understand a bit better the role inspirations and obsessions have in this insanity.
It is no different than psychotic breaks where people hear God or the Devil speaking to them. We can't blame religion for insane killing, it simply gave the perpetrators a focus outside of themselves to blame their actions on.
I talk often of "scapeghosts," and families and individuals who blame issues on ghosts rather than deal with the real problem. People who are mentally unstable or substance abusers are especially vulnerable to themes that run throughout the para culture including possession, demons, evil spirits, and the like. We can't say that such forces made them go mad, but that their madness was inspired by themes that took hold and sounded "legitimate" to their mind's confused state.
There are plenty of cases of people taking obsessive interest in popular culture and committing crimes. We saw that with the movie "Taxi Driver" and John Hinckley, Jr. shooting President Reagan.
There have been numerous stalkers who killed celebrities because they were caught up in the "image" of the person. It could have been anyone they focused on, as their personalities were looking for something to latch onto and focus all their machinations upon.
A man in Virginia shot his parents, claiming that he thought he was caught up in a Matrix.
A teen killed his brother and blamed the show "Dexter."
A 13-year-old went on a biting spree and blamed it on the movie "Twilight."
A New Jersey man claimed a Metallica song made him kill someone.
A teen claimed a Tupac song made him kill a police officer.
Charles Manson said he heard messages on a Beatles album.
The Columbine massacre was blamed on Marilyn Manson.
A teen goes on a manhunt after playing the videogame "Manhunt."
Other pop culture targets for blame - Ouija, Satanic, music, movies, books, graphic novels, rappers, videogames, urban legends, celebrities.
Ultimately, whatever you feed the brain of a trouble individual is going to create their inner fantasy world. All the happy sunshine games in the world aren't going to make sociopaths and psychopaths hand out flowers on a street corner.
If you give the public no pop culture, they will find a dark obsession somehow, whether it's in a classic book or the Bible. Religious extremists have caused more threat to society and yet no one is banning their texts that seem to feed their sick fantasy for justification in mass killings.
It all goes wrong somewhere in cognition and that can have a lot of influences from substance abuse to physical and emotional abuse, brain chemistry, brain damage, chemical imbalances, fanaticism, coupled with a bad environment.
1. First, you have something that happens - an event.
2. Then, you tell yourself something about that event that gives it meaning to process, such as "this sucks" or "that's wrong" or whatever.
3. Then, you have a resulting emotion, say "resentment," "anger," or "rage."
4. Then, you take an action which could include self harm, drugs, drinking, crimes, and hurting others.
Somewhere in the process of #2 - interpreting and self explanation, things go extremely illogical. People make associations that don't exist, place blame on outside influences, don't want to see their own part in things so see themselves as a martyr or defender of "right."
Of course, that leads to illogical out of proportion emotions as seen in the case of Kamikazes and religious extremists, mass killers, and the like.
Ultimately, innocent society pays for the machinations of the troubled.
Whether that killer believed they were justified, identified too strongly with a movie character, were psychotic or obsessed, the focus of that obsession is not to blame.
If I cut in front of someone in line, he could redirect me to the back of the line or he could stab me. He might blame me for cutting in line, but he cannot blame me for what happens in the process of him explaining the situation to himself irrationally, creating out of control emotions leading to stabbing.
This would be like blaming a woman killed by a stalker for the stalker's obsession. How dare she exist so he can focus his insanity upon her!
I don't think there is a lot of justification for video games that involve violence. There is just no reason to be repeating patterns of killing and stealing, beating and dominating others as entertainment.
They may not cause the crimes, but they give plenty of fodder for sick minds to digest and ferment upon and create a perpetual fight-or-flight response in players that over time could lay down PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms in players.
We can't take away human themes from people with troubled minds, as even our religious texts are full of judgment and anger, retribution and good versus evil. We can, however, help our citizens to focus on what is right in the world, and that might start with something as simple as the nightly news and the scandal sheets on the newsstands. It could influence our music, movies and video games, as well.
It may not fix broken minds, as they will always be with us, but for the general population it could serve to make us all more positively focused rather than on the few broken people who act out their mind's insanity.