There is a difference between watching a real murder videotaped and a staged one filmed. I want to explain what that difference is, what it is I feel right now having watched the “1 Lunatic 1 Icepick” video making the rounds on the back alleys of the Internet, the video of Luka Magnotta dismembering his victim, Jun Lin.
I could say I did not want to watch this video and a certain part of me wishes I did not, but if I am to be honest I have to admit that I wanted to see it, that I heard the warnings not to watch it, and that I failed to heed them, steamed right on past them in my curiosity (or perversity) to see this thing. I would encourage you to exercise a bit more will than I did, that you will wish you hadn’t watched it if you do decide to. You don’t need to see everything. There are reasons, very good ones, why your parents, why mine, told us to avert our eyes at times, that certain things affect us profoundly.
I know I have crossed a line. My body tingles with pain as a part of me hollows out, certain things dispersing never to be regained.
The video was originally posted to a site celebrating gore videos, presumably by Magnotta. A lawyer in Montana tried to tip off the Toronto police to the video, that it was most likely the murder case they were dealing with. The lawyer was ignored when he tried to phone this in, was told that the video was a fake, was told “why would a killer film his own crime and then post it on the Internet?”
Why indeed? The question perplexing a great many people now that it appears police were too slow to accept tips about this video because they had too reasonable views of human nature. But the question, in 2012, might be why not? This case intrigues me so much because it sits at the intersection of so many narratives – gay killers who seem to kill because they are gay, that the issues of dealing with their sexuality in an inhospitable world seems to bring about a particular form of violent madness; the egomania and belief that everyone is entitled to stardom and riches that also brings about madness and depression in those that never realize the absurd ideal of a great life that mass media can instill in a person; the documentation and exhibition of anything and everything, the need to broadcast all our doings to the world online; the viral nature of content on the Internet and its ease of distribution for content that would have otherwise never made it out of sealed court documents and police evidence lockers; the increasing disappearance of standards and practices in journalism with the competition from the motley, uncensored torrent of content people otherwise have access to (as recently evidenced by Gawker’s gleeful publication of the Miami “cannibal” attack victim’s face).
In this Luka Magnotta case, you have an insane Dennis Cooper novel come to life. Magnotta seems to have emerged from mysterious origins, going by various aliases over the years through his careers as a stripper, escort, porn star, and aspiring reality television star. What brings a person to this point in their life where they are sadistically chopping up men on camera, using New Order’s “True Faith” as a soundtrack to the thing, a blatant reference to American Psycho’s usage of the song, and then posting the whole thing on the Internet? The question eats away at you and you wonder what conditions brought this about, how far removed you are from whatever these lines are that were crossed. Is watching this video a step in that direction, one step closer toward whatever lines he crossed?
There is also the theme of aging, a Dorian Gray horror aspect to the story. Maybe I imagined the quotes I read yesterday as I can’t find them anymore, but be they imagined or be they real, they have created another narrative of this story for my mind to focus on, that of the vain gay male upset about aging. The quotes were from Magnotta, or maybe I entirely imagined them in my fever dreams about this murder yesterday. He was talking about his career as a porn star and said something along the lines of how he had to do lots of work at whatever age it was that these quotes were given because no one wants men when they are over thirty in gay porn. I must have imagined this. Regardless, I thought about this man whose main source of income had been monetizing his youthful looks through either escort work or low-budget porns, and thought about what torture his vain mind must have been going through in his 29th year with that terrifying number of 30 approaching, with his ability to sell his twink status soon to finally come to an end.
And here I am, along with lots of other Internet viewers, giving him his shot at fame finally. Finally, it’s all paying off. Fame has come his way.
There is a long Internet trail that one can follow, old videos and photos he posted to YouTube and to XTube, fascinating to see, pieces of a puzzle that I am trying to assemble into a narrative. Then there are the kitten snuff videos he is also responsible for newly making the rounds of these same back alleys. There needs to be a story that we can follow. It helps the world seem more sensible, orderly, that our religion of cause and effect can stay untarnished, infallible. And so we read news story after news story about this thing, or about this Miami cannibal, or about this or that horrific event, or at least I do, reading to see what new details have been uncovered, wanting to understand these things, wanting to continue to believe that we possess even vague notions of how the world and humans work.
I watch this video and I try to grasp it. And I can’t. It’s real, the death of a real human being with a family that was worried when he went missing, and I watch his limbs get cut off, I watch his flesh cut apart with a fork and knife, I watch a dog nibble at his flesh, I watch this limbless torso get sexually defiled, I watch Magnotta jerk himself off with a chopped off arm. The whole time I don’t know why I am watching. I am struck throughout by the juxtaposition of the bloody dismemberment and the old movie poster for Casablanca that hangs over Magnotta’s bed; there is something in this though I don’t know what. There are memories of that film, the feelings it inspired, and then there are the feelings brought about by this snuff film, a massive and unbridgeable gulf between the two. I gag and want to vomit and hate myself for watching this video and for living in this world where this is done, where it’s filmed, where it’s watched by hundreds of thousands online, where I am one of these, and where snarky comments are written about it like it’s a late-night B movie and not an actual person’s murder and dismemberment on video. And yet, it is a late-night B movie – increasingly this world becomes more and more of one.