The internet has been described as one of the many technologies that will contribute to a global, unified planet. This millennium of peace will presumably come about through our sharing of cultural information, making us all realize our common “human” similarities, which far outweigh our regional differences.
Perhaps at some distant point this will become obvious, but, at present anyway, the internet seems to mirror those base qualities that are common to all humans without illuminating our more optimistic qualities. Pornography and trading — sex and money — are the top destinations on the internet and these venues of content are struggling to keep pace with an increasing desire for more and more novel stimulation.
So how bad is the world wide web these days? Viewzone’s Sky Dorey decided to see how far she could penetrate the dark and dank underworld of digital evil.
In the right hands, a program like Photoshop can create visual images that, on the computer screen at least, can shock and astound the viewer. I’ve been on the net for almost four years now, and I’ve seen just about everything and, for the most part, there’s a lot of illusion and deception. Sure there are bad things out there, especially on the newsgroups, but Viewzone wanted me to see how bad.
A popular Hollywood movie recently focused attention on the business of perversity in films, namely “snuff” films in which someone is actually murdered for the enjoyment of certain people who get off on that sort of voyeurism. I had heard that some newsgroups were devoted to some of these extreme fetishes and decided to start my search with the keyword “snuff films.”
The term “snuff” was first used in 1970, when Alan Shakleton made an exploitation film based on a Manson Family rip-off film called “Slaughter.” Shakleton called his film, “Snuff in New York City”. His slogan was, “Made in South America Where Life is Cheap”. The term “snuff” was then reinforced by Ed Sanders in his book The Family-The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion [Panther Books, 1976]. The term was used to describe unsubstantiated claims that Manson and his followers may have been involved in perpetrating such crimes. The concept of such barbaric films has always been the ultimate example of the darkest and most blatant evil. But does snuff actually exist on the internet?
On one web site there is a statement by feminist and legal scholar, Catherine McKinnon, insisting that snuff films exist, but she provides no definitive proof. On another site, Ted McIlvanna, keeper of The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality’s collection of 289,000 sex movies and 100,000 videos, reports that he has seen only three on-camera deaths in 25 years of devoted study. “Two were accidental while the third was a bizarre religious film shot in Morocco in which a hunchbacked kid is torn apart by wild horses while men stood around and masturbated”.
McIlvanna is quick to remind us that most of us have already seen a snuff film. The famous Zapruder film, in which President Kennedy is assassinated, could be defined as snuff… then there is the video series, Faces of Death, in which already dead bodies are photographed following lethal accidents. (Faces of Death 2 managed to sell more than 50,000 copies and ranks as one of the op 20 rentals of all time — despite having zero television, radio or print advertising. Although many mainstream sources reported the tapes were real, the gruesome videos actually consisted of staged scenes of carnage, mixed with international news footage and autopsy videos.)
In the television genre, L.A. producers like Bruce Nash have helped big-three TV get over its inhibitions over showing death. Taking his lead from cable shows like “Real TV,” Nash recently produced ABC’s “World’s Deadliest Storms” and has other extreme projects in development. These shockumentaries are heavily diluted versions of the best-selling videos, but still present montages of everything from an elephant trampling its trainer to a hot-air balloon ride that turns into a sky-high barbecue. Last November, Fox ran similar specials against NBC’s powerful Thursday lineup, and beat the network in several key male demographics.
Many critics consider this recent rash of tapes and programs to be legitimate snuff, but — if you consider the definition presented by the FBI — these products are excluded from the genre, since none of the deaths were committed for the sole purpose of entertainment. So if snuff is potentially being shown on network television, is it on the web as well?
Pictures such as the one above, taken in Kosovo, were shown in many European magazines. Duplicates soon appeared all over the internet in what some believed to be staged propaganda.
Is this using the photograph of death as entertainment?
Now that we’ve established a growing demand for snuff-type material, the laws of economics require us to consider how such movies and photographs would be possible. Finding a subject, sadly, would be the easiest part of the production. We live in a country riddled with thousands of unsolved missing person reports on a planet plagued by genocide, war and revolution.
Yaron Svoray — an Israeli journalist who claims to have witnessed several snuff films and photographs in his book, Gods of Death — found a booming snuff industry in war-torn Bosnia. According to Svoray, starving mothers would offer themselves and their children for any compensation, in hopes of surviving a single day longer. The irony of his observations was immediately apparent when I followed my first search engine link to a photograph on alt.binaries.pictures.gruesome. I suspect the photograph was part of a report on war atrocities, and so would not technically be snuff itself, but it does illustrate the possible veracity of Svoray’s claims.
The actual filming and recording would also be relatively easy today… for the producer. The proliferation of home video cameras and digital (no film) cameras not only allows for an inexpensive shoot and keeps reproduction simple, but also provides an amateurish, gonzo feel that’s crucial to a proper snuff film.
The Internet is perhaps the only profitable marketplace in existence for real or contrived snuff — but not necessarily a safe one. The FBI used a computer bulletin board to help prosecute a Virginia resident named Dean Lambey after he posted an ad seeking a pre-adolescent boy for a snuff project. The case took place in 1989 — an FBI employee, who requested anonymity, informed us that the Bureau’s current presence on the Web is 100 times stronger.
For the record, our FBI source also says that there is no such thing as a snuff. But my third visit to alt.binaries.pictures.tasteless revealed a series of postings that made me doubt this conclusion. A reader sent me this lead and included was the story which accompanied several pictures of a middle aged man’s body being dismembered with the use of a saw and some kitchen utensils. These are real. Somehow you know that the instant you see them. The story indicated that this was a planned murder, performed by a jealous lover and his girlfriend, upon a biker who has attempted to seduce the woman.
The pictures, in this case, were originally on film and were reported to the authorities by the Quick-Photo operator. The couple were arrested when they attempted to retrieve their developed pictures. Digital cameras and video cameras, sadly, raise this inhibition and eliminate the fear of public scrutiny, even if accidental.
I stopped my search amidst feelings of guilt and paranoia. I felt guilty for seeking out this horrid topic and for adding my statistics to the hit rates of these types of postings. I also feel sure that, somehow, someone must be monitoring the net in an attempt to locate and identify people with this proclivity. Like a good hot shower, clearing my browser’s cache provided only superficial and temporary relief from the realization that such things exist and, yes, are part of what we call human nature.
UPDATE: 2006 – I received the following movie from a reader who asks if it is “real.” This is a dramatic movie of a woman being shot in the head and is in MPG format. Download at your own risk – it is VERY disturbing. What do you think… is it real? Your comments are requested.