© Stephanie Collins (2016)

“Man is the cruelest animal.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

The senseless and brutal murder of the McStay family of four is an example of humanity at its worst.  It is everything that we imagine to be positive about family and friendship turned on its head.  There is no good reason, ever, for people to be harmed this way. No excuse, no motive will ever really explain it.

When I think of evil, I think both of how cruel people can be to one another and of our inexhaustive capacity for destruction.  It could be argued that nature as a whole is without a conscience. Watch any show depicting animals in their natural habitat and  acts of horror are metered out daily.  Even though our ingenuity, in theory, should lift us above needless violence, for whatever reason, we remain a violent species, and senseless murder is where this insanity is most evident.

That evil of the kind that happened to the McStays can so easily descend into the lives of an undeserving family, puts into question all concepts of universal morality.

It is horrifying and we are powerless to prevent it. Or are we?

The internet provides a context in which we might feel we have some modicum of control over these bewildering events. Unlike a television show or film or podcast, this is an interactive environment:  If we can only solve the crime, find the missing, if we are able to do this from a chair, at a table, in front of a computer, then maybe we have some ability to right what is decidedly an unfair world.

And this is the intersection of blogging and murder.  But are we deluded in imagining that what we do behind a computer screen, sheltered in our home, risking nothing, actually impacts the outcome of a case?

Bloggers who often have limited education, read one article on a subject (they before knew little or nothing about) and suddenly they are experts!  They diagnose complex psychological disorders and deliver analysis on sophisticated forensics they do not have the background in science to truly comprehend.  There is a peculiar narcissism manifested in the world of bloggers, where basically dilettantes to science, fail to notice that to master any subject requires discipline, and time, and understanding. (The real experts spend decades devoted to these subjects acquiring degrees and racking up years of hands-on experience.)

And then there is the tyranny of ideas. Anyone visiting one of the many on-line chat rooms, blogs or Facebook pages, who dares to explore theories outside those which are almost always dictated by a dominant few, will be verbally attacked, and the attacks surprisingly do spill off the page and into one’s  life–fellow bloggers searching out your real name and address and sometimes threatening to contact your employer.

There are other cases with a similar on-line landscape, but none quite as durable as the McStay family tragedy.  For all kinds of reasons, including online posts and involvement by family members and friends of the victims, this case has been kept alive on-line. There are people who have continuously posted on this case for 4 years or longer.

And, of course, I am one. Have been for a number of years now.

This begs the question, though: Does this obsessive crime blogging actually assist in the pursuit of justice?  Or is the only value we add in our heads?

Is our importance to the solving of these crimes substantiated by any real verifiable data?  I read bloggers, all the time who claim that somehow their work on-line is essential, but I have rarely, or actually never read testimony from victims to confirm these assertions. It is, after all, law enforcement who can actually bring justice.  The DA who will prosecute. And the defense who hopefully will protect those wrongfully accused.

Crime-bloggers are not even in the immediate audience. We are in the nose-bleed section of the stadium, at best.

Is crime-blogging just another illusion we entertain,as we journey into virtual worlds increasingly inhabited and invested in as if they were real life?

Do we really help anyone as we deliver mere guesses with a stroke of our fingertips across our keyboards?

And most importantly, are we careful enough to make certain that when inserting ourselves into the pain and grief of others, we aren’t doing more harm than good?

© Stephanie Collins (2016)