Dead Bodies on the Internet: A new era of online gore ushers in new fans, more money…but at what cost

By on January 10, 2018

Faces of Death is not a real snuff film, but it’s not really something you want to watch either.

I’m going to be completely honest with you: I thought it was going to be months before I got around to discussing dead bodies on the Internet with you. I was all set to talk about British baking shows and forging knives and streaming services I can’t believe don’t exist and why watching the Olympics online is way better than watching them on TV and a whole bunch of other subjects that weren’t dead bodies on the Internet. But death, much like life, comes at you fast, and sometimes you just have to change course.

You might have heard a story recently about how a Youtube star, who I’m not going to name here because fuck that guy, went on a trip to Japan, visited the famous Aokigahara forest, filmed the body of someone who committed suicide then uploaded said video to his channel. Now, this would have been problematic without the next piece of information, but this decision was made worse because so many of the people who view this channel are young. Like “don’t understand the concept of killing yourself” young. Like “probably shouldn’t be watching Youtube on their own but it’s such a convenient babysitter that we let them watch it anyway” young.

Now, a lot of people way smarter than me are using this to talk about big picture Internet issues — the word algorithm comes up a lot, as does monetization — but I’m here to admit that while I do think this situation with the blogger and the suicide victim and the kids is shocking, I don’t think it’s particularly surprising. As with any major Internet controversy, my first response to this story was “wow, I can’t believe it took so long for something like this to happen.”

The Internet is full of videos of dead people. Shock sites have existed for decades, and have only grown more popular as the ability to shoot, upload and stream video has gotten easier. And that’s only natural because long before the Internet existed there were humans out there who wanted to see dead bodies.

Snuff films used to be something that people talked about but never expected to see. Unless you had access to a good mom and pop video store, even seeing something as silly as Faces of Death wasn’t guaranteed. Now for less than $10 you can get a one month subscription to Shudder and watch it as many times as you’d like or you could just stream one of the many versions of it uploaded to Youtube for free. Yes, something that was so infamous is now only a few clicks away.

Sure, Faces of Death wasn’t a real snuff film, but its existence proves that there will always be those people out there who not only slow down when they see a car wreck but wish they had an app that told them about all the car wrecks so they’d never miss any. And thanks to the Internet, there is a never- ending stream of nastiness available for their consumption.

Lurk on the darker fringes of the Internet long enough and you’ll learn that the sounds of a beheading are sometimes worse than the images. You’ll discover what a hammer can do to the human body. You’ll come to the conclusion that the only thing that separates us from the ancient armies that killed every man, woman and child in a city they conquered is that they made statues of what they did and we upload our atrocities.

But you have to go out looking for those sorts of things. 98 percent of kids aren’t going to randomly stumble upon “3 Guys, 1 Hammer” while clicking their way through unboxing videos. They’ll discover those darker parts of the Internet as they grow up. We try to act like kids are sweet and innocent, but there are plenty of them under the age of 10 who love horror. For them, IT, Stranger Things and Five Nights At Freddy’s are pillars of their pop culture reality. And I don’t think it’s weird that there are YouTubers out there looking to exploit that connection.

Oh, don’t act surprised. These dudes know exactly what they’re doing. The same guy that filmed the suicide victim faked his own death in front of some of his young fans because he knew he’d get some views. The only difference is that more people are aware of what’s happening online and ready to call out bad behavior. If this guy hadn’t filmed a dead body, someone else with a ridiculous amount of subscribers on Youtube would have.

In the end, it’s all about making money, and this guy is going to walk away with more fans thanks to people wanting to see how far he’ll push the envelope in the future. The only question left is how far that envelope gets pushed. PJH

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