Second Lifers: mass murderers in the making?

Having avoided it for as long as humanly possible without going into total media boycott, I finally watched the infamous Cho Seung-Hui videos on Lateline tonight. Those videos that NBC News in the US received in the post and “handled it with dignity”, according to Virginia Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty. (Yeah, all the dignity of broadcasting them around the world a hundred million times with NBC logos slapped all over them.)

What is clear is that Cho, like so many other massacre-ists, suffered a troublesome combination of “a persecution complex, an enormous, fragile ego, an obsessive need for control and low competence for exercising it”, as a chap by the name of raincoaster rather aptly puts it. They are most often “tightly-wound, ego-driven men who would conventionally be described as failures”.

In a subsequent post, raincoaster draws an unkind but not inaccurate (cruel, but fair) parallel between mass murdering psychos and people who are hugely into Second Life, which is currently the mainstream media’s second-biggest obsession after serial killers.

. . . it seemed obvious that Second Life was most attractive to mature people who’d failed in First Life . . . it gives you the opportunity to hit REPLAY and live your life over, and if you don’t like the way it’s going, you hit DELETE and create a new life. This is not something that those accustomed to success would find compelling.

Which is also, if you think about it, a pretty decent explanation of much of the bizarre, antisocial and immature behaviour that goes on in L2 (that’s what the cognoscenti call it), such as, oh I dunno, interrupting someone’s lecture with a bunch of flying penises. Second Lifers even invented a new name for people who do stuff like this: they’re called “griefers”, apparently because “no-life losers” is too long or accurate, or something.

I mean, if you want to see a textbook persecution complex, look no further than the paranoid ravings of high-profile SL dissident Prokofy Neva, which have recently descended to threats of physical violence against some of his/her nemeses. And there is no shortage of control freaks or enormous fragile egos in the never-ending flame wars on Second Citizen and other forums.

If these nutjobs can teach us nothing else, they at least demonstrate the point a very clever person recently made to me: there’s no point moving to another country, and that goes doubly for a virtual one, if you’re fucked in the head. Because no matter where you go, you take your head with you.

This is the ultimate futility of people who come to Second Life trying to compensate for their real-world shortcomings and lack of success. If you’re a loser in first life, you’re probably a loser in Second Life too.

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11 thoughts on “Second Lifers: mass murderers in the making?

  1. I’m more optimistic than you (and I’m not a chap). I think that the internet kicks the asses of newbies fairly thoroughly but that it can indeed teach them to become better people. They can feed their need for recognition, they can hone their social skills (they’ll just get booted from forum to forum until they improve), and they can hopefully bleed off some of that pent-up rage, venting it on an imaginary dragon quest or something.

    Mind you, there are no statistics yet to show whether a robust online life helps the mental state of a hair-trigger zeta male or whether it hurts.

  2. Whereas I am less optimistic, because I keep seeing more examples of internerd groupthink that makes all sorts of revolting ideas and opinions acceptable or even normal. For instance, I think in recent years the interwebs have been acting as a bitter misogynist concentrator. Or if you don’t think that’s a problem, think about how these terms have entered the main(ish)stream: goatse, tubgirl and lemonparty.

    I’d like to believe people can become better people through blogging and vent their real-world anger in a somewhat less consequential arena. But lately we’re seeing an awful lot of people taking their online grudges into meatspace, or at least threatening to – Kathy Sierra being the obvious example. (Although he makes light of it, read some of the sick shit people have sent Lowtax over the years.) And Prokofy Neva’s seemingly limitless persecution complex appears to be spilling out of SL and into the real world, where it undoubtedly started in the first place.

    These are not good signs for people who view the intertubes as a wholly positive force for humanity.

    PS: I guessed you weren’t a chap, raincoaster, but sometimes I use the word in a gender non-specific kind of way, mostly to confuse the hell out of people.

  3. The Kathy Sierra example is interesting, particularly because nobody actually DID take it to meatspace. Her address is all over the Net, making it easy for someone to find her and she hasn’t actually had a physical confrontation at all. I would argue that this example tends more to reinforce my point than yours. And I know what goatse is, but not the other two words, so the Dark Force is not perhaps as pervasive as you might think.

  4. Sierra would have us believe she at least feels physically threatened, though nobody actually roughed her up or went through her garbage. The possibility that Kathy Sierra is a great big drama queen should not be discounted, of course.

    Even if people don’t actually go and do what they say they’re going to do, they still get so riled by meaningless online fripperies that they threaten to “slit your throat and cum down your gob” or “fuck [your infant daughter] in the ass and toss her over a bridge”.

    To me, this crosses a line between harmless cyber-crank and real-world antisocial nutbag.

    If you haven’t heard of the other two, it’s only because you are innocent in the ways of the web, young raincoaster. I would try to keep it that way.

  5. yeah that’s ok vm, but i’d attack her more on her repeated and vague ego/low achievement reason. In fact, to focus on just the one (albeit general) reason and try to defend it smacks of ego. she doesn’t even touch on issues such as absence of compassion (a learned trait?). fuck i’m bored.

  6. The lack of compassion thing is because they’re psychopaths – people who have no empathy for or sense of obligation to others. Take your point, though – not everyone who has a big ego and a lack of achievement becomes a mass murderer (that’s called affirming the consequent, for all you fallacy buffs).

    Even if you are an underachiever with a big head, there has to be something else wrong that makes the spring inside your brain snap to the point where you shoot 30 people.

    The danger is someone will be tempted to say, ‘let’s lock up everyone who fits that pathology in case they go on a murderous rampage’. They wouldn’t even be that hard to find . . . just round up everyone on Second Life.

  7. i take it you’re being humourous with this second life players are mass murderers angle. for reasons of taste i’m having a bit of trouble with it. and i’d like to know by what standards low achievement is being mearsured. I must admit I know fuck all about this guy (as does everyone), but he was going to college and had had a girlfriend, which seems like a reasonable achievement to me. obviously rainman has higher standards than this, could you please enlighten us. in his manifesto he at no point seems to show signs of underachievment, instead he talks about rejecting hedonistic values, although god forbid we take him at face value.

  8. An article in today’s Australian (doesn’t appear to be online) says that as the son of Korean immigrants, Cho would have had a lot of expectations piled on him. Sure, he was in college, but at Virginia Tech, when his sister went to Princeton and got a job at the State Department. And studying English, not the big-earning and respected professions demanded by achievement-obsessed immigrant parents. Which means even if he was successful by objective (ha) standards, he might well have considered himself a failure or have been made to feel that way by his family.

    What girlfriend? He was infatuated with someone who rejected him and had previously been reported for stalking women and taking upskirt pics. He was also painfully shy and lonely, eg, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap all the time.

    And you can’t be serious about rejecting hedonistic values. All that stuff about rich kids is an obvious persecution complex – true paranoid nutters often identify successful people or groups whom they resent for taking away what’s due to them, the nutters. (My mother had a friend who suffered from schizophrenia and was convinced celebrities were sapping her life energy and Daryl Somers was trying to kill her.)

  9. Maybe he was just insane.

    Yes, there’s a difference between these killers and your run of the mill egotistical failure: these ones are also insane. Whether circumstances drive them insane or whether insanity was latent in them all this time I don’t know. Maybe other egotistical failures have learned life skills that allow them to cope better with the discrepancy between their self-image and who the world tells them they are; my suggestion is online life, subbing it in for the real world. It should be easier to achieve success there, because the entire bell curve is shifted south a significant amount by the demographics. Maybe they just have a better support system than these guys. Maybe that switch simply doesn’t exist in their heads. But if that last is true, doesn’t it imply that there are non-egotistical, non-failures walking around with the ability to do this latent in their brains, only a few failures away from snapping? Ugh.

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