A Web Full of Gore
Snooping citizens infect the Internet with shock photos
By Cosette Pérez | Miami Lakes Educational Center
On the Blood Shows website, red lettering pops out from a black background.
A video link on the site shows men in a dark room holding rusty blades in their right hands to hack a finger in their opposite hands like a butcher.
Blood gushes and the scene instantly switches to another self-mutilating act.
Blood Shows is one of many interactive websites featuring beheadings, executions, suicides, war videos and other forms of violent behavior. The victims on these websites are not people who have volunteered to have their death exploited on the Internet.
Snooping outsiders save these videos on their phones and video cameras, and then post them on these sites without permission.
It disgusts many. Others are fascinated. But it has definitely influenced the culture.
“People are voyeuristic, and are extremely intrigued by violence and various aspects of carnage,” said Robert Blackgrove, a clinical psychologist in Miami.
According to the Parents Television Council, violence on TV has increased by 41 percent since 1998. More news channels, websites, and newspapers are getting more graphic with their content.
In the past, news stations would not show body bags. But CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° covered a story earlier this year that graphically uncovered a mass grave of dissidents in Syria.
Many people are drawn to it. The most violent shows on TV today are the most popular. Blackgrove said the popularity of those shows and websites that feature violent videos as a way for some people to feel excitement and vicariously experience murder.
“They feel a void and sense of being disconnected to the world and to a tangible future,” Blackgrove said. “They find enjoyment in viewing various aspects of the experience.”
This kind of voyeurism has been going on for centuries. People used to flock to public executions. Romans watched gladiators fight to their death in the Coliseum. Spaniards pack stadiums to watch matadors bring down an angry bull. Now, by simply typing a keyword, any of these can pop up instantly.
Most of these posters get the videos as they are driving down the road and see a front end collision where the cars’ bumpers are torn apart beyond recognition. Recently, a New York City EMT took a picture of a dead teenage girl and posted it on Facebook without the parents’ permission.
Some victims are covered in thick red blood, and their cheekbones are smashed into their skull. Faces are often so distorted that family members cannot identify them.
“It is purely selfish, and in no way considerate of those they hurt or who are affected by the tragedy,” Blackgrove said.
These websites document people in their most vulnerable moment. There is no law that says they can’t do this. In fact, the First Amendment protects it.
“As long as it is in a public place, then people can take pictures because they are under the First Amendment,” said Barry Oliver Chase, a Miami media lawyer.
There are no restrictions on these websites. Most let people of any age view them and don’t even require a member login. Much like a social media website, anyone can access it. And that’s concerning for parents.
“People have the right to information out there,” said Elizabeth Cardenas, a mother and teacher from Felix Varela Senior High School. “However, there should be a moral line that shouldn’t be crossed.”
Psychologists like Blackgrove point out that the teenage brain is still developing, making younger minds more vulnerable and exposing them to the danger that they may imitate these acts.
“One of the main ways people learn is through modeling and imitation,” Blackgrove said.
Along with Blood Shows, there is Death ‘n’ Dementia and Rotten. Scenes from surgical rooms of amputees are popular on all these sites. The trailblazing gore-based website Ogrish features uncensored images of war, accidents and executions.
Blood Shows is drowned in comments supporting the material. One viewer wrote, “I come here every once in a while to remind myself of what kinds of sick things people are capable of. I don’t get enjoyment out of it; I get enlightenment.”
These videos are often helpful as a release for the people who watch them.
“There is some type of indulgence and a kind of catharsis for the people who watch these videos, whether they are fictional or real,” said Rick Worland, a professor at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The sites’ administrators say the logic to these sites is helping people realize the tragedies of death and appreciate their lives more.
“There’s a difference between taking pictures of Hurricane Katrina and showing me the dead bodies,” Cardenas said. “Just by looking at the pictures of the damage that has occurred I understand the horrible circumstances. I don’t need to see bodies floating in the water to understand.”
She says that the line of what is allowed and what is morally acceptable has blurred.
“It is in no way surprising,” Blackgrove said, “and it will certainly continue.”