Heart of Darkness in the Heartland

wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.
— Lord of the Flies

The Waukesha, Wisconsin police report reads like a scene from the dystopian novel, Lord of the Flies. Children, plotting the murder of a 12 year old friend for months, and luring her into the woods, where two girls traded the knife back and forth between them before one of them finally tackled the victim and began stabbing her, according to the complaint.

The 12 year old victim was stabbed 19 times by her 12 year old classmates. “The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live,” one suspect told the investigator. The other girl told detectives they both stabbed the victim. At one point that girl said she was sorry and what she did was “probably wrong.” Probably?

The girls left the victim lying in the woods, bleeding profusely, she crawled to a road where a bicyclist found her lying on the sidewalk. Police arrived and she gave them the name of one of the girls who attacked her. During the police interrogation, one girl told a detective she understood they were going to end a life. “The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live,” the girl told the investigator. Wanted her to die?

According to police reports, one of the suspects commented after the 12 year old victim had been stabbed 19 times, said, “It’s weird I didn’t feel any remorse.” Both girls face up to 65 years in prison, if convicted. The horrific crime prompts the same ultimate question posed in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, “What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”

The alleged motive for this gruesome crime is even more bizarre than the age of the perpetrators.The two suspects told police that the plan to kill their friend was prompted by a character called Slender Man, who required them to kill someone before they could become his “proxy.” Slender man, the fictional aider and virtual abettor, is a cyber avatar and “leader” on the horror website, Creepypasta.

The child suspects sought “his” approval and attention because in the hierarchy of Slender Man’s cyber world, one must kill to demonstrate loyalty to the man. When asked about Slender Man, one of the suspects acknowledged that she never met “him” but said he watches her and he can read minds and teleport.

Reality and fantasy are now blurred in the Internet’s underbelly. Children and, even adults, cannot distinguish between real and virtual. Fantasy morphs into real life without regard to consequences. The Internet serves as the new, cyber playground without rules, ramifications or even a playground monitor. The virtual world hijacks reason, distorts reality and creates delusional automatons that follow the brutal dictates of a cyber interloper, who hides in children’s pockets, bedrooms and backpacks, while at home and at school.

What happens to society when children have no empathy? Internationally recognized child trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry addresses the source for creating empathetic children in his book, Born for Love. Dr. Perry cautions that “it’s important to recognize that play is at the heart of developing empathy. Unfortunately, many children now spend so much time in highly structure, adult-dominated activities and in front of video screens that spontaneous, self-motivated play is becoming rare. The brain is a social organ and requires affectionate contact to develop normally.” Perry warns, “You can’t learn empathy from something that can’t empathize.” Like a computer? Here’s a news flash: a computer can’t be affectionate.

Screen time does not teach virtue to children. As Perry notes, “It comes down to this. Given what we know about video violence, there is strong reason to believe that it can be pernicious. Even with “positive” content, the youngest children simply can’t learn what they need at their stage of development from screens alone.”

The Information highway winds through fright streets of horror sites, whose slick and alluring avatars exploit vulnerable children into a ghoulish make believe world so artfully crafted and psychologically compelling that their developing and immature brains cannot distinguish fact from fiction. If children are increasingly vulnerable to the lure of faux cyber life, the evidence is also growing that adults are falling prey to cyber delusion and the addictive nature of the Internet.

Enter Chris Sevier, who believes that he should be able to marry his MacBook computer. His porn-filled Mac provides his “preferred sexual object and he enjoys sex with the device more than with ‘real women.’ As bizarre and pathetic as Sevier’s obsessive preference is, he is not alone. The vanishing demographics of a great superpower are now dominated and determined by cyberspace.

Japan now has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world with the population rate rapidly dropping. The cause? Nearly 1 million Japanese teens and young men have become cyber recluses, who no longer date. Their social life revolves around online porn and games like Nintendo’s Love Plus, in which players conduct a relationship with a fake anime girlfriend.

The future looks dark and loveless for the Land of the Rising Suns, according to recent studies.

• Extremely high numbers of Japanese do not find sex appealing. 45 percent of women and 25 percent of men, ages 16 to 24, are “not interested in or despised sexual contact.”

• More than half of Japanese are single. 49 percent of unmarried women and 61 of unmarried men, ages 18 to 34, are not in any kind of romantic relationship.

• In every age group, the percentage of Japanese men and women who are not in a romantic relationship has been increasing steadily since the 1990s.

  • About a quarter of Japanese don’t want a romantic relationship. 23 percent of women and 27 percent of men say they are not interested in any kind of romantic relationship.

  • More than a third of childbearing-age Japanese have never had sex: 39 percent of women and 36 percent of men, ages 18 to 34.

  • The Japanese population institute projects that women in their early 20s have a 25 percent chance of never marrying and a 40 percent chance of never having kids.

  • Is the Internet ushering in a brave new world where human contact is relegated to taps on a keyboard and clicks on a mouse? Dr. Perry cautions that “the brain is a social organ and requires affectionate contact to develop normally.” Japanese young men shut off from the world hunkered down in a room, with eyes infatuated on an LCD screen is a brain frozen in cyberspace.

  • Is humanity devolving into cyber zombies, who retreat to their virtual caves, looking for love and approval from attractive avatars? Isn’t it time to heed the message of the Lord of Flies, “the world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away.”

ArticleLara Barger