In the past, we'd happily open links from work colleagues or friends tagged with NSFW, expecting harmless, albeit gross insights into the corners of the world that had been hidden from mainstream eyes until the advent of the internet. 2 Girls 1 Cup was vommy inducing, but not too creepy. 1 Guy 1 Jar was bloody disturbing, but not evil. And Goatse, Lemonparty.org and Tubgirl are all gross, yet somewhat insightful. I mean, did you know that there were people in the world who enjoyed sticking glass bottles up their arse and filming it for their internet audience? Me either.
It wasn't all bad. These shock sites, at best, offered us a gritty and uncensored insight into people's lives and their provocative desires, which until now, were buried deep within the outer-fringes of underground, fetishised subcultures and hidden on encrypted websites. We're used to the NSFW acronym, aware that an attachment containing perverse, stomach-churning weirdness is on its way. Though recently, these harmless links have opened-up a new kind of obscenity – truly foul examples of human behaviour which are not only disgustingly gory, but quite often, illegal.
The NSFW tag has now become something creepy, gross and evil – requiring you to clear your browser history so you don't have to explain to your employer's IT department why there's cache of gore and splosh porn on your work computer. Websites like Rotten.com, Horrifyingpics and Bestgore.com are not new addresses on the internet, but something within our society has changed recently. Somewhere between the harmless senior citizen Lemon Parties and the steely reserve of those two girls and their cups, the internet took a very real and extremely dark deviation.
One of the many offerings found online is "1 Lunatic 1 Icepick". An incredibly real and gruesome video graphically illustrating the torture, dismemberment and eventual death of 33 year-old, Chinese-born engineering student Lin Jun. The video was posted online by the alleged killer and self-confessed psychopath, Luka Magnotta, who then mailed Jun's severed limbs to Canadian government officials (for shits and giggles).
Magnotta is a former gay porn actor and complete nutter who believes that he's a "sexier version of Sharon Stone". He is unceremoniously credited for posting the first ever, real snuff film on YouTube. In 2010 he also took two kittens, suffocated them in plastic bags by removing the air with a vacuum, then fed them to his 16ft albino Burmese python. The video was immediately removed, but it quickly took on a life of its own in the darker corners of the internet.
The internet breeds compulsive curiosity and these shock sites in particular, offer an (albeit skewed) insight into our human nature and the frailty of life itself
You can easily find videos of executions, young women being tortured or beheaded, body parts being hacked off and real-life snuff films that would make Nicolas Cage's 8mm look like an outtake from Romper Room. Even a simple google image search of "Tupac dies" will show you his graphically mutilated cadaver laying on the autopsy table. Another harmless search will reveal Whitney Houston's corpse laying in her coffin, awaiting burial.
Morbid curiosity compels most of us to click these links. In the same way we rubberneck and gawk at traffic accidents, trying to get peek at what and how something happened. Whether we like it or not; it's human nature. The internet breeds compulsive curiosity and these shock sites in particular, offer an (albeit skewed) insight into our human nature and the frailty of life itself. To witness a human alive one moment, then lifeless the next, pulls us to the brink of our own reality and spotlights the fragility our existence. It's confronting the realisation of our own mortality.
But no one needs to witness a group of young girls being beheaded by militia. No one needs to understand how a man's head rolls right after its been decapitated. Nobody needs to know exactly what kind of gurgling sounds a body makes as its being dismembered and mutilated.
Surely, no one is that detached from reality and humanity where they'd find entertainment or edification through fucked-up schadenfreude. We'd like to believe that the supporters of this vile tripe are basement-dwelling, pasty misanthropes with necrophilic desires. While that assumption isn't completely inaccurate, there is a larger swell of average, 'normal' users on the rise who are exploring gore on the downlow.
Take, for instance, the UK-based administrator of GoreGrish.com, Niki. She works in the medical field and sought these images and shock content to help reduce the inevitable distress she was likely to witness at work. Another internet user wrote about setting the dinner table for his wife and two young children while he waited for '1 Lunatic 1 Icepick' to finish downloading.
We don't actually have access or in-depth insight into how people really treat one another. Some other forum users claim that the mainstream media has all but censored the reality of human nature and what is actually going on, therefore they have to source their own kind of gruesome "reality".
It is not, however, illegal to download and watch a snuff film where a human is being mutilated, tortured and consequently extinguished
But you only have to watch the first five minutes of the nightly news to witness the barbaric and inhumane gruesome nature that we unleash onto each other. We're constantly bombarded with images of death, destruction and blood-stained battlefields — to argue that we're not subjected to the evils and true reality of human nature in mainstream media is a straight-up cop-out.
The administrators of internet's worst sites generally maintain they're not doing anything wrong, that they don't necessarily condone the actions documented within their content. They see it as a service, to offer their audience an unvarnished reflection of life and the often grotesque underbelly of our existence.
Their motto is along the lines of "Gore doesn't kill people. People kill people".
So it's totally cool to watch a video of a dude masturbating with the bloody, dismembered hand he just cut off his victim? According to the American Decency Act, yeah, it's totally cool! Under the Section 230 of US Communication Decency Act, it's illegal to watch somebody get murdered and not report it. It is not, however, illegal to download and watch a snuff film where a human is being mutilated, tortured and consequently extinguished. It's a dated legislative loophole which legally allows anyone to watch or show any kind of gruesome content, provided it's created by someone else. Even if that content is someone being brutally murdered. It's still not considered illegal.
We've been killing each other and causing horrific mayhem since the dawn of humankind. Warlords have always decapitated infidels. Psychopaths have always eaten human flesh and jealous lovers have always vengefully killed in the name of love. The biggest difference now is that tiny little optic fibre connecting us all instantly to one another. A connection allowing anyone to show everyone, exactly how dark and creepy they truly are.