Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Killing reflects modern 'entertainment'

We reward violence and depravity

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You'd have to be living in a sepia-toned 1950s world to be truly shocked by Luka Magnotta's alleged crime and the video documenting his depravity.

The Canadian porn actor became famous overnight after body parts belonging to Chinese student Jun Lin were mailed to political-party headquarters and found outside a Montreal apartment. Then a 10-minute video depicting the crime came to the attention of authorities. Magnotta's alleged relationship with Karla Homolka and a history of animal abuse added to the buzz.

Magnotta got what he apparently sought: a place in the global spotlight and a secure position in the ledger of the macabre.

Before we start moaning about how such a monster could be created, let's take a look in the mirror. We have become a world that rewards violence and depravity. We glorify artists who exhort sexual brutality and turn TV shows about serial killers into hits. Luka Magnotta is not the aberration we'd like him to be. He's the bastard son of what we've learned to tolerate.

Statistics from the American Media Education Foundation claim media violence has increased in quantity and become more graphic, sexual and sadistic. The foundation cites a 2000 U.S. Federal Trade Commission report that showed 80 per cent of R-rated movies, 70 per cent of restricted video games and 100 per cent of music with "explicit content" warning labels were being marketed to children under 17.

Often-cited stats claim by the time the average child is 18, she will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders.

There is evil in our world. There has always been. To get highfalutin, ancient Roman philosopher Cicero called human life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." We have industries that built their empires on violence as entertainment. So did the Romans. We just have unique ways of sharing our peccadillos.

None of this is linear. We can't connect the dots between Criminal Minds, Grand Theft Auto and Luka Magnotta. But we should worry and wonder about the reportedly 20,000 people who viewed the video of Jun Lin's death and desecration before police knew about the crime.

I'm not going to give the website any more publicity by naming it. It warns viewers it contains gory images and video of suicides, car crashes, animal attacks and weird fetishes. There's also streaming porn for those who like a little nudity with their decapitations. There's obviously an audience, just as there's a market for any freaky thing the human imagination can conceive.

The website aired the video because they knew their audience would look at it. The webmasters are now engaging in bizarre self-congratulation, depicting themselves as a public service.

"I think we can all agree that (the video) is a proof that it's important for a website... to publish videos of such nature, regardless of how upsetting they may seem to general public," reads a blurb online. "It's because this video was posted that the community was able to identify the perpetrator long before the body parts were mailed off and had action been taken when first reports were made, the perpetrator would likely have been caught. The fact that action was not taken takes nothing away from great service postage (sic) of this video meant for the safety of the public."

They're free to engage in their delusions, just as we've declared them free to post images of death and torture for kicks.

Our world has coarsened. We've replaced the lions and slaves with reality television. Women now compete to sleep with an eligible bachelor. People backstab to win money and fleeting fame. Mentally ill hoarders, 600-pound individuals and young brides-to-be who think an engagement ring gives them permission to be rapacious have become our new celebrities. They're not killers. But they are what we've deemed suitable amusement. We have normalized the absurd.

Luka Magnotta is a monster who slithered into plain view while we were, to borrow from Neil Postman, busy amusing ourselves to death.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2012 A8

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.


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