Left: Amanda Knox on her MySpace page, as reprinted in the UK Telegraph.
A couple of days ago, my blog stats when BOOM again* all because people are DYING to know about the Meredith Kercher/Amanda Knox murder case. Nobody seems to be Googling the guys' names... people want the lesbian-tinged, sadomasochistic, play-by-play action. As naive as this sounds, I really didn't think I'd get 300 hits in 48 hours, all due to searches like "Kercher Knox rough sex murder" (there! I made it easy for yall!)... so now, it's time for some feminist analysis, if I can manage it.
The fact is: I think this case may be out of my depth. Where to start?
I've asked some people who are genuinely into "rough sex" (obviously one of those eye-of-the-beholder things; rough sex for one person will not necessarily be rough to another) if they might contribute or comment on this case for me, and they seem thoroughly disinclined to do so. I totally understand that, since they should not have to answer for an isolated SM crackpot on the loose, but I am still curious about what they think of the press coverage so far. Fox News and various other news outlets can hardly stop leering long enough to focus on the facts of the case, try as they might. How often do you have free-wheelin American girls from Seattle running amok in Italy, forcing "rough sex" on nice, proper British girls? And bringing in Italian boyfriends and Congolese bar-owners to participate in the fun? Good lord. That's enough for a movie all by itself.
And... did the whole thing just get out of hand, or was Meredith's torture-death the intention from the git-go?
What really sets this case apart is the fact that Amanda had an ongoing narrative, as FOXY KNOXY--a MySpace blogger who openly wrote about BDSM scenarios and had something of a fan-base. One wonders if this case would keep us so enthralled if this pre-conceived character did not already exist, as the Columbine boys also had online personas that dovetailed with their real-life intentions. The Telegraph puts it very plainly, titling their update: AMANDA KNOX WROTE STORIES ABOUT RAPE (all that's required is an exclamation point, or several):
Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old language and creative writing student from Seattle in the United States, wrote enthusiastically on the social networking site MySpace about her new life studying Italian in Perugia, about her friends and her new house.
Like most people of her age, her tastes are diverse and she rambles about the people she loves and the ways she likes to spend her time.
But Knox, writing under the name Foxy Knoxy, also reveals a different side to her character with a series of short stories - one concerns a stalker and another talks about the drugging and rape of a young woman.
In the latter, an older brother Edgar, challenges his younger brother Kyle over a woman called Victoria.
His brother responds, laughing: "Icky Vicky, huh? Jeez, Edgar. You had me going there. A thing you have to know about chicks is that they don't know what they want," before attacking him.
Detectives currently questioning Knox are expected to trawl through the blogs, and every element of her life, in the coming days, looking for any clues as to how an average young woman at the beginning one of the most exciting periods of her life might have been caught up in murderous sexual violence.
It was Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who claim to have first found Meredith Kercher's body at the house the two girls shared.
Knox gave an alibi to police but in the four days after the killing, it allegedly began to crumble.
She last logged onto her MySpace page on Monday - four days after the killing, but will not have seen messages of support posted by friends telling her they love her and to "stay strong".
Before this week's events, she corresponded regularly with friends and family back home, telling them "I still miss those people I love".
Of her new life in Europe, the primary school teacher's daughter wrote in a blog on October 15: "I've actually been living in Italy for about a month now and I've had classes for two weeks so far. Everything is going great.
"I really like the Italian lifestyle. everything shuts down in the middle of the day so everyone can have a three hour lunch break. I love it. I wish we had that in America.
"I think Americans work too much and don't live. Having that time in the middle of the day reminds you that life really isn't all about going to work and making money.
"It's about who you are and what you choose to do and who you choose to spend your time with."
She also refers to the man who is suspected of carrying out the killing with her, Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba.
"I've been working every night (except for Monday night) from 10pm to 2.30am at a bar called Le Chic. It's a really small place owned by this man from the Congo. His name is Patrick," she wrote.
She makes no mention of Sollecito in her profile.
She is however chided by her aunt - who is unnamed on MySpace- for having a picture of an apparently naked man called Federico on her page.
Her aunt warned her: "Do not get naked with strange Italian men!!” Knox replied that Federico was just a friend.
Under "marital status", she wrote "single", listed her mother under "heroes" and under "children", wrote: "someday".
She wrote: "I love things like good wine, rock climbing, backpacking long distances with people I love, yoga on a rainy day, making coffee, drinking tea, and lots of languages".
"I’m 20 years old and I like new things. Ooh, and soccer, and roller coasters, and Harry Potter, and..."
Last night, her parents insisted there had been a "horrible mistake" and that she was innocent.
Her stepmother Cassandra Knox, 45, said from her home in Seattle: "I just don't believe a word of it. I just can't imagine there is any truth in it at all."
She added of Knox's father William, 47: "He is in a state of utter shock and disbelief. There's no way she could have done it, it’s all a horrible mistake."
Knox's mother, Edda, 45, was said to be flying out to Italy today.
What frightens many bloggers, is how Amanda's blog is now being used as evidence.
Moral of the story: Fantasies we write about may one day bite us in the ass, so be careful. For example, if I should write that a certain person makes me sick and I wish they would die, and they end up dead under questionable circumstances, does that automatically make me a suspect? (And if so, is that fair?)
If your roommate ends up raped and murdered and you have written fantasies on your blog about rape and murder, well, talk about some bad luck, huh?
Monica Guzman, at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, asks some of these questions:
If there is a unwritten Law of Internet Privacy, it is this: Anything you post can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.Context? Like, getting drunk and going apeshit?
Take Amanda M. Knox, the University of Washington student whose alleged involvement in the killing of British exchange student Meredith Kercher has set the media and the public on an online manhunt for every shred of Knox's online presence, with those aspects that paint her as the circumstances do -- as a drunk, misbehaving bad girl -- rising to the top.
Forget "you have the right to remain silent." Amanda is a child of the social Web. She may not have ever had a choice.
And for someone heavily involved in a murder investigation, "public opinion" isn't the half of it. Dan Gonsiorowski of Seattlest commented this morning:From the papers in Europe, and particularly in England, you'd think that UW student Amanda Knox had already been tried and convicted of sexually assaulting and killing her roommate Meredith Kercher in Perguia, Italy. ... The English media has already dug up plenty of evidence from the detritus a student leaves on the Internet in the course of a modern life.Gonsiorowski doesn't use the word "evidence" literally. But he points out that all these things -- the MySpace profile, the Facebook self-descriptions, the YouTube video [Now removed--DD] that under different circumstances would be laughed off as typical college debauchery -- are, in fact, playing the role of evidence online. The boost of legitimacy comes from several media outlets for which the Internet is just as open and easy a source of information as it is for everybody else.
It may be easy. But is it fair? Are we, the media, and we, the public, presenting personal information posted on the You Tube and MySpace world -- with which we have only a couple of years' experience -- as responsibly as we should?
It should be noted that Knox's statement to police, as reported in the Times UK (she describes being in the room next to where Kercher was killed, hearing her screams but doing little about them), and the fact that this was the second story she told police remain the most damning pieces of evidence against her.
Still, statements she made to the world before she knew we'd be listening are having an impact. This morning I asked the Big Blog's official Facebook group how (and if) we can ensure that personal information posted online -- which has become such a goldmine of quick, juicy information -- is viewed so that fairness rises above assumption. Most agreed that there is no shame in distributing information that is already public when events call for it. But they also expressed concern that online "evidence" can be taken too far, and that the conclusions inferred from it can do more harm than good.
On Knox's MySpace profile today, friends have left messages of consolation and offers to help. "I believe in you," said one commenter. "Stay strong," another said.
What do you think?
P.S. -- About that YouTube video, which was made remarkably, almost ridiculously prominent in this Daily Mail article ...
The most common way we avoid our responsibility as online viewers is to pin it all on the online creators. There are good reasons for this, but they get weak as online profiles become more entrenched in our social lives.
It is true that no one's forcing anyone to share themselves online. It is also true that many people who do share parts of their lives choose to leave out the drunk parts. That doesn't mean they don't happen.
Clearly, something in Knox's personality made her feel comfortable enough posting that video. But that scene was something I saw in college every week. Does Knox's choice to post the video excuse us from placing it in its appropriate context?
That kind of context hurts, rather than helps, which is sorta the point.
And so, the tabloid-story-of-the-season (the year?) rages on. The truth, as usual, is wrapped up somewhere in the media-mess. For everyone's sake, let's hope we get it.
*Comparatively speaking, that is! I usually don't get much traffic, which is why that kinda blew my mind.
Listening to: Grateful Dead - I Know You Rider