The Horrors of Human Nature

third year pooja gohel

photo by emily haynie

photo by emily haynie

On a road trip this summer up the east coast and through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, my friends and I passed time by alternating between music and podcast episodes. The podcast we listened to was titled, “Sword and Scale.” The podcast, named after the female personification of judicial morality and justice, has a slogan which states its goal: to reveal that the worst monsters are real.

The first few episodes we listened to were tame. They included stories of hidden identities, money laundering, and child abduction, and were not unlike the stories often seen on television, which, though dark, are not unbearable. However, there was one story for which the disclaimer, which warned of graphic and disturbing content, was to be taken seriously.  

This episode began with a man, an expert on bitcoin and dark net markets, describing how cryptocurrency works and what kinds of things cryptocurrency can be used to buy. He explained that people can buy things like firearms, drugs, and fake passports and furthermore, use the deep web to have horrendous things done to other people. The podcast then began, and described the notorious story of Peter Scully, a man who used the dark web to make money broadcasting these inhuman acts.

What I found most disturbing, was not that these despicable events had even taken place, but rather, that masses of people attempted to find out what exactly Peter Scully had done. This is apparent in the many online forums in which people ask about his videos, subreddits that discuss deep web content, and a YouTube video describing the events, which currently has over 380,000 views. All of this depicts the morbid curiosity that even ordinary, good people may have inside of them.

At closer inspection, curiosity about the darker aspects of humanity is reflected everywhere. For example, entire television series are dedicated to depicting crime investigations, and the fact that Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer are household names illustrates the common and widespread fascination with serial killers. In a way, the brutality of unforgivable acts is often masked, and these events are dressed up and turned into themes for podcasts and plot lines for movies. We face the worst acts committed by people through the filters of media and entertainment.

It is interesting that harboring curiosity about things often deemed taboo can often make people feel that some part of themselves is polluted or unacceptable. It is not that it is necessarily good or bad to want to see or hear about terrible acts, but when we deny ourselves permission to entertain certain questions or thoughts, we deny ourselves the opportunity to face certain aspects of human nature.