Friday, July 08, 2005

Blogging the Monster

On May 16, Brenda Kay Groene, her son Slade, and Brenda's boyfriend McKenzie were found bound and bludgeoned to death. Their two children, Dylan and Shasta, were missing. More than two weeks pass before Shasta is eventually spotted at a Denny's restaurant in the company of a known sex offender who is in violation of his parole — a man who, it is later reported, repeatedly molested her and her brother and who has, apparently, murdered Dylan. That man's name is Joe Duncan.

Joe Duncan is also the author of a blog called The Fifth Nail, named after a myth concerning a fifth nail that was intended to pierce the heart of Christ but which was hidden by gypsies. He used his blog to talk about himself and his status as a convicted offender. The blog, as of this moment, is still up.

It is a long and disturbing thing to read: the journal of a fallen person who struggles with his nature before falling even further into monstrousness. His early posts are exercises in self-justification and pity. He hates the fact that he's being continually "harassed" by the police. He denies that he's a pedophile. He insists that even though he is an offender, he is, never the less a victim.

At points he struggles to create a dialog. His tone is often rational and reasonable. He argues that society would be better off if we could prevent sexual offenses rather than punishing them after the fact. He argues that the stigmata of being an offender, and the efforts to publicize their status to their communities, make it difficult to recover. He believes that malicious people are using his information in an attempt to get the police to harass him (a task which, he is convinced, they are all too willing to perform).

He discusses the concept of responsibility and insists that responsibility must flow in two directions. An offender must accept responsibility for his actions but a community must, as well, accept responsibility for the offenders. Again, he argues that he, too, is a victim, as are all criminals.

He blogs about the trivia of everyday life. He complains about car trouble, talks about going skiing, and displays a fondness for certain video games. He takes care of his neighbors cats (he likes cats). He grouses about paying taxes. Sometimes he ponders philosophical questions. He wonders if there might be time travelers among us. These posts, which could be found on any blog, strike a counterpoint to a persistent and growing paranoia (he wonders if the police are tampering with his laptop and is convinced that Google is blacklisting him) — islands of normality in a turbulent sea.

He wants to be a good person. More importantly, he wants others to see him as a good person (and to see himself as one). He refuses to believe that he's bad — or at least wholly bad. He can not, however, stop seeing himself as being unfairly persecuted. He remains convinced that he is a victim. A victim of circumstance. A victim of the government. A victim of society. He rarely talks about his crime and never offers any apology to the boy he raped at gunpoint when he was sixteen. He doesn't mention that he tortured that boy with a cigarette, nor does he talk about convincing his victim that he was going to die. It is apparent that he craves absolution without atonement.

He does ponder the issue of sex crimes in the abstract: "What would ever make a person behave so angrily toward another completely innocent person? Could it be that that innocent person somehow represents society, and the violation is some kind of attempt to regain control...I'm no psychologist, but I do know ignorance never solved anything."

He frequently compares himself to historical victims. He claims that his situation is similar to a black man suffering under Jim Crow laws. He opines that there will soon be separate drinking fountains and bathrooms for sex offenders. He sometimes claims that he feels like a Jew living in Nazi Germany. He asks, "what red blooded American would stick up for a sex offender? And, what Arian blooded Nazi would stick up for a Jew? If you think there is a difference, then think again."

Much of the content of the site is religious. He struggles with God. He struggles with the idea of redemption. He often focuses on Christ's message of forgiveness and berates those who are unwilling to offer such. He strives to understand the will of God. Towards the end, he says that he has faith that God makes no mistakes and that everything that happens is for the good. The closer he comes to approaching the point of no return, the more he obsesses about religion.

Finally, he appears to suffer a breakdown. It seems as though all of his rationalizations as well as all his attempts to find spiritual solace have failed him. In his fourth to last entry he writes

So, I've been accused of molesting a little boy. Those close to me know I didn't do it of course, how could I, I'm not even a pedophile. Well, I'm not a psychopath either, I feel the full force and pain of everyone I have ever hurt, but that doesn't stop me from doing what I need to do. Ultimately my feelings don't matter, I learned that in prison. I have to carry out my orders or a lot worse than just me dying could happen.
On this third to last entry, he writes about wrestling with his demons: "I'm afraid, very afraid. If they win then a lot of people will be badly hurt, and they've had their way before, so I know what they can do. I'’ve been praying a lot and asking God for help. I've asked him to step in and intercede directly, because I see no other way at this point that I can win."

The title of his second to last entry is, chillingly, The Demons Have Taken Over. He says that he's failed and that the demons have won. He believes that the "good Joe" has died. He says that his intent is to strike out at society and to do it as much harm has he can.

His final entry is titled Still Confused. It is written by a person who is already a fujitive from justice for violation of parole. He claims that he has lost all sense of right and wrong. He pities his mother for having a defective son but, in the very next paragraph, dismisses her pain because, in a hundred years, she'll be dead. His tone is nihilistic but he insists that he does have feelings. In fact he believes that he "must be more sensitive than most people". He hopes that people will eventually understand that he's "not a bad person" and that he has "a disease contracted from society". Just as with his very first blog post, he persists in viewing himself as the true victim.

His final entry was written on May 13. Three days later a family would be destroyed and two children would be initiated into a nightmare from which only one would return alive.

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