Technology

Raskolnikov’s Blog

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“I hope to complete this journal before I die (soon) or turn myself
in,” wrote registered sex offender Joseph Duncan in the final, May 13
entry of his online diary, Blogging the Fifth Nail (here’s a mirror site in case the original is taken down).
Two days later, Brenda Groene, her boyfriend, and her 13-year-old son
were beaten to death in their Idaho home, and Groene’s 9-year-old son
and 8-year-old daughter disappeared. Six weeks after that, the girl
was found with Duncan at a Denny’s in Coeur d’Alene (where Duncan was arrested and charged with kidnapping), the boy’s presumed remains were found in nearby western Montana, and the curtain fell on another
missing-child spectacular, distinguished only by its grisliness and
one dubiously historic first: The lead suspect was a blogger, and a
disturbingly visible one at that.

Even before Duncan’s arrest, there wasn’t much Google couldn’t tell
you about his life and crimes. Soon after, webheads feverishly
documented his many online traces: post-prison resumé (“I am
a ‘go-getter'”), public offender-database profile (“RAPED A 14 YEAR
OLD BOY AT GUNPOINT”). But it’s the blog that brings him,
heart-sickeningly, to life. Through 15 months of self-righteousness
and self-doubt, bitter prison memories and hard-won bourgeois cheer,
cute anecdotes about his cats and well-researched rants against
offender registration, Duncan orbits the final catastrophe like
Raskolnikov circling his final judgment. The narrative makes a
near-convincing case for the redemptive power of introspection—then
in the last entries demolishes it, conceding victory at last to
Duncan’s “demons” and announcing his intention, never quite repressed,
to “harm society as much as I can, then die.”

It’s a gripping read—and that, ultimately, may be what’s most
depressing about it. If the most we can say for a blog this powerful
is not that it saved the Groenes or even Duncan but that it’s a real
page-scroller, then fuck it: the Web’s about as revolutionary a medium
as the Post-It.