Friday, December 21, 2012

The Trouble with Witty Flights: Of Blindfolds, Wise Persons, and Elephants

Suicide.  Murder.  ARG.

These were three of the narratives offered to define the fates of one Theresa Duncan, and one Jeremy Blake.  Because of web archives, I knew that each had already taken root in some corner of cyberspace by 2008, when I began to look into the subject.  Certain aspects of the story (or stories) immediately caught my attention.  The first was the astonishing amount of effort that a number of people put forth in order to determine the particulars of these two deaths.  The second was the degree of passion that the participants exuded for specific interpretation of facts.   

In such an atmosphere, one might expect some clashes, fueled by emotion, with each position and its variations confidently asserted after thoughtful consideration, dogged research, and in some cases considerable expense.  Sure enough, clashes occurred.

Each of these stories had strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes they were obvious.  Sometimes they were not.  Yet when I pondered them, I noticed something.  Despite the sharp differences of opinions, and the vehemence each narrative inspired (for or against), some aspects of  each were not only consistent with the facts, as much as anyone could gather, but in some respects consistent with each other. 
If you’re scratching your head right now, wondering if I’m serious, then consider this.  Each of these versions addressed disparate facets of the story.  The suicide narrative focused on Blake and Duncan’s state of mind.  The murder angle looked at the hegemonic structure of people Blake might have run afoul of, and the persons they connected to (or could connect to, if need be).  The ARG hypothesis examined a cyberculture that Duncan participated in:  specifically, the conspiracy milieu surrounding the Rigorous Intuition blog.  So while the conclusions of each narrative are mutually exclusive, the details and themes supporting them are often not–little surprise if each examines different sides of the elephant. Naturally, one side might fuss over details that would not register as important enough for others to address.

That’s why, when looking at this in 2008, the term “social drama” came to mind.  As with any social drama, there is a struggle to define, for lack of a better word, the “truth.”  And like many social dramas, the primary struggle isn’t in the validity of one party’s facts versus another, but the assertion of what they mean.   True, there are a number of disputed facts in this case (and I’ll get to them later).  But one gets the feeling that even if clarification, stipulation, or concession of facts took place, those championing one version or another wouldn’t really abandon their story so much as adapt it to accommodate new information.

Insofar as its existence in cyberspace, the contested meaning of Blake and Duncan’s deaths developed into something larger.  Many of those who witnessed this characterized it as something much darker.  In many cyber-discussions, this development began to distance itself from the particulars of the Blake and Duncan cases, thus turning into another investigation altogether.  Some referred to it as TD/JB, others as TD, or Theremy.  Whatever one called it, Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake ironically started to look like minor characters in the story of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake. 

Before that happens here (and it will when we get into, let’s call it “Theremy culture”), I’d like to take a look into some things specifically relevant to the hapless couple.  For starters, we might find it helpful to look at, to the best of our ability, their state of mind.

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  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said…

    Theramy! A form of the Benifer naming process.

  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Actually, Charles, it's post-Benifer.

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    I apologize for the Word Verification, but the spam was getting to be way too much.

  • At 12:09 AM, Blogger Susan said…

    Okay, I read through the series and I feel like Chris did--have I ever heard of these people? But I know I have in some context because the events you discuss plus their writing is very familiar (and I remember Punch Drunk Love--It was the movie that made me take Adam Sandler seriously as I never understood the charm prior to it.) I was also much more active in the blogosphere from 2005 through 2009. I want to click onto more of the links you have generously provided, as I get the feeling none of this is coincidental or casual.

    In one of the earlier posts, you make references to the writings of Theresa Duncan (I believe it was she) who emulated such writers as Nabokov and Baudeliere (sp). She also wrote of suicide and a certain fascination with lurid crime. To me , this sounds like a real person, but I live in my own world. She/he/ them must be some sort of persona, perhaps created to get some angst out, then with some recognition, found that she/he/them got a good thing going and made it into something more contrived. Again, I'm just shooting in the dark.

    I find certain parallels to my own experience in the blogosphere as my first blog was very popular and I got a lot of attention. After a while, I began wondering if Enemy (my username) was really separate from me (Susan) and I would even lapse into referring to myself by my blog title (CV). I know that I took it offline and shut it down because I felt like I had ceased to be myself and I had created a persona--really a separate character--that I didn't want to be anymore, even though I never intended to create anything, just blog and work out some ideas. It got away from me.

    I'm using my own example as a mode of some comparison since you know me and the psychodrama of the former blog, plus how some things organically get to look like something more contrived. I doubt that the Theramy thing is the same, but I'm trying to create a context.

    I'm probably babbling too. Blogging isn't very old as a writing or art form, but it has changed so much, and Theramy wouldn't be able to exist now (nor would Cruel Virgin) in the wake of the FB/Twitter/Instagram social media as people just don't want to read in the same way right now. Yet there are still plenty of writers who want to do what you have been describing.

    These are just some thoughts I wanted to share.

  • At 2:30 AM, Blogger Roxanne Galpin said…

    Theramy ... sort of the same nomenclature as Brangelina, I guess.

  • At 4:07 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Susan, one of the reasons why I wanted your input is that there were some parallels between you and Duncan. Your stats at the height of CV's popularity were close to those of WotS during Duncan's lifetime. What you say about losing one's identity behind the one manifest in the blog is important to keep in mind. As someone who knows you in meatspace, I can definitely see differences between you and Enemy of the Republic, although I've often thought that EotR is a part of you that's always been there. It just didn't have an apt forum for the depth of its expression. And what you see as a persona could very well have merit for the same reason.

    I agree that the content isn't as random as it first appears, and Duncan alluded to this aspect within the blog itself. She was certainly aware of subtexts, and she first gained prominence as a storyteller.

    Roxanne, nomenclature is how people conceive of things. The and like Brangelina, the concept of Theremy often seems to overshadow the actual couple.

  • At 7:21 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    I was going through your writings again, and clicked on the link with the post about the knights who say nee--that is the same one in which you noted the someone subliminal message in the comments. I remember having posts with over a 100 comments, with comments sometimes exceeding the length of the post. The whole blogging experience then became a game of telephone as people began to read what resonated with them or used it as another way to socialize. In other cases, the comments section became platforms for other bloggers who didn't get many readers and wanted to get their views out no matter what. (Do you remember the infamous Gary Baker? He used to hang around my blog and Deb's.)

    The first writings about Teresa Duncan came after her (or whatever she was) death. I will have to read more, but the sheer cattiness makes me think that writer was jealous of her popularity. Later, as time passed, feelings were eased and emotions got more settled.

    Maybe blogging once meant talent, but it seems more like wildfire to me--it catches and people want to feel the warmth of the blaze then watch it burn. And popularity doesn't mean that the blog is good or bad: it just means people are reading it.

    Maybe I should write more about those years as I do understand now (or at least a bit more) on what was driving me. That drive has been replaced by other things and I'm not sorry about that. If Theresa/Theremy had lived, he/she/they may have found out the same thing.

  • At 7:24 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    I also meant to add that people still write me and wish I would restore CV, but that won't happen. Am I onto something? Is is better to burn out than to fade away? Suicide isn't painless, but it sure does leave the game in statis.

  • At 7:25 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    I mean, am I onto what may be going on in your narrative?

  • At 6:52 AM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Susan, you write: "The whole blogging experience then became a game of telephone as people began to read what resonated with them or used it as another way to socialize.

    I read it that way. And I think you're right in that this was one method peopled used back in 2007 to draw traffic to their sites.

    Jealousy/envy is an angle that I'm surprised hasn't come up more often in terms of what people say about Duncan in her lifetime. I've heard it in a few places, but not many.

    Actually, using CV is helpful, for there are some similarities between it and WotS. The blogging style is different--Duncan relied more on cut and paste quotes with links--but some of Duncan's actual writing content and tone rings familiar with a reader of CV.

  • At 5:00 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    Well, I did write my own stuff and I don't think I
    I never knew much about cut and paste until I got serious about the use of powerpoints.

    It's possible that the people who may have been jealous of Duncan are unconsciously displacing those feelings by judging her as a blogger and a person. If she got traffic and they are writing about her as a blogger alone (not as a friend, human, co-conspirator) then I bet envy has some place in the equation. And jealousy does not lend itself to objectivity.

    I like what you wrote earlier about plagiarism, but I'll save that for another time.

  • At 7:14 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Ah, yes. Plagiarism. Well, there are a number of takes on that. As academics, I'm sure we have a lot of thoughts about the subject, especially when grading essays.

    I think that what you write about jealousy could very well explain some of what's going on. I'm thinking, though, that people had that and other reasons to drag Duncan (although not necessarily Blake) through the mud.

  • At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks for share.


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