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Thursday, July 26, 2018

The JonBenet Ramsey Case And The History Of The Internet Subculture

     …It's been said that JonBenet Ramsey's murder, like that of Nicole Brown Simpson's, was made for the supermarket tabloids. Both cases had the right mix of glitz and sordidness, shocking details and rabid public curiosity to bring out the worst strains of Enquirer-style journalism. But the Ramsey case, with its endless clues and possible suspects, its queasy connections to the worlds of child beauty pageants and the sexual objectification of little girls, was also made for the Internet--and became the impetus for an entire subculture of online sleuths, speculators and voyeurs.

     O. J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial came a little too early in the cyber-revolution to get much online traction; most people followed the case on television. But by the time the JonBenet case began making headlines outside of Colorado in early 1997, a nation primed with AOL accounts and dial-up service was ready and eager to weigh in--anonymously, of course…

     The JonBenet virtual community got its start in the Boulder Daily Camera's online News Forum, which featured back-and-forth posts from readers curious about the case and a live chat room. The rising traffic from the Ramsey-obsessed fans soon led to the launch of websites providing opportunities for more detailed discussions about the case.

     One of the most popular news sites, Mrs. Brady's URLs, became a much imitated template, offering links to breaking news and emerging discussion forums. A spectrum of sites catered to various shades of opinion, from those convinced that an Intruder Did It (IDIs) to those who thought the parents were good for it--referred to disparagingly by IDIs as BORGS, a Star Trek reference that also served as an acronym for "Bent On Ramsey Guilt." There were also sites for fans of lead detective Steve Thomas, detractors of District Attorney Alex Hunter, and more.

     The surging online phenomenon produced some impressive archives of Ramsey-related documents, recordings and photos; the still active JonBenet archive at A Candy Rose remains one of the most useful and extensive….

Alan Prendergast, "JonBenet Ramsey and the Rise of an Internet Subculture," blogs.westword.com, December 2014 

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