Bad Billy Pratt…
A typically overlooked consequence to government omnipotence is the extinction of serial killer as public performance art. In the cat and mouse game between cops and killers, the cat didn’t just kill the mouse, the cat obliterated it. The detective story dies when everything is recorded.
The Zodiac Killer, with his taunting letters, will eventually seem quaint- today’s serial killer would be working at a serious disadvantage. Zodiac was smart enough to catch on to this. Realizing he was up on points, according to his own tally, he hung up the hood and emblem early- Zodiac’s still at large.
While the nanny-state may have extinguished the drawn-out reign of terror, taking with it what made the serial killer interesting, it’s only managed to escalate the violence- the serial killer has become replaced with the one time only, ready-to-die, active shooter.
While the serial killer was obsessed with crafting an identity through morbid creativity, the active shooter is only concerned with a point-tally, and his position on the leader board.
Government omnipotence did kill the serial killer and sure, the spree shooter replaced him, but America itself changed. A serial killer wants the intimacy of the stalk and kill and what has happened to intimacy today? It’s mood.
Bundy himself shows how the police state changed the game. They didn’t have computers to run the damn cross referencing for the trail of evidence. Now your fingerprint or DNA gets run through CODIS or other nationwide systems and you’re plucked decades later for a drug fueled violent encounter.
Bundy was the emergence of serial killers in the public mind. Serial killers were discussed in theory but he gave it a face and grisly body count. After Bundy, the Night Stalker, Pliers Bittacker and others rampaged through our growing society. They had nicknames and even culturally it was too good not to sell on the news. The Terminator references the fascination with it as Paul Winfield bemoans the idea of the media calling the lunatic the Phonebook Killer.
This is gone and technology killed it. BTK successfully evaded capture and taunted cops with letters and photos. He took a break as he got authority with a public official job. When he came back, he stupidly taunted law enforcement again but surveillance cameras and a floppy disk caught him. The game had changed. Serial killers now are majority non-white despite being majority white until the ‘90s, which coincidentally is when DNA and forensics powered up.
Bundy shows how prosecutors changed. Cops and DAs suspected him but wouldn’t bring him in. Now they’d have him indicted on hunches. They got him for bite marks which we know now is junk science. Their star witness was a woman who could identify him without really knowing what he looked like. Today setting aside DNA, the most damning evidence would be him having credit cards of multiple dead women on him. DAs set up cases built on circumstantial evidence incredibly well now and juries are also more aware of what the implications mean.
Juries also have zero clue what reasonable doubt means. Networks air true crime murder recaps where guys go to jail for murder based on one parking ticket with one fingerprint, shaky surveillance cam footage and testimony from dreams by guys arrested for other crimes. America once looked at jailhouse snitches skeptically. Now that’s how cases close.
It’s still a mood. A mass shooter is a video game mindset. Rack up the most kills on a speedrun. Who cares about the dead just that you killed them. A serial killer is more like a book collector. The victims matter and serve a purpose to their drive. It involves patience. Who left in America is patient?
There will never be a Bundy, there will never be a Green River Killer and there will never be a Zodiac ever again. America is incapable of creating one. America has changed.