Did a Reddit User Confess to a Murder Using a Meme Called "Confession Bear"?

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
April 10 2013 2:28 PM

Did a Reddit User Confess to a Murder Using a Meme Called "Confession Bear"?

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

It’s not news that, sometimes, people use the Internet to confess things they really should’ve kept to themselves. (Hello, Hannah Sabata!) But here’s an original spin on that tried-and-true pastime: confessing a murder by way of an “I-can-haz-cheezburger”-style photo-meme.

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The Daily Dot reports on a Reddit user named Naratto who maybe, possibly, used a meme called Confession Bear to admit that he murdered someone. Confession Bear is a small, morose creature who looks like he just unburdened his soul to an unsympathetic ranger or something; meme-spreading folks take this photo and superimpose their own (usually innocuous or satirical) confessions. Naratto took the idea to a new, creepier level when he posted a Confession Bear photo reading: “My sister had an abusive meth addict boyfriend. I killed him with his own drugs while he was unconscious and they ruled it as an overdose.” LOL?

Confession Bear.
Confession Bear

Screenshot via quickmeme

We all know what happened next: Naratto’s delightful meme became a viral hit, thrilling millions around the world and landing him a multi-million-dollar development deal. No, what really happened is that horrified Redditors took his confession seriously and started to investigate. “Within moments of his posting,” the Daily Dot reports, “redditors, in now-deleted comments, unearthed ‘everything from name, DOB, jobs, location, FB, Twitter, Myspace, the whole deal,’ and debate began over whether his confession was serious enough to warrant reporting to authorities.” Naratto, backtracking, tried to play it off as a joke: “If I had a dollar for every time someone took me to [sic] seriously on the internet, I would be able to retire from today alone,” he wrote. “If you want to catch a murderer, get out of your house, put on some fucking tights and go fight crime.”

I have no idea whether Naratto’s confession was real, or whether, as he claims, it was just a joke. The straight-faced, detailed confession doesn’t seem very funny to me, but, then again, most Internet memes don’t seem very funny to me. Anyway, a Confession Bear image is hardly the sort of confession that could be used on its own to convict someone. (But if it was? Man, how do you explain that to your cellmate? “Yeah, my lady turned me in. How’d they catch you?” “It all began with a photo of an adorable bear …”)

Is there any way to determine whether Naratto was telling the truth? Sure. You could go back and examine death records in his area, and then investigate all the accidental overdoses. But you’d better be prepared for a lot of investigating: people die of overdoses all the time.

This is part of the reason why Naratto’s ostensible confession is unlikely to lead to an arrest. The Redditors apparently reported the confession to the FBI, which likely doesn’t even have jurisdiction in this case. Even if the FBI forwards the information to local law enforcement, cops won’t be eager to reopen a closed case and reclassify an accidental death as a homicide.

Even so, the case of the Confession Bear confession can still serve as a lesson. The Internet is not a void. When you shout something odd and notable, people will hear you, and they will respond. If you feel the need to confess something online, at least take pains to conceal your identity. Naratto eventually deleted his account, but not before eventually posting another image macro, this one reading “If you joke about murder on Reddit without a throw away account, you’re gonna have a bad time.” Indeed.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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