Last weekend, family and I watched a Netflix docuseries about something that really happened at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles (Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel). Several years ago, a young woman named Elisa Lam went missing while staying there and eventually turned up dead. I’m not going to say anything else about it in case you plan to watch the show.
But that said, something about the documentary really hit me hard—and not just me. When we were finished watching, my husband said, “There were two victims in this story.”
Truer words were never spoken.
When Elisa Lam went missing several years ago, there were hundreds of people online obsessed with her story, trying to figure out what happened. These folks were attempting to solve the mystery, simply by viewing some elevator footage and researching her life online prior to her disappearance. While we were watching one of the episodes, I remarked to my husband how impressed I was at how a group of people unrelated and with no prior experience were able to really analyze the evidence they had available and draw some pretty remarkable conclusions.
But, of course, that changed as the documentary progressed. It wasn’t long before the impressive conclusions they were reaching became ridiculous conspiracy theories. Some folks offered a lot of half-baked ideas and theories that were way out in left field. One in particular involved a death metal musician who called himself Morbid. This man had stayed in the Cecil Hotel and filmed a video about it that he posted on his YouTube channel, something he shared with his fans. Some of the things he’d posted on YouTube were a little shocking, but it was all part of his image. That’s death metal, folks. It ain’t death metal if it’s not a little disturbing.
Anyway, a couple of days before Elisa Lam went missing, he had come out with a new music video for one of his songs. The video focused on a frightened young woman running away from the camera through the forest, trying to get away from a pursuer. Well, the people on the internet who were trying to solve the murder decided that this video was Morbid’s way of saying he’d killed Elisa Lam. The mental gymnastics these folks had to do to connect this poor man to her murder were rather impressive: Olympic-sized gymnastics, but they were no more than simple gyrations they made in an attempt to make the “facts” fit. There was NEVER any REAL evidence connecting Morbid to Elisa Lam and no real reason why these people should’ve ever come to this conclusion.
For example, the video that Morbid had filmed of himself in the hotel was taken an entire year before the victim stayed at the hotel. In addition, this man, a citizen of Mexico, wasn’t even in the United States at the time of her disappearance. He was working on a new album in Mexico, and he had the documentation to prove it. When these “internet warriors” began harassing him online, he gave all of this information to them—but they didn’t care. Even when it was clear they had the wrong man, they didn’t offer him an apology, nor did they issue any kind of retraction. And they ruined this man’s life.
I was really glad they featured him in the documentary, because it showed the power of online bullies. This man considered taking his own life because of not only how horrible they made him feel, but also because he’s tried making music since and it’s just not the same. Somehow, he’s lost his muse.
As my husband said, two victims: Elisa Lam and the man who called himself Morbid.
My heart went out to him. I searched for him online, both as Morbid and under his real name, Pablo Vergara. Unfortunately, as he mentioned in the show, YouTube, Google, and Facebook took down his accounts because of his accusers. I still wonder what kind of evidence these people presented that was so compelling, because it looked like utter bulls**t from my perspective. These people with their false claims led to his losing his livelihood, and that pisses me off.
If you’re a fan or hard rock music, you already know that some forms of metal, like death metal, are about more than the music. A lot of the experience has to do with image. It’s as much what you see as what you hear, and Vergara was working his image from all angles. Unfortunately, these internet idiots didn’t get it. Vergara said that he even had Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI come to his home, asking if he had performed any human sacrifices.
Because these people were dogs with bones.
I understand why these folks were seeking justice. Some of the (circumstantial) facts they turned up were rather interesting. Some of the things they discovered were shocking even. But this heavy metal artist? They were flat out wrong about him and, dare I say, stupid. Absolutely idiotic. While we were discussing the show, my husband said, “I know there’s a term for people like that, for people who see conspiracies everywhere and twist the facts to make them fit.” I couldn’t think of the word either, so I instead simply said, “Idiots.”
We all laughed—but what happened to Morbid wasn’t funny. His life was ruined. My hope is that he finds his muse once again, making music for the world. As he said in the docuseries, it was art and nothing more. There was nothing sinister about what he was doing. It was a form of expression. The worst part of all of it was that these people didn’t have the decency to say they were sorry, to publicly come out and apologize to him. The better thing to do would be to actually go to the authorities they complained to in the first place (Google and Facebook) and admit that they were wrong, explain to the world how they had made a mistake. Instead, they moved on with their lives.
If you’ve ever studied psychology, you know about mob mentality. I get it. Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions are, you find yourself going along with the crowd, even if at the back of your mind you know something’s not quite right. That’s the way we are. In essence, we’re herd animals, and it behooves us to stick with the group. It’s a matter of survival. But when will we evolve? Why do we continue to ostracize ONE member of our society? Sadly, Vergara is but one of thousands of victims online. We tend to think that bullies online aren’t as powerful as bullies in person, but this docuseries proves that simply isn’t the case.
So even though I started out this blog post as one thing, to bring people’s attention to the metal artist Morbid (AKA Pablo Vergara)—and I still want to bring attention to that, it’s actually part of a much bigger story. Why in 2021 do we still have bullies? Why do we still allow them to thrive? What is it going to take for us to weed these evil people out? More than once online I have cut ties with people I’ve seen showing signs of being this way, but the behavior is sometimes hard to spot. If you’re like I am, you try to avoid conflict but sometimes, it’s difficult. So I guess that’s my message today. Let’s be good to each other. In some regards, life seems long, but really, it’s short. We’re only here for a short time. So don’t we want our contribution to be the best it can be? I know I do.
Oh…if you see Pablo Vergara online or in person, give him some love.