If you’re under the impression that #Cybersleuths: The Idaho Murders is some sort of exposé on the Tiktok herd that believes they’re on an episode of True Detective or that it will give you real insight on the truth about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Idaho in November 2022, then I’ll stop you right here. Do not waste your time trying to watch this debacle of a documentary that doesn’t understand if it wants to heroize its subjects or paint them as complete failures. I suppose if I were any of the Tiktokers on there, I would be hugely embarrassed right now, but at the same time, I may have gained another 10,000 followers, so who cares, no? I mean, honestly, just because we’re a historically true crime-loving species doesn’t mean we’ll gobble up anything dropped at our doorstep. Can I sue for fake marketing? What’s ironic is that there are moments in the show when some of these social media influencers point out that this is real life they’re talking about, and I’m stuck here wondering how you can take any of it seriously.
What’s most unfortunate about this whole thing for the makers of this show is that if you look up this case, you’ll probably find all this information, real and fake, to help you understand where things stand today. What the documentary does is serve up inedible scrambled eggs with so much salt that you’ll probably become a dried pollock with one spoon. You know, I’m from the internet era, but even I know when one should stop and just look inward, you know? How pompous must you be to go around “solving” crimes under the pretense of using your “platform” for good? No, the trailer for this show makes it seem like these people literally solved this case, but they didn’t solve anything! Maybe I’m being too harsh on the showmakers; I suppose my real beef is with these “sleuths.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a good true crime documentary. I do occasionally indulge in watching videos of women speaking in fancy accents about unsolved murders that happened years ago. I see the fascination; I’m a part of the problem. However, this particular documentary isn’t helping anyone except the influencers, who are getting more unnecessary exposure. Or maybe, since it’s Paramount+, nobody’s going to care. Personally, I thought Don’t F*** With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer did a much better job at presenting a similar sensitive subject in a sensationalist manner while still remaining on the better side of the morals behind such content.
Firstly, #Cybersleuths: The Idaho Murders barely delves into the victims of this case. The quadruple murder that shook the internet is a devastating case of four kids who were brutally murdered in their home. Alright, maybe I’m being too harsh on this documentary because I don’t have the patience to separate the yolks from the whites. What I mean to say is that I understand that Lucie Jourdan intended to examine these (self-assigned detective) vloggers in a format that would serve as a real-time investigation as well as a revelation of their pettiness, but as someone who didn’t know much about the case, I found myself frustrated by the pace at which the show moved forward as well as the end. The main focus of the documentary is Olivia from the channel Chronicles of Olivia, Andra from Bullhorn Betty, and Jonathan Lee Riches. Although there are many other social media influencers mentioned in the three-part documentary, these three are our leads.
The grizzly murders occurred on the night of November 12, 2022 when four university students were stabbed to death in their shared house. The documentary exposes how quickly an act of goodwill can turn into a string of false information. It’s almost comical the zeal with which these self-proclaimed sleuths go about their business, trying to find “evidence,” like a missing water bottle (which could easily be fabricated), or simply spreading rumors about real people related to this case without an ounce of trepidation. Of course, this case would’ve attracted them. It’s like inviting someone to watch Ted Bundy commit his murders and then talk about it for hours together with no actual connection to the real murders. What makes the case really absurd to these influencers is that there were roommates present in the house when the four kids were murdered, yet they didn’t call the police until eight whole hours later. This is where the domino effect of negativity really starts. Of course, there are moments when spreading some information about the case and getting people to call in their tips is helpful, yet soon enough you realize how much worse it’s making it all for the police.
What made things worse is that the Moscow police were actively withdrawing information from the public, and so this made the internet more frustrated and curious simultaneously. In the year 2023, pointing fingers at law enforcement is no new thing, and so whatever magic these sleuths believe they’re doing, it’s really not working. When there’s no accountability, no vetting in place, and no ethical boundaries, speculation is all you’re going to get, and these online vloggers simply go hard on their tall tales with no repercussions. They go from calling the ex-boyfriend a suspect to calling out the “mainstream” media for lying down and doing nothing in such a case. What’s especially ironic is that they think their stories are doing things differently than other “media.” It’s unfortunate, because when you’re desperate for answers, like the families who lost their children, you may resort to communicating with people like Olivia to get some sort of closure, especially if the police are clearing anyone connected to the case of suspicion.
Some of these vloggers are so up their own backsides that they believe they’re putting in the same work that real law enforcement is (it’s ridiculous). But, no, they’re not the trolls in this situation, because even the “good people” are hit by real trolls who want to make a big name through such cases (tell me what the difference is?). I’d like to call this genre “suspension of disbelief true crime” because this is real life, and these kids were really murdered; it’s not just a story from decades ago. Okay, in truth, as the documentary goes by, I suppose you can see the scathing nature of the documentary, which until a certain point appeared to be appreciating all the work of these cybersleuths; however, for me, it came across a bit too late. Especially, when we meet influencers who claim they don’t have a niche because they do everything from beauty influencing to true crime stories (give this woman some awards, I’m joking) in the middle of all this.
While the initial reaction to Bryan Kohberger, a PhD student of criminology at Washington State University, being outed as the killer, was joy at someone being arrested, it slowly returned to a downhill slope, as is usually the case with these social media frenzies. There are conspiracies, and then there’s pure fiction. The clowns could’ve never imagined Kohberger could be the killer because they’d never heard of him since they’re not really the crime-solving detectives they think they are. How would they have, if the police were out doing their jobs instead of answering the questions of lonely influencers with no real jobs? The real fun begins when, after Olivia claims that she can get to the bottom of things and help in such cases because she’s like the girl next door and people like to talk to her, we learn that two of her colleagues are criminals. Jonathon Lee Riches is an especially fascinating case of a man who allegedly holds a record for the most frivolous lawsuits filed ever. It sure is fun to be a TikTok star, I suppose. This is when we also learn that a good percentage of these online sleuths are actually criminals (yikes, nobody’s innocent anymore).
I suppose what’s really disappointing for me though is that at the end of the day, we’ve got to treat this like any other true crime documentary where the focus is “Who did it?” and not “Who was it done to?” The case against Kohberger is strong, but his trial is postponed indefinitely. Of course, by the end of the series, I’m left with the same information I could’ve found on the Wikipedia page for this case. A knife sheath was found with traces of DNA on it. Kohberger might get a death penalty if he was found guilty of the charges. The documentary is stuck in an eternal cycle of trying to put these sleuths on trial and simultaneously sensationalizing their presence in the show to make it big. What’s the difference between those who made the documentary and the subject of the documentary, you ask? I’d say, really, nothing. #Cybersleuths: The Idaho Murders may have started as a well-intended documentary, but at the end of the day, I think it’s a little bit of a waste of time because it allows these influencers yet another platform to spread their wings and give us more information we don’t need or don’t care for. I’d honestly say this one is not worth it. Maybe go spend this time reading a newspaper or something. At the end of the show, an account named Pappa Rodger (who was the first person to have spoken about a sheath before the police even mentioned anything) makes his way back to Facebook and posts something sinister while Kohberger is still in prison. This has the sleuths with their noses all up in the case yet again, thinking this man might be an accomplice.