It's an old cliche that, on the internet, you can find fans of just about anything. And while the bulk of esoteric interest online is tied up in finding porn to jerk off to, buying drugs to lose your mind on and "exposing" members of secret, all-powerful international cabals (status check... nope, still in charge), there's a growing movement of tribute pages for the rightly hated and vilified. From Chris Brown and Charles Manson to the domestic delusions of the "Moaty is a legend" Facebook pages, you'll find fanboys and fangirls for all sorts of reprehensible people on the internet, drawn from all walks of internet life. These pariah-adorers seem to range from the crazed, to the sincere, and of course, the trolls.
The latest addition to the pantheon of online infamy is Red Nose Day-haired alleged mass murderer James Holmes. Whilst most right-thinking people would say he's an entirely unsympathetic case, accused of the pre-meditated and seemingly motiveless slaughter of innocent families who'd turned up to watch the latest Batman film, some people seem to think otherwise. There's a small movement of so-called "Holmies" going on, supporters of Holmes who have taken to Tumblr (mostly) to post fan art, poetry and memes relating to him.
For them, James Holmes is not necessarily a hero, but a kind of frightened rabbit in the headlights of a cruel world. They seem to view him as a sensitive soul who doesn't deserve all this unfair attention. The paintings portray him as the kind of guy who's just too fragile for this world, the soulful blue eyes, the wispy stubble, it's almost like they were drawing Jeff Buckley rather than a man who supposedly killed a six-year-old girl with an assault rifle.
The comments seem to further confirm that Holmies view their boy as a kind of sociopathic Zach Braff. They don't view his actions as insane or despicable like most people, to them there's something romantic about what he's accused of doing. Once upon a time being "quirky" meant taking a ukelele on a date, to Holmies it means shooting up a cinema full of innocent families.
The Holmies also reblog the work of the straight-up trolls too; perpetuating that anonymous brand of 4chan-esque gallows humour to further glorify their idol as some kind of pop cultural icon for a sick society.
And like almost everything else that happens in the world today, the conspiracy loons have cobbled together a theory about it. I guess they're saying that James Holmes was just sitting in that car with the guns in the boot writing poetry or something, while the real gunman made his escape back to the grassy knoll/Illuminati headquarters/Fidel Castro's house. Within days, somebody will spot warnings to what happened that night in Aurora in the new Rick Ross video.
Much like One Direction Twitter nutters and the Beliebers, there's a lot of coded esoterica going on in these communities. Most of the Tumblr pages are awash with pictures of plaid shirts, which is not this summer's big look, but of show of solidarity with Holmes, as he was allegedly wearing one at the time of the killings. Despite being clad head to toe in body armour as well, this is the key sartorial aspect of Holmes his fans have picked up on. I guess flak jackets must be hard to come by at H&M.
The other way the Holmies like to stand shoulder to shoulder with their icon is through taking pictures of themselves with Slurpees. At some point in his life, Holmes was apparently seen drinking one, so his fans have picked up on this and made it the official drink of the movement. Maybe it's the lack of pop culture icons for young people to get obsessed with that makes them do things like this. A misguided search for a hero has given us this, drinking the same drink as a man who's on trial for mass murder. The Black Power salute this is not.
The defence of Holmes usually comes in the form of wishy-washy humanism and hypothetical innocence. The central tenet of their argument is that James Holmes is a human being, which seems solid enough, but they seem to believe that being part of the human race means that he should be treated like an autistic child at parent's evening. Holmes might well be troubled, he might be innocent, but he might well be a mass-murderer as well. We all make mistakes, but buying ammunition on the internet beforehand isn't a mistake.
So how many Holmies are genuine and how many are trollmies? Well, it's hard to say exactly. Some of the memes are obviously designed purely to get a rise out of people, but looking at the manic manner of some of the written responses and statements, it's not hard to believe that at least a few of these people are sincere about their beliefs.
So, will we soon be staring down barrels wielded by a thousand lovelorn copycats desperate to emulate their idol with hairdye and high-powered weapons? Nah, probably not. They'll probably just stay home and draw bad pictures of him until this whole thing blows over and the neglected ghost Tumblr tribute pages seem as weird and as embarrassing as your big brother's Eminem tattoo.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive