The Slender Man, or the operator, appears as a tall man in a black suit with no face. This symbolism is saturated with references to faceless intelligence agents. Combined with the references to surveillance and social control and we have a relevant cultural metaphor of intelligence and security officials trusted to safeguard national security.
The Slender Man narratives began in a time when whistleblowers were leaking information about mass surveillance of North Americans, information sharing between the U.S. National Security Agency and telecommunication companies, and superfluous government secrecy. This notably hit a peak in June 2013 when Edward Snowden coordinated his massive, controversial leak that exposed many of the logics and practices of the NSA to the public (Lyon, 2015).
The Slender Man as a monster from the realms of cosmic horror is representative of the consequences of perfect transparency. Instead of providing the power to reform and normalize its victims, the Slender Man instead saps away at hope and sanity until the victim’s death or disappearance. Describing her first encounter with the Slender Man, Celeste McLachlan writes, “His face wasn’t a face, but I could tell where it was looking” (McLachlan, 2010c). The Slender Man is the monster that sits in the panoptic guard tower — he lacks a face obscuring whether or not it is watching, but nonetheless, he is always watching.
Surveillance is a major theme in all of the Slender Man performances. It is always present, and it has already been vanished. The Slender Man, like the surveillance performed by software and algorithms, is barely comprehendible. The characters in the legend tellings do not understand how the Slender Man works. They only understand that it is after them and has taken their friends, warping their minds, or stealing them from existence.