Monday, April 20, 2009

In the Shadow of Two Gunmen

As you're going to hear, ad nauseam, from every news organization on the planet -- today marks the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Do yourself a favor and ignore most of the sullen and somber think pieces, pontificating on what happened that day and what we've learned since then, and just buy and read Dave Cullen's shockingly good and exhaustively researched new book, Columbine.

Cullen, a contributor for, has spent the past ten years poring over every detail of the shooting -- particularly, who Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were and what might have caused them to kill.

Suffice it to say, almost everything you know about the Columbine High massacre and its gunmen is wrong and has been since almost the very beginning.

Seriously, read it.

Dave Cullen: Columbine


Mr. Controversy said...

Glad I arranged to acquire a copy of this book. Can't believe it's been ten years already.

PhilDS said...

I'm from Belgium and sadly these things happen over here as well.

A couple of months ago lunatic got on a rampage in a kindergarten and stabbed the toddlers killing 3 kids and one caretaker who bravely gave her life defending.

The one thing that's different is that he wasn't able to get a gun because otherwise the carnage would have been even greater.

Anonymous said...

That was a fun few months, thanks to how it was reported. The day after, the big goth / industrial clothing store in Denver got various death threats on their voicemail. Some friends of mine went out to dinner that week, and one woman at another table in the restaurant thought it was appropriate to badmouth their appearance and loudly wonder where their pipe bombs were. The woman's daughter was so embarrassed that she came over to my friends' table and apologized for her mother's behavior. A friend of my wife was interviewed by his high school "TV news" about the incident. He repeated a cliche heard in many other newsworthy situations, "It just goes to show you, if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere." And with all the logic that can be found in blind panic, the school administration chalked that up as a threat and suspended him indefinitely.

deejay4d3 said...

The anniversary, as well as the myths behind Eric and Dylan's motives, was just discussed on NPR. Very interesting show.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like anyone intelligent didn't know that only psychopaths go on killing rampages. Bullied trench coat kids don't set up bombs and plan for an entire year to take out "as much humanity as possible". Normal people in general don't do this sort of thing.

Of course, every incident like this works up a frothy rage against gun owners everywhere and ineffective laws are passed which do nothing to prevent the next psychopath from going on a killing spree. Guns are easy to blame when the reality is there can be no blame except on the person or persons involved, and it's been proven time and again that these people are literally batshit insane, usually with some kind of superiority complex.

Also, it's all Grand Theft Auto's fault. Videogame violence creates terrorists!

Ref said...

I'll have to get my library to pick that one up. My own take on it then was that there should't be a high school or middle school in America with more than eight hundred students in it.

Mark said...

schwa242, I completely agree with you. I lived about 10 miles from Columbine and knew one of the victims as an acquaintance, but the response to the actual event was just ridiculous.

Being in 8th grade when it happened, I remember how the teachers were e-mailed details about the event, but they were forbidden to talk to the students about it. I can't even imagine being put in that position, as local authorities thought the event might not have been isolated to just the one school. As a current teacher, I don't even know how I would begin to approach the idea of a school shooting where my friends and colleagues, and possibly former students while I'm supposed to still act like nothing is happening and teach my classes as if it was a regular day. Needless to say, there were quite a few teacher break-downs and students suspected the worst.

Then, it was the crackdown on all trench coat wearing or goth-looking kids, informal inquiries into any type of student group not sponsored by a teacher, and the inevitability of badly hidden cameras.

That, and the fact that the community tried to shield everyone so much that movies like "Bowling for Columbine" weren't played at theaters or sold in stores just added to the ridiculousness. I'm sorry. I love Colorado, but after overblown reactions to things like JonBenet Ramsey and Columbine... I'm left with a sour taste in my mouth.

I'll probably pick up the book at some point, but I'm curious as to why we as a nation continue to focus on the killers and not at our ludicrous responses to albeit horrific, but isolated events. While we may have a better understanding of what type of kids kill, it certainly didn't stop Seung-Hui Cho among numerous others from committing gruesome acts.

I can guarantee that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold will be names engraved in the public consciousness for decades, and it's infuriating. I doubt that even a third of the people that spout out idiocy about Columbine could still name even two of the victims.