Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Truth About Columbine

Just How Much Do We Have Wrong About The Massacre? According to Author Dave Cullen...Pretty Much Everything.


For my generation, the Columbine High School Massacre remains one of those shared universal experiences - not unlike 9/11 and, to a much, much, MUCH lesser extent, the death of Michael Jackson - that everyone seems to remember EXACTLY what they were doing when it transpired.

While I didn’t learn about the shooting until later on the evening, when I got home from school, the aftermath of the tragedy lingered on for well over the remainder of my middle school tenure. Bullying became a major no-no (not so much because of administrative policy, but because all the jocks thought one of their victims might come to school the next day with an Uzi) and the very next semester, our principal made shirt-tucking a MANDATORY practice - because as we all know, the only thing standing between us and adolescent bloodshed was one set of droopy drawers.

Columbine was our Kent State, that major moment in American history that - unlike that boring stuff that was going on in Kosovo and whether or not the President did or did not receive something that may or may not have constituted oral sex from somebody not named “Hilary” - had a very direct influence on our daily lives. Of course, EVERY public school student in the country was paranoid for at least a couple of weeks after, and for a while, at least, the entire junior high caste system was in disarray. For the first time I could recall, it was the outsiders and freaks and dweebs that had the element of power over the popular kids, because all of the yuppie offspring thought that one kid they made eat Play-Doh behind the seesaw back in the third grade was finally going to get retribution and plug them full of more holes than Alex Murphy at the beginning of “Robocop.” Of course, it was all over and done with in a year’s time, but for a good couple of months, we were all truly living in the long, towering shadow of a school shooting that went down about nine states over.

As momentous as Columbine was, it’s pretty shocking to me, at least, just how much disinformation is STILL out there about the massacre. It’s been well over a decade since the shootings took place, and even now, most people tend to believe some sort of fantastical, media hodgepodge version of the incident rather than what really occurred. I recently read Dave Cullen’s “Columbine,” an absolutely outstanding recount of the events leading up to the massacre, and it shone a pretty amazing light on what ACTUALLY transpired in Colorado almost a decade and a half ago. Just how much do we have wrong about Columbine? Well, if Cullen’s book is to be taken as the most accurate, factual info we have…apparently, just about everything.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER ONE:
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold never intended to execute a mass shooting on April 20, 1999

Perhaps the largest misconception about the Columbine massacre was that - from a structural standpoint - it was never meant by the perpetrators to entail a school shooting. As it turns out, the “shooters’” original plan was to detonate several improvised explosives around the cafeteria, with the hopes of bringing down the ceiling and killing hundreds upon hundreds of people. They also had their cars rigged with crude explosive materials, with the intentions of blowing up the entire parking lot as soon as emergency response personnel arrived. From what was pieced together from video tapes and journal entries, the only reason why the perpetrators brought firearms with them was so that they could pick off fleeing students from the ruins - apparently, the entire “school shooting” was an impromptu incident that was rigged up, on the spot, because their explosive devices failed to go off as planned.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER TWO: 
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not the victims of bullying, Goths, homosexual or neo-Nazi terrorists

The media narrative, to this day, is that Harris and Klebold were long-bullied nerds that, after years and years of harassment, finally snapped and decided to kill their aggressors. This is an accusation that has been refuted time and time again.

Harris and Klebold were considered to be fairly “normal” students that had many friends. Days before the massacre, they even went to their senior class prom, in which Klebold’s date was the eventual class valedictorian. While there’s very little evidence to suggest that Klebold and Harris were the victims of bullying, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence out there that suggests that Klebold and Harris were more or less bullies themselves, as they allegedly had a fondness for victimizing freshmen students. Additionally, both students performed quite well academically, and both were involved in several sports. Despite allegations that the two specifically targeted “jocks” during the massacre, Dylan Klebold - like Eric, a major MLB fan - wore a Boston Red Sox cap throughout the shooting spree.

Similarly, Harris and Klebold were pinned by many in the media as “Goths,” although neither perpetrator was a fan of popular “Goth” music or style. Despite perpetual media reminders, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were never a part of the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” a separate campus clique that had virtually zero associations with either student.

Several accusers in the media have alleged that Harris and Klebold were secretly lovers, and that their deadly attack was spurred on because of “cultural insensitivity” and homophobia. As it turns out, both students seemed to be rather heterosexual, with Harris claiming to have “made it” with a 23 year-old-woman and maintaining lengthy - and depraved - heterosexual rape fantasies in his journal. Klebold, on the other hand, seemed to be absolutely enamored by a classmate code-named "Harriet," who he obsessively referred to in his own diary. The fact that “Harriet” rejected his affection, in some aspects, may have even proved to be a pivotal “trigger” that instigated his decision to join Harris on his rampage.

While Harris seemed to have a penchant for Nazi culture, no research has been trudged up that indicates that he or Klebold was involved in any neo-Nazi organizations. In fact, it would seem a little unlikely that Klebold would be into Nazism, since he himself was half-Jewish. While the two routinely used racial slurs and epithets in their video diaries, both boys were also said to have had several African-American and Asian friends. Furthermore, although some media reports allege that the shooters specifically targeted minority students, just about every official document detailing the shootings indicates that the perpetrators were indiscriminately selecting victims throughout the incident.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER THREE: 
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold already had extensive criminal backgrounds BEFORE the shooting took place

Many media reports said that the attack came without warning, and that both students had exhibited no signs of violent behavior beforehand. This, without question, is erroneous.

Both Harris and Klebold had been placed in a juvenile diversion program after being caught breaking into a van, just months before the massacre. Prior to that, the family of a classmate Harris allegedly victimized filed a damning complaint to the police, detailing Harris’ murderous threats against their son. At one point, word got out that Harris had been constructing homemade bombs, and an affidavit had been filed to search the Harris residence for contraband material. If you’re wondering why information of the like was never reported after the shooting, it’s because Jefferson County officials pretty much “covered” it up, with the full information not being released to the public until years after the massacre.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER FOUR: 
Neither Harris or Klebold targeted Christian students during the shooting

Shortly after the massacre, the story of Cassie Bernall became a nationwide phenomenon. According to some reports, Bernall was killed after she said she believed in God…even though subsequent 911 audio indicates that she never said anything to her killers before being shot. It was actually another student - who was not mortally wounded in the attack - that addressed the attackers when asked if she believed in God. Even so, Bernall’s story - which, despite being disconfirmed, was turned into a best-seller by Bernall’s own mother - remains a popular myth surrounding the Columbine incident - a rather odd coincidence, as Bernall, during her earlier teen years, was said to have been both suicidal and at least mulled the possibility of murdering her own parents.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER FIVE: 
Most of the misconceptions about Columbine stem not from student hearsay, but erroneous “official” statements

According to author Dave Cullen, “every scrap of testimony after day two is tainted” when examining “official” statements on the shootings.

Shortly after the massacre, Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone gave multiple erroneous reports to the media, including doubling the actual body count, suggesting that a third perpetrator may have been involved and alleging that automatic weapons were used in the attack. Instead of releasing information about Harris and Klebold’s juvenile records - which included multiple counts of vandalism, as well as an never-certified affidavit to search the Harris home - the county officials practically “sat” on the info, refusing to release the evidence until years after the incident. And if you want a full report on what went down, you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer, as the official transcripts won’t be released to the public until 2027.

Further demonstrating their complete ineptness, officials ended up selling copies of the cafeteria shooting footage for $25, ultimately prompting a lawsuit from Sarah McLaughlin, whose music was featured - quite illegally - in the video tapes.

COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER SIX:
Despite the magnitude of the event, the massacre didn’t change anything regarding federal gun laws in the U.S. 

While one of the worst high school shootings in history, the ultimate influence of the event - in terms of national legislation - remained virtually non-existent. While several loopholes regarding “straw purchases” at gun shows were closed in Colorado (Harris and Klebold obtained several of the firearms they used during the massacre by getting a friend to purchase the weapons at a gun show in Denver) and a few other states, no federal laws directly tied to the massacre ever came to fruition. In fact, perhaps the single most important legacy of Columbine, as a policy framer, has been for S.W.A.T. usage, as it ultimately led to most national outfits abandoning a hostage-oriented strategy for the now practically-universal “active shooter” protocol.


COLUMBINE MISCONCEPTION NUMBER SEVEN:
It was most likely psychiatric problems and substance abuse issues that “drove” the two to kill…not “Doom” or “Natural Born Killers”

Cullen minces no words when he describes why he believes Harris made plans for mass murder; he was an out-and-out psychopath, an emotionally under-developed human being with less capability to sympathize with others than the common Golden Retriever. According to Cullen, Harris demonstrated all the classical attributes of the psychopath, including a sense of egotistical superiority, enjoyment of causing harm to others and compulsive lying - a so-called “duping delight.” His journals indicated a thorough hatred of humanity, containing multiple “extinction fantasies” - and contrary to what you might have heard, it may have been “high art”, and not low culture trash, that influenced Harris the most as a fledgling mass killer.

While Harris was a fan of violent video games and violent films, he was also an avid reader and appreciator of classical works. He cites “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and “The Pastures of Heaven” as among his favorite works, and was greatly inspired by both Hobbes and Nietzsche. He reveled in writing essays about the Holocaust, and wrote diary entries filled with sadistic sex fantasies. His favorite musicians weren’t shock rockers like Marilyn Manson and The Insane Clown Posse, but rather, German industrial acts KMFDM and Rammstein.

Klebold, on the other hand, was assumed to be manic-depressive, and most certainly suicidal. Oddly, he seemed to be a very religious young man, and quite possibly an emerging alcoholic. His nickname was “VoDKa,” assigned to him because it was his “drug of choice.” Klebold, an outstanding student, academically, saw his grades slip dramatically during his senior year - a time in which both his depression and alcohol abuse was thought to have been reaching critical mass.

And as far as “direct causes” go, the most viable “trigger” for the killing spree had nothing to do with art, music or entertainment, as most researchers suggest that it was a single incident - the two being arrested and placed in juvenile services for breaking into a van - that proved the ultimate catalyst for the rampage.


Of course, an incident as massive and intricate as the Columbine massacre really can’t be detailed and described accurately in a single blog post, which is why I suggest, yet again, checking out Dave Cullen’s 2009 book “Columbine,” which is far and away the most exhaustive, comprehensive and factual account of the incident in print.

As far as the long-lasting impact of Columbine, I suppose it’s safe to say that it’s cultural import has almost vanished over the last 13 years. Since then, we’ve been assailed by countless more tragedies - 9/11, Katrina, Virginia Tech, not to mention  two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and in many ways, we’ve become a bit more desensitized to the idea of mass violence as a cultural reality. We shudder, we mourn, and we move on, to the next major story involving bullet-riddled corpses. At the time, Columbine itself wasn’t a new incident - although it was one of the first of its kind occurring in a predominantly upper middle class neighborhood - but the sheer shock of the event, the idea that it could happen to “normal communities,” was enough to cause mini-pandemonium throughout the nation.

As time drags on, and more massacres, with heftier body counts ensue, one wonders if we’ll ever truly retain the lessons taught to us by Columbine. But in examining our social recollections of the tragedy - which are filled to the brim with inconsistencies, inaccuracies and flat out falsifications - one has to wonder if we even remember such lessons at the current.

1 comment:

  1. IF you read the Book by brooks brown (dylans best friend) you can see THAT they got bullied. PlS inform yourself. ...and if you read their journals you can see it too. ...gawd.....i hate people who talking shit like that....

    ReplyDelete