20 Years Later
April 22, 2019 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Why Do We Get Columbine So Wrong? And how should the media cover acts of mass violence? (Ask A Mortician) , 13:48 cw: discussion of suicide, mass shootings.
posted by The Whelk (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Simple - because the myth is "comforting", in a disturbing way. Loners snapping from abuse is more "rational" to the public than the reality that someone who is, on the surface, a well adjusted individual is in fact an amoral monster willing to murder to make the news.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:39 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


Lots of coverage about Columbine this week, of course. The best one I've seen is The man keeping Columbine safe: It’s been 20 years since the Columbine shooting. John McDonald’s job is to make sure there isn’t another one. Written before Sol Pais, it talks about Columbine tourism and the wide range of people who visit there on a daily basis.
posted by Melismata at 11:05 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


I kept seeing this suggested by YouTube, but the "Ask A Mortician" weirded me out. That was unexpectedly interesting. That the media got the facts so screwed up isn't such a big surprise, I guess. The news cycle always moves on and a story like this take a long time to figure out.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:08 AM on April 22


This article is worth reading: Columbine: 20 Years Later [5280]
“Columbine is an old school, at least by suburban Denver standards. It was opened on a small hill above South Pierce Street in 1973, and the neighborhood surrounding it took its name from the school. Almost immediately after the murders there was conversation about this building’s future: Bulldoze it—perhaps turning the grounds into a memorial—or rebuild what was lost?

The community quickly chose the latter, and on that recent Friday afternoon, parking lots and sports fields stretch into the distance behind the school, toward the hill that overlooks Robert F. Clement Park, the scene of many post-shooting memorials. An empty Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office vehicle is parked on the sidewalk in front of the school.

Pilgrims still come to America’s most famous high school. Years ago, it was buses loaded with onlookers. Folks tried opening doors to get a peek inside or to say a prayer within the walls. Students are still asked if bullet holes are visible, if they can see the spirits of those who died. There was the elderly woman clutching a bouquet of yellow roses to lay at a doorway and the car with rental plates passing through the back lot, an outstretched arm pointing to where the library used to be. Even two decades later, sheriff’s deputies stationed at the school stop and question an estimated 400 such visitors every year.”
posted by Fizz at 11:13 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


This is a bad gloss on Dave Cullen's absolutely astonishing book, published 10 years ago now. She took the best parts and made them dull.
posted by energy_alarm at 11:28 AM on April 22 [10 favorites]


Yeah, Cullen's book is probably the best example of true crime journalism in the past 25 years or so.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 12:13 PM on April 22 [12 favorites]


Simple - because the myth is "comforting", in a disturbing way. Loners snapping from abuse is more "rational" to the public than the reality that someone who is, on the surface, a well adjusted individual is in fact an amoral monster willing to murder to make the news.

I dunno, I think people love stories about psychopaths, which is why I had a slight reservation about how quickly Cullen's account seemed to overturn everything else - though I think he did a pretty good job with the research.

Also, to me, the unsettling thing about a kid like Eric Harris is - he did show some signs that could be taken as a warning, but they also weren't that far from the normal range for teenagers fucking around. So it's like - how do you distinguish this kid from a kid who is going to get into some trouble but turn out okay in the end?
posted by atoxyl at 2:38 PM on April 22


For those who prefer listening, the You're Wrong About podcast is pretty thorough. Cullen's book was really interesting, if a bit too forceful at shoving people into archetypes.
posted by eotvos at 3:28 PM on April 22 [5 favorites]


the "Ask A Mortician" weirded me out.

I gather that you're not familiar with Caitlin Doughty. Don't be weirded out by her – she's a national treasure.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:20 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


So it's like - how do you distinguish this kid from a kid who is going to get into some trouble but turn out okay in the end?

You don't. You enact gun laws that actually regulate firearms to keep this kind of violence from occurring.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:18 PM on April 22 [15 favorites]


So it's like - how do you distinguish this kid from a kid who is going to get into some trouble but turn out okay in the end?

You don't. You enact gun laws that actually regulate firearms to keep this kind of violence from occurring.


You also provide access and funding for mental health and community based support systems so that parents/teachers/mental health professionals are available to kids who feel like they need a place to go, someone to talk to, who can help them when they're struggling with dark thoughts and feelings.
posted by Fizz at 5:55 AM on April 23 [6 favorites]


I was stunned to read in the Washington Post that everything you know about Columbine is wrong. I certainly remember that day, the massive Slashdot thread, back when Slashdot was the Linux nerd's Metafilter, read and watched (back when that meant CNN on the TV) as much as I could. And it was all wrong. The news was not, in fact, the first draft of history that day. The all-consuming need for "information" and, within hours, rationalization, warped the facts into an inversion of reality.
posted by wnissen at 10:54 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Part of how people justify bullying others is in telling themselves horrible things about those they bully.

Taking mass murder and claiming it’s something the bullied do instead of the bullies was this tendency on a massive scale, and the narrative about Columbine was driven to enable increased bullying of the outsiders at the time.

All of the evidence I’ve seen, though, is that it’s the bullies who become domestic abusers who become mass murderers because their own feelings are more important to them than the lives of anyone around them, even people they claim to love.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:51 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


when this happened, the narrative was that the boys were bullied and that's why they did it. i mostly kept that narrative as truth until LAST YEAR when i read cullen's book, which was fucking amazing.

i'm embarrassed that i had that bad information in my head for so long.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:30 PM on April 23


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