Saturated Beyond The Point Of Capacity - 04.26.99

I haven't commented too much in this section on current events, mainly because I feel like I'm rather uneducated about whatever is going on to make a valid argument. Sure, I know the basics of what's going on in Kosovo and even watch the stock market a bit, but I know that someone who really knew something on the subject could tear me apart pretty easily. I see enough bad commentaries as it is (the editorial section of the local newspaper might as well be labeled the "funnies" with how many laughs I get out of them), and I figure that whatever I say will just get lumped in with the mass anyway. That said, sit back for a little bit while I ramble on about my feelings on the Columbine High School shooting that took back last week.

Last Tuesday, just as I was coming back from lunch and doing my usual post-lunch website news sweep, I ran across an item that held my attention: It was another school shooting, and it sounded serious. I was intrigued, and instead of the usual afternoon diet of electronic music, I tapped into a Realaudio broadcast of the ordeal and listened on. I sat there for the rest of the day, working along as the events played out, all the while feeling like I was repeatedly being punched in the stomach. It had happened several other times in the past couple years, but listening to it raw and as it happened, it made much more of an impact than usual. I watched grainy video coverage of kids running and listened as the news media tried to figure out just what was going on.

As I walked from work that day, I felt totally drained. I didn't want to hear anything more on it that night. I listened to music all night and had a hard time going to sleep as sounds and images from earlier in the day made their way through my head. I was completely appalled and like everyone else, wondered what caused it all and why it had to happen again.

The next day, there were new developments and I read them all with interest. No sooner had I started reading, though, when I started to feel my first surges of disgust with how everything was being covered by the media. Although it wasn't as bad as it would get in days to come, buzzwords like "goth" were starting to get thrown around and I could already see where things were going.

As more information came to light, suddenly things went out of control and everything from the computer game Doom to bands like KMFDM and Marylin Manson were recieving heavy flack because the shooters apparent interest in them. I'd like to say right now that I have no idea why the 2 shooters did what they did (and I don't think that anyone can for sure say why, no matter what they say), but I do know that the news media has been far too quick in looking for something or someone to pin everything on. Because the two people who should recieve the blame (the two shooters) died during the events they orchestrated, I think that the tendency of the media has been to simply find something else to blame.

I don't even have a television, but through small amounts (fortunately, otherwise I'd been even more sick of the inudation than I already am), I've seen the news media take song lyrics (by the group KMFDM), movie clips (The Basketball Diaries), and social groups ("goths") out of context by the handful, simply to make what they thought was a point. By completely seperating these different parts from their whole, they're just giving more of a bad name to things that are already misunderstood by many. I mean, if I really wanted to, I could take Backstreet Boys lyrics out of context and come up with something that I would probably get arrested for.

Not only have things been taken out of context, but the numbers in the theories presented simply don't add up. Example one would be saying that because they were heavily into playing Doom, they were conditioned to do what they did and the game warped them. If this were truly the case, there would be no less than 4 million crazed shooters in this country alone (not even mentioning others), and that's not even including other shoot-em-up games. If I had to offer my opinion on this subject (and I know that many others agree with me on this), I'd say that playing these sorts of games is actually therapeutic. When I was in college, I remember setting up 10 or more people and basically blowing each other apart for hours on end as we blew off steam. It was a way to de-stress after a day of studying and actually a good thing.

The entertainment industry is also taking flack on the music and movie front. As mentioned above, The Basketball Diaries has been played over and over (and is even mentioned directly in a lawsuit brought on by parents in another school-related shooting) again as something that promotes violence, when in reality, the movie actually has an anti-drug message and a theme that strong family is what makes overcoming addictions and problems possible. While I don't particularly care for Marylin Manson, I find it silly to blame his music for violence. Besides, having sold about 10 million copies of his first three albums, it seems like there would be a lot more things going on. Don't even get me started on the KMFDM references. Whereas the two shooters had Neo-Nazi leanings and (quite obviously) violent tendencies, KMFDM has always been a proponent of exactly the opposite. You want KMFDM, how about, "Our Silence Is Death--We Shall Resist The Violence / And We'll Never Give Up--Only Death Is Silence" from their Nihil album.

Another thing that really bothered me (as it's a word that's been thrown around since the beginning of the media coverage) is the whole mention of the "gothic" subculture that the two supposedly belonged to. Now, I'm not sure which "goth" kids the news media interviewed, but everyone I've ever known in the scene (and I was quite a bit into it at one point) were exactly the opposite of the two described. While they may have had the black clothes in common, that's about the extent of the similarities. While everyone I know did enjoy being different from the norm (who wants to be a sheep?), none of them were violent, and were actually on the mellow side if anything.

One thing I really hope (and I know that it's already been happening due to stories I've been reading) is that all the negative media towards these different trends doesn't further alienate kids that are already alienated. Obviously, I hope that something like this never happens again, but unfortunately it probably will. I only wish we knew a solution.