Taking Back Columbine on Film

April 16, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Amid the tears and reflections, anniversaries surrounding major events often emerge with a storyline.

At least that’s the way I’ve seen the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School shootings, where I was one of the first reporters on scene and ten years later published the book “Columbine: A True Crime Story.” The 13th anniversary is Friday.

The 10-year anniversary of the shootings, which prompted the greatest round of media attention since the shootings themselves, was no exception. The storyline then came, appropriately enough, at the culmination of a series of observances: A sunset ceremony at Clement Park adjacent the school. Former President Bill Clinton, who was in office at the time of the shootings, spoke by videotape, and approximately 1,000 people attended, according to one estimate.

The storyline from many of those who had gathered, as The Denver Post put it, was “The time to write a new meaning for ‘Columbine’ has come.” The paper quoted teacher Lee Andres as saying, “It’s my hope you look at your school as that — your school — not the most famous high school in the world.” Andres added that the world may then see Columbine as “a symbol for strength, courage and hope.” That same storyline was echoed earlier in the day when the state legislature passed the resolution “Columbine High School Triumph Over Tragedy.”

These were not bad thoughts. But the truth is that Columbine will never cease to be the scene where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. It may never cease to be the archetype of school shootings. With apologies to Andres, Columbine alumni, and current students, this is not a bad thing either. To whitewash what happened at Columbine would also be a crime.

And yet, as we approach the 13th anniversary, the Columbine story is being revised in legitimate and important ways. This is not a nod to the pronouncements made on the 10-year anniversary, but like other historical turns, this change appears to result from the random yet timely collision of various factors: the rise of social media, one person’s vision, and enough distance from the original event to bring perspective and healing. And it is happening on film.

Last year the film “13 Families” was released portraying the journeys of the victim families. This was not the first time these families had taken ownership of the tragedy – there had been everything from lawsuits to the successful drive for a new school library, where most were killed. But the film was seen as another triumph for victim families in telling their story rather than the killers’.

And now Columbine grad and Denver resident Samuel J. Granillo, who works in film and television as a freelance camera and production assistant, is trying to raise funds for a film called “Columbine: Wounded Minds” about the survivors. Other Columbine students have explored the shootings, including Brooks Brown’s book “No Easy Answers.” Granillo was a 17-year-old junior lunching in the cafeteria when the shootings began. He and 17 others were then trapped in a kitchen cafeteria for three hours until rescued by SWAT.

As Granillo writes on the film Website, the “unofficial thought” for making the film was “how to get help to those still suffering from the mental and physical traumas of the event.” He adds, “The DREAM is to create a formula or foundation providing free services to all those who need mental health help. From soldiers coming home to other school shooting survivors, a plan needs to be devised….”

Granillo has raised approximately $15,000 of the $250,000 he is seeking for the film, but is already doing some interviews, fueled by his passion and the volunteer help of friends. Granillo’s film has been mentioned in a number of Denver media stories, and emerged as a counterpoint to an already controversial miniseries on the shootings proposed by Lifetime. Granillo and I are Facebook friends, and his Facebook page has become an online forum for discussing the healing and history surrounding the shootings.

The highly publicized 10-year anniversary of the shootings produced the call to rewrite and take back Columbine High. But this 13th anniversary – surely a blip on the media and public radar – may go down as the year that made that pronouncement reality.

From what I’ve seen so far, I think Granillo gets it right on his Website when he writes, “This documentary isn’t just a message, it’s a movement.”

Don’t Vote Columbine

February 9, 2012 at 8:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Shots were heard round the world when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School before turning the guns on themselves on April 20, 1999.

Almost 13 years later, Illinois gets to vote on a legacy of the world’s most iconic school shooting, and I urge them to get it right.

I was one of the first reporters on scene on April 20, 1999 and covered the shootings as a staff writer at the now defunct Denver Rocky Mountain News. My colleagues and I broke major stories: the 911 tapes, the diversion files of the killers, and leaked crime scene photos. I wrote about the shootings for national publications including the Boston Globe, US News & World Report, and Chicago Tribune. On the 10-year anniversary of the shootings my definitive book was published Columbine: A True Crime Story (Ghost Road Press).

Another book, Columbine, by blogger Dave Cullen, is now in the running for the Illinois School Media Library Association Abraham Lincoln Award. The Lincoln is given “annually to the author of the book voted as most outstanding by participating students in grades nine through twelve in Illinois. The award is named for Abraham Lincoln, one of Illinois’ most famous residents and himself an avid reader and noted author,” according to the ISMLA Website. The award “is designed to encourage high school students to read for personal satisfaction and become familiar with authors of young adult and adult books.” Past winners have included Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (2008) and A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (2005). The Lincoln award will be announced in March, one month shy of Columbine’s 13th anniversary.

Columbine, in many places, is a good attempt. But it has far too many serious shortcomings to be considered by ISMLA.

The nation’s most trusted media outlets may have misled ISMLA – and the rest of the country. Frank Rich, arguably the New York Times‘ most prominent columnist when Cullen’s Columbine was also released on the 10-year anniversary, wrote, “Dave Cullen reaffirms Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.” Aside from the shootings themselves, there are plenty of examples that the alleged bonhomie was not reciprocated. “You people could have shown more respect, treated me better, asked for knowledge or guidence [sic] more, treated me more like a senior and maybe I wouldn’t have been so ready to tear your [expletive] heads off,” Harris wrote a few months before the shootings in a typical diary entry.

(In another story New York Times literary critic Janet Maslin wrote, “Mr. Kass, whose tough account is made even sadder by the demise of The Rocky Mountain News in which his Columbine coverage appeared, has also delivered an intensive Columbine overview. Some of the issues he raises and information he digs up go unnoticed by Mr. Cullen.)

Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin reviewed Columbine and heralded the supposed revelation that student Cassie Bernall was not shot dead in the library after saying “yes” she believed in God. The false Bernall story did quickly travel worldwide after Columbine.

But five months after the shootings, the media dissected the Bernall myth once police investigators themselves sorted through events. (“Cassie probably never said yes, or anything else,” The Washington Post reported in September 1999.)

Many reviews of Columbine were not just faulty. Among the most egregious errors in the book itself is portraying the killers as normal teens accepted into the student body, and Harris as among the most popular (at least with the girls). The killers’ alienation, however, was one of their greatest motivators. Five days before the shootings, a recruiter made clear to Harris and his family he could not join the Marines, at least while he was on the psychotropic drug Luvox. Cullen claims it never happened. Cullen attributes thoughts to the killers – implying that Klebold lost his nerve during the shooting and was in general nothing more than a blameless lackey. Yet both killers share equally.

It’s horrible that the nation’s major media outlets could not bring accurate analysis to reviewing one of the nation’s major social issues. But the librarians at ISMLA – and its voters – should be a backstop to such media shortcomings and not vote Columbine.

The Columbine Mirror

May 12, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Imagine holding the Columbine shootings — and some of its controversies — up to a mirror. Can gun control prevent school shootings? Can shutting out news of school attacks help prevent them?

Showing us that mirror is what the New York Times did today with its story on school attacks in China.

The Times reports, “At least 17 people have been killed — mostly children — and dozens injured in the series of attacks, which began in March. In each case, a middle-aged man acting alone set upon children with knives or tools.”

Which brings up the issue of gun control and the perennial question (at least in the United States) of whether stricter controls could prevent school shootings. Now, I do not mean to take sides on the issue, but here would seem to be an interesting case study. “Shooting rampages are rare in China,” the Times says. “It is difficult to buy guns of any kind here. Sharp objects and tools are the weapons of choice for homicides.”

And so it would seem that if someone is interested in rampage, they will get the weapon at hand. I would also point out that while it would seem guns would generally cause more deaths, the number killed in the latest attack seems staggering: “A man with a kitchen cleaver rampaged through a kindergarten in rural northern China on Wednesday, and state media said he hacked to death seven children and two adults before returning home and killing himself,” according to The Times.

The suicide issue is also important. As I point out in my book Columbine: A True Crime Story suicide is an undercurrent in school shootings. The Columbine killers were unusually successful in that they killed themselves, yet other shooters who have been captured express a desire to have died in the course their rampage.

The Times reports that the Chinese attacks have been covered in the media, although after the first stories, “the government has been carefully censoring subsequent stories, perhaps to prevent other copycat murders, or perhaps to play down any suggestion of dysfunction within Chinese society.”

One Chinese newspaper fought back and editorialized, “It is undeniable that the media’s coverage on these incidents of bloodshed may ‘inspire’ potential killers, but it will educate more people by raising awareness of self-protection and spur the authorities, and this is the role that media should play in the society.”

Given the debate over bullying at Columbine, there is another interesting reference in The Times China piece. It comes from the same newspaper editorial that questioned the censorship:

“On Wednesday, Dahe Bao, a newspaper in Henan Province, quickly posted on the Internet a fiery editorial that pointed to misbehavior by government officials as the root cause of the problem.

“‘After being treated unfairly or being bullied by the authorities, and unable to take revenge on those government departments that are safeguarded by state security forces, killers have to let out their hatred and anger on weaker people, and campuses have become the first choice,’ said the editorial, signed by a writer named Shi Chuan.”

The Weird Story of Columbine Media Coverage

May 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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That’s the working title of my speech tonight at the Denver Press Club, 6 pm

The talk, as I now have it written, begins:

The Columbine High School shootings began at 11:20 in the morning on April 20, 1999. It was a Tuesday.
I soon got a call from my editor at the Boston Globe. He had heard the news on CNN, but the report was early and vague: Maybe a student had been shot in the leg, the editor said. He wasn’t even sure he wanted me to go to the scene, but told me to standby. I checked the local television coverage. It was wall to wall, as they say. I called the editor back and said a major school shooting had come to Denver. I headed out to Columbine, which neither I nor most of the world, had ever heard of.

I will also be discussing Cassie Bernall:

I was appalled at how many stories on the ten-year anniversary were wrong and misleading. Now, the media is not one giant entity. It is a lot of different reporters and news organizations. But the truth remains. Most reporters got it wrong. A few got it right.
The story of Cassie Bernall is still instructive. Cassie was a seventeen-year-old junior at Columbine with blond hair who traded her fascination with witchcraft for religion. She was killed in the library at Columbine. One of the biggest myths to emerge from the shootings was whether Cassie was shot after saying she believed in God. She was not.

This is the full press release for the talk:

Helen Verba Lecture Series to Feature Jeff Kass May 6

Columbine: A True Crime Story gives an in-depth look at the shooting and its aftermath

Nearly 11 years after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher, Columbine remains the world’s most iconic school shooting. Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation’s search for answers is the first book of investigative journalism to tell the complete story of that day, the far-reaching consequences, and the common denominators among school shooters across the country.
Author Jeff Kass will discuss his book, at 6 p.m. May 6 as part of the Helen Verba Lecture Series, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Kass was one of the first reporters on scene and wrote the Page One, next day story for the Boston Globe. For 10 years he covered Columbine as a staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News. He has broken national stories on the shootings such as leaked crime scene photos, and the sealed diversion files of the killers. He has also reported the story extensively for the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, and U.S. News & World Report.
This event is free and open to the public, presented by the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists, The Denver Post and the Denver Press Club.

Columbine and the End of Journalism…A Talk

April 29, 2010 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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(Note: I will focus on media coverage of Columbine; this is the official description):

Helen Verba Lecture Series to Feature Jeff Kass May 6

Columbine: A True Crime Story gives an in-depth look at the shooting and its aftermath

Nearly 11 years after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher, Columbine remains the world’s most iconic school shooting. Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation’s search for answers is the first book of investigative journalism to tell the complete story of that day, the far-reaching consequences, and the common denominators among school shooters across the country.
Author Jeff Kass will discuss his book, at 6 p.m. May 6 as part of the Helen Verba Lecture Series, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Kass was one of the first reporters on scene and wrote the Page One, next day story for the Boston Globe. For 10 years he covered Columbine as a staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News. He has broken national stories on the shootings such as leaked crime scene photos, and the sealed diversion files of the killers. He has also reported the story extensively for the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, and U.S. News & World Report.
This event is free and open to the public, presented by the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists, The Denver Post and the Denver Press Club.

Columbine and the End of Journalism…TIME Mag and LA Times miss the mark

April 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The lesson on this Columbine anniversary that hit April 20 may not come from the shootings themselves. But rather, how the media has covered the shootings since the ten-year anniversary last year.

I previously discussed shortcomings in Newsweek’s coverage of Columbine’s ten-year anniversary. But they were not the only ones who wrote as if they were unaware of the twists and turns the Columbine story had taken.
Writing in TIME magazine, Lev Grossman’s ten-year anniversary story was titled “The Meaning Of Murder.” The first line in TIME’s big piece tried to reach for news and said of the killers, “They weren’t gay.”
Grossman doesn’t say why that is new, and it’s not clear the (false) notion that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were gay ever gained acceptance in the mainstream media. On May 2, 1999, just less than two weeks after the shootings, the Rocky quoted someone who knew the killers with the same words Grossman used: “They were not gay. They did not wear makeup,” Dustin Gorton told the paper. “There’s so much information coming out about them that just isn’t true.” Stories on the “basement tapes” made by the killers often note their anti-gay rhetoric, including a TIME magazine story published in 1999.
The next line in TIME magazine’s big ten-year piece announces that the killers “weren’t part of the Trench Coat Mafia.” (Probably true, although long a topic of debate.)
For Grossman “maybe the most surprising thing…is how quickly it all happened.” He is in awe that Harris and Klebold ended their lives 49 minutes after the shooting began and “All the murders happened in the first 16 [minutes].” Well, that’s the same information released in May 2000 in the sheriff’s official version of events.
Yet TIME seems to take a swipe at the media saying that “the stories that have already been told” have to be untold. Now TIME’s story can be untold.
Although Grossman is insightful in opining that we should focus on Klebold, not the more fiery Harris: “If there is a lesson here, it lies in Klebold’s story, which is the more disturbing because he was, at heart, like us. He was capable of love and sympathy, and he discarded them. Some killers are natural born. Klebold was made.”

* * *
Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin began a review of a Columbine book by saying, “Forget everything you thought you knew.” Ulin goes on to herald the revelation that student Cassie Bernall was not shot dead in the library after saying “yes” she believed in God. (Another girl, Valeen Schnurr, did say she believed in God, and after being shot. She survived.) The false Bernall story did go worldwide in the months after Columbine and Bernall’s mother wrote the book, She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.
But five months after the shootings, on Sept. 23, 1999 (yes, 1999), the Denver Post, citing Salon.com, noted “‘key investigators’ doubt the widely reported story that 17-year-old Cassie Bernall was slain because she told the killers, as a gun was held to her head, that she indeed believed in God.” The next day the Rocky ran a story with the headline, “ACCOUNTS DIFFER ON QUESTION TO BERNALL COLUMBINE SHOOTING VICTIM MAY NOT HAVE BEEN ASKED WHETHER SHE BELIEVED IN GOD.” The next month the Washington Post reported, “Cassie probably never said yes, or anything else.”
Misinformation early on wasn’t necessarily due to sloppy reporting. Ten of the thirteen victims were killed in the library. Investigators needed time to sift through information and correct errors. Despite the many valid criticisms of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, it seems to have done an able job in debunking the Bernall myth long before the ten-year.
To be sure, many in the public still seem to have genuinely believed such myths of Columbine. As did journalists. But journalists should proceed on what is known, not their perception.
Yet Ulin chides “the misreporting of the media, which at its worst resembled nothing so much as an enormous game of telephone.” He adds that the media “parachuted into Columbine, asked a few questions and then parachuted out.” But a simple spot check on the Bernall issue shows the Washington Post, Denver Post and Rocky quickly got it right. The Denver Post and Rocky, meantime, never parachuted in. Then again, they never left. They also filed lawsuits, as did victims families, that freed up valuable information. A Denver Post lawsuit that took four years resulted in the release of nearly 1,000 pages of key writings by the killers and Harris’ father.
Ulin (and most other reviewers) never mentions that. Nor do they mention the Denver Post won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, in the words of the judges, “for its clear and balanced coverage of the student massacre at Columbine High School.” (Nor, if that Pulitzer wasn’t warranted, do reviewers criticize the Pulitzer judges. Do the reviewers even know about the Columbine Pulitzer?) The Rocky also won a Pulitzer that year for breaking news photography of Columbine.

Columbine Memorial

April 20, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have been blogging this past week about Columbine media coverage, but today is the 11th anniversary of the shootings. This posting is dedicated to the 13 innocent victims who died on April 20, 1999.

Rachel Scott
Dan Rohrbough
Dave Sanders
Kyle Velasquez
Steven Curnow
Cassie Bernall
Isaiah Shoels
Matt Kechter
Lauren Townsend
John Tomlin
Kelly Fleming
Daniel Mauser
Corey DePooter

Columbine Memorial Web site.

Columbine and the End of Journalism…A Daily Blog Series, Part II

April 15, 2010 at 12:13 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The lesson on this Columbine anniversary that hits April 20 may not come from the shootings themselves. But rather, how the media has covered the shootings since the ten-year anniversary last year.

Some Columbine myths, such as Cassie Bernall saying she believed in God before being shot, were quickly disproved. Other “myths” were never myths at all, such as shooter Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s disdain for virtually all other humans. Some supposed myths are complicated. Harris and Klebold may not have been members of the Trench Coat Mafia. But they wore trench coats; had friends in the clique; and maybe most importantly, identified with the group’s rebelliousness.

Yet the ability to grasp subtleties and provide historical context was not evident for many reporters and book reviewers going over Columbine. As they attempted to rewrite the Columbine story on the ten-year, the subtext was, ‘We blindly put our faith in the early news reports. Now we are told they were wrong. We are now blindly putting our faith in the latest story we are hearing.’

So the first reporters at Columbine were lumped into one category and chastised on the ten-year anniversary for not getting it totally accurate in the first hours, or days. Contemporary armchair journalists – themselves often misinformed – now harangued the rest of their on-the-ground brethren. This was all more perverse because the media seemed to take such glee in the spanking.

Columbine’s ten-year anniversary arrived as the business of journalism is crumbling amidst cries about its central role to democracy and a free society. Yet in covering Columbine on the ten-year many major publications fell flat on their face. It’s hard to rally round journalism after such instances. Do we really need TIME and Newsweek if they can’t get Columbine right? Reporters may have also been blinded by a desire to find some “news” – a new storyline – to add spark to anniversary coverage rather than take a look back. But one story the media might investigate is how, despite our ever-growing databases of knowledge, the public and plenty of journalists still manage to be misinformed.

A key way for reporters to become instant experts on a story is to “check the clips,” or what has already been written. Even if the clips have errors, reporters at least have a foundation on what questions to ask and may, wittingly or not, uncover past errors. Maybe it should be no surprise that some of the best Columbine coverage came from reporters who checked more than one source (or any source). That’s the good news: Good coverage doesn’t require anything fancy or expensive, but rather the tried and true method of being a reporter, checking the clips, and checking the facts. So simple, yet seemingly so tough.

Bloggers, called the grass roots saviors who would correct the biases and shortcomings of the “mainstream media,” mostly failed as dramatically as the professional press corps. Do we even expect bloggers to use more than one source and check the clips? If we don’t, we should. They seem to think whatever is floating around in their head must be true. They’re wrong.

Columbine and the End of Journalism…A Daily Blog Series, Part I.

April 14, 2010 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The lesson on this Columbine anniversary that hits April 20 may not come from the shootings themselves. But rather, how the media has covered the shootings since the ten-year anniversary last year.

Some Columbine victims families passed the ten-year by returning to the school and walking through the nearby memorial in Clement Park. The memorial was not cleared for the parents, and they quietly mingled with the reporters and general public who had arrived on April 20, 2009 to honor the anniversary. Most people and reporters buzzing the area that day did not recognize the victims families. Just as they did not recognize the story of Columbine.
Columbine has always been a very difficult story to untangle, even for those dedicated to covering it. Authorities – namely the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office – routinely withheld information but were then often forced to parcel it out, generally after lawsuits. The Columbine story dribbled out piece by piece, year by year. Each round of new information often changed the story as we knew it. Only a select number of reporters developed an expertise. The events of Columbine also defy easy explanation – it was not simply the parents, or gun control, or bullying.
Yet school shootings and other mass shootings are one of America’s most high-profile social issues. Like plane crashes, they are rare but highly dramatic events. Mass shootings hit schools, malls and health clubs – where people think they are safest. And Columbine remains the world’s most iconic school shooting. So with good reason, a phalanx of international media revisited the ten-year anniversary. It seems safe to say that media coverage of the ten-year anniversary was rivaled only by coverage of the shootings themselves.
A decade later, the media had a truckload of facts at its disposal to burrow into why Columbine seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 others before taking their own lives. Over 26,000 pages of police documents had been released, lawsuit files were the size of telephone books, and reams of news stories filled the archives. The Columbine file seems to be nearing completion (although one can never know, as information unknown to exist has a knack for surprise appearances). The ten-year also saw the publication of three books that reporters often used a pivots for their coverage, including mine, Columbine: A True Crime Story (Ghost Road Press).
And yet, media coverage of the ten-year was often uninformed and served to create new myths surrounding Columbine. The misguided coverage seems to fall into two main categories. Many reporters bought into a new myth that the Columbine killers were simply ordinary, popular teens, without stopping to critically examine that statement. Do ordinary teens really commit school shootings? If so, why don’t we have thousands of school shootings a day? If school shooters are ordinary, does that make the vast majority of teens who do not commit school shootings out of the mainstream? Of course not. School shooters are a disaffected, but thankfully rare breed.
Another false buy-in on the ten-year anniversary was that the Columbine “myths” were just now being debunked. In fact, plenty of media in the days and months after Columbine did get many aspects wrong. But they later corrected it. And the errors were not necessarily due to sloppiness, laziness or pursuit of a neat story angle. In part, it was inaccurate information accurately reported. Columbine students, for example, repeated error-filled stories to reporters either because they didn’t know or made honest mistakes (i.e. they truly thought Cassie Bernall was the one who said “yes,” she believed in God). Reporters wrote it down.
Columbine remains Colorado’s largest criminal probe with thousands of interviews, potential witnesses, and a crime scene the size of a high school. A small army of investigators did not have a full picture for months. Yet some of the media still got the early details right – or at least they provided multiple viewpoints. Many inaccuracies were corrected long before the ten-year anniversary. But you wouldn’t know that from reading the recent news coverage.
Click here to find out more!

Columbine and Malik Nadal Hasan Fort Hood shooting

November 5, 2009 at 8:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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As I reflected on Columbine and Malik Nadal Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting, one word stuck in my mind.

Texas.

Texas, to me, says the South and therefore the culture of honor.(Encyclopedia Britannica online lists Texas as the South although I understand some might say Texas is just Texas). Colorado, where Columbine occurred, is the West. But the West, as I point out in my book Columbine: A True Crime Story, also retains a culture of honor.

Simply put, that concept allows people to believe that if they have been slighted – if their honor has been violated – that it is OK to retaliate with violence. It is similar to the idea of taking the law into your own hands – being a sheriff in your own hearth, as one saying goes – and extracting your own revenge. I should add that news reports say Hasan grew up in Virgina and graduated from Virginia Tech, firmly in the South and the site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history with 33 dead, including the gunman.

The news reports are early and ever-changing (with the recent surprise that Hasan is alive). But a couple items may point to Hasan’s wanting to take revenge. He was allegedly harassed by fellow soldiers for being of Muslim descent, and had considered trying to leave the U.S. Army early but an attorney he retained said he could not. He may have also been “mortified” about having to be deployed to the Middle East after hearing horror stories.

Aside from the culture of honor as an issue in the shootings, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in gun control pro and con circles. One argument has been that more armed teachers, for example, will stop such shooters in schools. Now, I don’t know if the soldiers were armed in the area where the shooting occurred, but on the other hand it’s hard to imagine a place with more armed people than a military base. People taking up that line of debate will probably need more details.

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