Gaming Columbine

March 23, 2009 at 2:41 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Kotaku.com is known as the Web site for everything gaming. And that includes the intersection between gaming and the Columbine shootings.

On Thursday, my second set of excerpts went up on Kotaku. (The first were in February.) Each time, the discussion has been wide-ranging, and vigorous.

In February the excerpts, with an excellent intro by Kotaku Managing Editor Brian Crecente (and a former Rocky colleague) garnered 14,406 page views and 115 comments, by one count. The excerpts were also featured on the media Web site gawker.com.

On Thursday, I was moved by reaction to the Winnenden, Germany shootings to write an op-ed piece about the continuous, and wrong-headed nod to video games as the heart of the problem. There were 13,873 page views and 122 comments at one point.

Gamers may have a knuckle-dragging reputation. But I have read a sampling of the Kotaku reactions to my book, and I found them to be mostly high-minded. And more high-minded, I might add, than many of the comments posted on newspaper Web sites.

Kotaku is not necessarily the outlier. Another good forum for Columbine via the gamers can be found on Super Columbine Massacre RPG! (Although I have a hard time endorsing that name.)

If you want to go beyond the discussions and excerpts, I understand my book, Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers, and the nation’s search for answers is now on the shelves at Tattered Cover.

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Winnenden, Germany School Shooting: The Media

March 13, 2009 at 6:52 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As I was watching a BBC television story on the Winnenden, Germany school shooting Wednesday night, I was sickened not just by the content, but the media coverage.

The coverage itself was bothersome because there was no context – i.e. no explanation – added to the timeline of events, and it made me think that coverage of school shootings tends to follow a predictable sequence.

First, reporters try to establish a “tick tock” of events. This is of course crucial, and no easy task. It has taken years to unravel the details of the Columbine shootings – in part because the Jefferson County Sheriff withheld information – but consider the difficulty of nailing hundreds of details within the first hours.

Next are the interviews with people who knew – or think they knew – the shooter. “I just can’t figure out why he did it,” they say. There is a collective surrender, as if there is nothing that can be done. There is nothing to do but repeat the history of school shootings and indicate this is part of a puzzling trend. Until the next one occurs.

I did come across one article the day of the shootings that was discussing gun control. And that angle continues to be covered. The New York Times today seemed to push violent video games angle, but without a full exploration. The BBC mentioned depression in the shooter, but again failed to fully explore the issue.

I am not knocking daily journalism – you certainly can’t cover everything in a day. And the New York Times did post its excellent series on rampage killers the day of the shootings.

But I would argue the gun control and video games explanations are too simplistic. And there are experts out there – albeit a few – who have studied some of the common denominators among school shooters. (That’s the topic I wrote on the day of the shootings.) Expertise and context can connect the dots, rather than simply add to the gruesome timeline.

March 11, 2009 at 10:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Columbine and other U.S. school shootings appear to have some overlap with the German school shooter who by one count killed 17 Wednesday, including himself.

These stories, by definition, are fast-moving and the facts are subject to change 180 degrees. As in Columbine, people give information to reporters they may not realize is incorrect, although it is quickly transmitted worldwide and forms lasting impressions.

Reporting out of Germany indicates 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer opened fire on his former Technical School, killing about 10 people there. The killings appear to have been mostly random. This randomness matches Columbine and other U.S. school shootings because the anger appears generalized. The shooters blame the bogeyman of “society” for their problems, and take it out on what is for them the most familiar symbol of society. Kretschmer, we are being told, had recently graduated from the school, but the campus may have remained a powerful symbol for him, and maybe what he believed was the source of his problems.

The New York Times quotes the state culture minister as saying that Kretschmer was ‚Äúcompletely unremarkable.” I’m not sure how the culture minister knew that, but I would argue that no one wants to be known as ‚Äúcompletely unremarkable.” That can be a source of anger.

The shootings began in the small town (27,000 according to New York Times) of Winnenden and continued into what appears to be another small town as the gunman fled. This also mirrors U.S. school shootings, which tend to take place in suburbs (Columbine) and small towns. In such locales, there are fewer places for (often disaffected) students to turn for help, self-esteem, and friendship if they are loners at school. They feel like losers through and through.

Another interesting topic coming up is gun control, with at least one British newspaper pushing that angle hard.

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