The CBC reminded me this morning that today marks the ten-year anniversary of what happened at Columbine. I immediately thought of this song, which Amanda Palmer apparently wrote upon learning about what happened, but waited for years to debut. Unlike most of the hysterical anti-kid, anti-media reactions that followed (for perspective, see Henry Jenkins’ chapter on speaking to Congress about videogames), Palmer sought to insert herself in the killers’ subjectivity, to understand them from within rather than without. It’s this kind of empathic, phenomenological approach that’s missing from much of the discourse surrounding youth violence — which still focuses on media strawmen, and claims that influence is the same as causation.
I remember being in school the day of the shootings. I remember watching them on television. I remember thinking that maybe this would be the time that the adults finally woke up, saw what was wrong, saw how broken we all were, saw the need for change. But no. Instead, we got a lot more coverage of how evil we all were; how crazy; how deep our bloodlust clearly ran; how passive we were as audiences; how we needed protecting from “the wrong messages”; how we were either helpless babes in the woods constantly threatened by media influences, or proto-fascists headed for two weeks of Ludovico. Not kids, but killers. Not subjects, but stereotypes.
When I write violence, I try to remember that this is what I’m thwarting.
3 thoughts on “Ten years ago today:”
Amanda Palmer writes some seriously gripping music. Guitar Hero is another one that just cuts me when I think about this kind of thing.
I’ve been thinking about Columbine too, recently. Info dump:
Cullen’s new book about Columbine is supposed to be amazing, hacking apart the usual narrative, which I think we all rehearse in our sleep new. I just finished reading ‘The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea’ which says more about violence and minors than anything I’ve heard from contemporary, Western sources. Mishima, of course, had an edge on our talking heads, being a completely different kind of crazy. Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’ did a fine job of setting the mood, but it also sadly attempted to explain things. Alan Clarke’s original is, however, pretty much the final word on the insanity of violence. It also might be kind of fun to do a mash-up of ‘Columbine’ and ‘The Turn of the Screw.’ Though I doubt it would be very popular.
Is Cullen’s analysis the one that diagnoses one of the perpetrators as a psychopath who subordinated the other? Because if so, that explanation made a great deal more sense to me than anything reliant on external stimuli or influence.
I’m not sure how you’d do the mash-up (with surveillance and news footage?) unless you somehow edited The Turn of the Screw into the Harris levels. Actually I think a game mod might be one of the best ways to talk about this event artistically (with all respect to Ms. Palmer, of course).
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