Marilyn Manson's 1999 essay on Columbine mass shooting weirdly relevant again today

When the Columbine shootings happened in Colorado in 1999, many pundits and politicians blamed games, goth culture, and dark pop figures like Marilyn Manson. After today's shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Manson's "Whose Fault Is It?" essay from that same year is worth a read again.

When it comes down to who's to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you'll hit someone who's guilty. We're the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we're the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them. I think it's terrible when anyone dies, especially if it is someone you know and love. But what is more offensive is that when these tragedies happen, most people don't really care any more than they would about the season finale of Friends or The Real World. I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals. Then came the witch hunt.

Man's greatest fear is chaos. It was unthinkable that these kids did not have a simple black-and-white reason for their actions. And so a scapegoat was needed. I remember hearing the initial reports from Littleton, that Harris and Klebold were wearing makeup and were dressed like Marilyn Manson, whom they obviously must worship, since they were dressed in black. Of course, speculation snowballed into making me the poster boy for everything that is bad in the world. These two idiots weren't wearing makeup, and they weren't dressed like me or like goths. Since Middle America has not heard of the music they did listen to (KMFDM and Rammstein, among others), the media picked something they thought was similar.

Related: "Gunman kills at least 12 in movie theater at "The Dark Knight Rises" screening in Aurora, Colorado"

(thanks, @malgrep)


  1. You can’t hold media for the actions of people in real life, when there are personal matters to blame. Those kids had problems that extend far beyond what they listen to. 

    1. He’s pretty interesting in interviews.. is always really well spoken. Seems to enjoy having people underestimate him as a freak who dresses weird and then unleash a barrage of intelligent insights.

    2.  I also like his music. He is one of the artists I respect for who they are, not just for what they create.

  2. “…serving it up for our hungry appetites in a gluttonous display of endless human stupidity.”
    Pure brilliance. 

  3. Many missed the point and still do-  Kids like Harris and Klebold dont just wake up one day and want to kill a bunch of students.  They were picked on mercilessly.  Of course after the fact, their tormentors had absolutely no responsibility for creating an environment where two disturbed kids on “depression” drugs went on a rampage.

    Half the “wierdos”, nerds, and techie types I know/knew contemplated some sort of violence when they were in high school.  It was never because of music, videogames, black clothes (many of them did not own any black) or because they were bored.

    Its like saying that the robbers in that Florida internet cafe shooting (last week) have no responsibility in causing the old guy to shoot them.  They absolutely created the situation and were lucky enough to get shot.

    Harris and Klebold were wrong for what they did, but so were the other kids that helped create the situation.  Harris and Klebold also would be more sympathetic if they had somehow managed to single out those who perpetrated their oppression rather than lashing out at random.  

    The media threw blame in all directions no matter how contrived or obtuse except at the popular kids who bear a great responsibility for the event.

    If someone would have stopped the abuse, im pretty sure those two would not have gone through all the trouble and preparations it took to put their plan into effect… oh and kill themselves.

    1.  True, but maybe your laying too much blame on the people who harassed them. it’s not a nice world out there, I’m saying this not to inform you, but to get to my point which is that you cant make a better world for all people, you can’t stop people from being harassed especially since the definition of harassment can be so subjective, its basically whatever upsets you, whether its meant to upset you or not.

      Hypersensitivity is probably more damaging than violence because its something we can control, and increasingly, we choose to be more, and more sensitive to the point of  being awesomely hurt by the littlest things.

      1.  The first lesson that any oppressor learns is that if you are going to beat people down, make sure they don’t have the means to reciprocate. In this case the combination of picked on, alienated kids and easily available guns is a recipe for probable disaster.

      2. You are using just another variation of blame the victim.

        Good people not stopping bullying is bad, bullied kids picking up guns in response is bad. Is the solution to tell the bullied not to be such a cry baby? That is what has been done for ages, and things only got worse.

    2. IIRC, didn’t they head to the library and go after random “nerds” instead of the jocks and popular people that harassed them?  I’ve always wondered if maybe the weren’t both unjustly picked on, *and* also creeps/psychopaths.

    3. No, they don’t just ‘wake up one day and want to kill’.  In Klebold’s case, he spent over a year planning the massacre.  He spent three years amassing equipment, weapons and assigning death threats. It was put forth at the time that they were isolated and must have been the victims of massive bullying…but subsequent investigations show that was also not really true.  Harris and Klebold had a circle of friends and a clique that they belonged to.

      In fact, there is evidence that Harris himself was a bully;  certainly, issuing death threats to a fellow classmate outside of your circle and posting how you’ve assembled pipe-bombs and then pointing the target of your death threat TO that website sounds like it to me.

      The prevailing theory, afaik, is that Harris was a sociopath and Klebold was a depressive who basically followed him.  Harris showed signs for years that he was a danger to himself and others, but for a host of reasons they fell through the cracks.   Harris was seeing a psychiatrist and had had problems for years that had nothing to do with being bullied.

      Bullying is a terrible thing and if anything positive came from Columbine, it was the focus on making our schools less toxic for our students.  But let’s not pretend that merely being ostracized in the hallways led to a perfectly healthy normal pair of teens to become notorious spree killers.

    4. Kids like Harris and Klebold dont just wake up one day and want to kill a bunch of students.  They were picked on mercilessly.

      That factoid has been in the rubbish bin for a decade.  They weren’t bullied.  They were bullies.

  4. I remember this because KMFDM put out a statement as well. One of my favorite bands at the time, I was relieved they didn’t suffer much from the witch hunt (coincidentally that is the title of one of their songs.)

    1. Considering they have never been well known outside goth or industrial circles, I’m not surprised they suffered little from the media shitestorm. 

  5. Our media has switched from swiftly putting out a comprehensive story to putting out WHATEVER information it can in order to be first. Its about being first, not about being correct. Its been toxic for a long time.

    ANd now that you can select the kind of media you want to make you feel better (FOX, NBCNEWS), if you don’t expose yourself to any other news, you end up with a slanted view.

    1. True dat. I’ve got a guideline I live by (especially when is comes to the MSM): “The first report is always wrong.” And really, with any big horrible story, just go ahead and wait a few days. Then start reading and make your judgments based on more verified information. 

    2. Yeah you might still think “Obamacare” was shot down by SCOTUS.
      And even with all of these failures over and over, people still cling to the news reports as the gospel.

  6. In a world were Marilyn Manson is the voice of reason, well, that’s when you know shit is fucked up and bullshit.

    1. Why?  Marilyn Manson is a smart guy that makes fun music.  Why can’t he be the voice of reason?  Is it because he dresses funny??  Ugh.  In a world where people like you exist, well, that’s when you know shit is fucked up and bullshit. I’ll take people like Manson over boring politicians any day.

      1. Since you seemed to have totally missed the point, here is a picture of a cute puppy and kitty. Big kisses to you.

  7. Here’s another good essay about the Columbine massacre and how we shouldn’t be surprised that these things are still happening today.

    13 years later, debates on violence still have not matured past gun control and video games.  We need to start asking tougher questions like, “When a winner-take-all economy tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge?”

    1. Like. Touches the core issue.

      Check out James Gilligan’s works.

      “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed and that did not represent the attempt to prevent or undo the shame–no matter how severe a punishment.”

  8. Manson’s entire message within the record Holy Wood in the year 2000 is still relevant today. This man has a lot to say for those who are willing to listen. It doesn’t take a mass murder for me to realize this. “We applaud the creation of a bomb whose sole purpose is to destroy all of mankind, and we grow up watching our president’s brains splattered all over Texas. Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised. Does anyone think the Civil War was the least bit civil? If television had existed, you could be sure they would have been there to cover it, or maybe even participate in it, like their violent car chase of Princess Di. Disgusting vultures looking for corpses, exploiting, fucking, filming and serving it up for our hungry appetites in a gluttonous display of endless human stupidity.” — Marilyn Manson

  9. I do see the media as responsible, in part, for this kind of event. But not the music, or the games. The rating system in movies that says it’s ok to show kids violence and death, but not sex. The news that is constantly full of death and destruction and blame. The desensitivity of the real world. We stopped caring about each-other, by large, a long time ago. We’re no longer people to each-other. We’re just obstacles, events. Violence is made acceptable far too easily in the news and in the real world. Kids know the difference between fiction and reality; and our reality isn’t that pleasent. Gun contorl laws come down to “Well, I have the right to shoot someone who is trying to kill me,” And, ok, I get that. I’m not actually against gun ownership. But that’s the argument we teach our kids – that people are going to attack you, and killing them is ok. Not that guns are for sport. Not that it’s unlikely to happen in most of the country. Not that trigger happy is bad and everyone has a mother, but if there is no other choice, that option needs to be available. No, we teach them that killing is ok. That it’s the first choice. And we teach that in so many subtle ways. With police, with the army, with political choices, even with responses to tragedies like these. It’s the attitude of a nation, personified in it’s news. And it creates apathetic killers who see killing as a relativly normal thing.

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