Columbine Massacre Rationale

On April 20th, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold approached Columbine High School armed with a small arsenal of guns and explosives with the intent on killing everyone in their sight. The rest will forever go down as a national tragedy ending in “15 deaths (13 students, 1 teacher and the shooters themselves) and 24 seriously wounded” (Strandridge pg 3). But what is usually left unanswered is why they committed this massacre in the first place. What motivated, or pushed Klebold (age 17) and Harris (age 18) to kill their fellow classmates? There are many theories speculating as to why they did it, but due to their deaths there is no way to know for sure. Many theorize that bullying was a contributor, where evidence has also been found to support that Harris and Klebold had varying pre-existing psychological conditions as well as substance abuse issues. Others have claimed that the educational had pushed them to do it or the all too popular idea that pop-culture was a (if not the) main contributor. It is more likely than not that there isn’t just one reason that motivated these young men into committing the atrocity that is the Columbine Massacre.

Bullying is usually the first question asked when it comes to school shootings. From Kip Kinkle in 1998 (PBS: Who is Kip Kinkle) to the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007 which had doubled Columbine’s body count (NY Times breaking news) bullying was always examined and usually played a key role in creating the shooters psychological state. This is no exception at Columbine. “Huerter cited at least 15 instances in which people interviewed talked of bullying, especially by athletes, and of favoritism in how they were treated. But area administrator Sally Blanchard said that even if true, those stories may not be statistically significant, given that up to 3,500 students have passed through the school doors over the past four years.” (Jeff Kass, Rocky Mountain News). This is furthered in Klebold’s diary entries (found at acolumbinesite.com) where he states: “about the asshole [edited] in Gym class, how he worries me” (pg 3) referring to someone who picked on him during P.E. Class. Jeff Kass (Rocky Mountain News) claimed that the school administration denied the presence of bullying in the school "Columbine is not perfect," said science teacher Cheryl Mosier. "But it is damn close.". School officials denying bullying in the confines of their school is nothing new especially when the bullies are also in the school’s athletic department. This is because of two reasons, 1) the school does not want any bad publicity, and 2) The Favoritism of Athletes is purely because the athletics department usually brings in the most money to the school. These are sad truths that are still around today in the year 2011. On some of Harris’s websites (also found at acolumbinesite.com) he often complained excessively about “Jock Types” which of course is in reference to the school’s athletic community. As the date of the massacre grew closer Harris’s post grew far more violent going as far as creating ‘hit-lists’ of people he wanted to kill, many being the same people he complained about in earlier posts. It would be a safe estimation to say that bullying possibly pushed Harris and Klebold to lead an assault onto their school. As is common knowledge bullying is not just limited to one school or region.

Many have claimed that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold suffered from pre-existing psychological conditions and it could be that these conditions could have been an influence on the shooting. “I concluded that Eric had a disturbed personality with prominent antisocial, narcissistic, and sadistic traits. To understand his personality is to understand his motivations for murder” (Langman –Psychology Today). In the case of Dylan Klebold, his diary entries, when analyzed, show a great deal of depression going as saying: “My existence is s***. To me - how i feel that i am in eternal suffering. in infinite directions in infinite realities - yet these [Dylan scribble] realities are fake- artificial, induced by thought, how everything connects, yet it's all so far apart.... & i sit & think... Science is the way to find solutions to everything, right? I still think that, yet i see different views of s*** now like the mind - yet if the mind is viewed scientifically...” [journal page 3]. In other entrees Klebold even admits to cutting himself: “Anyway... I was Mr. Cutter tonight - I have 11 depressioners on my right hand now” [journal page 4]. It is abundantly clear that neither of these boys were mentally healthy. Some would like to claim that Harris’s narcissistic and sociopathic traits took advantage of Klebold’s depression and manipulated him into a dependant state.

As well as depression, Dylan Klebold’s journals also talk a great deal ascertaining to his alcohol abuse. Throughout almost every entry he states (at least once) that he is partially drunk. Klebold even took up the nickname “Vodka”. Alcohol is notorious for progressing and strengthening depression on the user’s mental state. “Alcohol in large quantities, whether taken to treat a depression or not, produces a depressant effect on people's mood…. Depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. The lack of self-control, compromised judgment and impulsivity from the alcohol can increase the chances of a person attempting suicide.” [Mulholland-Alcohol and Depression] As it is presumed that Harris was a sociopath, he was also being treated for depression, for which he was prescribed Luvox, a powerful antidepressant. It is also stated in Langman’s: The Mind of Eric Harris, that Harris had a strong desire to join the Marines following his graduation from high school but do to his diagnosis he was rejected. This may have caused a great deal of despair for him. During his autopsy it was shown that there were therapeutic levels of Luvox in his system. It is possible (but often disregarded) that Luvox could have contributed to his psychological state. Some of the side effects of Luvox (also known as Fluvoxamine) include hallucination (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), increased anger and (more importantly) a small number of children, teenagers, and young adults (up to 24 years of age) who took antidepressants ('mood elevators') such as Fluvoxamine during clinical studies became suicidal (thinking about harming or killing oneself or planning or trying to do so). [pub-med health]

Very few people attempt to connect the educational system to the massacre. But in the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, during an interview Matt Stone said: I remember being in sixth grade and I had to take the math test to get into Honors Math in the seventh grade. And they're, like, "Don't screw this up. Because if you screw this up, you won't get into Honors Math in seventh grade, and if you don't get in it seventh grade, you won't in eighth grade, then not in ninth grade, and 10th and 11th grade and you'll just die poor and lonely." And that's it, you know? You believe, in high school -and a lot of it is kids, but the teachers and counselors and principals don't help things. They scare you into conforming and doing good in school by saying: "If you're a loser now, you're gonna be a loser forever."So that with Eric and Dylan, people called them "fag."They're like, "You know what? If I'm a fag, now I'm a fag forever."And you wish someone just could've grabbed them and gone, "Dude, high school's not the end of the world” [Matt Stone in Bowling for Columbine] Although Eric Harris’s grades were very good [as shown on acolumbinesite.com] Klebold’s journal entries clearly show that he has no ambitions and regularly complains about classes.

One of the most talked about “causes” of the Columbine Massacre is violence in pop culture. Many newsgroups immediately shifted the blame on the video games the shooters played and the music the music the shooters listened to. In a nut shell, because Harris and Klebold played violent video games (such as DOOM) or listened to violent and angry music (Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson ect.) then they must have been completely desensitized towards violence because so. That is a very close minded view on the situation and all too common of a conclusion to jump to. Generally speaking that idea is blatantly misleading. Dr. Steinberg claims that: “Exposure to violence in the media plays a significant, but very small, role in adolescents’ actual involvement in violent activity. The images young people are exposed to may provide the material for violent fantasies and may, under rare circumstances, give young people concrete ideas about how to act out these impulses. But the violent impulses themselves, and the motivation to follow through on them, rarely come from watching violent films or violent television or from listening to violent music.” [Steinberg –Youth Violence] Almost all people are exposed to the same level of violent and angry media that Harris and Klebold were exposed to, but only a very small percentage ever acts on them or takes it to heart. Someone who listens to violent music and is also violent isn’t so because of what he listens to, but because he is a violent person. It is just an obvious coincidence that violent people are generally attracted to violent media.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did not, in fact, shoot up their high school because they were on drugs, nor because they we’re bullied mercilessly and they especially didn’t do it because of the music they liked or the video games they played. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed the Columbine Massacre because they were two boys who were in desperate need of mental help and didn’t receive it. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had shown all the warning signs of previous school shooters (such as Kip Kinkle just one year prior) and went unnoticed. They were as much victims of themselves as anyone else whose life was cut short on that infamous day. This is not a justification of what they had done and the horrible crime they had committed, but hopefully something to help people understand what exactly had happened and to prevent it from happening again. It is all too easy to shift the blame onto them but they were in fact victims. They were victims to themselves and too everyone who knew something was wrong and did nothing to prevent it.



Works Cited
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