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Why Kids Kill

JonKatz posted more than 15 years ago | from the hysteria-on-the-net dept.

United States 1087

Nightmarish high school massacres like the one in Littleton are now an almost ritualistic part of American life. And increasingly when they occur, journalists and educators blame new media like the Internet, computer games like Doom or violent movies. Why kids kill this way is an urgent and complicated question. But teenaged crime isn't rising, it's falling. And there's no evidence that the Net or other new media are the reason for massacres.

The images were familiar, yet surreal.

Media reports of books about "Doom," animated clips from the computer game, TV shots of websites with ugly images, ominous reports of heavy metal bands and film clips of "Natural Born Killers."

"What is known," said a CNN correspondent Wednesday night, "is that the members of the Trench Coat Mafia spent a lot of time playing computer games on the Internet." They had become obsessed with online killing, reported another TV reporter. They had delved into militia and hate-group websites, some papers said.

The fallout was, as always, nearly instantaneous.

In Vancouver, Washington, e-mailed Enzo Falzon, high school students were pulled aside as they came through the front door and told they weren't allowed to wear trenchcoats. In a Philadelphia suburb, e-mailed Tim, (who asked that his last name remain anonymous), kids who play Doom were offered counseling. In Maine, e-mailed Vektor, who's 14, his parents made him open his private computer files so they could look through and make sure he wasn't doing anything "anti-social."

By now, this schoolyard nightmare is as ritualistic as it is horrific.

We see televised scenes of kids running and sobbing, of SWAT teams creeping through schools and bloodied bodies carted out - followed by dark reports about hate on the Net, violence on TV and in movies. Everyone seems bewildered, uncomprehending.

Almost always, we are as confused as we are horrified, since young killers take their own lives or offer no coherent explanation, leaving us with questions but not answers. Since there are rarely trials, there is rarely any resolution, any understanding.

In June of l988, writing for Hotwired, I wrote a column called "Why Kids Kill" after Kipland Kinkel of Springfield, Oregon, killed four people, including his parents, and wounded 22 more.

Not much has changed a year later, especially when it comes to knee-jerk, ignorant stereotypes from the media and from educators about kids, the Net, geeks and the violence allegedly inspired by the digital screen culture.

Federal agencies and academics studying this kind of episodic, uniquely American massacre, find little of any, connection between murders and media, digital or otherwise.

Kids being warned and counseled by fearful administrators and teachers ought to know that overall, teenage violence is way down in America, at its lowest levels since the Depression. In supposedly media-saturated, violent urban areas like New York City, Chicago and LA, schoolyard massacres are unknown. Nor has one ever occurred in Canada, even though Canadian kids watch almost the same media as American kids, and use the Net in even greater numbers.

What do we know about these horrible eruptions? Almost all of the killers have been white, teenaged males who are emotionally disturbed. Almost all lived in suburban or rural areas, the children of working or middle-class families. They've been generally described as well-parented.

And in almost single case, nobody really knows why they did what they did. They suffered various forms of social cruelty and exclusion, as so many of their peers also have, and they got their hands on especially lethal weaponry, particularly guns. Almost always, their friends and classmates and teachers are stunned and disbelieving. Some of the shooters have been avid media and computer users. Others weren't.

According to federal statistics, no school shootings occurred in l994; in l997, there were four incidents. In l998, apart from the Springfield killings, an 11-year-old-old boy and his 13-year-old friend were charged with killing four students and a teacher and wounding 10 others in Jonesboro, Arkansas. A high-school senior shot and killed a student in a parking lot in Fayetteville, Tennessee. In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a 14-year-old boy was accused of killing a teacher and wounding two students and another teacher at an eighth grade graduation. Two days later, a 15-year-old girl was shot in the leg in suburban Houston high-school classroom. In Washington, a 15-year-old boy got off his school bus carrying a gun, then went home and shot himself in the head. Now there is Littleton, Colorado, 1999's first school massacre, with at least fifteen dead.

Although experts, therapists and sociologists have crammed TV talk shows to offer various theories about the contagion of teenage violence, it is clear that no one yet understands why these incidents occur. Sociologists like Elaine Showalter of Princeton have written about media hysterias, contagions transmitted by the speed and power of media imagery in stories about the killings themselves. Some psychologists believe that when disturbed kids see the massive amount of media attention these shootings get, they begin fantasizing about this kind of attention being focused on their own, often unhappy, lives.

Other experts blame the availability of guns. Obviously, the ready availability of lethal weapons is significant in this kind of violence, but crime among teenagers has been plummeting for years now, even as the number of guns in the United States has risen.

And persistent efforts by journalists to link the massacres to hate-sites on the Net or to games like "Doom" and, before that, to "Dungeons & Dragons" don't hold up either. There are no consistent patterns of media behavior to link these killers, no single trait of movie-going, gaming or Net use.

Tens of millions of kids all over the world play computer games. The biggest users of new media recreational technologies are middle-class kids, since they have the money to afford the technology. Yet violence among this group, never very high, again has been plummeting even as online use has mushroomed.

Yet despite the confusion about the cause of these killings, all across America, newspapers and TV stations are warning parents about computer games, suggesting that their sons and daughters might be secretly turning into potential mass murderers online.

This is willful ignorance. There's no mystery about the greatest dangers to children. Every day, writes Don Tapscott in Growing Up Digital, three children in the United States are murdered or die as a result of injuries inflicted by their parents or caretakers. Of the annual three million reported cases of child abuse, 127,000 cases involve child abandonment. Each year, and throughout the 90's, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports only a handful of child abuse cases related to the Internet. Of the 23 cases tracked from March 1996, to March, l997, 10 involved the transfer of pornography, an adult soliciting sexual favors from minors, or sexual contact initiated over the Net. Of the remaining 13 cases, two involved police officers posing as children, and in two others the girls had previous histories as runaways. Nine others involved children over age 16 running away from home, allegedly to meet online acquaintances.

What these statistics indicate, Tapscott says, is that "children are 300,000 times more likely to be abused by their own relatives than by someone they have met over the Internet."

As horrific as massacres like Littleton are, they are also extraordinarily rare. Statistically, children are more likely to have an airplane fall out of the sky and kill them than they are to be shot in school, despite the staggering amount of media coverage.

Sissella Bok of Harvard, whose book Mayhem examined the effects of violence in media, writes that young people's lives are saturated with graphic violence in a way that's different and more dangerous than in previous generations.

"We have movie role models showing violence as fun, and video games where you kill, and get rewarded for killing, for hours and hours." It is, she wrote, a "very combustible mix, enraged young people with access to semiautomatic weapons, exposed to violence as entertainment, violence shown as exciting and thrilling."

There's no question that violent imagery is ubiquitous in screen culture, from gaming to TV. But these comparisons seem facile and unknowing. Gaming is intensely creative, in some contexts - Quake 3, Unreal, Ultima - almost approaching a new art form. The animation is rich and multi-dimensional, and violence is stylized, often presented more as a strategic challenge like chess than anything truly brutal or graphically violent. If the stylization of violence is a problem, it doesn't show up anywhere in crime or violence statistics involving computer users.

If Bok is right, it would. Why would there be a decline in youth violence even as "violent imagery" in the media has indeed increased, along with Web use, cable's share of audience, rap and hip-hop (also supposed to be inducing the young to violence), and movie attendance?

More relevant questions might be: Why are so many of these killers male and middle-class, rather than the poor or the underclass? Why do these assaults occur almost exclusively in rural or suburban areas? Why are these kids able to hide even severe emotional disturbance from the people closest to them?

Perhaps the most shocking thing about massacres like Littleton is that, for all of the massive amounts of coverage brought to bear on them, there really isn't anything approaching a consensus about why they occur. Since educators and authorities don't know what to do, what they tend to do is dumb.

Since the kids they're supposed to be protecting know quite well that wearing trench coats, going online or watching movies isn't dangerous in and of itself, mostly what educators and journalists end up demonstrating to kids is that they're clueless.

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Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918964)

The biggest reason for this tragedy are the gun laws. Guns need more restrictions, no one should be allowed to own a hand gun. Hand guns serve no other purpose then to kill people. Rifles and shotguns on the other hand are used for hunting. You never see something like this happen in Canada or the UK, where they actually have some descent gun laws.

Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918965)

Damn Right,

stupid consititutional right to bear firearms !

What got me was in the UK we hear new reports about the NRA saying the solution to things like this is to have armed security in every school ...
Okay everyone all together, lets make this world a better place, god what are these people on ?

Crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918966)

I think the problem these days is that people in the good old heartland of America are starting to see this violence. It's ALWAYS been there in the inner cities where people live in fear of drive-by shootings and huddle beneath beds to keep from getting their children shot THROUGH their house walls. The media just wants to grab onto SOMETHING to explain how this violence could have possibly spread to the suburban and rural neighborhoods... it isn't supposed to! It's supposed to be limited to those poor people in the urban centers. Well, it's time to wake up and realize there's nothing special about violence. We don't need to look for magical explanations on why children like to shoot other children. 30 years ago when inner city kids were killing each other they sure as hell weren't doing it because they got a little overagressive playing Quake!

RE: Parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918967)

I have wonderful caring parents. They are sensitive and understanding.

For years they had no idea that I was having psycological problems. My mother still can't tell when I start to sink back into old mental habits untill after I start to pull myself out it again.

It's not her fault. Part of my nature is to hide such things _very_ scrupulously (if that's the right word).

Now, if my history teacher had said "I'm worried about him - he sleeps every day in my class, without fail" maybe that would have set off alarms. I don't know. Maybe if...

These things aren't easy. I'm tired of hearing instictual parent-blaming. It can always be something else.

Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918968)

Yes, your completely right, the problem however is also with generall attitude, as mentionned above, the NRA response to have armed security in all schools ... that is the kind of attitude that prevents this problem being tackled effectivley.

Maybe more laws, certainly tighter laws and most important of all education.

Either that or just shoot em all !

(okay maybe joke in bad taste, but done to emphasise my point)

Liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918969)

You can keep your lies, mister. These incidents of slaughtering schoolmates with guns have happened in the UK and in Austrailia--two countries with the most restrictive gun laws in the world. It's not what's in the hands; it's what's in the head. Do your research first buster, before popping your cork.

RE: Vektor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918970)

Yeah, these kids became estranged with their classmates and outcast in school because there parents wering active enough in there lives. If there parents had called around to the classmates parents and asked everybody to be nicer to the kids that would have been SO much better.

A 14 year old has a right to privacy just like the rest of us, and if anything parents going through his personal files (if a kid keeps a diary today, its not likely to be in a little book) is not going to make it any happier.

My parents drove me nuts around that age always worrying about where I, what I was doing, etc. And even now as an adult, I don't see the necessity. All it did was widen the rift between us - and feed anger towards them.

Parent negligence, like any easy answer to the reasons for these events, is far from the whole story.

You're damn right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918971)

And after we outlaw guns we should also outlaw pipe bombs as well! How can we as a society allow children to go and buy these pipe bombs?? We took the steps to safeguard our children by banning drugs and now we live in a complete paradise of a drug-free society. Children being violent isn't going to stop by getting rid of the guns. In fact, children CAN'T legally own guns anyway! No normal citizen could just walk into a sporting good store and buy automatic weapons! Banning those certainly didn't stop them. Banning drugs didn't stop people from getting them. The only thing that will happen is you'll create a black market for guns even bigger than the one for drugs. It looks like I should go buy a gun before idiots like you try and take away our constitutional rights to responsibly bear arms.

Liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918972)

Yes, I think you will also find that the UK gun laws only got this tight after a school massacre and that one hasnt happened since.

I would also like you to investigate the percentage of gun crime in UK compared to America and then re-consider your argument

Aren't you doing *exactly* the same thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918973)

While it's true that the kids had bombs, I have not read any reports that said that anyone was killed by a bomb...just shot to death. And yes, if someone wants to kill, they will find a way. But guns make it very easy for anyone to kill. It does not require strength, stamina, or even much dexterity. Just a trigger finger.

If they had to use a different method, they would've jsut gotten their asses kicked. After all, the media rarely reports on drive-by knifings or schoolyard baseball bat massacres!

People with guns kill people, and easily!

Banning guns is not the answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918974)

I don't understand what makes people think that banning guns is going to do anything. I want one person to post something showing a gun jump off a table and shoot somebody. It's the person with the gun that needs help, not the other way around. Are we going to outlaw cars, airplanes, hmmmm let me think, ok of course butter knives, you can get a nasty cut from a butter knife.

Now, if the people that think guns caused this tragedy would have been watching the news, they would realize that the guns were the smallest part of it, what about the 30 bombs. What if half the school was blown apart by the over 30 bombs?? So, now let's outlaw pipes, everybody get rid of your plumbing. Come on people, think first before posting.

One thing people don't realize about "The Right to Bear Arms" is that this is not only to protect yourself from criminals but also from the government. When they wrote the Bill of Rights do you really think they were thinking about criminals breaking into your house like what we have today, no, they were thinking about a government getting out of hand or a militaristic government taking over?? No, they had no idea what was to come, they made those rights for WE the people to protect ourselves from whatever we need to.

Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918975)

ack, i give up, this planet is totally screwed, yeah, lets all have guns, blow each others heads off, then there'll be nothing at all to worry about, mebbe then a more enlightened species can take over this planet.

Guns Guns and More Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918976)

What does hunting have to do with the unalienable
right to bear arms?
Read the 2nd Amendment to the constitution find
where it even mentions hunting.
The 2nd amendment to the constitution is to prevent anything like Kosovo happening in the U.S.
Or would you prefer an oppressive regime trying to
eliminate a class of citizens by expelling and killing them?

The reasons for these shootings are not as simple
as "the gun made them do it" If a teacher had been armed and willing they could have stopped the massacre. As it is I have yet to hear of anyone at the school even trying to stop them.


Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918977)

In case you haven't seen the coverage, those two kids used two double barrel shotguns as their primary killing weapons. How's that for hunting?
Good guns for hunting humans aren't they?
Blaming handguns for everything is just plain ignorant. Truth? Handguns couldn't hurt a rabit, whereas shotguns and high powered hunting rifles does a lot more damage as evident in the choice of weapons these kids used (runon).

ACCESS TO idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918978)

Ask yourself next the last time you heard of a school shooting in Switzerland, where guns are available in every household. Ask yourself the last time you heard of a bombing in Japan, where propane cylinders and gasoline are freely available.

Knee-jerk stuff like "oh, it's guns" is the result of effective government propaganda.

"There's flies in your eyes. That's why you can't see them." -Joseph Heller

You people just don't get it, do you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918979)

Scotland 1997 So you'll be referring to the incident which resulted in the UK tightening its gun laws then. (ie as opposed to it happening with our current laws in place)

No one can say you can totally remove the possibility of something like this happening, but you can try and make it bloody difficult

how come this article doesn't get cnn coverage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918980)

werd jon,

that's an article that really tells it like it is.

... good job man!


Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918981)

Bullshit. I have never seen a gun kill anyone without first a person pulling a trigger.

The rights right in the consistution is free speech. If they take that away, then the right to have a tool to fight back is in the second ammendment...Read your constitution.

More laws aren't the solution. It was already ILLEGAL for these kids to have the gun. Are we just going to make it "more illegal"

How stupid.

Guns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1918982)

Not having a constitution in the UK, I shall obviously have to kneel at the feet of the greatest Democracy in the world.

How stupid you say ?

Where the hell do you think they got the guns from in the first place, or did the entire line from creation through middle men consist entirely of minors ? If the people at the top of the chain weren't allowed the gun's, how would the kids have got them ?

How Stupid !

Shocking... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1919383)

Perhaps the most shocking thing about massacres like Littleton is that, for all of the massive amounts of coverage brought to bear on them, there really isn't anything approaching a consensus about why they occur.

This also sadly illustrates one of the hardest things about being a journalist during such an event: they HAVE to prepare a story, but there is no way any real information is going to come out after only 48 hours and the officials investigating can only give out so much information.

What we get are "educated guesses" and "it's obvious that..." and other pseudo-authoritative bull -- not real news.

Not to take the subject lightly, but if I recall correctly, in the 1980's we had post offices being shooting galleries by disgruntled employees, in the 1990's we are seeing schools becoming ground zero by disturbed students. In the 2000's, why not make it more convenient by having disgruntled news reporters turn their television studios into bloody war zones (look... we're LIVE!).

Don't get me wrong; I feel bad for the friends and relatives of the victims of this recent event -- those that were shot, and those that were terrorized while it was happening, and as a parent, I would myself be traumatized if it happened to my children. But I do take offense to the media feeding frenzy that is going on in Colorado (interesting side light: less news about Jon Bonet).

This country (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1919384)

First off, I am appalled to hear that the one 14yr old parents forced their child to show them personal information. No wonder kids hide things so well from everyone if they are forced like this to show things.

Second, gun control in the US *doesn't work*. Those kids having guns was *illegal* already. They were illegal guns, they didn't go and try to buy them at the local gun shop. Maybe if the government actually enforced a few of their laws these types of things would be problems. Why is drug use and gun violence so prevelant in the US? Because the goverment isn't doing anything about it. They simply aren't enforcing the laws.

Third, I honestly don't believe that computers or TV or trenchcoats cause any of this. Maybe they contribute (all but the trenchcoats ;-) but they didn't cause. Those kids were obviously emotianlly disturbed and had psychological problems. While we're at it, since games are bad, and tv is bad, and the Internet is absolutely evil, why don't we ban some books again? A Catcher in the Rye. Get rid of that, oh wow, can't have kids reading this kind of stuff! Why don't we also get rid of most of the other high school cirruculum books too? Romeo and Juliet? Promotes suicide. This is such an old and pointless argument. The fact is, the US government, and so many people in power, evidentily, are too lazy to do anything about the real problems.

Perhaps these kids were disturbed to begin with. Or perhaps, like so many other kids, they were routinely picked on, abused, and violated at school. Maybe the "jocks" were beating the hell out of them, stealing their things, and humiliating them on a daily basis. And just perhaps, the teachers/administrators, didn't do anything about it. Just like everywhere else. Can't have the star quarterback suspended, you know. Oh, he couldn't do anything wrong, you must have provoked him.

Is it such a surprise that kids subjected to this snap? Emotional problems + physical and mental abuse = psychological instability?

Eliminate the problem, stop the result. This was a terrible thing, but it will happen again if you don't get rid of the actual cause. (hHnt: it isn't the Internet or trenchcoats)

Parents. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1919390)

Newspapers, television, and other "news" outlets report on the growing need for increased security in schools, tougher gun control, and the banning of trench coats!

Regardless of how "well parented" the shooters at Littleton were supposed to be, their parents should be brought up on charges of neglect and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. You can't tell me a "good" parent wouldn't notice antisocial behavior and lowered self image from constantly being picked on at school. And work to make home the haven from the brutes (even home school!).

From Rob's polls, it's obvious that most readers of slashdot are students. Making the assumption that most students have yet to start a family - let me impart a piece of advice:

If you have kids, make sure you have the ability for at least one parent to be at home with them while they grow up.

Before you go off on a "he or she is a sexist" diatribe - I'm not advocating Mom stay home - I'm advocating either Mom or Dad stay home.

Do us all a favor; if you and your spouse think your careers are important, and neither can give them up for kids - don't have any! Yeah, you may not be able to buy a new Lexus every year, but if that's your priority, you shouldn't be polluting the gene pool with you family tree, anyway.

Poor Parent Engagement (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1919392)

Why is it that during the eighties the shootings occuring in Inner city schools was ignored, almost expected? Now, that violence is gaining momentem in Suburban communities we have a sudden convergence of media technology on it.

Teen violence is not caused by games or media or artwork or books. The root of Teen violence is a deep seated need to lash out to defend themselves against what they feel is a personal assault. These kids don't have the self esteem to accept themselves as they are. Instead, they lash out.

I've lived in the Atlanta area for the last 7 years, and year after year I see good middle and upper middle class kids getting hooked on drugs. Why? Their parents aren't engaged in their lives. They don't take the time to concern themselves with the need kids have to feel bonded to something permanent. They don't give kids the feelings of safety they crave so much.

The result, we are raising a generation of children who are trying to escape the "prison" they live in. They want to have fun, because mom and dad are boring. Well guess what Mom & Dad, get off your butts and take the kids camping. Spend time with them every day. Take an interest in what they do. Demand their time. They'll get used to it, they'll eventually appreciate the time they get from you. Above all, realize that if you kid delves into drugs or hangs with a bad element, it's YOUR responsibility to do something about it. It's YOUR FAULT if you don't and something untoward happens.

(This comment was written by a single parent of 5 years.)

It's so simple.. (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1919393)

Yes, a gun is just a tool. It is a tool that can be used to kill people. If there were no guns, there would be no shooting deaths.

Look at car accidents. If we banned cars, no-one would be killed in a car accident.

The reason that nobody suggests a ban on automobiles, is that they serve a useful purpose. Our society has come in many ways to depend on them, and though there is inherently some level of danger associated with them, society as a whole seems willing to accept that danger in return for the benefits we derive.

The situation with guns is very different. Society does not gain very much by having guns in all its citizen's hands. Guns are something that we could remove from the posession of private citizens without losing too much (yes, we lose some freedom.. but even preventing wanton murder is curtailing someone's freedom. It's not a black and white issue.. grow up.)

So the conclusion? Guns kill people. Cars kill people. Airplanes and lawnmowers and knives kill people. Guns we can do without. These other things we cannot without losing a lot. So get rid of guns..

DOOM?!? (1)

Mike Hicks (244) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919397)

Why the heck is everyone mentioning "DOOM"? The least they could do is go up the notch to Quake or Duke Nukem 3D.

Anyway, my opinion is that these guys were basically bored. They had some "spare cycles" in their heads, and ended up filling them with ideas about guns, bombs, and death. It's really not all that uncommon -- I know a lot of people that like guns, fire and explosions (dunno about death, tho). Guns are exciting. So is fire. So is destruction. That is why Quake sells.

The thing is that these guys crossed the line from mere idea to pure reality. It would be very difficult to know exactly what caused them to do that. Maybe drugs, maybe something else..

It happened in the UK (1)

Mike Hicks (244) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919398)

Wasn't it about two years ago when a man walked into an elementary school and killed several teachers?

Besides, when people don't have access to guns, they come up with different ways of killing. There have been plenty of bombs set off by the IRA in the UK..

Aren't you doing *exactly* the same thing? (1)

Brian Knotts (855) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919446)

In blaming guns for the action of nutcases, aren't you scapegoating, just like the people you're complaining about?

Those kids also had *bombs* for crying out loud. The stuff they had was *already* illegal.

You can't legislate against insanity.

Get your fresh, hot kernels right here [kernel.org] !

Guns Guns and More Guns (1)

Brian Knotts (855) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919447)

I rather doubt that collecting over 100 million guns from law-abiding Americans is a realistic idea.

It was already illegal for the kids to possess those guns and *bombs*. How would additional laws have helped?

Get your fresh, hot kernels right here [kernel.org] !

Huh? (1)

Brian Knotts (855) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919448)

How would more gun control have stopped them from possessing bombs?

If people are intent on killing, they will find a way to do so. The most lethal weapon of mass killing in American history was a gas can and a match: remember that.

Get your fresh, hot kernels right here [kernel.org] !

more peace or fewer teens? (2)

extra88 (1003) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919451)

JonKatz says that the crime rate for teenagers is falling (from the high in the Eighties). I think part of the reason the total number of crimes committed by teens and also crime rates in general is because the size of that demographic group is decreasing. Men in the late-teens and twenties make up a huge proportion of the people committing crimes. If there are fewer people of that age, there will be fewer crimes committed. Obviously that doesn't explain it all but it's an important part to consider when politicians and law enforcement folks take credit for decreasing murder rates and other statistics.

Not Guns, Not Drugs, Not TV... (1)

BadlandZ (1725) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919520)

Ok, I have been thinking about this a little bit lately. So, here's a theory to kick around:

Japan has no guns, Switzerland has at least one gun in every house by law. Both have low crime. It's not guns.

Drugs exist in EU scandinavian countries, with lower crime than US. It's not drugs.

Hollywood movies, video games, etc, are all over the world, it's not that...

War?!? USA is always involved in some military act, UK to a lesser extent, Japan and Switzerland hardly ever. Canada follows way behind the USA as far as military action. South Africa has had the Zulu wars, segeration, and much military violance, and, high crime. It would seem that millitary agression might corelate to social agression.

Wether this is an indication that nations are militarily violent as an extention of thier inner hostility, or if the national justification of war translates to promoting agression in general, reaching our home streets, I don't know.

If there is a better correlation for this military/social connection than there is to TV, Games, Drugs, Guns, Internet, ... I think probably, I would like to see a good study on it.

Placing blame (2)

RevRa (1728) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919525)

Everyone wants to place blame on someone else for the killings. Blame the parents, blame the media, the video game creators, the musicians, the Internet.


I blame the other kids who tortured these two unstable children to the breaking point.

We (In the US anyway), have a tendency to alienate anything or anyone that we consider "different". As adults, if we were subjected to the treatment that these kids were, I'm sure many of us would crack under the strain fairly quickly. Let's not forget that this kind of thing happens to adults too. How many of you have made "postal worker" jokes in the past?

No one wants to blame themselves, and everyone rushes to tell the other children "It's not your fault, they were bad kids." Well, I think they should be told that If they were one of the kids that teased them or made fun of them, this is partly their fault. The other children contributed to it as much if not more than any other influence. You should be careful about how you handle another person's emotions, you have no idea what you're doing to them inside, or what they're capable of.

It's a terrible thing. I wish it hadn't happened. But it'll happen more frequently until we teach our young people how to be more tolerant of others. The only way we can do that is by setting a good example.

"the murdered should not be held unaccountable for being murdered, and the robbed are not completely blameless for being robbed. For it is the cornerstone of the temple that is no higher than the lowest stone in it's foundation."

-Rev. Randy.

Guns (1)

Niac (2101) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919534)

Ever heard the phrase "if guns are outlawed, then only the outlaws will have guns" ?

The point being this: w/o guns people are more suceptable to muggings/rape/murder/what-have-you, but with them their chances of escaping personal harm increase. Granted, it is also possible that the criminal will be able to take the weapon away from the person, but as far as I'm concerned, I'd prefer to have to ability to protect myself or at least the *option* to protect myself. With laws preventing the ownership of guns by upstanding citizens, people do not even have the option of protecting themselves.

And there are laws for the purpose of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, not that those make much difference to the criminals...

Gabriel Cain.

OSS for local kid. (1)

suprax (2463) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919539)

A kid in my school, a middle-class white male at that, is one who dons a Trenchcoat sometimes and wears black most of the time. On Wednesday, he came into school, after the Littleton incident was all over the media, wearing a black trenchcoat and acted like he was shooting people. Well, this kid got out of school suspension for a day or so. It shows how tight some people are on this issue, espically those involved with school. The next day, the whole was evacuated because of a bomb-threat, the first one in the history of the school. Aftershocks of the killing spree?
Scott Miga

"It's not my fault!" (3)

Christopher Cashell (2517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919545)

The problem with our society today is that no one is willing to take responsibility for their own actions. It's become the accepted thing to shift all blame to something or someone else for anything that we do wrong.

"I just spilled hot coffee on my lap. But, wait, it's not my fault that I was driving around with hot coffee in my crotch and it spilled, it's the place who sold it to me, because they sold it hot."

"Well, yes, I went out and laid down in the middle of the street, and for some amazingly unbelievable reason, I didn't realise I was going to get run over by a car. It wasn't my fault, it was because I saw it in a movie."

"Yes, I went out and shot 10 people, but it wasn't my fault. It was because when I was 6 years old, my daddy looked at me wrong and made me feel uncomfortable. You might even say he sexually abused me. It's his fault."

"My kid committed suicide, and it's all the fault of that music. My kid was a happy, intelligent, nice boy, and would never do something like this on his own. It's all because of that music he was listening to. That rock music should all be banned."

"Yeah, I killed some people, but it's because of the TV, movies, and video games that I watch. Sure, 100 million Americans and millions more people around the world are able to watch these same TV shows, movies, and video games for hours and hours more than I have, and they are able to live in society without killing people just fine, but it's not my fault. It was the violent imagery I've been subjected to all my life."

It's kind of interesting, isn't it? A little bit of a central theme running through there? Instead of people just standing up and saying, "Okay, yes, I screwed up. I'm sorry." They all have to have an excuse, a reason, a childhood event, or an influence that somehow has managed to cause all of their problems, and drive them into doing what they do.

And along with this basic and simple societal defect, we have the media. The media who is always after the sensational story, and who greatly aids in people's desire to not take responsibility for their actions. Thanks to them, we have schools banning Doom, trench coats, and all kinds of other things.

This is just stupid. I've worn a large long black duster, very similar to a trench coat, for years now. Does this mean that all of a sudden I'm going to freak and kill a bunch of people? Hell no, it doesn't. You see, it's not the coat, the music, the movies, the TV, or anything else like that that causes these types of things. It's simply the people who do it that are the problem.

You see, a normal person can play doom, wear trench coats, watch violent TV and movies, and do.....nothing. Because they're normal well adjusted kids who realise that killing people is, um, wrong? The people who do this kind of thing are people with severe emotional and psychological problems. Otherwise, no matter what music, movies, games, or coats they enjoy, they would know better.

"Man's stupidity is eclipsed only by his ability to deny his own stupidity."

Bullshit, Katz... (1)

slothbait (2922) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919547)

Gaming is intensely creative, in some contexts - Quake 3, Unreal, Ultima - almost approaching a new art form. The animation is rich and multi-dimensional, and violence is stylized, often presented more as a strategic challenge like chess than anything truly brutal or graphically violent.
Quake as an art form? I don't buy it at all. Quake Deathmatch is pure visceral violence: kill, kill, kill. Gratification is immediate and gory; Id couldn't have chosen a better name. Trust me, I've played a fair bit. Unreal is just visceral killing with bright colors -- there is no added "artistic value". And strategy? Deathmatch has no strategy. It is about reaction speed and skill, but not strategy. Team Fortress involves some strategy, but that is not an Id product. No: these games are *not* thoughtful, like chess. And if you truly consider them an art form, then you need to get out and see some art. "Kewl Grafix" are quite different than art. I don't believe that these violent games will turn healthy, well-adjusted school children into cold-blooded killers, but I can sure see why cold-blooded killers would like these games. I believe most Slashdot-readers feel similarly. And Katz, I can't believe that you had the nerve to write on this topic. This is an extremely sensitive subject for those of us in the states right now. While we are trying to sort through this, we do NOT need your pompous musings on the advent of the digital age. I didn't even detect any attempt at compassion in your piece. I am rather upset that you tried to make an article out of this tragedy. --Lenny, who very seldom rants.

//"You can't prove anything about a program written in C or FORTRAN.
It's really just Peek and Poke with some syntactic sugar."

A gun is just a tool, nothing more. (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919550)

Believe me when I say that there's a lot of tools of "mass slaughter"- and not all of them are guns. Ignorance of that very fact is at the heart of that old premise that you're using. If guns aren't allowed to the people, who should have them? The government alone? Please, be more realistic.

And, shouldn't you be asking whether or not you're looking for scapegoats too? After all, you're blaming guns for the problem- when it's not guns at all, it's something else. You've got to realize that in espousing your reasoning that you're no better than the person you're tarring with that big brush.

I'm glad it won't happen... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919551)

The Bible wouldn't have things like that in it- thank the Lord. You're not going to find answers in all of this by making statements like that.

They're looking for scapegoats- so are most of us. We need to find the CAUSE- not something to blame.

RE: Vektor (1)

planet_hoth (3049) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919555)

A 14-yr. old in Maine was mentioned, whose parents
inspected his files for signs of "anti-social
behavior"! I say why not, maybe if more parents
actually *paid attention* to their kids and *kept
tabs* on what they were up to, we might have fewer

RE: Vektor (1)

planet_hoth (3049) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919556)

Well, for one, I'm not 14 years old, actually i'm
a full-blown adult. And according to Katz,
the kid was present when they went through his files.
It wasn't like some covert raid.
He's 14 for cripes sake, does he really need the same privacy
that an adult needs? Either you are a terrible
parent or you've never raised children.
If these 2 kids' parent had gone "fascist" and
raided their bomb factory, there'd be 15 teenagers
still alive today in my hometown. Think about that.

Scapegoats and blame (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919557)

Why do kids kill? Why do dictators kill? Who kills the most? Do evil dictators play doom and surf internet porn?

Or is the media failing to research what they report?

It's so simple.. (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919558)

Guns we can do without. These other things we cannot without losing a lot. So get rid of guns..

You can get rid of your guns, as you might not need or use them. I prefer to eat meat that has not been raised on a slaughterfarm pumped up with antibiotics and steriods from an animal that lives a life of abuse. For me, a gun provides a healthy, lean dinner on the table. Now, for a city slicker that never gets out deep in the woods, a tool that sends a high speed projectile a mile and a half might not be a good idea.

Let me remind you that a loaded firearm in a moving vehicle, less than 20 feet from a road, or discharging in city limits is illegal. Shoot a turkey out of season here and not only loose your car, gun, and anything else involved in the above acts, but pay a fine of $10,000 and $100 per pound on top of that. Gun laws are strict and are enforced. If you have a complaint, make it formal. If your ciy does not care, I suggest you move, because there goes the neighborhood!

computer games _decrease_ violence... (1)

Chakotay (3529) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919563)

every kid, especially every adolescent, has feelings of rage, feelings of agression sometimes. pure natural adrenalin rushes, that in the biological order of things prepare them to become adults, prepare them to become leaders. in every class there are one or two bullies (alphas) and one or two outcasts (omegas). that's just the natural order of things, we have that in common with almost every other pack animal.

in the natural order of things children would play and fight among eachother just like lion cubs do. but those acts of agression are seen as bad nowadays, and the agression is kept inside, which in turn can and will turn into stress. just like adults on the job who hate their boss will become stressed because their body is preparing for a fight to challenge the boss, but that fight ofcourse never comes.

games like doom and quake and the like form an excellent vent for cropped up agression. instead of physically attacking one of your peers as would be the natural order of things you virtually attack a virtual peer.

your body, your hormones want to fight, but you won't let it. so if you instead fool it into thinking you're fighting you release that agression, that stress. in the olden days people used to go to the gym and run around or beat up a defenseless punching bag. nowadays adolescents go on the net and virtually beat up a virtual opponent. but the principle is the same.

imho keeping children FROM those kinds of games is harmful. they need to vent their natural agression anyway, so it's best to let them do it through a harmless computer game.

just my two eurocents ofcourse...

the Gods have a sense of humor,

You people just don't get it, do you? (1)

Manuka (4415) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919573)

What on earth makes you think that someone is not going to commit murder because the *guns* are illegal. The intent to commit the murder is a pretty good indication the perpetrator really doesn't give a damn what's legal or not. "Oh, gee, I'm gonna have to call off my murder, because this gun I have is illegal". What a crock of hooey. You mention that this never happens in the UK or Canada, where gun control laws are considerably stricter. I say check your facts.

Canada, 1989A gunman, armed with an AK-47 (which is a prohibited weapon in Canada) walks into the University of Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique (U de M's Engineering school), and shoots 14 women.

Scotland, 1997 Not sure of the exact details of this one, but Tony Blair was speaking about it on television last night.

The fact of the matter is, this happens everywhere. Gun control isn't going to change it. Effective parenting is the solution, and that's still not a foolproof method. There's nothing that can prevent these things from happening. We as humans are inherently violent.

And don't presume to think I'm detached from this whole ordeal. it happened about 10 miles from where I live.

Not necessarily. (1)

zempf (4454) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919576)

By scapegoating the computer gaming industry (and television, movies, etc.), people are saying that these things are causing the violence. However, easy access to guns doesn't cause violence, it facilitates it. He's not blaming guns, he's just pointing out that if we had more gun control then it wouldn't have been so easy for these kids to get access to semi-automatic weapons.

-mike kania

Guns (2)

Tomster (5075) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919587)

Tell the million+ people who use guns for self defense each year that they shouldn't have the right to protect themselves and their families.

Yes, guns can and are used by criminals; we all know that. What most people don't know -- because the media doesn't report it -- is guns are used at least as often for self defense, by normal people. Take away that, and only the criminals will have guns.

BTW, by "use" I don't mean fire. Most criminal and nearly all self-defense use of guns involves just showing the gun or aiming it at someone. (Which is nasty enough if you've ever been on the receiving end; but a whole lot different than being shot at.)

Finally, the vast majority of scientific research that's been done finds no significant value in gun control; indeed, there is considerable evidence to show that *higher* rates of gun ownership result in less crime.

hype hype overreaction and more hype (1)

larien (5608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919596)

If you believe some of these people, I am liable to go psycho and kill lots of people at any moment. I play AD&D (not as much as I used to, though). I play violent games (Quake II, Doom in various format, Duke Nukem). I listen to heavy metal music.

However, I consider myself to be a reasonably-balanced individual. I don't count myself as "normal", either; I have some wacky outlooks on life, a vicious sense of humour, but I can't ever see myself going out on a killing spree. It violates what I consider to be my outlook on life; "do what you want as long as you don't hurt others" (hurt in this sense is both physical and mental).

In my case, these violent games (both computer and RPG) are my way of letting off steam. If I feel tense, I'll go shoot some strogs or hack at some orcs. More often than not, I'll thrash out a few tunes, playing along to Metallica or Iron Maiden on my guitar. If I didn't have these outlets, I'd probably end up hitting someone because I was so full of tension. Go figure.

The AD&D "satanic" link is, IMHO, total BS. I remember hearing about it when I was about 18 and couldn't see the link. It had never occured to me that RPG's could be linked to satanism, but some people object to them. I happen to have two good friends who are both Christians, both of whom have played AD&D (one only started recently, as it happens). Neither view the game as corrupting them in any way.

Unfortunately, people often look for something to blame after these incidents. I guess it's a natural way for people to deal with it. What many people ignore is the cause and effect; was DOOM the cause of the violence, or did the violent personality lead to them playing DOOM? There may be a link, but what caused what?

confusion (1)

DarkClown (7673) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919633)

Statistically, children are more likely to have an airplane fall out of the sky and kill them than they are to be shot in school, despite the staggering amount of media coverage.
I'd sure like to see the data to back that up.

I think quake is a great game, and don't think you can blame what happened on it, but I can't help thinking that it may have had to do with the way it went down. Running around in halls and shooting whoever was in site and refilling on ammo they'd stashed around the building. Sounds familiar. I dunno. In principle my feeling is that stimuli shouldn't be censored, that wide open and absolute free-speech is the best policy, but in practice it doesn't always seem so healthy. I don't have the faintest idea on how how to deal with it- I guess it starts with the parent.
I've liked some of mr. Katz's writing but this piece didn't tell us anything any of us don't already know and offered nothing helpful to a community that's pretty freaked out by what happened. Hell, everybody is. To title the piece Why Kids Kill and go on and do nothing but discount what the talking heads are saying about it seems in opportunistic and in poor taste.

Guns (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919656)

Right! specifically, we need to make it illegal for:
-minors to buy guns
-minors to buy ammunition
-anyone (except cops) to bring guns into a school
-anyone to convert a shotgun to a sawed-off
-anyone to construct pipe bombs
-anyone to commit murder

Oh, wait... all those things are already illegal. The answer is not more laws, it's more enforcment of the laws we already have.

Scapegoats (1)

Hooptie (10094) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919665)

Firearm ownership is a civil right protected by the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Why would you deny me my civil liberties because of the actions of others? Why not ban inflamatory speech? or just arrest anyone who might commit a crime.

If the mere availability of firearms causes crime, why has the crime rate dropped in Texas and Florida since their CHL (Concealed Handgun Licence) laws went in to effect? Why are there no weekly massecres in Kennesaw Georgia where every household is required to own a firearm?

RE: Vektor (0)

slapshot (10210) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919669)

"...teenagers are alot like television sets...once in awhile they have to be whacked across the eyes with a rubber-soled tennis shoe"

Guns (1)

Ian Pointer (11337) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919691)

However, Switzerland's gun laws are very lax, and yet I haven't heard of any massacres there recently. Wasn't it illegal for them to be carrying the guns (my knowledge of US gun law is patchy 8-))?

Oh my God, I sound like a spokesperson for the NRA. Was it them who suggested that if *everybody* had a gun, then this wouldn't have happened? MAD for the Millenium, baby 8-)!

RE: Vektor (1)

earthy (11491) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919694)

Actually, would *you* like to see your parents go through your diary (assuming you keep one)? I definitely wouldn't. Yes, it is necessary for parents to keep in touch with their children's feelings. But that doesn't mean the parents may turn fascist on them.

Flamebait (1)

smileyy (11535) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919697)

Are you part of a well-regulated militia?

Why does Canada also have much lower murder rates? Compare the statistics between Seattle and Vancouver sometime.

Bravo Katz, but Why did not you complete this (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919705)

I have two friends a husband and a wife that stopped quarreling after they got two doom capable machines. Than, when they had something to "say" to each other, they simply sat down and shoot the f... out of each other for half an hour.

Usually killing things on screen is a good recreation and decreases the possibility that you will exercise violent behaviour in real life.

From my personal "perverted" point of view doom/quake/etc should are good therapy. You take a break, you kill a couple of monsters and/or your neigbour/wife/schoolmate in virtual reality and you discharge the violence. A very good example for the fertility of this approach are the japanese. They have dolls depicting their bosses to kick and punch in their lunch halls ;-)

My only question is:

Katz you started this theme, why the f... did not you reach the obvious conclusion - that violent games are GOOD. Why did you stop at the point that they are NOT BAD. Not enough guts may be?

Media Attention (2)

Saint (12232) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919707)

I am amused at some of the media attention I have witnessed regarding this incident. One foolish journalist called it the "worst massacre in American history...". Now, I am a) not a historian, b) not a Native American, but if I were of Native American descent, I would have to take umbrage at that statement. There are horrible massacres occurring on a daily basis, around the world. The media's attention to specific events can cause public opinion/sympathy to flow in different directions, depending on the cricumstances surrounding the incident. For instance, look at the horrific mass murders perpetrated by the khmer rouge (sp?) in Cambodia. The media (for the most part) didn't seek to bring the problem to light, mostly due to America's feelings at the time about Southeast Asia. Contrast that with the attention paid to the Milosivec issue. Let's not even talk about what has happened in Africa with some of the warlords there. I am not trying to wave off the fact of the deaths in Colorado. Nor am I trying to blame the media for it happening. I am just saying that we should keep perspective and understand that just because the media highlights an issue, doesn't mean that there are not even more horrible things happening in other places. Not a very nice thing to think about, but the world we live in is not a very nice place.

When Media Attack! (1)

Elf Sternberg (13087) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919725)

Last night, while flipping through the 100+ channels available to me on satellite, I came across the terrifiying visage of Jerry Falwell bemoaning the "death culture" of Amerian teenagers. As he nattered on about the evil of videogames, the screen shifted to a video of Quake2.

The caption identified it as "Quest II".

Let's remind these people to check their facts.

On target. (1)

jerodd (13818) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919732)

I'll have to credit Katz this time (as much as I don't want to =). He's very accurate in pointing out that the risk of being sexually abused as a child is *much* higher than of being involved in a school shooting. Most people in the U.S. refuse to deal with how serious a problem this is, but it seems that a great deal of the people I know have been abused (10%?). It's not funny at all.

It's also not funny how the U.S. government can rain down bombs on villages in Yugoslavia and then pontificate on the tragedy of 20 dead highschoolers. Both incidents are tragic, but how can we complain when death and destruction are raining down on innocent people by our own government even as a type?

The world has so many problems. There's only one solution, and it's for people to follow Christ--sadly, most people can't even do that (esp. those who claim to be `Christians'). Thank God life is short--only 75 or more years (OTOH, much of it will be spent hacking, which makes up for the bad parts).

"ijime-ko" and suicide in Japan (1)

Maciej Stachowiak (14282) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919736)

I lived for a year in Japan, and one of the saddest thing I saw was the semi-tolerated tradition of kids picking out one kid to torment because they acted different or looked different.

You had to go to Japan to see this behavior? It happens in America all the time.

Airplanes falling out of the sky (1)

baby fishface (14578) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919741)

Since the shootings I've been hearing plans for new school security that sound like something out of a prison. Armed guards, metal detectors, surveillance cameras, secured exits, etc. Maybe they should add radar to the list.

Why do people have such are hard time putting things in perspective?

Source? (1)

baby fishface (14578) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919742)

I've seen statistics like that before, but only from highly biased sources.

confusion (1)

baby fishface (14578) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919743)

I would guess that the number of students that have ever been shot in school is still in the double digits, while kids that have ever been killed by an airplane falling on them is probably triple digits.

That's just a guess, but notice he didn't say "have an airplane fall out of the sky and kill them in school"

However, I would also guess that the rate of children being shot in school is increasing while planes falling is probably not.

Lets put it this way: If I were an insurance company, I would invent a new policy that paid out only in the event of a child getting shot in school. I could sell it for pennies and still get rich.

myth: "no school shootings in Canada" (1)

maphew (14702) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919746)

I've seen several postings now along the lines of "Canada has never had a school (mass) shooting". Not true. A few years ago a young man went rampant in a girls' polytechnical school in Montreal and killed 22. Unless we're saying post-secondary institutions aren't 'schools', Canada by no means has a clean record. Albeit a much smaller one.

Society is not the cause (3)

Magneto (15277) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919755)

I think the best explanation that I've heard for "why?" this happens came from President Clinton hours after the shooting. These kids build up massive grievances, and no one's reaching them.

I have to admit, I've been glued to the TV when the news of these killings came on. I knew the kids at my HS who wore trench coats and were on the rifle team. They were the science fiction club. I know it's probably a generalization or a stereotype, but every high school has those kids. Does that mean that they'll snap?

I've yet to see anyone to take on the bigger problems in this case. How easy was it for these kids to get automatic weapons? How could they build a massive arsenal of guns and bombs with no one (parents, friends, teachers) noticing? Why did their classmates insist on tormenting and teasing them?

Blaming "society" and our exposure to violence is too easy an answer, and not a good enough one. The U.S. never had this problem when we were involved in Vietnam, in Korea, or World War II.

First they blamed it on Manson (1)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919778)

then they blamed it on video games, and now they're blaming it on the Internet. You know what would be really, really nice? If somebody found absolute, undeniable proof that one of these kids wigged out because of something he read in the Bible.

Katz's experimenting is over (0)

Chris Worth (18843) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919796)

I was happy to see Jon writing for Slashdot at first; I'd enjoyed much of his previous work on Hotwired. But after the strange diversions on sexbots and Microsoft - which seemed to be completely out-of-character, apparent experiments at finding the water level here - it seems he's now gone back to what he does best: thinking out loud.

I'm not concerned about his writing ability; the average is high. I'm not concerned about his ideas: he's quite a deep thinker. But nowadays I'm getting really, really bored by the length and monotonous pace of these unedited pieces. Much as I hate killfile stuff, I'm going to have to cut him out now; I just haven't got the time to sift thru the murk for gems. (I'll remember you for the better stuff, Jon - goodbye and thanks.)

Guns Guns and More Guns (1)

Praxxus (19048) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919801)

Well, then it would have been more illegal to possess them, so . . . .

Oh wait. Never mind.



Guns (1)

MISplice (19058) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919804)

You never see this happen in Switzerland either were everyone has a hand gun. Its not the laws on guns that are the problem. Its not the games, movies , or anything else either. Scapegoats are only good for political gains. Blame the mental state of the person doing the shooting, which in this case we can't because they committed suicide.
There are people out there that get a high on hurting, even killing people, just like there are people who get a high off of living a clean life. We just need to remember this is not a perfect world and we are not perfect people, so why do we all act as if there is such a thing as Utopia?

Guns (1)

tk421 (19197) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919805)

Hello! Is anybody in there?

This is a typical anti-gunner response to a horrific tragedy. Why do you people immediately want to ban hand-guns, or toughen the laws, or whatever...in a situation like this.

First, as far as I've heard, these cowardly little freaks only had long guns - I've heard no mention of pistols, but I might be wrong on this. So there goes your long gun theory.

Second, as far as I'm aware, it is illegal for persons under 21 to even by handgun ammo, let alone a handgun. There's also strict laws on posession for folks under 21. These guys were 18...

There's all sorts of laws restricting firearms as it is. Most of the time, if you examine a tragedy like this, you'll see that had the LAWS on the books been followed/enforced, the tragedy would never have happened.

So let's throw more laws on the books. Laws that will hamstring law-abiding citizens. Because you know what, some punk bent on a suicidal rampage doesn't give a rats ass about the laws.

I fear for the internet. (5)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919811)

It was pretty scary hearing the chief investigator tell Jim Lehrer that the internet was an "underregulated resource". But maybe not too much cause for worry, because most public officials seem to think that all resources available to the public are underregulated.

But the biggest threat to the internet probably doesn't come from public prosecutors and the anti-erotica crowd: the biggest threat comes from Linux and MP3. Why? Because these are stepping on the toes of some wealthy and very well entrenched economic special-interest groups, and wouldn't be nearly so big a threat to them without the internet. Furthermore, it's likely that other such innovations will follow. So I expect that said interest groups will soon jump in bed with the hand-wringers and moralizers to form a large, powerful coalition calling for extreme regulation of content.

If this happens, and if they get their way, the internet will end up becoming just another TV-style medium for force-feeding commercials to the masses; there won't be any allowance for individuals who want to use it for creative/constructive purposes.

That's my fear, but not it's not a done deal yet. Educate your friends, relatives, and public officials.

Guns (1)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919812)

Okay, then how do you make laws against home-
made pipe bombs, knives, axes, or other tools
that can kill?

It's not the tool's fault it was used to kill.
It was the complete responsibility of the user.

If there are no guns, these psychopaths will
just use other devices, or even more likely,
get them illegally. What, you think while they
are planning to do such an illegal act as
MURDER that they will stop when stealing a
gun will also be considered illegal? Please...

First they blamed it on Manson (1)

set (19875) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919813)

because it's already happened. Do you think the bible thumpers are going to let the media speak bad of organized religion?

let's go down the list:

The crusades.
Waco/Branch Dividian

I'm sure others out there can think of tons of others, all in the name of some faceless "God."

Prom... (0)

Ellis-D (19919) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919815)

Man, going out for one night w/ a girl is hard enough... Plus I think I save some major cash not going..

He stated in this posting about how that poorer people are less violent... Umm.. Ever been to San Jose, Ca? I used to live in that area. It's a lower class area. Very trashy in lots of place, and the violence is way up there. The media just broadcast this, becuase it's all to common it wouldn't shock the public.. When some rich white boy goes nuts, they have a hay day..
"The pen is mighter than the sword... But what if you can't write?"

Guns (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919829)

Banning guns would not have stopped this from happening. The fact is, just because it would be illegal, doesn't mean they couldn't get guns. Pot is illegal to posses, and look how easy it is to get that. If someone wants to kill, they will find a gun, especially people as screwed up as these two kids were. I honestly think that prevention starts at home. I read a good quote in a newspaper recently. It said "Kids who love and who are loved do not murder". Love is taught, but so is hate. I'd be willing to bet that if the parents of these two were involved in their life in a loving way from day one, none of this would have happened.


Katz's experimenting is over (1)

Ratface (21117) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919830)

Im not often a 'me too'-er, but in this case I've got to say that my first reaction to seeing this piece was "I wonder if Katz can shed any more insight or ideas on this subject than those expressed yesterday". Having read his piece, I really don't think that he has added anything to the already very large response received on Slashdot.

Was this article really any better written, or making any better points than many of the pieces posted yesterday? Personally I think that this piece would have been better posted as a Slashdot user comment.

New Technology can exacerbate problems (1)

cy (22200) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919835)

I think technology like the internet can exacerbate problems by making it easier for people to get access to information. Apparently the bombs they set in the school were pretty sophisticated. Yes, they probably could have got the same information from the public library, but it is a whole lot easier to just do a search on lycos.

Similarly with the proliferation of guns in the US. Banning guns would not have stopped them from trying to kill other students. However, if they were much more difficult/expensive to obtain and they had to resort to knives or baseball bats then a lot less people would have died and been injured. I'd suggest even if they still had pipe bombs but no guns, they wouldn't have been able to kill as many people.

Aiming for a society where `Everyone just gets along with each other' may seem like an unrealistic goal. But, hey, this is what happens and will continue to happen as long as people end up feeling isolated and hated by the rest of their community.

What is the point here? Discussion? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919838)

I tried to read the article, but I saw no reason to read it. I can get a better summary on the news, and there are no new ideas within. Katz asks a whole pile of questions, and then looks to mass media for answer to them, criticizing them for their lack, but never proposes any of his own. Why does Katz post a long winded summary like this?

I realize he may be trying to encourage discussion, but why now just come right out and do this.

Guns Guns and More Guns (0)

sjferris (23618) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919841)

It amazes me the comment from Americans who are of the opinion that it is good to have that many gun's in society. Why on earth is it good to have a TEC 9 other than to kill people, it's no use for hunting.

A survey on abcnews.com 9% said that gun's were to blaim. Gun's are not to blaim, their availability is.

One day America will wake up and move to move UK type anti-gun laws, ie: no guns for anyone. Only after hundreds of thousands of more deaths...

News coverage (1)

Fugazzi (26125) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919858)

Part of the problem is the news coverage, as was stated byKatz. You don't see this type of news coverage on the number of people that jump off bridges, this is because the police don't want other people, who might be suicidal, to get the idea in there head that if they do this they will achieve some recoginition.

If this is so then why do they place so much press on the shootings, there sensationalizing the coveage and all the other mildly screwed up people will be gaining the idea that this could be a cool thing to do.

Just my .02


RE: Vektor (1)

quasistatic (28072) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919864)

you're right, paying attention to the children is what they need, but not in the form of an untrusting search of their belongings. children are people and have rights to privacy too. i don't think that the internet or computer games or any other media are to blame for this incident. parents need to be involved in their childrens lives in a positive way, not an accusatory way.

RE: Vektor (2)

Spatch (28798) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919872)

Latest news reports that the kids involved in the shooting apparently made a film for a class several months ago in which they were shown going through school killing athletes. For a class. Meaning people other than themselves obstensibly watched it. People like teachers. And, oddly enough, nobody apparently thought anything of it or perceived it as a possible warning that these kids could seriously snap and actually do such damage.

And the media is quick to blame video games for this? I already saw one story where it was revealed the two kids were .WAD makers for DOOM as well, and claimed one level they made was "a good killing level". This of course was jumped upon by the hysterical reporters.

Granted, there's no single explanation for what happened in Colorado. However, some contributing factors would appear to weigh more than others, and I think it appropriate to rank the inattentiveness and inactivity on the parents' part and the teachers' part higher than video game violence. But I guess as the aftermath of the Arkansas shooting shows, it's much easier to sue manufacturers of video games (those game designers sure do have deep pockets) rather than take a long look at one's own faults.

I'm really really getting fed up with the sensationalistic American media. Sigh.

Want to see something that is spooky? (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919878)

Dig out your US map.

Draw a line from Edinboro Pennsylvania
to Hope Arkansas.

Notice how the towns of
Jonesboro Arkansas and
Fayetteville Tennessee

fall on the line

don't know what it means. It's just

Oh, I didn't have a chance to buy the
Anarchist Cookbook till 1975.

My explanation (2)

SendBot (29932) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919885)

My dad called last night and left a message on my voice mail to watch keep a special eye out for the people I hang around. The guys in colorado do fit in closely with anything that would resemble my subculture. But I figure the bottom line is that these kids are forced to deal with a substandard system. They have to go to school and waste their time learning things they already know. It's frustrating, and it's not right. But for myself and my close freinds, our way of dealing with it is to fight it by getting inside and changing it, not by destroying its participants. When I need to kill a group of people, I'll go play quake. I seek refuge in being able to blow people up over the internet, and knowing that it's just a game. The realities of the school system are more horrid than anything I could ever hope to achieve, but I do my part to change it. I feel that the incident in colorado was a great loss for us. It sends the wrong message about where the problems really lie. But on the otherhand, hopefully it will wake america to the real problems.

"Black man, white man, rip the system!"

hype hype overreaction and more hype (1)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919888)

It's scary how much the media can take a screwy idea and exploit it. How many geeks remember their schools banning or threatening to ban AD&D, etc, for fear of satanism?

Then again, lots of non-media type people seem to believe that "the internet" leads to antisocial postal rampages. We had a bomb scare at my university yesterday. Supposedly a copycatter trying to tie into the Littleton exitement. Helicopters were flying around overhead all afternoon and two buildings had to be evacuated.
Major inconvenience!

Domain Names are for sale... (1)

a.out (31606) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919909)

Don't know about .com because it has a diffrent person who has registered it. But from the whois database:
Registrant:Kronix Beepers (TRENCHCOATMAFIA2-DOM) po box 909 norton, MA 02766
US Domain Name: TRENCHCOATMAFIA.NET Administrative Contact:
Troche, Jose domain name for sale (JDT92) kronixbeep@AOL.COM
508-822-2815 (FAX) 508-977-0080 Billing Contact:
Troche, Jose domain name for sale (JDT92) kronixbeep@AOL.COM
508-822-2815 (FAX) 508-977-0080 Record last updated on 20-Apr-99.
Record created on 20-Apr-99.
Database last updated on 22-Apr-99 11:06:22 EDT.

It's so simple.. (1)

morrigan (32728) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919923)

Sure, but take it to the other extreme; what if the other kids had been armed, and the two killers had to walk into school knowing that they were facing an honest-to-goodness firefight? Would they still have done it, or would they just have been better prepared?

Just playing Devil's advocate here, but it's an interesting thought.

Where were their mothers, huh? (5)

morrigan (32728) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919927)

Misifts are not inherently violent, but misfits with bad parents can be. Where have the parents been during this whole mess? I have heard
all about how Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold played violent games and watched violent movies, how they were outcasts, how they wore black clothes and trenchcoats--thank goodness they didn't play Dungeons and Dragons, or we'd have to sit through that old song and dance again--but I haven't heard a single thing about their home lives or their families.

Sure, John Katz can say that these kids were "generally well-parented" but I think the empirical evidence shows otherwise. Unfortunately, I don't think Eric and Dylan are going to be volunteering information about their upbringing anytime soon.

So, the news never said: are their parents divorced, or still together? Did their mothers and fathers love them? If so, how did they show it? Surely any concerned parent would notice their child storming around in black boots and a trenchcoat, talking about Hitler and playing violent video games all the time, and regardless of what anyone says, it's kind of hard to overlook a bomb-building operation in a kid's bedroom. Did their parents take any action, or just call it a phase that they were going through and ignore them?

When I was growing up, I wore a lot of black, I studied explosives and bomb-making, I learned how to shoot, and I memorized complete copies of _Jane's Infantry Weapons_ and various army and special forces survival manuals. It was a funky hobby that never really went anywhere. I've worn a black trenchcoat almost every day for ten years, I've played DOOM-like games since they first appeared, and I'm a big fan of John Woo films. To the best of my knowledge, I never went nuts and killed anyone.

I also graduated at the top of my high school class and graduated with honors from an ivy-league college, and I'm now happily married and managing the support team for a successful tech startup. I give credit for all of my success to my parents, who took an active interest in what I was doing and why, without trying to control my life.

So what if you play QUAKE a lot and you know how to turn Mr. Clean and Clorox into mustard gas? You shouldn't be asking where these kids found out how to do all of this stuff, or what violent acts sparked their imaginations. You should be asking what motivated them to use their knowledge, and where their parents were when they were planning and preparing.

Banning trenchcoats and restricting access to "dangerous" knowledge isn't going to solve the problem. Forcing parents to wake up, smell the gunsmoke, and start RAISING THEIR CHILDREN is going to solve the problem.


eyepeepackets (33477) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919935)

Your logic is flawed -- you blame the tools used to do the deed when it's the desire to do the deed which needs resolved. Any skilled person with a good katana could kill as many as these two did in the same amount of time (but with much less noise being made, they'd probably be able to kill many more.)

It's the desire to do this which needs to be addressed and resolved -- placing the blame on the tool does nothing to solve the problem.

Much ado about the wrong thing (3)

eyepeepackets (33477) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919936)

Why would individuals want to do this? Media and authority types will not grok the answer because they are culpable, hence all the scape-goating of the net, games, etc.

In a society such as ours which is saturated with advertising-related media, the major effect--and end result--will always be homogenization of culture. The end result of homogenization of a culture is intolerance towards those who either aren't or refuse to be homogenized and who are thus cast out of the system or otherwise marginalized. Once marginalized, they are targeted by those who are willingly homogenized: Think peer-pressure as condoned and encouraged by those in authority at various levels of society (those who run schools, businesses, governments, etc.)

The primary culpret in this tragedy, even if indirectly, is the U.S. media/advertising monstrosity. The secondary culpret is the schools themselves, which are far more oriented towards socialization than towards education, where those who run the schools actively encourage young people to either become homogenized or marginalized. The whole push towards school uniforms for everyone is a push towards homogenization and will result in even more marginalization and acting out by those who don't and won't agree that life is like a Gap commercial.

In summation: Any school in this country where individuals or groups of individuals are exposed to ridicule, ostracism and other forms of punishment for expressing individuality or difference is a breeding ground for just this type of incident. Specifically, I've gleaned that this school in Colorado is typical in that the jock/cheerleader crowd are the "favorites" (very predictable) and ridicule and harrasement of other groups of students is common.

Get a dog! Kids != Ken & Barbie (1)

cynicthe (33709) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919938)

The simplicity of the medias contribution to this issue terrifies me. Are ppl this stupid?

Seriously, overpopulation isn't about how many ppl can fit in a telephone booth (I read an idiot in my college paper thinks there's no overpopulation because you can fit the entire population of the world in the state of Texas with 1/4 acre assigned to each - for what? I don't know... farming, fish hatcheries, concentration camps?)

Violence in our society (1)

skelly (38870) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919979)

I wonder if anyone can stop flaming Mr. Katz long enough to look at the validity some of his arguements. However, I think that the media still exaggerates things.
We live in a society whose obsession with death, the darkside, and violence is supposedly the greatest in all of history. Who teaches history these days? There have been many ancient, and even more recent cultures whose obsession with occult, death, and violence rivaled our own. Just look at the Egyptians and their tombs, the Western Europeans during the Renaissance/Reformation, the multitude of invasions from the east by nomads (barbarians to the locals), the druids, American Indians, Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, etc.
Their art, literature, religeons, oral traditions, and methods of warfare are no different than ours at the most basic level of expressing human needs.

Life is just as messed up as it always has been, if you are a pessimist or cynic. I say, "Its's the same old song and dance. It's just a different tune."-- ST:TNG

Let the flames begin!

Scapegoats (4)

Jamm!n (39007) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919985)

Something has to take the blame, because otherwise America would have to face up to some pretty nasty truths: namely that some people are just psychopathic, whether it be genetic or a mental illness, some people have an inbuilt desire to hurt and to kill.

A failure to face up to these facts leads to the sort of pathetic response that we've seen from Charlton Heston. We'll blame their trenchcoats, we'll blame the internet, we'll blame Marilyn Manson, we'll blame *anything* as long as we don't have to confront the reality that this sort of person will always be around, and if you give them access to guns they will kill, and they'll kill you before you've even reached for your gun.

The plain truth is that there will always be would-be killers. The only way to reduce the number of people they actually kill is to take away the means of mass slaughter - ie guns. It's so simple. As a friend of mine put it, "if i feel like killing people and i have access to guns, it's easy. if i only have access to bananas, i might still be able to kill someone, but it's a lot more difficult".


L1zard_K1n6 (39154) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919986)

When people have free access to firearms, they use them.

Just ask your self the last time you heard of a school shooting in Canada.

Most Americans are mislead into thinking owning a gun protects them from aggresive government. Unfortunately, the American government rules by propoganda. not by force. Its a much more subtle and effective means of control, and completely bypasses the gun nuts.

Banning guns is not the answer. (1)

L1zard_K1n6 (39154) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919987)

One thing people don't realize about "The Right to Bear Arms" is that this is not only to protect yourself from criminals but also from the government.

The American government generally controls through propoganda, not force. When they do resort to force, they have much larger guns than you will ever have, and more skilled people using them.

Myth- guns protect you from government (1)

L1zard_K1n6 (39154) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919988)

This continuing myth seems very amusing.

Gun nuts across the country seem assured that their hunting rifle protects them from the excesses of government.

When was the last time an armed standoff ended with the lone rifleman victorious? Remember Waco - when the government needs bigger guns than you, they can get them very very quickly and use them in a very arbitrary fashion.

Guns do not protect you from an abusive governmnent, unless you happen to own a better variant of the M-1 tank than they do.

The control of information is the real battle ground. Government and corporations have most Americans truly hypnotized. This subtle form of control is very effective.

"ijime-ko" and suicide in Japan (1)

twallace5 (39208) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919992)

I lived for a year in Japan, and one of the saddest thing I saw was the semi-tolerated tradition of kids picking out one kid to torment because they acted different or looked different. This group-picking-on is called "ijime" and the child who this happens to is called the "ijimeko."

This day-in, day-out torment can be so bad that children kill themselves to get away from it.

The thing that struck me about this whole Colorado situation is that every seems to agree that lots of people picked on these kids every day. Now, I'm not saying that their reaction was proportionate, nor am I saying that they didn't go out of their way to be picked on, but it's interesting that very few news items have picked up on this.

I sometimes think that adults forget what constant picking-on can do to your mental health.

Please, more flamebait. (1)

kwerle (39371) | more than 15 years ago | (#1919993)

"Nightmarish high school massacres like the one in Littleton are now an almost ritualistic part of American life."

No. Prom is a high school ritual. Something virtually all HS Students do (though I didn't - how many /.'ers went to theirs?). HS Massacres still fall into the "random acts of violence" category.

"And increasingly when they occur, journalists and educators blame new media like the Internet, computer games like Doom or violent movies."

This hasn't changed in a long time. Media has always done this - at least since I noticed media (graduated HS in 1986 - then it was D&D and Ozzy).

"Why kids kill this way is an urgent and complicated question."

Well, complicated anyway.

"But teenaged crime isn't rising, it's falling. And there's no evidence that the Net or other new media are the reason for massacres."

Nice to hear, could you site references?

And this is just the first paragraph...

Kurt Werle
p.s. I can't spell - could we have a "Spell" button with "Submit" and "Preview"?

middle class killers (1)

John Macdonald (40981) | more than 15 years ago | (#1920005)

Katz writes: Why are so many of these killers male and middle-class, rather than the poor or the underclass?

If a statistically significant number are middle-class, there actually could be a correlation to game-playing and on-line browsing - which would also seem to be related to middle-class (and up).

While it's a huge jump to attribute any sort of cause and effect relationship, there is something here worthy of further study.

Gun laws won't help (1)

Russian (84087) | more than 15 years ago | (#1920044)

If you take guns from regular people, criminals will still have guns. The bombs are outlawed, but the kids had them. Prevention is the solution. Everybody saw the kids getting more crasy every day. No one did anything.

But what scares me most is that the gun industry to big is the US. It is simple if guns are produces, they are being sold to people, if they are being sold they are/will be used. Therefore, the guns are produced to be used.

Domain names... (1)

Ron Harwood (136613) | more than 15 years ago | (#1920050)

I read today that someone has registered the .org .net and .com of trenchcoatmafia to prevent them from being exploited for commercial purposes.

He even turned down an offer for $20,000 for one of the domains...
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