prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Lessons from Columbine

Posted by prof e on April 19, 2009

Ten years ago the nation was shocked to hear that two disgruntled students had gone on a rampage at Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado. I remember turning on the TV in my classroom and watching, along with my students, as live coverage of the event played out on screen. We were transfixed by the images coming from the TV and left with questions about how this kind of tragedy could have happened in what felt like our own back yard. It was not long before TV pundits tried to answer those questions. Tales of the shooters’ affinity for Marilyn Manson’s music and Doom, the first-person shooter videogame, were first to surface. Others made comparisons to the movie Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Critics of media violence see Columbine as the inevitable outcome of a broken social system where film, television, music and videogame industries mass-produce violence-filled content that is consumed by impressionable children. Today’s children are more impressionable, they say, because they are frequently alienated by their peers and abandoned by the social institutions, e.g., family and church, that, in earlier times, provided alternative perspectives on life. They also point to the few cases of perpetrators who themselves said that they were influenced by media or by the desire to copy the behavior that they saw acted out on the news. Just last month two UK teens were arrested for plotting to bomb a school on the 10th anniversary of Columbine.

Critics of the critics counter that media exposure is an insignificant contributing factor when attempting to explain real-world violence. As evidence they like to point to all of the children that have grown up on violent cartoons, movies, videogames and music yet have never acted out in a violent manner. Some even believe that mediated violence serves as a sort of pressure valve that allows young people to blow off steam in a virtual environment. Killing a few computer-generated monsters or villains is certainly better than kicking the dog or punching a little brother.

This debate has been going on for centuries and will likely continue for years to come. But don’t let that stop you from having opinions of your own!

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16 Responses to “Lessons from Columbine”

  1. Tayler Zinanti said

    I do not think that the media is completely at fault for violence, but I do think that it plays a part in the influence of it. I think that these violent types of media can show the viewer new ways to be violent in which they wouldn’t have thought of before, which can give people that are planning on acting in violence, bad ideas. Chapter 15 of the book, Media and Culture talks about the concerns of the media’s effect on violence among people.

  2. Cassi Brunson said

    On April 20th 2009, it was the ten year anniversary of the Columbine shooting in Denver Colorado. I too remeber watching all of the footage that was aired on the news, and wanting to look away but at the same time I couldn’t. Many ask the question, “why did they shoot up the school” “what led to this behavior and violence?” Many say media is at fault because of all the violence portrayed through tv, radio, video games, etc.
    I do not think that media should be completely to blame for this issue. I think that a lot of it comes from parenting and communication. I mean the two boys were making their weapons in the garage! What parent is not aware of that? Perhaps it is not just bad parenting and maybe it is lack of communication or being involved in work or other things. I hold parenting with the most responsibility. Media however, does play a role in some children and teens.
    Media and Culture discussed the issue of violence and media with children and teens and still can only come to this conclusion, “For some children, under some conditions..”

    Cassi Brunson

  3. Kami Dahlberg said

    It is crazy to think that this tragic event happened ten years ago. It seems like it was only last year. I don’t think that all the blame can go to the media. However, I do believe that the media plays a small role in it. When teens and children see things on TV like their favorite actors killing people, they see it as being cool and they want to be just like them. I do think that it is a very tiny role. A lot of it falls with the parents I think. They need to be able to talk to their kids about what is real and what isn’t. They also need to play a huge role in their lives to make sure everything is going alright. I know that in the Media and Culture book, it talks about teen violence and the media in chapter 15. Like I said before, media plays a small role in teen violence and the parents play a large role.

  4. Michelle Mankins said

    I think that there are two sides to the story of how media influences. First off, no, I do not think that videogames and Marylin Manson music is going to be something to trigger someone to go off and shoot away their classmates. I do however think that it is a contributing factor. The fact that they are a fan of violence is evident and someone who is already a violent person, it would make sense that they would enjoy violent kinds of media. I think that parents play a huge role in teaching their children what is right and wrong. If you don’t tell a child that cannot kill their classmates, or rather treat them with respect, then they might not learn otherwise.

    On the other hand, I do think that the media coverage on the Columbine shootings were able to trigger more shootings and bombings at schools. It was like a ripple effect, giving ideas to students all over the world of what they could do to seek “revenge” on those who had made them unhappy. Even, in my senior year of high school, there was a bomb threat and that was supposed to be just a prank from an ignorant student.

  5. sarah beddall said

    Mass media has not been around since the beginning of society, but violence has. The arguement that media causes violence is like saying”, which camd first, the chicken or the egg?” I think that crimes where mass media like music or video games seem to have a central role get more media coverage. Columbine of course would have been heavily covered either way. The two boys that plotted Columbine were ill and isolated. And the adolescent mind can be very vulnerable, but it can also be very resilliant. I don’t think the problem is the media we ingest. The problems lie within the individual and how they digest it. There are many people subjected to violence through different media everyday. If it just thewas the media, wouldn’t we see more “Columbine’s?” I am not condoning their behavior in any way. What took place there was tragic and won’t be forgotten. The copycat effect isn’t shocking, scary, but not shocking. Now you have frustrated teens across America who finally see a way out they couldn’t think of themselves. Parents could take some blame here too. But at the finish line, no one wins and no one is to blame.
    As society advances, so will it’s crimes.

  6. Audrey said

    Its a ridiculous notion that we can blame fake images from a glowing box for shooting up a school. Media didnt tell those kids to shoot people. those kids didnt have any problems at school, they were popular, and were in well incomed families. I think its more likely that they were jerks that got bored.

  7. Vinny Papasedero said

    I find it hard to believe that the media influence on these kid’s lives lead to killings at a high school. There have been studies that show that playing violent video games, or listening to hardcore music actually have been known to relieve stress on a persons life. I believe that this is just a way for someone to blame these killings on. If they can’t find facts, or reasons why these kid’s shot up the school, they automatically point to video games, and music. It is ridiculous to me.

  8. Tim Gonzales said

    I believe that media plays a huge role in young adults and childrens lives. They are exposed to different types of media everywhere they go. Not all media is “good” media either. There is a lot of violence in video games, song lyrics, and today’s Hollywood films. Children view these things and they believe that this is how they are supposed act. Media does not play a positive role in their lives. It is not something that you can get rid of theough. This is where parents need to step in and do their job and teach them what is right and wrong and what is real and fake.

  9. Victoria Watson said

    My position on this incident and the events that followed is a very harsh one. I believe that to blame this incident on drugs and violent video games is ignorant to the point of insulting. These boys were products of years and years of torment and hostile behavior directed towards them. They were segregated at school, bullied, victimized, stigmatized, and profiled based on their differences. These boys sought shelter in the few things that made them feel better, their games and their music, its called “coping” and everyone does it. All people are inherently violent, and that is disputable, but that is what i believe. We are a species like any other, and we have survived this long and on this far up the food chain because of our violence. Survival of the fittest. These boys were products of their environment. I blame alot of this on not just the parents but the school administration. Bullying should not be tolerated, and this is WHY. It is absolutely absurd for them to blame Marilyn Manson or Eminem for perpetuating any kinds of acts of violence. If they would have had strong morals and values instilled upon them by their parents and family, they would not have reacted so violently without remorse for those they killed and their own lives they ultimately took.

  10. keith berry said

    I feel that the great level of violence in movies and video games certainly has a contributing factor when kids do things such as the Colombine incident, but I DO NOT feel that they are the reasons they do such horrible things. I have played video games and listened to music for much of my life, and many times both were very graphic. Any time i would interact with one of these media, I would never like or dislike someone more than I did before interacting with it. Values, culture, and lifestyle play a much bigger part in these devistating incidents. Things like this happen from large amounts of bottled up anger that is rarely released, which music and video games are not very likely to cause.

  11. spiffysam said

    I look at video games an other assorted violent media as an outlet for our internal violence. Everyone has a little bit of violence or anger inside of them at various points throughout their life. I think that using video games to blow heads off of people or monsters is a good way to let a little bit of that violence out. But using these outlets requires a certain amount of maturity and the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, and reality and fantasy. A thirteen year old I know has been playing Halo, the fps game, for several years now. He is most certainly not mature enough to handle the mature content. He plays on xBox Live, where content is not rated by the ESRB. He frequently curses, screams, and throws temper-tantrums while playing. I see this behavior surface in other situations outside of the video game world. He is a very impatient temperamental person, and I believe that part of that stems from his usage of violent video games. Ultimately the parents of Harris and Klebold are responsible for the actions of their children. Though the two were old enough to make decisions on their own, perhaps better parenting could have prevented the loss of so many lives. The burden rests on the shoulders of the users of video games. Supervise your children, and don’t allow them to play games out of their maturity level.

  12. Lacey Chesser said

    I do not think that media is responsible of the violence in young people today. Kids know that in a video game killing someone is different than in real life. Also most kids now, including myself, have grown up playing violent video games and watching violent movies and most of us are fine.

    I also do not think more violence is really happening we just hear about it more because there is more coverage of things like this when there wasnt a long time ago. Thing like the newspaper, television, and the interent. All of these inform us to when things happen we did not have all of this 90 years ago to know if it happend this often.

  13. Lindsey Harris said

    The media can be considered the catalyst for many unpleasant events but when you think about it, preferred media is a choice. Monitoring the media a child has access to could actually help. Maybe talk to your kid once in awhile. You may realize they plan on shooting up the school. Media content is not really the issue, media intake and parenting is what actually affects a child’s mentality. Yes violent media makes children more violent but does that mean that you can’t say “No, I’m not letting you play Grand Theft Auto. It’s too violent.” No, that takes too much effort.
    Parenting is truly what affects a child. Had the parents of the Columbine shooters asked a little more about how school was going, taken more of an interest, maybe we would not recall Columbine as we do. I stress the importance of parenting because I truly believe it is the cause and effect of a child’s behavior. My seven year old brother for example has been around a good deal of cursing and played enough Grand Theft Auto with my younger sister (who’s policy is that you have the hooker raise your health via sex and then kill her to get your money back) and he is a terror. He curses at you, he throws his toys and he gets his way. Note how my parents are both working long hours and have another child on the way. He is not getting the attention he wants and thus demands it through violence because that’s what he has figured out gets your attention.
    Parenting, not the media, is the issue.

  14. Jasmine Landrum-Jones said

    Columbine was a tragedy not just in colorado but around the United States. Media is a very strong influence on children and teens alike. It portrays images that are unrealistic in a sense that the modern children can not relate to but adore because it gives them something to look forward to. So to achieve this unrealistic reality they play of what they see in the videos, video games, movies and tv shows they often watch. No matter how harsh and harmful it may be it has caught their interest and there is no changing that. Media may play a large part but parenting plays the same important role. Parents have the authority to moniter what goes on around their children at all times even if they are not there physically. They have to instill values and models and/or authorative figures that their children can relate to while still catching their attention.

  15. Amanda Norris MCCM 101 said

    Okay, I know this entry is a few years old, however I think the issue is still very relevant. When it comes to blaming media for the incident i don’t think that it’s fair. However, I do think that we are in an interesting place right now. We have video games where you are the shooter, where you don’t have to see the after effects of someone being shot point blank. We watch movies where the actors commit mureder and we don’t see what happnes next. I think that one could make the argument that our generations and the ones that follow are becoming a bit desensatized. My mom teaches three and four-year-olds whose favorite game is shotting eachother with finger guns. Sure it’s a fun game but do they really know what it means to shoot someone? Or has this always been a part of society and blaming the media is just an easy way out?

  16. John Geonetta said

    I remember where I was when the shooting at Columbine happened. I was in my Biology class in high school. School came to a stop that day and everyone just sat in their chairs and watched the event unfold on television. In the following days, the media pointed to the music and video games the shooters enjoyed and that this was part of what led them to do the shooting. This really annoyed me. I listened to the same music, played the same games, and was made fun of everyday in school like they were. But did I shoot up my school because of this? No, I have never done anything violent to anyone else in my life. I for one am one of those people who use violent games to be a release from the real world. Whenever I’m having a bad day and am pissed off about something, I can turn on a game, shoot, kill, plunder, destroy an entire city to ease the tension and then turn it off and go back to my day fresh but without all the stress.

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