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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT => Books, Periodicals & Literature => Topic started by: michaelflanagansf on May 25, 2009, 04:00:11 PM

Title: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on May 25, 2009, 04:00:11 PM
Welcome all for the book club thread for 'Columbine' by Dave Cullen.  The discussion for the book will begin on June 15 and we will follow the divisions in the book to discuss the separate sections.  This is the schedule for our discussion:

Section I - Female Down - June 15
Section II - After and Before - June 22
Section III - The Downward Spiral - June 29
Section IV - Take Back The School - July 6
Section V - Judgment Day - July 13

If you have general concerns, or would like to post links related to our discussion, please feel free to do this before the discussion begins on June 15th.

I look forward to an interesting conversation.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on May 25, 2009, 05:11:49 PM
I will be available to begin discussion on Friday, June 19, but will catch up.  (I have the book, but will be away from my computer until then.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on May 25, 2009, 05:17:26 PM
I will be available to begin discussion on Friday, June 19, but will catch up.  (I have the book, but will be away from my computer until then.)

Glad to know that you'll be here Debbie.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on May 26, 2009, 01:29:52 AM
As a parent, I am dying anxious to talk about this book!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: gwyllion on May 26, 2009, 01:00:28 PM
I've been reading the book at my son's baseball practices and I have gotten the strangest comments from other parents!  Looking forward to having this discussion!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on May 26, 2009, 01:07:03 PM
I just have a feeling that this will be a great discussion.  Hope you all join in!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on May 26, 2009, 01:39:28 PM
I'm really excited about this, too, and appreciative of the interest.

I'll be traveling for about 1/3 of the time, but here for 2/3, which is about my schedule these days. I'll try to stay out of the way when I should, so that you guys can discuss it freely, and jump in when you want input from me about why I made certain choices.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on May 26, 2009, 05:35:06 PM
I hope to be getting the book in the mail any day now.

Don't know if I'll have any slack time at work to read it, but I'll try.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on May 28, 2009, 04:38:57 PM
I'm really excited about this, too, and appreciative of the interest.

I'll be traveling for about 1/3 of the time, but here for 2/3, which is about my schedule these days. I'll try to stay out of the way when I should, so that you guys can discuss it freely, and jump in when you want input from me about why I made certain choices.

Dave I'm interested in knowing if you have any resources you'd suggest we check out related to the book for supplemental reading.  I've come across some that look useful - like this one:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15111438

And there is a list on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shooting

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on May 28, 2009, 04:58:11 PM
My copy of Columbine arrived in the mail today!

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on May 28, 2009, 05:32:35 PM
My copy of Columbine arrived in the mail today!

Great news Fritz.  It's pretty absorbing - I finished it in about 2 weeks.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on May 29, 2009, 04:51:47 PM
Started reading it today, while I was having my car serviced. But only got a couple of chapters in before the car was ready. Maybe during some spare time this weekend. Absorbing is right!

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 01, 2009, 09:44:09 AM
I'm reading it bits and pieces as the subject matter is a bit too disturbing for me to read straight through (does anybody else feel like that about some books?).   Like some of you, I'm looking at it from a parent's point of view.   
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: gwyllion on June 01, 2009, 09:54:19 AM
Me too, Desecra.  Especially being the parent of a teenager.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 01, 2009, 10:08:01 AM
That makes perfect sense Des and Donna.  I'm sure that if I were a parent I would feel the same way.

The good news is that there's no hurry - we've still got two weeks till we begin - so there's no need to rush.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 01, 2009, 11:26:25 AM
I'm really excited about this, too, and appreciative of the interest.

I'll be traveling for about 1/3 of the time, but here for 2/3, which is about my schedule these days. I'll try to stay out of the way when I should, so that you guys can discuss it freely, and jump in when you want input from me about why I made certain choices.

Dave I'm interested in knowing if you have any resources you'd suggest we check out related to the book for supplemental reading. 

Oh yeah.

I've collected an organized a motherload of info here:

http://davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide.htm

(There's quite a bit on the killers, especially.)

I have a page on best news stories, here, but it's under revision, with everything pulled down while I redo it--I'll try to get it back up soon:

http://davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide.htm

(The best stories were by Time, Westword, GQ and the Rocky Mountain News.)

The two good films have been "Zero Day" and "April Showers."
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 01, 2009, 11:29:05 AM
I'm reading it bits and pieces as the subject matter is a bit too disturbing for me to read straight through (does anybody else feel like that about some books?).   Like some of you, I'm looking at it from a parent's point of view.   

Yes, it has definitely gotten strong reactions from parents. I can't know exactly what that's like, but I've gotten a sense over the past couple months.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 01, 2009, 04:17:45 PM

Michael, looks like I will have to opt out of this discussion.  I checked my branch library today, and there are 7 people ahead of me for 'Columbine.'  Given that they may take 2 weeks each, that will be 14 wks before I get it.  (I'm basing the 2 wks per on what some of you mentioned it took you.)  By then it will be July, and you all will be well into the discussion which will not give me a chance to both read and comment.  Sorry about this, it's the first time I've had to opt out of a book discussion since you began the book club, Michael!  I do plan to drop in occasionally to see how you folks are doing. 

The good news is that Dave's book is obviously successful, since the 8 of us who are waiting have signed up for 'Columbine' before the library even had it. Hurray for Dave!

P.S.   As a parent, I don't think it will stop me from reading the book, though.  I look forward to reading it if I ever get it.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 01, 2009, 04:40:28 PM
Well that is bad news, Nikki!  I have appreciated your participation in the book club since the start and will miss you.  Please do stop by while we're having our discussion - your input is always welcome!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ennis Del Mark on June 02, 2009, 03:12:23 PM
I'm getting COLUMBINE tomorrow--can't wait to start reading it! 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 02, 2009, 04:49:40 PM
Please note this appearance of Dave discussing Columbine:

Another chance to hear an interview with Dave about Columbine is only up for 2 weeks -today til June 15.
Ric Bratton is the interviewer, show is This Week in America.

  http://www.bluefunkbroadcasting.com/affiliates/twia.htm 

It's labeled The Show for June 5.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 03, 2009, 02:29:06 PM
I'm getting COLUMBINE tomorrow--can't wait to start reading it! 

Glad to hear you'll be joining us Mark!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ennis Del Mark on June 04, 2009, 06:29:58 AM
Started it last night...how odd that four days after Principal DeAngelis made that teary, hearftfelt speech about wanting to see everone back at school safely the Monday after the prom that the tragedy happened.  Just made me shiver.  Since my computer is down I should have plenty of time to read it this weekend.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on June 04, 2009, 08:05:07 AM
I got a lump in my throat when I began to read about Dave Sanders. His personality came through so vividly that it was hard to believe Dave didn't know him while he was alive.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 07, 2009, 06:09:11 PM

Michael, looks like I'll be joining in after all.  Someone loaned me the book, so looks like I'm on deck for the discussion.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 07, 2009, 06:20:13 PM

Michael, looks like I'll be joining in after all.  Someone loaned me the book, so looks like I'm on deck for the discussion.

Great news!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on June 07, 2009, 07:11:59 PM
I'm reading it bits and pieces as the subject matter is a bit too disturbing for me to read straight through (does anybody else feel like that about some books?).   Like some of you, I'm looking at it from a parent's point of view.   

I had the same problem when I read it Descra. I had to pick it up and put it down, could not read it for long periods. Being a parent (fortunately of boys who are now in their mid and late 20's and past the high school angst), I am still very interested in the stuff behind these seemingly outwardly normal boys. I know what is "normal" now a days?

I do have a grandson growing up though. Looking forward to the discussions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 08, 2009, 04:29:27 PM
Fabulous book. I am torn between not being able to put it down because it is so absorbing, and having to put it down because parts of it are so harrowing.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ennis Del Mark on June 09, 2009, 11:30:41 AM
It's been a crazy past couple of days so I haven't read as much as I'd like.  I like to be able to read big chunks of a book at a time.  I have read the first eight chapters and the book is riveting.  I plan to hunker down tonight and read a lot of it.

No one has asked this so I will--actually, I asked Michael and he told me Dave said to ask the question in the thread, so here goes:  

Dear Dave,

How did you come to the decision not to use any photographs in the book?  Of course I wasn't wanting to see pictures of carnage and the aftermath, but part of me I admit am curious as to what the people in the story look(ed) like.  Was it out of sympathy to the families of the victims, and the victims themselves (including, in a lopsided way, Harris and Klebold)?  Part of me is glad there are no pictures.  I remember how looking at pix of Manson and his "family" and the murdered people in HELTER SKELTER gave me the shudders.   I respect your decision.  Just wondered if you are being asked this question of why no pix by any other interviewers, fans, etc.

Mark  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on June 09, 2009, 02:41:53 PM
Strange, but until this moment, I hadn't given a single thought to photos. Not once during my reading did I wonder what Eric or Dylan really looked like or any of the other people. Dave did such an incredible job of describing those boys and especially Dave Sanders, as well as certain places like the library and the cafeteria, that I didn't feel any need to see pictures. That's very impressive, because I usually expect a book about real events to have at least a few images.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 09, 2009, 04:41:46 PM
It's been a crazy past couple of days so I haven't read as much as I'd like.  I like to be able to read big chunks of a book at a time.  I have read the first eight chapters and the book is riveting.  I plan to hunker down tonight and read a lot of it.

No one has asked this so I will--actually, I asked Michael and he told me Dave said to ask the question in the thread, so here goes:  

Dear Dave,

How did you come to the decision not to use any photographs in the book?  Of course I wasn't wanting to see pictures of carnage and the aftermath, but part of me I admit am curious as to what the people in the story look(ed) like.  Was it out of sympathy to the families of the victims, and the victims themselves (including, in a lopsided way, Harris and Klebold)?  Part of me is glad there are no pictures.  I remember how looking at pix of Manson and his "family" and the murdered people in HELTER SKELTER gave me the shudders.   I respect your decision.  Just wondered if you are being asked this question of why no pix by any other interviewers, fans, etc.

Mark  

I wondered the same thing -- glad you asked, Mark.  I've seen pics of Klebold and Harris in the paper and magazines when it happened, although I would like to see photos of DeAngelis and Dave Sanders.

----------------------------------------------------------

As an aside, did anyone notice the cover?  It's so bleak and desolate, perfectly fits the description Dave gives of the school:  "With a beige concrete exterior and few windows, the school looks like a factory from most angles."

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 12, 2009, 12:39:13 PM
A map of the school (and the town) would have been nice. Second edition?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 12, 2009, 12:45:38 PM
I'm pretty sure Dave's holding off till Monday for answers of these questions - but they're all good ones!  [And Sandy maps!  I love maps.  That was one of the things I liked about 'Under the Banner of Heaven' - good maps!]
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 14, 2009, 08:45:11 PM
Help needed from Columbine readers:

I want to ask you to please keep an eye out for typos and other mistakes as you read and discuss the book. I'd like to get all those little aggravating mistakes cleaned up before the paperback comes out next year. Even if it's just a tiny mistake I want to know about it. Please PM me with any that catch your eye.

We want the next edition to be perfect - or at least closer to perfect!

Thanks a bunch. I hope you enjoy the discussion here.

- Lydia
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 14, 2009, 09:13:13 PM
Thanks a bunch. I hope you enjoy the discussion here.

- Lydia

You know you're invited too, right?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 15, 2009, 01:28:09 AM
Welcome to the discussion for 'Columbine' by Dave Cullen.  These are the questions for the first section of the book - through the end of 'Female Down.'  For those of you who are new to our book club, you can answer any or all of the questions I pose - or if you feel I haven't covered a particular topic in this section of the book that you would like to address, please feel free to ask your own questions.  The point of the discussion is not to be exhaustive or academic - we're doing this to discuss an interesting book.  Remember - you're not in school and there will be no final exam.  Now lets get started:

1.)  'Columbine' begins with an assembly at the High School on the Friday before the attack.  Considering there are several perspectives that he could have taken (beginning with the attacks or starting with events that triggered the attacks) how does this opening work for you - does it draw you into the atmosphere of the school well?

2.)  The dedication is to the thirteen people killed and to Patrick Ireland.  Did you notice this?  Did you find yourself checking (as I did) to see if you were reading about someone who died in the attacks as you went through the book?  How did this affect your reading?

3.)  There are two epigraphs in the book - one from Hemingway and one from Dostoyevsky.  What do you think Dave was trying to say by including these?

4.)  Did the Author's Note on the sources give you information that was useful in your reading of the book?  For example - did it help to know that no dialog was made up in the book?  Do you feel that notes of this sort give you more confidence in reading a non-fiction work?

5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

6.)  We read about Eric and Dylan's preparations for the prom, their work at the pizza shop and their nicknames 'Reb' and 'VoDKa.'  Did it strike you how normal they seemed?  Did they seem like typical teens to you?  Does this make them more frightening and/or make their actions harder to understand?

7.)  Beginning with a section on page 10 ('Rebel Hill slopes gradually....') and at the beginning of the chapter 'Springtime' we get descriptions of the school setting and the student body.  Did you feel that this gave you an adequate picture of the school environment?  Does it seem similar to secondary schools that you have known?  If yes, does this make the book more difficult for you to read?

8.)  In 'Springtime' we read of the rise of the 'School Shooter.'  Do you remember when you first became aware of this phenomenon?  What were your thoughts about this before you read the book?

9.)  In 'Two Columbines' we begin to be introduced to people who were attacked and their families (Dave Sanders, Linda Sanders, Patrick Ireland and Cassie Bernall).  How was it to be introduced to these people?  Several people mentioned having to put the book down while reading.  Was this one of those points for you?

10.)  In 'Maximum Human Density' Dave lays out how Eric and Dylan's plans were affected by Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Were you aware of this connection?  Before reading this book did you know about the bombs that were in the High School?  Should this fact have been given greater prominence by the press after the attack?  Why or why not?

11.)  In 'Judgment' and 'Female Down' we are given a rundown of the events on April 20th, the day of the attack on Columbine High School.  Were there any things that stood out particularly about they events as they unfold?  Do you think that if Deputy Gardiner had been in the lunch room that things would have turned out differently?  Were you surprised at the demeanor of Eric and Dylan?  What was your opinion of the reactions of the adults in charge in the school - would you have done anything differently?

12.)  Did you know about the problems with cellphones overwhelming the operators?  Do you think this would be worse now?  How do you think this affected the reporting?  Did the '24 hour news cycle' come into play here - that is, were the news agencies running with any information they could get - including cellphone calls from inside the school?  Should the news shows have carried live telephone calls from the students?  Why or why not?  Do you think that this sort of coverage should depend on the news item being covered (i.e., if it does not put people in danger, should these sources be used)?

13.)  By the time the networks went live (at noon) there were hundreds of uniformed responders present.  Given the size of the force, what do you think of the response?  What do you feel they could have done differently?

14.)  We begin reading of the parents responses in '1 Bleeding to Death.'  Were you able to put yourself in their place?  Are there any particular responses that stood out to you?

15.)  What was your opinion of Sheriff John Stone at the beginning of the book?  Did your opinion change as you read on?

16.)  We read of the reactions of Robyn Anderson and Nate Dykeman after the attack started.  What did you think of their reactions?  Should they have given the police information?  Or were they just as scared and shocked as everyone else?

17.)  What did you think of the reaction of the Klebolds?  Were you surprised that Tom suspected his son right away?  Does it seem particularly odd that he reacted this way, given the response of the Harrises?

18.)  In 'First Assumption' we get to meet Dwayne Fuselier.  What do you think of his response to the attack as opposed to the other law enforcement officers?  Were you impressed by his competence right off?  Do you think that (because we have been introduced to others such as Sheriff Stone) we are more inclined to view him favorably in contrast?

19.)  What is the 'First Assumption'?  Is it that there was a terrorist attack?  That there were hostages?  Or that it was a large conspiracy?  Or does this refer to the assumptions of the news media?  In retrospect do these assumptions make sense (i.e., can you understand why there was this confusion)?

20.)  What is your opinion of the news media's questions such as 'were they outcasts' - and they use of the word 'they' to indicate some sort of groupthink?  Why do you think that the notion of the 'Trenchcoat Mafia' was seized on so readily?  Why do you think these early notions were not corrected as it became clear they were wrong?  Do you think that mistakes of this sort lead to the 'school shooter profile'?  To what degree does looking for easy explanations for complex problems come into play to explain these sorts of notions?

21.)  In 'The Boy In The Window' we are told the story of Patrick Ireland's survival.  What struck you most about the events involved in his rescue?  Were you surprised at the level of detail we were presented about this event?

22.)  Miscommunication seems to have begun as soon as the first press conference was held - that there were three shooters, that 25 people were dead and errors about the motives.  What was the impact of these erroneous assumptions?  Do you feel that they should not have had the press conference - or if it was held, what should have been done to improve on it?

23.)  As opposed to Robyn and Nate, Chris Morris called police right away.  Given what happened to him, do you think he did the right thing?  Do you think he accidentally made himself the center of the investigation, as Eric and Dylan were dead?

24.)  Sue Klebold said that she felt as if they had been hit by a hurricane - and a lawyer told her that people were going to hate her.  How do you feel towards her at this point in the book?  Do you empathize with her - or do you have conflicted feelings?

25.)  In 'Last Bus' and 'Vacuuming' we share the anguish of Brian Rorhbough, Misty Bernall and Linda Sanders.  What are your thoughts concerning their reactions to the deaths of their loved ones?  Did any particular reactions surprise you - or resonate with you?  Were you able to put yourself in their place?

That's it for my questions!  Again, if you feel I have missed something in this first section (up to page 98) please feel free to ask your own questions.  I look forward to your responses.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: gwyllion on June 15, 2009, 07:06:37 AM
OK, I'll give one of your many questions a try!

25.)  In 'Last Bus' and 'Vacuuming' we share the anguish of Brian Rorhbough, Misty Bernall and Linda Sanders.  What are your thoughts concerning their reactions to the deaths of their loved ones?  Did any particular reactions surprise you - or resonate with you?  Were you able to put yourself in their place?

I can't imagine how the parents felt, thinking that there would be a last bus.  The amount of miscommunication that has been uncovered in the book is disturbing and terrifying to this parent of a teenager.  I felt so sad for the parents who held out hope that their kids (or husband, in one case) would simply be still hiding in the school. 

The reactions of the Evangelical parents who were spiritually bonded together at the end of the day bothered me.  This is definitely not the way I would react.  Perhaps it has something to do with their religion?  Evangelical?  I don't know what Evangelical is... 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 15, 2009, 08:05:30 AM
Thanks a bunch. I hope you enjoy the discussion here.

- Lydia

You know you're invited too, right?

I do, Michael. Thanks. I'll be here.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 15, 2009, 08:23:29 AM
Quote
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine? 

I was a high school math teacher for ten years. Remembering the principals at my school, I can not picture any them telling one kid, much less an assembly of kids, that he loved them. They always tried to be authoritative so they would be respected. It didn't work. The kids would have erupted in hoots and laughter and hisses and boos. The kids at Columbine were and are very lucky to Have Mr. D as their principal. I would have liked to have worked for someone like him.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 15, 2009, 10:24:10 AM
The reactions of the Evangelical parents who were spiritually bonded together at the end of the day bothered me.  This is definitely not the way I would react.  Perhaps it has something to do with their religion?  Evangelical?  I don't know what Evangelical is... 

Hi Donna!  Welcome - here's the 'wiki' on Evangelicalism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism

It certainly is an interesting reaction - you could compare it to the reaction of the Amish after the shooting at West Nickel Mines School:

http://yourawesometeacher.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/the-west-nickel-mines-school-tragedy-one-year-later/
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 15, 2009, 10:34:50 AM
Actually, there's one additional question that is implied in a few of my other questions that I'd like you to consider - some of you have commented on having to set the book down for a bit because it got too intense.  Would you be willing to give us a little more information about that?  What was it in particular that struck you as difficult to read about?  And what brought you back to the book?

If you want to work that into the questions I asked, feel free - if you want to answer it separately, I'd be interested in that too.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 15, 2009, 11:34:44 AM
Strange, but until this moment, I hadn't given a single thought to photos. Not once during my reading did I wonder what Eric or Dylan really looked like or any of the other people. Dave did such an incredible job of describing those boys and especially Dave Sanders, as well as certain places like the library and the cafeteria, that I didn't feel any need to see pictures. That's very impressive, because I usually expect a book about real events to have at least a few images.

Hmmmm.  Just catching up here while I'm in Colorado.

My mom saved the newspapers of April 20 for me, when there was coverage of the 10th anniversary, and I saw pictures of Eric and Dylan, and maybe some of the victims.  Eric and Dylan looked fairly normal.  In a way, seeing them served my curiosity, but since there was nothing too unusual about them, I don't think there was anything lost by leaving the pictures out of the book.


Not to mention possible questions of causing offense by intruding on family privacy, or "glorifying the dillers."

P.S.  I mean killes, but this computer is terrible and won't display the lines in the bottom of long posts, so I'll quit until I get home.



Also, good set of questions, Michael.  I'll try printing them and taking them with me to think about unti I get home.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 15, 2009, 11:35:50 AM
A map of the school (and the town) would have been nice. Second edition?

Agree.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 15, 2009, 12:21:08 PM
~snip~ome of you have commented on having to set the book down for a bit because it got too intense.  Would you be willing to give us a little more information about that?  What was it in particular that struck you as difficult to read about?  And what brought you back to the book?
~snip~

Thanks!

Part of what made me put down the book from time to time was, in part, the intensity of the content as it was reflected in the intensity of the writing. At least two things contributed to that intensity. First, much of the first part of the book is written in a way to provide an "eye-witness" account, one where we are not aware of the narrator as a separate personality/entity. So in my reading, it came come off as the written equivalent of a camera being continually focused on a string of events, without the relief of hearing the narrator's voice, getting a cut away, or having the camera turned off. The apparent impersonality of the reporting made it appear harrowing. And, paradoxically, this may be what is at the bottom of the negative review in the NYT which claimed that Dave was writing as if he "owned" the story. The "voice" of the story coincides with the "voice" of the narrator. I know Dave made a personal choice to withdraw from the narration for the sake of objectivity, but for my part I would like to have heard his distinctive voice more.

Second is a tad technical. The length of successive sentences seemed to me to be about the same, particularly in the early part of the book. I wanted more contrast so there would be a rhythm of longer and shorter sentences. That rhythm could be used to advance or retard the flow of the narrative, to focus it on facts or to divert it to commentary or background. Some successive sentences could have been joined together. Some clauses, particularly in sentences with conclusions, could have been broken off to stand on their own. This kind of writing is not unusual for web-based publications, and that is surely where some of the content comes from. I guess I was looking for the written equivalent of some breathing room in what was a breathless narration.

I came back to the story, of course, because I wanted to see how it all fit together.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 15, 2009, 03:14:07 PM
I had to put the book down from time to time because the facts it related, and the clear eyed way the story was told, were utterly shocking. From a UK point of view the facts are not widely known, even without the media obfuscation that obviously happened in the USA.
I knew two boys had run amok with guns, and I had heard of the "Trench Coat Mafia" a loose association of "Goths" who were reputed, in the newspapers to be gay.
Most of this turns out to have been completely untrue.
I wasn't really aware of the boys extensive plans to bomb the school, or that the propane bombs had been made and delivered to the crowded "Lunch Area." My imagination was working overtime at the thought of just how many students and teachers would have been killed if those bombs had not failed to go off.
Although I didn't know what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold looked like, and as has been mentioned, the book had no photographs, I did find them on "Google" images, and found two pleasant looking, ordinary students. That two teenage students could make such evil and destructive plans and then even attempt to carry them out, with extensive loss of life, in the most brutal way, is utterly shocking, and caused me on several occasions to have to take a short break from the book.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 15, 2009, 03:52:02 PM

1.)  'Columbine' begins with an assembly at the High School on the Friday before the attack.  Considering there are several perspectives that he could have taken (beginning with the attacks or starting with events that triggered the attacks) how does this opening work for you - does it draw you into the atmosphere of the school well?


The opening works for me.  It introduced Principal DeAngelis and his rapport with the students as a caring, realistic educator.  Parents and teachers have always been apprehensive around prom time -- drinking and driving, the dangers of sexual experimentation, as well as a recklessness that is often pervasive during these last coming-of-age activities in high school. DeAngelis uses the assembly to send a message to students, and it resonates because they know he really cares about them.  The atmosphere is happy and lighthearted, and the students are keyed up, but the reader is filled with dread, because we know what is going to happen. The parallel feelings of innocence and dread are nicely juxtaposed for the reader IMO.


Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 15, 2009, 04:13:54 PM


4.)  Did the Author's Note on the sources give you information that was useful in your reading of the book?  For example - did it help to know that no dialog was made up in the book?  Do you feel that notes of this sort give you more confidence in reading a nonfiction work?


Yes, I liked the  Author's Note  that no dialog was made up.  This always bothers me when writers try to 'get in the heads' of criminals, and put words in their mouths except in cases where the perpetrators leave journals and tapes as in the book.  I was also impressed  by the amount of research Cullen reviewed: police evidence, documents, video tapes, etc.., and I was confident from the beginning that all of it was authentic and rang true.

Cullen writes that he "covered the story as a journalist, beginning around noon on the day of the attack."  I wondered whether he prepared to cover it for a newspaper, or was he a freelance? Does he use a police scanner, or did someone call him? And when did he decide to write the book?

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 15, 2009, 04:17:26 PM
2.)  The dedication is to the thirteen people killed and to Patrick Ireland.  Did you notice this?  Did you find yourself checking (as I did) to see if you were reading about someone who died in the attacks as you went through the book?  How did this affect your reading?

I did see this and as I read it became clear to me what Dave had done with the dedication.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Stilllearning on June 15, 2009, 05:33:40 PM

1.)  'Columbine' begins with an assembly at the High School on the Friday before the attack.  Considering there are several perspectives that he could have taken (beginning with the attacks or starting with events that triggered the attacks) how does this opening work for you - does it draw you into the atmosphere of the school well?


I really liked this way of introducing the story ~ it humanized the story right off the bat.  I knew I was going to read a story about how two teenagers terrorized their peers at school - and all that went with that, but this beginning gave me a sense of the familiar, of community. I liked it a lot.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Stilllearning on June 15, 2009, 05:35:58 PM
2.)  The dedication is to the thirteen people killed and to Patrick Ireland.  Did you notice this?  Did you find yourself checking (as I did) to see if you were reading about someone who died in the attacks as you went through the book?  How did this affect your reading?

I noticed it from the start, and have flipped back to the list a half a dozen times. I haven't finished this section yet, so I don't know this answer yet, but I was immediately interested in how Patrick offered hope.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Stilllearning on June 15, 2009, 05:38:44 PM
This might seem like a silly question - but I was wondering, several times in the first couple chapters, girls are referred to as "chicks" - is this choice of word because it might better put us in the frame of mind of the boys (Dylan and Eric) or is the choice of "chick" just Dave's choice of word?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 15, 2009, 06:39:08 PM
This might seem like a silly question - but I was wondering, several times in the first couple chapters, girls are referred to as "chicks" - is this choice of word because it might better put us in the frame of mind of the boys (Dylan and Eric) or is the choice of "chick" just Dave's choice of word?

I'm not sure - lets ask Dave to answer this when he checks in.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on June 15, 2009, 07:38:40 PM
I am going to take my time tonight when it is quiet and read the questions thoroughly.

Question #5 did jump out at me, and I want to address it now.

Quote
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

I think Frank DeAngelis' relationship with the kids helped get many of them through this horrific time. His connection with the kids was and is very special. My boys had a principal just like Mr. D. He did tell the kids he loved them all the time. They responded to this with very positive reactions.

I am not sure about the second point in this question. If the question is would Eric and Dylan still have done what they did, if Mr. D had not been principal, then I think the answer is yes. It would not have mattered who was principal, they would have done the same thing.

The fact that Mr. D was around was a positive factor for all the students. Plus, Mr. D was the one behind putting the video cameras in the cafeteria, so that allowed many questions to be answered by them being there.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Stilllearning on June 15, 2009, 09:44:22 PM
Just some random thoughts:

I really felt for Nate - how he realized, or suspected early on that something wasn't right, then the dawning reality that Dylan was likely involved, and the call to his Father.

The idea that the local sheriff was in charge - when experts in the field, stood by waiting for direction - beyond frustrating. I know how territorial those situations can be, but my gosh. The whole time element - how long it took to get through the building, is really heart-breaking. So many officers there, yet so long to get to those inside - it's hard to get beyond that.

And the mention of doors being locked, and the SWAT team firing their guns to gain access to those rooms/closets and the students in hiding, thinking the gunmen were coming for them.... (I had to take a break there).

You could really feel what seemed to be Dylan's struggle - actually executing the plan seemed to have some struggle in it for him - tumultuous (yet he went along with it none the less), but Eric, I just can't fathom how he could do that so coldly. He was face to face with his classmates, people he knew, it wasn't murder at a distance (not that those are less horrific), it's just stunning that he could have so callously done that. ( I'm still not caught up, maybe Dylan ends up acting just as callously).

I never considered that 911 would be flooded with calls from worried parents - what a nightmare that must have been.

I really like the short chapters and the short, pointed, direct sentences/statements when describing the ambush. That style really worked - very powerful for this reader.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 16, 2009, 12:24:32 AM
Actually, there's one additional question that is implied in a few of my other questions that I'd like you to consider - some of you have commented on having to set the book down for a bit because it got too intense.  Would you be willing to give us a little more information about that?  What was it in particular that struck you as difficult to read about?  And what brought you back to the book?

If you want to work that into the questions I asked, feel free - if you want to answer it separately, I'd be interested in that too.

Thanks!

I was one of those, and it was really just the subject matter.   I mentioned earlier that I was reading it from a parent's perspective, and it's a powerful reminder that you're unable to protect your children.  It wasn't any particular part of the book that made me set it down.   

What brought me back was curiosity, I suppose.   It was such a terrible incident for the victims and their families, but it's reassuring that these kinds of incidents are relatively rare (whether shootings or bombings).     I'm much more worried about suicide and accidents. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 16, 2009, 01:28:56 AM
7.)  Beginning with a section on page 10 ('Rebel Hill slopes gradually....') and at the beginning of the chapter 'Springtime' we get descriptions of the school setting and the student body.  Did you feel that this gave you an adequate picture of the school environment?  Does it seem similar to secondary schools that you have known?  If yes, does this make the book more difficult for you to read?

It didn't work so well for me.   I found it very difficult to picture, and I think that's just a personal thing (the way my mind works).   I was trying to fit what I was reading to the pictures I remembered seeing of the school, and had to keep mentally twisting things around.  After reading, I went on the internet to see maps and pictures of the school and pupils, but I wished I had been looking at them alongside the book, as my mental pictures had been wrong. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 16, 2009, 01:43:48 AM
8.)  In 'Springtime' we read of the rise of the 'School Shooter.'  Do you remember when you first became aware of this phenomenon?  What were your thoughts about this before you read the book?

I don't remember now.  One thing that kept coming to my mind while reading though, was how much "bigger" Columbine was than Dunblane (three years earlier) - it's the name everybody associates with a school shooting (although I know it wasn't intended to be a school shooting).     When I went to look for pictures of the school and the people in the book, there were lots of websites, including personal ones for the victims.      I didn't come across anything near that for Dunblane, on a quick search.   And yet there more children killed at Dunblane than Columbine.

Columbine maybe just captured the public imagination in a way that Dunblane didn't, and I'm not sure why.   Was it because the shooters were pupils themselves?   Because the pupils were teenagers rather than little children?  Because it was in the US?   Was it just because Columbine came right at the start of internet age, when internet access was becoming commonplace, whereas Dunblane was a couple of years earlier?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 16, 2009, 04:50:06 AM
Quote
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

In some ways the fact that Mr DeAngelis was such a good principal makes the horrific outcome worse. He was everything one could hope for in a Headmaster, and yet despite that, this terrible shooting still occured.
Because, as Dave shows us, these two boys didn't live in poor circumstances, they didn't come from bad homes. and the didn't go to a bad school with uncaring staff. They wreaked such havoc because of their underlying mental health difficulties. Dylan could have been identified and treated, because there are many effective treatments for depression, but Eric?
There is no treatment for Psycopathy.
People like him could be anywhere. Smiling, pleasant, normal seeming, and yet ready to commit murder at a moments notice. It is vey chilling.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 16, 2009, 06:07:51 AM
17.)  What did you think of the reaction of the Klebolds?  Were you surprised that Tom suspected his son right away?  Does it seem particularly odd that he reacted this way, given the response of the Harrises?

Yes!  I was very surprised.    It seemed strange that he called a lawyer before he even really knew what was going on.   I don't know yet if this was because he was one of those people who acts rationally in a crisis, or if it was because he'd been waiting for something to happen with his son and the news just made sense.    So far, nothing about Dylan that his parents would know about has seemed particularly out of the ordinary.    Depression is common, and as a parent, I think you'd tend to worry about suicide rather than murder - but even if the depression was picked up on, it doesn't look like they were obvious signs of a potential suicide.

It did make me think of how much privacy "children" should be allowed.   If his parents had known more, maybe they could have done something.   But Dylan was an adult, with a job and a car, and at that age you wouldn't expect the parents to know too much about what's going on.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 06:38:06 AM
Actually, there's one additional question that is implied in a few of my other questions that I'd like you to consider - some of you have commented on having to set the book down for a bit because it got too intense.  Would you be willing to give us a little more information about that?  What was it in particular that struck you as difficult to read about?  And what brought you back to the book?

If you want to work that into the questions I asked, feel free - if you want to answer it separately, I'd be interested in that too.

Thanks!

I think anyone who is a parent would find the account of the killings intense -- one cannot help but empathize with parents who were waiting for word of their children -- the horror of finding out what was going on, but unable to get answers about whether their children were safe or not.  However, I was mesmerized by the account of how the shooters went about their business, showing no mercy for kids they had been in school with day after day.  I didn't stop reading for a minute and continued on even rereading some passages horrible as they were. There was something surreal about the whole affair which captured me as a reader and as a parent, and I couldn't stop reading.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 16, 2009, 07:59:26 AM
Dylan could have been identified and treated, because there are many effective treatments for depression, but Eric?
There is no treatment for Psycopathy.
People like him could be anywhere. Smiling, pleasant, normal seeming, and yet ready to commit murder at a moments notice. It is vey chilling.

Janjo, there is a small ray of hope for improving the behavior of adolescent psychopaths. If you look in the bibliography under the section Psychopathy Treatment, you'll see the name Michael Caldwell listed several times. He directs a promising program in Wisconsin that teaches incarcerated adolescent psychopaths to modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable. His program doesn't cure the condition, but it improves the behavior.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 16, 2009, 08:23:10 AM
Dylan could have been identified and treated, because there are many effective treatments for depression, but Eric?
There is no treatment for Psycopathy.
People like him could be anywhere. Smiling, pleasant, normal seeming, and yet ready to commit murder at a moments notice. It is vey chilling.

Janjo, there is a small ray of hope for improving the behavior of adolescent psychopaths. If you look in the bibliography under the section Psychopathy Treatment, you'll see the name Michael Caldwell listed several times. He directs a promising program in Wisconsin that teaches incarcerated adolescent psychopaths to modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable. His program doesn't cure the condition, but it improves the behavior.

Thank you. I will go and have a look. That is very promising news.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 16, 2009, 09:58:10 AM
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

Just a quick comment on this.  One of the things which surprised me the most about Mr. DeAngelis and his relationship with the students is the students reactions to him.  As someone who does not have children, and doesn't spend a lot of personal time (i.e., outside of work) with people 18 and under I tend to think of children as being much more hardened and cynical than they were when I was growing up.  This book shows the myth of that - if you show children love they will respond in kind (with the exception, of course, of the small number of those who incapable of this).

It's a good reminder (for me) not to stereotype kids based on what we are faced with in media constantly.

And I believe that without Frank DeAngelis (and Dave Sanders) the school would have lost many more people that day.  It amazes me that the people who wound up saving lives here were not the police but two thoughtful school employees.  It's very touching.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 16, 2009, 10:07:32 AM
Janjo, there is a small ray of hope for improving the behavior of adolescent psychopaths. If you look in the bibliography under the section Psychopathy Treatment, you'll see the name Michael Caldwell listed several times. He directs a promising program in Wisconsin that teaches incarcerated adolescent psychopaths to modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable. His program doesn't cure the condition, but it improves the behavior.

Yes Lydia, a small glimmer of hope there.

There is no way to go through this book without discussing the nature of psychopathy whenever it comes up - and I would encourage group participants to bring this up when the text prompts them.

I plan on going into this in depth in the fourth section of the book ('Take Back The School') where the chapter 'Psychopath' occurs.  I think it's a great chapter and addresses a lot of these questions - so as readers here are going through and thinking about Eric's behavior and how he differs from us 'normals' I'd also refer you to that chapter as well.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on June 16, 2009, 11:09:47 AM
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

Just a quick comment on this.  One of the things which surprised me the most about Mr. DeAngelis and his relationship with the students is the students reactions to him.  As someone who does not have children, and doesn't spend a lot of personal time (i.e., outside of work) with people 18 and under I tend to think of children as being much more hardened and cynical than they were when I was growing up.  This book shows the myth of that - if you show children love they will respond in kind (with the exception, of course, of the small number of those who incapable of this).

It's a good reminder (for me) not to stereotype kids based on what we are faced with in media constantly.

And I believe that without Frank DeAngelis (and Dave Sanders) the school would have lost many more people that day.  It amazes me that the people who wound up saving lives here were not the police but two thoughtful school employees.  It's very touching.
I think it's later in the book that Dave points out that the students' love for Mr D might have blinded him to problems, because when he walked in the hallways all he saw were kids smiling back at him.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 03:35:42 PM
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

Just a quick comment on this.  One of the things which surprised me the most about Mr. DeAngelis and his relationship with the students is the students reactions to him.  As someone who does not have children, and doesn't spend a lot of personal time (i.e., outside of work) with people 18 and under I tend to think of children as being much more hardened and cynical than they were when I was growing up.  This book shows the myth of that - if you show children love they will respond in kind (with the exception, of course, of the small number of those who incapable of this).

It's a good reminder (for me) not to stereotype kids based on what we are faced with in media constantly.

And I believe that without Frank DeAngelis (and Dave Sanders) the school would have lost many more people that day.  It amazes me that the people who wound up saving lives here were not the police but two thoughtful school employees.  It's very touching.
I think it's later in the book that Dave points out that the students' love for Mr D might have blinded him to problems, because when he walked in the hallways all he saw were kids smiling back at him.

Yes, and students know how to 'get around' teachers even someone like Mr. D.  Kids can sniff out honesty very easily -- they're not easily fooled.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 03:47:57 PM

11.)  In 'Judgment' and 'Female Down' we are given a rundown of the events on April 20th, the day of the attack on Columbine High School.  Were there any things that stood out particularly about they events as they unfold?  Do you think that if Deputy Gardiner had been in the lunch room that things would have turned out differently?  Were you surprised at the demeanor of Eric and Dylan?  What was your opinion of the reactions of the adults in charge in the school - would you have done anything differently?


No, I don't think it would have made that big a difference if Gardiner had been in the lunch room.  Remember, they were all caught off guard, and even some of the students thought it was a joke at first.  As a school cop, Gardiner probably didn't carry a weapon, so even if he had been alert to what was going on, he may not have been able stop the shooters. I suspect they would have gone for him first anyway.

I was surprised  by how the shooters kept their cool and were so coldbloodedly methodical -- this was part of their demeanor.

Can't see how anyone would have done anything differently -- they were all taken off guard -- and no one could have stopped these guys once they started shooting. The only thing that occurred to me was that if there had been metal detectors at the entrances maybe it would have helped, but they were so devious and prepared I think Eric would have found a way around that. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: gwyllion on June 16, 2009, 03:58:04 PM
I agree 100% with Nikki.  I have worked in, and with, schools for many years and it is amazing to this day how truly lax school resource officers are as well as the school administration regarding intruders or trouble makers of any kind.  Sad to say, but I'm surprised that Columbine type incidents do not happen more often. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 04:05:44 PM
I agree 100% with Nikki.  I have worked in, and with, schools for many years and it is amazing to this day how truly lax school resource officers are as well as the school administration regarding intruders or trouble makers of any kind.  Sad to say, but I'm surprised that Columbine type incidents do not happen more often. 

You're right donnab.  I live in the suburbs where my grandchildren go to school.  Even though there is security in the lobby - you have to check in at the office -- a determined psychopathic killer could get in easily.  This wasn't an inner city school, and neither where I live.  The kids really live in a bubble out here, and the parents are often occupied with other things.  I truly believe anyone could pull this off as easily as Harris and Klebold did, sad to say.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 05:09:17 PM

18.)  In 'First Assumption' we get to meet Dwayne Fuselier.  What do you think of his response to the attack as opposed to the other law enforcement officers?  Were you impressed by his competence right off?  Do you think that (because we have been introduced to others such as Sheriff Stone) we are more inclined to view him favorably in contrast?


I was impressed with Fuselier -- he was a trained negotiator, clinical psychologist, and veteran FBI agent. Most importantly he seemed cool, calm and collected. Stone was a bureaucrat and county politician who was reminiscent of Andy of Mayberry.  The contrast between the two was wide and deep. I was impressed by how calm Fuselier was even though he knew his son was somewhere on campus. He was a professional in every sense of the word IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Jenny on June 16, 2009, 05:18:19 PM
I thought the opening of the book was very effective because it illustrated the closeness of this principal and his students. This was a happy school. There was a sense of community and bonds of trust between the students, faculty and staff. What Mr. DeAngelis was worried about was the danger of drinking and driving, which is a very familiar threat. They're about to have a prom. It's an ordinary setting. We know what will happen, but we understand how people in the school and the community could feel secure that such an event would never occur there, even though they read stories about the increase in school shootings.

Jumping to Q. 6, the next chapter illustrates the same "ordinariness" in the appearance of the killers. They worked in a pizza place, had relationships with girls, had friends. Eric, usually successful in picking up girls, was trying to get a date for the prom. Dylan was going with a nice girl, sharing a limo with five other couples. Eric was a good student; Dylan was very smart but unreliable, had a problem with his temper. Nevertheless, he wasn't disturbingly different. They participated in extracurricular activities, were baseball fans and belonged to a bowling league. They drank some, but weren't seen as "problem" drinkers; they didn't do drugs. They liked math and computers, played video games, made videos.

In hindsight there were many red flags; if all of the information had been collected in one place and available to an adult or adults, including the content of Eric's website, threats they had made, their contact with the legal system, and things their friends had heard and seen, there would have been alarm and action. They weren't showing the red flags associated with school shooters, however: they weren't friendless loners who were failing in school and getting high all the time. They hadn't been bullied; in fact, they were bullying younger kids. They didn't come from broken homes, had no history of abuse. No one who didn't have access to most or all of the pieces would have picked them out--they didn't fit the profile. 
 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 05:35:55 PM

20.)  What is your opinion of the news media's questions such as 'were they outcasts' - and they use of the word 'they' to indicate some sort of groupthink?  Why do you think that the notion of the 'Trenchcoat Mafia' was seized on so readily?  Why do you think these early notions were not corrected as it became clear they were wrong?  Do you think that mistakes of this sort lead to the 'school shooter profile'?  To what degree does looking for easy explanations for complex problems come into play to explain these sorts of notions?


Seems like the press jumped the gun and plunged in with misinformation.  The press/TV/news all  love a 'sound bite,' and Trenchcoat Mafia certainly fit. So much info was coming in -- true and false -- that there was no time to correct it on TV and in the media generally.  Besides, how could they take time to make corrections while news was continually streaming in.  There must have been utter chaos while stations all over the country were sending reporters to cover the 'breaking story.'   Some of the students gave misinformation to the media even as the events were ongoing.  No one knew whether they were dealing with a gang, terrorists, Goths, or what.  It was like the media threw all of these quasi-descriptions into a pot and made up a stew to fit the 'school shooter profile.'
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 16, 2009, 06:21:24 PM



21.)  In 'The Boy In The Window' we are told the story of Patrick Ireland's survival.  What struck you most about the events involved in his rescue?  Were you surprised at the level of detail we were presented about this event?


This was terribly sad. I could picture the poor kid filled with such desperation, and how frustrated he must have felt trying to escape. I was surprised at the level of detail, but perhaps Cullen wanted to show how gutsy this kid was and what it took for him to reach the window.

His survival was nothing short of miraculous IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Monica LoveEmBoys on June 17, 2009, 01:29:41 PM
Hello all -- coming late to the discussion.  Reading through there's a couple of questions I don't think I've seen covered which prompted me to post.

10.)  In 'Maximum Human Density' Dave lays out how Eric and Dylan's plans were affected by Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Were you aware of this connection?  Before reading this book did you know about the bombs that were in the High School?  Should this fact have been given greater prominence by the press after the attack?  Why or why not?


I was not aware of the connection to McVeigh prior to reading the book, though I had a nagging feeling I'd heard it at the time.  But I was absolutely unaware of the bombs inside and outside of the school.  Their presence obviously totally changes the motivations of the boys.  As Dave explains: this wasn't intended to be a 'shooting'.  That fact is probably what scared me most, out of the book.  Beyond how normal and unassuming the guys seemed.

So yes, I think it's amazing that these details didn't receive more media coverage.  The story just snowballed - it had a momentum of it's own that couldn't change course despite the revelations that much of the story was false.  And that, too, is scary.  Makes me feel rather like a lemming, that we all just go along because everyone else is going along.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Monica LoveEmBoys on June 17, 2009, 01:41:10 PM
11.)  In 'Judgment' and 'Female Down' we are given a rundown of the events on April 20th, the day of the attack on Columbine High School.  Were there any things that stood out particularly about they events as they unfold?  Do you think that if Deputy Gardiner had been in the lunch room that things would have turned out differently?  Were you surprised at the demeanor of Eric and Dylan?  What was your opinion of the reactions of the adults in charge in the school - would you have done anything differently?

It's probably a fools errand to wonder What If...  But this question does make me wonder.  It's been almost 2 months since I read the book and my copy is at home, but I recall that Deputy Gardiner did carry a firearm, didn't he?  Didn't he fire on the shooters on the top of the steps from behind his car?  Anyways, that's neither here nor there.  More to the point, I assume he had a radio.  I just have to wonder if he had been inside the school if whether he couldn't have been more reliable source of information for the police outside.  

I think so much of the confusion came from the fact that officials were assembling information from so many different reports.  That's how rumors of multiple shooters came about.

And just how ironic is it that by removing their coats -- surely a purely incidental move -- caused the reports of shooters to multiply?!  Thats yet another thing that just makes me shake my head about this incredible story.

Anyways, if the Deputy had been inside, he presumably would have been in radio contact with the police, and could have been a single point of information.  As it was there was no way to establish who that one point should be.  He could tell the swat team what door was safe to enter at least - would that have allowed them to enter sooner?  He could attest to seeing only 2, or possibly 4 shooters if he too was duped by the now-you-see-em-now-you-don't-coats.     No way could he cooberate the 25 shooters theory.

I don't know - I never thought about this before, but right now I do think he could have had an impact.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 18, 2009, 02:29:10 PM
Jumping to Q. 6, the next chapter illustrates the same "ordinariness" in the appearance of the killers. They worked in a pizza place, had relationships with girls, had friends. Eric, usually successful in picking up girls, was trying to get a date for the prom. Dylan was going with a nice girl, sharing a limo with five other couples. Eric was a good student; Dylan was very smart but unreliable, had a problem with his temper. Nevertheless, he wasn't disturbingly different. They participated in extracurricular activities, were baseball fans and belonged to a bowling league. They drank some, but weren't seen as "problem" drinkers; they didn't do drugs. They liked math and computers, played video games, made videos.

In hindsight there were many red flags; if all of the information had been collected in one place and available to an adult or adults, including the content of Eric's website, threats they had made, their contact with the legal system, and things their friends had heard and seen, there would have been alarm and action. They weren't showing the red flags associated with school shooters, however: they weren't friendless loners who were failing in school and getting high all the time. They hadn't been bullied; in fact, they were bullying younger kids. They didn't come from broken homes, had no history of abuse. No one who didn't have access to most or all of the pieces would have picked them out--they didn't fit the profile.   

Two thoughts Jenny - first, about the "ordinariness" of the killers - it's one of the things that disturbs me the most about this case.  Of course with Harris you would expect that - psychopaths are able to blend in (from Ted Bundy all the way back to H. H. Holmes).  But Dylan is the real puzzle to me.  He seems to have been suffering mightily and yet no one knew.    It makes you wonder how many kids there are out there who are in real psychological pain and not confiding in anyone.

Second about the profile - I think that looking for 'the profile' is part of the problem here.  I believe that psychological profiling can do some good in cases, but it does real harm in that it fails to see the vast complexity of the human condition.  I remember when the Washington D.C. snipers were killing people.  Once again you would see the old warhorses of profiling (Jack Levine comes to mind) talking about how this was a white middle-aged man...etc, etc.  And when it turned out to be two black men, one of whom was a teen you don't hear anyone addressing the inconsistencies.

As a person who works with the public in an open environment I have to tell you that how ordinary these killers appeared is the one of the most chilling parts of this story to me.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 18, 2009, 02:30:38 PM
I think it's later in the book that Dave points out that the students' love for Mr D might have blinded him to problems, because when he walked in the hallways all he saw were kids smiling back at him.

I can easily see how this would be the case, Kim.  He seems to believe in the best about people.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 18, 2009, 02:34:02 PM
I was surprised  by how the shooters kept their cool and were so coldbloodedly methodical -- this was part of their demeanor.

Particularly with Dylan this is surprising, Nikki - given the torment he seems to have been going through.  Although perhaps he just shut off all of his emotions and proceeded as if he were an automaton.

But it's also surprising that with the failure in his plans that Eric was able to keep his cool.  He seems like the kind who would fly off the handle easily when angry (and, in fact, that seems to have been part of the fuse that finally set him off).
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 18, 2009, 02:36:49 PM
I agree 100% with Nikki.  I have worked in, and with, schools for many years and it is amazing to this day how truly lax school resource officers are as well as the school administration regarding intruders or trouble makers of any kind.  Sad to say, but I'm surprised that Columbine type incidents do not happen more often. 

Actually I'm kind of surprised these sorts of incidents don't take place more often in places that have no security at all - like fast food places, stores, libraries, etc.  Perhaps Dave will address if he thinks there have been any serious re-evaluations of security in schools after this attack, Donna.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 18, 2009, 02:49:08 PM
Hello all -- coming late to the discussion.  Reading through there's a couple of questions I don't think I've seen covered which prompted me to post.

{snip}

I was not aware of the connection to McVeigh prior to reading the book, though I had a nagging feeling I'd heard it at the time.  But I was absolutely unaware of the bombs inside and outside of the school.  Their presence obviously totally changes the motivations of the boys.  As Dave explains: this wasn't intended to be a 'shooting'.  That fact is probably what scared me most, out of the book.  Beyond how normal and unassuming the guys seemed.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!!!  Great to see you here - particularly as a Coloradan you can add some great input to this discussion.

There are two things about the McVeigh connection that particularly spook me - one is that Harris seems to have taken what was a political act (terrorist though it was) and viewed it only as an act of violence - a way to gain publicity.  And he seemed to have been in serious competition with McVeigh for a body count as well.

The other thing that is chilling about the McVeigh connection is the kind of viral nature that violence seems to have.  McVeigh was responding to the Ruby Ridge standoff - a standoff that David Koresh also responded to.  And (as Sarah Vowell revealed in her book 'Assassination Vacation') McVeigh was wearing a t-shirt with the phrase 'sic semper tyrannis' - the phrase that John Wilkes Booth screamed after killing Lincoln.  That people like McVeigh can reach back and grab historical incidents and twist them in his sick mind to murder people - and that Eric Harris can then take what he did and get some sort of inspiration from it - is frightening indeed.

I was astounded to hear that Eric and Dylan were able to get bombs into the school.  That is truly mind boggling - and I'm amazed that people don't talk about that more.  It truly points out what Nikki and Donna were talking about with regard to lax security in schools.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 18, 2009, 03:37:30 PM

In hindsight there were many red flags; if all of the information had been collected in one place and available to an adult or adults, including the content of Eric's website, threats they had made, their contact with the legal system, and things their friends had heard and seen, there would have been alarm and action. They weren't showing the red flags associated with school shooters, however: they weren't friendless loners who were failing in school and getting high all the time. They hadn't been bullied; in fact, they were bullying younger kids. They didn't come from broken homes, had no history of abuse. No one who didn't have access to most or all of the pieces would have picked them out--they didn't fit the profile.   

Two thoughts Jenny - first, about the "ordinariness" of the killers - it's one of the things that disturbs me the most about this case.  Of course with Harris you would expect that - psychopaths are able to blend in (from Ted Bundy all the way back to H. H. Holmes).  But Dylan is the real puzzle to me.  He seems to have been suffering mightily and yet no one knew.    It makes you wonder how many kids there are out there who are in real psychological pain and not confiding in anyone.


As a person who works with the public in an open environment I have to tell you that how ordinary these killers appeared is the one of the most chilling parts of this story to me.

I couldn't agree with you more, Michael. Unfortunately there is so much mental suffering out in the world, and in people of all ages. Just ordinary human beings, in tremendous psychological pain, who can't talk to anyone, and who are often not revealed until a tragedy, breakdown, murder or suicide occurs.
A little like "coming out of the closet" opening up and talking to someone when we are taught that mental illness is a matter of shame, can be very difficult for many. At one time it was thought that children and teenagers didn't suffer from things like depression, and family doctors didn't take such things seriously.
(Unfortunately, I know that from personal experience when I developed severe depression as a 13 year old).
Things are much better now, and schools and colleges do usually have trained counsellors that can be used on a "drop in" basis.
But as with accepting different sexualities, there is still much work to be done.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 18, 2009, 04:42:07 PM
Quote from: michaelflanagansf
24.)  Sue Klebold said that she felt as if they had been hit by a hurricane - and a lawyer told her that people were going to hate her.  How do you feel towards her at this point in the book?  Do you empathize with her - or do you have conflicted feelings?


 I agree with the attorney.  Right or wrong it does seem that in so many cases like this the parents are vilified and blamed.  When all of this happened I wondered about the parents and what control they had over these kids.  At that time, the media was calling them Goths, delinquents, etc.  I remember reading a story in the papers about the boys always being holed up in their garages presumably working on weapons, etc.  

I did empathize with her as a parent.  I can't imagine how it would be to have a son who was a mass murderer.  Of course, I realize that I might not be so empathetic had her son killed my child, so I do understand how some parents might have felt extremely harshly toward both sets of parents.

Edited to fix quote
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 18, 2009, 04:49:56 PM


We've mentioned how ordinary the boys appeared. That fact was  chilling, as Michael said, especially since they didn't come across as wierdos. Maybe the trouble with society today is that people or kids who look "different" are more suspect than "normal' or clean cut ones.  I remember reading that Ted Bundy was handsome and attractive -- hardly a suspect. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Jenny on June 18, 2009, 06:51:28 PM
We absolutely agree about the evil of "profiles" Michael. What I was trying to say was that the "profile" blinded people to the danger these boys posed. Simply looking at what previous school shooters have in common isn't very helpful, especially when there are as few cases as we have. Profiles also come out of fitting data into our own molds: the stories we've told ourselves about why someone would do such a thing. I think those stories/theories are also why the press was so quick to pick up "information" that fit them, even when follow-up would have revealed that the information was not what they first thought. Profiles appeal to us because they make us feel in control: if we understand the causes of this behavior and therefore predict the likelihood, we may also be able to prevent it. The scariest thing about this and other terrible attacks is that they are idiosyncratic to a large degree, making them almost completely random (until you can view them in hindsight, when they look preordained.)

There can be, however, a sort of copycat effect, with one violent incident inspiring others. But there can be a great deal of time between the acts. I had no idea that Columbine involved bombs. Thank the Lord they didn't succeed in setting them off. It makes a horrible kind of sense that Eric was modeling his attack on the Oklahoma City bombing (and perhaps the Branch Davidian siege and its cataclysmic ending.) At the time, however, I was totally unaware of those connections.

  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Jenny on June 18, 2009, 10:40:55 PM

Two thoughts Jenny - first, about the "ordinariness" of the killers - it's one of the things that disturbs me the most about this case.  Of course with Harris you would expect that - psychopaths are able to blend in (from Ted Bundy all the way back to H. H. Holmes).  But Dylan is the real puzzle to me.  He seems to have been suffering mightily and yet no one knew.    It makes you wonder how many kids there are out there who are in real psychological pain and not confiding in anyone.

Dylan is, in a way, more frightening than Eric. Sadistic psychopathy, terrifying as it is, is rare. Most psychopaths aren't sadistic or violent; they are charming, even charismatic, convinced of their superiority and callous about others' feelings. They like pulling the wool over peoples' eyes, getting away with things and having power over others. Guilt and remorse are not in their emotional vocabulary. A fair number are in prison, but there are more in the general population than you would think. Mr. Madoff looks like he may be a psychopath. Ken Lay of Enron may have been one.  Governor Blagojevich seems likely to be one. All of them were quite successful for a long time.

Dylan was depressive, often suicidal and down on himself. Yet he thought of himself as much smarter and superior to others (he was, in fact, much smarter than almost everybody he came in contact with.) He couldn't deal with criticism, and he was capable of tremendous rage. He couldn't deal with anyone making fun of him, and he felt rejected by a lot of people. When he got angry he was overwhelmed by emotion and lost control. But he had another side, a longing for love and a desire to belong. He was capable of great affection. He fantasized about a world of love and peace. Generally he was quiet, embarrassed and shy, with no sign of all the feelings and energy simmering inside. I cannot count how many boys I saw that were very much like this (though I doubt any of them were as bright as Dylan.) They were two year olds in an adolescent's skin. IMO, Dylan would never have carried out a Columbine-like attack without Eric to lead him, encourage his feelings of grandiosity, anger and longing for revenge and give him the feeling of participating in something big that would stun the world and prove he was as powerful and important as he longed to be.

Boys like Dylan can be very hard to spot until they attempt suicide or are caught planning it. They're usually triggered by a romantic rejection or some other humiliation or loss. They are seldom violent towards others, though they may issue threats. They're described as impulsive, immature, quiet and very shy, especially around girls. They're underachievers and often spend a lot of time alone in their rooms, or "out", smoking and drinking and hanging out with one or two friends (who may only know them superficially.) Their parent(s) usually has no clue about their misery. They often make statements and write or draw pictures of death, but people around them assume they're just "emo" and dramatizing their feelings. They can benefit from therapy (and sometimes from medication.)   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:04:00 AM
Hi, I hope you can forgive me popping in here out of sequence with your discussion.  I was away from a computer all week and wrote out my initial answers to the first 13 questions in long-hand.  I just got home and typed them up and am going to post them now, and then later tonight I'll catch up with the rest of the discussion and get involved more in the back-and-forth.  Really looking forward to hearing everyone else's perspective, but these were my initial thoughts.

1.)  'Columbine' begins with an assembly at the High School on the Friday before the attack.  Considering there are several perspectives that he could have taken (beginning with the attacks or starting with events that triggered the attacks) how does this opening work for you - does it draw you into the atmosphere of the school well?

I thought that opening the book by describing the pre-prom assembly at the high school on Friday was very effective, because it was a scene I could relate to.  In just the fourth sentence, the words “pom-pom routines” and “academic awards” brought back clear memories of my own high school days, although the phrase “student-made videos” was a clue that the book’s events were set in a more recent and high-tech era than my own.

I also thought it was appropriate to open with a scene involving the entire student body in normal circumstances, rather than focusing immediately on the killers or the violence.  It was ironic and unsettling to realize that the principal’s worst fear had been that a student might die on prom night due to drunk driving.  Most of us knew about the eventual tragedy before starting to read the book, but Mr. D’s remarks at the assembly served as foreshadowing, by giving a hint of possible upcoming death.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:07:12 AM
2.)  The dedication is to the thirteen people killed and to Patrick Ireland.  Did you notice this?  Did you find yourself checking (as I did) to see if you were reading about someone who died in the attacks as you went through the book?  How did this affect your reading?

I did notice the names in the dedication when I began reading.  At first I wasn’t sure that all of the first 13 had died, so I began checking as I went along.  We learn early on that Rachel and Danny were killed and their bodies were left outside the school.  The next name is “Dave,” and even though Dave Sanders is introduced as a character in Chapter 5, I wasn’t sure that he had actually died until the end of Part 1, but after that it became clear that those first 13 names were of people who had died.  So toward the end of Part 1, when Cassie, for example, was still unaccounted for, I felt like she must have died, too, because her name was on the list.  Conversely, a boy named Brian was shot while with teacher Patti Nelson, and on rereading, I checked the list in the dedication to clarify that he had not been fatally wounded.

As for Patrick Ireland’s dedication with the word “hope,” I was relieved to see that, because he seemed to be in such terrible shape when first taken from the library.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:07:57 AM
3.)  There are two epigraphs in the book - one from Hemingway and one from Dostoyevsky.  What do you think Dave was trying to say by including these?

To me, the epigraph from Dostoyevsky is intended to suggest Eric Harris’s state of mind and motivation.  It ties in with later suggestions that he was a psychopath.  He did a wicked deed and was a “wicked man.”  But if he was “not even an embittered man,” it suggests that (contrary to some ideas) he wasn’t out for revenge against jocks or others who might have bullied him.  He was simply “frightening sparrows in vain, and pleasing myself with it” – that is, he wanted to create a big scene which would feed his ego, for the purpose of pleasing himself, no matter the pain or fright caused.

The Hemingway epigraph seems to refer to humanity in general, and to Columbine survivors in particular.  Everyone faces hardships of one sort or another in life, and is “broken” in some way.  The quote reminds me of survivors like Patrick Ireland who were able to be strong and overcome their “broken places.”

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:08:34 AM
4.)  Did the Author's Note on the sources give you information that was useful in your reading of the book?  For example - did it help to know that no dialog was made up in the book?  Do you feel that notes of this sort give you more confidence in reading a non-fiction work?

I found the Author’s Note on Sources very useful.  Right off the bat, for example, it let me know that before the murders, the killers themselves spoke on tape and/or in notebooks or journals, so this gave credibility to whatever might follow regarding their thinking.  It was comforting also to know that many corroborating sources were available.

I also appreciated knowing how Dave reported the recollections of survivors, distinguishing between a “high degree of certainty” and “less sure about the wording” with the use of either quotation marks or italics.  It sounded like a very systematic approach.

As for the assurance that no dialogue was made up, I’m glad to know that, because I always suspected that dialogue must be made up in some “recreations” of historical events.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:09:13 AM
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

Frank DeAngelis seems like a down-to-earth guy with a big heart, who is truly interested in his students and sees each of them (all 2,000) as a unique individual.  I agree with what Lyda said; it’s hard to imagine most school principals using the word “love” in speaking to the student body; Mr. D had evidently earned their trust and respect.  His non-authoritarian appearances in the cafeteria, and his coaching background, must have helped.

(As an aside, I will say that in my high school the principal had a pretty good reputation as well, and was not the most visible disciplinarian.  He was involved with really tough cases, in private meetings in his office, and it was the assistant principal who got authoritarian duty in the hallways and who acted like a sadistic ex-Marine:  threatening to use belts and rulers on unruly boys, for example.)

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:12:19 AM
6.)  We read about Eric and Dylan's preparations for the prom, their work at the pizza shop and their nicknames 'Reb' and 'VoDKa.'  Did it strike you how normal they seemed?  Did they seem like typical teens to you?  Does this make them more frightening and/or make their actions harder to understand?

Their work at the pizza shop seemed quite normal for teenage boys, although the bottle rockets on the roof after work was a suggestion of minor delinquency.  Also, it turned out that Eric was paying for his weapon stockpile with money earned at the pizza shop, so the job actually fit into his scheming.

Their nicknames ‘Reb’ and ‘VoDKa’ have slightly delinquent overtones:  a rebel and an underage drinker.  But since “Rebels” is the school nickname, this impact is lessened.

The preparations for the prom are what struck me as most odd.  Here they do seem like completely normal teens.  Yet they already planned to blow up their school on the Monday (in the original plan) after prom.  This seems almost unbelievable, on the surface.  Dylan’s enthusiasm for attending the University of Arizona the following year seemed similarly normal, and therefore out of place.

This discrepancy made me wonder whether Dylan was truly committed to the murders and suicide at this point.  Perhaps he was of two minds:  going on with his normal life part of the time, while at other times expecting to die, and not tying the two visions of his future together.

Eric’s two-facedness seems different.  He never seemed to waver from his plan to bomb the school.  I thought perhaps the prom night activity was just part of a disguise to keep other people from suspecting his true intentions.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:13:00 AM
7.)  Beginning with a section on page 10 ('Rebel Hill slopes gradually....') and at the beginning of the chapter 'Springtime' we get descriptions of the school setting and the student body.  Did you feel that this gave you an adequate picture of the school environment?  Does it seem similar to secondary schools that you have known?  If yes, does this make the book more difficult for you to read?

These two descriptions of the school setting are well-written and do help the reader to create a mental picture of the scene.  The student body seems typical in many ways of those at secondary schools where I now live, but this didn’t make me want to avoid reading the book, or cause me to put the book down.  (A few places later on were very difficult to read, but not the happy “normal school day” scenes.) 

The school’s affluence (with so many kids having cars) and its location (still suburban, not rural, but so far from the center of the big city of Denver) made Columbine High School notably different than schools I’m more familiar with, but I don’t honestly think this made me care any less about these students, or better able to tolerate what happened to them.  Even if they weren’t exactly “the kids next door,” and even if they were more privileged than most kids I know, when the book begins telling their individual stories, social class becomes irrelevant and they are just human beings.

I agree with Sandy and others that several maps would have been helpful.  First, a school floor plan (interior hallways and exterior parking lots and exits) might make it easier to visualize the action.  Second, I could have benefitted from a neighborhood map showing the school, Clement Park, and major nearby streets.  Third, a map of Denver and its southwestern suburbs, would help to place the school in relation to familiar sites like downtown, the DIA airport, etc.  I have lived in north Denver and the northern suburbs, and my sister lives in Jefferson County (south part of Lakewood) but Columbine still seems like it’s in another world.  It would be good to know where the school sits in terms of north/south streets (Kipling, Wadsworth, Sheridan) and how far south it is (for example, how far south of Hampton, which is about 3000 South). 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:13:35 AM
8.)  In 'Springtime' we read of the rise of the 'School Shooter.'  Do you remember when you first became aware of this phenomenon?  What were your thoughts about this before you read the book?

I have to admit, I wasn’t focused on school shootings before Columbine.  Maybe it’s partly because I don’t have children in school myself.  In thinking of violent incidents, I remember Waco and Oklahoma City vividly, but not the previous school shootings.  Since I was at my mom’s while answering this question, I was discussing this with her, and she mentioned that the Ruby Ridge shooting in Idaho had made an impression on her (I only vaguely remember that one, mostly just the name “Ruby Ridge.”)  But she also hadn’t been aware of, or forgets, the school shootings prior to Columbine.

So for me, I became aware of the “school shooter” phenomenon in the media reports which followed Columbine.  Later I recall the media popularizing the phrase “another Columbine,” as though Columbine had been the first.  It was enlightening to read Dave Cullen’s history of school shootings prior to Columbine.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:14:16 AM
9.)  In 'Two Columbines' we begin to be introduced to people who were attacked and their families (Dave Sanders, Linda Sanders, Patrick Ireland and Cassie Bernall).  How was it to be introduced to these people?  Several people mentioned having to put the book down while reading.  Was this one of those points for you?

‘Two Columbines’ was definitely not a point where I had to put the book down while reading.  I was eager to learn about the individual people aside from the shooters.  This chapter made Dave and Linda Sanders seem so real.  I knew, before reading the book, that a teacher had been killed, but wasn’t sure Dave was that person – I kept hoping that maybe he’d been a witness or a survivor.

Patrick Ireland also seemed real, especially when he was unable to get up the nerve to ask Laura to the prom.  Before reading the book, I didn’t know what had happened to him, either.

I had heard of Cassie Bernall before reading the book and knew that she had died.  The paragraph devoted to her was interesting, but she came across as a minor character at that point because relatively less is said about her.

From a sociological point of view, this chapter somewhat counteracts my previous impression that the student body (and the adults associated with the school) were uniformly well-off and privileged.  I enjoyed reading about how Dave and Linda were part of the “Old Columbine” world, which still seemed close to its roots as a small-town rural area.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:15:01 AM
10.)  In 'Maximum Human Density' Dave lays out how Eric and Dylan's plans were affected by Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Were you aware of this connection?  Before reading this book did you know about the bombs that were in the High School?  Should this fact have been given greater prominence by the press after the attack?  Why or why not?

I was aware that Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing both took place on April 19, because I remember the media talking about OKC as the anniversary of Waco.  But I didn’t realize that Columbine had been scheduled for the anniversary of those dates.  Nor did I realize that Eric and Dylan had intended to outdo McVeigh in terms of mass killing, or that they had planned such a large-scale operation.  

And I did not know about the large bombs that had been planted at Columbine with the intention of blowing up the school.  The media coverage that I remember called it a school shooting, and that’s all I really understood it to be.  So the book was very educational on that account.  In retrospect, it might have been good for the press to have been clearer about the bombs at the time, to prevent the public from constructing a mental profile of typical school shooters around the motivations of Eric and Dylan.  The drawback of doing so, however, could have been creating an even worse “copycat” situation.  Someone else might have attempted to try again to blow up a different school, and been successful.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:15:35 AM
11.)  In 'Judgment' and 'Female Down' we are given a rundown of the events on April 20th, the day of the attack on Columbine High School.  Were there any things that stood out particularly about they events as they unfold?  Do you think that if Deputy Gardiner had been in the lunch room that things would have turned out differently?  Were you surprised at the demeanor of Eric and Dylan?  What was your opinion of the reactions of the adults in charge in the school - would you have done anything differently?

One thing that surprised me about Eric and Dylan’s behavior on the morning of April 20th was that, after all their meticulous planning, they allowed “chill time” to put them behind schedule in arriving at the school.  I would have expected Eric, at least, to have better self-discipline than that.  I was also surprised that, when they realized the cafeteria bombs hadn’t gone off, they didn't proceed with Act II and shoot at the great numbers of students exiting the school for lunch.  The killers didn’t seem as thorough and well-prepared for contingencies as I might have expected.  It also appeared that Dylan wasn’t completely committed to the plan and might have been just as glad that parts of it did begin falling apart.

It was interesting that Brooks Brown and Nate Dykeman both noticed strange aspects of their behavior that morning, and particularly interesting that Brooks actually confronted Eric, and was warned to go home.  I wondered whether to interpret Eric’s response as just meaning “Don’t bother me,” or whether he actually felt a little compassion for a friend.

I was impressed by the detail presented regarding how the custodian happened to leave an eight-minute gap in taping the cafeteria activity, and also thought it ironic that both Mr. D and Deputy Gardner were absent from the cafeteria that morning due to deviations in their usual routine.  Since none of the students noticed Eric and Dylan carrying in the bags with bombs in them, and since the killers didn’t open the bombs inside the cafeteria to reset the timers, I suspect that Deputy Gardner might not have noticed anything amiss either, if he had been there, especially if he had been eating and chatting with other students.

Regarding the adults in charge, the janitor did well by advising Sean Graves to play dead, and then helping other kids escape.  Dave Sanders behaved in a heroic manner on several occasions, evacuating kids and running toward gunfire to see what was going on.  Patti Nelson, the part-time art teacher, originally became annoyed thinking the gunfire was just a prank, but I can’t fault her for anything at that point except taking the junior “Brian” with her to investigate.  As soon as she realized the size of Eric’s gun, she behaved appropriately, considering the confusing circumstances, although we can look back in hindsight and say she should have told the students in the library to get out or hide in a better protected shelter than other their desks.

There’s a sort of sick comedy to the notion of another teacher telling students to keep on concentrating on their tests, but really, there was no way that teacher could have imagined what was really going on.   The only thing a teacher in that position might have done would have been to step out into the hall to investigate, but that might not have turned out well, either.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:16:24 AM
12.)  Did you know about the problems with cellphones overwhelming the operators?  Do you think this would be worse now?  How do you think this affected the reporting?  Did the '24 hour news cycle' come into play here - that is, were the news agencies running with any information they could get - including cellphone calls from inside the school?  Should the news shows have carried live telephone calls from the students?  Why or why not?  Do you think that this sort of coverage should depend on the news item being covered (i.e., if it does not put people in danger, should these sources be used)?

No, I did not know about operators being overwhelmed by cell phone calls.  The first time I can clearly remember hearing about people making cell phone calls during an attack involved the people on the airplanes on 9/11 (2001).  The situation would be worse now, IMO, because a much greater percentage of the population has a cell phone now than they did in 1999.

I feel strongly that the 24-hour news cycle came into play regarding the use of these cell phone calls by news agencies, because I’ve watched many “breaking news” stories on cable channels where any witnesses available were put on TV.  I think the key in the next part of Michael’s question is the word “live” – these calls did make for good eyewitness reporting, but maybe the calls should have been screened before they were aired, to be sure that the callers didn’t give away information that would be useful to the killers.  In that sense, I do agree that this sort of coverage should depend on the news item being covered, and that appropriate safeguards should be used in each case to avoid putting people in danger.  It would be different for a natural disaster or plane crash than for a mass murder.

I have to add that reporters and news anchors are working under a lot of real-time pressure in “breaking news” situations, and it may be difficult to find the opportunity to do a proper screening of witnesses, if that would involve taping the live call and then playing it back on the air later.  Considering the unreliability of eyewitness testimony – and the book provides excellent examples of conflicting accounts, such as the number of attackers and their attire – perhaps nothing of value (except ratings) would be lost if the networks toned down their coverage and tried to do more interpretation and summarization, rather than carrying the raw eyewitness accounts.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 19, 2009, 05:16:51 AM
13.)  By the time the networks went live (at noon) there were hundreds of uniformed responders present.  Given the size of the force, what do you think of the response?  What do you feel they could have done differently?

In my opinion, the officers who responded did a good job of evacuating the students who managed to escape the building, and got help for the wounded students.  However, the idea of simply reinforcing the perimeter did nothing to help the students who were still inside the building (scared, hiding or wounded) where the killers appeared to still be walking around.

I do understand that a high school has a myriad of corridors, rooms and hiding places, somewhat like a system of underground caves.  But with such a large law enforcement force outside, I think the officers could have been better organized – with a better central command – and the cops could have moved in earlier.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 19, 2009, 08:33:33 AM
Quote
24.)  Sue Klebold said that she felt as if they had been hit by a hurricane - and a lawyer told her that people were going to hate her.  How do you feel towards her at this point in the book?  Do you empathize with her - or do you have conflicted feelings?

I did sympathise with Sue Klebold, with both of the attackers parent's really. When our children are small we can control what they do, when they are teenagers we can't, no matter how hard we try, and that is as it should be. They have to grow up and gain independence by learning from their own mistakes.
I found this the hardest part of being a parent. Letting go is not easy.

Both sets of parents had done their best for their children as they saw it, and neither couple could have forseen the dreadful attack that their sons went on to commit. In the same way that we are not responsible for our parents behaviour, we are not ultimately responsible for our children's behaviour once they reach a certain age, if we have given them as good an upbringing as we could.
If the two boys had been abused or neglected, or if the parents had been alcoholic or drug addicted, it would have been easier to blame them.
In some respects they were their children's victims themselves. Both couples lost their sons that dreadful day, so they were bereaved, but were not able even to comfort themselves with happy thoughts about their children, because what they did, the death and mayhem they caused, would be so overwhelmingly unpleasant.
Then of course, there will be until the end of their lives, even if it is not true, the perpetual thought, "Where did we go wrong?" "What should we have done differently?"
It must be a horrendous burden to bear, without most of the outside world hating you too.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CBY on June 19, 2009, 09:05:01 AM
Hello all.

Last night and today, I wrote privately to Dave Cullen about my reactions to and deep concerns about his new book. Since finishing the book, I've been scouring online reviews by both readers and journalists, wanting to know whether I was alone in my concerns. I decided to see if there was a discussion here and found this thread. After briefly scanning the first few posts, I decided to post verbatim the two e-mails I wrote to Dave. (I refer to myself in my first e-mail as a "former member of the Brokeback Mountain forum," but I realized this morning that I'm still a member, though I haven't posted here since Heath Ledger's death last January.)

Please note that I am posting my e-mails to Dave without reading the entire thread or knowing if anyone else had the same concerns. I will continue reading the thread as soon as I post this.

I also want to say up front that I followed the Columbine story closely from the start, have done a lot of my own reading and research, and have relatives who live in Denver, near Columbine High School. We had many discussions about the tragedy at the time it occurred and for months afterward. In the interest of full disclosure, as a child and young teenager I experienced bullying, rejection, and exclusion (I was shy, sensitive, short, with red hair & freckles, and I was ridiculed constantly). My saving grace as a teenager was finding my niche with a group of friends who had similar healthy and constructive interests. I grew up in a family that looked "normal" on the outside but was very dysfunctional (mother an abusive alcoholic, father a workaholic who was continually unfaithful). I've also struggled most of my life with clinical depression.

Last but not least, I have three children: a 20-year-old daughter who had a hard time in high school and hated it, a son who's 16, and another son who's 7.

***************
[E-mail No. 1]
I am a former member of the Brokeback Mountain forum and was looking forward to reading your book. I finally read it, and it bothered me so much that I felt the need to write and express my dismay. I was extremely disturbed by your book, but not for the reasons you might think.
 
I thought you had a particular agenda and sought to prove it: that Eric Harris wasn't just a deeply disturbed kid but a psychopath, probably born that way, and that neither the school environment nor his upbringing had much if anything to do with what he did -- that he would have done it anyway, regardless. You mentioned aspects of his environment and his upbringing that might have influenced him or fueled his rage, but you downplayed all of them as secondary aspects, if that. I thought that you blatantly ignored whatever didn't fit your theory, including Eric and Dylan's own words in their journals. What amazed me most was your claim that Eric never mentioned being bullied. This is just a lie, going by his own words in the journals that have been posted online. He might not have used the word "bullied," but his words clearly show that he felt bullied and rejected, and that his anger and pain made him want to retaliate. His claims of superiority are so transparent, so revealing of someone who'd been made to feel inferior all his life and was projecting those feelings *outward*: He wasn't the inferior one; others were. You also seemed to ignore or to be unaware that kids who are bullied, abused, and excluded often turn right around and bully others. You claim that just because he didn't target particular individuals, the bullying theories were wrong. But being bullied or excluded or made to feel different can turn into a global hatred of everyone.
 
I was most aghast at one section of your book in which you essentially suggest, without saying it outright, that Eric really wasn't human because the MRI scans of psychopaths don't look human (as claimed by an "expert"). You then wrote that if Eric's brain had been scanned, it probably wouldn't have been recognizable as human. That was an outrageous, incredibly irresponsible statement. You went on to quote an expert who said that psychopaths are like robots. Then, the kicker: Several paragraphs later, in an attempt to show that Eric was lacking in empathy, you quote him writing in his journal that his intended victims weren't really human, that they were just robots. It was the VERY same thing you had just written about him! You had just dehumanized Eric in the very same way that Eric dehumanized other people in his journal writings. The irony just about killed me.
 
It also bothered me very much that you essentially turned people into their illnesses: e.g., Dylan Klepold didn't have depression; he was a "depressive." You seemed to come down strongly on the "they're born that way" or "they're highly predisposed" side, that there's nothing anyone could have said or done, nothing in the environment that might have been toxic, that turned a kid into a monster. No, it wasn't the school environment, it wasn't the parents or the upbringing, it wasn't guns or games or a culture of violence, it was just a Bad Seed.
 
After I finished the book, I went online and began reading others' reviews. I found that a handful of people on amazon.com, including the father of the kid whom Eric threatened, had the same concerns that I did.
 
I can only say that while your book is well-written, I fear that it will do more harm than good. I hope you will take these concerns and criticisms seriously and  acknowledge your mistakes and oversights publicly.
 
[E-mail No. 2]
 wanted to mention an additional concern.
 
Throughout your book, you make statements as though they are facts instead of suppositions. The most egregious example is your statement that Eric and Dylan stopped shooting because they were bored: "The remaining thirty-five were easy pickings. But Eric and Dylan got bored." You state this as though it's a fact, instead of your opinion. In that one statement alone, you give the lie to your claim in the author's note that "all conjectures about the killers' thinking are labeled as such." This is not responsible, objective journalism.You might as well have billed your book as fiction. You have no idea what their state of mind was at that time, their reasoning, or their thinking, yet you state it as fact and expect your reader to go along. It's all supposition, mostly based on the experts you interviewed who had diagnosed Eric Harris as a "psychopath" and Dylan Klebold as a "depressive." Because the experts said, "This is what a 'psychopath' is thinking/feeling," you applied it to Eric and Dylan in those moments, without even qualifying your statement.
 
There are many more examples of this non-objectivity, suppositions stated as fact, throughout your book. In your zeal to demolish many of the myths that emerged with Columbine, you went to the opposite extreme. Someone supplied you a framework that seemed to provide a nice, neat, easy answer -- a tidy little box to work in -- and you stayed within that box and omitted anything that didn't fit. In other words, you were guilty of doing exactly what you accused the Columbine myth-makers of doing.

 ***********
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CBY on June 19, 2009, 09:10:02 AM
Quote
Yes, I liked the  Author's Note  that no dialog was made up.  This always bothers me when writers try to 'get in the heads' of criminals, and put words in their mouths except in cases where the perpetrators leave journals and tapes as in the book.

As I just pointed out in my post (E-mail No. 2), Dave did exactly this when he claimed that "Eric and Dylan got bored." And it's only one example in the book.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CBY on June 19, 2009, 09:27:18 AM
They hadn't been bullied; in fact, they were bullying younger kids. They didn't come from broken homes, had no history of abuse. 

If you read Eric's and Dylan's journal entries posted online, as well as statements by other students, you will see that they were indeed bullied. They in turn bullied others. In his effort to discredit the environmental causes theory and promote his own agenda, Dave Cullen minimizes much of this in his book, but the information is out there, available to anyone who searches for it. Also, we don't know that there was "no history of abuse" in the families because 1) only Dylan's parents granted a couple of interviews, the Harris family none at all; and 2) everything else relating to Eric's and Dylan's families has been sealed until the year 2027. I can tell you that it's quite possible for a family to present as completely normal and functional when there is all manner of abuse going on, some blatant and some more subtle. The families, in their effort to avoid guilt and blame, would attempt to hide this. Denial is a classic symptom of abuse and dysfunction. Re: broken homes -- it doesn't require a "broken home" for abuse to occur or a family to be dysfunctional. Also keep in mind the effects of Eric having had to move frequently throughout his childhood because his father was in the military, how he was constantly the "new kid in school" who didn't fit in.

I am sorry to rain on the parade here, but don't just take Dave Cullen's book as the truth and the definitive resource. Read other books and do your own research.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on June 19, 2009, 10:26:46 AM
CBY you are welcome to this discussion --

as long as all forum rules are followed.

You know a lot about the subject and perhaps can add some insight.

Please present your views respectfully to Dave, who worked diligently on his reporting, and to the other participants.

Thank you
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Monica LoveEmBoys on June 19, 2009, 11:10:53 AM
If you read Eric's and Dylan's journal entries posted online, as well as statements by other students, you will see that they were indeed bullied. They in turn bullied others.

CBY, you mention a couple times of source writing in the journals that suggest a conclusion other than those that Dave makes in the books.  The journals are indeed online, in fact they are also on Dave's website.

http://www.davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide/journals-eric-harris-dylan-klebold.htm

Can you clarify with sections of the journals to which you refer?  I freely admit, I have not read them in their entirety -- the handwriting is frequently difficult to decipher so I haven't taken that effort.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 19, 2009, 11:32:12 AM
CBV..... I don't think that everything can be put down to nurture rather than nature. There is such a thing as "bad seed" although I would never ordinarily call it that. It is rather that some people are born with disorders of the brain, just as some people are born with disorders of the body.
In the same way that I don't blame a person. or his or her parents, because he has say, Muscular Dystrophy, I also don't blame a person who has a predisposition to depression. It is extremely unfortunate for the sufferer, but it is part of natures pattern, and is nobodys fault.
If Eric Harris was a psychopath, and psychopathy can be seen on brain scans then it is a real disorder.
He didn't ask to be affected by it and neither did his parents.
It was pointed out to me this week that there is work going on to teach coping strategies to psychopaths to help them to ameliarate their condition, but other than that there is no cure as yet.
Personally, I think it is too easy to blame all mental disorders on upbringing or bullying. That is not to say that these things don't have an effect, but the underlying mental disorders, from which they suffered were probably much more likely to have been the causes of Harris and Klebold's dreadful actions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 19, 2009, 12:01:20 PM
CBY,

You're not the first person to bring up the issue of bullying. As you may be aware from your online search, there has been a contentious debate over the idea that bullying was the key to the massacre. A father of a Columbine student, but one I believed who was not murdered, has been very vocal about this.

Are bullying and psychopathy mutually exclusive explanations? I'll bet there's an overlap.

Part of the insistence on bullying as the "explanation" for the massacre, it seems to me, is that bullying is something which you can see instances of beforehand, whereas the psychopath very often passes as "normal" until it is too late and s/he commits a crime that earns her/him the diagnosis of psychopath. We would like to believe that we can control the world, that someone could have seen it coming, that someone else could have intervened and, therefore, that there is someone out there (counsellor, cop, parent) who can bear the blame and shock of the massacre. It might even allow us to "explain" events, but this is at least as demeaning and dehumanizing to Eric and Dylan as to claim that they had a disease. It says that, as humans, they are the sum of things that happen to them (e.g., bullying), but that they bring no will or character or personality to what they do.

The problem with the bullying hypothesis is that, school being what it is, many other students at Columbine were very likely victims of bullying to one degree or other, but they did not turn that into a calculated plan to massacre hundreds of students and teachers. Even if bullying could be seen as a trigger in Columbine, it would have had to trigger something; in the case of Eric, it appears that distinctive something was his psychopathic personality

Part of adolescence is that the individual is attempting to grow, shape itself and assert its independence as it gropes toward adulthood. It's part for the course that kids fight with parents, friends and authority figures. But for most of us, I think, comes the grudging realization that we need other people around us to realize that goal, that we become grounded as individuals within a community and, ultimately, it is hoped, that we are able to grow more fully because of our participation in a community. Part of the psychopath's profile seems to be the inability to recognize his or her dependence on that community, s/he does not really "connect." And that failure to connect makes it nigh impossible to empathize with others in the same position or to believe that there are others out there who want to connect with you. There is thus in the psychopath's world, no room to imagine the idea of "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you." Eric's disdain for others suggests this isolation from community, it also suggests that he recognized Dylan's longing to connect with a community, but that he perverted that for his (Eric's) own purposes.

So Eric "did unto others before they did unto him," which is a moral perversion, and one that could I think go by the old-fashioned idea of evil. Not that he could have recognized himself or his actions as evil, because he appears to have lacked the keystone of the golden rule. Depending on the results of an MRI, his brain may or may not have deviated from what a normal human brain is like. But his actions certainly deviated from norms of human behavior, and to that extent could be seen as less than fully human.

Sandy

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:21:15 PM
Boys like Dylan can be very hard to spot until they attempt suicide or are caught planning it. They're usually triggered by a romantic rejection or some other humiliation or loss. They are seldom violent towards others, though they may issue threats. They're described as impulsive, immature, quiet and very shy, especially around girls. They're underachievers and often spend a lot of time alone in their rooms, or "out", smoking and drinking and hanging out with one or two friends (who may only know them superficially.) Their parent(s) usually has no clue about their misery. They often make statements and write or draw pictures of death, but people around them assume they're just "emo" and dramatizing their feelings. They can benefit from therapy (and sometimes from medication.)   

Yes Jenny, it's very much the hearing the sound of hoofbeats and thinking horses, not zebras.  I can see how it would be easy to miss Dylan's depression.  What's interesting is that he acted out in several ways - getting poor grades and being a lackluster employee being two that come to mind immediately.  I would have hoped that counselors would have caught this and tried to make some changes in his life - and perhaps get him on SSRIs.  Certainly the drinking didn't help.

Yes, in many ways Dylan is the cipher here.  I found myself wondering often in the book as to whether or not the attack would have occurred if Dylan had pulled out.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:30:40 PM
Profiles appeal to us because they make us feel in control: if we understand the causes of this behavior and therefore predict the likelihood, we may also be able to prevent it. The scariest thing about this and other terrible attacks is that they are idiosyncratic to a large degree, making them almost completely random (until you can view them in hindsight, when they look preordained.)

There can be, however, a sort of copycat effect, with one violent incident inspiring others. But there can be a great deal of time between the acts. I had no idea that Columbine involved bombs. Thank the Lord they didn't succeed in setting them off. It makes a horrible kind of sense that Eric was modeling his attack on the Oklahoma City bombing (and perhaps the Branch Davidian siege and its cataclysmic ending.) At the time, however, I was totally unaware of those connections.  

I completely agree that profiles make us feel as if we are in control of the situation - and that this attack and ones like McVeigh's are idiosyncratic and random.  It does make a kind of weird sense that the attacks were modeled after the Oklahoma City bombing - although taking a political crime of that nature and bringing it into a school environment is indeed very random.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:33:50 PM
The preparations for the prom are what struck as most odd.  Here they do seem like completely normal teens.  Yet they already planned to blow up their school on the Monday (in the original plan) after prom.  This seems almost unbelievable, on the surface.  Dylan’s enthusiasm for attending the University of Arizona the following year seemed similarly normal, and therefore out of place.

This discrepancy made me wonder whether Dylan was truly committed to the murders and suicide at this point.  Perhaps he was of two minds:  going on with his normal life part of the time, while at other times expecting to die, and not tying the two visions of his future together.

Eric’s two-facedness seems different.  He never seemed to waver from his plan to bomb the school.  I thought perhaps the prom night activity was just part of a disguise to keep other people from suspecting his true intentions.

We're entirely on the same page here, Debbie.  The plans that Dylan was making do make it seem like (had he been reached in time) he would have stopped.  I see nothing in Eric's plans that lead to this - he went to the recruiter to shut his parents up until he could do what he was planning to do - his last act, the end.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:36:18 PM
I agree with Sandy and others that several maps would have been helpful.  First, a school floor plan (interior hallways and exterior parking lots and exits) might make it easier to visualize the action.  Second, I could have benefitted from a neighborhood map showing the school, Clement Park, and major nearby streets.  Third, a map of Denver and its southwestern suburbs, would help to place the school in relation to familiar sites like downtown, the DIA airport, etc. 

Yes, definitely.  A schematic of the school would have been very helpful and I would have liked an area map as well. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:40:57 PM
9.)  In 'Two Columbines' we begin to be introduced to people who were attacked and their families (Dave Sanders, Linda Sanders, Patrick Ireland and Cassie Bernall).  How was it to be introduced to these people?  Several people mentioned having to put the book down while reading.  Was this one of those points for you?

‘Two Columbines’ was definitely not a point where I had to put the book down while reading.  I was eager to learn about the individual people aside from the shooters.  This chapter made Dave and Linda Sanders seem so real.  I knew, before reading the book, that a teacher had been killed, but wasn’t sure Dave was that person – I kept hoping that maybe he’d been a witness or a survivor.

For some reason Dave & Linda Sanders story affected me more than some of the others in the book.  I found myself getting really emotionally moved by that story as it unfolds.  This was one of those points where flipping up and back to the dedications had a strong effect on my reading of the book.  I knew that Dave was one of the people who was killed.  And this actually did cause me to put down the book for a little bit to process that.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 01:50:24 PM
I have to admit, I wasn’t focused on school shootings before Columbine.  Maybe it’s partly because I don’t have children in school myself.  In thinking of violent incidents, I remember Waco and Oklahoma City vividly, but not the previous school shootings.  Since I was at my mom’s while answering this question, I was discussing this with her, and she mentioned that the Rudy Ridge shooting in Idaho had made an impression on her (I only vaguely remember that one, mostly just the name “Rudy Ridge.”  But she also hadn’t been aware of, or forgets, the school shootings prior to Columbine.

So for me, I became aware of the “school shooter” phenomenon in the media reports which followed Columbine.  Later I recall the media popularizing the phrase “another Columbine,” as though Columbine had been the first.  It was enlightening to read this Dave Cullen’s history of school shootings prior to Columbine.

I was actually aware of two before Columbine, Debbie.  The first was Brenda Ann Spencer's attack at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego - it was the shooting that inspired the Boomtown Rats song 'I Don't Like Mondays' (which was Brenda's excuse for shooting the children).

The other one was the Kip Kinkel, who shot up a school in Springfield, Oregon in 1998.  I was out of work at the time, so I was watching a lot of television.  His case too is very sad and compelling [he killed his parents before going on to shoot up the school, leaving his sister as the only surviving member of his immediate family beside himself].
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 06:29:22 PM
I thought you had a particular agenda and sought to prove it: that Eric Harris wasn't just a deeply disturbed kid but a psychopath, probably born that way, and that neither the school environment nor his upbringing had much if anything to do with what he did -- that he would have done it anyway, regardless. You mentioned aspects of his environment and his upbringing that might have influenced him or fueled his rage, but you downplayed all of them as secondary aspects, if that. I thought that you blatantly ignored whatever didn't fit your theory, including Eric and Dylan's own words in their journals. What amazed me most was your claim that Eric never mentioned being bullied. This is just a lie, going by his own words in the journals that have been posted online. He might not have used the word "bullied," but his words clearly show that he felt bullied and rejected, and that his anger and pain made him want to retaliate. His claims of superiority are so transparent, so revealing of someone who'd been made to feel inferior all his life and was projecting those feelings *outward*: He wasn't the inferior one; others were. You also seemed to ignore or to be unaware that kids who are bullied, abused, and excluded often turn right around and bully others. You claim that just because he didn't target particular individuals, the bullying theories were wrong. But being bullied or excluded or made to feel different can turn into a global hatred of everyone.
 
I was most aghast at one section of your book in which you essentially suggest, without saying it outright, that Eric really wasn't human because the MRI scans of psychopaths don't look human (as claimed by an "expert"). You then wrote that if Eric's brain had been scanned, it probably wouldn't have been recognizable as human. That was an outrageous, incredibly irresponsible statement. You went on to quote an expert who said that psychopaths are like robots. Then, the kicker: Several paragraphs later, in an attempt to show that Eric was lacking in empathy, you quote him writing in his journal that his intended victims weren't really human, that they were just robots. It was the VERY same thing you had just written about him! You had just dehumanized Eric in the very same way that Eric dehumanized other people in his journal writings. The irony just about killed me.

Hi Cara!  It's been a long time!

I just want to let you know we have a schedule that we are maintaining regarding the book.  Much of what you write about here is in the book much later than where we are now [I believe we will begin discussing the psychopathy aspects of the book in two weeks].  I will be addressing these topics then.  The schedule is here:

http://www.davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=36020.msg1595890#msg1595890

If you would prefer to deal with the book as a whole and discuss the entire thing you can also wait till the last week.  I understand that some people prefer that.  Whatever you decide.

Just wanted to let you know I'll be dealing with these topics when we get to them in a couple of weeks.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 19, 2009, 07:21:16 PM

I'll be away for several days at the Jersey shore, so will not be commenting until I get back.  HOpe to catch up then.



Nikki
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 19, 2009, 07:24:10 PM

I'll be away for several days at the Jersey shore, so will not be commenting until I get back.  HOpe to catch up then.



Nikki

We'll miss you Nikki, but have fun!  Say hi to Bruce Springsteen if you see him.  ;)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CBY on June 19, 2009, 07:50:51 PM
I just came across this readers' review on www.goodreads.com. The writer had many of the same concerns I had.

*********************

After reading this book, pen in hand, my copy was so marked up with scrawls and underlining that there might have been a second book written in the margins. I wish I could say it was praise for the author's insight into the Columbine tragedy, but instead it was sheer incredulity at the number of mistakes, lies, and misperceptions Cullen is trying to pass off as truth. If your only exposure to Columbine was watching it unfold live on tv, and then maybe reading a few magazine articles, you will probably rate this book five stars.

But if you've spent years studying Columbine and other school shootings, if you've read the 12,000+ documents available online (including the witness interviews and the the shooters' journals) you be able to understand how Cullen seems to be deliberately twisting the truth in order to present a neat little explanation that lets nearly everyone off the hook and lets us all feel good about our schools and our society. This entire book is filled with little but speculation, stated as fact, often with nothing whatever to back it up, or to explain why he comes to those conclusions.

Some of the mistakes are minor, such as the tidbit that all the school shooters during the years 1997-1998 were 'white boys'. Most mistakes were a great deal less minor, such as Cullen's repeated assertion that Eric Harris "Got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks", he "had scored with a 23 year old when he was only seventeen" and he "outscored much of the football team". Yet, according to Cullen (and Eric's own journal) Eric died a virgin. Cullen goes on and on about those 'chicks', stamping in his own idea that Eric was hugely popular at Columbine, yet he never manages to explain why, if that was the case, Eric was completely unable to "get any". A better explanation, and one that fits the interviews with those who actually attended Columbine, was that Eric was *not* "ranked just under the football team" in popularity, but was actually near the bottom as far as the pecking order of High School. Another example is where Cullen claims that Eric didn't know that he had been rejected by the Marine recruiter (for being on the drug Luvox). Not only was Eric in the room, when the recruiter said that Luvox "would be a problem" and that Eric "would have to have been off the drug a year before he would join", but Eric also told several of his friends that he had been rejected. Cullen says Eric "had no interest in the Marines", but Eric's journal tells another story: "I would have been a great Marine, it would have given me a chance to be good".

Cullen says "there's no evidence that bullying led to murder". He says that "Neither [Eric or Dylan:] complained about bullies picking on them". This is a completely false assertion. There are many, many eyewitness accounts of them being bullied, there is a video of Dylan being slammed into a locker, and there is this statement, straight from Eric's journal: "Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how *&#*ing weak I am and *&#*, well I will get you all back: ultimate *%&#ing revenge here." During the shooting, they tell everyone wearing white hats to stand up. Cullen gives this quote, but never bothers to explain that it was the jocks who wore white hats at Columbine. He also leaves out the fact that both boys told victims during the shooting that "this was for all the &*#* you put us through".

Cullen wants us to believe that Eric was simply a psychopath, and that Dylan was his unwilling dupe, despite the fact that IF Eric was (and that's a huge if, since there is too many arguments for him not being a psychopath to list here), it doesn't explain WHY he was a psychopath. He certainly didn't show signs of Juvenile Conduct Disorder growing up, as psychopaths nearly invariably do. By all accounts, Eric was a normal kid, in the beginning. He didn't torture animals or show any other warning signs of a sadistic temperament, according to his friends, teachers, and neighbors. And contrary to the movies, psychopaths are nearly always non-violent and not suicidal. Something happened to Eric and Dylan to make them the way they died. To act out in violent revenge, a person doesn't have to be "psychopathic", he only has to be made to feel as if he is completely worthless, and to have all hope taken away from him. Bullying does this. And at this point, a child will either turn the anger and despair in on himself and commit suicide (as the 11 year old boy did recently) or else, like Eric Harris, he will turn it outward. To say, as Cullen does, that Eric's behavior was a mere accident of birth is to deny everything that we could learn from Columbine. It makes us close our eyes to how we can help other children trapped in this downward spiral of bullying and prevent more violence.

If Cullen intended to "bust the myths of Columbine" by ignoring everything that didn't fit his theory, he did an excellent job, and this book deserves a full five stars. I just feel sorry that for many people, this will be the "truth" they come away believing in. The thirteen who died in Littleton deserve a better memorial than this book.(less)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 19, 2009, 08:38:50 PM

I'll be away for several days at the Jersey shore, so will not be commenting until I get back.  HOpe to catch up then.



Nikki

We'll miss you Nikki, but have fun!  Say hi to Bruce Springsteen if you see him.  ;)

LOL Michael, I won't be going to Asbery Park, so I won't see the Boss this time! ;)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CBY on June 19, 2009, 08:43:31 PM
For those who might be interested, the same woman quoted above (Alisa Kester) posted the same review on amazon.com and started an interesting discussion there. She recommends two other books on the topic:


*******************
The best telling of the story (in my opinion) would be Jeff Kass' book "Columbine", also published this year. I'm truly sorry that most of the media attention and publicity has focused on Cullen's book and pretty much ignored Kass' far superior version. Unlike Cullen, Kass has new information to offer, and speaks in facts, not his own personal interpretation of the facts.

For a good look at all the evidence of bullying that Cullen has left out, see Ralph Larkin's "Comprehending Columbine".
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 19, 2009, 11:24:19 PM
Thanks for everyone participating here. It's been great to see, and I've been learning a lot. I'm trying to stay out of the way a bit, so you can discuss choices I made without me looking over your shoulder all the time, but I want to balance that with being here to add to the discussion. So I'm going to try to jump in every week or so, and then disappear again for awhile. (It will be a bit more than a week until the next time, because I'll be travelling.)

So I'll answer some questions now, and feel free to hit me up with more.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 19, 2009, 11:27:42 PM
Dear Dave,

How did you come to the decision not to use any photographs in the book?  Of course I wasn't wanting to see pictures of carnage and the aftermath, but part of me I admit am curious as to what the people in the story look(ed) like.  Was it out of sympathy to the families of the victims, and the victims themselves (including, in a lopsided way, Harris and Klebold)?  Part of me is glad there are no pictures.  I remember how looking at pix of Manson and his "family" and the murdered people in HELTER SKELTER gave me the shudders.   I respect your decision.  Just wondered if you are being asked this question of why no pix by any other interviewers, fans, etc



I have been asked about the pictures several times--not one of the most common questions, but fairly frequently. I didn't really expect that, and it took me awhile to articulate my answer, and I still don't know if I have it, but here goes.

I knew from the start that I didn't want pictures. First, given the infamy of the event, nearly everyone had seen pix of the school, the killers, etc., and began with that. I plunge the reader from there into the world that good films, novels and even songs allow the audience member to create for yourself. 
Films and music influence me a lot. I try to create my scenes visually the way films, songs and novels do. I like books that transport you to another world and allow you to create it in your own mind. So that's what I set out to do.

For readers who want more, the web now also offers easy access to all of that, and I provide quite a bit at my site. I wanted that to be available, but apart from the book itself, which I wanted to be purely a story, in words.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 19, 2009, 11:32:39 PM
This might seem like a silly question - but I was wondering, several times in the first couple chapters, girls are referred to as "chicks" - is this choice of word because it might better put us in the frame of mind of the boys (Dylan and Eric) or is the choice of "chick" just Dave's choice of word?

I used a modified third-person narrator to tell the story. The entire book shared the same narrator, but there were ten major storylines and for each one, I tried to assume the point of view of the lead characters to some extent, and to infuse some of the lingo and diction of those characters into the telling.

This is an example of that: meaning this is how the characters in question viewed them, spoke of them, as chicks.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Jenny on June 20, 2009, 12:16:20 AM
I agree, Cora, that Dave has a point of view about the killers (I wouldn't call it an agenda, because I don't see it that way), and that it is that Eric was a sadistic psychopath and Dylan was a depressed kid with an explosive temper who became Eric's friend and follower. That view seems to be based on ten years of careful examination of enormous amounts of evidence, repeated interviews with several of the investigators, (including Mr. Fuselier and others who did a psychological autopsy and came to these conclusions about the killers), friends and parents of friends of Eric's and Dylan's, witnesses, family members of victims (including Mr. Rohrbough) and many students.

I have not read all of the source material from the investigation or the Eric's journals (though I have read some.) I have read the review Ms. Kester posted, the reviews Brian Rohrbough has posted (he is the father of Danny Rohrbough, one of the students killed at Columbine), and some of Mr. Kass's book. I've also worked with bullied and abused kids. Here are some thoughts.

1) There was certainly bullying at Columbine, as Dave acknowledges. People who dress differently or stick out in some way are often targets of bullying in high school, and jocks often bully smaller and weaker boys (though not all jocks, of course.) There had been troubling incidents of bullying in the previous year, and Mr. D was not aware of the scope of the problem. One of the things that came out of the Columbine massacre was much more attention to the problem of bullying and programs to address it in high schools across the U.S. There is also much more security and plans to deal with shooters in schools, including locking down and sending police and medical services in immediately.

2) The Klebolds, did give an interview in response to the summary of FBI analyses that was published on the fifth anniversary of the massacre, to David Brooks of the New York Times. They were convinced that jocks and bullies were behind the rampage.

3) Mr. Rohrbough, father of Danny Rohrbough, blames the school system and the authorities for not preventing the crime or being timely, truthful and responsible in communicating to parents and taking their share of the blame. He sees the analyses of the FBI experts as worthless, even part of a cover-up. He believes that Columbine High School ignored festering problems, and that the Jeffco Sheriff's office deliberately ignored evidence that Eric and Dylan were dangerous delinquents, evidence they had available long before April 19th, 1999. He is convinced that the massacre was preventable and that the fact that it and other school shootings  happened indicates that the U.S. is in a state of moral decay, brought on by the legalization of abortion and the acceptance of suicide, "a culture of death." He also rejects Mr. Kass's book, because Mr. Kass got many things wrong and didn't correct them when Mr. Rohrbough pointed them out to him.

4) Mr. Kass is a fine journalist, and had also covered Columbine and pored over the evidence for 10 years. He takes a sociological view: school shootings occur primarily in the South and West, where people are taught to avenge their honor with a gun. You're taught to take charge of solving your own problems. School shooters are at the bottom rung of the social ladder, and they feel like losers. They are not accepted, and they become angrier and angrier, until their anger erupts into violent revenge. He also feels that violence in films, video games and television play a role. He advocates specifically training students to reject using guns to solve problems and training them to accept and even celebrate diversity. He also suggests that school nurses and teachers should get training to spot problems. He seems much more interested in Dylan Klebold, who he feels fits the "profile" of the school shooter, than Eric Harris. He covers the parents, particularly Susan Klebold, looking for links from their pasts to how their sons developed into school shooters. His book spotlights him as an activist, investigative journalist who was responsible for finding and reporting much information that has not previously been covered.

Bullying is cruel and can completely destroy self-confidence and self-respect. It can exacerbate depression and fuel rage at the bullies in their targets. I think that anything that targets high school bullying and helps stop it is a good idea. But bullying alone doesn't cause high school boys to build bombs and turn guns on their classmates, though it may well cause them to think about it. Violence in various media doesn't, either. Abusive parents (or others) provoke depression and, often, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. When violence occurs, it's usually turned towards weaker victims or family members or a particular target, like a teacher or principal or social worker/psychologist who didn't intervene or sanctioned the student in some way that brought further abuse from the parents.

I think that we can cut down on the incidence of school shootings and reduce the number of victims by intervening to increase security, stop bullying and help bullies and their victims. It's very important to train kids to report threats and worrisome things they've seen or heard to someone who can evaluate the information and take action to investigate the situation. But it's not clear to me from the evidence that bullying or rejection were specific triggers for the Columbine shooters, or that their parents were abusive or neglectful. I don't think that most shooters make detailed plans over a year before acting to kill large numbers of people, many of whom they didn't know and go to the lengths Eric Harris did to rehearse the crime and reconnoiter so that he would know when the cafeteria would be most crowded and where to place his bombs for maximum effect. That is truly unusual.

   
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 20, 2009, 12:31:25 AM
Michael: thanks for moderating so well, and keeping us to the ground rules. (For those of you new to the book club threads, this is a recurring issue from time to time.) We chose, a few years back, to discuss each book in sections, to give people time to read one chunk at a time, and also to discuss ideas in manageable chunks. It's not a perfect solution, but works pretty well. Many people here have only read Part 1, so it's not fair to plunge ahead in the discussion and leave them out.

So we can discuss the arguments CBY brought up at the appropriate time, and perhaps she and I will discuss more in private.

I do want to address a few general points she brought up here, as they relate to the entire book:

1) my process
2) how I employed quotes from the killers


1)

I thought you had a particular agenda and sought to prove it: that Eric Harris wasn't just a deeply disturbed kid but a psychopath, probably born that way, and that neither the school environment nor his upbringing had much if anything to do with what he did -- that he would have done it anyway, regardless. . . . Someone supplied you a framework that seemed to provide a nice, neat, easy answer -- a tidy little box to work in -- and you stayed within that box and omitted anything that didn't fit.

I began the research with no agenda, except to understand what happened, and why. For most of the first year, I have innumerable explanations, none of which explained it at all. And indeed, there was widespread consensus among most people covering the story and close to the events that none of those theories explained it well.

Eventually, I got to the psychologists and psychiatrists brought in by the FBI, and for the first time, I began hearing analysis that made sense. I did not buy into that over night, but discussed it with many of them over a period of months, which turned into years. Over that time, I did a tremendous amount of reading and research, talked to leaders in the field, asked countless questions and debated with them strenously on points that didn't seem to fit or make sense.

I did, in the end, come to conclusions. I think that's my job. I don't think it's fair to say that reaching conclusions equates to having an agenda. I certainly had no bias for or against concepts like psychopathy going into it, had nothing to gain from reaching one conclusion or another.

When we get to the section on psychopathy, I look forward to a vigorous debate about whether or not my conclusions were/are sound. But that was certainly not my process, to start with an agenda and adhere to it. And I definitely did not omit anything that didn't adhere to the analysis. I tried to present a vivid and multi-faceted picture of each killer.
 
2)

I thought that you blatantly ignored whatever didn't fit your theory, including Eric and Dylan's own words in their journals. What amazed me most was your claim that Eric never mentioned being bullied. This is just a lie, going by his own words in the journals that have been posted online.

Jeffco released nearly a thousand pages written mostly by Eric and Dylan, and my entire book was 358 pages (before backmatter), and it covered a lot more ground than just those two, much less their writings. (And of course there were also videos, police reports, counselors' notes, etc.) I also chose to approach this as a story, a narrative, which would keep the reader engaged. I had to be highly selective about what I quoted, and how much.

I spent years with the journals and other material and made all sorts of charts and spreadsheets about the different topics they covered, and especially the predominant themes. One of the first things you realize when you look it their writing is that they are kids, and their moods change and often contradict (particularly Dylan). And because Eric complains about just about every type of person known to mankind, it's easy to cherry-pick quotes to fit just about any idea. (Eg, he complained about jocks occasionally, as well as niggers, spics and fags, and slow drivers in the fast lane. But there is no sustained focus on any of them, and no indication that any of those in particular were of primary concern to Eric.)


But they come back to their main ideas over and over and over again. Some of Dylan's recurring themes were: his life being miserable, seeking some greater sense of destiny, the everlasting contrast between good and evil, etc. Eric's biggest themes were hating everyone imaginable, wanting to hurt/kill/destroy, everyone, the entire species, the planet, etc. That's not close to an exhaustive list--and I'm actually doing it off the top of my head, just to give you a sense.

I made it a point to focus on these primary themes, and also to focus on other revealing/interesting passages: eg, it was stunning to see how Eric would address the very same topic both publicly and privately at the same time. I think that is incredibly revealing, so I used several examples. And I also used passages to show the evolution of their thinking, the sequencing of how the plan progresses, etc. And I looked for what might be called teachable moments: places where the writings illustrated the larger psychological conditions of the two boys: pyschopathy and depression. (This may be where the concern is coming from.) This was one of many ways I used the journal passages, and I think it's highly appropriate. The fact is that I did study the case for years, I did consult with experts and reached conclusions. Once I had those, I had to find a way of conveying those to a lay reader, who was probably unfamiliar with the actual meaning of psychopathy. (It was obviously much less of an issue with depression, where most people begin with much more understanding.) I couldn't just tell the reader that I concluded that psychopathy was important, and direct them to some books on that--I needed to work that into the narrative, and illustrate it with Eric's writing and behavior.

Of course, for people who feel that psychopathy is misapplied to Eric--or overapplied--you're going to have a problem with my book, and we can discuss that in the psychopathy section. But I want to be clear on how I chose the passages. Yes, illustrating the conclusions with journal passages was one of my objectives there. One of many. From time to time, I included passages which contradict--or seem to contradict psychopathy and depression and addressed those contradictions--but both killers were such stunning fits for those conditions, that contradictions were the exception, rather than the rule. I tried to keep the balance, and not focus on exceptions.

I'm not sure when the best time to address bullying is--Michael can direct us on that--but again, I am happy to have a vigorous debate at that time, and to discover what you consider examples of the boys writing about being bullied, and seeing how those fit into the wider context of what they wrote.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 01:48:53 AM
I'm not sure when the best time to address bullying is--Michael can direct us on that--but again, I am happy to have a vigorous debate at that time, and to discover what you consider examples of the boys writing about being bullied, and seeing how those fit into the wider context of what they wrote.

The best time to address bullying would be next week as this this is first covered in the chapter 'Media Crime', which is in the next section.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 20, 2009, 02:14:01 AM
If you read Eric's and Dylan's journal entries posted online, as well as statements by other students, you will see that they were indeed bullied. They in turn bullied others.

CBY, you mention a couple times of source writing in the journals that suggest a conclusion other than those that Dave makes in the books.  The journals are indeed online, in fact they are also on Dave's website.

http://www.davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide/journals-eric-harris-dylan-klebold.htm

Can you clarify with sections of the journals to which you refer?  I freely admit, I have not read them in their entirety -- the handwriting is frequently difficult to decipher so I haven't taken that effort.

I would greatly appreciate that as well, though again, when we get to that section of the book. (Luckily, that's just a few days away. But please let's all respect the people who are still reading that section.)

And Monica, I hear you on the handwriting. God, they drove me crazy, just trying to read what they said. After while, I got pretty fluent in Dylanscript and Ericscript, but it came slowly.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on June 20, 2009, 02:30:55 AM
This is probably a good time to direct any interested readers to much of the source material. I tried to gather a great deal of it here, with the help of some wonderful volunteers around here. It's not complete by any means, but there's a great deal there:

http://davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide.htm

I tried to break it into logical sections, since there is so much. You can read Eric and Dylan's journals in their entirely here (the two are at the top of the page):
 
http://davecullen.com/columbine/columbine-guide/journals-eric-harris-dylan-klebold.htm

I encourage everyone to do read for yourself if you find yourself conflicted about who/what to believe.

And please keep one major caution in mind when you do, which I hopefully make clear in the book: These are teen age boys, and sometimes they feel angry on a Monday, happy on a Tuesday, and lethargic on a Wednesday. Dylan can shift moods 180 degrees in a paragraph. And you will find Eric insult/attack just about anyone you can imagine.

So be careful not to put undue weight on any one sentence or passage. Look for patterns and recurring themes.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 11:38:40 AM

Quote
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

I am not sure about the second point in this question. If the question is would Eric and Dylan still have done what they did, if Mr. D had not been principal, then I think the answer is yes. It would not have mattered who was principal, they would have done the same thing.

The fact that Mr. D was around was a positive factor for all the students. Plus, Mr. D was the one behind putting the video cameras in the cafeteria, so that allowed many questions to be answered by them being there.

Linda, I didn't address the second part of this question, either, in my previous answer.  Partly, I wasn't sure exactly sure what the question meant, and then I overlooked it.  But I agree with you that Eric and Dylan would have done the same thing even if Mr. D hadn't been principal.  If anyone could have been the "loving principal" who would have gotten enough respect from them to cause them not to take this action, it would have been Mr. D -- but they didn't care what he thought.  There have been suggestions elsewhere that perhaps he was too trusting of his students and ignored warning signs (this may tie in with the bullying theory), but I find it hard to see how he could have prevented what happened.

I do agree that Mr. D's presence was comforting for the surviving students afterwards.  And what you say about the video cameras is very interesting.  He put those in because he was worried about people leaving trash in the cafeteria.  That sounds so innocent, he must have been truly shocked to find out what sort of video those cameras would eventually capture -- something he would never have predicted.  But, just by coincidence or fluke, those cameras did capture some helpful information about the crime.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 11:42:03 AM
I really like the short chapters and the short, pointed, direct sentences/statements when describing the ambush. That style really worked - very powerful for this reader.

Yes, I really liked the writing style, too, Dawn.  Especially the short chapters.  That was probably one of the reasons I didn't put the book down, except when it was time to eat or sleep or some other distraction in my personal life.  I could always make it to the end of the present chapter.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 11:46:24 AM
One thing that kept coming to my mind while reading though, was how much "bigger" Columbine was than Dunblane (three years earlier) - it's the name everybody associates with a school shooting (although I know it wasn't intended to be a school shooting).     When I went to look for pictures of the school and the people in the book, there were lots of websites, including personal ones for the victims.      I didn't come across anything near that for Dunblane, on a quick search.   And yet there more children killed at Dunblane than Columbine.

Columbine maybe just captured the public imagination in a way that Dunblane didn't, and I'm not sure why.   Was it because the shooters were pupils themselves?   Because the pupils were teenagers rather than little children?  Because it was in the US?   Was it just because Columbine came right at the start of internet age, when internet access was becoming commonplace, whereas Dunblane was a couple of years earlier?

Hi, Desecra.  Dunblane is one I'm not familiar with.  I would be interested if you could tell us a few more details about it, including your impressions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 11:53:01 AM
Dylan could have been identified and treated, because there are many effective treatments for depression, but Eric?
There is no treatment for Psycopathy.
People like him could be anywhere. Smiling, pleasant, normal seeming, and yet ready to commit murder at a moments notice. It is vey chilling.

Jess, you just reminded me of a place where I did have to put the book down.  It's not in this section so I won't go there, but it had to do with the notion of Eric being a psycopath.  "Smiling, pleasant, normal seeming, and yet ready to commit murder at a moment's notice," as you say.  That is indeed chilling.

Those characteristics reminded me of someone I knew many years ago (an adult) and I don't know whether he ever could have or would have or did commit a murder, but he could be so smiling on the one hand and then enjoy making threats on the other hand.  A cruel teaser and a manipulator.  Reading certain passages about Eric's personality brought up a lot of memories I'd "forgotten," and I had to put the book down then.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 11:53:25 AM
I just came across this readers' review on www.goodreads.com.

A note about reviews - they tend to summarize the book and deal with it as a whole by their nature.  As such I ask that everyone wait until the last week of the discussion when we are summing up to post them so that we can stay on schedule with the book.  We can deal with all of the reviews available at that time.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 12:04:32 PM
It did make me think of how much privacy "children" should be allowed.   If his parents had known more, maybe they could have done something.   But Dylan was an adult, with a job and a car, and at that age you wouldn't expect the parents to know too much about what's going on.

Regarding the Klebolds' reaction, they may have been clued in to a potential problem by some of Dylan's previous behavior.  Just wanted to say now that as for privacy, I think it varies from home to home.  Dylan was 18 and technically an "adult" (although in some ways, with drinking hard liquor for example, adult status comes at age 21).  But he was still in high school and living at home.  I can think of examples of parents saying, "As long as you're living in my house, I want to know where you're going and who you're going with."   
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 12:07:31 PM
Regarding the Klebolds' reaction, they may have been clued in to a potential problem by some of Dylan's previous behavior.  Just wanted to say now that as for privacy, I think it varies from home to home.  Dylan was 18 and technically an "adult" (although in some ways, with drinking hard liquor for example, adult status comes at age 21).  But he was still in high school and living at home.  I can think of examples of parents saying, "As long as you're living in my house, I want to know where you're going and who you're going with."   

Yes Debbie, and their reaction is particularly strange considering that Dylan had a sibling whom they had already laid down the law on (Dylan's brother, who was kicked out of the house for using drugs).

I have to wonder that they may have felt Dylan was a special or more fragile case since he had been in 'special' classes for the gifted when he was growing up.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 12:24:56 PM
Columbine maybe just captured the public imagination in a way that Dunblane didn't, and I'm not sure why.   Was it because the shooters were pupils themselves?   Because the pupils were teenagers rather than little children?  Because it was in the US?   Was it just because Columbine came right at the start of internet age, when internet access was becoming commonplace, whereas Dunblane was a couple of years earlier?

Hi, Desecra.  Dunblane is one I'm not familiar with.  I would be interested if you could tell us a few more details about it, including your impressions.

Debbie - here is the wiki on Dunblane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_massacre

Des, I was actually aware of Dunblane as well - but I tend not to think of it in the same light as Columbine for the same reason I don't think of the shooting of the Amish children in Nickle Mines in the same category - it was an adult shooter from outside of the school who comes into the school.  In that way it reminded me more of cases like the shooting in the Capitol in 1998 when Russell Watson entered the building and shot and killed two officers.

I tend to think that three things separate Columbine from these other shootings - students were killing students, there were two shooters and the shooters were right on the cusp of becoming adults legally.

Certainly Dunblane was horrifying - in much the same way that the Amish shooting was - and it certainly caused a huge outpouring of grief at the time of the event.  I remember it well.  But you may, unfortunately, be right about it not capturing the imagination of the public in the way that Columbine did because it was in Scotland (and in a small village too - not near a large city like Columbine).

There may also be a mediating influence of history too - Dunblane had existed as a town since around the 11th century.  It has a much longer history to draw on and so the actions of a lone gunman could appear to be the actions of a lone crazy person when compared with all of the history there.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 12:29:54 PM
5.)  We begin the book in the assembly on the weekend before the attack.  What strikes you about Frank DeAngelis' (Mr. D) relationship with the kids at Columbine?  Do you believe that there would have been a different outcome if he hadn't been principal?

I am not sure about the second point in this question. If the question is would Eric and Dylan still have done what they did, if Mr. D had not been principal, then I think the answer is yes. It would not have mattered who was principal, they would have done the same thing.

The fact that Mr. D was around was a positive factor for all the students. Plus, Mr. D was the one behind putting the video cameras in the cafeteria, so that allowed many questions to be answered by them being there.

Linda, I didn't address the second part of this question, either, in my previous answer.  Partly, I wasn't sure exactly sure what the question meant, and then I overlooked it.  But I agree with you that Eric and Dylan would done the same thing even if Mr. D hadn't been principal.  If anyone could have been the "loving principal" who would have gotten enough respect from them to cause them not to take this action, it would have been Mr. D -- but they didn't care what he thought.  There have been suggestions elsewhere that perhaps he was too trusting of his students and ignored warning signs (this may tie in with the bullying theory), but I find it hard to see how he could have prevented what happened.

I do agree that Mr. D's presence was comforting for the surviving students afterwards.  And what you say about the video cameras is very interesting.  He put those in because he was worried about people leaving trash in the cafeteria.  That sounds so innocent, he must have been truly shocked to find out what sort of video those cameras would eventually capture -- something he would never have predicted.  But, just by coincidence or fluke, those cameras did capture some helpful information about the crime.

Sorry about the confusion on the question Linda and Debbie, but you're exactly spot on regarding what I was asking about.  I was wondering if you believed that any sort of administrator could have made any difference in preventing the shooting (and, for the record, I don't think so) and I was also wondering if you believed Mr. D was the type of man who facilitated healing after the attack.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 01:11:13 PM
Note:  I just finished catching up with the posts from earlier in the week, and then I reread my answers to questions 1-13.  I apologize for the typos (which have since been fixed) and hope you were able to understand what I meant despite a few missing words, etc.   :">  It was the middle of the night after a long plane ride when I typed those.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 01:27:36 PM
Quote
24.)  Sue Klebold said that she felt as if they had been hit by a hurricane - and a lawyer told her that people were going to hate her.  How do you feel towards her at this point in the book?  Do you empathize with her - or do you have conflicted feelings?

I did sympathise with Sue Klebold, with both of the attackers parent's really. When our children are small we can control what they do, when they are teenagers we can't, no matter how hard we try, and that is as it should be. They have to grow up and gain independence by learning from their own mistakes.
I found this the hardest part of being a parent. Letting go is not easy.

Both sets of parents had done their best for their children as they saw it, and neither couple could have forseen the dreadful attack that their sons went on to commit. In the same way that we are not responsible for our parents behaviour, we are not ultimately responsible for our children's behaviour once they reach a certain age, if we have given them as good an upbringing as we could.
If the two boys had been abused or neglected, or if the parents had been alcoholic or drug addicted, it would have been easier to blame them.
In some respects they were their children's victims themselves. Both couples lost their sons that dreadful day, so they were bereaved, but were not able even to comfort themselves with happy thoughts about their children, because what they did, the death and mayhem they caused, would be so overwhelmingly unpleasant.
Then of course, there will be until the end of their lives, even if it is not true, the perpetual thought, "Where did we go wrong?" "What should we have done differently?"
It must be a horrendous burden to bear, without most of the outside world hating you too.

Several people have answered this question similarly, so I just want to add that I'm in agreement here, and my feelings are too strong to just skip the question.  I don't have as much sympathy for the Harrises as for the Klebolds, for some reason, maybe because so much of the planning and preparation took place in their basement, where the Harrises might have been able to intercept what was going on.  But I think the Klebolds were caught completely unaware that their son could be involved in anything so evil.  So my feelings are conflicted for the Harrises, but almost 100% sympathetic for the Klebolds.

I feel sorry for the burden the parents will carry, as Jess says, and at the fact that they can never properly grieve for the loss of their sons.  The world will blame them for the deaths of the other victims, but be slow to recognize (if it ever does) that they are also bereaved.  And with regard to the Klebolds in particular, I don't see that their actions were responsible for Dylan's depression.  They seem to have loved and cared for him, but just not understood what was going on inside him.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 01:56:02 PM
I just came across this readers' review on www.goodreads.com. The writer had many of the same concerns I had.

*********************

{snip} Something happened to Eric and Dylan to make them the way they died. To act out in violent revenge, a person doesn't have to be "psychopathic", he only has to be made to feel as if he is completely worthless, and to have all hope taken away from him. Bullying does this. And at this point, a child will either turn the anger and despair in on himself and commit suicide (as the 11 year old boy did recently) or else, like Eric Harris, he will turn it outward. To say, as Cullen does, that Eric's behavior was a mere accident of birth is to deny everything that we could learn from Columbine. It makes us close our eyes to how we can help other children trapped in this downward spiral of bullying and prevent more violence.

If Cullen intended to "bust the myths of Columbine" by ignoring everything that didn't fit his theory, he did an excellent job, and this book deserves a full five stars. I just feel sorry that for many people, this will be the "truth" they come away believing in. The thirteen who died in Littleton deserve a better memorial than this book.(less)

I don't want to jump ahead here because I understand Michael's concern that much of this discussion should probably want until later in the book.

But I would like to give my personal observation on one thing.  The media reports initially me to believe, also, that bullying had caused Eric and Dylan to retaliate and seek revenge against specific individuals and groups.  What I learned from Part 1 of the book that was truly a shocker was that BOMBS were planted with the intention of blowing up the entire school.  This new information completely changed the scope of the crime, for me.  It wasn't a school shooting, it was supposed to be a huge bombing.  In a bombing, the victims wouldn't be targeted as specific individuals or groups, the victims would include vast numbers of people, everyone who happened to be in the way.  Probably lots of people who were Eric's and Dylan's friends would be killed.

I have to keep that in mind, above all else, in considering their true intentions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on June 20, 2009, 02:58:05 PM
Unfortunately, due to my illness last week I haven't been able to read as much of the book as I had hoped to. But it was heartrending to read the principal's speech to his students, people whom he clearly loved a great deal, with the foreknowledge of what would happen. Death did indeed visit the campus, but in a much more horrible way than he was thinking when he spoke to them.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 03:03:24 PM
Unfortunately, due to my illness last week I haven't been able to read as much of the book as I had hoped to. But it was heartrending to read the principal's speech to his students, people whom he clearly loved a great deal, with the foreknowledge of what would happen. Death did indeed visit the campus, but in a much more horrible way than he was thinking when he spoke to them.

Indeed Fritz - I hadn't thought about it, but that speech was some amazing foreshadowing.  Thanks for your input and hope you get well soon!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on June 20, 2009, 03:22:57 PM
Also, I haven't gotten far enough to note whether it's mentioned or not, but one of the reasons for April 20th and thereabouts as being the time for Waco and Oklahoma City is that the day was Hitler's birthday, and many of the crazies want to do something to "honor" him that day.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on June 20, 2009, 03:29:24 PM
And some mention was made of the T-shirt that McVeigh wore with "Sic semper tyrannis" on it; this is of course the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, originally attributed to Brutus after Caesar's assassination, but the phrase was not quoted as such in antiquity. Tyranny can well be in the mind of the beholder, too, as John Wilkes Booth used the phrase. To some people, an opinion not in agreement with one's own can be seen as tyrannical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic_semper_tyrannis

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 03:53:37 PM
Also, I haven't gotten far enough to note whether it's mentioned or not, but one of the reasons for April 20th and thereabouts as being the time for Waco and Oklahoma City is that the day was Hitler's birthday, and many of the crazies want to do something to "honor" him that day.

That's very interesting, Fritz, and I really hadn't thought of the connection.  On pg. 18 in 'Female Down' there is this:

'Eric was into all this German shit lately: Nietzsche, Freud, Hitler, German industrial bands like KMFDM and Rammstein, German-language T-shirts.  Sometimes he'd punctuate his high fives with "Sieg Heil" or "Heil Hitler."'

I would not have made this connection - I thought that Eric Harris' motivation for choosing the date was because he wanted to outdo Timothy McVeigh - whose motivations were clearly political.

It's food for thought.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on June 20, 2009, 03:58:29 PM
Yes, I remember reading that. I expect that the more recent events surrounding that day were more in reaction to McVeigh, who got the date from Waco. But the provenance is definitely there, whether conscious or not.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 03:58:31 PM
And some mention was made of the T-shirt that McVeigh wore with "Sic semper tyrannis" on it; this is of course the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, originally attributed to Brutus after Caesar's assassination, but the phrase was not quoted as such in antiquity. Tyranny can well be in the mind of the beholder, too, as John Wilkes Booth used the phrase. To some people, an opinion not in agreement with one's own can be seen as tyrannical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic_semper_tyrannis

Yes, that was me who mentioned it, Fritz.  What I was speaking to was a sort of 'genealogy of evil' how bad deeds in the past seem to motivate people to behave badly in the present.  I don't think that Eric Harris was thinking about either John Wilkes Booth or particularly in tyranny - I honestly think that he was motivated by competition for the body count and that's why he used bombs.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on June 20, 2009, 04:01:36 PM
Yes, I'm sure you're right. And that's what's most chilling about the entire subject.

Genealogy of evil. Provenance of evil. And of course, in Hannah Arendt's phrase, banality of evil. The whole thing gives me the willies.

What we do, for good or ill, can have an effect beyond our imagination.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 04:12:15 PM
Yes, I remember reading that. I expect that the more recent events surrounding that day were more in reaction to McVeigh, who got the date from Waco. But the provenance is definitely there, whether conscious or not.

Indeed Fritz.  I do believe there there is a sort of viral nature to this sort of evil - that people are motivated and/or inspired by negative actions from the past.  It's very chilling.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 20, 2009, 04:14:08 PM
Yes, I'm sure you're right. And that's what's most chilling about the entire subject.

Genealogy of evil. Provenance of evil. And of course, in Hannah Arendt's phrase, banality of evil. The whole thing gives me the willies.

What we do, for good or ill, can have an effect beyond our imagination.

Very well put Fritz.  I hadn't thought of Hannah Arendt's mentioning of the banality of evil, but it certainly applies here - in the midst of the acne medication and smelly gym clothes we have the creeping specter of murder.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on June 20, 2009, 05:13:47 PM
Yes, I'm sure you're right. And that's what's most chilling about the entire subject.

Genealogy of evil. Provenance of evil. And of course, in Hannah Arendt's phrase, banality of evil. The whole thing gives me the willies.

What we do, for good or ill, can have an effect beyond our imagination.




I remember being hugely disturbed by Columbine -- Fritz your observation is astute --

or, to put it another way, (having endured 9-11 since then)

In the words of Mose Allison:

"...someone's always playing with dynamite

that's why I never worry 'bout a thing

cause I know nothin's gonna turn out right."


ETA, of course as a parent, I worry a lot.  :-\


Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 06:22:44 PM
Debbie - here is the wiki on Dunblane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_massacre

Des, I was actually aware of Dunblane as well - but I tend not to think of it in the same light as Columbine for the same reason I don't think of the shooting of the Amish children in Nickle Mines in the same category - it was an adult shooter from outside of the school who comes into the school.  In that way it reminded me more of cases like the shooting in the Capitol in 1998 when Russell Watson entered the building and shot and killed two officers.

I tend to think that three things separate Columbine from these other shootings - students were killing students, there were two shooters and the shooters were right on the cusp of becoming adults legally.

Thanks, Michael.  And thanks, Des, for bringing this to our attention, even though it does sound much different with an older man as the shooter.  Still horrifying to think of the little children killed.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 07:20:02 PM
14.)  We begin reading of the parents responses in '1 Bleeding to Death.'  Were you able to put yourself in their place?  Are there any particular responses that stood out to you?

Although I’m not a parent, it was easy for me to identify with the fear and panic of the parents once they realized their children might be in danger.  I thought it was a good technique to choose one couple – Misty and Brad Bernall – to introduce us to the parents’ point of view.  Misty went through the agony of getting a worrisome phone call, calling home to check, being turned away at the high school, and finally having to choose between two gathering locations where her children might be, if they had survived.

Even the unidentified parents’ reactions were easy to identify with, particularly the hugging and relief of those who got the word that their kids were safe.  One thing that did stand out to me was that some parents who were at home that day opened their doors to tens or hundreds of students.  I wouldn’t expect that to be the usual reaction of people living in “nice houses” – letting hordes of strangers inside.  But this was such an emergency that any possible property damage that might result seemed unimportant.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 07:50:41 PM
15.)  What was your opinion of Sheriff John Stone at the beginning of the book?  Did your opinion change as you read on?

Before beginning to read the book, I had only heard that there was a lot of controversy concerning Sheriff Stone’s actions during the crisis.  In ‘1 Bleeding to Death’ he is first introduced to us as a politician at heart, and doesn’t come across as a professional enough law enforcement officer to be in charge.  I can picture him, looking “the part of an Old West sheriff” with his potbelly and mustache, but it  was disheartening to learn that he’d been a county supervisor for twelve years until the last few months.

My first impression was only confirmed as I read on in Part 1.  He didn’t handle the news conference well, when he took the microphone from his spokesman and gave answers without knowing the real facts of the case.  He helped to create a lot of media confusion right off the bat, IMO.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 20, 2009, 08:42:55 PM
16.)  We read of the reactions of Robyn Anderson and Nate Dykeman after the attack started.  What did you think of their reactions?  Should they have given the police information?  Or were they just as scared and shocked as everyone else?

Robyn Anderson appeared shocked that anyone would attack the school, but I can understand her suspicions of Eric and Dylan when she saw that their cars were missing, because she would have remembered helping them buy guns.  When she was briefed by the police at Clement Park, I can understand her fear of admitting any knowledge of the shooters or the guns because she was hoping to avoid incriminating herself, and I can also understand the guilt that plagued her later when she confided part of her story to a friend.  In the end, it would have been better for her to have come clean right away, but it’s easy to see why she didn’t.

Nate did have some knowledge of Eric’s suspicious behavior that morning (and I think we learn more about his background knowledge of Eric’s activities in Part 2), but as far as I can tell, Nate didn’t have the 
guilty knowledge that he himself had had any connection to the shootings.  So he seems more genuinely concerned for Dylan rather than Robyn seemed.  He was doing the right thing when he called Tom Klebold, Dylan’s father, even though I know Nate was hoping to hear something different from Tom – that Dylan was home sick, for instance. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 20, 2009, 09:33:01 PM
Michael, I apologize, as this is probably out of order. But someone asked for a list of misprints, so the text could be corrected in subsequent printings/editions. I noted just one-and-a-half.

Page 39, line 16 (from top): "Dave was all laughs that might with Linda" s/b "Dave was all laughs that night with Linda."

Page 28, lines 1-2. In the italicized German phrase kein mitleid 'no mercy', the /m/ in mitleid (and all other nouns) should be capitalized according to German spelling conventions, e.g., kein Mitleid. It's pretty clear that Dylan didn't observe this spelling nicety in his notebooks.

Back to topic.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on June 20, 2009, 09:38:13 PM
Michael, I apologize, as this is probably out of order. But someone asked for a list of misprints, so the text could be corrected in subsequent printings/editions. I noted just one-and-a-half.

Page 39, line 16 (from top): "Dave was all laughs that might with Linda" s/b "Dave was all laughs that night with Linda."

Page 28, lines 1-2. In the italicized German phrase kein mitleid 'no mercy', the /m/ in mitleid (and all other nouns) should be capitalized according to German spelling conventions, e.g., kein Mitleid. It's pretty clear that Dylan didn't observe this spelling nicety in his notebooks.

Back to topic.

Sandy, it is KittyHawk who wants to know about the misprints-- probably best to PM her!

thx
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 20, 2009, 09:43:15 PM
Sandy and Ellen, thanks very much for remembering that I'm collecting a list of typos.

I was aware of the might/night error, but the capitalization is a new one for the list. Many thanks!

When other errors are found, either listing them here or sending me a PM is fine. I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em.

Thanks,

- Lydia
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 20, 2009, 09:51:22 PM
~snip~
20.)  What is your opinion of the news media's questions such as 'were they outcasts' - and they use of the word 'they' to indicate some sort of groupthink?  Why do you think that the notion of the 'Trenchcoat Mafia' was seized on so readily?  Why do you think these early notions were not corrected as it became clear they were wrong?  Do you think that mistakes of this sort lead to the 'school shooter profile'?  To what degree does looking for easy explanations for complex problems come into play to explain these sorts of notions?
~snip~

This application of boilerplate--they were outcasts, loners, members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, etc.--is probably very hard to avoid when reporters are covering rapidly breaking news, particularly when there are competing reporters for different newspapers, television stations. In addition to getting the facts of the story, readers/viewers expect some interpretation, some explanation, and a news source that doesn't offer that Johnny on the spot is likely to lose readers and viewers to another than offers some interpretation, no matter how premature. There is an economic pressure to scoop, own and package the story.

This is somewhat different from the persistance of the story that the one girl died as a martyr to her faith, one which appears to have solidified so strongly in her parents' and congregation's hearts that it resists alternative descriptions or explanations of her sensless death. I'll wait to weigh in on that when it comes up in discussion.

A good deal of the work that Dave has undertaken is to rectify that rush to explanation. While that work is an exemplary piece of journalism, it also merges into historical writing, trying to discover what can be discovered about the why and wherefore and placing in its human and historical context.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 21, 2009, 01:35:10 AM
Debbie - here is the wiki on Dunblane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_massacre

Des, I was actually aware of Dunblane as well - but I tend not to think of it in the same light as Columbine for the same reason I don't think of the shooting of the Amish children in Nickle Mines in the same category - it was an adult shooter from outside of the school who comes into the school.  In that way it reminded me more of cases like the shooting in the Capitol in 1998 when Russell Watson entered the building and shot and killed two officers.

I tend to think that three things separate Columbine from these other shootings - students were killing students, there were two shooters and the shooters were right on the cusp of becoming adults legally.

Thanks, Michael.  And thanks, Des, for bringing this to our attention, even though it does sound much different with an older man as the shooter.  Still horrifying to think of the little children killed.

Thanks for explaining, Michael.  Yes, the circumstances were quite different, and I don't know if anybody really knows why Hamilton did it, although it looks as if he was planning it.   It led to changes in the gun laws in the UK.     What really surprised me was that doing a search for it brings up so little compared to the vast amount about Columbine.    I was just wondering why that is. 

One of the things that touches me (and many others, I'm sure) about both Columbine and Dunblane is that they remind me that parents can't protect our children - for all our best efforts, we can't keep them safe.    In that way, the two events are similar.   Columbine also makes me think, as a parent, of fighting whatever drove Harris and Klebold (i.e. making sure my child doesn't grow up like that).    I don't feel that way about Dunblane, presumably because Thomas Hamilton was older.     But thinking about it - if parenting has an influence at 17/18, it may still have an influence later in life - I should be just as worried about my child growing up like Hamilton.   
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 08:03:09 AM
17.)  What did you think of the reaction of the Klebolds?  Were you surprised that Tom suspected his son right away?  Does it seem particularly odd that he reacted this way, given the response of the Harrises?

Tom Klebold appeared to base his suspicion of Dylan on the fact that Nate Dykeman suggested Dylan’s possible involvement to him, and then when Tom found Dylan’s trenchcoat missing, he could do nothing to refute the possibility.  At that point, awful and unbelievable as it might have seemed to Tom, it was a possibility he knew he had to deal with.  I think it was a reflection of his moral code and his personality that he chose to deal with it by being more cooperative than the Harrises.  His first instinct was to help the police defuse the situation if possible (by calling 911); and then to protect his son and get assistance for himself (by calling a lawyer).  The Harrises, by comparison, just struck me as putting themselves and their own reputation first.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 08:25:32 AM
18.)  In 'First Assumption' we get to meet Dwayne Fuselier.  What do you think of his response to the attack as opposed to the other law enforcement officers?  Were you impressed by his competence right off?  Do you think that (because we have been introduced to others such as Sheriff Stone) we are more inclined to view him favorably in contrast?

I really took a liking to Dwayne Fuselier, because of his professional manner and competence.  His background as a hostage negotiator and psychologist sounded perfect, coupled with the fact that he didn’t come across in a high and mighty know-it-all manner that said “FBI agent.”  I was impressed that he was able to keep doing his job despite the pressure of having a son in danger at the school.

After reading about Sheriff Stone and some of the other cops who didn’t seem to be doing enough to resolve the standoff, it was a relief to know that someone with Fuselier’s experience had appeared on the scene.  I think he deserved to be viewed favorably, but it couldn’t hurt the reader’s perception of him to have already read about Stone.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 08:42:20 AM
19.)  What is the 'First Assumption'?  Is it that there was a terrorist attack?  That there were hostages?  Or that it was a large conspiracy?  Or does this refer to the assumptions of the news media?  In retrospect do these assumptions make sense (i.e., can you understand why there was this confusion)?

The book uses all of these terms at one point or another.  They are actually an interrelated set of circumstances, not mutually exclusive, and seem at first to apply to the Columbine situation because of the number of apparent gunmen.  

“The detective brought Fuselier up to speed before he arrived at the school … He assumed it was a terrorist attack.”  It’s not clear to me on rereading whether “He” is supposed to mean the detective or Fuselier (top of page 70) but in any case I took that to be Fuselier’s assumption going in, either because the detective had said so or because Fuselier determined that the facts fit what he knew of terrorist attacks based on his own background on the domestic terrorism task force.

Since the FBI distinguishes between hostage and nonhostage situations, and Fuselier organized a negotiation team upon arrival, his first assumption also included the idea that there were hostages.  And because of the apparent magnitude of the attack, the detectives’ assumption was that a large conspiracy would have to be involved.  One other assumption on the part of Fuselier is mentioned:  “multiple gunmen demanded multiple tactics.”  He couldn’t afford to lump a large number of shooters into a “they,” the way the media first did.

In truth, it wasn’t a terrorist attack, there weren’t hostages, and only two shooters were involved, but it’s understandable how the multiple appearances of Eric and Dylan in different outfits and in different locations gave rise to these other assumptions.  

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 09:27:29 AM
20.)  What is your opinion of the news media's questions such as 'were they outcasts' - and the use of the word 'they' to indicate some sort of groupthink?  Why do you think that the notion of the 'Trenchcoat Mafia' was seized on so readily?  Why do you think these early notions were not corrected as it became clear they were wrong?  Do you think that mistakes of this sort lead to the 'school shooter profile'?  To what degree does looking for easy explanations for complex problems come into play to explain these sorts of notions?

This application of boilerplate--they were outcasts, loners, members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, etc.--is probably very hard to avoid when reporters are covering rapidly breaking news, particularly when there are competing reporters for different newspapers, television stations. In addition to getting the facts of the story, readers/viewers expect some interpretation, some explanation, and a news source that doesn't offer that Johnny on the spot is likely to lose readers and viewers to another than offers some interpretation, no matter how premature. There is an economic pressure to scoop, own and package the story.

I agree with Sandy regarding the difficulty of getting facts right while covering breaking news stories.  It is easy for the media to jump on sociological explanations with which readers or viewers can easily identify (outcasts, loners) or which, conversely, have an unusual name and will  therefore stick out in their minds (like the term Trenchcoat Mafia).  

To a degree, this reflects a tendency to look for easy explanations or complex problems – a tendency to grab at obvious things without getting below the surface.  It also reflects a tendency to want to answer the question of “Why” right NOW, when in truth it may be impossible to do justice to this question without a lot of detailed research after the immediate crisis has passed.

The persistence of these notions over time may be attributed to several things.  First, the daily media moves on to cover other breaking news stories and has no time to dig into the accuracy of previously reported stories.  Second, even if follow-up feature stories attempt to clear up notions like these, it must be hard to catch the public’s attention again and get the public to unlearn notions which it now holds as truth.

Mistakes of this sort do seem to be involved in “profiling.”  Other people here have already pointed out some of the mistaken ways in which profiling has been used.  (I always think of Gus Van Sant – I believe that’s his name – as someone called to breaking news stories to predict who might be involved, based on profiling.)  However, I will say, when the person doing the profiling is a so-called professional with a former FBI background, I would expect more accuracy and less tendency to embrace the stereotypes than the general public might have, so there must be more complex reasons why the professional profilers get it wrong.  Perhaps, rather than thinking that profilers are guilty of the same sloppy thinking that news media and the general public fall into, the truth is that it’s often simply impossible to profile accurately despite all the precautions one might take.  

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 11:54:30 AM
21.)  In 'The Boy In The Window' we are told the story of Patrick Ireland's survival.  What struck you most about the events involved in his rescue?  Were you surprised at the level of detail we were presented about this event?

The level of detail was considerable, but since Patrick Ireland will be one of the survivors, it helps to read the full story of what he endured in the library, and how he managed to get out.  Furthermore, his story is one of the most inspiring, and this section of the book is one of the most gripping.  I felt so sad when his friends, Makai and Dan, had to leave him in the library to flee for their own safety.  Without having the medical knowledge to say for sure, Patrick’s brain and body appeared to be acting like that of a stroke victim after he finally regained consciousness:  I was struck by how little he could do, and yet how hard he tried.  I was amazed that it took him three hours to get to the library window.

After he got to the window, I had to reread the description of how he actually got over the ledge several times before it made sense in my mind.  The second full paragraph on page 78 talks about how he “worked himself upward” against the wall and then “he flipped around.”  On first reading, I thought that after he flipped around, he was sitting on the window ledge with his feet dangling out the window, and I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just jump.  After reading the third paragraph closely (several times), I realized that he “worked himself upward” must have meant that he got himself into a standing position with feet on the floor inside the library, and that “he flipped around” must have meant that he turned himself around to face the window, but still with feet on the floor.  That’s the only scenario that would correspond with the information that the window ledge was still at his waist level, and that he would have to lean over it and “fold in half” to tumble out head first.  Perhaps this could have been written a bit more clearly.

Other than that, I was struck by the confusion on Patrick’s part (due to his brain injury) about what the SWAT team was doing and about how he hoped to “get out” using the armored truck.  He didn’t seem to recognize the SWAT team as his rescuers, and the SWAT team was confused about his behavior.  “What was he trying to do?  They assumed he understood he was the patient.  He did not.  He had to get out of there.”  This was very dramatic reading.  I was also struck by the way he could perform some speech functions but not others, and seemed to understand at least part of what had happened to him.  He knew his phone number and could say it, but couldn’t say his first name although he did know it.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 12:21:48 PM
22.)  Miscommunication seems to have begun as soon as the first press conference was held - that there were three shooters, that 25 people were dead and errors about the motives.  What was the impact of these erroneous assumptions?  Do you feel that they should not have had the press conference - or if it was held, what should have been done to improve on it?

Considering the national (and international) prominence of this story, and the number of worried parents and residents locally, I think a news conference was necessary.  But I think there should have been tighter control of – and better judgment used about – what was said.  Basic facts regarding what was known should have been released (the time of the attack, the number of responders, whatever could be pinpointed with certainty).  But there should have been no release of conflicting information and uncertain assumptions. 

Sheriff Stone had been thrust into uncharted waters, for him, and may have been trying to seem important by giving out answers (was that political grandstanding?).  The press may have felt he had “no hedging, no bluster, no bullshit,” but the excerpts from the press conference (page 86) show quite a few inconsistencies and erroneous off-the-cuff statements.  The impact of these assumptions was probably to further obscure the truth, which was already in peril from all the assumptions the press had been making.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 12:32:39 PM
23.)  As opposed to Robyn and Nate, Chris Morris called police right away.  Given what happened to him, do you think he did the right thing?  Do you think he accidentally made himself the center of the investigation, as Eric and Dylan were dead?

Since Robyn and Nate had not admitted having knowledge of Eric and Dylan’s activities to police, and since Eric and Dylan were dead, Chris Morris did become at least a “person of interest” and a prime source of information, if not actually a suspect.  But I think he did the right thing by calling police right away.  Chances are, the police would have found out about his connections to the primary suspects anyway, because they had worked together at Blackjack.  By cooperating, he provided police with important information sooner than it otherwise would have become available.  And Chris's cooperation, and that of his parents, probably made it easier for his innocence to eventually be established.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 01:02:53 PM
25.)  In 'Last Bus' and 'Vacuuming' we share the anguish of Brian Rorhbough, Misty Bernall and Linda Sanders.  What are your thoughts concerning their reactions to the deaths of their loved ones?  Did any particular reactions surprise you - or resonate with you?  Were you able to put yourself in their place?
 

The reaction among the parents which resonated the most with me was the sense of betrayal when parents learned that the “last bus” had been a false promise, and was not really coming.  Doreen Tomlin, Misty Bernall and Brian Rohrbough all shared that sense of betrayal, even though their reactions were very different in other respects. 

Brian Rohrbough seemed resigned to learning that his son Danny would not be on one of the buses, and he credited God for preparing him for this reality.  Doreen Tomlin also felt her faith had been preparing her for the worst.  I agree with what someone said earlier that the way some of the Evangelicals accepted the news was hard for me to identify with – I would not have reacted that way, and would have been much more upset.  I found it interesting that Misty Bernall, another Evangelical, had an opposite reaction – her strong faith convinced her that Cassie was still alive. 

The surviving relative whose story was the hardest to read was Linda Sanders.  That’s probably because she and Dave had been presented as such sympathetic and fully-fleshed-out characters throughout the book.  Also, she endured one of the worst disappointments, being taken to the hospital to see him when she thought he had been injured, and then finding out that he wasn’t there.  The description of how she tried to sleep, after learning of his death, and finally curled up with a pair of his socks, was heart-wrenching.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 21, 2009, 01:18:58 PM
26.) Actually, there's one additional question that is implied in a few of my other questions that I'd like you to consider - some of you have commented on having to set the book down for a bit because it got too intense.  Would you be willing to give us a little more information about that?  What was it in particular that struck you as difficult to read about?  And what brought you back to the book?
 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I didn’t really have to set the book down for long due to its intensity.  But there were places that were very difficult to read.  These mostly concerned the carnage in the library.  There is one such section at the beginning of the chapter called “The Sheriff.”  This section describes how, at 3:15 PM, the SWAT teams discovered the truth about how Eric and Dylan had committed suicide in the library at 12:08, three hours earlier.

The descriptions were ghastly:  “It was horrible…blood spattered the furniture…Most of the kids had been dead for nearly four hours, and it was obvious by sight.”  One uplifting part of this section was to read of the rescue and survival of Lisa Kreutz, a student lying on the library floor.

In retrospect, this section also makes it clear that the killing stopped in plenty of time for Dave Sanders to have been rescued, if only police had gone in and found him earlier.  So that’s another unsettling thing about reading this part of the book.  But that’s a conclusion that relies on logic to piece together; the immediate impact of this section is just realizing the horror of what the library looked like.

Another section in the book is similar, in this respect, but I’ll mention that when we come to it.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 22, 2009, 07:39:41 PM
Here are the questions for the second section of the book 'After and Before.'  As always, if you wish to add your own questions on this section please do.

1.)  Do you think that the police were wrong to keep the bodies inside of the perimeter for as long as they did?  Did the failure to release the names of the victims soon make it harder for the survivors to heal?  Did the restriction of information lead to unnecessary gossip?

2.)  Given that no names were released do you think that this had a particular effect on Brian Rohrbough?  Do you feel this contributed to his anger?

3.)  In 'Vacant' we read of how the families learned of the deaths.  Which of these stories affected you personally and why?

4.)  Were you surprised at the reaction of the students to Frank DeAngelis at Light of the World?  Why do you think they reacted the way they did?  Do you think they were him acknowledgment that he had saved lives?

5.)  The Harrises and Klebolds both released statements.  What is your reaction to their statements? [pg 107]

6.)  National polls taken after the attack listed a variety of causes contributing to the attack including violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies, Satan and the parents.  85% of the public in a Gallup poll blamed the parents.  What is your opinion of the list and the blaming of the parents?

7.)  Why do you think the authorities were convinced of a conspiracy?  Why do you think they included the individuals that they did in their list of possible co-conspirators (Chris Morris, Brooks Brown, Robyn Anderson and others)?  Dave refers to a 'cryptic message suggesting the possibility of more violence to come' - why do you think someone would pass on a message like that?

8.)  In 'First Memories' we learn of Eric's fascination with fire and fireworks, guns, video games and the isolation of rural areas.  Were there warning signs in any of this or was this normal behavior?  Do you think that the disruptions of being a 'military brat' and his father's rigorous discipline were contributing factors to his eventual actions?  Why would these things affect him when they do not affect other children?

9.)  At the beginning of 'Rush to Closure' we read that the Denver Post printed the headline 'Healing Begins' 36 hours after the attack.  What effect do you think that this had?  Do you think it hindered the healing of people who were still processing the attack?

10.)  Why do you think the heroic version of Danny Rorhbough's story was widely reported?  Do you think that people find it easier to accept tragedies of this sort if there is something meaningful in a victim's last actions?

11.)  Do you think that Mr. D helped the community heal by being emotional in public and encouraging the boys to show emotion?

12.)  What is your opinion of the differences in the reactions to the attacks by Rev. Oudemulen, Rev. Kirsten, Rev. Marxhausen and Barb Lotz.

13.)  What did you learn about Dylan Klebold in the chapter 'Gifted Boy'?  Do you believe his intellect made him feel different from others (and perhaps an outcast)?  Do you think his anger management issues had implications for his eventual depression and violence?  Were you surprised that though he was Jewish he still hung out with Eric Harris?

14.)  What did you take away from the chapter 'Hour of Need'?  Do you think Rev. Marxhausen acted as a good pastor to the Klebolds?  What did you think of Dylan's memorial and the parish's reaction to it?

15.)  In his online fantasies Eric describes a world where nothing happens and all humans have been eliminated.  He said that he in fact wishes he could act on these fantasies.  Does you see signs of psychopathology in this?  Do you think many teens have nihilistic or misanthropic fantasies of this sort?  Would you advise someone communicating online with a person who revealed these fantasies to alert someon in authority?

16.)  In 'Threesome' Dave writes 'Dylan and Zack needed Eric.  Someone to do the talking.'  Doe this tend to make you believe that Eric Harris lead Dylan Klebold into the attack on Columbine or do you think that Dylan's anger would have eventually led him to act out in a violent manner?

17.)  In 'Help Is On The Way' we read of the last hours of Dave Sander's life.  Do you think that if the SWAT team had entered the school more quickly that his life could have been saved?  For me this was one of the most difficult chapters in the book to read.  Did it affect you in a similar fashion?  Please share your thoughts on how this chapter affected you.

18.)  In 'Black' we go back to Eric and Dylan's Sophomore year.  Did this time shift work for you in the structure of the book?  Does it make sense now that we have seen the consequences of their choices that we look at the roots of their actions?  What do you make of Eric's change of appearance at this time?  Was he becoming more confident?  Does this chapter put whether Eric and Dylan were outcasts or not in context (that is, do they seem to have been popular and to have had friends)?  What role did the Trench Coat Mafia play in their lives?

19.)  In 'Media Crime' Dave takes on the myths of the Trench Coat Mafia, Goth outcasts hunting down jocks and other myths.  Do you feel this chapter helped clarify the motivations of the killers for you?  Why do you think that the public continues to believe these myths?

20.)  Bree Pascal related that the shooters were targeting 'anyone of color, wearing a white hat or playing a sport.'  Given the variety of the people that were killed, do you feel that the killers were targeting anyone in particular for retribution?  Were they acting racist or targeting bullies?

21.)  Why was the media not selective in the people that were considered 'witnesses' at Columbine?  Did this contribute to confusion in the reports from the school?

22.)  Were you surprised by Makai's reaction to the way Dylan was portrayed by the press? [pg. 154]

23.)  Why do you think that the rumor about Eric and Dylan being gay spread in Clement Park?  Was this a way for the survivors to create psychological distance from the killers?  Why do you think the media failed to show the same restraint they showed with regard to gay rumors in describing the killers as Goths?  Were you surprised to read that although they are often stigmatized and bullied in schools that Goths do not react violently?

24.)  Dave says 'There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence that it was a problem at Columbine High.'  Given what we've read about the TCM and Goths at the school does this observation seem reasonable to you?

25.)  Do you think that the 'missions' were an early sign of trouble and should have been taken more seriously?  Why do you think Eric targeted Brooks?  Was this a missed opportunity for Wayne Harris to take note of his son's problems?  Given Eric's anger at Brooks are you surprised he didn't kill him at Columbine?

26.)  Do you feel the police blew it by not acting on the web pages the Browns had turned over to them?  Why did the police try to blame the Browns?  Why do you think that though an affidavit for a search warrant had been drafted to search the Harris house that it was never taken before a judge?  Was this just a bureaucratic foul up?  Was there a cover-up in your opinion?

27.)  Eric's journal said 'I hate the fucking world.'  What does this say about his motivations for the killings?  Would you have liked more information about the journal in the chapter 'Telling Us Why'?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 09:33:18 AM
1.)  Do you think that the police were wrong to keep the bodies inside of the perimeter for as long as they did?  Did the failure to release the names of the victims soon make it harder for the survivors to heal?  Did the restriction of information lead to unnecessary gossip?

I can understand that the authorities’ first concern had to be for treating the wounded (Dave Sanders’ case is a notable exception in this regard, in that he was left behind, but Lisa Kreutz was successfully rushed from the library to a hospital); evacuating the walking wounded and the unwounded survivors; and defusing any more potential bombs.  In the authorities’ minds, the dead were dead and therefore didn’t need immediate attention – just like on a battlefield.  

The biggest offense to decency that they committed was not covering up the two bodies which were outside.  Helicopters could see them, and students had to pass them as they were running from the building.  At minimum, these bodies could have been removed by nightfall.  I would prefer to say that the bodies of all the dead inside the school should have been removed before the investigators quit for the night, but since a bomb went off while they were  working late at night, it may have  been too dangerous for any unnecessary medical people to go inside to retrieve the bodies.

I think it would have been hard for survivors to heal, regardless of how soon the names of their loved ones were released.  But the waiting kept them in unnecessary agony at the time.   It gave someone like Misty Bernall a chance to deny the truth, even as she learned from a cop outside the school that no one was left alive inside.  She began creating other scenarios which held out hope, such as that Cassie was at a hospital, unidentified.  

One official did have a list of the dead, even though the names had not been “confirmed”:  I guess that means that positive identification had not been made yet.  Relatives had been asked to begin gathering dental records, so I think this would have been a good indication that their loved one might be dead, even if no one would tell them for sure.

The other students didn’t even have this partial knowledge to go on, so the lack of a definite list of fatalities did lead to doubt and speculation among the student body.  But the main inaccuracies or gossip that I noticed turned out to be how people had died (like making Danny Rohrbough seem a hero) not who had died.  

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 09:59:12 AM
2.)  Given that no names were released do you think that this had a particular effect on Brian Rohrbough?  Do you feel this contributed to his anger?

Brian Rohrbough found out the truth in an awful way:  by seeing his son’s body in the morning newspaper.  The photo also included students who were hiding behind a car, so one might be tempted to say that the purpose of the photo was to show them; however, the “MOTIONLESS” caption indicates that Danny’s body was the intended subject of the shot.

Perhaps the newspaper assumed no one could identify the body from the photograph, but I would argue that the newspaper was irresponsible in printing that photo, at least without knowing that the victim’s relatives had been notified.  But the newspaper’s action was compounded by police inaction:  Had Brian been notified properly by a police officer first, he might have been more prepared to see that photo.

The writing in this chapter does a lot to humanize both Brian and Danny, and I can sympathize with Brian’s special pain of losing the kid who had just committed to taking up his father’s line of work.  Brian was so proud of Danny.  It’s easy to see why he felt bereaved.  Brian’s shock at not having been informed of his son’s death definitely contributed to his anger.  This anger only increased when the police failed to turn the body over when asked, and left Danny even as it started to snow.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 23, 2009, 10:38:22 AM
6.)  National polls taken after the attack listed a variety of causes contributing to the attack including violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies, Satan and the parents.  85% of the public in a Gallup poll blamed the parents.  What is your opinion of the list and the blaming of the parents?

The premise is that a poll, and the individual respondents, could somehow determine the cause of the events. Of course, only careful, diligent investigation by people examining the scene, the people, the circumstances, etc. first hand can do that. So all the poll did was give respondents to opportunity to vent about their pet peeves about what's wrong in society. Venting is perhaps one way for individuals do deal with the emotional impact of such a troubling event, but that venting, even when multipled by poll results, does not give rise to relevant sociological or forensic conclusions about the event at hand. A lot of ranters does not a sociologist make.

Parents were blamed since the perpetrators had parents, and because we tend to focus our (moral) blame and outrage on humans first. Objects more remote from an individual with agency, e.g., a video game, are lower on the blame ladder. Also, blame tends to fall on those closer to, rather than distant from, the perpetrators; hence, on the parents. And the parents, but not the perpetrators, were still alive.

It took Dave 10 painstaking years to filter out the noise and propose explanations for what happened, but if the poll were taken today, I bet respondents would still come up with causes such as violent movies, lax gun laws and Satan.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 23, 2009, 10:48:21 AM
9.)  At the beginning of 'Rush to Closure' we read that the Denver Post printed the headline 'Healing Begins' 36 hours after the attack.  What effect do you think that this had?  Do you think it hindered the healing of people who were still processing the attack?

I strikes me as an attempt by media to provide a neat, prepackaged narrative for these awful events, and in this case, to provide an ending. Less cynically, the paper may have wanted to offer a bit of hope. It was grossly premature. How in just 36 hours could the paper have delved into the hearts and souls of the families, victims, bystanders and community to make such a rash assessment? Griveing is a very personal experience, at least to the extent that different people grieve in different ways, for different times and to differernt extents. I think it was a callous headline.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on June 23, 2009, 10:55:10 AM
17.)  In 'Help Is On The Way' we read of the last hours of Dave Sander's life.  Do you think that if the SWAT team had entered the school more quickly that his life could have been saved?  For me this was one of the most difficult chapters in the book to read.  Did it affect you in a similar fashion?  Please share your thoughts on how this chapter affected you.

Yes, I found this was a moving chapter.     Yes, possibly his life could have been saved if he had been treated right away and got to hospital.    I don't think I was aware of this incident before I read the book, and I was surpised how long it took before there was any help for the wounded.   This story, along with the story of Patrick trying to make his own way out of the building while so terribly injured, was quite shocking.    I can understand that at first nobody knew what they were up against.    It could have been a conspiracy, and they must have had to plan for various possibliities - that the killers were still alive and still killing, that the bodies were boobytrapped, that the whole school might be about to blow up and so on.    Whoever was sent into that building would be risking their life, as far as anyone knew.   Those inside the building were in the dark too.   But even given all that, it's difficult not to feel that something should have been done to help Dave while he had a chance.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: garyd on June 23, 2009, 12:23:59 PM
  But even given all that, it's difficult not to feel that something should have been done to help Dave while he had a chance.

Perhaps, but just "what " exactly should have been done?
Dave mentions, earlier on, that a SWAT team is dispatched at one point,
(I simply can not remember the timing) and that
their gun fire actually adds to the confusion, both inside and out,
as to whether or not the carnage is continuing and as to it's location.

Dave also goes into some detail regarding the differing approaches in
addressing a hostage situation and a shooting spree.
The very real possibility of a hostage situation remains feasible, it seems,
for much of the afternoon.
(of course, no communication from the alleged 'hostage takers" should, I suppose,
have been taken into consideration and, probably, was)

Finally, Science Room III appears to be slightly off the beaten path.
(yes, I realize there was a sign in the window and that the scouts and others were in cell phone communication with the outside,....still) 
(Here is where a map would be helpful, in my opinion, in future printings, though I am in full
 agreement with Dave about the decision  to exclude photographs.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 23, 2009, 12:40:20 PM
  But even given all that, it's difficult not to feel that something should have been done to help Dave while he had a chance.

Perhaps, but just "what " exactly should have been done?

Just a quick aside Gary, but I do think it says something that the procedures for school shootings has changed since Columbine.  They now enter the buildings and engage the shooters (at least that is what I recall from seeing Dave talk about this).

In my own opinion I think that if they had done this they could have gotten into the building and helped everyone.  It wasn't till after 2:30pm that they got to Dave Sanders - Patrick Ireland had already dragged himself out of the building.  He bled out for several hours in the building.  That he was talking after he was shot says a lot about the possibility of a better outcome if they had gotten to him, to me.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 12:45:04 PM
6.)  National polls taken after the attack listed a variety of causes contributing to the attack including violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies, Satan and the parents.  85% of the public in a Gallup poll blamed the parents.  What is your opinion of the list and the blaming of the parents?

The premise is that a poll, and the individual respondents, could somehow determine the cause of the events. Of course, only careful, diligent investigation by people examining the scene, the people, the circumstances, etc. first hand can do that. So all the poll did was give respondents to opportunity to vent about their pet peeves about what's wrong in society. {snip}
 
Parents were blamed since the perpetrators had parents, and because we tend to focus our (moral) blame and outrage on humans first. Objects more remote from an individual with agency, e.g., a video game, are lower on the blame ladder. Also, blame tends to fall on those closer to, rather than distant from, the perpetrators; hence, on the parents. And the parents, but not the perpetrators, were still alive.
 

Sandy, I agree that a poll of the general public is useless in determining why something like Columbine happened.  The “pet peeves about what’s wrong with society” sounded more like responses to a political poll than like possible reasons that detectives and other investigators would come up with.  The people responding to the poll had no inside knowledge upon which to base their conclusions.

And the 85% rating of parents as the responsible party does reflect the fact that the parents were in close contact with suspects; and since they were still living, the poll respondents probably felt there was some possible way of punishing them.  These results capture a widely-held belief that parents are responsible for raising their children right, and therefore the first to blame if their children go wrong.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: garyd on June 23, 2009, 12:49:28 PM

27.)  Eric's journal said 'I hate the fucking world.'  What does this say about his motivations for the killings?  Would you have liked more information about the journal in the chapter 'Telling Us Why'?
Yes, but of course, anyone wanting more information can find it by simply reading the actual journals.
Dave, it seems to me, is navigating a fine line here between a "narrative" and a dissertation, and to my mind,
he makes the correct choices in favoring the narrative.

On the other hand, a major thesis is that Erics' behavior parallels that of a psychopath.
"I hate the fucking world" is certainly an element on the psychopath checklist.
The distinction, of course, (Dylan may very well have said the same thing) is
that Eric not only hates the world, he feels "superior" to it.
This is an important distinction,  and though Dave does a good job of
offering more examples in other passages, more information at tis point might be helpful. 

Some psychiatrists would, perhaps, label Eric as a certain "type" of psychopath,
specifically a "malignant narcissist.".  Such subdivisions, however, are endemic to the trade
and carry all sorts of professional competitive baggage.
Dave does a fine job in presenting a case for generic psychopathic behavior by avoiding
the subdivision mine field. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: garyd on June 23, 2009, 12:56:46 PM


Just a quick aside Gary, but I do think it says something that the procedures for school shootings has changed since Columbine.  They now enter the buildings and engage the shooters (at least that is what I recall from seeing Dave talk about this).

In my own opinion I think that if they had done this they could have gotten into the building and helped everyone.  It wasn't till after 2:30pm that they got to Dave Sanders - Patrick Ireland had already dragged himself out of the building.  He bled out for several hours in the building.  That he was talking after he was shot says a lot about the possibility of a better outcome if they had gotten to him, to me.

Yes, the procedures you suggest do appear to be sop these days.
One of the lessons learned from Columbine perhaps?

This is an extremely confused situation however and Dave reminds us that
every possible agency responded making it quite difficult for any one specific agency
to "take control".
(Though Dave does suggest that control was, somehow, achieved.

Also, and this may relate to the subsequent "crime scene " investigation more so than the actual
real time engagement, Dave reminds us that the horrific mistakes made during the O.J. and  Ramsey crime scene investigations are
top of mind with the investigators.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 01:26:42 PM
17.)  In 'Help Is On The Way' we read of the last hours of Dave Sander's life.  Do you think that if the SWAT team had entered the school more quickly that his life could have been saved?  For me this was one of the most difficult chapters in the book to read.  Did it affect you in a similar fashion?  Please share your thoughts on how this chapter affected you.

Before getting into whether Dave Sanders’ life could have been saved, I want to say that this chapter was the most difficult to read yet.  This was in part because of the terrible condition Dave was in, but also because of the minute-by-minute detail about how he was shot, how he staggered after he was shot, how teachers Rich Long and Jebt Friesen attempted to help him, how two Eagle Scouts took turns trying to keep Dave’s bleeding under control, etc.  The reader can feel the minutes turning into hours as Dave gets more blue and starts to lose consciousness.  I found myself getting impatient, waiting for outside help from paramedics to arrive.  And then, even if it was too late by the time the SWAT team entered the room, I felt angry that the SWAT team would not attempt to transport Dave out of that room when they took the other kids out, because I was still holding out hope that he was just unconscious and could still be saved.

Like Desecra and Gary, I have been wrestling with the question of what could have been done to save Dave:  

 
  But even given all that, it's difficult not to feel that something should have been done to help Dave while he had a chance.

Perhaps, but just "what " exactly should have been done?

This was not only one of the most difficult parts of the book to read, but one which left me with the biggest desire to rewrite history.  We know from the beginning that Dave’s injuries were very serious, since one bullet tore open a major blood route to the brain and another bullet damaged a major vessel back to the heart.  But we also know that 911 operators were aware of his condition and location from early in the incident.  The “1 Bleeding to Death” sign gave his location, and eventually the red flag on the outside of the room’s door did also.  The 911 operators kept assuring Dave’s would-be rescuers that “help is on the way.”

We also know that the SWAT teams had no way to know, until entering the library, that the killers had committed suicide, and therefore that they presented no further danger.  We also know that there were actually still live bombs present in the school.  So I understand, in one sense, why it took them so long to reach Dave and why they left him in the science room after finding him.
 
Just a quick aside Gary, but I do think it says something that the procedures for school shootings has changed since Columbine.  They now enter the buildings and engage the shooters (at least that is what I recall from seeing Dave talk about this).

In my own opinion I think that if they had done this they could have gotten into the building and helped everyone.  It wasn't till after 2:30pm that they got to Dave Sanders - Patrick Ireland had already dragged himself out of the building.  He bled out for several hours in the building.  That he was talking after he was shot says a lot about the possibility of a better outcome if they had gotten to him, to me.

I tend to agree with Michael here, in the end.  It wasn’t the standard operating procedure to do this back in 1999, but I think the SWAT teams have (and had) better training and firepower than Eric and Dylan had, and they could have successfully overpowered the shooters and then gotten to the location where they knew that a critically injured person was located.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 23, 2009, 01:38:44 PM
Yes, the procedures you suggest do appear to be sop these days.
One of the lessons learned from Columbine perhaps?

I think you're spot on there.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 01:48:05 PM
9.)  At the beginning of 'Rush to Closure' we read that the Denver Post printed the headline 'Healing Begins' 36 hours after the attack.  What effect do you think that this had?  Do you think it hindered the healing of people who were still processing the attack?

I agree with Sandy that the headline was callous, and that the paper may have been jumping the gun by trying to provide an ending.  It was terribly premature because the bodies hadn’t even been returned to the families at the time the Thursday newspaper went to press.  People were still just beginning to process their suffering at that point; it might take months or years for them to begin to heal.  People in the helping professions who understand what emotional healing really means (ministers, psychiatrists and grief counselors are mentioned in the book) were taken aback when they read the headline.

Perhaps the headline writer had a different concept of what “healing” means.  Perhaps the writer simply intended to provide comfort, in the sense that, now that the violence and action has ended, it’s time for the grieving process (which could lead to healing) to begin.  But for most readers, especially those who were present or who lost loved ones, this distinction was probably lost on them.  “Grieving Begins” would have been a more honest way to sum up the community’s state of mind.

As for the effect of the headline, I suspect that it could have provoked anger and indignation, which in turn would have made grieving more difficult and delayed the actual beginning of a healing process.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 02:05:48 PM
3.)  In 'Vacant' we read of how the families learned of the deaths.  Which of these stories affected you personally and why?

I think that, even though I wasn’t overall that sympathetic toward Brian Rohrbough as I read the book, the section which described how he found out about his son Danny’s death by seeing the photo in the newspaper was the most affecting to me.  And the line which resonated the most with me was the one which follows Brian’s encounter with cops at the school, when he tried to get Danny’s body released and the cops told him no.  Danny’s body was still lying outside, and would stay there for over twenty-eight hours total.  “And then it began to snow.”  The placement of that line about the snow really drove a stake into my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

I felt sorry for Misty Bernall, but she seemed businesslike when she told a cop, “We appreciate your honesty” and I somehow wasn’t as affected by that.  Linda Sanders screaming and throwing up was affecting, but much briefer than the description of Brian Rohrbough’s pain.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: garyd on June 23, 2009, 02:10:23 PM

I tend to agree with Michael here, in the end.  It wasn’t the standard operating procedure to do this back in 1999, but I think the SWAT teams have (and had) better training and firepower than Eric and Dylan had, and they could have successfully overpowered the shooters and then gotten to the location where they knew that a critically injured person was located.


Agreed, Debbie. And as you and I NOW know, a SWAT team could have easily overpowered Eric and Dylan
(especially since they were  lying dead on the library floor since ,what? , 45 minutes into the carnage?)
The problem, as Dave explains, is that no one on the outside knew exactly what was going on.
The actual firepower had not been determined nor had the size of the combatant force.
Because of conflicting reports, all based upon limited information from inside, it was
at one point assumed that the force was sizable and that it was dispersed throughout the facility.
It is difficult, I should imagine, for a commander in such a situation to order an all out frontal assault.

In addition, I think we must remember that Dave does a fine job of describing the "zeitgeist" of this particular moment
by reminding us of the Waco assault and resulting carnage.  This is also on the minds of the various aid and enforcement agencies
that afternoon. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 02:26:20 PM
In addition, I think we must remember that Dave does a fine job of describing the "zeitgeist" of this particular moment
by reminding us of the Waco assault and resulting carnage.  This is also on the minds of the various aid and enforcement agencies
that afternoon. 

Yes, Gary, you're right about that.  Assuming that the force inside was really holding hostages, they might have killed a lot more people when the cops from outside started to move in.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 02:39:49 PM
4.)  Were you surprised at the reaction of the students to Frank DeAngelis at Light of the World?  Why do you think they reacted the way they did?  Do you think they were [giving] him acknowledgment that he had saved lives?

Mr. D certainly did save lives, namely the lives of the girls in gym class (discussed in ‘A Boy in the Window’).  When Frank arrived at Leawood Tuesday afternoon, he says he felt like a zombie and didn’t cry.  By the time he got to the assembly on Wednesday at Light of the World, emotions had begun to overcome him and he felt guilty.  “I let so many people down,” he thought – because he hadn’t provided an environment that was safe.

I was surprised at that conclusion by Mr. D, and the students acted as though they would have been surprised, too, had they realized his guilt feelings.  They didn’t seem to blame him at all; they treated him like their hero.

I have my doubts whether, with all the confusion that gone on, the student body as a whole realized yet that Mr. D had saved lives.  Witnesses in the girl’s gym class must have repeated the story, but it may not have spread far.  My first reaction to this scene was that the students were treating Mr. D with the same enthusiasm they always had, and that by standing up there in front of them, he was presenting them with something tangible and familiar that they could grab onto and hold.  His presence may have been a symbol that the world of Columbine hadn’t completely fallen apart.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 03:00:59 PM
5.)  The Harrises and Klebolds both released statements.  What is your reaction to their statements? [pg 107]

Both statements were brief; the Harris’s was much briefer than the Klebold’s.  I would not have expected either family to have said a lot publicly, and was pleasantly surprised that they did make an effort to say something.  Both couples used the words “heartfelt,”  “tragedy,” and “prayers.”  The Klebolds addressed “the victims, their families, friends and the entire community,” while the Harrises similarly addressed “the families of all the victims and to all the community” and “everyone touched by these terrible events.”  

Beyond this, there are a number of differences which gave me a warmer feeling toward the Klebolds than toward the Harrises.  For example, the Klebolds showed more of their own emotional state with the words, “We cannot begin to convey our overwhelming sense of sorrow for everyone affected by this tragedy.”  The Klebolds expressed their “thoughts, prayers and apologies” whereas the Harrises expressed “sympathy” but said nothing about apologies.  The Klebolds said they were “struggling to understand why this happened,” but the Harrises did not mention the word “struggling” or reveal any difficulty they were going through.  Finally, the Klebolds asked that people “respect our privacy during this painful grieving period,” whereas the Harrises did not mention anything about their own privacy or pain, or their own grieving process.   Overall, the Harrises’s statement seemed more impersonal, like it followed a mandated social script without much personal feeling.  It also seemed written to make clear that they were not assuming any responsibility for what had happened.      

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 03:40:03 PM
7.)  Why do you think the authorities were convinced of a conspiracy?  Why do you think they included the individuals that they did in their list of possible co-conspirators (Chris Morris, Brooks Brown, Robyn Anderson and others)?  Dave refers to a 'cryptic message suggesting the possibility of more violence to come' - why do you think someone would pass on a message like that?

Dave Cullen’s statement (p. 107) apparently reflects the conclusions of Agent Fuselier and other law enforcement officials:  authorities were convinced Columbine involved a conspiracy because of the size, scope and complexity of the plan.  Even though the plan went awry and the big bombs didn’t explode, the outcome could have been so much worse.  It seemed unimaginable to the investigators that two high school students could have designed such a plan and carried it off even to the point of getting all the big bombs, little bombs and firearms into the building.

Chris Morris made the list of conspirators because he had contacted police and said he had known of Eric and Dylan’s guns and pipe bombs.  Robyn Anderson, as Dylan’s prom date a few days before the massacre, was suspected to have known something, and finally admitted to having been present when guns were purchased, although she denied having known what they were for.  The book says Brooks Brown “had the most suspicious story,” and I guess it’s referring to the fact that Brooks saw Eric in the parking lot on the morning of the massacre and Eric warned him to go home (if Brooks told that story to the police).  I thought that encounter between them was unusual at the time, but we now know that the police had records of a previous fight between Brooks and Eric, and that the Browns had been at odds with the Harrises regarding Eric’s behavior, so it doesn’t sound to me as though Brooks was still close enough to Eric to have been involved in any conspiracy.

I was confused when I read, on page 110, about the cryptic message suggesting more violence to come.  The notes to Chapter 20 make no mention of the source of this message.  I wondered whether this was something that detectives had found in Eric’s journals and tapes which they’d taken from his house, or whether someone else (still living) had called in a threat to police or to the media.  If it was the latter, I would assume that it was a sick prankster trying to get a chuckle from the situation, since no more violence actually did take place.  The police had to be on guard for follow-up attacks by conspirators, though, just as police in other parts of the country had to be on guard for copycat crimes.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 04:22:29 PM
8.)  In 'First Memories' we learn of Eric's fascination with fire and fireworks, guns, video games and the isolation of rural areas.  Were there warning signs in any of this or was this normal behavior?  Do you think that the disruptions of being a 'military brat' and his father's rigorous discipline were contributing factors to his eventual actions?  Why would these things affect him when they do not affect other children?

This may sound odd, but the first thing that struck me as odd in this chapter is that, when Eric was young, he couldn’t remember any solid memories prior to age 12.  When I was in elementary school, junior high and high school, I could clearly remember memories going back to age 4 or so, and could have written a whole autobiography of my life up to that point in time, including many of my relationships, good and bad, with friends and family.  Was that something about Eric’s mental makeup that reflected a blotting out of his connections with other people, or a disassociation from people?  Did it have anything to do with his later mental state which may have led him to want to kill large numbers of people?  I don’t know.

I think that most kids do like (professional) fireworks displays because of their beauty and magnificence, but it never occurred to me that kids would associate them with invasions and obliterating alien hordes.  That said, I can remember lots of boys at about age 12 staging imaginary battles in social studies classes, re-enacting various historic battles of the American Revolution, and so on.  So I don’t think that a fascination with guns is too unusual.  As for fire, it depends on what Eric did with it.  If he was setting fires in the sense of arson, or thinking of fire as a weapon, then that sounds like it would rank with animal cruelty as a precursor of delinquence and possible psychopathy.  Apparently Eric liked to strike matches and found that beautiful, and then he set off the small-scale fireworks that he could aim himself, to scare people – “stupidass dickwads” – with them.  So the fireworks were at least imaginary weapons for him, and the enjoyment of scaring the stupid people does sound like he had a cruel streak.

I laughed the first time I read about Eric hiding in a closet when fireworks first scared him.  It’s not clear whether he was really hiding from fireworks or from people, since he writes, “I hid from everyone when I wanted to be alone.”  This could be one admission, here, of his early shyness.

Many boys that age, at that time, played Doom, so I didn’t see that as indicative of a problem.  As for  Eric’s enjoyment of rural isolation, the only thing that set off an alarm here was his attitude that he was returning to “shithead society, populated by automatons” when he had to go home.  There is a sense that he does feel superior to others, and that people have little meaning to him.  I thought that this attitude could give rise to a later lack of empathy sufficient to cause him not to care about inflicting pain on other people, like the students and teachers in his school.

I didn’t feel that Eric’s years as a military brat played a large role in forming his personality.  He moved into other military towns when his school life was disrupted, so he wouldn’t have been more of an outsider than anyone else there.  Again, I go back to my own experience and remember moving into a brand-new subdivision in the suburbs during fifth grade.  I wasn’t made to feel like a newcomer or outsider, because new homes were being finished weekly, and new classmates were constantly transferring in from other schools, so we were all in the same boat.  Eric appeared to make friends in his new schools, including with minorities and jocks, at least in Plattsburgh.

If there was a link to Eric’s father’s rigorous discipline, perhaps it was that Eric couldn’t confide his mistakes in his father without retribution.  Perhaps he had to learn to lie and cover up his activity to avoid punishment.  But that alone doesn’t seem to explain why he wanted to kill people; it only seems to explain why he might have had experience in concealing the evidence of his activities from his parents.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 06:28:24 PM
14.)  What did you take away from the chapter 'Hour of Need'?  Do you think Rev. Marxhausen acted as a good pastor to the Klebolds?  What did you think of Dylan's memorial and the parish's reaction to it?

Yes, I thought that Rev. Marxhausen acted as a good pastor to the Klebolds.  First, he realized that they had once been in his congregation, and he offered to help.  Second, he agreed to conduct a funeral for Dylan, and to keep it confidential.  Third, he comforted the Klebolds before the service.  And fourth, he modified his prepared service into an impromptu counseling session, allowing everyone to talk about Dylan in whatever way they needed to.

I thought that Rev. Marxhausen was caring and compassionate, and that he recognized the burden which the Klebolds were carrying, knowing their son was a killer.  I always felt a little sorry for the Klebolds (perhaps considering them the victims of Eric, too), so I was glad they had found someone like Rev. Marxhausen to lean on.  The Klebolds were mouring their son, but they also seemed truly mystified about how Dylan had gotten connected with guns and Nazis and anti-Semitism, and they needed to vent.  Rev. Marxhausen found an appropriate Biblical passage regarding King David and the death of his son Absalom, and he talked about how God would reach out to the Klebolds in some way.

I could understand Rev. Marxhausen’s phrase for the Klebolds when he called them the “loneliest people on the planet,” because the phrase reflected how no one was going to understand or sympathize with them.  I was glad that some of his parish supported the reverend, and was sad that so many others in the parish were appalled by what he had done.  Many people were not concerned about the Klebolds being lonely, but this reaction only seemed to prove the truth of what Rev. Marxhausen had said:  the Klebolds were going to be lonely (and without sympathy) for a long time.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 06:43:49 PM
10.)  Why do you think the heroic version of Danny Rorhbough's story was widely reported?  Do you think that people find it easier to accept tragedies of this sort if there is something meaningful in a victim's last actions?

It’s hard to know how the story got started, that Danny held the school door open to let others escape and died while doing so.  Maybe there was honest confusion, since other students had escaped from the building at about that same time.  But the newspaper and the Rohrbough’s pastor probably picked up on the story because it made “good copy” in the press and helped to glorify the dead boy at his funeral by making him seem heroic.

I think that we do have a tendency to want to see the best in people who have died, at the time of funeral services or in written obituaries.  If the victim died doing something meaningful at their end of his or her life, it can add to the sense that they have lived a meaningful life and “didn’t die in vain.”  Danny’s father Brian was realistic enough not to buy into this false story, and seemed to feel that the exaggerated story cheapened the true tragedy of Danny’s death.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 06:54:02 PM
11.)  Do you think that Mr. D helped the community heal by being emotional in public and encouraging the boys to show emotion?

At the second gathering of the student body (this time at West Bowles Community Church) Mr. D was initially determined to keep his emotions under control.  But trauma specialists argued with him, and encouraged him to show his emotions as an example to the male students who had been raised in the western tradition to think that “real men don’t cry.” 

Once again, just as at the first student gathering since the disaster, the students responded to Mr. D’s appearance when he entered, but this time they began chanting the Columbine rallying cry.  This was an emotional moment for Mr. D and he would have been hard-pressed to keep his emotions under control anyway.  But by addressing his tears openly, it gave him a chance to make the point to the boys that keeping emotion inside didn’t make them strong.

I would imagine that this did help some of the boys, and others in the community, grieve more openly.  And that grieving was necessary before real healing could begin.  It ties back to that headline, “Healing Begins.”  Before the community could begin, it had to heal, and it had to have permission to grieve if such permission was needed.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 23, 2009, 08:13:44 PM
12.)  What is your opinion of the differences in the reactions to the attacks by Rev. Oudemulen, Rev. Kirsten, Rev. Marxhausen and Barb Lotz.

Rev. Oudemulen, who prepared funerals for John Tomlin and Lauren Townsend at Foothills Bible Church, gave a sermon about the presence of Satan in Littleton and said that Satan wanted to see hatred repaid by hatred and for the community to be consumed by grief.  Rev. Kirsten, of West Bowles Community Church, talked about The Enemy and implied that the Apocalypse was beginning.  Both of these men were in the Evangelical tradition, and their reactions are what I would have expected, although, since I am personally so at odds with Evangelicism, I cannot agree with them or with their worldview at all.

My view is closest to that of Rev. Oudemulen.  He is Lutheran; my family is Presbyterian; both are among the mainline Protestant congregations that Dave Cullen refers to in this section of “Rush to Closure.”  Oudemulen’s reaction was similiar to the way a sociologist or psychologist might have reacted:  looking at facts about the killers and society and wanting to find out how and why the attacks had happened.

Barb Lotze was the youth pastor at Light of the World Catholic Church, and conducted a prayer service for students of all faiths.  She was challenged by an Evangelical youth minister who interrupted her service and asked to perform an “altar call” to encourage believers to become “born again.”  I can tell you (because I have some Southern Baptist relatives in Texas who do follow Evangelical Christian beliefs) that the phrase “born again” is offensive to many mainline Protestants, and the book makes Lotze’s discomfort with the concept clear.  Apparently Catholics don’t feel any more comfortable with the concept.  To her credit, Lotze did not cause a scene, and allowed the other youth pastor to take the microphone – but I was relieved to see that no one came up to the altar.  I applauded the comments that Lotze made afterwards, that the students just wanted to be “hugged…loved” and “told that we’re going to get through this together.”  That showed a great sensitivity on her part to what the community’s needs really were.  Their spiritual needs and their psychological needs were not so far apart; the last thing they needed was talk of hate and fear and Satan.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 24, 2009, 05:33:47 PM
13.)  What did you learn about Dylan Klebold in the chapter 'Gifted Boy'?  Do you believe his intellect made him feel different from others (and perhaps an outcast)?  Do you think his anger management issues had implications for his eventual depression and violence?  Were you surprised that though he was Jewish he still hung out with Eric Harris?

Dylan was unusually smart and unusually shy, but his interests in scouting and sports and playing in the dirt were typical of boys his age.  His most notable problems were that (a) he couldn’t stand to lose, (b) he had an inferiority complex.  If he felt that people were picking on him, he could occasionally he “blow his top” when anger boiled over.

Dylan was in the CHIPS program for gifted students while in elementary school, and he probably felt that being brainy was just the norm.  After he started middle school, where there was no CHIPS program, he would have been integrated into the regular student body and come into more contact with kids with a wide range of intelligence, so this could have made him feel different from the new norm, and thus like an outsider.  But this chapter tells us that Dylan initially met Brooks Brown in the CHIPS program, before they were reunited in high school.  And the example on p. 127 shows that Dylan’s temper outbursts went clear back to the days when he was friendly with Brooks in elementary school, and occurred while he was playing with Brooks (another smarter than average kid).  It doesn’t follow from this, in my mind, that the anger management issues were a result of him feeling like an outcast due to his intellect.

It does make sense, however, that Dylan’s anger, whatever its source, led to his depression, as he turned the anger against himself.  And eventually the anger must have exploded so that it went outward instead of inward, and at that point, he could be violent.  Even looking at the story on page 127, where Dylan exploded after other kids laughed at his fall into the water while searching crawdads, I can imagine Dylan first feeling angry at himself for falling down, and then turning that anger around immediately so that he ended up yelling at the other people.  This was a very small-scale reaction, not really deserving of the labels “depression” and “violence” at that time, but as he got older, the inwardly-focused anger may have taken on more of a hue of depression, and the response to that may have come closer and closer to actual violence.

 There are several possible explanations for why the half-Jewish Dylan hung out with Eric: (a) Perhaps Dylan didn’t consider his own religion or ethnic background terribly important; (b) Perhaps he liked Eric because they got along well, and this overshadowed the importance of the specifics of Eric’s philosophy; and/or (c) Perhaps Eric didn’t have a specific or cohesive philosophy, and simply threw references to Nazis and Germany into the mix at random.  For any of these reasons, Eric may have been more important to Dylan as a companion than as a person whose philosophy Dylan agreed with.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 24, 2009, 06:41:51 PM
15.)  In his online fantasies Eric describes a world where nothing happens and all humans have been eliminated.  He said that he in fact wishes he could act on these fantasies.  Does you see signs of psychopathology in this?  Do you think many teens have nihilistic or misanthropic fantasies of this sort?  Would you advise someone communicating online with a person who revealed these fantasies to alert someon in authority?

Eric’s fantasies have such an empty quality, that they remind me of one characteristic of psychopathology:  the lack of empathy with other people.  He doesn’t show any awareness of the pain other people would suffer by being eliminated, as they must have been to arrive at the void in his dreamworld.  

It’s not as clear that he is acting like a manipulator in these dreams, because when he says he wishes he could actually DO this instead of just DREAM about it, I assume he means he wishes he could do this in real life, but doesn’t think he can.  Does he think that, in his dreams, he was the person who created the void (maybe with help, as by choosing extinction over repopulation), or is he just imagining that he found himself in a void created by forces greater than himself, and that he is just expressing approval of this environment in which he feels joy?  The book says, “Happiness for Eric was eliminating the likes of us,” but doesn’t say that Eric was actually the agent who did the eliminating, except when it mentions “occasional combatants to extinguish” in a game atmosphere in the middle of the void.

My guess is that these nihilistic fantasies are not that uncommon among teens who are experimenting with intellectual philosophy and reading widely in literature.  The challenge would be figuring out which students might be tempted to turn their fantasies into reality.  The person communicating online with someone having such fantasies would probably be another teen, and they wouldn’t be equipped to make the distinction.  It probably wouldn’t hurt to put together some kind of training checklist that might help teens recognize suspicious symptoms or warning signs in their online communications.  This would probably work better if the teens were advised that they might be helping a troubled person (as they might with a potential suicide), without giving them the feeling that they would be snitching on their friends and getting them in trouble with authorities.

I think the poem “I Am” might be an attempt to portray himself as an emotionally normal, caring person even though he knows he isn’t.  That is, he might be trying to manipulate the opinion of his teacher and whoever else read that poem.  If that’s true, that’s another possible sign of psychopathology, but if he pulled the wool over the teacher’s eye, the teacher would not be able to recognize the warning sign for what it was.

The chapter "Threesome" delves further into Eric's preoccupation with the Doom video game, and here I did begin to pick up signs of some abnormal thinking that could indicate psychpathology on his part.  It wasn't that he played Doom; as I mentioned earlier, many boys that age did.  It was that he used his skills at hacking into the Doom software as an outlet for an apparent cruelty, with victims on fire or decapitated.  He's also bragging at being the best at Doom creativity, and this megalomania and invincibility may be another characteristic of a psychopath.  The title of Eric's English paper, "Similarities Between Zeus and I," suggests that Eric may have thought of himself as being at the top of the world.  And finally, the sentence quoted from this paper ("Zeus and I also get angry easily and punish people in unusual ways") suggests the cruelty once again.  The cruelty strikes me as being more important than the anger here. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 24, 2009, 07:32:58 PM
16.)  In 'Threesome' Dave writes 'Dylan and Zack needed Eric.  Someone to do the talking.'  Does this tend to make you believe that Eric Harris led Dylan Klebold into the attack on Columbine or do you think that Dylan's anger would have eventually led him to act out in a violent manner?

The first time this idea is mentioned in this section, it’s in the context of Eric being the one to talk to “chicks” at the mall, with the intention of picking them up, while Zack and Dylan “hung back and followed his lead.”  This could very innocently mean that Eric was the one to start off their social interactions, because by that time he wasn’t shy whereas the others were still “timid.”

None of this means that the three boys, or two of them, would go on to do something violent like the Columbine attack.  However, since Eric and Dylan did proceed to that step, it tells me that Eric was probably in charge and may have had enough influence or control over Dylan to push Dylan into something that he wouldn’t have done on his own.

Dylan and Zack were apparently both “seething with teenage anger.”  But Zack did not eventually act out in a violent manner.  I tend to think that Dylan would not have become seriously violent, either -- actually going on to the step of planning and executing murder -- without Eric leading him there.  Dylan probably wouldn’t have had the nerve.  If Dylan did get a gun, I think he would have been more likely to commit just suicide by itself rather than murder-suicide or just murder.  And if, by some chance, Dylan did commit murder without being under Eric’s influence, I don’t believe it would have been premeditated; he would have just “flipped out” without any prior plan.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 08:13:41 AM


1.)  Do you think that the police were wrong to keep the bodies inside of the perimeter for as long as they did?  Did the failure to release the names of the victims soon make it harder for the survivors to heal?  Did the restriction of information lead to unnecessary gossip?


One of the officers mentioned that it was possible that the bodies might have been booby-trapped,  and I can understand this, since they still didn't know what they were dealing with.  However, it does seem that just leaving them outside in the elements ("Danny lay out on the sidewalk for twenty-eight hours") was heart breaking. Afterall, there were SWAT teams in the building, so why didn't they check out the bodies for explosives, and why didn't they do it as soon as possible? Some of the students knew who was killed, but some didn't.  With a student body this large, it was inevitable that unnecessary gossip about the dead students' identity would begin to make the rounds.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 08:33:30 AM


2.)  Given that no names were released do you think that this had a particular effect on Brian Rohrbough?  Do you feel this contributed to his anger?


Yes, it did have an effect on Rohrbough.  The first thing any parent would think was, "Is it my child?" Brian Rohrbough knew from the photo that it was his son, yet no one had called him.  He and his son were particularly close which only enhanced his feelings of anger seeing the photo.  When the snow began to fall on the body of his son, Brian's anger must have been explosive, and it did seem that he wasn't getting straight answers and that his son wasn't a priority. Bomb squads had been clearing the school, so why hadn't they began to check the bodies?  It didn't seem anyone was getting straight answers at this point.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 08:46:09 AM

4.)  Were you surprised at the reaction of the students to Frank DeAngelis at Light of the World?  Why do you think they reacted the way they did?  Do you think they were him acknowledgment that he had saved lives?



The students had always loved DeAngelis and trusted him. When he broke down on the podium, they acknowledged with their applause and cheering that his feelings were honest.  His candor about not being able to wipe away their feelings, or that the scars would heal were the best things he could have said.  The students needed honesty and DeAngelis gave it to them -- he didn't sugarcoat his speech -- and they appreciated that.  Besides, they trusted him and, more than ever now, they needed an adult they could trust.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 09:06:03 AM

5.)  The Harrises and Klebolds both released statements.  What is your reaction to their statements? [pg 107]


Although they were told to keep quiet by their attorneys, and neither family spoke to the press, I think it was necessary for them to acknowledge their sorrow and sympathy as parents of the two mass murderers.  They couldn't just hide and not acknowledge the horrendous deed their sons had committed. As a parent, I would have done the same even though I would have to surmise that it meant nothing to those who lost their children because of an act of my children.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 09:23:23 AM

6.)  National polls taken after the attack listed a variety of causes contributing to the attack including violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies, Satan and the parents.  85% of the public in a Gallup poll blamed the parents.  What is your opinion of the list and the blaming of the parents?


Every time teens kill, especially in a school environment like Columbine,  the press hauls out the 'usual suspects' with Satan, Goths,  video games and movies with parents at the top of the list.  I remember how the press went after the parents at a time when no one really knew the back story.  Of course, parents are great targets.  Afterall, they've raised the kids, nurtured them, lived with them, and should know what is going on in their lives, right?  However, it's not that easy.  Kids are sharp and often devious, if they want to do something, there are many outlets and ways to get into trouble without parental supervision.  At the ages of Harris and Klebold, they were pretty free to come and go before and after school, as well as during and after their jobs.  Short of keeping kids prisoners in their homes after school, parents cannot reasonably be in constant control, and if both parents are working or out of the house, the kids are totally free.  In some cases, I believe parents have to share culpability, but in this case with the psychological problems that were discovered, I'm not sure many parents could have foreseen the tragedy that was Columbine.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 09:45:56 AM
18.)  In 'Black' we go back to Eric and Dylan's Sophomore year.  Did this time shift work for you in the structure of the book?  Does it make sense now that we have seen the consequences of their choices that we look at the roots of their actions?  What do you make of Eric's change of appearance at this time?  Was he becoming more confident?  Does this chapter put whether Eric and Dylan were outcasts or not in context (that is, do they seem to have been popular and to have had friends)?  What role did the Trench Coat Mafia play in their lives?

I liked the time shifts in the book.  Part 1 gave a good overview of events leading up to the shootings, and covered significant events during and immediately afterward.  Part 2 begins to probe backwards into the “why” of Eric and Dylan’s actions, while also continuing the forward progress regarding funerals and investigations.  The chapters ’First Memories’ and ‘Gifted Boy’ began this probing into the boys’ childhoods; by ‘Black’ we are up to early high school days.  One would have to know the consequences of their choices (the school bombing attempt and the shootings) before understanding why this chapter was written.

Eric’s change in appearance was an intentional decision to make himself appear different.  He could have continued to blend in if he had wanted to, but he no longer wanted to.  Since he was “talking back now and provoking confrontations,” I would say that he had become more confident.  Even having the nerve to show up in his new outfit shows confidence.  From what material this chapter presents, the boys do seem to have had lots of friends, and they seem to have intentionally cast themselves out from the “vanilla wafers,” rather than having been outcasts against their will.

This chapter gives a history of the Trench Coat Mafia’s development (starting with a long duster bought by another boy’s mom for part of his Dracula Halloween costume).  It’s clear that this was a real social group, but Eric and Dylan were not part of it, and it was dying out before they bought their own trench coats.  Its main role in their lives was as a fashion example, and the particular fashion just happened to be useful at the time of the massacre because the coats helped hide their weapons.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 09:48:33 AM

7.)  Why do you think the authorities were convinced of a conspiracy?  Why do you think they included the individuals that they did in their list of possible co-conspirators (Chris Morris, Brooks Brown, Robyn Anderson and others)?  Dave refers to a 'cryptic message suggesting the possibility of more violence to come' - why do you think someone would pass on a message like that?



From the beginning, authorities premised the idea of a conspiracy because of the scope of damage, and violence that occurred.  It was quick, it was violent, it was organized.  How could police officials imagined that two kids could have done the damage in such an expert fashion. This had all the elements of a group rather than two individuals.  The authorities probably included the kids in the list of possible conspirators because of their relationshps to Harris and Klebold.  As for the 'criptic message,' I thought it was a hoax.  Even these days there have been schools here in Penna that have received messages threatening violence in some form or other.  It sounds like a sicko sent the message --  some kid with a sick sense of humor IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 10:07:23 AM
19.)  In 'Media Crime' Dave takes on the myths of the Trench Coat Mafia, Goth outcasts hunting down jocks and other myths.  Do you feel this chapter helped clarify the motivations of the killers for you?  Why do you think that the public continues to believe these myths?

This chapter – and part of the prior chapter – do provide a good examination of the Trench Coat Mafia.  It wasn’t a myth, it really had existed, but Eric and Dylan merely wore trench coats and weren’t part of the TCM; therefore, the TCM had not been responsible for the killings.  Material later in this chapter also demonstrates that Goths were not behind the killings; furthermore, we learn elsewhere in the book that Eric and Dylan weren’t Goths.  (They weren’t gay, either, apparently, and that was another myth.)  In that sense, this chapter helped to clarify that the killers weren’t the people we thought they were.  I think we still have to rely on other sections of the book to understand the details of what motivated Eric and Dylan as individuals.  The matter of whether Eric and Dylan were responding as people who had been bullied is addressed by Question 24, so I won’t go into that here.

This chapter also shows how the initial failure of the press to dig deeply enough and to question witnesses sufficiently was partly to blame for the origination of these myths.  The public’s desire to put facts together so that they seemed to make sense – even if they didn’t fit – also helped to fuel the myths.  There are a couple of reasons why the public may continue to believe these myths.  First, maybe the press has never done a good enough job of publishing investigative stories which would go back and debunk the original myths.  The police and the press may know the truth, but maybe word hasn’t gotten across to the public.  Second, once the public begins to believe in concepts like the Trench Coat Mafia and Goths being responsible, those become “truths” in the public’s mind and are awfully hard to shake.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 10:19:26 AM
20.)  Bree Pascal related that the shooters were targeting 'anyone of color, wearing a white hat or playing a sport.'  Given the variety of the people that were killed, do you feel that the killers were targeting anyone in particular for retribution?  Were they acting racist or targeting bullies?

Bree Pasquale did mention those three groups of people, but she also said “Everyone around me got shot.”  The book actually points out two categories of unreliable witnesses.  One group was the people who had not witnessed events first-hand, and were simply repeating what they’d heard (rumors).  The second group were people like Bree, who was under duress and maybe in shock, whose testimony was full of contradictions.

By looking at the facts of who got shot (just consider the girls like Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott), it doesn’t appear that people of color, people wearing white hats, jocks or bullies were being targeted.  Patrick Ireland was targeted just because the top of his head appeared over the edge of a table.  These were random shootings, of whoever happened to be available when a particular shooter happened to feel like firing his gun. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 10:28:38 AM
Hi, Nikki, glad you're back.  I hope you had a good time at the shore.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 10:42:24 AM
21.)  Why was the media not selective in the people that were considered 'witnesses' at Columbine?  Did this contribute to confusion in the reports from the school?

The book provides good evidence that the media failed to “vet” the students whom it chose at witnesses.  It didn’t ask the students how they knew the stories they were telling, but instead equated a “student” with a “witness.”  Dave Cullen points out that this wouldn’t happen at a car wreck.  I would say that a car wreck usually presents fewer than two thousand witnesses, so there isn’t the potential for confusion to start with.  But he makes a good point in saying that the journalists felt out of place in teen culture, and may not have understood how to question potential teen witnesses to determine whether the witnesses had solid grounds for making the statements that they did.

This failure to question witnesses in enough depth had a lot to do with the confusing reports, IMO.  This was compounded by the fact that the witnesses themselves were often getting their information from TV rather than from first-hand knowledge.  When subsequent media interviewers did not figure this out, this merely kept the cycle of bad information repeating.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 11:00:18 AM
22.)  Were you surprised by Makai's reaction to the way Dylan was portrayed by the press? [pg. 154]

Makai had known Dylan, but maybe not very well.  He was right about Dylan being “real smart,” and I have no doubt that Dylan could seem “decent” and like “an all right guy” most of the time.  Makai may never have been around Dylan during one of his outbursts of anger, since those outbursts were volcanic but rare.  And even if he had seen Dylan angry, it may not have seemed unusual enough to Makai to alarm him.  Makai was relying on his own experience with Dylan when he said that Dylan had never treated him badly.  

I can’t find any discussion of Makai’s nationality, but his name sounds like he may have been a minority.  In that case, when Makai said that Dylan wasn’t “the kind of person he’s being portrayed as,” he may have also meant that Dylan didn’t hold a grudge against minorities – and this would not seem odd, considering Dylan’s Jewish background.  So no, I wasn’t surprised by Dylan’s reaction.  

Makai knew that the killers had shot his friend Patrick Ireland, but he sounded confused about how and why Dylan, in particular, might have wanted to be involved in such a thing.
  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:06:12 AM
8.)  In 'First Memories' we learn of Eric's fascination with fire and fireworks, guns, video games and the isolation of rural areas.  Were there warning signs in any of this or was this normal behavior?  Do you think that the disruptions of being a 'military brat' and his father's rigorous discipline were contributing factors to his eventual actions?  Why would these things affect him when they do not affect other children?



I think most boys have an interest in guns and fireworks, as well as video games.  Frankly, I don't see anything abnormal in this, nor any warning signs pointing to a future murderer.  The rural area where Eric lived when he was young sounds bucolic, and lends itself to the imaginative playing that he and his friends enjoyed so much.  As far as being a military brat, I guess it depends on the child.  I've known several military brats, one especially, who enjoyed the life and lived well, since his father was an officer.  Another one told me he didn't like changing schools so much.  Neither of these two were harmed by the life, though.  I didn't like the sound of Major Harris' punishment as 'swift and harsh.'  At the time, it doesn't sound like Eric deserved 'harsh' punishment IMO. Maybe his father was more militant in his discipline because of his occupation in the military.

It's almost impossible to answer why 'these things affect him when they do not affect other children.'  Why do some children grown up in horrendous surroundings like inner city disfunctional families, and go on to college and productive lives?  Perhaps there's a strong inner core in some children that can defie the most horrific situations.  OTOH others may have a fragile personality that cannot deal with their life experiences.  As we will see in the subsequent chapters, Eric's mental state had a lot to do with this.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:07:10 AM
Hi, Nikki, glad you're back.  I hope you had a good time at the shore.

Tks Debbie, I did.  Now have to catch up!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:15:20 AM
8.)  In 'First Memories' we learn of Eric's fascination with

9.)  At the beginning of 'Rush to Closure' we read that the Denver Post printed the headline 'Healing Begins' 36 hours after the attack.  What effect do you think that this had?  Do you think it hindered the healing of people who were still processing the attack?


The Post really jumped the gun, didn't they?  Don't know if it hindered the healing of people, but it certainly didn't help. Frankly, I hate the word 'healing' along with 'closure.'  I can't imagine that parents whose children were killed or wounded, or even the Harris's and Klebolds felt any 'healing.'  Any effect of this headline  had on parents was probably anger at the effrontery of the press.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:24:20 AM

10.)  Why do you think the heroic version of Danny Rorhbough's story was widely reported?  Do you think that people find it easier to accept tragedies of this sort if there is something meaningful in a victim's last actions?


It helped to embellish the story, and make it more readable to the public.  Everyone loves to read about heroes and, by making Danny a hero, the press was sure to garner more readers.  Besides, by the time the story was passed around and the witnesses "were tempted to inflate their accounts," there was no way of separating truth from fiction.  I appreciated Danny's father's anger at the need to "juice" the story. He knew his son wouldn't have just stood around if they were in danger. As he said, "It was tragic enough."
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:34:47 AM


11.)  Do you think that Mr. D helped the community heal by being emotional in public and encouraging the boys to show emotion?


Yes,  the counselors were right to encourage DeAngelis to show emotions. He never lied to his 'kids,' and they would have found it suspect if he had told them to button up and hide their feelings, especially after he had been so open at the church.  Repressing their feelings would have been the worst thing for everyone.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 11:49:58 AM

12.)  What is your opinion of the differences in the reactions to the attacks by Rev. Oudemulen, Rev. Kirsten, Rev. Marxhausen and Barb Lotz.


IMO the Reverends Oudemulen and Kirsten were of the 'fire and brimstone' mold.  Conjuring up Satan and spiritual warfare was easy -- it didn't face the reality of mental or disfunctional teens.  Rev. Lotze was right when she said "they just want to be hugged...told that we're going to get through this together."  Rev. Marxhausen was the most realistic.  He had reached the kids at the Light of the World assembly, and he had always been a mainliner among the Protestant clergy.  He had his finger on life in the real world and this pragmatism packed his church.  Of course, there are many religions which still attract vastly different congregations, and these differences seemed to be obvious in Littleton.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 12:19:11 PM
24.)  Dave says 'There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence that it was a problem at Columbine High.'  Given what we've read about the TCM and Goths at the school does this observation seem reasonable to you?

I do see the distinction he’s making, and I can believe that some of the outcast Goths might have been bullied.  Furthermore, I think that bullying of some sort may be a problem in most schools.  But I agree that no evidence is presented to show that Dylan and Eric were outcasts except of their own choosing, and I don’t see evidence that they were bullied.

As for bullying leading to murder, I can imagine a scenario in which this might happen, but it doesn’t fit the facts of this case.  In this imaginary scenario, a boy might be bullied over a period of time until he “snapped,” went home and got his father’s gun (having made no prior plans to buy a gun of his own), and came back to school with it while he was still angry, then shot at the bullies in revenge.  Dylan has the personality which might have led him to get angry and snap and desire revenge, but the plan for the murders did not follow this outline because it had been worked out (mostly by Eric) for at least a year.  Also, Dylan had just had a happy outing on prom night and did not seem to have been in a state of anger prior to the shootings.

IMO, Eric was too cold and calculating to have responded to bullying with an immediate lashing out at those who had bullied him, and I think his careful, step-by-step preparations for a grand-scale attack on the school also indicate that he wasn’t responding to any one particular instance of having been bullied.
He never writes about feuds with particular people in his journal, as far as I can tell; people are all rather blank slates to him, they are automatons, and he doesn’t distinguish much between them.  The scope of his plans, particularly the use of the big bombs, suggest that he was willing to kill everyone and was aiming at a high body count.  The word “indiscriminate” has been used; the bombs would have been indiscriminate and would not have targeted any particular people against whom Eric might have held a grudge.
   


Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 25, 2009, 12:35:12 PM
19.)  In 'Media Crime' Dave takes on the myths of the Trench Coat Mafia, Goth outcasts hunting down jocks and other myths.  Do you feel this chapter helped clarify the motivations of the killers for you?  Why do you think that the public continues to believe these myths?

This chapter – and part of the prior chapter – do provide a good examination of the Trench Coat Mafia.  It wasn’t a myth, it really had existed, but Eric and Dylan merely wore trench coats and weren’t part of the TCM; therefore, the TCM had not been responsible for the killings.  Material later in this chapter also demonstrates that Goths were not behind the killings; furthermore, we learn elsewhere in the book that Eric and Dylan weren’t Goths.  (They weren’t gay, either, apparently, and that was another myth.)  In that sense, this chapter helped to clarify that the killers weren’t the people we thought they were.  I think we still have to rely on other sections of the book to understand the details of what motivated Eric and Dylan as individuals.  The matter of whether Eric and Dylan were responding as people who had been bullied is addressed by Question 24, so I won’t go into that here.

This chapter also shows how the initial failure of the press to dig deeply enough and to question witnesses sufficiently was partly to blame for the origination of these myths.  The public’s desire to put facts together so that they seemed to make sense – even if they didn’t fit – also helped to fuel the myths.  There are a couple of reasons why the public may continue to believe these myths.  First, maybe the press has never done a good enough job of publishing investigative stories which would go back and debunk the original myths.  The police and the press may know the truth, but maybe word hasn’t gotten across to the public.  Second, once the public begins to believe in concepts like the Trench Coat Mafia and Goths being responsible, those become “truths” in the public’s mind and are awfully hard to shake.



Further to your comments above, it seems to me that people prefer to believe that a terrible outrage as happened at Columbine, was committed by people who were "other" in some way. The press gathered up snippets of information and wove them together to make an innacurate picture, that sold newspapers, and gave comfort, but comforted precisely because it was innacurate.
The people in that community didn't want the killers to be "ordinary" people just like them.
"Goths," of whch there are many in any school, look a little strange to the adult eye, therefore, they are "other," even though they actually weren't involved.
The "Trench Coat Mafia" just a temporary fashion and group of students, that had been and gone, as happens in all schools, but easily seen as some kind of secret sociey plotting evil deeds. This was later transferred to any young man who then wore a trench coat to school, and thereby indicated nothing.
Gay people are often seen as "other" and can safely be blamed, apart from the fact that any gay students had absolutely nothing to do with the shooting.
It is all so easy, and as Dave has demonstrated, so wrong.
It is much more worrying for people to have to look into the heart of their own community to see the wrongdoers.
Eric and Dylan, were ordinary, they weren't "other" that is much more unsettling.
It is so easy to blame the "different," the "strange" or the "foreign."
To realise that the perpetrators were people who in appearance and activity were so like themselves was too hard for many people.
The legend is more reassuring.
Even when it is wrong.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 12:41:32 PM
23.)  Why do you think that the rumor about Eric and Dylan being gay spread in Clement Park?  Was this a way for the survivors to create psychological distance from the killers?  Why do you think the media failed to show the same restraint they showed with regard to gay rumors in describing the killers as Goths?  Were you surprised to read that although they are often stigmatized and bullied in schools that Goths do not react violently?

Perhaps the appearance of Goths, with their unusual hair and fingernails and dress, was confused with stereotypical notions about how gay people look.  I also agree that it may have been a way to create psychological distance from the killers, among students who felt that, since they themselves were not gay, they could never be at risk for committing a crime like Eric and Dylan had committed.

The media may have found the Goth rumor attractive because it was something new that would grab headlines.  On the other hand, the media had a tradition by then of not reporting on sexual orientation unless it was announced by the person in question.  “The gay question” had been around for a lot longer than the Goth question, and the press may have learned to use some discretion about it.  They also may have suspected that part of the rumor to be false.

It didn’t come as any surprise to me that Goths do not react violently to being stigmatized and bullied.  I have met some people who look like Goths, usually working in shops and so on, and they seemed polite and mild-mannered.  I can believe that they generally have a pacifist nature.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 12:46:14 PM
Further to your comments above, it seems to me that people prefer to believe that a terrible outrage as happened at Columbine, was committed by people who were "other" in some way. The press gathered up snippets of information and wove them together to make an innacurate picture, that sold newspapers, and gave comfort, but comforted precisely because it was innacurate.
The people in that community didn't want the killers to be "ordinary" people just like them.
{snip}
Eric and Dylan, were ordinary, they weren't "other" that is much more unsettling.
It is so easy to blame the "different," the "strange" or the "foreign."
To realise that the perpetrators were people who in appearance and activity were so like themselves was too hard for many people.
The legend is more reassuring.
Even when it is wrong.

So very true, Jess.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 02:33:32 PM


13.)  What did you learn about Dylan Klebold in the chapter 'Gifted Boy'?  Do you believe his intellect made him feel different from others (and perhaps an outcast)?  Do you think his anger management issues had implications for his eventual depression and violence?  Were you surprised that though he was Jewish he still hung out with Eric Harris?


As long as he was in CHIPS in elementary school, he was sheltered as Dave writes, but he faced a "frightening transition in seventh grade."  He was bound to feel different as he got older and transitioned into high school from middle school.  However, his shyness coupled with his scholastic brilliance seemed to make him not only feel different, but different in ways that probably kept him from being popular. Outcast is pretty strong, but he could have felt ignored by some of his peers -- maybe not included in social activities that he would like.


I think his  anger management issues may have influenced his depression, and his violence stemmed from his feelings of rejection from his peers. He may have internalized his violence against himself because he felt he didn't fit in with others of his age and class.

Not surprised that though he was Jewish he hung out with Harris.  I personally see from my granddaughters and their friends that there  is a great deal of social interaction with many of their Jewish friends in high school, and a number of Jewish kids are from mixed marriages.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 02:56:37 PM

14.)  What did you take away from the chapter 'Hour of Need'?  Do you think Rev. Marxhausen acted as a good pastor to the Klebolds?  What did you think of Dylan's memorial and the parish's reaction to it?


I thought this was a powerful chapter.  The Rev. Marxhausen was sympathetic and understanding to the Klebolds, and was willing to keep the service confidential as they asked.   Although the Klebolds hadn't been active in the parish for five years, he offered them complete understanding and anticipated media questions about the service even asking the Klebold attorney what to say regarding inquiries. The pride his parishioners had in him was, no doubt, due to his account in the NYT.  IMO Marxhausen acted as a true Christian, and exhibited love and understanding to the Klebolds in dire circumstances.

I wasn't surprised at the reaction of some of the parish. It was nearly impossible for some of them to be sympathetic, especially since many of them probably knew, or even were related to some of the victims and survivors. I found it sad that the family didn't feel that burying Dylan was safe, and that his grave could become an "anti-shrine."  As Cullen writes, Their [the Klebolds] loneliness was not an especially popular concern.[/]
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 03:24:25 PM


15.)  In his online fantasies Eric describes a world where nothing happens and all humans have been eliminated.  He said that he in fact wishes he could act on these fantasies.  Does you see signs of psychopathology in this?  Do you think many teens have nihilistic or misanthropic fantasies of this sort?  Would you advise someone communicating online with a person who revealed these fantasies to alert someon in authority?


I'd worry about Eric wishing to act on his fantasies, especially where all humans have been eliminated.  I do think many teens have fantasies like this -- and probably more.  The teen age years are difficult, confusing, and scary; most kids seem to make it through okay.  However, the ones like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who act on their fantasies usually end up either dead or in jail.

Many teens probably have thoughts of wanting to hurt or even kill peers or parents who have hurt them in some way.  Still the majority of teens don't act on their fantasies, or use other outlets for feelings of hate and anger.  I can't comment on psychopathology as a lay person.  Too bad we don't have a psychiatrist in the group.  Of course, there's no guarantee he/she wouldn't misdiagnose!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 03:32:36 PM


16.)  In 'Threesome' Dave writes 'Dylan and Zack needed Eric.  Someone to do the talking.'  Doe this tend to make you believe that Eric Harris lead Dylan Klebold into the attack on Columbine or do you think that Dylan's anger would have eventually led him to act out in a violent manner?


Dylan and Zack seemed to be your basic followers, and they found a leader in Eric.  Maybe Dylan's anger would have led him to act out, but without Eric it may not have ended in such fatal violence.  I kept wondering what Dylan would have been like without Eric's influence.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 03:39:53 PM



17.)  In 'Help Is On The Way' we read of the last hours of Dave Sander's life.  Do you think that if the SWAT team had entered the school more quickly that his life could have been saved?  For me this was one of the most difficult chapters in the book to read.  Did it affect you in a similar fashion?  Please share your thoughts on how this chapter affected you.


Yes it was difficult, because I think Sander's life could have been saved if the SWAT team had arrived more quickly.  I thought it devastating that the operators kept telling them for three hours that help was on the way...in about ten minutes.  Cullen's description of Dave's last hours were vivid and heart breaking. The kids who tried to save Dave should have been commended -- they were real heroes IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 03:59:23 PM
15.)  


18.)  In 'Black' we go back to Eric and Dylan's Sophomore year.  Did this time shift work for you in the structure of the book?  Does it make sense now that we have seen the consequences of their choices that we look at the roots of their actions?  What do you make of Eric's change of appearance at this time?  Was he becoming more confident?  Does this chapter put whether Eric and Dylan were outcasts or not in context (that is, do they seem to have been popular and to have had friends)?  What role did the Trench Coat Mafia play in their lives?


I've read quite a few books recently with 'time shifts' or flash backs. It usually works because it lays the groundwork for what is to come while recapping a bit of the past. 

Eric's edgier look gave him a bad boy persona that apparently appealed to girls.  He talked back and provoked confrontations -- he was much more self-confident.  To Eric different was good. Dylan was still quiet and a follower and his style was more scaled down from Eric.  To Dylan different was difficult.

One friend said the boys choses to be 'outcasts.'  Yet they had many friends and fit in with "a whole thriving subculture.' Eric always seemed to thrive on his difference.  Dylan didn't, but went along with Eric.

The boys who adopted the long, black trench coat were referred to as The Trench Coat Mafia, just the sort of name that would stick to kids in high school.  Ironically, Eric and Dylan didn't get trench coats until before the massacre -- they never belonged to the TCM.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 04:40:18 PM

19.)  In 'Media Crime' Dave takes on the myths of the Trench Coat Mafia, Goth outcasts hunting down jocks and other myths.  Do you feel this chapter helped clarify the motivations of the killers for you?  Why do you think that the public continues to believe these myths?


I think it clarified why the myths became 'gospel' according to the media.  Once a story is printed in the media it becomes hard to deny the myths and spin.   If it's repeated over and over everyone buys into it.  There are those who continued to believe in the myths because they only read or heard the earlier accounts, and stopped reading followup accounts.  Accounts from the press, TV, radio all may differ in some way, but how many people look for that difference? 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 04:52:39 PM


20.)  Bree Pascal related that the shooters were targeting 'anyone of color, wearing a white hat or playing a sport.'  Given the variety of the people that were killed, do you feel that the killers were targeting anyone in particular for retribution?  Were they acting racist or targeting bullies?


Pascal was typical of a witness under stress, and the press "glommed on to the anomaly in her statement." The variety of people who were killed may have fit a number of categories in the school.  If someone witnessed a particular target who fit a profile like jocks, gays, or bullies then the witness zeroed in the target and described the shooters as aiming for anyone who fit that profile.  Once the witness's description was repeated in the media, the myths were hard to dispel. IMO they were shooting at random without a thought for who fit into any category.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 05:05:04 PM

21.)  Why was the media not selective in the people that were considered 'witnesses' at Columbine?  Did this contribute to confusion in the reports from the school?


Most of the coverage was fed from local news stations.  Cullen writes "there was a failure to question...the rest of the media chain repeated those mistakes." The national press trusted the Denver Post.  It [the Post] did not create any of the myths, but as the Post bought into one after another after another, each mistaken conclusion felt safe.  The pack followed.

It seemed like a roller coaster, stories were repeated and elaborated upon.  Students repeated what was in the media until the confusion grew.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 05:12:49 PM
25.)  Do you think that the 'missions' were an early sign of trouble and should have been taken more seriously?  Why do you think Eric targeted Brooks?  Was this a missed opportunity for Wayne Harris to take note of his son's problems?  Given Eric's anger at Brooks are you surprised he didn't kill him at Columbine?

The missions involved vandalism, which is a juvenile offense.  The police were evidently not aware of them, but after Eric and Brooks had their snowball/ice fight, Brooks told Eric’s mother about them and about the liquor Eric had hidden in his room.  Kathy Harris (Eric’s mother) seemed open to hearing about this, but Wayne Harris resented the outside interference.  He did question Eric and make notes (which included the comment that Eric had been “a little bully”) but Wayne’s overall summary of the incident was that that the Browns had overreacted to a minor incident.  I would say this was a missed opportunity for Wayne to take Eric’s problems more seriously.

This chapter shows several examples of Eric’s ability to put on an appearance of being good.  In an school essay about a killer, he wrote that “love and care is the only way” to teach right and wrong to a gifted misfit.  But Eric wasn’t very loving toward other people.  Is it possible that his father’s emphasis on discipline did not make Eric feel that his father loved him? – and might this have had an effect on his later behavior?  Perhaps, although it’s likely that Eric’s mental disorder was not the result of his upbringing.  Another way Eric managed to appear innocent was by destroying his liquor stash and then confessing that he was afraid of Mrs. Brown – an explanation that Wayne bought into, but which Mrs. Brown knew wasn’t true.

I wasn’t sure whether the question “Why did Eric target Brooks” referred to him throwing ice at Brooks’s during the snowball fight, or to the later targeting of Browns’ house.  If the former, Eric had stopped talking to Brooks before the snowball fight, but it’s not clear why:  just a garden-variety feud, I thought.  If the latter, Eric targeted the Browns’ house because of the way Brooks snitched on him following the snowball fight.  I thought this whole scene ended with these two boys not on very good terms, so it did surprise me at first that Eric warned Brooks to go home prior to taking the bombs into the school cafeteria.  Now that I’ve thought it over, I think Eric just wanted Brooks to go away and stop asking him questions so that he wouldn’t have to deal with him.  If he had taken time to argue with, or especially kill, Brooks outside the school, this would have drawn other people’s attention and slowed Eric down so that he couldn’t follow through on the more important part of his plan.  Killing Brooks or any other specific person was not on Eric’s list of goals for April 20.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 05:14:56 PM

22.)  Were you surprised by Makai's reaction to the way Dylan was portrayed by the press? [pg. 154]


Yes, I was surprised.  However, Makai had only seen one side of Dylan -- not Dylan, the killer -- yet he seemed to find it hard to equate Dylan as a cold blooded killer. Even today when a murder is committed, neighbors of the killer will often say "He was a nice guy, I never thought he would do that...." 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 05:40:00 PM

23)  Why do you think that the rumor about Eric and Dylan being gay spread in Clement Park?  Was this a way for the survivors to create psychological distance from the killers?  Why do you think the media failed to show the same restraint they showed with regard to gay rumors in describing the killers as Goths?  Were you surprised to read that although they are often stigmatized and bullied in schools that Goths do not react violently?


Maybe because the jocks were more vocal and their stories with the gay angle was more enticing.  I doubt they wanted to create psychological distanace from the killers, rather it seemed like they were just a loudmouth bunch of jocks who liked the lime light.

Most major media carefully sidestepped the gay rumor.  IMO they were careful about printing the gay rumor because they feared there was a moral overtone here and, since the shooters were dead, even the media felt a need for restraint.   The Goth angle was seductive because of the overt appearance of the group with white face paint and black garb. No matter what they printed about the Goths, there was no overt moral angle, and no one to step up and defend them.  Most of what was reported were lies about this mild, pacifistic group.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 05:46:22 PM
26.)  Do you feel the police blew it by not acting on the web pages the Browns had turned over to them?  Why did the police try to blame the Browns?  Why do you think that though an affidavit for a search warrant had been drafted to search the Harris house that it was never taken before a judge?  Was this just a bureaucratic foul up?  Was there a cover-up in your opinion?

Since the Browns had provided the police with pages from Eric’s web site, spewing hate and threatening to kill, I think the police should have investigated further Eric back in 1997.  In fact, the sheriff’s department did investigate one of the Browns’ complaints in early 1998, and found evidence that Eric was building pipe bombs.  It appears that the search warrant drawn up by Mike Guerra simply fell through the cracks, and that’s why it wasn’t taken before a judge.  This would fall into the category of a bureaucratic foul-up (with an innocent intent) at that time.

It was only after the Columbine massacre that the police began trying to blame the Browns and fingered Brooks Brown as a suspect.  I feel that “blaming the Browns” was part of a police cover-up, to deflect attention from the earlier investigation which might have intercepted Eric before he could act out his violent threats.  The disappearance of Investigator Guerra’s file on his investigation seems like proof that someone in charge was trying to prevent that investigation from becoming public.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 05:55:00 PM



24.)  Dave says 'There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence that it was a problem at Columbine High.'  Given what we've read about the TCM and Goths at the school does this observation seem reasonable to you?



Well, it's not unreasonable. It seemed that DeAngelis was unaware that bullying existed because he was focused on the success stories at Columbine.  Students who are bullied will rarely rat out the bullies, because retribution will be harsh and sudden.  However, I don't think bullying led to murder in this case. Eric was not the type to let himself be bullied, and Dylan, as a friend of Eric, was protected.  They had their own group of friends and were popular with girls -- enough to keep them safe.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 25, 2009, 06:04:13 PM
27.)  Eric's journal said 'I hate the fucking world.'  What does this say about his motivations for the killings?  Would you have liked more information about the journal in the chapter 'Telling Us Why'?

As Dave Cullen notes on page 170, Eric’s web site had given general details of who Eric hated and what he wanted to do to the world.  It didn’t say much about Why he killed.  When Agent Fuselier first read the phrase, “I hate the fucking world,” he says he began to understand the Why.  The next page says that as Fuselier read on, he became mesmerized as he continued to better understand the Why, because the journal was “infinitely more candid about the urges driving Eric to kill.”

To me, that one sentence by itself merely says that Eric had a universal hostility toward everyone, and that he probably cared about no one.  It still doesn’t tell me that he wanted to kill everyone.  This idea must have been developed further in the journal, and presumably we will read more about it later in the book.  I do wish to learn more about these “urges…to kill,” but for now, I can accept the idea that the book may be setting up an introduction to Part 3 here, and that we may learn more in Part 3.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 25, 2009, 06:10:52 PM
Hi, Nikki, glad you're back.  I hope you had a good time at the shore.

^^^  What she said!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 06:15:37 PM


25.)  Do you think that the 'missions' were an early sign of trouble and should have been taken more seriously?  Why do you think Eric targeted Brooks?  Was this a missed opportunity for Wayne Harris to take note of his son's problems?  Given Eric's anger at Brooks are you surprised he didn't kill him at Columbine?


I do think the 'missions' were an early sign of trouble.  Eric was a budding criminal, and a dangerous one at that. Brooks made a good target, because Eric was mad at him, and probably considered him inferior as most of Eric's targets were.  I think Wayne Harris handled this very poorly, especially for a parent who was big on harsh discipline.  He seemed to be the type of parent who was in denial when it came to his own child.

I was surprised that Eric didn't kill Brooks, especially when he said, "I like you now..get out of here and go home." It didn't seem like Eric to change his feelings so easily, especially after the way he had treated Brooks during the 'missions.' 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 06:26:11 PM
Hi, Nikki, glad you're back.  I hope you had a good time at the shore.

^^^  What she said!

Tks, Michael.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 06:45:52 PM

26.)  Do you feel the police blew it by not acting on the web pages the Browns had turned over to them?  Why did the police try to blame the Browns?  Why do you think that though an affidavit for a search warrant had been drafted to search the Harris house that it was never taken before a judge?  Was this just a bureaucratic foul up?  Was there a cover-up in your opinion?


IMO the police blew it big time!  There was a lot of denial and cover up here, especially concerning the search warrant which was never acted upon. Jeffco officials quoted Eric's site in the search warrants then denied seeing it.  Sheriff Stone "fingered Brooks as a suspect on 'The Today Show.' " All of this and more seemed to point to more than a bureaucratic foul up.  Unless there's more to come in the last two sections, I'm confused as to why the police botched this so badly.  Was there a payoff?  Was Wayne Harris involved? Was it payback against the Browns?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 25, 2009, 06:49:19 PM

27.)  Eric's journal said 'I hate the fucking world.'  What does this say about his motivations for the killings?  Would you have liked more information about the journal in the chapter 'Telling Us Why'?


Sounds like hate was Eric's main motivation.  I would have liked more info at this point as to why he did it --  it ends like a cliff hanger.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 27, 2009, 11:22:38 AM

As we take a break between sections (we are taking a break, right?), I would  like to mention an article in 'The Philadelphia Inquirer' on 6/14/09 titled 'Columbine: The Work of a Real Monster' by Mark Bowden.  Bowden, a former 'Inquirer' columnist, is the author of 'Black Hawk Down' and 'The Best Game Ever.' He lauds Dave Cullen's book as ... a remarkably detailed work of reporting...it feels like the definitive story and it disproves most of the prevailing wisdom.  Bowden covers most of what we are discussing here including the answers to many of Michael's questions.  It is a fascinating read, and I won't quote anything, since it's worth reading as a companion piece to Cullen's book.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 27, 2009, 11:54:10 AM
As we take a break between sections (we are taking a break, right?)

I'm guessing so Nikki - the Pride parade is tomorrow and lots of people (including your group leader) are a little busy.

But never fear!  I have a solution!  I'm going to post some of the more general questions from Dave's Book Group list here later today or early tomorrow as a conversation starter.  Then (so as not to post lots of questions all at once) I'll wait till Wednesday for my specific questions on the book.  Does that sound all right to everyone?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 27, 2009, 12:09:57 PM


Sounds good to me, Michael.  ummm what's Dave's Book Group List?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 27, 2009, 12:49:17 PM
Sounds good to me, Michael.  ummm what's Dave's Book Group List?

http://www.davecullen.com/columbine/book-club.htm

I thought this might be fun.  It gives me a chance to step out of the role as discussion leader and answer some questions too!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 27, 2009, 01:16:31 PM

As we take a break between sections (we are taking a break, right?), I would  like to mention an article in 'The Philadelphia Inquirer' on 6/14/09 titled 'Columbine: The Work of a Real Monster' by Mark Bowden.  Bowden, a former 'Inquirer' columnist, is the author of 'Black Hawk Down' and 'The Best Game Ever.' He lauds Dave Cullen's book as ... a remarkably detailed work of reporting...it feels like the definitive story and it disproves most of the prevailing wisdom.  Bowden covers most of what we are discussing here including the answers to many of Michael's questions.  It is a fascinating read, and I won't quote anything, since it's worth reading as a companion piece to Cullen's book.

Is there an online link to that, Nikki? -- since I didn't get that paper when it was on the news stands.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 27, 2009, 01:18:29 PM
Is there an online link to that, Nikki? -- since I didn't get that paper when it was on the news stands.

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/mark_bowden/20090614_The_Point__Columbine__The_work_of_a_real_monster.html
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 27, 2009, 01:27:23 PM
1.  Do you remember where you were on April 20, 1999? How did you hear about the Columbine massacre? What were your initial thoughts?  

Interesting questions!  I'll answer this one now, then come back to them on Monday. 

I was at home and had the TV on.  Since it was a Tuesday, I'm assuming that I was working at home that day rather than being on vacation.  It was my habit then to be up early and listen to in the background while working at the computer.  My mother (who lives in Colorado) remembers that I called her and asked "Do you have the TV on?" 

I can't really remember my initial thoughts now, other than that it was a shocking news story and that many students were apparently in danger inside the school.  I did think of it as a shooting, and wondered how high school kids had gotten guns into the school.  I had no idea that any bombs were involved.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 27, 2009, 05:01:33 PM
Sounds good to me, Michael.  ummm what's Dave's Book Group List?

http://www.davecullen.com/columbine/book-club.htm

I thought this might be fun.  It gives me a chance to step out of the role as discussion leader and answer some questions too!

Tks Michael.  I never knew this thread existed -- guess I missed it somewhere. Yes, now you can join the masses in commenting. :D
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 27, 2009, 05:02:29 PM
Is there an online link to that, Nikki? -- since I didn't get that paper when it was on the news stands.

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/mark_bowden/20090614_The_Point__Columbine__The_work_of_a_real_monster.html

Tks for supplying the link to Debbie.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 27, 2009, 07:46:48 PM
Is there an online link to that, Nikki? -- since I didn't get that paper when it was on the news stands.

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/mark_bowden/20090614_The_Point__Columbine__The_work_of_a_real_monster.html

Thanks for the link, Michael, and thanks, Nikki, for mentioning it.

It was a very insightful summary of the book's conclusions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 28, 2009, 06:26:47 PM
15.  At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not? What helped you make this decision? What kind of impact did this book have on you?  

I decided that I liked the book right from the first couple of pages.  The writing style played a large part in this, because it was gripping and down-to-earth.  It portrayed the emotions of the characters, and didn't get bogged down in an overabundance of dry facts.  As I read on, I was amazed to be getting a behind-the-scenes look at an event which had been so prominently in the news at tht time, but about which I had both forgotten a lot, and had misunderstood so much.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 28, 2009, 06:35:25 PM
2.  Some readers have referred to Columbine as a “non-fiction novel.” Do you think this description fits?  

It depends on what they mean by that phrase.  If I understand that phrase to mean that Columbine is a factual story told in the writing style of a novel, then I agree.  The people discussed in the book don't have the flavor of historical figures, but of characters, with their personalities and thoughts fleshed out as they would be in a novel.  Just for example, consider the way Frank DeAngelis is presented, or Agent Fuselier, or Misty Bernall (Cassie's mother).  The action sequence showing of Dylan's and Eric's behavior on the morning of the massacre is another example.

If the phrase has a derogatory overtone to it, in the sense of meaning that Columbine is based on a true event but takes liberties with the the truth as a novel might, then I don't agree.  I got the sense that the investigative journalism behind this book was pretty solid.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 28, 2009, 06:45:57 PM
5.  Why is it important that books like Columbine be written and read? Who should read this book?  

I think it's important that books like Columbine be written to set the facts straight about well-publicized events which have been surrounded by so many inaccurate myths as this massacre has been.  I would say that anyone among the general public who has an awareness of the event but may not be up-to-date on the current thinking about why and how it happened should read it.  In particular, it has lessons for law enforcement, school officials, other emergency management officials. 

Parents may be very interested in reading it, but I'm not sure they will find the answers they are looking for if they want to know how to raise children so they will not become involved in murder and suicide themselves.  I say this because at this point, I'm not sure that the Klebolds and Harrises made big enough mistakes to have any real responsibility for what their children did.

On a personal note, I have an aunt who is a recently retired schoolteacher in Colorado.  I thought she might be interested in reading Columbine, but she is definitely not interested.  This surprised me a little, but it concerns a violent incident which she is uncomfortable thinking about.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 28, 2009, 06:55:11 PM
7.  As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter?  Why do you think you hadn’t known about them before?  

My biggest surprise was learning about the "big bombs" with the propane tanks and the nearby gasoline containers.  I never realized anything like a huge explosion had been planned.  I probably didn't learn about them because they weren't publicized in the early days afterwards.  If they were publicized later, my attention had moved on to other things and I never heard about them.  I wasn't living in Colorado, so it wasn't a local story for me, but even my mother who does live there says she did not realize the big bombs were there.  I also did not realize that such a large number of small bombs (that could be thrown like hand grenades) were involved.

Another surprising thing, to me, was the discovery that Cassie Bernall didn't really die after saying "Yes," she believed in God.  I suspect that I never learned the truth about this because her family and church thought the story made her death seem meaningful (to them) and was therefore too comforting to be set straight in the public's mind.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 28, 2009, 07:02:30 PM
8.  What if you were able to meet the killers’ parents. What would you want them to know? What if you could meet another character in the book. Who would you want to meet and what would you say to them?  

I would want the Klebolds to know that I sympathized with them in the loss of their son, and probably also that I didn't hold them responsible.  I'm not sure I would want to meet the Harrises, but I might tell them that I thought they should have supervised Eric's room in the basement better, or tried to ask how he could have accumulated such a stash of weapons as well as journals and tapes, without their suspecting anything.

It would be interesting to meet Frank DeAngelis, the principal, and if I did, I would tell him that I admired the way he cared about his students, and that he shouldn't hold himself responsible for what happened. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 28, 2009, 07:03:13 PM

2. Some readers have referred to Columbine as a "non-fiction novel."  Do you think this description fits?

    I think of it as a journalistic account of a tragedy. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 28, 2009, 07:19:35 PM
3. How does the author build and maintain suspense and mystery in the book?  How does he deal with the fact that readers may know -- or think they know -- the outcomes or details of the book's events?

     Since most readers probably already knew the outcome, I didn't sense any mystery or supense.  However, the author brings to light many facts that were unknown, misinterpreted, or repressed were revelatory to me.  He is able to bring to light so much that was never properly reported in the media concerning the backstory about the killers together with the tons of research that the author dealt with concerning ineffectual police work and blunders makes 'Columbine' a classic study of psychopathic killers IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 28, 2009, 07:27:46 PM
19. Has this book changed how you would relate to your teen children or to teens that you have a close relationship with?

     It already has.  Recently during a vacation with my two granddaughters, I gave them a quick summary about 'Columbine' and suggested they read the book as soon as they can.  They were stunned by the events I related and, though I was not able to discuss it at length, I tried to explain the salient facts during the short time we had.  I would suggest that every teen read this book, and I hope every high school library adds it to their libraries.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 28, 2009, 07:56:02 PM

13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book?  Did it enhance the story?  How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community?  How likely is it that a similar event could happen  where you are?

First, the setting was a middle-class suburban area where 'these kinds of things' aren't supposed to happen. While the setting was not unique, it was supposed to be safe. 

Second, it enhanced the story because of the appearance of a safe, middle-class area and not an inner city school where criminal activity is more pronounced. 

Third, I attended a Catholic boarding school, so nothing in the story resonated with me.  However, the community where I live is a middle to upper middle class suburb where this would not be expected to happen in the local high school and, if it did, I can't even imagine what the repercussions would be.  Probably like the one where the tragedy happened.  No one is ever prepared for something like this.

Fourth, I don't think it would happen here in the local high school, but unfortunately there's no guarantee.  I'm sure that the community of Littleton didn't imagine anything like that could happen in their school either.  There's really no way of preventing such a thing; who could imagine two killers like Harris and Lebold in their schools and, yet, how could it be prevented from happening.  There is really no way of preventing someone like Harris from doing what he was determined to do.



Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 28, 2009, 08:44:52 PM
12. Compare 'In Cold Blood's' Dick and Perry to  Columbine's Eric and Dylan.  What similarities and differences do you find?  How did Capote and Cullen's approaches to researching and telling their stories differ?

It's been a long time since I read 'In Cold Blood,' but I'll give it a shot.

Dick and Perry were adult criminals before they killed the Clutters; Harris and Lebold were teen psychopaths.

Capote wrote his account more as a nonfiction novel, and injected some of his personal feelings about capitol punishment into the story. He became personally involved with the criminals, especially Perry. He also attended the execution at the request of the killers.   While he interviewed as many of the townspeople as possible, he also did an enormous amount of research revisiting the town several times.  He made friends with one of the detectives on the case as well.  He was also assisted by Lee Harper, a personal friend, and the author of 'To Kill a Mocking Bird.'  He didn't deny that he became personally involved with the killers and corresponded with them, and sent them books.

While Cullen also did an enormous amount of research and interviewed many of the principals and survivors, he never seemed to be personally involved as was Capote, and kept his objectivity throughout his investigations.  His account was considered a nonfictional account by some critics.  Cullen's was a more objective account of a crime as opposed to Capote's involvement which affected him  personally for years.  Capote took five years to write his story; Cullen took ten.

Capote's account of the Clutter's murder is considered a classic; Cullen's account has already been compared to 'In Cold Blood' by critics, and is considered the definitive account of the 'Columbine' tragedy.



Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 29, 2009, 10:41:06 AM
Hello readers!  As you can see Debbie and Nikki have already started answering some of the questions from Dave's Columbine Blog.  These questions were originally published in "O" magazine and take a more general approach to the book than my questions tend to.  Please have a good time answering them - and for those waiting for my questions I'll post the next set on Wednesday.  The questions follow:

Questions:

   1. Do you remember where you were on April 20, 1999? How did you hear about the Columbine massacre? What were your initial thoughts?

   2. Some readers have referred to Columbine as a “non-fiction novel.” Do you think this description fits?

   3. How does the author build and maintain suspense and mystery in the book?  How does he deal with the fact that readers may know – or think they know –the outcomes or details of the book’s events?

   4. What do you make of the relationship between Eric and Dylan? Did this relationship remain consistent throughout the book? If there were shifts in their roles, can you pinpoint when and why this happened?

   5. Why is it important that books like Columbine be written and read? Who should read this book?

   6. Do you think this book glorifies Eric and Dylan and perpetuates the legend that they wanted to leave behind?

   7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter?  Why do you think you hadn’t known about them before?

   8. What if you were able to meet the killers’ parents. What would you want them to know? What if you could meet another character in the book. Who would you want to meet and what would you say to them?

   9. Which, if any, of the book’s characters do you consider to be heroes? Which were scapegoats? Were there more than two people responsible for the killings?

  10. Which characters had reason to feel guilty? Who do you think still feels guilty now?

  11. Do any of the characters change or evolve through the course of the story? Do they change their view of the world and their relationship to it? If so, what events trigger such changes?

  12. Compare In Cold Blood’s Dick and Perry to Columbine’s Eric and Dylan. What similarities and differences do you find? How did Capote and Cullen’s approaches to researching and telling their stories differ?

  13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book? Did it enhance the story? How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community? How likely is it that a similar event could happen where you are?

  14. Which passages were most difficult for you to read? Which scenes are most memorable for you?

  15. At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not? What helped you make this decision? What kind of impact did this book have on you?

  16. Were you surprised by any of the revelations about the attack? Which ones? Were you surprised by the community reaction in the aftermath? How do you think your community would react after such an event?

  17. At what point in the narrative could one decision or one action have changed the outcome? Which characters had a chance to make a difference but didn’t?

  18. With school shootings being featured regularly and predominately in the media for over a decade, does the public react differently to them now? Do students react differently? School personnel? Law enforcement? The press?

  19. Has this book changed how you would relate to your teen children or to teens that you have a close relationship with?

Here is the link from the published list in "O" Magazine:

http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahsbookclub/readinglists/pkgsummerreading/200907-omag-reading-guide-columbine
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 29, 2009, 12:09:33 PM
3.  How does the author build and maintain suspense and mystery in the book?  How does he deal with the fact that readers may know -- or think they know -- the outcomes or details of the book's events?

I wouldn't say there was a lot of mystery in the book -- maybe that's a poor choice of words, because it implies we might be trying to find out "who done it."  We do know the answers to that. 

But for me, I felt suspense at various points.  For example:  Did Dave Sanders survive, or was he the teacher who was killed?  What happened to Patrick Ireland after he was rescued from the library?  When Misty Bernall was looking for Cassie on the night after the shooting, was Cassie still alive?  And when Agent Fuselier begins to read Eric's journal, which supposedly "told us why he did it" -- why did he do it?  Will more information about those journal entries be made available in upcoming chapters?  The book continually describes scenes as it moves forward and backwards in time, but it always leaves some of the outcomes of those scenes unanswered until later in the book, so that I as a reader wanted to keep reading to find out more. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 29, 2009, 12:45:21 PM
13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book?  Did it enhance the story?  How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community?  How likely is it that a similar event could happen  where you are?

Obviously there was nothing unique about Columbine High School in the USA. There must be many similar schools. It is however very different from what would be likely to happen in the UK because guns are so much more closely controlled here.
We had the Dunblane shooting, which was committed by an adult, and was absolutely awful, and the Hungerford Massacre, where Michael Ryan became severely mentally disturbed and walked around a small country town shooting people down.
Since then the availability of guns is much more restricted, and it would, on the whole be quite hard for young people to get hold of firearms.
That is not to say that it is impossible, and I feel sure we will have another tragedy of this kind at some time in the future. It is just a matter of time.

The fact that firearms are not readily available to people with mental health difficulties, must, I think, have helped to prevent numerous tragedies, but nothing is 100% effective, and people can be quite cunning and find a way to obtain weapons.
Certainly Propane cylinders are readily available, although how hard it would be to create an effective fuse mechanism I don't know.
The incidence of depression and psychopathy is probably about the same in both communities. I am not at all convinced that it would have been noticed and dealt with here any more than it was at Columbine.
This is rather depressing, but I think at some time, somewhere, and in some way it will happen again.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 29, 2009, 01:37:10 PM

12. Compare 'In Cold Blood's' Dick and Perry to  Columbine's Eric and Dylan.  What similarities and differences do you find?  How did Capote and Cullen's approaches to researching and telling their stories differ?

It's been a long time since I read 'In Cold Blood,' but I'll give it a shot.

Dick and Perry were adult criminals before they killed the Cutlers; Harris and Lebold were teen psychopaths.

...
 He became personally involved with the criminals, especially Perry. He also attended the execution at the request of the killers.


It's been a long time for me, too, Nikki, but another difference was that Capote had the advantage of being able to interview his killers in person, and Dave had to rely on records, testimony, and interviews with people who knew his killers before they died.

As for similarities, they both required a huge amount of research to make the stories come alive for readers.

Both books certainly qualify as page-turrners.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 29, 2009, 01:54:42 PM
   2. Some readers have referred to Columbine as a “non-fiction novel.” Do you think this description fits?

"Columbine" and a novel share several things in common: they tell stories, they focus on character(s), they attempt to explore how the story and the characters influence each other. But, they are also very different, so that "Columbine" and, say Gore Vidal's "Burr" reflect two different attitudes towards story-telling.

Dave sorted through reams of reports, facts, etc. to try to get at what drove the Eric and Dylan to act as they did, and, I think, leaves us will a suspicion of mystery that can't be resolved.. A novelist, while giving a nod to the real world, would not be constrained by its facts as long as s/he could create a compelling character. One aims at truth, the other at versimilitude. The novelist may use metaphor, figures of speech and other forms of expressive language to add resonance to what s/he is trying to get across. The historian-reporter does not generally have the liberty to do so, but may pick out symbols that emerge from events. The evidence points to the conclusion that Cassie (?) was not a martyr for her faith. While she didn't need to be a martyr to make her death more horrific or her life more worthwhille, it emerged as a symbol to her parents and her congergation. The novelist would probably have no qualms about using the martyr motif as long as it could be linked directly to Cassie's life and character or to to motives of those who wanted to propogate this motif.

In the long-run, I think it's unhelpful to treat "Columbine" as somehow novelistic, with the expectations and baggage that could carry. We do hear the author's voice engaging us in the struggle to make sense out of what happened, and that makes for gripping story-telling.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on June 29, 2009, 01:58:33 PM
   5. Why is it important that books like Columbine be written and read? Who should read this book?

To show us all that getting at the truth or essence of some story is not a matter of what we are fed by mass media. To show us that it takes thought and reflection. To serve as an antidote to the fluff that is thrown up by the 25/7 news cycle. To demonstrate what investigative reporting should be about.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 03:04:59 PM

12. Compare 'In Cold Blood's' Dick and Perry to  Columbine's Eric and Dylan.  What similarities and differences do you find?  How did Capote and Cullen's approaches to researching and telling their stories differ?

It's been a long time since I read 'In Cold Blood,' but I'll give it a shot.

Dick and Perry were adult criminals before they killed the Clutters; Harris and Lebold were teen psychopaths.

...
 He became personally involved with the criminals, especially Perry. He also attended the execution at the request of the killers.


It's been a long time for me, too, Nikki, but another difference was that Capote had the advantage of being able to interview his killers in person, and Dave had to rely on records, testimony, and interviews with people who knew his killers before they died.

As for similarities, they both required a huge amount of research to make the stories come alive for readers.

Both books certainly qualify as page-turrners.


I agree Lydia that Capote had that advantage, and it was a significant one.    It's been so long  I even had to go back and correct the Clutter's names, kept calling them the Cutters. IMO both books will be classics of the genre.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 03:16:53 PM
 


6. Do you think this book glorifies Eric and Dylan and perpetuates the legend that they wanted to leave behind?


Absolutely not.  If anything, it depicts two teens who are mentally ill and living lives of 'quiet desperation,' especially Dylan.   Their journals tell the story of two teens who didn't fit in, yet tried to maintain a facade of normality, especially Eric who was outwardly popular, smart, and admired within his clique, yet repressed feelings of hatred toward mankind and acted out on them.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 03:41:11 PM





7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter?  Why do you think you hadn’t known about them before?





There was so much that surprised me.

They boys weren't gay, bullies (not openly), Goths, or loners.

The police and officials made so many blunders, it was shocking.  

The Harris's and the Klebolds weren't as disconnected from the boys as we had been led to believe.

Students repeated information they had read or heard in the media; the media disseminated so much false info, some of which they received from the students, that a complete and honest account was not easy to come by in the early days of the tragedy.

The slow reaction to the retrieval of the bodies caused by fear of booby-traps.

I probably didn't know about them before because of the manipulation of the facts by all the media including press, TV, and radio.  They (the media) didn't take time to check their stories,  and ran with whatever info they could get. If they grabbed the closest student, the media accepted his/her word as gospel.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 29, 2009, 03:46:48 PM

6. Do you think this book glorifies Eric and Dylan and perpetuates the legend that they wanted to leave behind?

Absolutely not.  If anything, it depicts two teens who are mentally ill and living lives of 'quiet desperation,' especially Dylan.   Their journals tell the story of two teens who didn't fit in, yet tried to maintain a facade of normality, especially Eric who was outwardly popular, smart, and admired within his clique, yet repressed feelings of hatred toward mankind and acted out on them.

I agree that the book doesn't glorify Eric and Dylan for those reasons, Nikki.  I also wanted to mention something I thought of earlier:  in the end, the book showed them as being rather inept and bumbling, because they made so many mistakes on the day of the massacre.  (They dawdled and brought the bombs into the school behind schedule; and they didn't understand how to wire the explosive devices -- just to name two mistakes which come to mind.)  Even the way the library shooting ended, with them giving up and killing themselves, shows them in a sorry light and does not portray  them as "glorious" killers, IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 04:17:52 PM

10. Which characters had reason to feel guilty? Who do you think still feels guilty now?


It's easy being 'a Monday morning quarterback,' but now that there have been accounts like 'Columbine' which have set the record straight, and  professionals have weighed in concerning the mental state of both boys, it seems, to me, that it's clear that the only ones who should  feel guilty are dead. Harris was determined to blow up the school and, because the bombs failed, he and Dylan were not able to turn Columbine into the killing fields that he planned although they left a path of blood and death behind.  No one could have anticipated something so horrendous, not the parents, not the police (no matter how badly they bungled the aftermath), not the faculty. Once Harris set his foot on this path and dragged the pathetic Lebold with him, there was nothing anyone could have done.  Harris would have found a way, he considered himself God according to his journal.

Unfortunately, IMO the parents will probably feel a measure of guilt for the rest of their lives whether they deserve it or not.  As a parent, I imagine they will ask one question for the rest of their lives: "Where did we go wrong?"
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 04:30:51 PM
.    


15. At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not? What helped you make this decision? What kind of impact did this book have on you?

  

I don't think 'like' should apply to a book like this.  I decided to read the book obviously because Dave Cullen is who he is, and I knew that it would be a factual, credible, wellwritten account of a tragedy of epic proportions.  So, my decision was made because of the author and the material.  The impact on me was more profound now than it was 10 years ago.  I've learned more about the people involved, and the aftermath that detailed the lives of the survivors.  Somehow, the lives of those who died even the killers affected me deeply.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 04:45:28 PM

17. At what point in the narrative could one decision or one action have changed the outcome? Which characters had a chance to make a difference but didn't?


No one knew what the boys planned. The only thing that could have changed the outcome is if someone -- parent, cops, faculty, students -- knew and reported the killers before they acted.  Only Eric and Dylan could have made a difference, and from the time they locked and loaded their weapons, they were in control and nothing could have stopped them. Eric was on mission of hate. Their may be some readers who suppose that Dylan could have backed out and stopped Eric, but I don't think so.  He was too weak and his psyche was too fragile to stop his friend.  Also, Eric could easily have shot Dylan if the latter had balked before the killings took place. IMO there was no way the outcome could have changed.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 04:48:10 PM

6. Do you think this book glorifies Eric and Dylan and perpetuates the legend that they wanted to leave behind?

Absolutely not.  If anything, it depicts two teens who are mentally ill and living lives of 'quiet desperation,' especially Dylan.   Their journals tell the story of two teens who didn't fit in, yet tried to maintain a facade of normality, especially Eric who was outwardly popular, smart, and admired within his clique, yet repressed feelings of hatred toward mankind and acted out on them.

I agree that the book doesn't glorify Eric and Dylan for those reasons, Nikki.  I also wanted to mention something I thought of earlier:  in the end, the book showed them as being rather inept and bumbling, because they made so many mistakes on the day of the massacre.  (They dawdled and brought the bombs into the school behind schedule; and they didn't understand how to wire the explosive devices -- just to name two mistakes which come to mind.)  Even the way the library shooting ended, with them giving up and killing themselves, shows them in a sorry light and does not portray  them as "glorious" killers, IMO.

Yes, Debbie, anything but glorious.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 29, 2009, 04:57:34 PM
10. Which characters had reason to feel guilty? Who do you think still feels guilty now?

It's easy being 'a Monday morning quarterback,' but now that there have been accounts like 'Columbine' which have set the record straight, and  professionals have weighed in concerning the mental state of both boys, it seems, to me, that it's clear that the only ones who should  feel guilty are dead. Harris was determined to blow up the school and, because the bombs failed, he and Dylan were not able to turn Columbine into the killing fields that he planned although they left a path of blood and death behind.  No one could have anticipated something so horrendous, not the parents, not the police (no matter how badly they bungled the aftermath), not the faculty. Once Harris set his foot on this path and dragged the pathetic Lebold with him, there was nothing anyone could have done.  Harris would have found a way, he considered himself God according to his journal.

Unfortunately, IMO the parents will probably feel a measure of guilt for the rest of their lives whether they deserve it or not.  As a parent, I imagine they will ask one question for the rest of their lives: "Where did we go wrong?"

And just to add to this, I think principal Frank DeAngelis will feel guilty, because it happened "on his watch."  But I don't think he could have foreseen or prevented it, either.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on June 29, 2009, 04:59:51 PM
10. Which characters had reason to feel guilty? Who do you think still feels guilty now?

It's easy being 'a Monday morning quarterback,' but now that there have been accounts like 'Columbine' which have set the record straight, and  professionals have weighed in concerning the mental state of both boys, it seems, to me, that it's clear that the only ones who should  feel guilty are dead. Harris was determined to blow up the school and, because the bombs failed, he and Dylan were not able to turn Columbine into the killing fields that he planned although they left a path of blood and death behind.  No one could have anticipated something so horrendous, not the parents, not the police (no matter how badly they bungled the aftermath), not the faculty. Once Harris set his foot on this path and dragged the pathetic Lebold with him, there was nothing anyone could have done.  Harris would have found a way, he considered himself God according to his journal.

Unfortunately, IMO the parents will probably feel a measure of guilt for the rest of their lives whether they deserve it or not.  As a parent, I imagine they will ask one question for the rest of their lives: "Where did we go wrong?"

And just to add to this, I think principal Frank DeAngelis will feel guilty, because it happened "on his watch."  But I don't think he could have foreseen or prevented it, either.

Maybe he will Debbie,but as time passes and he is cognizant of all the facts about the killers, he will accept that he couldn't change anything. I hope so.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 29, 2009, 05:04:25 PM
17. At what point in the narrative could one decision or one action have changed the outcome? Which characters had a chance to make a difference but didn't?

No one knew what the boys planned. The only thing that could have changed the outcome is if someone -- parent, cops, faculty, students -- knew and reported the killers before they acted.  Only Eric and Dylan could have made a difference, and from the time they locked and loaded their weapons, they were in control and nothing could have stopped them. Eric was on mission of hate. Their may be some readers who suppose that Dylan could have backed out and stopped Eric, but I don't think so.  He was too weak and his psyche was too fragile to stop his friend.  Also, Eric could easily have shot Dylan if the latter had balked before the killings took place. IMO there was no way the outcome could have changed.

I agree that Dylan couldn't have stopped Eric.  I wasn't sure how to answer this question when I first saw it, but now I wonder whether Chris Morris, who knew Eric and Dylan had been making pipe bombs, could have changed anything by reporting this to police beforehand.  He did confess to having known it afterwards.  But I'm sure he never imagined what the other boys' ultimate intentions were, and I don't know how seriously the cops would have taken the situation even if had been reported to them beforehand.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 29, 2009, 05:06:17 PM
Nikki,

Re:  DeAngelis not feeling guilty -- I hope so, too.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 29, 2009, 05:10:50 PM
I wondered, too, about Mr. D feeling guilty.

There were several adults who had cause to be suspicious of one or both boys. I'm thinking they may feel a little guilty for not comparing notes with each other. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 30, 2009, 01:53:13 AM
13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book?  Did it enhance the story?  How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community?  How likely is it that a similar event could happen  where you are?

Obviously there was nothing unique about Columbine High School in the USA. There must be many similar schools. It is however very different from what would be likely to happen in the UK because guns are so much more closely controlled here.

I'm not sure I agree with you here, Jess.  At least in the U.S. at the time I think we had a tendency to think of violence in general as being associated either with the 'wrong side of town' or with 'bad elements.'  This doesn't entirely come from racial stereotyping either - if you think about the 'greasers' back in the 50s the notion was that they were 'bad kids' - and they were white, generally speaking.  So perhaps it was a notion that grew out of class as much as race.

The thing that was eye-opening generally about Columbine, I think, was that it could happen anywhere.  That it happened in the remote suburbs was a shocker to many - myself included, I think.

What was particularly strange about this was that it seemed as if this sort of thing was happening in all sorts of unlikely places here - Kip Kinkel in Springfield Oregon and the killings in Pearl, Mississippi.  I remember thinking (at the time) that the children of privilege were becoming violent - in both the Oregon and Mississippi cases the kids killed one or both of their parents as well.

One good thing about Dave's book is that it gets deeply into the community and shows that yes, it CAN happen here - and here can be anywhere.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 30, 2009, 01:55:53 AM
13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book?  Did it enhance the story?  How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community?  How likely is it that a similar event could happen  where you are?

First, the setting was a middle-class suburban area where 'these kinds of things' aren't supposed to happen. While the setting was not unique, it was supposed to be safe. 

Yes, Nikki, that's exactly what I meant.  It wasn't supposed to be happening there - and all of a sudden it seemed like it was happening EVERYWHERE.

I'm not sure if that's because of media overload and the 24 hour news cycle that we've become so used to - but it did seem as if there were a generation of monsters coming up around that time.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on June 30, 2009, 02:00:45 AM
7.  As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter?  Why do you think you hadn’t known about them before?  

My biggest surprise was learning about the "big bombs" with the propane tanks and the nearby gasoline containers.  I never realized anything like a huge explosion had been planned. 

Same for me, Debbie.  It actually casts the event in a whole different light for me - I tend to think of it less as a 'school shooting' now and more as something like Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph (the Olympic Park Bombing).

The other surprise would be thinking of teens as psychopaths.  I mean I've always realized they can be quite cruel (from personal experience) but hadn't really thought of the psychological manifestations of being a psychopath showing up that early in life.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on June 30, 2009, 05:31:36 AM
13. Was there anything unique about the setting of the book?  Did it enhance the story?  How do Columbine High School and the community of Littleton compare with your own school and community?  How likely is it that a similar event could happen  where you are?

Obviously there was nothing unique about Columbine High School in the USA. There must be many similar schools. It is however very different from what would be likely to happen in the UK because guns are so much more closely controlled here.

I'm not sure I agree with you here, Jess.  At least in the U.S. at the time I think we had a tendency to think of violence in general as being associated either with the 'wrong side of town' or with 'bad elements.'  This doesn't entirely come from racial stereotyping either - if you think about the 'greasers' back in the 50s the notion was that they were 'bad kids' - and they were white, generally speaking.  So perhaps it was a notion that grew out of class as much as race.

The thing that was eye-opening generally about Columbine, I think, was that it could happen anywhere.  That it happened in the remote suburbs was a shocker to many - myself included, I think.

What was particularly strange about this was that it seemed as if this sort of thing was happening in all sorts of unlikely places here - Kip Kinkel in Springfield Oregon and the killings in Pearl, Mississippi.  I remember thinking (at the time) that the children of privilege were becoming violent - in both the Oregon and Mississippi cases the kids killed one or both of their parents as well.

One good thing about Dave's book is that it gets deeply into the community and shows that yes, it CAN happen here - and here can be anywhere.

I don't think we are disagreeing here actually, Michael. I think it could happen anywhere too, because mental health problems can happen anywhere, and even the most comfortably off, well brought up kids, and their parents and other adults, for that matter, can be affected by them. Largely, I feel, because many of us have a genetic predisposition to these things. (Just the Janjo view).
What is different in the UK is that guns are so much harder to get hold of, and there are many fewer of them around in peoples houses, and they are very strictly controlled, only being able to be used in gun clubs etc.
But............and it is a big but, young criminals do get hold of guns. I don't think some of the gangs in South London have any trouble knowing where to go to get a gun, when they feel in the mood to shoot each other. Knifing's are also very popular in certain parts.
It would just be more difficult for young people in middle class areas, who weren't in criminal gangs, but just had mental health problems, to get hold of weapons here than it is in the US.
I think that is why our rate of school shootings etc is less here.
But.........it could happen here, and I feel fairly certain that one day it will.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on June 30, 2009, 06:01:13 AM
17. At what point in the narrative could one decision or one action have changed the outcome? Which characters had a chance to make a difference but didn't?

When Eric ordered ammo for the guns, he gave his home phone number. His father took the call when the gun shop called, but the caller didn't mention Eric's name and Mr Harris just assumed there was a mistake and didn't question further. I think Wayne Harris was just suspicious enough of Eric at that point that, had he learned that his son had ordered bullets, at least some of the plans would have been discovered or thwarted.

Re: surprises

One thing that struck me about the boys' lives is how much private space they had at home and I guess this is not atypical of middle class American houses now. I got the impression that the parents didn't venture into their rooms. I think siblings sharing bedrooms must be less common than it was when I was growing up. Dylan was able to hide his emotional pain from his family and Eric his diabolical plans because they had the space to do so.

I learned a lot about psychopaths from this book. The term sounds so extreme that you assume you'd know one if you saw one but it's obviously not the case. It made me realise that I know a man living around here whom I would categorize as a psychopath or sociopath but I don't think he would kill. He's an British man who moved to France about 10 years ago to escape fraud and embezzlement charges in the UK, where he scammed disabled people. I think he takes pleasure in putting one over on people and demonstrating his cleverness.  I learned a lot about his thought processes when I helped his wife and daughter escape back to England. But like Eric, he can turn on the charm. You'd be surprised how many people can be convinced of a man's honesty by his very firm handshake.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 07:56:29 AM
When Eric ordered ammo for the guns, he gave his home phone number. His father took the call when the gun shop called, but the caller didn't mention Eric's name and Mr Harris just assumed there was a mistake and didn't question further. I think Wayne Harris was just suspicious enough of Eric at that point that, had he learned that his son had ordered bullets, at least some of the plans would have been discovered or thwarted.

Wow, this is a really good point.  That could have made a difference, I agree, if by chance the phone conversation had gone differently.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 30, 2009, 11:16:25 AM
I learned a lot about psychopaths from this book. The term sounds so extreme that you assume you'd know one if you saw one but it's obviously not the case.
...


I heard Dave say in one of his interviews that we shouldn't think of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs as the typical psychopath, but of Hugh Grant at his most charming. A psychopath won't tell you he wants to eat your liver, he said.

Wonder if Bernie Madoff qualifies?


Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 01:15:40 PM
I heard Dave say in one of his interviews that we shouldn't think of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs as the typical psychopath, but of Hugh Grant at his most charming. A psychopath won't tell you he wants to eat your liver, he said.

Wonder if Bernie Madoff qualifies?

Actually, I think I heard some discussion of Bernie Madoff as a "business world type" (non-violent) psychopath.  I'm not sure whether Dave mentioned him as an example, or whether it was someone else.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on June 30, 2009, 01:29:46 PM
Debbie, I think I've heard or read that there are many more of the "business world type" psychopaths than violent ones. I suppose that's a good thing, but it certainly makes you want to keep your eyes and ears open, doesn't it?

- Lydia
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 02:13:38 PM
  4. What do you make of the relationship between Eric and Dylan? Did this relationship remain consistent throughout the book? If there were shifts in their roles, can you pinpoint when and why this happened?

I agree with the book’s premise that Eric “conscripted” Dylan into his plots, and that Dylan would not have acted out a violent attack like Columbine on his own.  In the beginning, Dylan’s best friend was Zack, not Eric, so one turning point may have come when Zack found a girlfriend and started ignoring Dylan.  Dylan, with his tendency to be depressed, felt alone then and needed a friend; Eric had grandiose plans and would not have been above taking advantage of Dylan to get someone to help him carry those plans out.  Even on the day of the attack, it seemed to me that Eric was in charge and Dylan was just tagging along.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 02:26:42 PM
   9. Which, if any, of the book’s characters do you consider to be heroes? Which were scapegoats? Were there more than two people responsible for the killings?

I consider principal Frank DeAngelis and coach Dave Sanders to both be heroes for having rescued a number of students.  The public made the parents scapegoats, and I have to stress again that my personal feeling is to find the Klebolds more innocent than the Harrises.  The Harrises had some clues that Eric was getting in trouble, but the Klebolds (despite Dylan’s placement in the Diversion program) seem to have been blindsided by Dylan’s depression and the consequences it had.

The adult man who supplied guns to the boys at the Tanner Gun Show despite suspecting that they were underage had a degree of tangential responsibility for the killings, but I don’t think even he (or anyone else) can be directly blamed for them, since no one but Eric and Dylan knew what the plans were.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 02:38:24 PM
14. Which passages were most difficult for you to read? Which scenes are most memorable for you?

I mentioned a little about this earlier for one of Michael’s questions, but the scenes in the library – throughout the book, both during and after the shooting but especially the one where the authorities go in to examine the library afterwards -- were the most difficult to read about.  Patrick Ireland dragging himself to the window, and the Scouts’ attempt to keep Dave Sanders alive in the science room, are the most memorable.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 02:44:29 PM
  11. Do any of the characters change or evolve through the course of the story? Do they change their view of the world and their relationship to it? If so, what events trigger such changes?

This is an interesting question but I don’t have an answer right now; maybe after I finish rereading the book.  I’m thinking about Frank DeAngelis or Linda Sanders or one of the other adults, but I can’t say right now.  I’m “bumping up” this question so maybe it will catch someone else’s interest.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on June 30, 2009, 02:57:37 PM
  16. Were you surprised by any of the revelations about the attack? Which ones? Were you surprised by the community reaction in the aftermath? How do you think your community would react after such an event?

I’ve already mentioned being surprised about the big bombs; Columbine wasn’t intended to be a school shooting, after all.  The lack of any specific targets for the shooting (jocks, minorities, religious believers, etc.) was also a surprise.  So was the discussion of Eric Harris as a psychopath:  it’s frightening to think of someone so young in that category.

The community reaction involved an outpouring of grief for all the victims; an unwillingness to acknowledge that the perpetrators had also left behind bereaved families; and the spreading of rumors as to all the journalistic angles of the story (who, when, where, why, how and even what).  I suspect that my own community would react similarly today, with grief, rumors, and lack of sympathy for the  parents of the perpetrators.  If any lesson comes from Columbine, it may be not to believe the initial rumors until there has been better confirmation.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 01, 2009, 07:33:00 AM
  4. What do you make of the relationship between Eric and Dylan? Did this relationship remain consistent throughout the book? If there were shifts in their roles, can you pinpoint when and why this happened?

I agree with the book’s premise that Eric “conscripted” Dylan into his plots, and that Dylan would not have acted out a violent attack like Columbine on his own.  In the beginning, Dylan’s best friend was Zack, not Eric, so one turning point may have come when Zack found a girlfriend and started ignoring Dylan.  Dylan, with his tendency to be depressed, felt alone then and needed a friend; Eric had grandiose plans and would not have been above taking advantage of Dylan to get someone to help him carry those plans out.  Even on the day of the attack, it seemed to me that Eric was in charge and Dylan was just tagging along.



I agree with you here, Debbie.  However, I've always thought that as much as Dylan was a pathetic, lost character and was influenced by Eric, he still had to take responsibility for murder.  After all, Eric didn't pull the trigger for him nor did he hold Dylan's gun.  Of course, by the time the boys had committed the murders, it was too late to pull out and Dylan ended the only way he knew how.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 01, 2009, 09:18:51 AM
That's true, Nikki.  Dylan was still morally responsible for his actions, and he did pull the trigger on a number of occasions. 

I do wonder whether the plan might have seemed something like a game or a dream to Dylan beforehand, and when the time actually came to follow through on the plans, whether he might have felt that he couldn't believe it was actually going to happen -- and he might have backed out if Eric hadn't kept him in line.  Whereas Eric knew all along what his own intentions were.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 02, 2009, 01:04:27 AM
These are questions for the third section of 'Columbine' ('The Downward Spiral').  As always, if you have questions you wish to add please feel free!

1.)  In 'The Seeker' we read about Dylan's pain and depression.  Why do you think no one noticed how depressed he was?  He was also drinking - how do you think he got away with this around his parents?

2.)  Dylan writes that he tried to 'cleanse' himself on a spiritual quest when he was 15.  Do you think that - from what we know - he changed when he grew older?  Do you think that his depression had an effect on dissuading him from his idealism?  Or do you think he maintained these beliefs till near the time of the attacks?  If so, do you believe he would have been reachable sometime shortly before the attacks?

3.)  Dylan's journals convey a strong moral code.  Given this why/how do you think it was possible for him to commit the violent acts that he did?

4.)  How do you feel about the tone of the chapter 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  Is it suitably respectful to the religious beliefs of the people in Columbine in their reaction to the attacks?  Is it analytical enough of the beliefs?

5.)  What do you think of the beliefs portrayed in 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  What do you make of the phenomenon surrounding Cassie Bernall?  Do you think that people in the community created their own saint to make something good out of a horrible incident?

6.)  At the beginning of 'Good-bye' we learn more about Dylan's belief system and Eric's expressions of hate on his website.  Given the disparity between their beliefs do they seem to be an unlikely team to you?  What do you think was the 'glue' that held their relationship together, given the differences?  As Eric expressed hate for so many people and Fuselier saw that as contempt do you think that Eric felt contempt for Dylan?

7.)  Eric's website (complete with bomb instructions) was reported to the police on August 7, 1997.  Does this seem like a place where Eric's eventual plans could have been stopped?  Why do you think that this violent information seems to have been ignored and wasn't followed up on?

8.)  Dylan seems obsessed over Zack's relationship and seems to develop an internal fantasy life regarding Harriet.  Is this sort of thing a normal part of growing up as a teen in your opinion or was this a sign of an unstable person?  Do you think that we tend to look at behavior of this sort and give it additional weight after an event like the Columbine attacks?

9.)  'Good-bye' has the first musing of Fuselier regarding Dylan and Eric's sanity.  Given what we read here do you feel that they were sane?  Do you think we know enough about psychopathy at this point in the book to make a decision regarding whether or not Eric is a psychopath?  We have read quite a bit about Dylan's depression by this point - does he seem to be depressed enough to be mentally ill by this point in your opinion?

10.)  What did you make of the story of the 15 crosses?  Were you surprised by the reaction of the community (including the expressions of forgiveness)?  What did you think of Brian Rohrbough's reaction?  The carpenter who put up the crosses turned out to be a con man.  Do you think that the type of exploitation he represents is typical in this type of tragedy - or is that just a cynical viewpoint?

11.)  Eric and Dylan were caught breaking into lockers.  Was this treated seriously enough?  What do you think the appropriate reaction to this - both from the parents and the school - should have been?

12.)  Eric and Dylan became enthralled with films like 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Lost Highway' and musicians like Nine Inch Nails.  Do you think we do an injustice to filmmakers and musicians when we tie them to the actions of deranged killers?  Do you think there is any justification in being concerned with the effect of violent films and music on teens - and/or is this something that requires the attention of a parent on a case by case basis?

13.)  Wayne Harris finds one of Eric's pipe bombs.  Since this happened shortly after the locker incident do you think that he should have been paying closer attention to what his son was doing?  What do you make of his reaction to this - do you think that he was too concerned with protecting his son and was too worried about his future or was he simply acting like a protective parent?

14.)  Dylan got caught with a computer stolen from the computer lab and scratching 'fag' into a locker.  When you read about these incidents does it seem as if there were an endless number of 'second chances' that these boys received or are we overly critical because we are looking at this in hindsight?

15.)  What would have been the appropriate thing to do after the boys broke into the van?

16.)  Dwayne Fuselier began dismissing a conspiracy theory within a week of the attack on Columbine.  Why do you think the local authorities clung onto the theory longer?  Was it because it is difficult to imagine that an attack of this magnitude could be planned by two boys or because they wanted living people to blame?

17.)  Do you think that the NRA should have rescheduled their conference in Denver?

18.)  How could the diversion program and Eric's psychiatrist have been more effective?  Do you believe that by this point Eric was inevitably headed toward the attacks?  Was Dylan salvagable by the time he reached diversion?

19.)  Even while he was entering diversion Eric had a website up which threatened to kill people.  Dylan brought it to the attention of Brooks Brown.  Why do you think Dylan did this - was this a cry for help on Dylan's part?  Do you think that Brooks Brown was in real danger?  Why do you think that the website was not taken seriously?  Did the authorities seriously drop the ball here?  Do you think that things have changed since Columbine regarding online threats - or do you think that this sort of thing could be posted on a website now without consequences?

20.)  What do you make of the spread of the story of Cassie Bernall's martyrdom?  Do you think that it spread because people needed to believe that something good could come out of such a horrible situation?  Do you think that people saw Cassie's story as being something with gave people hope for the future of their children?  Why do you think that Val Schnurr's story did not spread - particularly given the spread of Cassie's story?

21.)  What do you make of Eric's comments with regard to god and people in 'The Book of God.'  Was he delusional - or was he just an ass?  Do you think that he really saw himself as being superior to other humans?  Do you think that this led him to be able to justify his acts - or is that over thinking this whole thing (in other words do we look for things that would give justification because we would need it - but someone like Eric didn't)?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 06:22:27 AM


1.)  In 'The Seeker' we read about Dylan's pain and depression.  Why do you think no one noticed how depressed he was?  He was also drinking - how do you think he got away with this around his parents?


In 'The Seeker' we are told that Dylan was in pain, but nobody got it -- "vodka helped, the internet did too." He was smart enough not to drink around his parents, and his preoccupation with the internet kept him busy and out of sight. This is so typical of many teens today -- constantly IMing each other on cell phones or the 'net, so Dylan wasn't that different.  The drinking that is done by many teens is out of sight as well, and no one knows about it until they are in horrible accidents or caught partying while parents are absent from home.  Dylan's drinking may have suppressed his depression enough that his mood changes were not obvious, and he was smart enough to keep his pain and depression in his journal.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 06:40:29 AM


2.)  Dylan writes that he tried to 'cleanse' himself on a spiritual quest when he was 15.  Do you think that - from what we know - he changed when he grew older?  Do you think that his depression had an effect on dissuading him from his idealism?  Or do you think he maintained these beliefs till near the time of the attacks?  If so, do you believe he would have been reachable sometime shortly before the attacks?


Dylan was a religious person, and he was consumed by the idea of death and the afterlife. He believed in heaven and hell and, although he toyed with the idea of suicide for two years, his religious beliefs "posed a problem."  He seemed to be confused about living and dying, his mood swings affected his thoughts on suicide and death and he knew there  were consequences for certain acts after death which he believed until the end of his life. He may have been reachable before he committed the attacks, but I think it would have taken a long time in therapy with someone he could trust, especially given his feelings of aloneness, and his craving for peace. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 09:36:39 AM
4.)  How do you feel about the tone of the chapter 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  Is it suitably respectful to the religious beliefs of the people in Columbine in their reaction to the attacks?  Is it analytical enough of the beliefs?

Glancing through this chapter just now, I suppose some Evangelicals could be offended by the wording, “Jesus Jesus Jesus.  There was a whole lot of Him that day….  [Franklin Graham] invoked the name of his personal savior seven times in a single forty-five-second flurry….He called upon God and Jesus nearly fifty times in the course of the speech.”  But I thought that wording served the purpose of portraying the flavor of that ceremony, especially since Franklin Graham went on to talk about Cassie having been ready to be transported “into the presence of Almighty God.”  This transitioned well into the later explanations about the belief in Cassie’s martyrdom.  The book describes the drum and bugle corps, the white doves, the umbrellas as it started to rain, and Vice President Gore’s speech in a solemn and respectful manner, IMO. 

I thought the chapter was as analytical as it needed to be of the beliefs, in that it gave the post-service reaction of other non-Evangelical Denver clergy (Reverend Marxhausen is quoted); and also described the moral dilemma of the Evangelicals in a setting where both Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals are present (not wanting to offend, but sticking up for their own beliefs).  It is fairly clear to the reader as to what “appalled” the mainline pastors, so I don't think further explanation is needed there.  Basically, to me, the Evangelicals are a proseletyzing group who do attempt to recruit people to be “born again,” and the propriety of doing this (or not) in the wake of Columbine is addressed by an Evangelical pastor at the very top of page 179.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 09:55:29 AM
5.)  What do you think of the beliefs portrayed in 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  What do you make of the phenomenon surrounding Cassie Bernall?  Do you think that people in the community created their own saint to make something good out of a horrible incident?

My personal reaction is that Franklin Graham overdid the Jesus angle a little in a public ceremony, but I’m used to hearing him talk, so it didn’t really bother me too much.  I thought that VP Gore spoke in a more restrained manner.  Pastor Kirsten’s sermon really bothered me, when he spoke about Cassie and Jesus just having gotten married, saying she had finally found the right guy.  The personal portrayal of Jesus as a man who would marry one woman goes very much against my personal beliefs, but I have to qualify this by adding that at least Kirsten was speaking to his own congregation, and not at a public service.  Also, both Kirsten and Oudemolen were unabashedly calling for recruitment (packing the ark).

As for Cassie, the story of her martyrdom started with a real recollection by Craig Scott, one of the library survivors, even though his facts later proved to have been mixed up.  It wasn’t just people in the community who spread the story; among Evangelicals, it spread quickly around the country.  I do agree that people in the community were trying to create something good out of a horrible incident, as a way of comforting themselves, but I also suspect that the Evangelicals nationwide grabbed onto the story so quickly because they truly wanted to believe that their religion had given birth to a martyr.  This would not only give their faith more credibility; it would also provide a good tool for recruiting other believers.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 10:21:35 AM
17.)  Do you think that the NRA should have rescheduled their conference in Denver?

Yes.  I understand the NRA point of view, that just because they were about guns, this didn’t mean they had any connection to the Columbine shootings; they claimed they limited themselves to shooting at legal rifle ranges.  I don’t think their gun culture is completely innocent, because some NRA members probably do acquire (and sell) weapons at the same gun shows where Eric and Dylan acquired their weapons.  But aside from this controversial point, I think the NRA should have been more sensitive about the raw state of nerves of the Denver community at that time.  It was terrible timing, for bringing guns prominently into the local news. 

I know that any large conference takes a long time to plan, and attendees may have arranged vacation time and airline tickets to be there.  So moving the conference to another city, or postponing it for several months, would have been a hardship to many.  Nevertheless, if the Denver mayor was willing to lose the tourist revenues that would have been brought in, I think the NRA should have been made some other arrangements as a matter of respect.  At least, I did think it was a good thing that they dispensed with saluting the youngest NRA member in attendance.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 11:07:03 AM

3.)  Dylan's journals convey a strong moral code.  Given this why/how do you think it was possible for him to commit the violent acts that he did?


This is a tough one to answer.  On the one hand, Dylan believes in an after life and all the retribution it entails; on the other he believes in morality and ethics, and  plays with the idea of suicide for two years.  He seems to feel a lack of self-worth, and while he thinks of himself as 'unique' he equates this with bad.  He feels like a misfit disliked and unloved by his contemporaries.  He was also a heavy drinker which may have exacerbated these fatalistic feelings. The amoral Eric who was stronger, more self-assured, and considered his own uniqueness to be superior had a great influence on Dylan, and the latter found a soul mate of sorts who easily influenced the pathetic, lonely Dylan to participate in the tragedy of Columbine.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 11:44:08 AM

4.)  How do you feel about the tone of the chapter 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  Is it suitably respectful to the religious beliefs of the people in Columbine in their reaction to the attacks?  Is it analytical enough of the beliefs?


Maybe some readers may consider the title flip.  However, I believe the author captured the tone of the theological makeup of Jefferson County as an "Evangelical Vatican" always preparing for the "dark prince"  seeking to devour the unwary and unsaved.  It was "the heart of Evangelical country," and the reaction of the population who believed that Satan was abroad was sincerely religious.  Although mainline Protestantism may have downplayed the extremism of the biblical evangelists, it doesn't negate the sincerity of the latter, but the evangelical pastors seemed to use the tragedy opportunistically as a means of inflating their congregations. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 12:26:34 PM

5.)  What do you think of the beliefs portrayed in 'Jesus Jesus Jesus'?  What do you make of the phenomenon surrounding Cassie Bernall?  Do you think that people in the community created their own saint to make something good out of a horrible incident?


They are not my personal beliefs, but I don't doubt the sincerity of those who do believe in them.

I think that the phenomenon of Cassie Bernal was the result of religious hysteria that affected many people in the community, and which was intensified by the sermons of pastors like Kirsten and Oudemolen who played upon the religious fervor of their congregations. Also, given the mistaken description by Craig Scott of Cassie's last hours which spread through the community and in the media, it gave rise to the Cassie-as-martyr phenomenon which was so readily accepted by a community that needed a religious icon, and Cassie's story was perfect for a grief-stricken community.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 02:12:15 PM
20.)  What do you make of the spread of the story of Cassie Bernall's martyrdom?  Do you think that it spread because people needed to believe that something good could come out of such a horrible situation?  Do you think that people saw Cassie's story as being something with gave people hope for the future of their children?  Why do you think that Val Schnurr's story did not spread - particularly given the spread of Cassie's story?
[/quote]

This overlaps a little with what I said for Question 5.  I think there was a positive and  negative (if those are the right words) side to the spread of Cassie’s story.  On the one hand, people found comfort in the story of her martyrdom (the story especially gave comfort to her parents, but gave inspiration to millions more).  On the other hand, I do think there was some manipulation of the story by people who  could benefit in some way (the pastors of recruiting churches, and the publisher of the book who didn’t want to delay publication until the facts were more certain).

The complete story about Cassie, not just her so-called martyrdom but the way she had previously recovered from her antisocial and suicidal tendencies, would give people hope for the future of children who might be going through similar hard times.  In that respect, I think it was a good thing that her story spread, and I’m actually sorry that it may seem tainted now that we know the martyr part of it was not true. 

As for Val, the book says she was often seen as a usurper of the admiration Cassie was getting in death.  I felt sorry for Val, because she was the one who really said she believed in God.  Since she had been spared death, Val didn’t fit the technical definition of a martyr.  Even though she may have been a hero, her true story didn’t carry as much weight among the religious believers, compared to Cassie’s more remarkable-sounding story.  I also felt sorry for Emily Wyant, who knew that Cassie died in the library without saying anything about God; Emily felt guilty for not being able to get the truth out, but also didn’t want to hurt Cassie’s parents.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 02:41:49 PM
8.)  Dylan seems obsessed over Zack's relationship and seems to develop an internal fantasy life regarding Harriet.  Is this sort of thing a normal part of growing up as a teen in your opinion or was this a sign of an unstable person?  Do you think that we tend to look at behavior of this sort and give it additional weight after an event like the Columbine attacks?

There’s a fine line here between what’s “normal” and what isn’t.  Dylan’s internal fantasy life regarding Harriet may not be “a normal part of growing up as a teen” for everyone, but it doesn’t seem terribly uncommon.  Many teens are sociable enough with both boys and girls, that they have no trouble finding real girlfriends or boyfriends, and wouldn’t need such a fantasy life.  Zack may be an example of that, in that he met Devon and began spending real time with her.

Dylan, by contrast, was shy, and this probably kept him from interacting enough with girls to find a real girlfriend.  It’s not uncommon for shy teens like Dylan to develop an internal fantasy life about the girls they’d like to love but don’t really have the nerve to speak to.  I don’t think having such a fantasy life is necessarily a sign of an unstable person; it probably is more often the sign of an immature person who needs more time to become better socially adjusted.

In the wake of an event like the Columbine attacks, we do look at the perpetrators and see all sorts of things as “forewarnings” which may have been fairly innocent.  But in Dylan’s case, I see some danger signs.  His musings about Harriet show that he felt disconnected from other teens, especially girls, and this could tie in with his depression.  The clearest sign of a connection between Harriet and depression was that Dylan went so quickly from loving her (and seeming on top of the world) to recognizing that he had fallen for “fake love,” in that she didn’t even know him (at which point he began thinking about getting a gun to commit suicide).   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 03:16:21 PM
10.)  What did you make of the story of the 15 crosses?  Were you surprised by the reaction of the community (including the expressions of forgiveness)?  What did you think of Brian Rohrbough's reaction?  The carpenter who put up the crosses turned out to be a con man.  Do you think that the type of exploitation he represents is typical in this type of tragedy - or is that just a cynical viewpoint?

This was a strange story.  The community seemed to need a visual reminder of the victims and a way to remember them, so the 13 crosses for the victims brought comfort by serving this purpose.  The two crosses for Eric and Dylan, on the other hand, seemed like throwing salt into a raw wound.  I think it was noble that some people did manage to write messages of forgiveness to the killers, but I’m not at all surprised that other people in the community opposed this.  These last two crosses were ultimately very divisive, as when one woman wrote “Evil Bastard” on Dylan’s cross and two girls begged her to stop.

Brian Rohrbough seemed like a man of action, capable of rage, who had already spoken out about the cruelty of the police who left Danny’s body uncovered so that a helicopter could take a picture of it for the morning newspaper.  We have already learned that he was on good terms with Danny’s mother and her new husband.  I’m not surprised that they got together and hacked Eric and Dylan’s crosses to pieces.

I was a little surprised to learn that the crosses came from a con man, because it had seemed like a genuine gesture of goodwill at first.  He didn’t appear to get any money from the victims or the community, but I can see that he was benefitting from the celebrity through his TV appearance.  Unfortunately, I suspect that it’s common for dishonest people to try to exploit tragedy wherever they can – maybe not in this exact way, more likely in a way that would have a direct financial benefit for them. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 03:30:07 PM

17.)  Do you think that the NRA should have rescheduled their conference in Denver?

Definitely!  It was very insensitive for the NRA to hold their conference in the light of the tragedy.  The killers had used guns; the NRA is a  national gun group, and though they had nothing to do with the violence a show of respect would have generated appreciation from the community. It would have been easy to reschedule.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 03:42:28 PM
12.)  Eric and Dylan became enthralled with films like 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Lost Highway' and musicians like Nine Inch Nails.  Do you think we do an injustice to filmmakers and musicians when we tie them to the actions of deranged killers?  Do you think there is any justification in being concerned with the effect of violent films and music on teens - and/or is this something that requires the attention of a parent on a case by case basis?

Since Nine Inch Nails’s album allegedly (I’m not familiar with the album myself) portrays a man unraveling and killing himself with a gun to the mouth, and since Dylan borrowed the phrase “downward spiral” from that album and applied it to himself, some sort of surface connection may seem apparent there.  But many other singers have sung about loneliness and being cut off from others – Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock/I am an island/And the rock feels no pain/and the island never cries” comes to mind – without the public blaming these singers for teen suicides.

As for films and music which portray violence in the sense of homicide (rather than suicide) it doesn’t seem that Eric was one-dimensional enough, or Dylan hateful enough, to have been influenced to kill based on film and music portrayals.  Eric took his inspiration from real-world events like Waco and Oklahoma City, and I still think Dylan was led into the killing by Eric.  So I don’t think it’s fair to put the blame on filmmakers and musicians who appeal to wide audiences, most of whom do not go on to become killers. 

In general, I would say that if parents are aware of the music and films which their teens listen to and see (which they may not be), and if they concerned that the music and films might cause their children to act out (by killing others or themselves), they should definitely discuss it with their children.  A case-by-case approach would be called for, IMO.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 03:53:24 PM


8.)  Dylan seems obsessed over Zack's relationship and seems to develop an internal fantasy life regarding Harriet.  Is this sort of thing a normal part of growing up as a teen in your opinion or was this a sign of an unstable person?  Do you think that we tend to look at behavior of this sort and give it additional weight after an event like the Columbine attacks?


Zack had been part of the triumvirate of Eric, Dylan, Zack, and Dylan felt closer to Zack than to Eric.  When Zack became involved with Devon, Dylan felt he had been abandoned, especially since his brother had been banned from the house, and he wasn't sure if Harriet returned his feelings.  Teen friendships can be illusive -- fights one day, friends the next -- except for the fact that Dylan was so 'clingy' and 'needy' regarding his friends, I don't think his feelings were abnormal so much as they were too dependent on one friend.  The fantasy romance with Harriet wasn't all that strange for his age either considering he was sensitive, shy, and somewhat repressed around girls.  However, in the lingo of today, Dylan needed to 'get a life.'  His dependence on  Zack led to feelings of abandonment and tended to be extreme IMO.

Again it's Monday morning quarterbacking, and I think that after any tragedy there is a tendency to examine everything with a jaundiced eye to give additional weight to things that were not obvious previously.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 04:09:00 PM

6.)  At the beginning of 'Good-bye' we learn more about Dylan's belief system and Eric's expressions of hate on his website.  Given the disparity between their beliefs do they seem to be an unlikely team to you?  What do you think was the 'glue' that held their relationship together, given the differences?  As Eric expressed hate for so many people and Fuselier saw that as contempt do you think that Eric felt contempt for Dylan?


They do seem to be an unlikely pair.  However, Eric found the perfect little follower in Dylan and Dylan seemed to enjoy being with the self-confident Eric.  Perhaps Dylan felt proud that he was picked by Eric as a friend and confidante, and the 'adventures' that Eric devised probably made Dylan feel special in an edgy bad boy way.  As for what held them together, it seemed to be Dylan's need for a close friend and Eric's desire for a follower he could control.  After all, control and need can lead to a problematic relationship.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 04:29:32 PM
1.)  In 'The Seeker' we read about Dylan's pain and depression.  Why do you think no one noticed how depressed he was?  He was also drinking - how do you think he got away with this around his parents?

{snip} Dylan's drinking may have suppressed his depression enough that his mood changes were not obvious, and he was smart enough to keep his pain and depression in his journal.

Dylan seems to have spent a lot of time alone in his room, without parental interference.  Whether he actually drank there (and had his vodka stored there) or just came home “sloshed” and went to his room isn’t clear.  In either case, he managed to keep the drinking hidden from his parents.  His parents knew he was using the computer in his room, so that gave him an excuse to be “busy” and away from them.  His seclusion in his room probably also kept them from sensing his depression.  I agree with what Nikki said earlier that the drinking may have suppressed the depression so that not even his Internet contacts sensed that he was depressed.  They did notice that he had been drinking, but other kids would not have been alarmed about this.  In fact, the drinking coupled with the lack of face-to-face contact evidently made it easier for Dylan to talk to girls online, so he appeared less disturbed than he really was.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 04:30:58 PM

20.)  What do you make of the spread of the story of Cassie Bernall's martyrdom?  Do you think that it spread because people needed to believe that something good could come out of such a horrible situation?  Do you think that people saw Cassie's story as being something with gave people hope for the future of their children?  Why do you think that Val Schnurr's story did not spread - particularly given the spread of Cassie's story?


Before they knew it the story had spread through the media aided by the Rev. Kirsten who embarked on a national speaking tour "to spread the good news."  Bree and Emily knew the truth, but their accounts to the investigators were sealed in the police reports for a year. Val Schnurr's account was rejected by doubters and others who felt she was encroaching on Cassie's death and 'martyrdom," and she didn't get her 'story' out early enough.  Although Val's father warned the pubishers of Misty Bernall's book that there was "conflicting information" in it, the Plough publishers went ahead.  The TV appearances of the Bernalls and the 'Wall Street Journal story' all added to the spread of Cassie as martyr -- the story became a runaway train that couldn't be stopped.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 04:38:49 PM
6.)  At the beginning of 'Good-bye' we learn more about Dylan's belief system and Eric's expressions of hate on his website.  Given the disparity between their beliefs do they seem to be an unlikely team to you?  What do you think was the 'glue' that held their relationship together, given the differences?  As Eric expressed hate for so many people and Fuselier saw that as contempt do you think that Eric felt contempt for Dylan?

They do seem to be an unlikely pair.  However, Eric found the perfect little follower in Dylan and Dylan seemed to enjoy being with the self-confident Eric.  Perhaps Dylan felt proud that he was picked by Eric as a friend and confidante, and the 'adventures' that Eric devised probably made Dylan feel special in an edgy bad boy way.  As for what held them together, it seemed to be Dylan's need for a close friend and Eric's desire for a follower he could control.  After all, control and need can lead to a problematic relationship.

I think this is exactly right, Nikki.  We have seen how much Dylan needed Zack, but now Zack was busy, so Dylan turned to Eric even more.  “The perfect little follower” is a great description of what Eric found in Dylan.  Eric was a manipulator, and he needed someone to manipulate.  Eric’s “bad boy” persona may have given Dylan some needed status that helped to offset his own inferiority complex and depression.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 04:51:29 PM


10.)  What did you make of the story of the 15 crosses?  Were you surprised by the reaction of the community (including the expressions of forgiveness)?  What did you think of Brian Rohrbough's reaction?  The carpenter who put up the crosses turned out to be a con man.  Do you think that the type of exploitation he represents is typical in this type of tragedy - or is that just a cynical viewpoint?

It struck me as a bit of religious hysteria, like the accounts of people seeing the face of the Virgin Mary in pie dough or store windows.  "It felt like a pilgrimage" was an apt description of the 125,000 people who "trekked up the hill to reach the crosses."  Yes, the carpenter represents a typical result of the tragedy.  He was like thieves who read the obits and rob homes while the residents are at funerals.  That guy was a real con artist -- too bad he couldn't have been arrested.  I understand that Brian Rohrbough was crippled by grief, and I was not surprised by his reaction, but even as a parent I couldn't have done what he did. The expressions of forgiveness by the community were surprising and edifying, especially if there were friends and relatives of the survivors and dead among them.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 05:17:56 PM
2.)  Dylan writes that he tried to 'cleanse' himself on a spiritual quest when he was 15.  Do you think that - from what we know - he changed when he grew older?  Do you think that his depression had an effect on dissuading him from his idealism?  Or do you think he maintained these beliefs till near the time of the attacks?  If so, do you believe he would have been reachable sometime shortly before the attacks?

Dylan does seem to have gone back and forth regarding religion.  He believed in God, but felt God had made him a modern Job, and questioned why God was making him suffer.  His depression was behind that question.  His desire to commit suicide was at odds with his knowledge that there would be consequences in the afterlife for taking his own life.  When he first tried to “cleanse” himself spiritually, Dylan attempted to give up many things that would be labeled “bad behavior,” but he took up bad behavior again as he associated more with Eric and got in trouble at school and with the authorities.  I also think that depression made him “need” Eric, and that Dylan wavered at times from his commitment to the attacks.  Therefore, I think Dylan might have been reachable if he had found the right therapist who really understood his depression in time – but that is easier said than done.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 05:28:04 PM
3.)  Dylan's journals convey a strong moral code.  Given this why/how do you think it was possible for him to commit the violent acts that he did?

{snip} The amoral Eric who was stronger, more self-assured, and considered his own uniqueness to be superior had a great influence on Dylan, and the latter found a soul mate of sorts who easily influenced the pathetic, lonely Dylan to participate in the tragedy of Columbine.

 Dylan’s belief in an afterlife and his desire to commit suicide were at odds with each other.  He knew that killing himself would be wrong, so it’s even more certain that he knew that killing other people would be wrong.  But his depression and lack of a feeling of self-worth made him very vulnerable to being influenced by a person with a stronger ego.  I agree with the gist of what Nikki says, that Eric was the amoral one, but since Eric was strong and self-assured, he was able to influence “the pathetic, lonely Dylan to participate in the tragedy of Columbine.”

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 05:48:59 PM
7.)  Eric's website (complete with bomb instructions) was reported to the police on August 7, 1997.  Does this seem like a place where Eric's eventual plans could have been stopped?  Why do you think that this violent information seems to have been ignored and wasn't followed up on?

The problem was that Deputy Mark Burgess only took note of the “missions” – the vandalism outings, including the TPing of houses – when he said that “possible criminal mischiefs have occurred.”  He apparently failed to notice or mention the pipe bomb that Eric had been bragging about on his Web site, so his superior evidently didn’t consider the criminal activity serious, and filed the report.

Yes, I think an opportunity was missed here.  Had investigators followed through in a different fashion, Eric’s parents and Eric himself could have been made aware that police knew about Eric’s Web site at this point.  This might have simply caused Eric to “go underground” and become more circumspect about what he posted, or it might have changed his eventual behavior.  It might have caused police to start keeping a closer eye on his activities, and they might have intercepted something else Eric did further down the line, such as when he started buying guns and ammunition.  But admittedly, it would have taken a lot of coordination for this to have happened.  Maybe suspicions would have had to be raised further before the effort would have seemed worthwhile to authorities.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 02, 2009, 06:01:38 PM

Quote from: michaelflanagansf
11.)  Eric and Dylan were caught breaking into lockers.  Was this treated seriously enough?  What do you think the appropriate reaction to this - both from the parents and the school - should have been?


IMO both parents and school were too lenient.  Had the boys broken into private homes, they would have been reported to the police.  The principal should have suspended both boys for a week, and the parents should have grounded the boys for more than a month.  Both parents seemed to side step the offenses. Wayne was too concerned with Eric's future and not enough about the boy's ethics; Tom's problem with philosophical grounds weren't good enough considering the gravity of the offense.  They were both now too old to be let off the hook this easily.

Edited to fix quote
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 06:37:08 PM
9.)  'Good-bye' has the first musing of Fuselier regarding Dylan and Eric's sanity.  Given what we read here do you feel that they were sane?  Do you think we know enough about psychopathy at this point in the book to make a decision regarding whether or not Eric is a psychopath?  We have read quite a bit about Dylan's depression by this point - does he seem to be depressed enough to be mentally ill by this point in your opinion?

I agree with Agent Fuselier’s assessment that Eric was not psychotic:  he did not suffer from paranoia or schizophrenia or the like, and was in contact with reality.  I had not been aware of the technical description and symptoms of psychopathy, and I think we need to learn more about it (as we will later in the book) to make a definite decision about Eric.  But after reading the characteristics of a psychopath presented in this chapter (“They are coldhearted manipulators who will do anything for their own gain…vast majority are nonviolent…the ones who turn sadistic can be monstrous)”  I think Eric fits the profile.  Even in his nonviolent moments, Eric fit the picture of being “charming and likable, but it’s an act.”  He could fool people just to make himself look like a good boy, while making plans to be a bad boy.  If he truly was a psychopath, then in the definition which I’m familiar with, he was “sane” and could not, had he lived, claim to be “innocent by reason of insanity.”  At least, this is my understanding, at this point in the book.

Dylan was very different.  He did seem pretty depressed, given the abundance of his thoughts of suicide, and serious depression (an ongoing condition, as opposed to temporary unhappiness about something) is a mental illness – usually a treatable mental illness.  I am not sure whether a clinically depressed person who is mentally ill would be considered “insane” legally (unable to understand the results of their actions) but I don’t think so.  I thought that “insane” applied more to true psychotics who could claim, for example, that voices told them to kill their mother or their child.  Dylan was not in that category.  After reading the examples of cases in which depression might lead to murder, I agree again with Agent Fuselier that Dylan didn’t seem to fit those examples.  We know he could sometimes erupt in anger, but Columbine didn’t have the characteristic of an anger eruption.  It was too well-planned, for too long.  The only category of a depressive who murders where Dylan might fit would be the one where an angry gunman lashes out at everyone and fires on a random crowd.  But I have to agree with the conclusion that Dylan didn’t have the willpower to act out in this manner on his own  I firmly believe that he was following along as an actor in Eric’s performance.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 06:51:38 PM
11.)  Eric and Dylan were caught breaking into lockers.  Was this treated seriously enough?  What do you think the appropriate reaction to this - both from the parents and the school - should have been?

I don’t think this was treated seriously enough, either.  Three days was a short suspension, although I can see Tom Klebold’s point that a suspension would have set them back academically, so a longer suspension would have caused them to miss even more classes.  I agree with Nikki that the police should have been called, even though the teens were underage.  The offense was serious – not only did they break into the lockers, they also hacked into the school computer.  Perhaps the three-day suspension from classes could have been combined with a ninety-day period of probation, during which they would have had to report to a probation officer and complete other community service.  The parents could have grounded them for a ninety day period, also.  Eric’s loss of computer privileges was a good step; I suspect that Eric was the mastermind behind the hacking.  As for Wayne wanting to protect Eric’s reputation for the sake of his future:  he should have been more concerned about reforming Eric’s behavior.  After all, Eric didn’t make it into college after all, now did he?   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 07:06:36 PM
13.)  Wayne Harris finds one of Eric's pipe bombs.  Since this happened shortly after the locker incident do you think that he should have been paying closer attention to what his son was doing?  What do you make of his reaction to this - do you think that he was too concerned with protecting his son and was too worried about his future or was he simply acting like a protective parent?

Michael, do you mean should Wayne have been paying closer attention to what his son was doing BEFORE or AFTER finding the pipe bomb?  

I think the locker incident should have served as a warning to Wayne, and he should have been more on the lookout for suspicious behavior in Eric’s room after that, BEFORE finding the pipe bomb.  That extra scrutiny could have been part of Eric’s punishment for the locker incident.  But regardless of how Wayne acted before finding the pipe bomb, he certainly should have paid closer attention to Eric’s actions afterwards.  Eric eventually went back to making more pipe bombs.  Lockers were petty theft and vandalsm; pipe bombs could cause serious damage and personal injury.

I get the sense that Wayne, despite trying to be a tough disciplinarian, cared mostly about having a son who would go on to follow in his footsteps and make him proud.  Therefore, it may have been Eric’s future career and schooling that he cared about most, rather than caring about Eric as a son.  He strikes me as being a little short on the qualities of a truly loving father.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 07:26:41 PM
14.)  Dylan got caught with a computer stolen from the computer lab and scratching 'fag' into a locker.  When you read about these incidents does it seem as if there were an endless number of 'second chances' that these boys received or are we overly critical because we are looking at this in hindsight?

The book alludes to a number of other incidents on the same page as these two incidents are mentioned (stealing other merchandise, a possible credit card scam, and testing more pipe bombs).  Eric and Dylan both apparently participated in these activities, but it was more often Dylan who got caught.  In part, this was because Dylan was too honest to pull off the kind of lies that Eric excelled at; when questioned about his “new laptop” by his father, Dylan simply confessed.  When he scratched “fag” into a locker, someone saw it, and he got sent to the dean’s office.  They received punishment for these incidents, but not severe punishment.

It does seem that the boys received a number of second chances.  They seemed to be on the road to becoming petty criminals, at the least.  Still, I would have to say that none of the incidents except for those related to pipe bombs are indicative of the violence that was to come.  Lots of high school students commit numerous small offenses and end up in the principal’s office regularly.  So we may be looking at some of Eric and Dylan’s offenses through the microscope of hindsight.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 07:44:12 PM
15.)  What would have been the appropriate thing to do after the boys broke into the van?

First, it was appropriate to take them to the police station.  Second, without the police having knowledge of any prior criminal records, it was probably to be expected that they would be released into the custody of their parents. 

Had their prior break-in into the school lockers resulted in a police report, I suspect that they would have received harsher treatment.  In that case, they probably would have been held in jail for a few days and then charged with at least one of the possible felonies for which they were eligible.  They might have eventually received longer jail sentences, or given probation of at least a year.

Eventually they did end up in a juvenile diversion program, which at first glance had a number of promising features, minus any jail time:  counseling, community service, fines, fees and restitution.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 10:34:36 PM
16.)  Dwayne Fuselier began dismissing a conspiracy theory within a week of the attack on Columbine.  Why do you think the local authorities clung onto the theory longer?  Was it because it is difficult to imagine that an attack of this magnitude could be planned by two boys or because they wanted living people to blame?

There was a lot of confusion about the attack because of faulty eyewitness testimony, incorrectly identified suspects, faulty conclusions drawn from pieces of evidence, etc.  In the beginning, both Dwayne Fuselier and local authorities had a hard time believing that two boys acting alone could plan an attack of this magnitude, but it was the local community which actually wanted living people to bame.  As it was, “There was no killer to rebuke in a courtroom, no judge to implore to impose the maximum penalty.”

As far as law enforcement goes, the book indicates that local Jeffco authorities, for the most part, soon agreed with Fuselier that there was no conspiracy.  It was Sheriff Stone that “kept talking up the conspiracy theory with the press,” despite the efforts of his spokesmen to keep him quiet.  I think it must have been the political nature of Stone’s job that caused him to do this.  He understood that the community at large was looking for “a living perpetrator,” and he would have been reluctant to disabuse the community of that hope.  Eventually, Stone agreed to stop speaking to the press as long as his subordinates did also; the result is referred to as “the Jeffco blackout” of information. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 11:21:13 PM
18.)  How could the diversion program and Eric's psychiatrist have been more effective?  Do you believe that by this point Eric was inevitably headed toward the attacks?  Was Dylan salvagable by the time he reached diversion?
[/quote]

I can think of some scenarios which would have caused Eric and Dylan to be rejected by the diversion program, and in that case they would likely have been imprisoned for felonies as a result of the van break-in.  They might have been rejected if Jeffco investigators had alerted the DA’s office about Eric’s Web site threats to kill people in a shootout, as uncovered after the Browns called the cops.  They might have been rejected if Jeffco Magistrate DeVita had been aware of the investigation of the Web site, or if Eric and Dylan had not presented such a polished impression in court.  Eric in particular might have been rejected if he had not used the “partial confession” technique to fool Andrea Sanchez when filling out his intake form for diversion.

But once they were in diversion, it’s hard to see how the program could have been more effective.  The program provided counseling along with requiring community service and restitution; and the intake forms gave the boys a chance to admit to problems such drinking and smoking marijuana, and to characterize their mental health section.  One thing that might have helped make the intake process more accurate might have been for a psychiatrist, rather than a social worker, to review the answers which the boys provided on their intake questionnaires and try to establish the validity of those answers by conducting an in-depth interview with each boy.  For example, Eric checked off fourteen mental health problems; if some of these were lies, I wonder whether this gave a distorted picture of his state of mind in a way which would have indicated that he could benefit from the diversion program, when in fact he couldn’t.    As for Eric’s private psychiatrist, he also was getting an inaccurate picture of Eric’s state of mind if Eric talked about anger, depression and suicidal thoughts but never got into his lack of empathy for other people, and never mentioned the bombs.  My own feeling is that, because of the bombs, Eric was inevitably headed toward the attacks by this time, but his therapy sessions did not probe deeply enough for any of his counselors to become aware of this.

Dylan may still have been salvageable by the time he reached diversion.  I have two reasons for saying this.  One, he didn’t set out with the desire to hurt other people, but was acting because of the pain he himself was in and was playing a role written for him by Eric.  Two, the fact that Dylan told Brooks Brown about Eric’s Web site suggests that Dylan really wanted the killing plan to be intercepted.  If Dylan didn’t, at heart, want to be a killer, some more effective treatment aimed at easing his underlying depression might still have done some good and given him the self-confidence needed to get out from under Eric’s influence.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 02, 2009, 11:47:55 PM
19.)  Even while he was entering diversion Eric had a website up which threatened to kill people.  Dylan brought it to the attention of Brooks Brown.  Why do you think Dylan did this - was this a cry for help on Dylan's part?  Do you think that Brooks Brown was in real danger?  Why do you think that the website was not taken seriously?  Did the authorities seriously drop the ball here?  Do you think that things have changed since Columbine regarding online threats - or do you think that this sort of thing could be posted on a website now without consequences?

I do think this was a cry for help on Dylan’s part.  Dylan still must have had some of his moral core at work inside of him still, despite his pain, and he wasn’t truly committed to Eric’s killing plan at this point.  He may not have known how to work free of Eric – a good psychopathic manipulator knows how to keep someone like Dylan entangled in his web – so he may have hoped to alert authorities as a way of saving himself as much as saving Brooks or saving people in general. 

I doubt that Brooks Brown was in any real danger, simply because Eric was more interested in killing vast numbers of people than in getting into a fight with one particular person.  Also, we know that on the day of the Columbine attack, Eric actually warned Brooks to get away from the area, so he passed up a chance to hurt Brooks then.

Jeffco investigators did follow up on the reports, but since they didn’t alert the DA’s office, their investigation didn’t prevent the boys from entering diversion.  The investigators probably assumed that Eric was “all talk and no action” in his Web site, but filed a report on it just in case they ever needed to refer to it.  IMO, they did seriously drop the ball here; Eric’s house should have been searched for weapons at that point.  Eventually another investigator met with the Browns and prepared an affidavit for a search warrant after becoming convinced of the seriousness of the situation, but this affidavit seems to have fallen through the cracks in the bureaucracy because it was never taken before a judge or executed.

I hope, although I’m not sure, that things have changed since Columbine, and that if online threats were discovered today on a website, the authorities would follow through with a more thorough and timely investigation. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 09:17:53 AM


16.)  Dwayne Fuselier began dismissing a conspiracy theory within a week of the attack on Columbine.  Why do you think the local authorities clung onto the theory longer?  Was it because it is difficult to imagine that an attack of this magnitude could be planned by two boys or because they wanted living people to blame?

Fuselier said, Once we understood there was no third shooter, I realized that for everyone, it was going to be difficult to get closure.  The task force was deprived of the reason for the murders.  The families were angry for being deprived of a target for their anger, the public thought the police force should have answers, and the press was surprised that there were none.  Sheriff Stone became a "laughing stock."  He misinterpreted, misstated, and  quoted Eric's journal "out of context."  The local authorities needed someone to blame, but there was no one alive but the gun providers, and the more they danced around the issue by allowing the inept Stone to talk to the press, the angrier the community became.  In spite of the large group of police and officials on the case, there were no answers to give to the public who wanted to know how and why, and no living people to blame.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 09:29:57 AM

I do think this was a cry for help on Dylan’s part.  Dylan still must have had some of his moral core at work inside of him still, despite his pain, and he wasn’t truly committed to Eric’s killing plan at this point.  He may not have known how to work free of Eric – a good psychopathic manipulator knows how to keep someone like Dylan entangled in his web – so he may have hoped to alert authorities as a way of saving himself as much as saving Brooks or saving people in general. 

I agree with this, especially that "he may not have known how to work free of Eric."  Dylan was like a fly caught in Dylan's web, wasn't he?

I doubt that Brooks Brown was in any real danger, simply because Eric was more interested in killing vast numbers of people than in getting into a fight with one particular person.  Also, we know that on the day of the Columbine attack, Eric actually warned Brooks to get away from the area, so he passed up a chance to hurt Brooks then.

Yes about Brooks.  I always wondered why Eric warned Brooks away from the area. Last minute regret for Brooks?


Jeffco investigators did follow up on the reports, but since they didn’t alert the DA’s office, their investigation didn’t prevent the boys from entering diversion.  The investigators probably assumed that Eric was “all talk and no action” in his Web site, but filed a report on it just in case they ever needed to refer to it.  IMO, they did seriously drop the ball here...


Oh yes, did they ever drop the ball!! The investigators and Jeffco officials were like the keystone cops IMO.

 


Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 09:58:13 AM


21.)  What do you make of Eric's comments with regard to god and people in 'The Book of God.'  Was he delusional - or was he just an ass?  Do you think that he really saw himself as being superior to other humans?  Do you think that this led him to be able to justify his acts - or is that over thinking this whole thing (in other words do we look for things that would give justification because we would need it - but someone like Eric didn't)?


There's no doubt that Eric had a god complex going for him.  it'll be like the LA riots, the oklahoma bombing, WWII, vietnam, duke and doom all mixed together... I want to leave a lasting impression on the world.  I don't think he was delusional, he really believed he was superior, an Uber-mensch who believed that "natural selection had failed," and he was going to set it right. He was a mini-Hitler in the making who didn't have to justify anything.

These lines were chillling: Dr. Fuselier set down the journal... Now he had a pretty good hunch about what he was dealing with: a psychopath.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 03, 2009, 10:03:13 AM
21.)  What do you make of Eric's comments with regard to god and people in 'The Book of God.'  Was he delusional - or was he just an ass?  Do you think that he really saw himself as being superior to other humans?  Do you think that this led him to be able to justify his acts - or is that over thinking this whole thing (in other words do we look for things that would give justification because we would need it - but someone like Eric didn't)?

LOL about Eric being “just an ass.”  That’s probably it. 

Seriously, I don’t think delusional is the right word for Eric because he did not say that he WAS God.  He just compared himself to God and Zeus (even without believing in an actual God) because God and Zeus were the best words he could use to express what he felt to be his “all-encompassing superiority” over other human beings.  I get the feeling that Eric really did believe in his own superiority; again and again he calls other people “stupid fucks” and says that he has more “universal intelligence” than almost anyone in the world.  His thoughts had a wide scope: he considered the entire human race and saw that he was surrounded by people who would not even exist if natural selection had done a better job of weeding them out.  So, he appointed himself the person who should impose some natural selection (i.e., by killing off as many of the lesser people as possible).

I doubt that Eric really needed to “justify” his acts because he lacked the moral sense of them being wrong.  But I think his sense of superiority provided him with an internal “mandate” to kill because he somehow saw that as his purpose in life.  He wasn’t thinking about college or any other long-term future:  “I know I will die soon….so will you and everyone else.” 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 10:17:46 AM


12.)  Eric and Dylan became enthralled with films like 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Lost Highway' and musicians like Nine Inch Nails.  Do you think we do an injustice to filmmakers and musicians when we tie them to the actions of deranged killers?  Do you think there is any justification in being concerned with the effect of violent films and music on teens - and/or is this something that requires the attention of a parent on a case by case basis?


Yes, I do to a certain extent.  Kids are going to listen to music where ever they want to whether at a friend's house, or on iPOD. The same goes for films -- we all know that kids under 17 can and do get into R rated films.  However, I do think young kids or tweens should be monitored as to the films they see and the programs they watch.  Most kids will tell you they don't always listen to the lyrics so much as the music and the beat, and normal kids just blow off the suggestive stuff.  The one thing I am opposed to is the obscene form of rap that denigrates women.  Even though we would like to address all of this on a case by case basis, it's pretty difficult to do when music, especially, is so available. I personally think some parents worry more about the entertainment value of the programs and music their kids watch rather than who they are watching it with.  IOW are their children's friends bad influences or not?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 03, 2009, 10:25:51 AM
The one thing I am opposed to is the obscene form of rap that denigrates women. 

Yes, Nikki, I wasn't even thinking about this type of music, but I agree with you wholeheartedly on this.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 10:37:15 AM
The one thing I am opposed to is the obscene form of rap that denigrates women. 

Yes, Nikki, I wasn't even thinking about this type of music, but I agree with you wholeheartedly on this.

...and you can't always avoid it, especially in the city when some drivers have it blaring from their speakers!!

----------------------------------------------------



Do you get the feeling that you and I are the only ones alive in this book discussion?  The thread has over 3,000 hits, so where are the hitters? :D

Happy Fourth!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 03, 2009, 11:02:30 AM
Happy Fourth to you, too!

I've been wondering about Jenny, but she may be on her vacation that was sometime this summer.  And I'm going away next weekend (July 9-14).

Wish we'd have more people commenting, but if they're reading, that's good, anyway.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 03, 2009, 01:19:27 PM
He was smart enough not to drink around his parents, and his preoccupation with the internet kept him busy and out of sight.

As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 03, 2009, 01:23:48 PM
Dylan was a religious person, and he was consumed by the idea of death and the afterlife. He believed in heaven and hell and, although he toyed with the idea of suicide for two years, his religious beliefs "posed a problem."

This is one of the most troubling things about Dylan's story for me.  I have to wonder how he got from this point to where he asked Val Schnurr 'Do you believe in God?'

I don't think it is necessary to believe in a God to lead a moral and responsible life - but I really wonder about the shift in Dylan's thinking - I wonder if he changed his opinion to be more in line with Eric?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: chapeaugris on July 03, 2009, 01:57:37 PM
Wish we'd have more people commenting, but if they're reading, that's good, anyway

Debbie, you and Nikki cover all the questions so thoroughly that I hardly feel like I have anything meaningful to add! Also, I haven't had time to reread any parts of the book since the discussion started so I've hesitated to dive in. But I'm glad Michael asked this:

Quote
As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

I think how much you notice what your kids are up to depends on so many circumstances, like how much you're home and how sancrosact your kids' rooms are. We just went through a hellish couple of years with one of our teenage daughters and only discovered exactly what she'd been up to last year when we found her diary in March (we didn't go searching for it but stumbled upon it). Several times she wrote that she wished she could tell me about her problems so I thought great, she'll be glad I found her diary. Not! She was furious that, having found it when she'd forgotten to rehide it, we went ahead and read it! But it was the shock we all needed and it set a lot of things in motion.

Now I'm thinking, if the Harrises or the Klebolds had read even a fraction of what their sons had written in their journals, it would have turned their world upside down. I remember thinking when I read about Wayne Harris making all these notes, "Jeez, just go into his room and poke around already!" Before our experience with our daughter, and before reading this book,  I was in the camp of "don't ever read your kid's diary!" But the parents might have saved a lot of lives if they had. (BTW, our other, "good" daughter keeps a diary too, but I she keeps the filled ones mummified in duct tape in a shoe box in the drawer under her bed!)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 03, 2009, 02:05:05 PM
Happy Fourth to you, too!

I've been wondering about Jenny, but she may be on her vacation that was sometime this summer.  And I'm going away next weekend (July 9-14).

Wish we'd have more people commenting, but if they're reading, that's good, anyway.

Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be coming on and answering both some of the earlier questions and commenting on the last section of the book myself, Deb.

I have a bit of a headache now and I'm going to try to get rid of it before looking at the computer much, but I'll  be back (to quote my governator).
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 03, 2009, 02:15:05 PM
hey everyone. i'm safely back in denver and enjoying the discussion. let me know if you have more questions for me.

on this one,

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

while i generally marvel at all the work parents put in with their kids, how much patience they have, etc., i have also found most to be wildly unreliable on knowing what's really happening to their kids. (it gets downright comical when you see stats about, say, big majorities of teens saying they use pot and/or alcohol, and tiny majorities of parents saying THEIR kid does. it's always someone else's kid.)

parents have no way of knowing what their kids have successfully hidden, because the hiding was a success. rather than ask parents why don't we ask kids--and former kids, which conveniently includes all of us: could you have hidden this from your parents?

---

on the question of drinking: i'll jump in. i didn't drink daily or even weekly in high school, but by senior year i drank many times. never once did my extremely conservative and intrusive Catholic parents know. they never discovered any of my eight siblings. most people i knew in high school were doing the same--and many getting high--and few parents knew. this was in an arch-conservative middle class suburb outside chicago (henry hyde's congressional district).

often, parents found out after a car crash or some extreme screwup, which finally exposed months and years of the behavior. occasionally, friends were caught by their parents during minor screwups, but convinced the parents it was a one-time thing. that's what the parents wanted to believe. who wants to believe, "my kid's an addict"?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 03, 2009, 03:38:14 PM
Debbie, you and Nikki cover all the questions so thoroughly that I hardly feel like I have anything meaningful to add! Also, I haven't had time to reread any parts of the book since the discussion started so I've hesitated to dive in. But I'm glad Michael asked this:

Quote
As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

Thanks, Kim.  And I'm always glad to read your contributions, too.  I know the specifics of the book can start to blur if you haven't read it recently, but I appreciate your input on the general questions from a parent's perspective.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 03, 2009, 04:12:32 PM
parents have no way of knowing what their kids have successfully hidden, because the hiding was a success. rather than ask parents why don't we ask kids--and former kids, which conveniently includes all of us: could you have hidden this from your parents?

Thanks for your honest answers about yourself, Dave.  In my case, I kept a diary but didn't write anything so incriminating in it (thank goodness!) as what Eric or Dylan wrote, but my mother did discover it and read it.  I was very upset, particularly as it set off arguments about my political beliefs or my feelings on certain social issues (back then it wasn't gay rights, but racial equality and school integration).  

As for actual misdeeds like underage drinking or using pot, I didn't do these when I was in high school.  Again, my mother questioned me quite a bit before and after I went out with friends, and I ended up telling her some things my friends did (like drinking) but this didn't happen while I was with them.  In short, she kept a pretty close eye on me and probably would have realized it if I had come home "under the influence" of anything.  I also shared a bedroom with a sister during high school, and didn't have much privacy at all.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 03, 2009, 04:37:14 PM
I think it is very hard to know exactly what your children are up to. Even when you try really hard, it is often the parents who are the last to know. Because it is the parents that will put a stop to unsuitable behaviour, it is the parents who children work hardest to keep in the dark.
Teenagers are becoming more independent, that is their role, in some ways they act in an impossible way because they need us to push them out of the nest. In gaining independence they use subterfuge and sometimes lying, as a way of maintaining their autonomy.
They often think that their parents will be disappointed in them if they find out what they are really like, or what they are up to.
I have to say, with our daughters, we usually found out in the end, but sometimes it took months.

Parents who let their children use computers in an unregulated way, because they can't use them themselves, are IMO being very foolish. Luckily we didn't have that problem, because when our children were teenagers, computers weren't a factor.
I do think there can be a feeling in parents to not want to know what is going on, because the truth usually hurts, and causes family upsets.

Personally, I don't really blame the Harrises or the Klebolds, they may have been unwise in not keeping a more watchful eye, but in many ways they have my sympathy. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 05:55:13 PM


I think how much you notice what your kids are up to depends on so many circumstances, like how much you're home and how sancrosact your kids' rooms are. We just went through a hellish couple of years with one of our teenage daughters and only discovered exactly what she'd been up to last year when we found her diary in March (we didn't go searching for it but stumbled upon it). Several times she wrote that she wished she could tell me about her problems so I thought great, she'll be glad I found her diary. Not! She was furious that, having found it when she'd forgotten to rehide it, we went ahead and read it! But it was the shock we all needed and it set a lot of things in motion.

Now I'm thinking, if the Harrises or the Klebolds had read even a fraction of what their sons had written in their journals, it would have turned their world upside down. I remember thinking when I read about Wayne Harris making all these notes, "Jeez, just go into his room and poke around already!" Before our experience with our daughter, and before reading this book,  I was in the camp of "don't ever read your kid's diary!" But the parents might have saved a lot of lives if they had. (BTW, our other, "good" daughter keeps a diary too, but I she keeps the filled ones mummified in duct tape in a shoe box in the drawer under her bed!)


Cheapeaugris, I agree with much of this, but when my kids were young, I always gave them privacy regarding their rooms.  The diary business is a real sticky wicket, isn't it?  Luckily they didn't keep diaries and, if they did, I wouldn't have read their diaries.  I've always been of the school of thought that diaries or journals were sacrosanct.  Of course, had the Harris or Klebold parents began to read the diaries, the boys would have probably gotten rid of them early on.
I had to laugh about your daughter keeping the filed ones mummified in duct tape.  Subtle isn't she? LOL
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 05:58:21 PM
He was smart enough not to drink around his parents, and his preoccupation with the internet kept him busy and out of sight.

As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?
;
Yes, I did notice a few times when one of my kids had been drinking beer.  Luckily there was no driving problem at the time 'cause they walked home from a friend's house.  You can usually smell beer or booze unless they manage to get rid of the smell -- not likely always, though, and kids can be pretty devious.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 06:02:33 PM
hey everyone. i'm safely back in denver and enjoying the discussion. let me know if you have more questions for me.

on this one,

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

while i generally marvel at all the work parents put in with their kids, how much patience they have, etc., i have also found most to be wildly unreliable on knowing what's really happening to their kids. (it gets downright comical when you see stats about, say, big majorities of teens saying they use pot and/or alcohol, and tiny majorities of parents saying THEIR kid does. it's always someone else's kid.)

parents have no way of knowing what their kids have successfully hidden, because the hiding was a success. rather than ask parents why don't we ask kids--and former kids, which conveniently includes all of us: could you have hidden this from your parents?

---

on the question of drinking: i'll jump in. i didn't drink daily or even weekly in high school, but by senior year i drank many times. never once did my extremely conservative and intrusive Catholic parents know. they never discovered any of my eight siblings. most people i knew in high school were doing the same--and many getting high--and few parents knew. this was in an arch-conservative middle class suburb outside chicago (henry hyde's congressional district).

often, parents found out after a car crash or some extreme screwup, which finally exposed months and years of the behavior. occasionally, friends were caught by their parents during minor screwups, but convinced the parents it was a one-time thing. that's what the parents wanted to believe. who wants to believe, "my kid's an addict"?

I agree, Dave.  I found out an awful lot of stuff after my kids grew up and left college.  One funny thing was that my mother knew one or two had been smoking (regular ciggies not pot) when they blew it out their bedroom windows.  They later said, "You mean Granny knew we were smoking??"
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 03, 2009, 06:14:19 PM

The business about childrens' privacy issues can be difficult for parents.  Do you destroy their trust in you when you invade their rooms and read private writing, or are you willing to risk it and possibly alienate them?  I think it depends on the children and the parents.  I remember one mother telling me that she went through her childrens' pockets looking for cigarette butts.  I didn't agree, but said nothing, since it wasn't my business, and I don't think she would have appreciated my feedback. This woman had 8 children, and I was tempted to ask if she went through 8 sets of clothing each night!  I was always lucky 'cause my mother would not have done that to me, also I was in boarding school.  One time a few of us boarders went to town and bought a pack of ciggies (in our convent uniforms, yet!).  When we got back to the convent the nun monitoring recreation said, "I mell moke" --( you can translate that, right?), but she never punished us and there were no repercussions.  Think "The Trouble with Angels" and you have my experience in a nutshell. :D
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 12:54:40 AM
4. What do you make of the relationship between Eric and Dylan? Did this relationship remain consistent throughout the book? If there were shifts in their roles, can you pinpoint when and why this happened?

As readers of my questions can probably tell, I have a hard time thinking that Eric was not simply using Dylan.  I truly wonder if he held him in the same sort of contempt he seemed to have for most other people.  Did Eric think Dylan was easy to manipulate?

And what about Dylan - was he just so desperate for friends that he did what Eric wanted?  I've noted that he seems to change his religious beliefs to mirror Eric's - from going from a person with a heavy sense of right and wrong and a belief in heaven and hell to being someone who questions a girl about her belief in God.

I think that as Dylan loses people whether real (like Zack who becomes involved with a girl) or Harriet (with whom he really never had a relationship) that he became more compelled to do anything to keep his friendship with Eric.

Of course that does make me wonder why he let Brooks Brown know about the website.

Honestly, I think Eric would have used any person that he thought he could manipulate into committing these crimes.  Dylan just was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong state of mind at the wrong place at the wrong time.  It doesn't, by the way, mean that I think he is any less guilty of the crime he committed.

When Eric and Dylan were busted for breaking into the van Eric didn't seem at all concerned with making sure that Dylan got through the program.  It shows, to me, how little he cared about what happened to Dylan.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 04, 2009, 06:53:17 AM


Honestly, I think Eric would have used any person that he thought he could manipulate into committing these crimes.  Dylan just was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong state of mind at the wrong place at the wrong time.  It doesn't, by the way, mean that I think he is any less guilty of the crime he committed.


I agree 100% with this, Michael.  I also think that Dylan admired Eric and was flattered  that Eric had chosen him to be his second in command.  To someone who was as shy and insecure as Dylan, Eric's attention was very seductive.   
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 04, 2009, 04:36:23 PM
I agree too. I doubt Eric was capable of caring about, or having empathy for anyone, and he used Dylan for his own purposes. Of course no one has to let themselves be used, but Dylan was probably not in a fit state of mind to resist.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 04, 2009, 04:44:02 PM
Janjo, you mention doubting whether Eric was capable of caring about anyone. One of the shortest but clearest descriptions I've seen of psychopaths says they are "loveless and guiltless." That fits Eric to a T.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 04, 2009, 04:52:27 PM
That's a brilliant three-word description of psychopaths, Lydia.  I agree that it fits Eric.

We tend to think of Eric and Dylan as a pair to such a degree that I suspect we often ascribe to their relationship the kind of normal feelings that friends would have for each other.  That would include caring and having empathy.  I admit that I've often tended to think of Eric's lack of concern for "other" morons (the masses) without considering whether he put Dylan into that same category.  I tended in the past to think that Eric saw Dylan more as someone special like himself.  But really, why would he?  A normal person would have, but Eric wasn't that "normal person."  Now that we're all talking about this, I agree that it's a really valid point.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 04, 2009, 04:56:48 PM
I can't take credit for it, Debbie. It's from "The psychopath: An essay on the criminal mind" by McCord & McCord. But it's easy to remember and sums them up pretty well, I think.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 04, 2009, 05:03:33 PM
I remember talking to the headmaster of a local school for seriously disturbed students, and I do mean, seriously, and he said that most of them had "no empathy" for anyone. The notion of "empathy" was something that they included in every lesson, on every subject.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 04, 2009, 05:17:56 PM
When we get to the chapter on psychopathy in the next section we can talk about attempts to change the behavior of psychopaths.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 07:06:45 PM
When we get to the chapter on psychopathy in the next section we can talk about attempts to change the behavior of psychopaths.

Monday!!!

[Not like I'm excited about it or anything.... ;) :D]
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 04, 2009, 07:24:43 PM
Me, too!  :D
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on July 04, 2009, 08:17:45 PM
As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

As much as I would like to say I knew what my boys were doing all the time, this was not the case. Even though they had rules, much like Dylan and Eric, they, like most kids could circumvent those rules and do the drinking or smoking even those they abided by the rules my husband and I set forth. I pretty much knew when they were smoking, as I could smell it. The drinking was a different issue, especially if they were spending the night at someone else's house. They did get caught having  a beer party at some property we owned out in the country only because the folks at the neighboring property called as when they saw something going on.

I always felt I was an involved and concerned and knowing parent. But I guess deep down I knew they were doing things. Like Nikki, I found out after the kids were out of the house, when they were older. I was bragging on the fact that I knew what my kids were doing. My oldest son said "Mom, you really didn't know the half of what we did." And yes I did go through their rooms.

I am so lucky and relieved that they survived this time and came out just fine and are successful young men.

I guess one of the big tragedies I felt about Dylan's and Eric's parents is that I felt they were involved parents and still this happened.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 04, 2009, 08:32:07 PM
Interesting, Linda.  Even though I said earlier that I didn't really do much wrong (behaviorally; philosophically was another issue) in high school, I remember that my brother (who was nine years younger than me) did a lot of drinking and smoking both, when he lived at home (after I had moved out).  My mother knew about it, though; she could smell the smoke on my brother, and he got addicted to smoking and eventually couldn't hide it (they made him go outside to smoke).  She knew he drank beer, too, especially over at a friend's house, although I'm not sure how much she knew when he was under 18.  After he was 18, he just couldn't keep his mouth shut and bragged about how much he had been drinking.

I did some unwise things after I was older (one very memorable occasion of drinking tequila -- somebody else's idea -- at someone's suburban house and trying to drive -- very slowly -- back home down the highway to my home in Denver).  Sometimes I was tempted to tell her, in later years, "You didn't know the half of it," but never did.   :D
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on July 04, 2009, 08:50:19 PM
parents have no way of knowing what their kids have successfully hidden, because the hiding was a success. rather than ask parents why don't we ask kids--and former kids, which conveniently includes all of us: could you have hidden this from your parents?

Well, I can't use my experiences in high school as an example, as I was in the convent. But knowing me, I could have hidden some things. If this question is, could I have hidden what Eric and Dylan did, I don't think I can answer this as I can't imagine ever thinking of something like this.

I can use my husband as an example, however. When he told me some of the things he pulled I often wondered that he made it past his 14th birthday. They were not terrible acts and never hurt anyone, but were somewhat illegal.  He smoked, but never drank (as his father was an alcoholic) and pulled a lot of pranks. I asked him why, and he said because he could and he never got caught. Now he did have parents who were not involved, as I said dad was an alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was 12. I often wondered how he turned out to be the caring, moral man he became as an adult, having the upbringing he did have.

I do think this went a long way in bringing our boys up. He was involved, loved them, but also knew what they could (and probably did) do.

I got to thinking what I said above, and I guess one of the points I was making is that sometimes good upbringing can produce problematic adults and bad upbringing can produce good adults. Once again the psycopathy issue.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 09:01:22 PM
7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter?

Perhaps the most disquieting surprise was reading about Eric's misanthropy.  Having seriously entertained notions as to whether or not humanity is an invasive species run amok myself,  it's somewhat disquieting to see someone who takes similar thoughts and runs with them.  I've said earlier that what is most disturbing to me is not how strange these boys seem, but how normal that seem.  And  misanthropic thoughts - from seeing people as blind automatons to getting irritated with human idiosyncrasies is well within the range of normal - at least I think so.  The difference is that we 'normals' don't act on those thoughts.

The question I'm left with regarding this is when did the train leave the rails - when did Eric slip into abnormal territory?  Was this set of events inevitable from the point they broke into the van - was it directly due to resentment at being caught?  From the time they ran the 'missions' - was the pattern in place then to enact some sort of violence?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 09:04:46 PM
7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter? 

Also regarding Eric's misanthropy - I was amazed at how juvenile and banal his dislikes were - from being angry about pronunciation to being obsessed about the viewers of television channels.  In the end what a small small person he seems.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 09:16:53 PM
rather than ask parents why don't we ask kids--and former kids, which conveniently includes all of us: could you have hidden this from your parents?

No, I don't think I could have.  My mother found out I was fooling around with boys in my teens, I don't think I'd have been able to sneak pipebombs past her.  She was a teetotaler and very keenly aware when I had been drinking.  I just admitted it to her.  There were certainly some things I was able to get by her and other things that she just didn't want to think about - and so ignored them.

Then again I ran an underground newspaper in high school and went to the school board twice to change their behavior policies in the school so she pretty much would have expected anything.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on July 04, 2009, 09:59:18 PM
7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter? 

Also regarding Eric's misanthropy - I was amazed at how juvenile and banal his dislikes were - from being angry about pronunciation to being obsessed about the viewers of television channels.  In the end what a small small person he seems.

I thought the same thing, Michael. I was surprised the same brain that planned and thought out these elaborate attacks and plans and taking several years to bring it to fruition, could have such a childish view of what his dislikes were about the human race. He encompassed all of us in his dislikes. I was not ever clear what all he hated about all of us. I am not sure he was even aware of what exactly he hated. The randomness of his dislikes changed from day to day. It's as if he saw something and thought' "Oh I'll add that to my list of why I hate the human race, and why I am superior and they inferior".
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 04, 2009, 10:44:08 PM
I thought the same thing, Michael. I was surprised the same brain that planned and thought out these elaborate attacks and plans and taking several years to bring it to fruition, could have such a childish view of what his dislikes were about the human race. He encompassed all of us in his dislikes. I was not ever clear what all he hated about all of us. I am not sure he was even aware of what exactly he hated. The randomness of his dislikes changed from day to day. It's as if he saw something and thought' "Oh I'll add that to my list of why I hate the human race, and why I am superior and they inferior".

It's there that he seems at his most juvenile, Linda.  Here's someone reading Nietzsche and the best thing he can come up with as to why he dislikes people is because they watch the WB?  And in his personal dislikes as well as his diatribes it's hard to understand why he likes and dislikes people.  Why did he fixate on Brooks Brown, for example?  He seem like just a petulant willful child there.

It's pretty clear that it wasn't what anyone else did that set him off - although psychologically it does seem like being arrested for breaking into the van set him off towards his path of destruction.  But that's more of a trigger than the genesis of any reasoning.  It's not as if he were trying to prove anything, he's just trying to reassert his control.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 05, 2009, 09:23:08 AM
As I don't have kids I have no background on this sort of thing.  Any stories among the parents out there of finding out about this sort of thing after the event?  [Stories about friends of your children would do as well so you're not giving info about your own kids.]

I guess what I'm asking the parents out there is do you think you would have noticed this?

As much as I would like to say I knew what my boys were doing all the time, this was not the case. Even though they had rules, much like Dylan and Eric, they, like most kids could circumvent those rules and do the drinking or smoking even those they abided by the rules my husband and I set forth. I pretty much knew when they were smoking, as I could smell it. The drinking was a different issue, especially if they were spending the night at someone else's house. They did get caught having  a beer party at some property we owned out in the country only because the folks at the neighboring property called as when they saw something going on.

I always felt I was an involved and concerned and knowing parent. But I guess deep down I knew they were doing things. Like Nikki, I found out after the kids were out of the house, when they were older. I was bragging on the fact that I knew what my kids were doing. My oldest son said "Mom, you really didn't know the half of what we did." And yes I did go through their rooms.

I am so lucky and relieved that they survived this time and came out just fine and are successful young men.

I guess one of the big tragedies I felt about Dylan's and Eric's parents is that I felt they were involved parents and still this happened.

I agree with you, Linda.  As involved as many of us are or were, kids are going to do things we can't or, in some cases, don't want to know about.  However, yours survived and so did mine -- best of all, so did  you and I! ;)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 06, 2009, 05:39:58 PM
I'm going to post some questions for the next section now and then come back and post more later - hope no one minds. I'm at work and if I don't do it this way there won't be any online till late.

1.) How do you feel Eric matches up with the psychopathy checklist as described for juveniles on page 243? Which of Eric's behaviors exemplify the list Dr. Fuselier checks off on page 239?

2.) Given what you've read in the chapter 'psychopath' do you think Eric's parents played a role in his behavior - or was he 'born bad'?

3.) On pg. 244 Dave describes a 'dyad' - a murderous pair that feed off each other. Do you think that Eric and Dylan were such a dyad? Why or why not?

4.) In what ways did Eric act as a thrill seeker? In what ways did he underperform?

5.) Therapy often provides psychopats with the means of better manipulating people. Do you believe this was true for Eric? If so, in what ways?

6.) Dave notes that there is a resistance to diagnosing minors as psychopaths. Why do you think there is this resistance? Do you think there would have been a different outcome if Eric had been diagnosed a psychopath?

7.) Do you think (given what you've read) that psychopaths are treatable? What is your opinion of the treatment programs such as the one proposed by Dr. Hare or put in place at the juvenile treatment center in Wisconsin? Do you think they show promise?

8.) The ultimate question that this chapter leads to is: Do you think Eric Harris was a psychopath? Why or why not? Do you think the label is useful or simply stigmatizing?

9.) Jeffco commanders decided not to discuss the motivation of the killers with the public. Do you agree with this decision? How did withholding this information affect the public?

10.) Were you surprised to read about the coverup in the Jeffco Sherrif's dept.? Why do you think they did this given the knowledge that the Browns would go to the media? What do you think the ultimate effect of the coverup was?

11.)  In the chapter 'The Parents Group' the stories of Patrick Ireland and Anne Marie Hochhalter are intertwined with information on the Jeffco coverup and the lawsuits following the attack.  Does this make sense to you and work well (as these are both stories about the aftermath of the attacks) or would you have preferred to have the rehabilitation stories presented separately?  Do the stories compliment one another?

12.)  The students of Columbine were repulsed by the use of their school name as a proper noun to describe school shootings or school violence.  Does Dave's book help or harm their cause?

13.)  What do you make of the spate of lawsuits that followed the killings?  Do you agree with Isiah's stepfather - that it was not about money?  Do you understand why Brian Rohrbough's was irate about the teachers who received money for anxiety?  Do you agree with him or do you think he overreacted?  Do you think the inclusion of people like Geoffrey Feiger as an attorney did more to turn the financial aspects of this case into a media circus?

14.)  What is your reaction to the sympathy letters from the Harrises and Klebolds?

More questions to come later!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 06:40:48 PM
1.) How do you feel Eric matches up with the psychopathy checklist as described for juveniles on page 243? Which of Eric's behaviors exemplify the list Dr. Fuselier checks off on page 239?

Starting with the list on page 239, I think Eric matches all of the characteristics listed by Dr. Fuselier.  He could be charming and manipulative:  for example, when he wanted to convince counselors that he had learned his lessons and was now “being good.”  He was callous and lacked empathy when he imagined schemes which would kill people, and showed no regard for their lives or pain.  Comparing himself to God and Zeus seems comically grandiose.  He was egocentric practically all of the time, focused on himself and his wants and needs, and not those of others (the only exception I can think of was his feeling of sadness when his dog was sick).

The psychopathy screening device for juveniles is actually discussed at the top of page 242.  I agree with Dave Cullen that of these ten characteristics, Eric matched all of them except the one for animal cruelty.  The only other one I’m not sure about is “experimentation with sex”:  I’m not sure how far he actually carried this out, since Brenda didn’t appear to return his enthusiasm.  It's clear that he wanted to experiment, although that's common among juvenile boys.  But the other characteristics describe him well:  he lied, defied authorities, was unmoved by threats of punishment (he just outsmarted his father, for example, when punishment was given).  He engaged in petty theft (the lockers, then the van) and vandalism (the “missions”); set fires (and worse, with the pipe bombs); and he was aggressive and indifferent to the pain of others.  

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 06:42:55 PM
2.) Given what you've read in the chapter 'psychopath' do you think Eric's parents played a role in his behavior - or was he 'born bad'?

Prior to reading this book, I was familiar with the term ‘psychopath’ but didn’t have a scientific idea of what behavior qualified as ‘psychopathic.’  I found this chapter, particularly the checklists, very helpful in that regard.  After considering this material, I don’t think that Eric’s parents had much of a role in his development into a psychopath.  I can understand why many people don’t like to use the term ‘born bad’ to describe a young person, but after reading the story of the five-year-old girl attempting to flush her kitten down the toilet, I’m willing to believe that there’s little a parent can do to change the underlying nature of a person whose brain really is one of a psychopath.  And I’ve read enough psychological studies to believe in the validity of the brain scans such as the ones cited in this chapter.

About all I can suggest now that Eric’s parents could have done would have been interception.  If they had searched his room and closet more thoroughly, and discovered the journals and tapes and pipe bombs and rifle, maybe they could have prevented the actual Columbine incident.  But I no longer think their own discipline would have been sufficient; they would have had to turn him in to authorities, and he would have had to be incarcerated, in order to not be “on the streets” to commit his planned actions.
 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 07:02:37 PM
3.) On pg. 244 Dave describes a 'dyad' - a murderous pair that feed off each other. Do you think that Eric and Dylan were such a dyad? Why or why not?

The book describes dyad partnerships as “asymmetrical” – a term which fits their relationship.  This sounds to me like a good description of Eric and Dylan: “an angry, erratic depressive and a sadistic psychopath.”  Dylan would not have gotten involved in murder on his own, because he was concerned about ending his own life and misery.  Eric could easily imagine murder and loved to dream big dreams of killing, but he might have gotten bored with his plans for the Columbine attack if Dylan hadn’t been there to keep on stroking his ego and making Eric feeling like the big shot.  So yes, I think that “dyad” is a good description for the way they operated, and for the process that led them toward their attacks. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 07:24:04 PM

1.) How do you feel Eric matches up with the psychopathy checklist as described for juveniles on page 243? Which of Eric's behaviors exemplify the list Dr. Fuselier checks off on page 239?


On 243, Dr.Cleckley described a poverty of emotional range in psychopaths which are related closely to their own welfare. He feels no hope, sorrow, grief or despair.  He "feels nothing deep, complex or sustained."  As the author writes, Cleckley could have been describing Eric Harris' journal.  Harris matched every description of a psychopath.  

On 239, Fuselier did not consider Eric insane, rather Eric exhibited the following personality traits:  cold, rational calculation, cunning, manipulative, comically grandiose and egocentric with a failure of empathy. Of course, not until one reads the complete of account of the journals, Eric's run-ins with police, and manipulation of his friends, especially Dylan, can one see how profoundly complete his personality fits the above traits of a true psychopath.




Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 07:32:35 PM


2.) Given what you've read in the chapter 'psychopath' do you think Eric's parents played a role in his behavior - or was he 'born bad'?


In the past, bad parenting and dysfunctional families have been blamed for creating a psychopath.  However, those conditions "only make a bad situation worse," and true psychopaths seem to be born bad.  In fact, a child who is born to be bad cannot be made "normal" even with the best parents in the world, and the Harrises would not have made a difference in his personality no matter what role they played in his behavior. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 07:37:25 PM
4.) In what ways did Eric act as a thrill seeker? In what ways did he underperform?

Thrill seeking involves taking risks.  The research referred to in the book says that the tendency toward risk-taking is an attempt by psychopaths to make up for the emotional responses that they lack – what Dr. Hervey Cleckley called the “poverty of emotional range.”  Eric’s involvement in “missions” and the van break-in might be seen as thrill-seeking:  trying to get away with criminal or delinquent acts without getting caught (although in the case of the van, he failed and did get caught).  Also, the one career choice which he at least feigned an interest in was Marine – which the book mentions as one of the high-anxiety occupations often chosen by psychopaths.

Eric underperformed in academics (as shown by his high school grades; by showing no interest in college; and by failing to make plans for a career.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 07:43:59 PM


3.) On pg. 244 Dave describes a 'dyad' - a murderous pair that feed off each other. Do you think that Eric and Dylan were such a dyad? Why or why not?


I think they are if we compare them to the description on 244. Eric and Dylan fit the description of the dyad as "an angry, erratic, depressive and a sadistic psychopath."  Eric fits the description of the psychopath, as we've read, and Dylan was depressed and given to outbursts of anger and manic happiness when he thought Harriet noticed him. Dylan was also miserably unhappy, and entertained thoughts of suicide early on in the relationship. All of this made him "easy pickings" for the cold, manipulative Eric.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 07:49:08 PM
5.) Therapy often provides psychopaths with the means of better manipulating people. Do you believe this was true for Eric? If so, in what ways?

I think it was true for Eric.  As he progressed through Diversion, for example, his progress reports from Andrea Sanchez got better and better.  Eric was apparently learning how to present himself as “improved,” but his inner personality didn’t change at all.  He would go home and brag in his journal about how much he had pulled the wool over eyes and the eyes of his other counselors – laughing at his own smartness and their gullibility.  He was manipulating the whole system. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 07:56:36 PM


4.) In what ways did Eric act as a thrill seeker? In what ways did he underperform?


Eric's run-ins with the law, the breaking and entering of the van, the thefts in school were his way of seeking excitement and risk.  I really don't see much evidence of Eric underperforming -- actually he was brilliant in the essays he wrote taking on provocative issues and impressing his teachers.  He read philosophers like Nietzsche or Hobbes, and classic literature like Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy. He was obsessed with Nazi culture and impressed his teacher, Mr. Tonelli by writing a paper based on his experience in custody at the police station.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 08:05:38 PM
Eric had loads of potential and was very smart, I agree there.  It showed in the essays he wrote and the outside reading he did.  But he didn't seem very interested in trying to mold himself into the system -- as a matter of fact, he hated the system for making people automatons.  If he felt like writing an essay, he would, but he didn't care if he got bad grades, and he didn't seem to have any plans for his future.  He was much smarter than someone who would normally be content with a life at Blackjack Pizza, so that's where I see the underperformance beneath his potential.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 08:20:32 PM
6.) Dave notes that there is a resistance to diagnosing minors as psychopaths. Why do you think there is this resistance? Do you think there would have been a different outcome if Eric had been diagnosed a psychopath?

The resistance probably comes from our belief that all young people have a chance to grow up to lead fulfilling lives, if only they try hard enough.  For some reason, we can accept that young children may be born with deficiencies such as birth defects, and we make allowances for this and know that their future lives will have limitations.  But we are reluctant to accept that some people may have a personality disorder from birth, especially one with the evil overtones often associated with “psychopath.” 

We prefer to think that young children are innocent, and that if they become problematic in their juvenile years, it is because their upbringing has failed them in some way.  Also, we have come to expect teenagers to have adjustment problems, and our typical response is probably to assume that these problems can be outgrown as the teen moves into adulthood.

It appears that no psychiatrist knowledgeable enough about psychopathy studied Eric while he was in Diversion and other programs designed to correct his behavior, so the chances of diagnosis were slim.  Even if he had been diagnosed, I think treatment would have been difficult.  But diagnosis might have led to more caution on the part of parents, therapists and law enforcement.  Perhaps these people would have kept a better eye on what Eric was doing, and this could have prevented him from acting out his intentions of killing people.  If his freedom had been drastically restricted, he couldn’t have acquired – and made and tested -- all those weapons.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 08:22:02 PM


5.) Therapy often provides psychopats with the means of better manipulating people. Do you believe this was true for Eric? If so, in what ways?


Dr. Hare said, "nothing works."  He also wrote that therapy often makes it worse, and that programs of this sort merely provide the psychopath with better ways of manipulating, deceiving, and using people.  We've already seen how charming and attractive Eric could be, he knew how to manipulate people even before he started full-blown therapy.  He was also a quick study.  He could size up a person and knew how to give them what they wanted, especially his counselors who he knew how to play by acting sincere, embarrassed, and repentant.  Later, his teacher, Mr. Tonelli,  asked Fuselier, "What did I miss?"  Fuselier said Tonelli had missed nothing, Eric told him [Tonelli] what he wanted to hear.  In other words, he played Tonelli like the rest.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 06, 2009, 08:37:11 PM



6.) Dave notes that there is a resistance to diagnosing minors as psychopaths. Why do you think there is this resistance? Do you think there would have been a different outcome if Eric had been diagnosed a psychopath?


Maybe because there is a fear of tainting a child with a diagnosis that will stick with them for life.  Or maybe, a child patient hasn't had a chance to display a full-blown psychopathic personality at such a young age and there is a fear of misdiagnosis. If Eric had been diagnosed before he was a teen, maybe the killings would have been avoided if he had been contained either as an outpatient or committed to a juvenile mental health facility for in-house patients his age.  Of course, the Harrises didn't seem likely to agree to their son being a psychopath, so maybe this is a moot question.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 08:41:22 PM
7.) Do you think (given what you've read) that psychopaths are treatable? What is your opinion of the treatment programs such as the one proposed by Dr. Hare or put in place at the juvenile treatment center in Wisconsin? Do you think they show promise?

Dr. Hare, who created the Psychopathy Checklist in the 1970s, is the one who said “nothing works” to treat psychopaths because therapy often provides the sort of feedback which they can use to improve their skills at manipulating other people.  But Dr. Hare has since proposed a program which would convince egocentric psychopaths “that there are ways they can get what they want without harming others.”  This program hopes to work by stressing the psychopaths’ own self-interest:  for example, by convincing them that it’s better not to commit crimes, because this will keep them from returning to jail.  My feeling about this is that Eric wasn’t at a point yet to benefit from such a logical approach:  he still wanted to experience the thrill of sadistic killing.

Regarding the Wisconsin program, its premise is to reward adherence to rules with extended privileges the next day.  I am skeptical that this would have worked for Eric, either – after he was arrested for breaking into the van, for example.  The van was just small potatoes to Eric, and gave him no real long-term satisfaction.  What he wanted to do was something on a much grander scale, and I don’t think he was ready to give up that goal.

Since Eric planned to kill so many people, I would put him in the category of a sadistic psychopath.  Maybe these treatment programs would work better for bank robbers and embezzlers and so on, but they don’t seem to address the sadistic need to draw blood and inflict physical pain.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 08:53:23 PM
8.) The ultimate question that this chapter leads to is: Do you think Eric Harris was a psychopath? Why or why not? Do you think the label is useful or simply stigmatizing?

Oh, yes, I agree with the psychiatrist at the summit on school shooters (beginning of Chaper 41) who said that rather than being “a budding young psychopath,” Eric was “a full-blown psychopath.”  My reasoning is that Eric fits the profile so well.  He felt that he was superior to everyone, he could fool almost anyone when he wanted to disguise his feelings and motives, he could appear charming, he was a grand liar and bragged about it, and so on.

I think the label is useful, because it makes clear that Eric was not insane or psychotic, yet he was not normal.  It helps to explain why people had such a hard time understanding his actions, because the public as a whole is not used to considering the psychopathic mind.  The label goes a long way toward letting us say, “Aha!  So that’s what was going on – that’s what drove him to do it.”

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 06, 2009, 11:43:35 PM
9.) Jeffco commanders decided not to discuss the motivation of the killers with the public. Do you agree with this decision? How did withholding this information affect the public?

I think it was an unfortunate decision for Jeffco not to discuss the motivation of the killers with the public, or to allow the FBI to do so.  True, Jeffco didn’t understand the motivation as well as Dr. Fuselier of the FBI did.  Since he had been doing his own investigation and participated in the FBI summit on school shooters, he was becoming an expert on their motivation.  He is the person who really should have been allowed to discuss the subject with the public. 

When Jeffco decided that that neither they nor they FBI should speak to the public about why the crimes had been committed, it caused the public to feel that a sloppy investigation was being done.  This caused a lot of aggravation, and further damaged the credibility of the Jeffco commanders.  The public was already up in arms about whether Jeffco had failed to notice warning signs about Eric Harris before the attack, and whether they had failed to stop the attack sooner once it began.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 07, 2009, 12:18:49 AM
Eric had loads of potential and was very smart, I agree there.  It showed in the essays he wrote and the outside reading he did.  But he didn't seem very interested in trying to mold himself into the system -- as a matter of fact, he hated the system for making people automatons.

You know Debbie (and Nikki) the more I think about this the more I think that the 'automaton' thing was just an excuse.  School bored him - so he did the things that would excite him - whether it be the 'missions' or harassing Brooks Brown.

I find Dylan sad - Eric I just find frustrating.  Sure - we all think people are stupid sometimes.  And life has a whole lot of boredom in it in the routine.  I suppose that Eric's brain made it impossible for him to buckle down and accept these shortcomings in life.

Although I do think that Eric thought he was a whole lot smarter than he was ('bombs are hard!') I still just see an incredible waste in what he did with his life.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 12:24:34 AM
10.) Were you surprised to read about the coverup in the Jeffco Sherrif's dept.? Why do you think they did this given the knowledge that the Browns would go to the media? What do you think the ultimate effect of the coverup was?

I had heard rumors that the Jeffco Sheriff’s department had been accused of a cover-up, so I was glad to find out what it was all about.  Turns out, it had to do with trying to cover up the fact that the Browns had reported their suspicions about Eric to the sheriff long before the attack on the high school occurred.  After reviewing evidence provided by the Browns, concerning the threatening contents of Eric’s Web site, Jeffco had failed to obtain and execute a search warrant on the Harris home.  If they had gone ahead with this search, they might have found enough physical evidence – like pipe bombs – to determine that Eric’s threats were serious.  But they dropped the ball. 

The sheriff’s department’s response after the attacks – lying about the warnings, and attempting to destroy the paper trail related to the Brown’s complaint – was an effort to “cover their asses.”  Foresight ought to have made the department realize that the Browns would simply go to the media, but the cover-up attempt doesn’t surprise me because it looked so bad in retrospect for the sheriff’s department to have dropped the ball.  The cover-up was like a last-ditch effort to avoid any blame for letting the attack happen.  The ultimate effect of the cover-up was probably to destroy the department’s credibility even further, and make their spokespeople look like laughingstocks.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on July 07, 2009, 12:34:52 AM
General answers to the questions on the psychopathy chapter...

I think the word "psychopath" is emotive, and I can see problems with people wanting to self-identify as a psychopath, and with parents wanting to identify their children as psychopaths.   I don't know if that could be a barrier to screening, or if it might cause problems in itself (if you know your child is a psychopath who do you tell - the nursery, the school, their friends' parents?   And would that always lead to a positive difference in how the child is treated, or could it be negative?).

The checklist for younger psychopaths was interesting, as I felt that many teenagers might show some of that behaviour.   For some, defiance of authority figures, petty crime, experimentation with sex and so on will just be part of growing up.  The one that would have jumped out for me is animal cruelty - I'd be seriously worried about a child who was deliberately cruel to animals in later childhood (I think very young children can sometimes be a bit "experimental" around animals - pulling the dog's tail to see what it does, etc. - without it meaning anything terrible), even without all the other factors.   I suppose the telling thing is if a child/teenager shows all of those characteristics, as Eric did (apart from the animal cruelty).  

If Eric had been screened, it looks like it would have been possible to identify him as a psychopath.    I don't know for sure if that would have stopped the tragedy or made him more careful about hiding his plans, or perhaps led to a greater tragedy.    From the book, it looks as if the approach that works is it to use the psychopath's mindset and motivations to adjust their behaviour.   I'm not sure how that would have worked with Eric.   He didn't seem to care about dying himself, which simplified things for him, I suppose - he didn't need to worry about how he'd cope with life in prison, for instance.  

If the journals and evidence had been available, perhaps he would have been prosecuted for planning the bombing (I'm not sure how the law works in the US in that sort of case), but it looks as if not a lot was done even when there was evidence of him making threats on his website to Brooks Brown.   And even if he had been temporarily sent to prison, it may have just given him time to better plan an attack.  

His parents obviously do play a role - not in making him a psychopath, apparently, but in how they parented him generally, what they noticed, what they acted on, etc.    It's easy to see in retrospect how they could have done things differently, but much more difficult at the time, and it seems that they didn't know what Eric was like.   That does surprise me a little - I'm sure I would have noticed if my child lacked empathy for others.   It's something you see developing in them as they grow, something that you look out for (I think).   Maybe the Harrises just didn't notice, or maybe Eric's skill at manipulating developed early and he learned to act as if he had empathy from a young age.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 12:38:58 AM
Although I do think that Eric thought he was a whole lot smarter than he was ('bombs are hard!') I still just see an incredible waste in what he did with his life.

True, Michael.  We have read about people with psychopathic personalities who manage to become "wizards of Wall Street," for example, and somehow channel their "controller" drives into something that is fairly productive.

But I wonder...the bond trader or the ER tech (examples mentioned in the book) could probably only be successful in those careers if they lacked a sadistic streak.  If Eric was not just a psychopath, but a sadistic psychopath, I wonder whether there would have been any possible outcome for him other than to eventually kill someone and end up either dead or on the run or in jail. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 07, 2009, 12:52:36 AM
The checklist for younger psychopaths was interesting, as I felt that many teenagers might show some of that behaviour.   For some, defiance of authority figures, petty crime, experimentation with sex and so on will just be part of growing up.  The one that would have jumped out for me is animal cruelty - I'd be seriously worried about a child who was deliberately cruel to animals in later childhood (I think very young children can sometimes be a bit "experimental" around animals - pulling the dog's tail to see what it does, etc. - without it meaning anything terrible), even without all the other factors.   I suppose the telling thing is if a child/teenager shows all of those characteristics, as Eric did (apart from the animal cruelty).  

Good point about 'normals' being defiant of authority, experimenting with sex and being involved in petty crime.  I agree that does occur for normal children too.  I do wonder how you screen for this using these criteria.

I've heard a lot about animal cruelty with regard to other psychopaths - particularly sexually sadistic psychopaths.  Jeffrey Dahmer was cruel to animals (and killed them) as a teen - before he killed his first human.  Generally, from what I've read, the animal cruelty in psychopaths is quite extreme.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 01:09:28 AM
11.)  In the chapter 'The Parents Group' the stories of Patrick Ireland and Anne Marie Hochhalter are intertwined with information on the Jeffco coverup and the lawsuits following the attack.  Does this make sense to you and work well (as these are both stories about the aftermath of the attacks) or would you have preferred to have the rehabilitation stories presented separately?  Do the stories complement one another?

I thought this chapter worked well enough.  It was rather a miscellaneous grab bag of various things that happened at a certain point during the aftermath:  the cover-up, the rehabilitation stories, the students coming back into their school to retrieve belongings, the victims’ walk-through of the library, plans to renovate the school, the lawsuits, the sympathy letters from the Harrises and Klebolds, and even a short section about how Tom and Sue Klebold were dealing with their feelings.

None of these topics, as presented in “The Parents Group,” is long enough to have been made into its own chapter, although we come back to read more about both Patrick and Anne Marie in future chapters.  On the one hand, it might have been nice to read more about Patrick and Anne Marie in a separate chapter devoted to the survivors.  But I prefer the way their stories are divided into pieces so that the survivors’ aftermaths can be interspersed with the chapters devoted to Eric and Dylan’s lives leading up to the attacks.  The chapters about Eric and Dylan demand a lot of concentration when reading, both because we are trying to understand them and because it may be hard for us to identify with them.  So it’s a breath of fresh air to reach a chapter which deals with the survivors.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 01:16:09 AM
I've heard a lot about animal cruelty with regard to other psychopaths - particularly sexually sadistic psychopaths.  Jeffrey Dahmer was cruel to animals (and killed them) as a teen - before he killed his first human.  Generally, from what I've read, the animal cruelty in psychopaths is quite extreme.

So much of this discussion of psychopaths reminded me of someone I knew many years ago.  And now that you mention animal cruelty, I just have to mention that this person used to pick up a cat sometimes and swing it around in circles while holding its paws.  I had forgotten that aspect of him.  And he would laugh while doing so, especially if those of us watching were acting terrified and begging him to stop.  Obviously, it was a way of frightening -- or cruelly teasing -- us, in addition to being unpleasant for the cat.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 01:46:17 AM
12.)  The students of Columbine were repulsed by the use of their school name as a proper noun to describe school shootings or school violence.  Does Dave's book help or harm their cause?

My first thought here is that the students who were repulsed by the use of “Columbine” in this fashion have long since graduated.  They are no longer dealing with the tragedy as high school students; they are now in their late twenties and have a different perspective on things.  Several of them have even returned to Columbine High as teachers (according to local news reports).  The current students have no clear memory of the event, since they were only five to eight years old at the time.  So I’m not sure that the 1999 students of Columbine really exist any longer as a “they” to have something we can call “their cause.” 

I was in Colorado recently, a month after the 10th anniversary.  While there, I read many clippings which my mother had saved showing all the local coverage of the anniversary, as well as some local reviews of Dave’s book.  It did not seem to me that the community at large was as sensitive to this issue as they had been in the immediate aftermath.  No one that I was aware of complained about the one-word title of the book, “Columbine,” to refer to that particular school shooting.

As far as using the term in a more general sense for school violence – as in, “another Columbine” – I think Dave’s book may do some good, by showing that what happened at the real Columbine High School was really something entirely different than the typical school shooting.  It was a failed attempt to blow up a large building.  And we are in error if we use the term “another Columbine” as we had been doing for the first few years after the event.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 07, 2009, 01:59:33 AM
Here are a few more questions...admittedly this is taking longer than I planned - but I'm a bit off the mark tonight, healthwise, so I hope you all will forgive my stretching this out a bit.

15.)  When we think of psychopaths we tend to think of people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Henry Lee Lucas.  Do you think this is a misperception of what psychopathy really is and how psychopaths really behave?  Do you think we miss the Bernie Madoffs and people like Sante and Kenny Kimes - con artists who are not always (physically) violent?  Do you think psychopathy is more common than we commonly perceive it to be?  Do you think some politicians have psychopathic traits?

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sante_Kimes]

16.)  Eric and Dylan settled on a time and a place a year before the attack.  Did this seem like rather long term planning for these two, given what we've seen of their failed plans?  Are you surprised that they were able to carry this off without slipping up and letting someone else know about it in advance?

17.)  Both boys wrote about NBK (as they called it) in their yearbooks.  Dylan even goes so far at to mention revenge in the commons.  Why do you think no one picked up on this?  Do you think they were toying with people by providing as much information as they did ahead of time?

18.)  Fuselier saw the arrest (for breaking into the van) as an accelerant to murder rather than a cause or trigger.  Do you agree (and why or why not)?

19.)  Dylan laughed about picking on freshmen and 'fags' and the boys perceived themselves to be victimizers, not victims.  Does this lead you to think that those who bully in schools should be watched for similar impulses - or is that too big of a leap to make?  Do you think we should be looking at bullies to see if they have other characteristics of psychopaths?

20.)  Dylan didn't try to impress Andrea in diversion and was very blatant about his plans in Eric's yearbook.  Do you think (particularly considering that he talked to Brooks Brown about Eric's website) that he may have been trying to sabotage Eric's plans?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 04:07:02 AM
13.)  What do you make of the spate of lawsuits that followed the killings?  Do you agree with Isaiah's stepfather - that it was not about money?  Do you understand why Brian Rohrbough's was irate about the teachers who received money for anxiety?  Do you agree with him or do you think he overreacted?  Do you think the inclusion of people like Geoffrey Feiger as an attorney did more to turn the financial aspects of this case into a media circus?

The lawsuits discussed in Chapter 47 (“Lawsuits”) need to be treated separately, because they were filed right before the one-year anniversary, and were a means of forcing access to information and other information which Jeffco had not released to them or to the public.  The lawsuit filed by the Shoels family (discussed in “The Parents Group”) came after only five weeks.  I remember the outcry about that lawsuit from the time when it happened; I always did think it was an extreme move which came across as greedy and unwise, and this book still leaves me with that feeling even after reading Isaiah’s stepfather’s protests.  For one thing, the lawsuit came way too soon, before emotional wounds could begin to heal.  Also, it may be callous to say this, but since Isaiah had died, his family did not have the same pressing need for money as did the families of injured victims undergoing extensive medical treatment.  I am familiar with Geoffrey Feiger from television, and I can imagine that his notoriety added to the media circus which was already being fueled by his client’s blustering.

The other monetary awards discussed in “The Parents Group” came from a fund set up by the United Way to distribute public donations.  The money which the teachers received for anxiety treatment came from this fund.  It was only $5,000 in total, to cover all the teachers, so it was a minimal award, and very reasonable in my opinion.  It might have paid for a little counseling.  In this case, I thought Brian Rohrbough was being out-of-line by getting so angry about the $5,000 award, considering that the total pot was up in the millions.  I have taken note of Mr. Rohrbough’s temperamental outbursts at previous points in the book, so even though I do think he overreacted, I’m not surprised.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 04:17:49 AM
The checklist for younger psychopaths was interesting, as I felt that many teenagers might show some of that behaviour.   For some, defiance of authority figures, petty crime, experimentation with sex and so on will just be part of growing up.  The one that would have jumped out for me is animal cruelty {snip}

Good point about 'normals' being defiant of authority, experimenting with sex and being involved in petty crime.  I agree that does occur for normal children too.  I do wonder how you screen for this using these criteria.

I've been giving some thought to your discussion here in the last couple of hours, and I have an idea.  Perhaps a rating scale is used, similar to what is done with the Psychopathy Checklist for adults, which is discussed more in the Notes on page 378.  Here we see that 20 characteristics are used in the adult checklist, and each is worth two points (2 for "clearly applies," 1 for "partially or sometimes," 0 for "never").  When each of the 20 characteristics are rated and then the total is computed, a score of 30 (out of 40 maximum) is required for the designation of "psychopath."  If the same type principal was used on the juvenile checklist, this would mean that a "normal" could exhibit at least half of the characteristics (such as defiance, petty crime, experimenting with sex) without getting a high enough score to be considered a psychopath.

I don't how the rating scale actually works for juveniles, but it's probably something along those lines.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 04:22:59 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sante_Kimes

Michael, your link in Question 15 didn't work because of the square brackets, so I copied it over and removed them
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 04:34:54 AM
14.)  What is your reaction to the sympathy letters from the Harrises and Klebolds?
 

First, I didn’t understand why Kathy Harris was unable to get the addresses of the Thirteen (the book says many were unpublished) whereas Sue Klebold did have the addresses and mailed her letters directly to the Thirteen.  We don’t know what Kathy Harris wrote in her letters because they were sent to the school district and turned over to the sheriff’s department, which did not open them.  These letters were apparently never delivered or made public.  I thought the sheriff’s department should have forwarded them to the victims’ families, but can understand that officials hoped to use the letters as leverage to get a meeting with the Harrises.  Actually, it would have been kind of the school district to forward the letters directly to the Thirteen themselves, but I can understand them being overly cautious of anything coming from the Harrises.

Sue Klebold’s letter was very touching, and conveyed her sympathy for the victims as well as her own sense of loss and confusion.  I was glad that Misty Bernall decided to make this letter public in her book.  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 05:23:07 AM
15.)  When we think of psychopaths we tend to think of people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Henry Lee Lucas.  Do you think this is a misperception of what psychopathy really is and how psychopaths really behave?  Do you think we miss the Bernie Madoffs and people like Sante and Kenny Kimes - con artists who are not always (physically) violent?  Do you think psychopathy is more common than we commonly perceive it to be?  Do you think some politicians have psychopathic traits?

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sante_Kimes]

I wouldn’t say that thinking of Ted Bundy and his ilk is a misperception, exactly, of how psychopaths behave; I would say that it is a correct perception of how one type of psychopath (the sadistic, violent ones) behave.  But it is an oversimplification of the condition of psychopathy to think that all psychopaths fit the sadistic, violent mold.  Bernie Madoff is a good example of a con artist who put on a good enough front to convince many smart people with his lies; and he had no empathy for the people whose life savings he was stealing.  As for Sante Kimes, she spent much of her life as a con artist before moving into murder; it’s an interesting cross-over, although her motivation for murder was apparently also monetary benefit, rather than passion or a delight in seeing someone suffer.

Before reading this book, I never thought about politicians in this light, but in going down the Psychopathy Checklist, I’d certainly say they often share a lot of the traits.  A politican may have glib and superficial charm to appeal to voters; may have a grandiose estimation of self to even think of running for major office; and may have a need for stimulation in order to thrive on the rigors of a campaign.  After that, we start to get into a distinction between honest and dishonest politicians:  some who have been “found out” as dishonest do show characteristics of pathological lying, cunning and manipulativeness, and lack of remorse or guilt.  Some who have become successful politicians have had later behavior exposed, such as sexual promiscuity, lack of behavioral controls, impulsivity, irresponsibility, etc.  Most politicians at least know how to feign regret when their personal or official misdeeds are found out, but some, like the ex-governor of Illinois, have completely denied wrongdoing, and appear unable to accept responsibility for their own actions, which in occasional cases are actually criminal actions.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 06:30:57 AM



8.) The ultimate question that this chapter leads to is: Do you think Eric Harris was a psychopath? Why or why not? Do you think the label is useful or simply stigmatizing?


I find myself parroting back the definitions from the Psychopath chapter, so answering these questions from my POV is impossible. Do I think Eric was a psychopath? Yes, according to the definition and Dr. Hare.  After reading this chapter there is no other conclusion IMO.  Is the label useful or stigmatizing?  It is if it gets out to the public or one's social circle. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 06:34:45 AM


7.) Do you think (given what you've read) that psychopaths are treatable? What is your opinion of the treatment programs such as the one proposed by Dr. Hare or put in place at the juvenile treatment center in Wisconsin? Do you think they show promise?


Pretty much the same answer I posted in #8.  As a layman, I don't feel able to discuss this -- Dr. Hare being the preeminent psychologist says it all.  I really have no opinion on this except to parrot back what Hare et al say.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 06:41:55 AM



12.)  The students of Columbine were repulsed by the use of their school name as a proper noun to describe school shootings or school violence.  Does Dave's book help or harm their cause?



I understand why the students felt using Columbine this way stigmatized the school, and would forever after lend itself to describe mass killing. The author explains this very well IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 06:55:07 AM

15.)  When we think of psychopaths we tend to think of people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Henry Lee Lucas.  Do you think this is a misperception of what psychopathy really is and how psychopaths really behave?  Do you think we miss the Bernie Madoffs and people like Sante and Kenny Kimes - con artists who are not always (physically) violent?  Do you think psychopathy is more common than we commonly perceive it to be?  Do you think some politicians have psychopathic traits?


The names of Loeb and Leopold were mentioned in the book as psychopaths exemplifying the dyad concept, and they were certainly famous in their time. I do think real psychopaths are easily missed, since the public is looking for the Dahmers and the Bundys who are violent and homicidal.  I think some politicians and Madoff share some of the traits as psychopaths in that they are egotistical, controlling, amoral, unfeeling with no empathy (certainly Madoff).  It may be a stretch, but IMO politicians who make it to the top almost have to have some of these traits albeit in a diluted way,  certainly not violent, but controlling, manipulative and egocentered. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 07:06:36 AM

19.)  Dylan laughed about picking on freshmen and 'fags' and the boys perceived themselves to be victimizers, not victims.  Does this lead you to think that those who bully in schools should be watched for similar impulses - or is that too big of a leap to make?  Do you think we should be looking at bullies to see if they have other characteristics of psychopaths?



Most schools seem to have a nonbullying policy in place these days, because so much has been said about it.  However, bullies will always be able to victimize their victims off campus just as easily.  The recent account of the two eleven year old boys who committed suicide and whose parents appeared on the 'Oprah' show are evidence of this. They were harassed at school for being gay when their parents said they gave no evidence of being gay.  IMO there will always be bullies who know when to hit and when to lay low. The school has to be careful if they start looking for psychopathic traits in bullies, and unless a bully is so overt in his/her actions that it becomes obvious to students and parents I don't see how this would work.  The school would be better to confer with the parent of bullies and try to convince them to seek some kind of therapy for their children on their own.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 08:57:10 AM
19.)  Dylan laughed about picking on freshmen and 'fags' and the boys perceived themselves to be victimizers, not victims.  Does this lead you to think that those who bully in schools should be watched for similar impulses - or is that too big of a leap to make?  Do you think we should be looking at bullies to see if they have other characteristics of psychopaths?

Bullying seems like an example of meanness toward people which might be related to the meanness behind animal cruelty – picking on someone who isn’t strong enough to defend him/herself.  Dylan evidently was a bully, as was Eric, but Dylan wasn’t a psychopath.  Dylan’s bullying may have been more an example of turning the anger which he felt towards himself (his suicidal impulses and feelings of worthlessness) outward toward others.

I think it’s good to watch out for bullies in general (to step in to try to interrupt such conduct).  In so doing, school counselors might take a closer look at the bullies’ other personality characteristics.  This might in some cases result in identifying potential psychopaths.  But I think we have to be careful not to label all bullies as psychopaths – Dylan is a good example of why not.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 09:15:04 AM
16.)  Eric and Dylan settled on a time and a place a year before the attack.  Did this seem like rather long term planning for these two, given what we've seen of their failed plans?  Are you surprised that they were able to carry this off without slipping up and letting someone else know about it in advance?

Actually, it does seem like unusually long term planning for this pair.  I don’t think Dylan, with his inability to focus on school, would have been capable of such sustained concentration on any project.  Once again, it must have been Eric who was not only the steel cold nerves behind the project, but the schedule keeper and clock watcher.  Eric was calculating enough that he could think a year in advance and realize April would be a good time for the big event.  He may have even considered the irony of placing the event in between prom and graduation.  And he gave himself plenty of time to find his weapons, build his bombs, and so on.  Since we just talked about politicians, it strikes me that this isn’t so different from a politician announcing his intent to run for office a year before the election, knowing that many detailed plans for a campaign will have to follow.

It must have been difficult to keep a plan like theirs secret for a year.  Dylan was not in much danger of slipping up and letting someone else know about the plan, except if he had wanted to (as when he warned Brooks about Eric’s web site).  Eric was the one who had the most incriminating evidence hidden in his basement.  I think he just got lucky in that his parents did not take a close look at his room during that year.  The boys seemed to realize that they couldn’t confide as much as they used to in some of their other friends, so they pushed people like Zack and Nate away and drew closer to each other. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 09:42:30 AM
17.)  Both boys wrote about NBK (as they called it) in their yearbooks.  Dylan even goes so far as to mention revenge in the commons.  Why do you think no one picked up on this?  Do you think they were toying with people by providing as much information as they did ahead of time?

I wondered about the yearbooks.  Dylan and Eric wrote long passages related to plans for NBK in each other’s yearbooks, and Eric then defaced the photos in his own yearbook.  I can only assume that these two did not collect the signatures of other students, or if they did, they did it before beginning to write in their own books themselves.  That way, no one else would have had a chance to read the threatening material about NBK.  When they wrote in a few friends’ books, Dylan did include some references to killing well-known persons, but neither boy specifically mentioned NBK or the commons (although Eric used the German term for “no mercy.”)  What they did write must have been seen as jokes by their friends, although Eric was probably laughing to himself about pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

Some of their other creative expressions (the videos for a class, and Eric’s essays) were seen by other people, and may have been part of a game to see how much they could get away with saying without being caught.  That would be risk-taking behavior, typical of a psychopath (in Eric’s case). 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 09:52:06 AM
18.)  Fuselier saw the arrest (for breaking into the van) as an accelerant to murder rather than a cause or trigger.  Do you agree (and why or why not)?

Given that Eric seemed to be the mastermind behind this plot, I think we can concentrate on him here.  Eric had been expressing destructive thoughts on his web site long before his arrest for breaking into the van.  Fuselier seems to be saying that Eric was headed in the direction of murder before the arrest, so the arrest didn’t cause him to suddenly decide to commit murder.  I agree with Fuselier’s argument that Eric didn’t simply “snap,” because when we think of someone suddenly snapping and committing murder or going on a killing spree, it’s usually a sudden act that comes out of the blue (no prior thoughts of murder) and the killing also takes place in the immediate aftermath of whatever the trigger was.  For Eric to have thought about murder so long before the arrest, and then to have waited another year to have carried out the murders, takes away the sudden reaction associated with “snapping.”  Instead, Eric’s murderous tendencies had been long smoldering, and the arrest provided accelerant by giving him the impetus to turn fantasy into real planning. 

It does make sense to me that Eric would "feel the screws tightening" after his arrest, and decide to push back against the loss of freedom and control over his life.  A psychopath is a grand manipulator and wants to feel that he is the one in control. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 07, 2009, 10:16:38 AM
20.)  Dylan didn't try to impress Andrea in diversion and was very blatant about his plans in Eric's yearbook.  Do you think (particularly considering that he talked to Brooks Brown about Eric's website) that he may have been trying to sabotage Eric's plans?

I get some sense that Dylan was not committed to Eric’s plans, but the main evidence that he was trying to sabotage the plans is that he talked to Brooks Brown about Eric’s website.  When Dylan wrote in Eric’s yearbook, I don’t think he was expecting anyone else to read this – he was “stroking Eric’s ego” the way a good sidekick would, so I don’t believe he was intending sabotage here. 

Dylan’s failure to impress Andrea in Diversion seems to reflect his own attitude problem, similar to his failure to apply himself in school and his failure to get a regular job over the summer.  He was depressed; he was under a cloud of gloom; he seems to have been drifting.  If Dylan had failed to make it through Diversion, it probably wouldn’t have impacted Eric, since Eric had turned in such an impressive performance in Diversion.  If Dylan had been sent to prison for a felony, it would have kept him from taking part in NBK, but I doubt that Dylan was thinking that far ahead regarding the consequences of his slacking off on his Diversion commitments.

The book claims on page 259 that NBK was a diversion for Dylan at this point – fantasy chats with a buddy to keep him from thinking about his own miserable life.  It’s hard to tell whether Dylan was morally ambivalent about NBK, or whether he just didn’t really believe it was going to happen. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 11:31:01 AM


13.)  What do you make of the spate of lawsuits that followed the killings?  Do you agree with Isiah's stepfather - that it was not about money?  Do you understand why Brian Rohrbough's was irate about the teachers who received money for anxiety?  Do you agree with him or do you think he overreacted?  Do you think the inclusion of people like Geoffrey Feiger as an attorney did more to turn the financial aspects of this case into a media circus?


IMO it was only a matter of time before the lawsuits began.  Isiah's stepfather was right -- to get change, they had to rattle a few cages -- lawsuits were the only way.  Unfortunately Feiger was a "media hound," and made headlines which turned the whole thing into a "media circus." In some ways, he reminded me of Al Sharpton who often garnered headlines defending some notorious case, think Tawana Brawley.  I understand Brian Rohrbough's anger about the teachers' compensation for their "anxiety treatment."  The injured and dead deserved whatever money was available based on an equitable distribution, the teachers' "anxiety" was not comparable to the pain of the survivors and families of the dead.  Although Brian Rohrbough felt the money was symbolic, the families who needed it to pay monstrous medical bills were beyond symbolism.  Brian was so crippled by anger at his son's death, there probably was no way he would have been made to see that some families needed compensation more than others.  He was too emotional, at this point, to accept that fact, and he needed to place a value on Danny's life that was not monetary.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 07, 2009, 11:50:37 AM


11.)  In the chapter 'The Parents Group' the stories of Patrick Ireland and Anne Marie Hochhalter are intertwined with information on the Jeffco coverup and the lawsuits following the attack.  Does this make sense to you and work well (as these are both stories about the aftermath of the attacks) or would you have preferred to have the rehabilitation stories presented separately?  Do the stories compliment one another?


I liked the way Patrick's and Anne Marie's stories were intertwined.  They were both so profoundly injured that the stories shared an interesting parallel as to  the nature of their injuries and how they handled their recoveries.  The lawsuits were part of the aftermath and the parents' group, so including this information at this point made sense to me. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 07, 2009, 04:29:16 PM
2.) Given what you've read in the chapter 'psychopath' do you think Eric's parents played a role in his behavior - or was he 'born bad'?

Prior to reading this book, I was familiar with the term ‘psychopath’ but didn’t have a scientific idea of what behavior qualified as ‘psychopathic.’  I found this chapter, particularly the checklists, very helpful in that regard.  After considering this material, I don’t think that Eric’s parents had much of a role in his development into a psychopath.  I can understand why many people don’t like to use the term ‘born bad’ to describe a young person, but after reading the story of the five-year-old girl attempting to flush her kitten down the toilet, I’m willing to believe that there’s little a parent can do to change the underlying nature of a person whose brain really is one of a psychopath.  And I’ve read enough psychological studies to believe in the validity of the brain scans such as the ones cited in this chapter.

About all I can suggest now that Eric’s parents could have done would have been interception.  If they had searched his room and closet more thoroughly, and discovered the journals and tapes and pipe bombs and rifle, maybe they could have prevented the actual Columbine incident.  But I no longer think their own discipline would have been sufficient; they would have had to turn him in to authorities, and he would have had to be incarcerated, in order to not be “on the streets” to commit his planned actions.
 


I just wanted to say that I really agree with you about this Debbie. When there is evidence that shows up on brain scans, it is hard then to ascribe psycopathic behaviour to some fault in upbringing. In some ways I would hope that would be a comfort to the parents of Eric Harris. We should not be surprised when people are born with abnormalities of mind any more than we are than when they are born with physical defects. There are so many different syndromes that affect people, but fortunately most of them are not dangerous to others in the way sadistic psycopathy is.
Even when the condition has been diagnosed in a young person, and I have had to teach at least one student in the last year who came to us with a psychiatric report to this affect, it is hard to know what to do.
They can't be locked away unless they actually commit a crime, so really it is more a matter of surveillance. It can be like waiting for a volcano to erupt.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 07, 2009, 08:39:44 PM
Final questions for this section:

21.)  What do you make of Eric's complaints about his medications?  Was he simply trying to be manipulative?  Was he trying to impress the psychiatrist that he was involved in his treatment and that it was having an effect?

22.)  Regarding Wayne Harris' bullet points for his lecture to Eric - does it surprise you that Eric was under this much scrutiny and yet was able to do what he did?  Does this (again) reiterate that Wayne Harris did all that he could to control Eric and that nothing else could have been done?

23.)  What do you make of Dylan's letter to Harriet?  What does his confession to her say about his self image?  Do you think he ever had any intention of delivering this letter?

24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?

25.)  Why do you think Eric was fascinated by Nazism?

26)  In discussing the essay Eric wrote for Mr. Tonelli Dave writes, 'What chance did he have against a clever young psychopath?  Few teachers know the meaning of the term.'  Do you think teachers should be educated about psychopathy - and to what end [i.e., would it help prevent future attacks]?

27)  'Who Owns The The Tragedy' is a chapter in which Eric and Dylan don't appear.  Do you think that focusing on someone other than them provides a relief to the reader?  Do you think Dave intentionally gave the reader breathing space here?

28)  In this chapter ('Who Owns') we read more about the recovery of Patrick Ireland.  What do you feel we can learn about human resiliance from his story?  Do you feel that the forgiveness that he espoused is necessary for complete healing?  Why do you think it was more difficult for Patrick's mother to forgive the killers than Patrick?

29)  This chapter also details the struggle between the school and the media upon its reopening.  Does the media seem unnecessarily insensitive to you or are they just trying to do their job?  Where do your sympathies lie here - with the parents, the media, or is it mixed?

30)  Eric talks of his goal of exterminating the species and wanted to torment large groups of people for years after the killings.  Does this strike you as being as juvenile as his rants regarding the WB?  When he talks of his violence does he have a particular audience in mind?  Do you think he realized how unlikely he was to fulfill his goals before he died?

31.)  Which of the milestones (in terms of anniversaries) was particularly noteworthy regarding the recovery of the community to the shootings?  Do you think that the suicide of Ann Marie's mother confused the situation in that people thought it was due to the attack instead of her long term depression?  Do you see the rumors about the TCM still existing as being linked to PTSD in the community?  What manifestations of PTSD were particularly noteworthy to you?  What signs of healing stood out?

32)  Why on earth would the sheriff and undersheriff pose with the killers weapons?  Does this seem irrational and hurtful to you?  Should they have been fired (or recalled - whichever is done in this case) for this behavior?

33)  What is your opinion to the reactions to the revelations concerning the Cassie Bernall story?

34)  Were you surprised that the Klebolds sued Jeffco?  What is your opinions regarding the merits of their case?

35)  Does Eric's attitude toward Robyn (and her feelings toward Dylan) in regard to the purchase of the guns further exemplify the lack of emotions in psychopaths?

36)  Eric mocks his father in his journals by saying 'This is what I am motivated for...This is my goal...This is what I want to do with my life.'   What is your reaction to this and what does it say to you regarding Eric's mental state?

37)  What are your observations regarding the Jeffco Sheriff's department and its delay in releasing its report?  What deficiencies do you see in the reports?  If there had not been lawsuits which forced them to release the reports do you feel they would continue stalling?

Okay...sorry for the delay on these last questions.  This section of the book had a great deal of information and required detailed study, imho.  However, if you have any questions regarding areas I didn't touch on please feel free to add them.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 04:40:21 AM
Just a note to Michael and my fellow question-answerers...I had already gone to bed on Tuesday night before these questions were posted.  Today is my last day before leaving town for the long weekend in SF, and I won't be around too much today. 

I'll answer what I can, but I hope there's a good discussion about these new questions while I'm gone, and I'll read everyone else's ideas when I get back.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 06:39:48 AM
22.)  Regarding Wayne Harris' bullet points for his lecture to Eric - does it surprise you that Eric was under this much scrutiny and yet was able to do what he did?  Does this (again) reiterate that Wayne Harris did all that he could to control Eric and that nothing else could have been done?

This lecture outline shows that Wayne Harris had a good general idea of his son’s behavior, since he mentions sleep habits and study habits, and also the specifics of phone, computer, and “lights out,” which are conditions relevant to Eric’s own room in the basement.  It is a little surprising to me because it sounds as though he intended to monitor what was going on in Eric’s room.  Could Wayne have done more?  Possibly, because he must not have taken a careful look at what was on Eric’s computer even though he mentions Eric’s computer use.  And the bullet points don’t give any indication that he would snoop into the drawers where Eric’s journals and writings may have been stored.

Something else struck me when I was reading the first three bullet points, which Wayne refers to as 1, 2 and 3.  He is taking a very logical approach, rather than an emotional approach, to disciplining Eric.  Eric’s cunning and manipulativeness were also based on logic, rather than emotion.  It occurred to me that Wayne and Eric seemed to share this same underlying logical nature, although Wayne expressed it in a non-psychopathic way.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 07:19:57 AM


21.)  What do you make of Eric's complaints about his medications?  Was he simply trying to be manipulative?  Was he trying to impress the psychiatrist that he was involved in his treatment and that it was having an effect?


He complained about his meds before he transitioned from Sanchez who was "delighted with Eric" calling him Muy facile hombre in her last entry in his file. He may have been manipulating her to get his meds changed before he was assigned to a new counselor with whom he had no previous experience, and was unsure if the new one would be as susceptible to his charm as Sanchez had been.  He may have complained to Dr. Albert "about the Zoloft being too effective," but it probably appeared that Eric was trying to control his anger and con Albert at the same time.  Fuselier said, I wouldn't be surprised if Eric was being honest and straightforward with his doctor...Psychopaths attempt to, and often succeed, in manipulating health professionals too.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 07:31:01 AM

22.)  Regarding Wayne Harris' bullet points for his lecture to Eric - does it surprise you that Eric was under this much scrutiny and yet was able to do what he did?  Does this (again) reiterate that Wayne Harris did all that he could to control Eric and that nothing else could have been done?


Wayne Harris seemed to know what Eric was up to most of the time (except for the secret journal), and was frustrated with his son's behavior -- all the arrests, etc.  Instead of his meticulousness in keeping a journal about his son, he should have used this time to confront Eric and consider some type of counseling or therapy -- by now, Wayne should have realized that nothing was working including Diversion; it was time to face reality IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 07:49:33 AM


23.)  What do you make of Dylan's letter to Harriet?  What does his confession to her say about his self image?  Do you think he ever had any intention of delivering this letter?


Dylan lists his fears, guilt, crimes and intimation of suicide.  He even doubts she knows him: You don't consciously know who I am...If she thought he was crazy, please dont tell anyone...please accept his apologies.  IMO it was a letter from a person of low or no self-image, but who wanted acknowledgement from the only love object in his life.  I doubt if he would have had the guts to deliver the letter in this form, it seemed to be the musings of a love-struck teen who doubted himself to such a great extent that the letter comes off more as a confession than a loveletter.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 07:54:53 AM

24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?


Yes, I do.  Eric didn't really need Dylan except as a lackey who followed his orders.  Eric was focused on his ultimate plan, and I don't think anything could have stopped him.  If Dylan had backed out, it's possible that Eric would  have shot him with the others IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 08:16:44 AM

25.)  Why do you think Eric was fascinated by Nazism?


The brutality of the SS, the extermination of 11 million people -- the Nazi culture was a psychopath's dream, and fed  Eric's fantasies. He studied Nazism in depth, and his paper on 'The Nazi Culture' was "vivid, comprehensive and detailed."   He was a Nazi manque' who mused on the idea of killing masses of people in a stadium, and was fascinated with swastikas and German phrases.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 08:24:33 AM


26)  In discussing the essay Eric wrote for Mr. Tonelli Dave writes, 'What chance did he have against a clever young psychopath?  Few teachers know the meaning of the term.'  Do you think teachers should be educated about psychopathy - and to what end [i.e., would it help prevent future attacks]?


I think teachers should have courses in Psychology including psychopathy during their undergrad and graduate years. We can't say that it would prevent future attacks, but it might help identify students who are inclined to be psychopathic, especially those with a need to bully other students beyond the normal.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 10:08:32 AM
21.)  What do you make of Eric's complaints about his medications?  Was he simply trying to be manipulative?  Was he trying to impress the psychiatrist that he was involved in his treatment and that it was having an effect?

I was confused about this passage in the book, and it sounds as if Dr. Fuselier and Dave Cullen were not sure what Eric was up to, either. 

Eric may have been trying to impress Dr. Albert (who, as a psychiatrist and medical doctor, would be the one to prescribe medication) that the therapy was making him a “good patient,” one participating in his treatment plan and concerned enough to ask for a change of medication if he felt the Zoloft wasn’t working.  So yes, in that sense, he was being manipulative of Dr. Albert’s opinion of him. 

But at the same time, Eric’s journal reveals that he was opposed to having the medication take away his “bad thoughts” and anger.  Eric wanted to be the one in control of his thoughts and plans, and probably resented having medication threaten to become a controller over him.  In this sense, also, Eric may have been trying to manipulate Dr. Albert’s choice and dosage of medication.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 10:23:03 AM
23.)  What do you make of Dylan's letter to Harriet?  What does his confession to her say about his self image?  Do you think he ever had any intention of delivering this letter?

The letter tells me that Dylan was very lonely (and he imagines finding a soul mate who was lonely also).  He was thinking seriously about suicide (“I will go away soon…”) and he thought he could gain points with her for honesty by confessing to being a criminal.  It showed that he wasn’t totally committed to suicide and was looking for a way out (“if she loved him as strongly as he loved her, he would find a way to survive”).  It also indicated that he had a low self image, made worse by (1) his guilt about the crimes he had committed (2) and the awareness of how having been caught for these crimes would affect his future.

I don’t think he had any intention of delivering the letter.  It can be read as a “cry for help” of a suicidal person, but Harriet would not have been the person to help him, and he seemed to recognize that also.  The letter was more a way for him to express his own sense of desolation with an imaginative piece of writing, rather like a diary might have been.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 10:26:51 AM
Fuselier said, I wouldn't be surprised if Eric was being honest and straightforward with his doctor...Psychopaths attempt to, and often succeed, in manipulating health professionals too.

Just a small correction that I noticed, Nikki.  Fuselier said, "I would be very surprised if Eric was being honest...", not "I wouldn't be surprised if Eric was being honest."  I only point it out because it changes the meaning of the sentence. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 10:54:20 AM
24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?

Yes, I do.  Eric didn't really need Dylan except as a lackey who followed his orders.  Eric was focused on his ultimate plan, and I don't think anything could have stopped him.  If Dylan had backed out, it's possible that Eric would  have shot him with the others IMO.

I am not sure what to think of this.  I do believe that Eric was intent on killing, but Dylan was also feeding his ego by participating in the videos and drills for the attack.  There's a slight chance that Eric would have lost interest if Dylan hadn't been there as a sidekick.  If he still wanted to go with the attack, and Dylan had not been around, Eric would have had to go back to the planning stage and come up with a different approach (for example, it took two people to do the "triangulation" of the attack on the fleeing students which Eric planned as Act II, and he wouldn't have been able to get as many weapons inside for Act I if he had been acting alone).  Without Dylan to help him, Eric may have postponed the attack, chosen another target, etc.

Another thing to consider is that if Dylan had committed suicide, his parents would have searched through his effects and would have found his yearbook, in which Eric had drawn the swastikas and pictures of corpses.  The Klebolds would surely have been alarmed, but it's not clear that they would have recognized Eric's writing/scribbling.  If they found actual threatening material about NBK, they may have gone to authorities, and Eric may have been investigated, but it appears that the most specific "warnings" about NBK were written in Eric's yearbook.

-------------------

Also, the question asks about Dylan committing suicide, not backing out.  Had he committed suicide, Eric naturally couldn't have killed him.  If Dylan had simply backed out, Eric would have had enough material written by Dylan (in his Eric's yearbook, etc.) that Eric the manipulator might have tried using this as a tool to force Dylan to act against his will and participate (with the threat, "or I'll kill you").  However, it gets complicated if we accept that Dylan wanted to die anyway; he might not have been susceptible to that type of pressure.  Eric might, in the end, have killed Dylan, but this one murder might have derailed Eric's plans for a much greater attack if he had been caught and imprisoned for murdering Dylan, so I don't feel that I can make a good guess one way or the other what Eric would have done to Dylan if he backed out.  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 11:03:44 AM
25.)  Why do you think Eric was fascinated by Nazism?

Eric wrote a paper about “The Nazi Culture” after doing a great deal of research – by high school standards, far more research than would be expected for a paper, IMO.  This shows his true interest and fascination (and obsession) with the topic.  As the book puts it, “The paper let Eric indulge in depravity right out in the open.”  He relished in drawing pictures of a stadium full of corpses, and fantasized about topping the body count wracked up by the Nazis.  He also admired Himmler’s thoughts about using “human animals” for labor; this appealed to Eric’s sense of being better than anyone else and his visions about natural selection being needed to weed out the misfits (as the Nazis said, “purify the race”).

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 11:20:28 AM
26)  In discussing the essay Eric wrote for Mr. Tonelli Dave writes, 'What chance did he have against a clever young psychopath?  Few teachers know the meaning of the term.'  Do you think teachers should be educated about psychopathy - and to what end [i.e., would it help prevent future attacks]?

I agree with what Nikki said, that teachers should (and probably do) take a course in psychology.  And I agree that they should learn about psychopathy.  Since Dave writes that few teachers know the meaning of the term “psychopathy,” however, the psychology class they currently take must not discuss that topic in sufficient detail.  I imagine that the Abnormal Psychology course (generally an upper-level college course which requires introductory psychology as a prerequisite) would cover psychopathy.  But I question whether that course would be suitable for teachers, or whether it is designed more for psychology majors.  Perhaps a more specialized course or shorter study unit covering psychopathy, the juvenile psychopathy checklist, (and bullying), etc., should be designed within the School of Education curriculum.

It’s anybody’s guess as to whether this would help prevent future attacks, since most young psychopaths probably don’t commit attacks anyway (or else the number of attacks would be much greater).  A kid might engage in animal cruelty, but not be the next school shooter or school bomber.  But it might help recognize teachers recognize warning signs, become more cautious, and adapt their teaching and counseling approach to students whose behavior seems out of the ordinary.  Teachers might be less gullible to the kind of con jobs which Eric pulled on Mr. Tonelli.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 11:33:15 AM
27)  'Who Owns The The Tragedy' is a chapter in which Eric and Dylan don't appear.  Do you think that focusing on someone other than them provides a relief to the reader?  Do you think Dave intentionally gave the reader breathing space here?

Yes, it did provide relief for me.  I didn’t have to focus as critically on the material in this chapter as when trying to understand the psychological makeup of Eric and Dylan, for one thing, and it was a chance to read about more “ordinary” characters with whom I had more natural empathy.  Also, I have been interested throughout the book to read the stories of the Kathy Sanders and Patrick Ireland, and I’ve noticed that Dave provided “non-Eric-and-Dylan” chapters throughout to alternate with the chapters about the survivors. 

This was part of an intentional plan by Dave, IMO, not only to give some breathing space but to break the book’s material into manageable segments.  It would be too hard to concentrate on Eric and Dylan in before-attack time, and on what happened to the survivors and to the school in post-attack time, all at once. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 11:51:29 AM
28)  In this chapter ('Who Owns') we read more about the recovery of Patrick Ireland.  What do you feel we can learn about human resiliance from his story?  Do you feel that the forgiveness that he espoused is necessary for complete healing?  Why do you think it was more difficult for Patrick's mother to forgive the killers than Patrick?

I thought Patrick made a miraculous recovery, although since the book said his initial symptoms were somewhat similar to those of a person who had suffered a stroke, I realized that I have heard of stroke victims who have also made amazing recoveries in their abilities to walk and talk.  Patrick’s story gives hope, and shows that humans may be more resilient than we think.  It demonstrates that an injured person and his/her family should not give up and accept the word of the first medical people who provide treatment.  A special rehabilitation center like Craig, and a second opinion, may offer hope where none was expected.

Patrick’s main goal was to “get his life back.”  That wasn’t entirely possible, but he wanted to get as much of his life back as he could.  He was smart enough to realize that only by forgiving the people who shot him could he put them out of mind, and focus on his own daily progress.  As much as Patrick’s mother wanted to be involved in helping Patrick, he was the one who had to do the work, not her.  So she had lots of time to watch him struggling, and she found it hard not to fill this time by blaming with thoughts of Eric and Dylan and their role in causing her boy to suffer. 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 12:12:43 PM
29)  This chapter also details the struggle between the school and the media upon its reopening.  Does the media seem unnecessarily insensitive to you or are they just trying to do their job?  Where do your sympathies lie here - with the parents, the media, or is it mixed?

I do believe that the media has a job to report news to the public, so I feel that they should be allowed to cover major events such as the reopening of Columbine High.  The public would have had a major interest in hearing that the school had reached this point in getting back to normal operations and putting the tragedy behind.  But the media’s non-stop coverage of the school, as described here, seems excessive:  ten stories a day between two papers?  I would think that one news story and one feature story, every two or three days, would be enough to satisfy the readers’ desire to know.  So I think there’s justification for saying that the media was out to serve itself (by garnering revenues) more than it was concerned about the public.

I understand the ideas of the professor who spoke at the Media Guidelines Summit, when he explained that the kids were still in the early stages of bereavement and that many were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  These conditions were only exacerbated by the excessive press coverage of the April 20 attack.  It makes me shudder to think that video of SWAT teams, bloody victims, etc., was still being shown repeatedly on TV more than three months later.  The parents were looking out for the kids’ welfare by deciding to keep most of the press away from the school opening, and to villify the press on Take Back The School Day.

My sympathies are mixed, but are primarily with the kids, then with the public which might see the reopening of Columbine High as a sign of hope.  The parents would be next, and the media last.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 12:39:34 PM
30)  Eric talks of his goal of exterminating the species and wanted to torment large groups of people for years after the killings.  Does this strike you as being as juvenile as his rants regarding the WB?  When he talks of his violence does he have a particular audience in mind?  Do you think he realized how unlikely he was to fulfill his goals before he died?

There is still a juvenile streak in Eric’s thinking at this point, especially when he talks about coming back as a ghost to haunt survivors after making his actual attack.  The difference is that his rants about the WB merely expressed contempt; now he is making plans to act to kill as many people as possible.  Actually, I think he’s adopted a pretty rational approach to what he’s doing, as he makes and tests his pipe bombs.  He still dreams big – setting half of Denver on fire with napalm, exterminating the species or most of it – but he’s realistic enough to know that he can’t do these things, and turns to an attack which appears doable:  blowing up a high school.

Eric recognized that a high school was the biggest thing he could successfully attack before he died.  He did not anticipate the difficulties he would encounter in trying to carry this plan out (primarily, he didn’t expect that his big bombs would fail to explode). 

As for his audience, Eric had always been concerned about body count.  The people who would be around to compute the body count – and be terrified when hearing about it – would be the survivors.  So it makes sense to me when the book says that the audience was really the target.  Eric hoped to design an attack which would make “the student body, residents of Jeffco, the American public, the human race” agonize.  I would argue that since even the half-baked way in which the attack actually happened (killing thirteen students) made news around the world and is still on people’s minds ten years later, Eric did achieve some of his goals of tormenting the audience.  If he actually had managed to blow up the commons area of the school and kill the escaping students as they ran out, he would have caused a lot more agony for the watching world.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 01:42:23 PM
32)  Why on earth would the sheriff and undersheriff pose with the killers weapons?  Does this seem irrational and hurtful to you?  Should they have been fired (or recalled - whichever is done in this case) for this behavior?

I didn’t think there was any excuse for this behavior.  Time magazine is known for its attention-grabbing photos, and this photo would have grabbed attention, so it served their purposes (the media as the troublemaker again).  But it seemed like an irrational and unprofessional publicity stunt on the part of the two law enforcement officials.  It must have been very painful for the survivors and the victims’ families to see the weapons being displayed in such a disrespectful way.  It also must have made them even angrier at the sheriff’s department than they already were as a result of the perception that the investigation had been bungled.

As to whether they (especially the sheriff, who was in charge) should have been fired, recalled or what have you -- I believe the sheriff is a political appointment or elected office, not sure which.  In any case, I think they Sheriff Stone gave enough cause here to warrant losing his job.  However, with all the other controversy going on surrounding his office, the voters or the person who appointed him may not have wanted to get into another hassle with him at this time.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 02:52:32 PM
31.)  Which of the milestones (in terms of anniversaries) was particularly noteworthy regarding the recovery of the community to the shootings?  Do you think that the suicide of Ann Marie's mother confused the situation in that people thought it was due to the attack instead of her long term depression?  Do you see the rumors about the TCM still existing as being linked to PTSD in the community?  What manifestations of PTSD were particularly noteworthy to you?  What signs of healing stood out?

The first anniversary was primarily marked by the lawsuits which had to be filed by that date because of the arbitrary one-year deadline.  The six-month anniversary brought mostly depressing news, too, with surveillance videos of the cafeteria being released, and the arrest of a seventeen-year-old for threatening to “finish the job.”  One bit of good news that occurred around the six-month anniversary was the very personal story about Anne Marie finally moving her legs.

Anne Marie’s mother’s suicide did cause confusion, IMO, and even now I suspect the attack had a role in triggering it.  Carla must not have been able to cope with seeing what had happened to her daughter, and since her suicide came right at the six-month mark and right after the student’s arrest, the attack was evidently weighing on her.  But although the attack served as a trigger, I agree that the pre-existing depression was the underlying cause (i.e., depression was why Carla killed herself, whereas other parents of critically injured and deceased children did not react in this manner).  It was a good thing for the community’s recovery process that the Hochhalter family explained Carla’s ongoing depression, because it helped them to understand that this was a special case not likely to be repeated.

Since the symptoms of PTSD include a shift in the fear threshold (as well as flashbacks), it makes sense to me that people spreading rumors about the TCM still existing, and being on the verge of striking again, might be suffering from PTSD.  This was made worse because, at the time, no one had debunked the myth that the TCM had been responsible for Eric and Dylan’s actions in the first place.  A specific example of this fear would be what Steve Cohn, father of a boy who escaped from the library said:  “…I’m looking behind every tree…I want to prevent it before it happens again.”

One sign of community healing that stood out to me was that the football team dedicated its season to a sophomore player who had been killed in the library, and then went on to win the state championship.  This gave the students and community a joyful way to come together with a cathartic emotional release.  One of the best stories of personal recovery continued to be Patrick Ireland's:  the fact that he could be walking through London in March, only ten months after being shot, even though he had to face the fact that he wouldn't be able to enter architecture school in the fall.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 03:07:54 PM
33)  What is your opinion of the reactions to the revelations concerning the Cassie Bernall story?

I ended up feeling sorry for Cassie’s parents, because I don’t think Misty would have included the martyr slant in her book if she had known the truth earlier.  I didn’t think it was fair of them to feel betrayed by Emily Wyant, because Emily had wanted the truth to be known.  The Bernalls’ publisher was at fault for lashing out at Emily, IMO.  I can understand why the Bernalls felt betrayed by the cops – the sheriff’s department should have released its report earlier, or at least told the Bernalls in confidence how Cassie had died.  I understand why the Rocky Mountain News editors felt their tied by the situation – it was a messy situation all around – but their choice to run two pieces affirming Cassie’s myth was a poor one, IMO, because the truth was bound to come out eventually.

I am also not surprised that the Evangelical community continued to spread and perhaps believe in the story of Cassie's martyrdom, even after it had been debunked.  My personal opinion is that that is rather sad, but they were operating on faith.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 03:18:33 PM
34)  Were you surprised that the Klebolds sued Jeffco?  What is your opinions regarding the merits of their case?

I wasn’t really surprised, because I always felt that they had no clue about the death threats on Eric’s web site and the prior complaints which the sheriff’s department had looked into concerning Eric’s aggressive behavior.  They knew that Eric and Dylan had been arrested together for breaking into the van, but that was not an aggravated assault or a hold-up which directly injured a person.  I agree with what the filing said, that if the Klebolds had been warned about Eric’s deeper criminal tendencies and plans, they would have “more likely than not” demanded that Dylan “be excluded from all contacts with Eric Harris.”  Nevertheless, I doubt that the Klebolds had much of a chance of winning in court, due to the community outrage against them.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 04:12:56 PM
Something else struck me when I was reading the first three bullet points, which Wayne refers to as 1, 2 and 3.  He is taking a very logical approach, rather than an emotional approach, to disciplining Eric.  Eric’s cunning and manipulativeness were also based on logic, rather than emotion.  It occurred to me that Wayne and Eric seemed to share this same underlying logical nature, although Wayne expressed it in a non-psychopathic way.   

That's very true, Debbie.  I'm really kind of surprised Wayne didn't catch Eric.  However, if he did he probably would have wound up dead, like the parents of other kids (Kip Kinkel, Luke Woodham) who went on to commit school attacks.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 04:14:20 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sante_Kimes

Michael, your link in Question 15 didn't work because of the square brackets, so I copied it over and removed them

Thanks for this, btw, Debbie.  She and her son remind me of the kind of psychopaths who rip people off - and only kill them if they have to (because it draws more attention to them).
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 04:22:16 PM
Fuselier said, I wouldn't be surprised if Eric was being honest and straightforward with his doctor...Psychopaths attempt to, and often succeed, in manipulating health professionals too.

Just a small correction that I noticed, Nikki.  Fuselier said, "I would be very surprised if Eric was being honest...", not "I wouldn't be surprised if Eric was being honest."  I only point it out because it changes the meaning of the sentence. 

 Okay.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 04:35:58 PM
24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?

Yes, I do.  Eric didn't really need Dylan except as a lackey who followed his orders.  Eric was focused on his ultimate plan, and I don't think anything could have stopped him.  If Dylan had backed out, it's possible that Eric would  have shot him with the others IMO.

I am not sure what to think of this.  I do believe that Eric was intent on killing, but Dylan was also feeding his ego by participating in the videos and drills for the attack.  There's a slight chance that Eric would have lost interest if Dylan hadn't been there as a sidekick.  If he still wanted to go with the attack, and Dylan had not been around, Eric would have had to go back to the planning stage and come up with a different approach (for example, it took two people to do the "triangulation" of the attack on the fleeing students which Eric planned as Act II, and he wouldn't have been able to get as many weapons inside for Act I if he had been acting alone).  Without Dylan to help him, Eric may have postponed the attack, chosen another target, etc.

Another thing to consider is that if Dylan had committed suicide, his parents would have searched through his effects and would have found his yearbook, in which Eric had drawn the swastikas and pictures of corpses.  The Klebolds would surely have been alarmed, but it's not clear that they would have recognized Eric's writing/scribbling.  If they found actual threatening material about NBK, they may have gone to authorities, and Eric may have been investigated, but it appears that the most specific "warnings" about NBK were written in Eric's yearbook.

-------------------

Also, the question asks about Dylan committing suicide, not backing out.  Had he committed suicide, Eric naturally couldn't have killed him.  If Dylan had simply backed out, Eric would have had enough material written by Dylan (in his Eric's yearbook, etc.) that Eric the manipulator might have tried using this as a tool to force Dylan to act against his will and participate (with the threat, "or I'll kill you").  However, it gets complicated if we accept that Dylan wanted to die anyway; he might not have been susceptible to that type of pressure.  Eric might, in the end, have killed Dylan, but this one murder might have derailed Eric's plans for a much greater attack if he had been caught and imprisoned for murdering Dylan, so I don't feel that I can make a good guess one way or the other what Eric would have done to Dylan if he backed out.  

So what are you saying?  I still think Eric would have killed Dylan if he (Dylan) had back out.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 05:02:01 PM
24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?

Yes, I do.  Eric didn't really need Dylan except as a lackey who followed his orders.  Eric was focused on his ultimate plan, and I don't think anything could have stopped him.  If Dylan had backed out, it's possible that Eric would  have shot him with the others IMO.

I am not sure what to think of this.  I do believe that Eric was intent on killing, but Dylan was also feeding his ego by participating in the videos and drills for the attack.  There's a slight chance that Eric would have lost interest if Dylan hadn't been there as a sidekick.  If he still wanted to go with the attack, and Dylan had not been around, Eric would have had to go back to the planning stage and come up with a different approach (for example, it took two people to do the "triangulation" of the attack on the fleeing students which Eric planned as Act II, and he wouldn't have been able to get as many weapons inside for Act I if he had been acting alone).  Without Dylan to help him, Eric may have postponed the attack, chosen another target, etc.

Another thing to consider is that if Dylan had committed suicide, his parents would have searched through his effects and would have found his yearbook, in which Eric had drawn the swastikas and pictures of corpses.  The Klebolds would surely have been alarmed, but it's not clear that they would have recognized Eric's writing/scribbling.  If they found actual threatening material about NBK, they may have gone to authorities, and Eric may have been investigated, but it appears that the most specific "warnings" about NBK were written in Eric's yearbook.

-------------------

Also, the question asks about Dylan committing suicide, not backing out.  Had he committed suicide, Eric naturally couldn't have killed him.  If Dylan had simply backed out, Eric would have had enough material written by Dylan (in his Eric's yearbook, etc.) that Eric the manipulator might have tried using this as a tool to force Dylan to act against his will and participate (with the threat, "or I'll kill you").  However, it gets complicated if we accept that Dylan wanted to die anyway; he might not have been susceptible to that type of pressure.  Eric might, in the end, have killed Dylan, but this one murder might have derailed Eric's plans for a much greater attack if he had been caught and imprisoned for murdering Dylan, so I don't feel that I can make a good guess one way or the other what Eric would have done to Dylan if he backed out.  

So what are you saying?  I still think Eric would have killed Dylan if he (Dylan) had back out.

I'm sorry it wasn't clear.  I'm saying that there are two scenarios here.  (1) Dylan commits suicide.  (2)  Dylan backs out.

Michael's question was what would have happened if Dylan had committed suicide.  My first two paragraphs were an attempt to answer that question: what would have happened if Dylan had been dead and couldn't have held up his role in the plan (which was designed for two people).  In my first paragraph, I'm saying that IMO, Eric would have to modify the plan and make it smaller, or choose another target or delay the plan, in order to do it alone.  My second paragraph is speculation that Dylan's suicide might have led his parents to uncover incriminating material in his possession (families always go through the personal effects of a deceased person, especially something they thought would be sentimental like a yearbook).  And this might have led to an investigation of Eric's plans which could have (possibly) intercepted the plot.

Your answer addressed the question of what would have happened if Dylan had backed out.  I'm not sure.  That's what I try to consider in my third paragraph.  Backed out when?  Days before the attack, or right before the attack?  I agree that Eric might have killed Dylan if Dylan had quit right at the beginning of the attack, after they'd reached the "point of no return."  But, if Dylan had backed out days before the attack was to take place, Eric might have realized that murdering Dylan would only get him (Eric) in trouble and prevent Eric from carrying out his more important goal of taking out as many lives as possible in a big attack that would get on TV.  For Eric, murdering Dylan and then going to jail would not terrorize the world. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 05:14:11 PM
24.)  If Dylan had committed suicide do you think that Eric would have gone through with the attack?

Yes, I do.  Eric didn't really need Dylan except as a lackey who followed his orders.  Eric was focused on his ultimate plan, and I don't think anything could have stopped him.  If Dylan had backed out, it's possible that Eric would  have shot him with the others IMO.

I am not sure what to think of this.  I do believe that Eric was intent on killing, but Dylan was also feeding his ego by participating in the videos and drills for the attack.  There's a slight chance that Eric would have lost interest if Dylan hadn't been there as a sidekick.  If he still wanted to go with the attack, and Dylan had not been around, Eric would have had to go back to the planning stage and come up with a different approach (for example, it took two people to do the "triangulation" of the attack on the fleeing students which Eric planned as Act II, and he wouldn't have been able to get as many weapons inside for Act I if he had been acting alone).  Without Dylan to help him, Eric may have postponed the attack, chosen another target, etc.

Another thing to consider is that if Dylan had committed suicide, his parents would have searched through his effects and would have found his yearbook, in which Eric had drawn the swastikas and pictures of corpses.  The Klebolds would surely have been alarmed, but it's not clear that they would have recognized Eric's writing/scribbling.  If they found actual threatening material about NBK, they may have gone to authorities, and Eric may have been investigated, but it appears that the most specific "warnings" about NBK were written in Eric's yearbook.

-------------------

Also, the question asks about Dylan committing suicide, not backing out.  Had he committed suicide, Eric naturally couldn't have killed him.  If Dylan had simply backed out, Eric would have had enough material written by Dylan (in his Eric's yearbook, etc.) that Eric the manipulator might have tried using this as a tool to force Dylan to act against his will and participate (with the threat, "or I'll kill you").  However, it gets complicated if we accept that Dylan wanted to die anyway; he might not have been susceptible to that type of pressure.  Eric might, in the end, have killed Dylan, but this one murder might have derailed Eric's plans for a much greater attack if he had been caught and imprisoned for murdering Dylan, so I don't feel that I can make a good guess one way or the other what Eric would have done to Dylan if he backed out.  

So what are you saying?  I still think Eric would have killed Dylan if he (Dylan) had back out.

I'm sorry it wasn't clear.  I'm saying that there are two scenarios here.  (1) Dylan commits suicide.  (2)  Dylan backs out.

Michael's question was what would have happened if Dylan had committed suicide.  My first two paragraphs were an attempt to answer that question: what would have happened if Dylan had been dead and couldn't have held up his role in the plan (which was designed for two people).  In my first paragraph, I'm saying that IMO, Eric would have to modify the plan and make it smaller, or choose another target or delay the plan, in order to do it alone.  My second paragraph is speculation that Dylan's suicide might have led his parents to uncover incriminating material in his possession (families always go through the personal effects of a deceased person, especially something they thought would be sentimental like a yearbook).  And this might have led to an investigation of Eric's plans which could have (possibly) intercepted the plot.

Your answer addressed the question of what would have happened if Dylan had backed out.  I'm not sure.  That's what I try to consider in my third paragraph.  Backed out when?  Days before the attack, or right before the attack?  I agree that Eric might have killed Dylan if Dylan had quit right at the beginning of the attack, after they'd reached the "point of no return."  But, if Dylan had backed out days before the attack was to take place, Eric might have realized that murdering Dylan would only get him (Eric) in trouble and prevent Eric from carrying out his more important goal of taking out as many lives as possible in a big attack that would get on TV.  For Eric, murdering Dylan and then going to jail would not terrorize the world. 

If Dylan had backed out even  days before, Eric would have probably waited and killed Dylan during the big attack IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 05:16:50 PM
If Dylan had backed out even  days before, Eric would have probably waited and killed Dylan during the big attack IMO.

I don't know - it's hard to say.  Eric said that he was going to kill a lot of people and didn't.  I think that the bombs not going off threw off his game.  If Dylan had committed suicide this would, of course, have been a moot point.

I'm really rather surprised given all of the venom he spewed his way that Eric didn't seek out and try to harm Brooks Brown.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 05:24:13 PM
If Dylan had backed out even  days before, Eric would have probably waited and killed Dylan during the big attack IMO.

Okay...I get your meaning now.  You mean that even if Dylan wasn't cooperating with Eric, Eric might have sought Dylan out somewhere in the school and shot him as one of his victims.  That's possible.  If Eric could have located him (and Eric wasn't really operating on the assumption that he would be seeking out specific targets).
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 05:30:44 PM
Eric wasn't really operating on the assumption that he would be seeking out specific targets.

I'll have a little more to say about that next week when we talk about the tapes.  Eric has a lot to say about who he is and isn't going to shoot in the tapes and has little follow through.

Again...juvenile.  I must admit that I'm really starting to hate the little a** after my second reading of the book.  Psychopaths sometime have the reputation of being fascinating - well there's absolutely nothing fascinating about this one - he just grates on me as time goes by.

Sorry!  Book group leaders should vent, but he brings that out in me.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 05:42:30 PM
35)  Does Eric's attitude toward Robyn (and her feelings toward Dylan) in regard to the purchase of the guns further exemplify the lack of emotions in psychopaths?

Yes.  Eric knew that Robyn liked Dylan, but he wasn’t above taking advantage of her to get her to buy guns for the boys.  This shows his manipulative nature, the way he tried to control other people, and is a characteristic of psychopaths.  Also, the gun purchase placed her in possible danger with the law, but Eric didn’t care.  That shows lack of empathy, another trait of psychopaths.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 05:46:29 PM
Yes.  Eric knew that Robyn liked Dylan, but he wasn’t above taking advantage of her to get her to buy guns for the boys.  This shows his manipulative nature, the way he tried to control other people, and is a characteristic of psychopaths.  Also, the gun purchase placed her in possible danger with the law, but Eric didn’t care.  That shows lack of empathy, another trait of psychopaths.

What particularly got me about that was that it was clear the Eric knew that Robyn liked Dylan and he didn't say anything to DYLAN about it.  Dylan was such a mess that it's unlikely that he would have been able to do anything about it - but who knows?

I think Eric wouldn't say anything because he wanted Dylan to remain dependent on him as his only friend.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 05:50:37 PM
36)  Eric mocks his father in his journals by saying 'This is what I am motivated for...This is my goal...This is what I want to do with my life.'   What is your reaction to this and what does it say to you regarding Eric's mental state?

Wayne Harris had been trying to talk logically to Eric for some time:  think about your future, find a goal, figure out what you want to do with your life besides work at Blackjack Pizza.  Eric turns those phrases around here, writing in his journal that NBK is his purpose, his goal, the ultimate thing he will do with his life. 

My reaction is to realize that this turned out to be true:  Eric died carrying out NBK, although the massacre wasn’t nearly as effective as what he had intended.  Eric’s mental state when he wrote those words was both sarcastic (pulling the wool over his father’s eyes) and committed (he had reached a turning point, the “point of no return,” and was going ahead with the plan).

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 08, 2009, 06:00:52 PM
37)  What are your observations regarding the Jeffco Sheriff's department and its delay in releasing its report?  What deficiencies do you see in the reports?  If there had not been lawsuits which forced them to release the reports do you feel they would continue stalling?
 

Last question – I don’t have time to really think this through because it’s bedtime (early flight in the morning).

I’ll just say that I’m not impressed in any way with the sheriff’s department’s relationship with the community and press.  I think the delays in releasing the reports were unnecessary and created a lot of strife and confusion in the community.  Without the lawsuits, I think the department would have continued stalling.  The reports did not satisfy the community because they didn’t provide any reason for why the crimes had been committed (what motivated Eric and Dylan).  They also didn’t address fully enough the matter related to advance warning by the Browns.  And they left the community feeling that the investigation of the April 20 events had not been thorough; whereas it actually had been fairly thorough, but the conclusions were left out of the report.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 08, 2009, 07:35:02 PM
Eric wasn't really operating on the assumption that he would be seeking out specific targets.

I'll have a little more to say about that next week when we talk about the tapes.  Eric has a lot to say about who he is and isn't going to shoot in the tapes and has little follow through.

Again...juvenile.  I must admit that I'm really starting to hate the little a** after my second reading of the book.  Psychopaths sometime have the reputation of being fascinating - well there's absolutely nothing fascinating about this one - he just grates on me as time goes by.

Sorry!  Book group leaders should vent, but he brings that out in me.


I agree.  Don't apologize, Michael, I feel the same.  This guy has no redeeming features, and doesn't inspire any sympathy from me.

Glad to see you're venting -- I always thought you were too good to be true! :D :D
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 08, 2009, 09:13:07 PM
I agree.  Don't apologize, Michael, I feel the same.  This guy has no redeeming features, and doesn't inspire any sympathy from me.

Glad to see you're venting -- I always thought you were too good to be true! :D :D

I swear, Nikki!  Fritz was talking about the banality of evil earlier in the thread - this guy typifies it!  An obnoxious psychopathic teenager working at a PIZZA SHOP!!!  A total piece of *bleep* who thinks he is the most intelligent thing on the planet.  Who accomplished nothing more than killing 13 people - and not 13 people that he planned on - just 13 random people.  Clearly he stated that he hated all humanity, so I suppose it doesn't make any difference to him, but that just shows exactly how meaningless his act was.

And that he manipulated and cajoled some sick teen to join him in this just makes him all the more pathetic.  It puts him in a class with Charlie Manson (another waste of skin) who was willing to pervert and convert others to their meaningless nonsensical goals.

He reminds me of people like Theresa Knorr who have absolutely no redeeming features who go on to commit absolutely horrible acts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Knorr

ICK!

What I'm amazed by is that Dave was able to keep company with him for 10 years.

It's interesting to read about people like this and absolutely horrible for their victims, but unlike the myth that they might be interesting to meet they seem absolutely without merit as humans and the last person you'd want to meet even if you weren't exposed to their violent side.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 09, 2009, 06:11:38 AM
I agree.  Don't apologize, Michael, I feel the same.  This guy has no redeeming features, and doesn't inspire any sympathy from me.

Glad to see you're venting -- I always thought you were too good to be true! :D :D

I swear, Nikki!  Fritz was talking about the banality of evil earlier in the thread - this guy typifies it!  An obnoxious psychopathic teenager working at a PIZZA SHOP!!!  A total piece of *bleep* who thinks he is the most intelligent thing on the planet.  Who accomplished nothing more than killing 13 people - and not 13 people that he planned on - just 13 random people.  Clearly he stated that he hated all humanity, so I suppose it doesn't make any difference to him, but that just shows exactly how meaningless his act was.

And that he manipulated and cajoled some sick teen to join him in this just makes him all the more pathetic.  It puts him in a class with Charlie Manson (another waste of skin) who was willing to pervert and convert others to their meaningless nonsensical goals.

He reminds me of people like Theresa Knorr who have absolutely no redeeming features who go on to commit absolutely horrible acts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Knorr

ICK!

What I'm amazed by is that Dave was able to keep company with him for 10 years.

It's interesting to read about people like this and absolutely horrible for their victims, but unlike the myth that they might be interesting to meet they seem absolutely without merit as humans and the last person you'd want to meet even if you weren't exposed to their violent side.

Right on all counts, Michael.  It also make sense that Eric was so attracted to the Nazi culture -- he would have been greeted with open arms into the Gestapo!



I remember the Knorr case -- another psychopath without anything to redeem her.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on July 09, 2009, 09:34:42 AM
22.)  Regarding Wayne Harris' bullet points for his lecture to Eric - does it surprise you that Eric was under this much scrutiny and yet was able to do what he did?  Does this (again) reiterate that Wayne Harris did all that he could to control Eric and that nothing else could have been done?

Sorry this is a bit out of sequence. I was away for a long weekend.

I actually think that Wayne Harris' attempts to monitor his son's behavior were misplaced, because they were monitoring his external behavior. I get the feeling that he had a very dim conception of Eric's interior life, turmoil and motivation. In one sense, he was treating him as he would an unruly soldier in a platoon. trying to impart discipline and conformity. So he appears to me to have been treating Eric as a set of behaviors, but not a human being with motivations, desires, fears, etc. Far from diffusing Eric's psychopathic tendencies, this type of behavior would have reinforced it. And Eric understood that he father was concerned with appearances and outward behavior, and so was easily able to manipulated the situation in his favor.

It's hard to measure or even define empathy, to demonstrate love and concern for another; it's easy to focus on external control. Without getting into Eric's parents' inner lives, we can't say what they felt. But their reactions, as opposed to the Klebolds, suggests that externals mattered more. Eric would have sensed this, the idea that he wasn't a son in an emotional, unconditional sense, but a possession, a cog in a machine. If this is what he was getting from his family, what could he expect from the outside world? I'm not saying that having loving parents would have cured him of his psychopathy, but it might have delayed or muted the homicidal expression of that pathology.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: garyd on July 09, 2009, 11:36:17 AM
22.)  Regarding Wayne Harris' bullet points for his lecture to Eric - does it surprise you that Eric was under this much scrutiny and yet was able to do what he did?  Does this (again) reiterate that Wayne Harris did all that he could to control Eric and that nothing else could have been done?

Sorry this is a bit out of sequence. I was away for a long weekend.

I actually think that Wayne Harris' attempts to monitor his son's behavior were misplaced, because they were monitoring his external behavior. I get the feeling that he had a very dim conception of Eric's interior life, turmoil and motivation. In one sense, he was treating him as he would an unruly soldier in a platoon. trying to impart discipline and conformity. So he appears to me to have been treating Eric as a set of behaviors, but not a human being with motivations, desires, fears, etc. Far from diffusing Eric's psychopathic tendencies, this type of behavior would have reinforced it. And Eric understood that he father was concerned with appearances and outward behavior, and so was easily able to manipulated the situation in his favor.

It's hard to measure or even define empathy, to demonstrate love and concern for another; it's easy to focus on external control. Without getting into Eric's parents' inner lives, we can't say what they felt. But their reactions, as opposed to the Klebolds, suggests that externals mattered more. Eric would have sensed this, the idea that he wasn't a son in an emotional, unconditional sense, but a possession, a cog in a machine. If this is what he was getting from his family, what could he expect from the outside world? I'm not saying that having loving parents would have cured him of his psychopathy, but it might have delayed or muted the homicidal expression of that pathology.

It is just so difficult to theorize without more information about the parents.
Eric's dad did indeed appear to apply military discipline and "personnel management" as his primary parenting skills.
This is not unusual, however.
Pat Conroy's father did the same, to a much greater abusive extent it would seem.  But again, we don't know enough about Eric's dad.
Of course, Pat Conroy, as far as we know, is not a psychopath .

If we are to accept that Eric is a psychopath, then I suppose he could manipulate any type of parenting technique.
This is the truly frightening aspect to all this as far as I am concerned.
Just how is a parent supposed to recognize psychopathic behavior?
It is difficult enough, I should think, to recognize and treat extreme depression in a teenager.

edited to correct quotes - mf
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 09, 2009, 12:02:44 PM
I actually think that Wayne Harris' attempts to monitor his son's behavior were misplaced, because they were monitoring his external behavior. I get the feeling that he had a very dim conception of Eric's interior life, turmoil and motivation. In one sense, he was treating him as he would an unruly soldier in a platoon. trying to impart discipline and conformity. So he appears to me to have been treating Eric as a set of behaviors, but not a human being with motivations, desires, fears, etc. Far from diffusing Eric's psychopathic tendencies, this type of behavior would have reinforced it. And Eric understood that he father was concerned with appearances and outward behavior, and so was easily able to manipulated the situation in his favor.

It's hard to measure or even define empathy, to demonstrate love and concern for another; it's easy to focus on external control. Without getting into Eric's parents' inner lives, we can't say what they felt. But their reactions, as opposed to the Klebolds, suggests that externals mattered more. Eric would have sensed this, the idea that he wasn't a son in an emotional, unconditional sense, but a possession, a cog in a machine. If this is what he was getting from his family, what could he expect from the outside world? I'm not saying that having loving parents would have cured him of his psychopathy, but it might have delayed or muted the homicidal expression of that pathology.

The problem with trying to enter Eric's internal world is that he was actively working to keep people from doing that.  He had people in diversion and even a psychiatrist who were trying to enter, engage and effect that world and he manipulated them.

For a 'normal' child I quite agree with you, Sandy - it would have done a world of good to have a parent try to get to the 'why' of the drinking, the pipe bombs, the attacks on Brooks Brown.  But for Eric it was a game - he was doing everything he could to manipulate and deceive his parents.

I suppose it's possible that if Wayne had engaged Eric internally he may have been able to put off the violence that Eric wanted to commit.  But Eric did want to commit violence - and if Wayne had been able to put off the onset of it my guess is that it only would have shown up later - like with Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer.  Now those are two radically different cases - Bundy seems to have had a very violent childhood and Dahmer a very nurturing one (although his parents divorce did cause conflict in his young life).
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 09, 2009, 12:10:57 PM
It is just so difficult to theorize without more information about the parents.  Eric's dad did indeed appear to apply military discipline and "personnel management" as his primary parenting skills.
This is not unusual, however.  Pat Conroy's father did the same, to a much greater abusive extent it would seem.  But again, we don't know enough about Eric's dad.   Of course, Pat Conroy, as far as we know, is not a psychopath .

If we are to accept that Eric is a psychopath, then I suppose he could manipulate any type of parenting technique. This is the truly frightening aspect to all this as far as I am concerned.
Just how is a parent supposed to recognize psychopathic behavior? It is difficult enough, I should think, to recognize and treat extreme depression in a teenager.

Well that is, for me, one of the central questions.  How does a parent recognize psychopathic behavior?  And, to extend that question, how does a teacher or law enforcement official recognize that behavior?  Eric had ample opportunity to engage with people who would have been more than willing to explore his internal life with him.  He could have talked to Mr. D - who seems to have had more than enough love to go around for all of 'his kids.'  He could have talked to his psychiatrist - whom his parents got to try to help him engage his inner life.  He could have talked to Mr. Tonelli - who tried to engage him when he wrote about his criminal behavior.  He could even have engaged with Andrea who tried to help him in diversion.  But he manipulated many or most of these people.  How exactly would they have been able to tell that he was a psychopath and that he was manipulating them?  And is this even a fair thing to ask of teachers?  Perhaps with people who were in diversion or with mental health professionals we could ask why they didn't know - but the other side of that question is: do we want to live in a world where the vast majority of us who are not psychopaths are subjected to the scrutiny that would be necessary to smoke out the psychopaths?

It's a tough question for me to answer.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 09, 2009, 12:23:13 PM
In many ways it is hard to blame the Harrises for not picking up Eric's psycopathy, when having realised there was at least some sort of problem he was referred to professionals, who also failed to diagnose the problem.
How does one admit to oneself that a much loved child is a psycopath?
Eris was clever enough to fool and manipulate them all.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 09, 2009, 12:47:44 PM
In many ways it is hard to blame the Harrises for not picking up Eric's psycopathy, when having realised there was at least some sort of problem he was referred to professionals, who also failed to diagnose the problem.
How does one admit to oneself that a much loved child is a psycopath?
Eris was clever enough to fool and manipulate them all.

I really don't blame them for not picking up on his being a psychopath, Jess.  I am a bit amazed that by the end Wayne Harris wasn't more suspicious than he was.  That the gun store called up and told him that the clips were in and he didn't put two and two together is somewhat baffling to me.  But he does seem to have been in serious denial about Eric's behavior, particularly with regard to what he did to Brooks Brown.  And that he found a pipe bomb and still didn't get suspicious when the gun store called seems a bit odd to me.

But pick up on psychopathy?  I'm just not sure that many people can do that.  As Dave says in the book, they don't act like Hannibal Lecter, they act like Hugh Grant (when he wasn't out picking up prostitutes, I assume).  Like I said to Gary, one of the central questions for me in the book is how do we recognize psychopathic behavior and what are we willing to give up in order to be willing to recognize this?  It's very similar to the questions about what rights we are willing to give up in order to stop terrorists, I think.  There are a small number of people who are willing to do terrible things and deceive everyone to the best of their ability in order to do them.  Do we put the vast majority of people through extreme scrutiny in order to stop those few?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 09, 2009, 02:06:52 PM
In some of the articles and manuals I've read skimmed on psychopathy and its treatment, Robert Hare, Michael Caldwell and others have insisted that the general public shouldn't try to determine who is or is not a psychopath. As I understand it, the checklist is not something a casual observer can use and say yes, no, yes, yes, no and decide that their nextdoor neighbor has psychopathic tendancies. Both in diagnosing and treatment, the strong emphasis seems to be on trained professionals using the available tools. Otherwise, the results will not be dependable. So teachers, for example, can't possibly have enough time to go through training in how to spot a psychopath. They CAN be instructed, however, to take troubling signs that they notice to a professional who IS trained in diagnosing the condition. Same goes for parents, I think. Seek professional help.

But Wayne Harris did that, and still no one diagnosed Eric correctly. Do you all think Columbine may sesrve as a warning and help mental health professionals avoid this sort of catastrophe in the future?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 09, 2009, 05:02:24 PM
In many ways it is hard to blame the Harrises for not picking up Eric's psycopathy, when having realised there was at least some sort of problem he was referred to professionals, who also failed to diagnose the problem.
How does one admit to oneself that a much loved child is a psycopath?
Eris was clever enough to fool and manipulate them all.

I really don't blame them for not picking up on his being a psychopath, Jess.  I am a bit amazed that by the end Wayne Harris wasn't more suspicious than he was.  That the gun store called up and told him that the clips were in and he didn't put two and two together is somewhat baffling to me.  But he does seem to have been in serious denial about Eric's behavior, particularly with regard to what he did to Brooks Brown.  And that he found a pipe bomb and still didn't get suspicious when the gun store called seems a bit odd to me.

But pick up on psychopathy?  I'm just not sure that many people can do that.  As Dave says in the book, they don't act like Hannibal Lecter, they act like Hugh Grant (when he wasn't out picking up prostitutes, I assume).  Like I said to Gary, one of the central questions for me in the book is how do we recognize psychopathic behavior and what are we willing to give up in order to be willing to recognize this?  It's very similar to the questions about what rights we are willing to give up in order to stop terrorists, I think.  There are a small number of people who are willing to do terrible things and deceive everyone to the best of their ability in order to do them.  Do we put the vast majority of people through extreme scrutiny in order to stop those few?

What is hard for me to grasp is the difference between our two countries as far as gun control is concerned. If a gun dealer rung me about something one of my children had ordered, I would be seriously alarmed, but guns do seem to be pretty common currency in the US. But, I am not an American, I only know what I read and hear from the media. So I may well be completely wrong. Was the problem perhaps that Wayne Harris had been a soldier, and guns and explosives didn't worry him as they would have done me, or you?
I can't answer that, and I am certainly not here to defend Mr Harris.
I am worried about how we can recognise who and who is not a psycopath, and what we can do with them once we have done it. Once they are identified there is no really reliable treatment that can easily be applied, and they can't be arrested until they have been found to have committed a crime.
It is all very difficult.

edited to correct quote
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: KittyHawk on July 09, 2009, 05:25:20 PM
...
I am worried about how we can recognise who and who is not a psycopath, and what we can do with them once we have done it. Once they are identified there is no really reliable treatment that can easily be applied, and they can't be arrested until they have been found to have committed a crime.
It is all very difficult.

You're certainly right, Janjo, that there's no easy treatment. But Michael Caldwell (see the bibiography under Juvenile Psychopathy) has a program which has been implemented for 10 years that shows signs of teaching juveniles with psychopathic tendencies how to alter their behavior. He's shown success although the program does take a number of highly trained professionals and time. He and some members of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy are hoping for grant money and another site which can provide the resources to replicate his study. So it's not completely hopeless. Some opponents of spending money to study treatment claim it's not cost efficient since there's such a small number of psychopaths. But they are ignoring the disproportional amount of damage (financial, physical, emotional) that they cause.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 09, 2009, 05:43:32 PM
It is a small and very specialised programme, and is not available world wide. It is encouraging, but picking out the psychopaths and getting them on the programme would be quite problematical. Harris fooled mental health workers for some time, and no one expected him to behave as he did. Someone should have been reading his IT output and connecting the dots, but there is so much information, and so many students who cause concern in all sorts of ways that it does not surprise me at all that he was missed.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on July 09, 2009, 06:57:49 PM
~snip~
It is just so difficult to theorize without more information about the parents.
Eric's dad did indeed appear to apply military discipline and "personnel management" as his primary parenting skills.
This is not unusual, however.
Pat Conroy's father did the same, to a much greater abusive extent it would seem.  But again, we don't know enough about Eric's dad.
Of course, Pat Conroy, as far as we know, is not a psychopath .

If we are to accept that Eric is a psychopath, then I suppose he could manipulate any type of parenting technique.
This is the truly frightening aspect to all this as far as I am concerned.
Just how is a parent supposed to recognize psychopathic behavior?
It is difficult enough, I should think, to recognize and treat extreme depression in a teenager.

I agree that it's hard to theorize about the parents' state of minds in the absence of information about it, but it's also hard to theorize about Eric's state of mind from his behavior, and here I include his journals. We can ask all the psychological questions we want, but I fear we can't get answers out of Eric, and his father seems pretty reluctant.

One question is, was military-type discipline a form of control or child-rearing that was suited to Eric's psychic needs and inner makeup? Were the parents listening to what those needs were? (Okay, that's two questions.)

I think you're right that it is very difficult to recognize these sorts problems. It is, in fact, generally in hindsight that we see them, and I would be interested in knowing just how successful the checklist is in predicting future behavior rather than describing past actions.

How do we get at the inner soul of someone else? I think we have to recognize the shades of darkness and doubt that lurk with ourselves and also recognize that others are liable to the same sorts of demons.

edited to correct quote
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on July 09, 2009, 07:12:00 PM
~snip~
The problem with trying to enter Eric's internal world is that he was actively working to keep people from doing that.  He had people in diversion and even a psychiatrist who were trying to enter, engage and effect that world and he manipulated them.

For a 'normal' child I quite agree with you, Sandy - it would have done a world of good to have a parent try to get to the 'why' of the drinking, the pipe bombs, the attacks on Brooks Brown.  But for Eric it was a game - he was doing everything he could to manipulate and deceive his parents.

I suppose it's possible that if Wayne had engaged Eric internally he may have been able to put off the violence that Eric wanted to commit.  But Eric did want to commit violence - and if Wayne had been able to put off the onset of it my guess is that it only would have shown up later - like with Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer.  Now those are two radically different cases - Bundy seems to have had a very violent childhood and Dahmer a very nurturing one (although his parents divorce did cause conflict in his young life).

I agree that, under the best of circumstances, it would have been hard to enter Eric's mind. And he, like so many teenagers, wanted to keep others out. Since his parents had themselves been teenagers at one time, I wonder if they remembered all the turnoil and demands for autonomy that they would have made then. I think we can begin to know another's mind by referring to our own inner lives, but we are also finite beings who can't encompass all the possible outcomes.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 10, 2009, 09:27:31 AM


27)  'Who Owns The The Tragedy' is a chapter in which Eric and Dylan don't appear.  Do you think that focusing on someone other than them provides a relief to the reader?  Do you think Dave intentionally gave the reader breathing space here?

IMO this chapter acts as an arc between the main story of the tragedy and the aftermath including the official end of the mourning period, the media debacle, and Patrick's recovery, as well as a breather for the reader.


28)  In this chapter ('Who Owns') we read more about the recovery of Patrick Ireland.  What do you feel we can learn about human resilience from his story?  Do you feel that the forgiveness that he espoused is necessary for complete healing?  Why do you think it was more difficult for Patrick's mother to forgive the killers than Patrick?

Patrick's recovery efforts and resilience is nothing less than heroic.  Maybe he had to forgive in order to heal and pick up his life without the baggage of hate and resentment. I don't think everyone could forgive so easily, and maybe complete healing on this level is very personal.   Patrick's mother's bond with her child was strong, and seeing his struggle on a day-to-day basis probably enhanced the feelings of hatred she felt toward the killers. She knew what his future life would be like, and it must have been torture to watch him struggle to regain his physical and psychological healing.


29)  This chapter also details the struggle between the school and the media upon its reopening.  Does the media seem unnecessarily insensitive to you or are they just trying to do their job?  Where do your sympathies lie here - with the parents, the media, or is it mixed?

[/quote]

IMO the media always seems insensitive in these catastrophic cases.  Their 'in your face' need for personal interviews with  victims' families and survivors leave a bad taste, to me.  I can't help but sympathize with the parents, so the compromise reached made sense; too bad the media hadn't thought of this sooner.  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 10, 2009, 04:24:02 PM

32)  Why on earth would the sheriff and undersheriff pose with the killers weapons?  Does this seem irrational and hurtful to you?  Should they have been fired (or recalled - whichever is done in this case) for this behavior?


There were embarrassing leaks in the department: the video regarding Cassie Bernal was leaked to CBS; Kate Battan had let slip the first passages from Eric's journal; the report was delayed again; there were a number of copies of Eric's journal around; the undersheriff allowed a reporter from Time to see the Basement Tapes after promising the families they would see them first.  Perhaps Stone and Dunaway posed in full uniform with the killers' guns to show they were really a macho police force instead of the Keystone Cops outfit they really were. Yes, they should have been fired for this insensitive, distasteful, and downright stupid behavior.  IMO Stone should have been fired long ago.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 10, 2009, 04:41:07 PM


33)  What is your opinion to the reactions to the revelations concerning the Cassie Bernall story?


By the time the book came out, Cassie's story had taken on a life of its own.  Even with Emily's testimony, Cassie had already been lauded as a martyr and the 'Evangelical community' would never accept that the story was untrue. IMO the most cynical remark to come out of this episode was the Rev. Dave McPherson's statement: You will never change the story of Cassie. The church is going to stick to the martyr story.  You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't accept it.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 10, 2009, 04:58:58 PM

34)  Were you surprised that the Klebolds sued Jeffco?  What is your opinions regarding the merits of their case?


I wasn't surprised.  The police bungled the case from the get-go IMO, and since the Klebolds were on everyone's hate list they wanted to justify, in any way they good, why they were unaware of Dylan's relationship to Eric for which they blamed the police.   Even Brian Rohrbough agreed that "it seems reasonable [that they sue]."  I'm no  lawyer, but there seemed to be merit in their suit, especially given the inept police performance.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 10, 2009, 05:15:45 PM


37)  What are your observations regarding the Jeffco Sheriff's department and its delay in releasing its report?  What deficiencies do you see in the reports?  If there had not been lawsuits which forced them to release the reports do you feel they would continue stalling?

"
 I think they were inept, and there certainly seemed reason for Jeffco being "ridiculed for its report."  Did the department delay the report to cover up an inept police investigation, or were they unable to answer the accusations of neglect?   I do think they would have continued stalling without the court's order to release reports.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 10, 2009, 10:52:52 PM
In many ways it is hard to blame the Harrises for not picking up Eric's psycopathy, when having realised there was at least some sort of problem he was referred to professionals, who also failed to diagnose the problem.
How does one admit to oneself that a much loved child is a psycopath?
Eris was clever enough to fool and manipulate them all.

I really don't blame them for not picking up on his being a psychopath, Jess.  I am a bit amazed that by the end Wayne Harris wasn't more suspicious than he was.  That the gun store called up and told him that the clips were in and he didn't put two and two together is somewhat baffling to me.  But he does seem to have been in serious denial about Eric's behavior, particularly with regard to what he did to Brooks Brown.  And that he found a pipe bomb and still didn't get suspicious when the gun store called seems a bit odd to me.

But pick up on psychopathy?  I'm just not sure that many people can do that. 

I totally agree on the psychopathy. How many parents even know what that really means, much less the warning signs in kids?

MF, on this: "I am a bit amazed that by the end Wayne Harris wasn't more suspicious than he was"--on what are you basing your assessment of how suspicious he was? I don't think we really know a great deal about his mindset, except that we know he was on Eric's case a lot. According to Eric--who I think we can trust on this--dad's focus was Eric's complete lack of goals. He was graduating high school brilliant, but with nothing lined up but a pizza job. That seems like a reasonable primary concern.

My hunch is that Wayne felt that idle hands get into trouble; lots of bored brilliant kids act out. If he could get the kid to find something calling to fall in love with, he would pour his attention into that and quit feeling the need for mischief. I think that makes sense. That's true of a lot of kids who appear like Eric.

As for the call from the gun store, puzzling things happen to most of us every day or week of our life. When we can't make sense of them, we typically shrug them off pretty fast, and a day or two later, often forget they happened. Who knows what Wayne was thinking. Maybe he was distracted, had his mind on something else. Maybe he wondered, but then let it go. People do things like that all the time. I wish he had noticed, but it's easy from the outside--knowing what happened--to see the clues leap out. In real life, where a zillion things are happening every day, and you think you just got some stupid wrong number or prank . . . you move on.

As for connecting with the pipe bomb, remember that was about a year earlier. Again, as you're reading the book, and seeing these together, they seem easy to connect. But in real life, if someone in your family gets in trouble and then a year later, you get what you think is a wrong number, do you go, "Hey, a year ago . . ." and put it together?

You really have to put yourself in his shoes, and feel like what it would be like if these things happened in your life, with all the intervening life.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 10, 2009, 10:58:37 PM
~snip~
It is just so difficult to theorize without more information about the parents. . . .

I agree that it's hard to theorize about the parents' state of minds in the absence of information about it, but it's also hard to theorize about Eric's state of mind from his behavior, and here I include his journals. We can ask all the psychological questions we want, but I fear we can't get answers out of Eric, and his father seems pretty reluctant.

edited to correct quote

I just read this from Gary, and I guess you're making the same point as me. We don't have a whole lot to go on about Wayne's take on Eric. We have quite a few bits, but we don't have hear him ever tell us what he thinks about the whole thing. I agree with you both.

I disagree about Eric, though. He left an extraordinary amount of data about himself, and his thoughts and motives. It also helps greatly that he fits the psychopathic pattern to a T (is that the expression), and they follow very similar patterns to each other. From that, we can deduce a great deal, with a high level of certainty, IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 10, 2009, 11:00:15 PM
IMO the most cynical remark to come out of this episode was the Rev. Dave McPherson's statement: You will never change the story of Cassie. The church is going to stick to the martyr story.  You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't accept it.

I have to agree with that. It was pretty startling.

(BTW, I wish I could say I got that out of him, but it came from a brilliant piece by Hanna Rosin, of the W Post on the Cassie aftermath. Hanna is a great reporter, and writer.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 10, 2009, 11:25:42 PM
FYI, I finally, belatedly started a "Columbine" page on Facebook, dedicated to the book.

If you're on Facebook, clicking on it and adding yourself as a friend would be great:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Columbine-by-Dave-Cullen/91337378185

(I think the number of fans and level of activity determines where it comes up on a facebook search of "Columbine." If it's high in the search result, other interested people who don't know anything about me will find it, which is the goal: connecting people who care about the subject to the book.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 11, 2009, 04:14:03 AM
MF, on this: "I am a bit amazed that by the end Wayne Harris wasn't more suspicious than he was"--on what are you basing your assessment of how suspicious he was? I don't think we really know a great deal about his mindset, except that we know he was on Eric's case a lot. According to Eric--who I think we can trust on this--dad's focus was Eric's complete lack of goals. He was graduating high school brilliant, but with nothing lined up but a pizza job. That seems like a reasonable primary concern.

Good point.  I suppose it would have been more accurate to say that I'm surprised that he didn't react to the call about the gun clips.  There's no way I could know his mindset.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on July 11, 2009, 01:18:52 PM
~snip~
It is just so difficult to theorize without more information about the parents. . . .

I agree that it's hard to theorize about the parents' state of minds in the absence of information about it, but it's also hard to theorize about Eric's state of mind from his behavior, and here I include his journals. We can ask all the psychological questions we want, but I fear we can't get answers out of Eric, and his father seems pretty reluctant.

edited to correct quote

I just read this from Gary, and I guess you're making the same point as me. We don't have a whole lot to go on about Wayne's take on Eric. We have quite a few bits, but we don't have hear him ever tell us what he thinks about the whole thing. I agree with you both.

I disagree about Eric, though. He left an extraordinary amount of data about himself, and his thoughts and motives. It also helps greatly that he fits the psychopathic pattern to a T (is that the expression), and they follow very similar patterns to each other. From that, we can deduce a great deal, with a high level of certainty, IMO.

Dave, I don't disagree that there were lots of clues to Eric's behavior, thoughts and motivations. And, in hindsight, we can match them up with a probable diagnosis of psychopathy. My question, I guess, is do the thoughts, behavior, motivations, etc. before the massacre lead uniquely to psychopathy as an explanation of Eric's character? I wonder if other explanations might not be available for his character pre-massacre. Among them would be teenage rebellion and angst, depression, a morbid sense of humor, an attempt to create a fantasy world, trying out a posture to see how it fit or what kind of reaction it could getfrom his parents and peers. Perhaps he was trying to create a (very black) literary persona that ultimately trapped him and which he thought he couldn't get out of so he went ahead and acted on his fantasies. IMO, we can't know for sure, before the fact, because we cannot ask Eric what part of his character/essence/will allowed/compelled him to put those thoughts, behavior, motivations into action.

Many teenagers share Eric's angst and blackness of soul, but don't act out on it as he did; most happily outgrow it. There was something lacking in him that prevented him from forming a sense of morality in which he could empathize with the "other" and see them as persons worthy of respect, concern and, in rarer cases, love. Perhaps he didn't form this moral sense because he himself felt unrespected and unloved, and boiled up in rage because of it. I don't know if that is the same thing as an adequate characterization of psychopathy; I suspect that what I have called "moral development" here and psychopathy focus on the same general phenomena but from different viewpoints.

I should have said before that I am not a proponent of behaviorist psychology, because it generally turns out to be descriptive at best, but lacking in explanatory power (here I'm thinking of Chomsky's review of Skinner's "Verbal Behavior"). I'm also often unsatisfied by psychological evaluations of individuals who are not available to us because, e.g., they are dead. So I tend to take with a grain of salt Ericson's pscyhological biography of Martin Luther, a man dead now many centuries.

That said, I think the analysis of Eric as a psychopath cannot be avoided. It takes us infinitely farther down the path of explaining this massacre than the vast majority of so-called explanations that have been offered, e.g., Eric was a "loner", he was bullied, he was evil, etc. I also think that it's a testament to the richness of your account that it doesn't let us get away with the easy "explanations" and that it also allows us to consider additional reasons for what happened at Columbine. The book is definitive, not just in the sense of being the most comprehensive treatment of the massacre, but of being an account which keeps asking readers to think more and harder about the why and wherefore.

I my fantasy literary world, I'd love to read a collaboration on this between you and Bernard-Henri Levi.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 11, 2009, 01:26:52 PM
I have a question for you Dave [and I would encourage other participants to post questions about the book to Dave as he's here and we're in our last few weeks]:

What was the effect on spending all of this time with this topic on you?  Did your opinions on various people in the event change over time?  Did your opinion about Eric and Dylan evolve over time?  Were there periods that you just wanted to get away from both of them?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: ChrisW on July 12, 2009, 02:00:35 AM
Dave - Michael's question is also one which interests me, I have often wondered how people keep their own focus and balance when dealing with the same topic over such a long timespan. I think my own viewpoint would keep shifting, unless i had a fixed 'story' in my mind. So how did you keep perspective?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 12, 2009, 10:06:39 AM


Dave, My qustion is a bit similar to those above.   I've been wondering whether you were able to shake the depression (if you had any) while writing 'Columbine.'  Did you feel the need to get out and about to 'clear your head' after the darkness of the novel?


Question 2:  How were the reviews and comments of the Littleton community -- did you encounter anyone who resented your novel, and why?  Did they feel you were being an intrusive part of the press?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 12, 2009, 10:55:29 AM
Yes, Dave, Nikki's above question is similar to one I was wondering about in terms of access: How readily available were people to talk to?  Did this change over time?  When incidents like the crosses happened did people pull into camps (of opinion) and resent your talking to other groups?  As the anniversaries approached and passed did people stop talking to you because they wanted to let the past recede in their memories?

Have you gotten feedback from people who were at the school on April 20th on the book?  What do they think of the final product?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 12, 2009, 06:01:29 PM


33)  What is your opinion to the reactions to the revelations concerning the Cassie Bernall story?


By the time the book came out, Cassie's story had taken on a life of its own.  Even with Emily's testimony, Cassie had already been lauded as a martyr and the 'Evangelical community' would never accept that the story was untrue. IMO the most cynical remark to come out of this episode was the Rev. Dave McPherson's statement: You will never change the story of Cassie. The church is going to stick to the martyr story.  You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't accept it.

In some ways this section of the story gives illumination to the rest of the falsity of information that surrounded these awful happenings. If the legend is more interesting than the truth, and supports ones point of view or ones prejudices, then believe the legend.
This sort of thinking is so harmful to society.
Dave, you have done an erormous service revealing the truth with your book, but unfortunately there will still be people around who would rather believe the lies, because they find it easier and more comforting.
However, if one never faces the truth of situations then nothing can ever be done to make changes for the better.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 12, 2009, 06:30:07 PM

However, if one never faces the truth of situations then nothing can ever be done to make changes for the better.



I agree Janjo.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 13, 2009, 12:56:42 PM
Here are the questions for the fifth section of 'Columbine.'  As always, please feel free to contribute questions of your own!

1.)  Regarding plans for the attack Dylan's notebook showed 'virtually no effort.'  Do you think this is because of his overall depressive mental state and is related to other manifestations of it (e.g. flunking phys ed) or something else?

2.)  The boys were very obvious about sneaking the bombs into the school.  Do you think security has improved since their attack or would they still be able to do this?

3.)  What do you think of the diversion program and the prognosis the boys were given.  What changes do you think would help this program?

4.)  Dave says that having his wrists shackled pushed Eric over the hump to murder.  Do you think that if this hadn't happened there would have been another trigger in his life?

5.)  What do you think Dylan's motivation was for the creative writing project that got the attention of his teacher?  The book indicates that the teacher did all she could regarding this writing project - do you agree?  Do you think the counselor should have picked up on the cues in this paper?

6.)  What were Eric and Dylan trying to accomplish with the ramparts video?

7.)  Do you think Brian Rohrbough's opinions regarding the school were justified?  Were his feelings part of his healing process - that is, did he need to place the blame somewhere?

8.)  Did the Federal Judge's decision to hand over materials to be secured in a Federal courthouse allow the full story of Columbine to be told?  Do you think that the materials which the judge ordered secured would have been made public if he hadn't done this?

9.)  In 'Ready To Be Done' Dave begins wrapping up the aftereffects of the killings.  What events (e.g., the sealing of the parents depositions, Michael Moore's conclusions, Mr. D's divorce) were predictable and which came as a surprise to you?

10.) Why do you think the vast majority of school shooters are male?

11.)  Do you think the revised list of FBI guidelines and warning signs regarding school attacks are specific enough?  Given the list of warning signs are more likely to describe a child who is depressed what should be done if a child manifests several of these warning signs?

12.)  What is your opinion of the active shooter protocol?  Do you think it has saved lives?

13.)  In 'The Basement Tapes' Dave says that Dylan and Eric spoke with one voice: Eric's.  What do you think this means?  Did Dylan allow his personality to be subsumed into Eric's?  Given Dylan's depression and lack of self esteem does it seem as if he would want to identify with a strong personality like Eric's?

14.)  No on Eric or Dylan named on the tapes was killed.  Does that call the contents of the tape into question - i.e., is it just the ravings of two crazed juveniles?  What is your opinion of the messages they left their parents?

15.)  Since we now know that school killers are likely to reveal their plans before an attack do you think that if someone revealed the sorts of things Eric did to Chris Morris, Zack and Nate would be caught now?  Or would comments like this still be dismissed?

16.)  What do you feel that the basement tapes add to our understanding of the mental state of Eric and Dylan and their motivations?

17.)  Did David Brooks interview with the Klebolds reveal things that you weren't expecting in 'Two Hurdles'?  Is it odd that the parents would blame the analysts for the case for not interviewing them when they refused to be interviewed?

18.)  Does it seem as if Linda Sanders has recovered from the death of Dave?  Is it irrational to expect that she would have?

19.)  What do the discoveries regarding the Jeffco cover up lead you to believe regarding the investigation?  Should Jeffco officials have turned their investigation over to another agency (such as the FBI) early on?  Do you feel that justice was done with regards to the cover up?

20.)  What do you make of the changes to Brian Rohrbough's life?  Do you think he would have run for political office if his son had lived?

21.)  In the 10 years since Columbine there have been more than 80 school shootings.  What lessons have been learned?  Do you think this type of violence will ever be stopped?

22.)  What did you learn from the chapter 'Quiet'?  Was this a good place in the book to place the chronology of events from the killer's perspective?

23.)  In 'At The Broken Places' Patrick Ireland says "The shootings were an event that occurred.  But it did not define me as a person.  It did not set the tone for the rest of my life."  How do the vignettes about the school, the memorial and the survivors confirm or dispute this statement?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 13, 2009, 05:12:35 PM


2.)  The boys were very obvious about sneaking the bombs into the school.  Do you think security has improved since their attack or would they still be able to do this?


Some schools now have metal detectors, so that would prevent bringing in guns, bombs, etc.  Many schools do not, so I do think it is still possible to sneak bombs or weapons into schools, unfortunately.  If you're dealing with a psycho like Eric, I think he'd find a way. I believe the fun for him was the planning as well as the execution of the plan.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 13, 2009, 05:29:40 PM

3.)  What do you think of the diversion program and the prognosis the boys were given.  What changes do you think would help this program?



Prognosis: Good ---- Recommendation: Successful Termination

IMO Dr. Kriegshauser was scammed by Eric's 'sterling performance' and Dylan's 'great deal of potential.'  I think that any changes in this program would benefit from a complete study of the boys' files, psychologists' reports, etc...   The Diversion program was fruitless in dealing with a psychopath like Eric and a manicdepressive with suicidal tendencies like Dylan.  The program needed a complete overhaul IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 13, 2009, 05:50:30 PM

6.)  What were Eric and Dylan trying to accomplish with the ramparts video?



Fuselier thought it showed the final progression from fantasy to fact.  An off-roading website urged readers to experience the vistas slowly:  "let your imaginations run wild as the boulders take on everchanging faces."   The boys were living their fantasy shooting at trees,  using bowling pins as 'human metaphors" = "entry wound, exit wound."  They discovered how much damage they could do with a shotgun and videotaped it including their "war wounds" -- skin scraped holding the gun's grip. The adrenaline flowed while the boys performed with their weapons starring in their own version of Desperado.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 13, 2009, 06:03:57 PM


7.)  Do you think Brian Rohrbough's opinions regarding the school were justified?  Were his feelings part of his healing process - that is, did he need to place the blame somewhere?


Brian felt he had been betrayed, and that the school and Jeffco officials had lied to the parents.  He was angry and emotionally devastated by Danny's death.  His judgments were harsh and bitter, and he needed someone to blame even though it didn't seem to help in the healing process for him particularly.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 13, 2009, 06:27:20 PM

20.)  What do you make of the changes to Brian Rohrbough's life?  Do you think he would have run for political office if his son had lived?


Parents who lose children to tragic deaths like Danny Rohrbough's are often unable to get pass the grief. Brian was not only devastated by grief and loss he was angry, and the anger focused on the school and police.  I think it probably led him to lose himself in causes like the ultraconservative obscure third party that nominated him for VP.   He had enjoyed working with his son in the auto shop, and they were so companionable that I doubt he would have run for office -- his life would have been complete IMO.  I was surprised that he remarried and adopted two children, maybe they filled the hole in his life left by Danny's death.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 14, 2009, 12:01:58 AM
If you're dealing with a psycho like Eric, I think he'd find a way. I believe the fun for him was the planning as well as the execution of the plan.

I think you're right - he lived and re-lived the experience of his attack for at least a year beforehand.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 14, 2009, 04:00:25 AM
Hi, guys.  Well, I just got back home from San Francisco in the middle of the night, but won't be around to comment on the new questions for a couple of days -- so much else to do here, and I haven't had time to reread Part 5 of the Columbine book yet.  But I have caught up with all the discussion which took place over the past weekend, and found it very interesting.  Hope Dave does come back and answer some more of the questions you left for him.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 06:01:51 AM


8.)  Did the Federal Judge's decision to hand over materials to be secured in a Federal courthouse allow the full story of Columbine to be told?  Do you think that the materials which the judge ordered secured would have been made public if he hadn't done this?


By November 2000, Jeffco said they had released everything, yet Jeffco acted comically in its attempt to suppress.  The 'smoking gun' affidavit was inadvertently leaked by the DA,  in 2003 the Battan search warrant came out and showed that Jeffco knew about the warnings from the Browns.  All this exemplifies the lies and cover up at Jeffco.  Even the federal judge did not trust that Jeffco could "warehouse valuable evidence," so I don't think the docs would have been made public without the federal judge's order.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 06:46:07 AM

9.)  In 'Ready To Be Done' Dave begins wrapping up the aftereffects of the killings.  What events (e.g., the sealing of the parents depositions, Michael Moore's conclusions, Mr. D's divorce) were predictable and which came as a surprise to you?


I was surprised that Sue Klebold went back to training disabled students at the community college -- I think it took a lot of guts on her part.  I was also surprised and sad that Rev. Marxhausen was forced out of his parish for his compassion to the Klebolds -- it demonstrated a lack of Christian charity on the part of the parishioners IMO.  I don't agree with Judge Babcock's sealing the depositions for 20 years.  If he felt that there was "a legitimate interest in these materials so that similar tragedies may be prevented," holding them in the archives and preventing the truth for coming out for 28 years after the massacre doesn't make sense to me.  Mr. D's divorce was not predictable, but from the way he was affected with PTSD, anxiety, and survivor guilt, shutting his wife out and repressing his feelings at home, I was not surprised that she probably found it impossible to deal with his torment.

I never saw 'Bowling for Columbine,' but if it was instrumental in 'shaming Kmart into discontinuing ammunition sales nationwide,' I'm all for that.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 11:39:15 AM


18.)  Does it seem as if Linda Sanders has recovered from the death of Dave?  Is it irrational to expect that she would have?


It's not irrational to expect she would have recovered from Dave Sanders' death, but I think it's irrational for her not to have sought help earlier on when she was in deep depression for two years and alcoholic.  She seemed to be profoundly depressed to the extent she had to go to a stranger for a hug, and if she keeps getting jittery now, after 10 yrs., she should seek out help.  I wondered why her family didn't step in and try an intervention.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 04:08:24 PM


15.)  Since we now know that school killers are likely to reveal their plans before an attack do you think that if someone revealed the sorts of things Eric did to Chris Morris, Zack and Nate would be caught now?  Or would comments like this still be dismissed?


Depends on how credible the informants are.  I do think it would depend on what information is leaked, did the informants see guns, bombs, video tapes, journals?  Do the informants have an agenda? Also, what are the records of those who are threats: do they have a record with the police? What is their standing in school? Have they been in trouble in the past and how bad.  I don't think valid infomation would be dismissed out of hand these days, too many tragedies have occurred in schools to just ignore revelations of this kind.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 04:24:35 PM


4.)  Dave says that having his wrists shackled pushed Eric over the hump to murder.  Do you think that if this hadn't happened there would have been another trigger in his life?


The author writes that Eric's arrest accelerated his anger.  There was always something that might have set Eric off: being dumped by a girl, mocked by a friend, failure in school, fascination with death and destruction, and the list goes on.  Since he fit the profile of a psychopath, there would have always been another 'trigger,' IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 04:35:48 PM



12.)  What is your opinion of the active shooter protocol?  Do you think it has saved lives?


It makes sense to me, especially the objective: Neutralize the shooters. Stop them or kill them.  The old perimeters didn't work, but the new protocol saved lives at Virginia Tech.  I wondered how many lives would have been saved at Columbine?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 05:18:40 PM

5.)  What do you think Dylan's motivation was for the creative writing project that got the attention of his teacher?  The book indicates that the teacher did all she could regarding this writing project - do you agree?  Do you think the counselor should have picked up on the cues in this paper?


Dylan seemed to be motivated by NBK to write the story -- the character in the story was a blend of Eric and Dylan -- The man did it for vengeance and amusement, and to demonstrate he could.  The author writes that the teacher had done the right thing; she contacted the three people most likely to have other information about Dylan: his guidance counselor and parents.  Since the teacher, herself, considered it "the most vicious story I ever read," I would think the parents or counselor would have been alerted.  How good was the counselor -- did she/he have proper training and experience?  A degree in guidance counseling doesn't necessarily mean the person is good at counseling.  The parents seemed oblivious also.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 14, 2009, 05:29:55 PM


21.)  In the 10 years since Columbine there have been more than 80 school shootings.  What lessons have been learned?  Do you think this type of violence will ever be stopped?


There is no profile for a school shooter, and even the shooters do not always fit FBI guidelines. Except for being predominantly male, the shooter crosses all socioeconomic and ethnic levels.  There is no easy fix, any kid who is disconnected from society can be pigeonholed into a niche that can be easily created to fit a loner, an outcast, or a depressive, etc.  I doubt this type of violence can ever be totally stopped.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 15, 2009, 08:49:20 AM


22.)  What did you learn from the chapter 'Quiet'?  Was this a good place in the book to place the chronology of events from the killer's perspective?


I was surprised to learn that this quiet period was pretty normal for a psychopath...while Dylan ...probably resembled a bipolar experiencing a mixed episode: depressed and manic at once. Their boredom with killing explains why they stopped shooting so soon.

I think it was a good place for the chronology of events, because it gives the reader somewhat of a recap about what happened at the killing site in a sequential fashion. The description of the shooters' during the "32-minute quiet period" wandering around, and finally choosing "one of the few unspoiled areas in the room" to kill themselves together with the detailed account of how they looked afterwards is chilling. [Dylan] looked serene. The red letters on his chest screamed WRATH.   An epitaph that was a fitting end to the chapter.
 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 15, 2009, 05:43:08 PM


21.)  In the 10 years since Columbine there have been more than 80 school shootings.  What lessons have been learned?  Do you think this type of violence will ever be stopped?


There is no profile for a school shooter, and even the shooters do not always fit FBI guidelines. Except for being predominantly male, the shooter crosses all socioeconomic and ethnic levels.  There is no easy fix, any kid who is disconnected from society can be pigeonholed into a niche that can be easily created to fit a loner, an outcast, or a depressive, etc.  I doubt this type of violence can ever be totally stopped.



I would seriously doubt that school killings could ever be completely stopped, but surely something could be done to make it more difficult for unbalanced youngsters, and older people for that matter, having access to firearms.
We do try very hard to do that in the UK.
The system certainly isn't foolproof, no system is, but it must help.
There are still instructions for making homemade explosives on the internet I believe, and I remember a case where a mentally ill man ran into a childrens nursery with a machete and injured people, but getting as many firearms as possible off the streets would at least cut down the odds of further tragedies.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 16, 2009, 05:46:35 AM


21.)  In the 10 years since Columbine there have been more than 80 school shootings.  What lessons have been learned?  Do you think this type of violence will ever be stopped?


There is no profile for a school shooter, and even the shooters do not always fit FBI guidelines. Except for being predominantly male, the shooter crosses all socioeconomic and ethnic levels.  There is no easy fix, any kid who is disconnected from society can be pigeonholed into a niche that can be easily created to fit a loner, an outcast, or a depressive, etc.  I doubt this type of violence can ever be totally stopped.



I would seriously doubt that school killings could ever be completely stopped, but surely something could be done to make it more difficult for unbalanced youngsters, and older people for that matter, having access to firearms.
We do try very hard to do that in the UK.
The system certainly isn't foolproof, no system is, but it must help.
There are still instructions for making homemade explosives on the internet I believe, and I remember a case where a mentally ill man ran into a childrens nursery with a machete and injured people, but getting as many firearms as possible off the streets would at least cut down the odds of further tragedies.

There are schools here in the US that have installed metal detectors, however most of the suburban schools don't have them.  As I posted above, as did you, I doubt school shootings can ever be stopped. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 16, 2009, 10:59:10 AM
And in this country, unfortunately, there are so many people who feel that taking away their guns is like taking away their civil rights.  It's a much thornier political issue to deal with here.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 16, 2009, 05:16:21 PM
Absolutely, Debbie. We do realise that on this side of the Atlantic, but to us to have so many guns freely available and with so much access to them is entirely incomprehensible.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 16, 2009, 06:03:05 PM
Absolutely, Debbie. We do realise that on this side of the Atlantic, but to us to have so many guns freely available and with so much access to them is entirely incomprehensible.

It's not just that you can buy guns at gun shows, but if a person really wants a gun they can get them on the street.  There are always ways and people who're willing to sell them.  I'll bet the same thing can happen in the UK -- there are ways to get them.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 16, 2009, 08:04:36 PM
Absolutely, Debbie. We do realise that on this side of the Atlantic, but to us to have so many guns freely available and with so much access to them is entirely incomprehensible.

A few thoughts on this Jess.  Much like I don't think that bullying had much to do with the violence in this case I also don't really think that access to guns was essential to it.  As Nikki said earlier regarding the bombs and Eric - with a psycho like that I think he would have done whatever necessary to enact his schemes.  If he hadn't had access to guns that he would have tried harder to make sure that his bombs worked.

Much like Ma Anand Sheela used salmonella to poison 750 people in The Dalles in 1984 and Daniel Bondeson used arsenic to poison 15 people (and kill one) at a church in New Sweden Maine it is not necessary to use anything as obvious as a gun to kill.  Eric Robert Rudolphs used bombs at the Olympics, a gay bar and an abortion clinic.  Timothy McVeigh, who gave Eric Harris' inspiration, did not use a gun to kill 168 people.

Likewise in nations that have more sensible gun policy (in my opinion) than the U.S. does people have gotten weapons and killed many - Marc Lepine at the École Polytechnique in Quebec and Thomas Watt Hamilton in Dunblane come to mind.  And there are people in those countries like Fred and Rose West who don't use guns as well.

I grew up with a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 on a gun rack in my home.  And much like the several years of abuse that I put up with on a school bus didn't motivate me to kill anyone the access to weapons didn't either.

I'm no great advocate of access to guns.  But I think it's important to remember that evil and insane people will use whatever they have at their disposal to kill.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 17, 2009, 04:47:03 AM
I don't disagree with you that disturbed people will find a way. Shootings, knifings, fertilizer bombs, if a person is determined to murder then it will probably happen. But, the state can try to make things more difficult for unbalanced teenagers to obtain weapons and in my view it should.
I can remember in my childhood that there were a lot more weapons around in the UK than there are now, a lot left over from the second world war, and also being brought up in a farming family, there were always shotguns around for shooting rabbits, wildfowl, pigeons, etc.
Criminals still seem to be able to get hold of guns here, I think a lot of them come from Eastern Europe.
It is however, a lot more difficult for just an ordinary person who has become unhinged to get a gun and to go and shoot up the office from which he has just been dismissed.
Nothing will stop the determined. I agree with you that nothing would have stopped Eric Harris.
But in my view some deaths could be prevented.

Here are the raw statistics:
http://fleshisgrass.wordpress.com/2007/04/17/us-and-uk-murder-rate-and-weapon/
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 17, 2009, 11:00:04 AM
It is however, a lot more difficult for just an ordinary person who has become unhinged to get a gun and to go and shoot up the office from which he has just been dismissed.
Nothing will stop the determined. I agree with you that nothing would have stopped Eric Harris.
But in my view some deaths could be prevented.

Here are the raw statistics:
http://fleshisgrass.wordpress.com/2007/04/17/us-and-uk-murder-rate-and-weapon/

It would be very interesting for the context of the current discussion to know what the breakdown of weapons in the UK is - to see what the determined use when guns are not easily available.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 17, 2009, 04:06:35 PM
I'm not making any comparison with Eric Harris here, this is totally different.  But in speaking of people who become unhinged and obtain a gun, I'm reminded of Carla June (Anne Marie's mother), who went into a gun shop and killed herself while the owner was making a background check.  Chances are, she was the sort of person, from the right social class and so on, that she wouldn't have had connections to the criminals who might continue to supply guns if they weren't so available legally.  Maybe that was one death that could have been prevented with different gun laws.  Of course, she might have found some other way to commit suicide, too, but the gun made it simple and easy.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 17, 2009, 04:17:47 PM
I'm not making any comparison with Eric Harris here, this is totally different.  But in speaking of people who become unhinged and obtain a gun, I'm reminded of Carla June (Anne Marie's mother), who went into a gun shop and killed herself while the owner was making a background check.  Chances are, she was the sort of person, from the right social class and so on, that she wouldn't have had connections to the criminals who might continue to supply guns if they weren't so available legally.  Maybe that was one death that could have been prevented with different gun laws.  Of course, she might have found some other way to commit suicide, too, but the gun made it simple and easy.

True, Debbie, but one who is intent on suicide will find a way: pills, drowning, jumping out of windows, throwing yourself in front of trains, and the list goes on.  Drugs are just as easy to come by as guns, either on the street, or by doctor shopping as we learned from poor Michael Jackson's story.  Gun laws wouldn't have stopped one as mentally ill as she was.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 17, 2009, 05:20:53 PM
True, Debbie, but one who is intent on suicide will find a way: pills, drowning, jumping out of windows, throwing yourself in front of trains, and the list goes on.  Drugs are just as easy to come by as guns, either on the street, or by doctor shopping as we learned from poor Michael Jackson's story.  Gun laws wouldn't have stopped one as mentally ill as she was.

Exactly right Nikki.  And it is equally apparent that should Dylan have wanted to commit suicide he could have done it long before he obtained a gun.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 17, 2009, 05:49:52 PM
Dave's book has two references to gun control.  The first  [on pg. 301] is a reference to SAFE Colorado's Amendment 22 sought to limit access to guns for minors and criminals.  It passed by 70%.

Dave says 'It was defeated in Congress.  No significant national gun-control legislation was enacted due to Columbine.'  [The national legislation is not discussed in the book, however.]

There is also a note on pg. 382. "In April 2000, a few bills were pending to allow concealed weapons in Colorado.  Those were quickly defeated in the wake of the tragedy."
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 17, 2009, 07:05:42 PM
Of course, she might have found some other way to commit suicide, too, but the gun made it simple and easy.

True, Debbie, but one who is intent on suicide will find a way: pills, drowning, jumping out of windows, throwing yourself in front of trains, and the list goes on.  Drugs are just as easy to come by as guns, either on the street, or by doctor shopping as we learned from poor Michael Jackson's story.  Gun laws wouldn't have stopped one as mentally ill as she was.

Oh, I agree with what you both say, Nikki and Michael.  Her suicide probably would have happened anyway.  But there was just something so shockingly instantaneous (and devious) about the way she did it, pretending to buy a gun and then turning it on herself.  Intellectually, I know what you're saying, but emotionally, it's hard for me to deal with.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 17, 2009, 07:28:14 PM
But there was just something so shockingly instantaneous (and devious) about the way she did it, pretending to buy a gun and then turning it on herself.  Intellectually, I know what you're saying, but emotionally, it's hard for me to deal with.

Oddly enough there seemed to be a dark logic to her act.  To me it almost seemed as if she had brought her daughter far enough along and could do the awful thing she had planned for some time.

Not a pleasant thought, I'll admit, but I did have it when I read about her death.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 17, 2009, 07:34:27 PM

Oh, I agree with what you both say, Nikki and Michael.  Her suicide probably would have happened anyway.  But there was just something so shockingly instantaneous (and devious) about the way she did it, pretending to buy a gun and then turning it on herself.  Intellectually, I know what you're saying, but emotionally, it's hard for me to deal with.


Well, I was surprised that she had been battling clinical depression for 3 yrs.  According to the author, she had been suicidal in the past; on medication; had gone missing once.  It seems inevitable that this would happen even though "the Columbine tragedy was not the underlying cause."   I don't think she was being devious, but rather she was so determined to kill herself that she took the first opportunity while the clerk was occupied. I felt sorry for her husband, especially her daughter, and the fact that they had to reveal the background of her mental illness. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 18, 2009, 05:02:16 AM
Ah..............mental illness........... like being gay.............probably something we are born with a tendency to, but that we view with a sense of personal shame as if it is our fault. Another huge iceberg of ignorance, misunderstanding and suffering.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 18, 2009, 10:02:05 AM
Ah..............mental illness........... like being gay.............probably something we are born with a tendency to, but that we view with a sense of personal shame as if it is our fault. Another huge iceberg of ignorance, misunderstanding and suffering.

I don't think there's a comparison between mental illness and being gay. I do feel that personal health problems  (mental or physical) are profoundly personal no matter what they are. Sort of like confidentiality between doctor/patient; priest/penitent; lawyer/client, ya know.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 18, 2009, 11:01:18 AM
Of course the fact of being gay, and the fact of being affected by a mental illness are not the same, being gay is not a mental illness or a physical illness, or anything of that kind, what is similar is society's reaction to the two states of being.
A gay person is, most probably, born that way, and it is part of the normal spectrum of behaviour in practically all living things, it is not an illness.
Many people find others being gay offensive, stereotype such people, sneer at them pillory them and demand that they change, which they can't.
The stereotype of the gay person is of a promiscuous person who is set on preying on innocent children, and individuals in a attempt to "make them queer."

A person, like myself, is born with a tendency to depression, there is a lot of it in the family, society thinks that people such as myself are weak, feeble, disorganised in our thinking, and responsible for our conditions, they demand we change, "pull our socks up," "snap out of it."
That we change, become "normal," which we can't.
The stereotype of the person with mental health difficulties is that they are the "mad axe man, with staring eyes, coming to bludgeon you to death."

Both of these situations in life, dissimilar though they are are are condemned by society, whilst being so regularly apparent that they are commonplace.
This is the way I see them as being similar, not that I was equating homosexuality with an illness. An illness can make you feel terrible, there is nothing about being gay that should do that to you, but societal attitudes, may attempt it, unless they are shown to be wrong and misguided.

All difference in nature has to be accepted and understood if we are to create a better society, but of course really dangerous individuals like Eric Harris have to be prevented from harming others. It is not helpful when society insists that all mental disability and difference is the same, and is the fault of the person so affected.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 18, 2009, 11:40:49 AM
A person, like myself, is born with a tendency to depression, there is a lot of it in the family, society thinks that people such as myself are weak, feeble, disorganised in our thinking, and responsible for our conditions, they demand we change, "pull our socks up," "snap out of it."
That we change, become "normal," which we can't.
The stereotype of the person with mental health difficulties is that they are the "mad axe man, with staring eyes, coming to bludgeon you to death."

Both of these situations in life, dissimilar though they are are are condemned by society, whilst being so regularly apparent that they are commonplace.
This is the way I see them as being similar, not that I was equating homosexuality with an illness. An illness can make you feel terrible, there is nothing about being gay that should do that to you, but societal attitudes, may attempt it, unless they are shown to be wrong and misguided.

All difference in nature has to be accepted and understood if we are to create a better society, but of course really dangerous individuals like Eric Harris have to be prevented from harming others. It is not helpful when society insists that all mental disability and difference is the same, and is the fault of the person so affected.

All of this brings me back to Dylan - the person in the book with a depressive mental illness who didn't bludgeon anyone to death but did kill several people.  Within the context of the book what I would wonder is at what points you feel Dylan could have been 'saved?'  I would also wonder if you felt that Dylan's parents (who seemed very attentive, concerned and all in all good parents to me) missed any cues that could have lead them to finding out about their child's illness?

An over-arching question for me (and I suppose it does in a way reflect on gayness and my own personal experience as my mother found out about my being gay when I was 14) is this:  how much intrusion into the lives of children do you believe is allowed/appropriate to find out about their problems and/or issues?  For Dylan it probably would have required his parents finding and reading his journals.  Is the ever okay?  I would particularly be interested in hearing from parents about experiences they had while raising their children.  And, I would add, this doesn't necessarily have to relate to something like mental illness or homosexuality - merely being concerned about when a child has become sexually active (or potential drug use) is the kind of thing that I would imagine troubles parents and makes them wonder about how much intrusion into their child's life is too much.

And, of course, it would be really helpful to relate as much of this as possible back to the book.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 18, 2009, 04:54:16 PM
As far as Dylan and mental illness/depression goes, there's a good chance he could have been helped by being on medication to treat depression.  Eric was the one taking psychiatric medication (Luvox), but that medication is in the antidepressant category and is specifically used to treat social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Maybe some of Eric's symptoms looked like OCD, but the medication would not have gotten at his underlying psychopathy.  Dylan's condition was a much more treatable disorder, with medications that can often be effective.

The key would have been for someone who was looking into his misbehavior -- parents, counselors, diversion social workers -- to recognize that he had a probable medical condition (clinical depression is a medical condition).  I can't address the question of how much snooping the parents should have done; I'll leave that to a parent to address.  But a couple of points come to mind.  First, I'm not sure, even had the Klebolds seen Dylan's journals, whether they would have connected the "crazy" writing to depression, and taken him to a psychiatrist.  Second, I think depressed kids sometimes attempt to communicate their depression to parents, at least by sending nonverbal signals (apathy about school work might be one way), and the parents miss those signals because they just don't believe that anything is seriously wrong with their child.

I do have some personal experience with some of this, because I have been taking medication for a condition related to depression for over a decade, with happy results.  I am fine now.  Depression runs on one side of our family, too, and my first "episode" was when I was in ninth grade, younger than Dylan was in the book.  My mother knew something was wrong and was very concerned, but neither she nor the family doctor ever thought of depression.  It was completely misdiagnosed as another type of glandular disorder, and I was given some harmful medication which caused lots of unpleasant side-effects, until an endocrinologist determined that I didn't have that glandular disorder.  But nobody ever picked up on the reason why I had lost interest in normal life in the first place.  So I know it's not easy to read kids' minds, unless they come out and specifically say they are feeling bad.  And then I think the tendency is often as Jess said, to say, "snap out of it," etc.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on July 18, 2009, 05:07:08 PM
I don't know when Dylan could have been "saved." I suppose it would come down to him and one of his parents having a good enough relationship for him to have confided in them just how suicidal he felt. It could equally well have been a teacher who noticed the way his thought processes were going and was able to have broken down his wall of resistance to talking about just how bad he was feeling.
Neither of these things really happened.
Perhaps also, some of the staff involved after the van robbery might have intervened.
Dylan seems a somewhat atypical depressive, in that despite feeling so full of fear, anger and anxiety he is able to function, to attend school, to interact with friends etc. More typical would be someone racked by severe panic attacks, paranoia, or too depressed to even get out of bed. Despite his suicidal tendencies he is able to hide what is really going on quite well.
Even if someone had picked  up his symptoms, what treatment would have worked?
The lucky ones amongst us respond well to drug treatments and are able to manage our condition with a mixture of such treatments together with psychological strategies, would medication have helped Dylan?
We don't know.
Treatment is still very much a case of trial and error until a regime is found that is effective.

I do hope your mother was nice to you, Michael, when she found out you were gay, or did she always secretly suspect anyway? The idea that children are not sexual beings, at least to a degree, strikes me as wrong, if only because I can remember having sexual feelings as a quite young child. So discovering a child is sexually active has really to be taken in ones stride.
I can certainly remember finding contraceptive pills in my daughters room when she was about 14. I was glad she was being sensible, and I don't remember giving her a particularly hard time about it, even though she was under age and so was her boyfriend. Obviously the prescribing doctor was satisfied with her reasoning too.
I wasn't looking when I found them, but rather giving her room a thorough clean. She was so messy it certainly needed it!
I don't think I would have read a diary, or journal, though.
If a child had their own public web site I would certainly read it now, although at the time of the Columbine shootings it would probably have been a fairly unusual parent who would have had the knowledge of IT to do it.
All this is a nightmare for parents, where do you draw the line?
Is there a right or wrong answer?
I do know one thing, and that is that I did the best I could, and probably on occasions got things spectacularly wrong.
Being a parent to teenagers is very difficult and fraught with problems whichever way you tackle it.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 18, 2009, 05:32:05 PM
Here are the questions for the fifth section of 'Columbine.'  As always, please feel free to contribute questions of your own!

Michael, I finished the rereading for Part 5, but will be away all day tomorrow.  I'd still like to go through your questions in order, and see what the other people have written, and if I can add something to some of them, I'll do that on Monday, if that's okay.  (But I leave for Alberta at the end of the week so can't really spend more than one day on them.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 19, 2009, 09:36:09 AM
I have a question for you Dave [and I would encourage other participants to post questions about the book to Dave as he's here and we're in our last few weeks]:

What was the effect on spending all of this time with this topic on you?  Did your opinions on various people in the event change over time?  Did your opinion about Eric and Dylan evolve over time?  Were there periods that you just wanted to get away from both of them?

The hard part emotionally was covering the survivors, not the killers. (Though Dylan got to me eventually, it was the survivors that weighed on me for years.) In that "Vacant" chapter set the morning after the attack, nearly all of those scenes were from my direct observation out there in Clement Park. The vacant stares on those kids really shook me up that morning, and I feared for years what would become of them. I spent days and days with the kids early on, and absorbed a lot of what they were feeling. All my later responses brought those back.

So the killers were a breeze in comparison, particularly Eric. He was like studying a disease under a microscope. He didn't really affect me emotionally.

I had two bouts with PTSD writing the book. I wrote an essay about the second one here:

http://www.borders.com/online/store/ArticleView_cullen?cmpid=SL_20090407_NR

My opinion of Dylan changed greatly over time. I knew after the first year that he was depressive, but I really didn't grasp fully what that meant, or certainly his particular situation. Reading his journal about seven years after the attack was a complete shock to me.

My opinion of Eric changed a lot in the first year, because initially I had no idea he was a psychopath, or even what that meant. Once I got that, he never really changed for me. He's a pretty classic case, and turned out not to have a whole lot of unexpected nuance. Dylan was incredibly nuanced.

The other people didn't really change much once I got to know them. I met them at different times, and learned more about them as I went, but I don't recall any big shifts.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 19, 2009, 09:49:12 AM
Dave - Michael's question is also one which interests me, I have often wondered how people keep their own focus and balance when dealing with the same topic over such a long timespan. I think my own viewpoint would keep shifting, unless i had a fixed 'story' in my mind. So how did you keep perspective?


Well I think it was good for my views to develop and evolve over time, which they did. Time was a great thing. It gave me perspective. I ran into Frank DeAngelis just yesterday and Lucinda Roy's book on V Tech came up. It was published two years after V Tech, meaning she probably had to write most or all of it within the first year. I told him I struggled reviewing it for the W Post, because I liked some things in it a lot, but overall, I didn't like it at all.

He said, Well, imagine either of us trying to get Columbine down a year after it. We both have come so far in that time, it's almost humorous to look at how clueless we were about it then--particularly about the aftermath, the grief, the survivors. We could only guess at how it would play out--even for ourselves. What we needed was time for that to happen, and then more time to get perspective on that.

Luckily, I wrote most of the survivors' story chronologically, so I did the most recent stuff last, which gave me a few more years distance before I started it. That helped. (I wrote the killers' stories separately, too. I took nine months away from the survivors and did all Eric for five months, and then all Dylan for about four.)

I helped to have breaks from each. Spending almost a year on the killers gave me some perspective when I went back to the survivors.

Finally, I turned the whole manuscript in on Jan 15, 2007. It was 800 pages. I had a lot of rewriting to do, and told my agent I was wavering between plunging right back in or taking a little break while she and my editor read it. She begged me to take a break. The further I got away from it for a little while, the better, she said. That helped.

Then she (Betsy) and edited the whole thing twice between Feb and May. (Actually we did the first half once, started over and did it again, and then did two passes through the second half.) We cut 200 pages. Then we left Dutton and Jonathan Karp bought it for Twelve and we started over editing with him. He did one pass, I made changes and we did another pass where his assistant made comments, and then Jon commented on those comments in another color pen. (All this is done on paper.) We cut another 200 pages in those rounds. Then we started the copy-editing phase, which was huge, and I kept making changes  and doing rewrites all the way to Halloween.

So I don't know if I answered your question, but I think the evolution of my feelings was a good thing. For the most part, I knew the gist of what I wanted to accomplish from about 2004, when I reconceived the book, but I had so much to figure out. That's what the next five years was for.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 19, 2009, 10:15:14 AM


Dave, My qustion is a bit similar to those above.   I've been wondering whether you were able to shake the depression (if you had any) while writing 'Columbine.'  Did you feel the need to get out and about to 'clear your head' after the darkness of the novel?


Question 2:  How were the reviews and comments of the Littleton community -- did you encounter anyone who resented your novel, and why?  Did they feel you were being an intrusive part of the press?

The Borders essay I wrote and linked to above will give you a good idea about my trouble with depression. As for shaking it, it came in the middle of the last Harry Potter movie, so it was two years ago this month. (I think they released the films on the same weekend in July, so it was excactly two years ago.)

I went to the new Harry movie Friday night, and just before I went, I wrote a blog entry about how the depression lifted in about one hour into it. I went from highly depressed to exuberant in about ten seconds. (I mention which scene in the post, which is here):

http://opensalon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2009/07/17/harry_potter_is_special_for_me_because

That was my last experience with depression of any significance. Thank God.

I would say that while I worked on the book, the biggest thing I did to keep the darkness away was dancing. I used to go nearly every Friday or Saturday night, but we don't have any good Friday night gay danceclubs in Denver anymore, so it's pretty much Saturday night. I went onto six day workweeks about four years ago when the first deadline loomed, and never really went off, so that's my night off, and then Sunday is off. (Though I still end up getting online to respond to reader mail, do online chats, etc. most Sundays. But I don't feel I HAVE to do anything Sunday if I don't want. It's a guilt-free day.)

But yeah, dancing is my great joy, and takes ita ll away. I'm very much in the present there, and really don't worry about any of the great weights looming over me.

Going to the gym really helps, in kind of a similar, milder way. The last three years (right after a family reunion in July 2006, I think) I made it a priority, and I feel so much healthier, so much better. I go 4-5 nights a week and it really clears my head, clears all the emotion out of my body. When you're lying there on the bench with a couple hundred pounds you have to force up several times, it takes tremendous concentration, and all the blood flows there, and everything else gets squeezed out. I really feel my body invigorated, and it's like fresh blood rushing through my brain clearing all that muck out, like the spring snowmelt rushing through a canyon with the water level 12 feet higher, and the water churning through at a furious pace. When the water level drops again, everything has been cleansed.

---

After I finished the book I felt a great weight lift. That was gradual. I sent the final corrected page proofs around Halloween, and around December, I noticed that I was only having crying fits a couple times a month. I knew that was way down, because several months earlier, my shrink had asked how often they came and I'd said about three to four times a week. (She winced at that, which surprised me--she usually covered her reactions--and I said, "Is that a lot?" She sighed and said, "Yeah, that's a lot." I thought back and realized I'd never cried frequently, until the last ten years, but it had been going on so long I'd just gotten used to it and forgotten it was a lot.)

It was really lifting by December though. Not an immediate feeling of the weight lifting one days, but gradual, so I didn't notice as it happened, only noticed afterward.

But since I mailed the stuff off, I went into book-promotion mode--and also taking care of some loose ends on the book--and I've been nearly full-time at it ever since. I'm just now getting to a point where  I can start on a few other things one day a week. So I'm not really onto anything new yet, but the promotion part is completely different, like a whole different occupation.


----

Nearly all the response from the local community has been positive--and very strongly so. For the most part, they were really grateful to have the whole story together in one place, and to have their story told with . . . (I hope it's OK to say this, but they have said with empathy and caring about them). That was a big relief. What they also said, and this part took me by surprise a bit, was that they were really grateful to finally get Eric and Dylan's story. Most were completely surprised by what they learned about the killers, and glad to finally understand what happened after ten years. (And many were angry and/or frustrated that it took ten years for them to get it.)

The main dissenter has been Randy Brown, who seems to have two big problems. 1) He feels the main reason for Columbine was bullying, 2) He says that describing Eric as a psychopath is just calling him crazy, and that let's him off the hook. (I feel the latter is a clear misunderstanding of what psychopathy is--not crazy--and that regardless, we have to try to figure out what Eric was about and say it, regardless of whether we like what we find.)

---

Early on, most people out in Jeffco came to resent anyone from the media showing up, including me. But actually, at many different points, they also wanted to get the word out on things and sometimes came to us, and/or were eager to comment on developments that came up.

Over the years, though, you develop sources, and most of the people I dealt with came to know and trust me, so it wasn't a big issue for me personally much of the time.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 10:02:37 AM
Thanks for your responses, Dave.  It's great to be able to get your personal perspective on Columbine and on your writing experience.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 10:04:32 AM
I'm going to try answering a few of the remaining questions today.


1.)  Regarding plans for the attack Dylan's notebook showed 'virtually no effort.'  Do you think this is because of his overall depressive mental state and is related to other manifestations of it (e.g. flunking phys ed) or something else?

Dylan’s lack of effort on the attack planning could be a sign that he wasn’t truly committed to the plan; however, after a certain point, Dylan seemed to very enthusiastic about it (as in his excited performance in the Basement Tapes).  I think Dylan was said to be manic-depressive (bipolar), not just depressive.  He seemed to me to be in a manic phase when he was getting so high and excited on the Basement Tapes.  His poor performance in school seems to reflect his depressed state and suicidal thoughts (why bother with school if he didn’t think he was going to have a future?).   

It’s important to remember that the signs of depression include disorganized thinking, lack of concentration, and inability to follow through on projects, and IMO this could account for his lack of effort on the attack planning, regardless of his level of commitment to those plans.  So I think there were two things at work:  one, in the beginning, he wasn’t as commited as Eric to those plans; and two, even if he had been committed, he wasn’t in the right state of mind to follow through with attention to details.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 10:29:33 AM
5.)  What do you think Dylan's motivation was for the creative writing project that got the attention of his teacher?  The book indicates that the teacher did all she could regarding this writing project - do you agree?  Do you think the counselor should have picked up on the cues in this paper?

 
Dylan seemed to be motivated by NBK to write the story -- the character in the story was a blend of Eric and Dylan -- The man did it for vengeance and amusement, and to demonstrate he could.  The author writes that the teacher had done the right thing; she contacted the three people most likely to have other information about Dylan: his guidance counselor and parents.  Since the teacher, herself, considered it "the most vicious story I ever read," I would think the parents or counselor would have been alerted.  How good was the counselor -- did she/he have proper training and experience?  A degree in guidance counseling doesn't necessarily mean the person is good at counseling.  The parents seemed oblivious also.

This story was definitely sending out warning signs, especially since it came from Dylan, not Eric (Dylan, who had talked so much about love in his journal and adorned it with hearts).  I think the teacher did the right thing by talking to the guidance counselor and to the Klebolds.  She actually showed it to the counselor and let him read it, so that was the farthest she could have pursued it with him.  The counselor, in turn, did discuss the story with Dylan, but I don’t think he had enough training to  take the possible warning signs in the story seriously enough.

With the Klebolds, it sounds like the teacher only discussed it on the phone with them:  would they have been more alarmed if she had given it to them to read personally?  One other thing the teacher might have done would have been to show the story to Mr. D.  He also seemed to have a hard time accepting that all was not perfect with his students, but there’s a chance that he might have been concerned enough to bring in an outside psychologist to look at it.  However, I think there’s a much greater chance that outside opinions would be called in the post-Columbine era, than they would have then.

I wondered briefly whether law enforcement should have been called in, but I don’t think there was sufficient evidence for that; to them, it also would have been “just a story.” 

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 10:47:55 AM
7.)  Do you think Brian Rohrbough's opinions regarding the school were justified?  Were his feelings part of his healing process - that is, did he need to place the blame somewhere?

Brian felt he had been betrayed, and that the school and Jeffco officials had lied to the parents.  He was angry and emotionally devastated by Danny's death.  His judgments were harsh and bitter, and he needed someone to blame even though it didn't seem to help in the healing process for him particularly.

Nikki says it well.  I just want to add that Brian Rohrbough is one of the people in this book who gets on my nerves the most.  I understand his anger and devastation regarding Danny’s death, and I understand how he felt the parents had been lied to (because they had).  But neither the shooting not the police activity that day nor the Jeffco coverup were the school’s fault.  From the time that Brian went out and hacked the killers’ crosses to pieces, he seemed like a “loose cannon” to me.

What Brian desperately needed was some therapy, someone to talk all his feelings out with.  This might have been difficult for a man with his “macho” background in an auto shop to recognize, but I think it would have helped him.  His continual blaming of others was his way of trying to deal with his loss, but I don’t think it helped him to heal.  He probably would have been better off doing what others eventually learned to do:  forgiving.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 20, 2009, 10:52:08 AM


To Dave Cullen:

First, I want to apologize for using the word "novel" when referring to your book in my posted questions.  I think I was brain-dead at the time.

Second and most important, I want to thank you for your lengthy, thoughtful, and informative answer to my questions. It must be hard to relive all of this; I felt guilty after reading your post, it was so personal in many ways.


Your poignant Borders essay about your second bout with PTSD was so touching it could have been an appendix to the book.  I wanted to copy it for one of my daughters who plans to read 'Columbine,' but my stupid printer is on the blink.  How great that you found joy in the Harry Potter film -- you did need a light moment -- and that your depression lifted.  I love Harry, read all the books, and saw the latest film last week. A trip to Hogwarts can take you out of yourself!  So dancing lifted some of the darkness for you?  I think it's wonderful that doing something you love kept the darkness a bay.

I'm so glad the response from the local community has been positive.  It vindicates the sincere effort you put into something that will become a cautionary classic of a horrible tragedy.  I guess you can never change Randy Brown's opinion. He has to come around in his own time, and maybe he'll realize one can't just write off Eric as crazy, or that bullying was the main reason for 'Columbine.'  Did he read your book?  If not, maybe it would help him to understand psychopathy, and maybe not.

Again, thank you, Dave, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.  I appreciate it more than I can say, and wish you luck in all your endeavors.

Nikki
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 10:56:37 AM
9.)  In 'Ready To Be Done' Dave begins wrapping up the aftereffects of the killings.  What events (e.g., the sealing of the parents depositions, Michael Moore's conclusions, Mr. D's divorce) were predictable and which came as a surprise to you?

I agree with everything Nikki said about this earlier, but want to echo that one of the one of the worst examples of post-Columbine behavior was that Rev. Marxhausen was forced out of his parish.  I do understand why his parishioners hated the Klebolds at that moment; still, it was his duty to minister to them in their hour of need, and he should not have faced these sorts of repercussions.

I also found it surprising that Judge Babcock sealed the depositions for 20 years, and don’t agree with that.  The material in there that is relevant to preventing future tragedies should be made available right now.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 11:19:59 AM
10.) Why do you think the vast majority of school shooters are male?

This is really a guess based on other cultural trends I’ve observed, and some sociological studies I’ve read.

For one thing, I’m reminded of (not terribly recent) studies of suicide which showed that male suicides were far more likely to use a gun than were female suicides.  Females were more likely to use something we would perceive as “non-violent,” such as overdosing on pills.  This may be changing, since more women today carry weapons for self-protection than in the past.  (And of course, Anne Marie’s mother used a gun to kill herself.)  But traditionally, men have owned guns, enjoyed collecting guns and going to gun shows, and enjoyed shoot ‘em up movies and entertainment more than women. 

So I’m guessing that when a male student feels sufficiently angry or traumatized to want to act out his feelings, it would be more in keeping with his cultural upbringing to find a gun and attempt a violent attack on others.  Female students would be more likely to turn their anger against themselves and engage in behavior which shows low self-esteem, such as sexual promiscuity or even prostitution.   

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 11:37:16 AM
11.)  Do you think the revised list of FBI guidelines and warning signs regarding school attacks are specific enough?  Given the list of warning signs are more likely to describe a child who is depressed what should be done if a child manifests several of these warning signs?

The book says that the list of warning signs was “specific,” and included symptoms of both psychopathy and depression.  We are only given a small excerpt of the warning signs, so I would imagine that it is “specific enough” or “inclusive enough.”  The problem would be training someone at each school to serve as an expert in recognizing the signs.  Also, I recognize a few of the symptoms as coming from the Paychopathy Checklist (superiority, narcissism) so it would be helpful to qualify the symptoms as to whether they are more likely to indicate a psychopath or a depressive. 

This would aid in identifying which students would be candidates for therapy aimed at treating depression.  Depressives are not normally threats to others and are not normally the people who would be planning an attack, so therapy would be the first option.  For a psychopath, given the lack of readily available treatment, and given their greater likelihood to be planning either an attack or some sort of rip-off of others, caution and watchfulness would be the best options until there was solid evidence which could warrant getting law enforcement involved.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 20, 2009, 11:44:09 AM

16.)  What do you feel that the basement tapes add to our understanding of the mental state of Eric and Dylan and their motivations?


Agent Fuselier's conclusion that while the journals explained motive, the tapes conveyed personality, he understood that the tapes had been "shot for an audience."   Dylan was louder and brasher, Eric was the one behind the camera; Dylan the actor, Eric the director.  Fuselier noticed that Dylan gave himself away with his eyes,  shouting like a madman, but always looking to Eric for approval. The tapes were performance theater for whomever found them after the massacre. They documented the shooters' legacy in a way that left no doubt as to who was the dominant one and who was the follower.  They revealed the killers' characters in a more realistic way than the journals or any writings could do
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 02:22:02 PM
13.)  In 'The Basement Tapes' Dave says that Dylan and Eric spoke with one voice: Eric's.  What do you think this means?  Did Dylan allow his personality to be subsumed into Eric's?  Given Dylan's depression and lack of self esteem does it seem as if he would want to identify with a strong personality like Eric's?

The book says that Eric introduced most of the ideas; Dylan riffed along.  Even though Dylan was in a very animated mood here (and possibly in a manic phase of his manic-depression), he was still being controlled by Eric and carrying out Eric’s agenda.  I believe the notion of Dylan and Eric speaking with one voice (Eric's) means that Dylan's very words were an expression of Eric’s agenda and the words that Eric would typically have chosen (such as “It’s humans I hate.”).  Dylan appeared as though he had “lost” his own personality and was just Eric’s tool.  Especially considering his own lack of self esteem, Dylan seemed to look up to and admire Eric as the stronger and more confident leader.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 02:48:23 PM
14.)  No one Eric or Dylan named on the tapes was killed.  Does that call the contents of the tape into question - i.e., is it just the ravings of two crazed juveniles?  What is your opinion of the messages they left their parents?

There is some disconnect between the contents of the Basement Tapes and the carefully formulated plans to blow up the school with bombs.  The tapes gave the two boys a chance to leave a film legacy of themselves on camera, to be played back after their death.  They apparently wanted to leave a very dramatic and emotionally wrought “good-bye.”  These tapes weren’t just “ravings of two crazed juveniles” – they were planning a battle, and carried that threat out.  

For “talk show” subject matter, they seemed to drag out a list of everyone who had annoyed them or who they had disliked over the years, and they threw in some random threats to shoot several of these people, “in the jaw,” “in the balls,” etc.  I don’t take these specific threats seriously, because they were planning a mass bombing which would kill people at random, followed by a mass random shooting of everyone fleeing the school.  Even when these bombs failed, what really happened was that Eric and Dylan wandered through the school firing more or less at random (although not consistently:  they skipped a number of people they could have shot).  What I do take seriously is the threat of a battle to come.

I agree with the book and with Dr. Fuselier that Eric’s apologies to his parents were “worthless” and an example of classic psychopathic manipulation.   When he said, “I wish they were out of town so I didn’t have to look at them and bond more,” I laughed, and wondered how much “bonding” he had ever done in the first place.  He must have just learned that that’s an emotionally powerful thing to saw, so he said it, but without feeling.  Dylan’s ridicule of the guilt his parents would feel surprised me a little; I expected that he might have felt a little more genuine sorrow at having to leave them and end his life that way.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 03:19:14 PM
17.)  Did David Brooks interview with the Klebolds reveal things that you weren't expecting in 'Two Hurdles'?  Is it odd that the parents would blame the analysts for the case for not interviewing them when they refused to be interviewed?

I wasn’t surprised that Sue Klebold would have felt offended when she was offered forgiveness by someone; I understood how she and Tom felt that they had not caused their son Dylan to commit murder.  It struck me as a little odd that they still thought of Dylan as having committed suicide, moreso than that he committed murder, although I can see that for them, the loss of their son to suicide was the most life-changing experience. 

What impressed me was when Tom Klebold admitted that he was “a quantitative person”:  a scientist and a businessman.  “We’re not qualified to sort this out.”  That statement went a long way toward explaining how they might have missed the clues about Dylan’s emotional and mental state.  Perhaps it explains their lack of a stronger response when the creative writing teacher called them about the disturbing story Dylan had written.  The Klebolds weren’t psychologists; maybe they shouldn’t have been expected to recognize the danger signs in that story.

The Klebolds seemed like genuine, caring people when they admitted that now they understood how much agony Dylan had been in.  “We didn’t realize it until after the end.”  Again, I felt sorry for them here. 

As for the Klebolds blaming the analysts for not interviewing them, they weren’t happy with what they had read of Dr. Fuselier’s conclusions about their son, and I can understand that.  But I also understand that their refusal to be interviewed stemmed from concern about being held legally or financially responsible for what had happened during the shooting.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 03:33:02 PM
19.)  What do the discoveries regarding the Jeffco cover up lead you to believe regarding the investigation?  Should Jeffco officials have turned their investigation over to another agency (such as the FBI) early on?  Do you feel that justice was done with regards to the cover up?

I tend to think that Sheriff John Stone (since replaced by a new sherriff, Ted Mink) was incapable of performing the duties of his office, at least with regard to a huge case like the Columbine massacre.  I think the initial failure to follow up on the investigation of Eric’s web site in 1997 was an accidental “falling through the cracks,” but that there was an intentional cover up of that failure.  The new sheriff recognized the seriousness of the failure, and recognized the likelihood of a cover up.  That former sheriff Stone would claim this investigation was politically motivated is a signal to me that he wanted to downplay the significance of the evidence and the cover up, and continue to “cover his ass” regarding past behavior in office.  I do agree that, given the scope of the case and Jeffco’s limited experience and manpower, Jeffco officials should have turned their original investigation over to another agency early on.

I doubt that justice was ever completely done regarding the cover up, due to the likelihood of shredding (which can’t be proven) and the permanent loss of some of the information in the Mike Guerra’s file about his pre-massacre investigation of Eric’s web site.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 03:57:05 PM
 
22.)  What did you learn from the chapter 'Quiet'?  Was this a good place in the book to place the chronology of events from the killer's perspective?

I was surprised to learn that this quiet period was pretty normal for a psychopath...while Dylan ...probably resembled a bipolar experiencing a mixed episode: depressed and manic at once. Their boredom with killing explains why they stopped shooting so soon.

I think it was a good place for the chronology of events, because it gives the reader somewhat of a recap about what happened at the killing site in a sequential fashion. The description of the shooters' during the "32-minute quiet period" wandering around, and finally choosing "one of the few unspoiled areas in the room" to kill themselves together with the detailed account of how they looked afterwards is chilling. [Dylan] looked serene. The red letters on his chest screamed WRATH.   An epitaph that was a fitting end to the chapter.

I did think this chapter worked effectively to tie together the various killing sites from the standpoint of the killers.  Previously we had seen various sites from the standpoint of various victims, and when the killers appeared, it was like, “Oh, here they come again,” the overall chronology hadn’t been as clear.  I liked the clarification of this “Quiet” chapter.

Michael, early in our discussion, you asked about points in our reading where we had to put the book down for a “time out” because the reading got too difficult emotionally.  I said I had one of those moments much later in the book, and would mention it when we got there.  Well, this is where it happened, starting at the top of Page 352, when Eric and Dylan returned to the library where they had earlier killed ten people.  Now they entered the room and found the ten corpses:

…Human decay begins rapidly.…Blood is rich in iron, so large volumes emit a strong metallic smell…the spatters were black and crusty.  Stay globs of brain matter would soon be solid as concrete.  They would soon be scraped off with putty knives and the stubborn chunks melted down with steam-injection machines.

I suppose this isn’t any worse than the details on a crime scene investigation show, but suddenly, it puts into very graphic terms here that we’re not just talking about people, victims, and a sanitized “loss of life”:  this is death.  The description on Page 353 of Eric’s actual suicide, followed by Dylan’s, wasn’t much easier to read, as Dylan’s brain matter spewed across Eric’s knee and Blood drained from their skulls and oxidized like blackened halos.  Very effective writing, but the most sickening two pages of the book, for me.

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on July 20, 2009, 04:30:20 PM
23.)  In 'At The Broken Places' Patrick Ireland says "The shootings were an event that occurred.  But it did not define me as a person.  It did not set the tone for the rest of my life."  How do the vignettes about the school, the memorial and the survivors confirm or dispute this statement?

Patrick Ireland “broke,” so to speak, but he went on to be strong at his broken places, both physically and emotionally.  Physically, he overcome his handicaps: walking, talking, dancing, achieving scholastically, finally waterskiing again.  Emotionally, he did not allow for any bitterness about the things he’d lost, like an architectural career, and he found a new girlfriend and got married.

The school was broken by the shootings, but eventually was rebuilt physically.  A new generation of high school students arrived who had been in grade school when it happened.  They remember the tragedy, but it is not setting the tone for their years in high school; they no longer use the word Columbine as the name of a massacre.

We can’t tell much about the Harrises and the Klebolds, who were definitely broken by the death of their sons and by the community’s finger-pointing at them.  But it seems that, since they remain in seclusion, they are letting the shootings set the tone for much of the rest of their lives. 

Mr. D went through a divorce largely influenced by PTSD stemming from the shootings, so he was badly broken.  He seems better, and he is now engaged to an old girlfriend, so he is recovering at his broken places.  However, he will probably always be defined by the shootings, in the public’s eye, for as long as remains on the job as principal of Columbine High.

Linda Sanders really let the shootings, and the loss of her husband, define her as a person for years.  Fortunately, she has pulled out of her depression, so perhaps her broken places have begun to heal as well.

Brad and Misty Bernall, although happy in New Mexico, still are still known as the parents of the so-called martyr Cassie, as described in the book ‘She Said Yes.’  Even though they are proud of Cassie and may not want to move on, they continue to seem defined by that event.

Brian Rohrbough, to me, is the saddest example in the book of a man who has let the Columbine shooting and the loss of his son set the tone (a very bitter tone) for the rest of his life.  I’m glad that he has remarried and adopted children; perhaps eventually, this will help to take away some of his bitterness.  But his political involvement, and his angry inscription in the Columbine memorial, indicate that he has been turned into a man who is seeking out rebellious causes as a result of the shooting. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 23, 2009, 05:03:47 PM



Looks like things are winding down, since we've passed the last week of the last section. 

This book has so impressed me more than I  thought it would.  I learned so much about 'Columbine,' the students, parents, and faculty.  I learned more about psychopathy and what a psychopath is.  In a way, it makes one shudder to think that there are more Eric Harris's who walk among us.  As for Dylan, I believe there was something there that could have been redeemed had someone discovered his deepseated problems early on.    However, he still had to bear responsibility for his part in the massacre and, at some point, he had passed the point of redemption. 

After reading 'Columbine,' I appreciate even more the monumental task Dave Cullen signed on for when he started it.  As we learned from his answers to our questions, the book took its toll on him psychologically as well as journalistically, and he deserves our great respect and admiration. 





Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 23, 2009, 05:46:47 PM
There is a news story which Nikki posted here which I think has some similarities to the actions of the sheriff in the Columbine case:

http://www.davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=36907.msg1633614#msg1633614
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 23, 2009, 05:56:53 PM
There is a news story which Nikki posted here which I think has some similarities to the actions of the sheriff in the Columbine case:

http://www.davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=36907.msg1633614#msg1633614

Michael, I thought about Columbine when I read that story in today's Phila Inquirer. Another coverup, looks like.  There will be reprecussions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 23, 2009, 06:00:27 PM
Michael, I thought about Columbine when I read that story in today's Phila Inquirer. Another coverup, looks like.  There will be reprecussions.

I certainly hope so.  If I were a parent in this case I'd certainly consider taking legal action - at least against the person in the counseling, if not against the University in general.

The central question for me is who knew about this and approved it?  And how far up did the approval go?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 24, 2009, 11:01:44 AM
Michael, I thought about Columbine when I read that story in today's Phila Inquirer. Another coverup, looks like.  There will be reprecussions.

I certainly hope so.  If I were a parent in this case I'd certainly consider taking legal action - at least against the person in the counseling, if not against the University in general.

The central question for me is who knew about this and approved it?  And how far up did the approval go?

Article in today's Phla Inquirer:  Attorney for the former counseling center director at Virginia Tech said yesterday that the director inadvertently took home mental-health records for the student gunman when he left his job a year before the massacre. ...Robert Miller accidentally placed Seung Hui Cho's records in a box he packed with his personal documents when he was leaving his job at the center in February 2006.  Miller opened the box for the first time last week while seaching for any material that could be relevant to a lawsuit filed by families of two of the victims. ...The file has not yet been released to the public.  Apparently the police are investigating whether a crime was committed when the records were removed.

Wouldn't you think Miller would have been scrupulously careful  to check when he packed up his stuff that there were no personal records of students? Seems like there will be a lot of explaining IMO.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on July 24, 2009, 01:04:53 PM
Wouldn't you think Miller would have been scrupulously careful  to check when he packed up his stuff that there were no personal records of students? Seems like there will be a lot of explaining IMO.

Well I would certainly think that when a major crime was committed on the campus of the University that he worked at he would look over what he had taken home from the University to make certain there was nothing that could be related to the killings.

I certainly understand that when you end a job that you may want to pack everything up and put it away.  But for someone who was working in the mental health profession this doesn't seem to be a particularly mentally healthy way to have dealt with this whole situation.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 24, 2009, 04:53:17 PM
Wouldn't you think Miller would have been scrupulously careful  to check when he packed up his stuff that there were no personal records of students? Seems like there will be a lot of explaining IMO.

Well I would certainly think that when a major crime was committed on the campus of the University that he worked at he would look over what he had taken home from the University to make certain there was nothing that could be related to the killings.

I certainly understand that when you end a job that you may want to pack everything up and put it away.  But for someone who was working in the mental health profession this doesn't seem to be a particularly mentally healthy way to have dealt with this whole situation.

I agree 100%, Michael.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 26, 2009, 11:10:03 PM

This book has so impressed me more than I  thought it would.  I learned so much about 'Columbine,' the students, parents, and faculty.  I learned more about psychopathy and what a psychopath is.  In a way, it makes one shudder to think that there are more Eric Harris's who walk among us.  . . .

After reading 'Columbine,' I appreciate even more the monumental task Dave Cullen signed on for when he started it.  As we learned from his answers to our questions, the book took its toll on him psychologically as well as journalistically, and he deserves our great respect and admiration. 


Thanks, Nikki. That was very sweet.

I'm really glad I spent the ten years, but I'm also really glad they're over.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on July 26, 2009, 11:12:27 PM
Article in today's Phla Inquirer:  Attorney for the former counseling center director at Virginia Tech said yesterday that the director inadvertently took home mental-health records for the student gunman when he left his job a year before the massacre.

What a strange twist.

And to add to the strangeness for me, I was on the V Tech campus they day the news came, for the first day of a three day conference on the aftermath of the shooting. Many of the experts on it from the uni were meeting with us. They were quite surprised, to put it lightly.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on July 27, 2009, 04:12:50 PM
What a strange twist.

And to add to the strangeness for me, I was on the V Tech campus they day the news came, for the first day of a three day conference on the aftermath of the shooting. Many of the experts on it from the uni were meeting with us. They were quite surprised, to put it lightly.

Even in his deep psychosis, Cho left word that he was inspired by Eric and Dylan (your Chapter 51). It's not only frightening that Cho committed the worst school shooting, but that he was inspired by the Columbine killers. The footprints these guys left were deep and pervasive.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CellarDweller115 on August 04, 2009, 08:22:14 PM
Hello Dave,

I had ordered your book some time ago, and life always seemed to get into the way with my reading it.  As a result, I didn't get the opportunity to participate in the book club (though I may go through the questions anyway, even at this late date).

I also had a conversation regarding the news, tv, and internet, and how they can affect people's attention spans.  I used to be an avid reader, but things change, and to be honest my reading had dropped off dramatically.  Before "Columbine" I read "The Mayor Of Castro Street", and can't remember the last book read before that.  It was time to work on my attention span again.

When I booked my flights to and from Alberta, I had long flights and layovers, so I took this opportunity to pack two books to read.  The first book was "Columbine".  I finished the book on the way home from Alberta, and I was very impressed.  Your style of writing caught my attention, and I truly learned a lot about the massacre that took place.  Also, there was a number of times reading that I had tears in my eyes for the survivors and family members of those lost.  

I can't imagine the toll that this took on you as an author/journalist.  I hope you are enjoying the success that is coming with it now.


Chuck
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on August 21, 2009, 01:57:58 PM
Thanks, Chuck. That made me smile.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on August 21, 2009, 03:38:40 PM
We have been travelling around the UK quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, and Columbine has been prominently displayed in several bookshops we have been in, often with personal reccommendation tickets attached, and very deservedly so.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 24, 2009, 10:06:34 PM
It happened again today on the peninsula....

Ex-student held in San Mateo school blast
John Koopman, Kathleen Pender, Jaxon Van Derbeken,John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writers
Monday, August 24, 2009

(08-24) 19:56 PDT SAN MATEO -- A former student at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, armed with 10 pipe bombs, a chainsaw and a sword, planned to forge a path of destruction through his old campus Monday, authorities said.

Investigators believe his plan was to kill people with bombs, then slaughter the survivors with the chainsaw and sword.

Instead, the 17-year-old was able to detonate only two of the bombs - injuring no one - before staffers at the school tackled him and police arrived.

On Monday evening he was at juvenile hall after being questioned by police and prosecutors. His name has not been released because he is a juvenile. Prosecutors said no decision had been made on whether to charge him as an adult.

Students described a harrowing scene in which the power went out and the fire alarm was triggered as the teenager, with bombs secured to a tactical vest, made his way through the school shortly after classes began at 8 a.m.

The youth lit two of the pipe bombs and threw them in a hallway near the school library, then ran before they detonated, authorities said.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/24/BAAT19CUPM.DTL#ixzz0PAF37HJ9
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on August 25, 2009, 10:11:25 AM
A chainsaw and a sword?  How completely awful.

I hope they do charge him as an adult.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 25, 2009, 10:23:34 AM
As do I Debbie.  One of the things about this case that was outstanding was that people disarmed this individual before he could do any harm.  It made me think of both Dave Sanders and Frank DeAngelis.  I think if there is anything that will eliminate this sort of crime it will be these kind of actions.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 25, 2009, 05:59:59 PM
Thank God for people like Kennet Santana:

Hero teacher 'didn't have time to think'
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

(08-25) 13:22 PDT SAN MATEO --

In the moments after a young man detonated two pipe bombs at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, English language development teacher Kennet Santana didn't have time to think about what he should do.

Instinctively, as students crouched for cover in their classrooms, Santana, 34, moved toward the explosions. He was confronted with the sight of the youth, wearing a tactical vest with what turned out to be eight other pipe bombs.

The teacher didn't know the devices were bombs. He also didn't know that the suspect, identified as a 17-year-old former student at Hillsdale, was armed with a chainsaw and a sword with a 2-foot blade.

All Santana knew was that this boy was a threat - and that he had to stop him. Without hesitation, Santana tackled the boy shortly after 8 a.m. Monday and yelled at other teachers to call for help. Principal Jeff Gilbert, counselor Ed Canda and Santana held the teenager down until police arrived.

Now, the campus community and authorities are crediting Santana with helping to avert what could have been a disaster: A law-enforcement source said the boy, whose name has not been released because of his age, nursed a grudge against some teachers and had planned to detonate all 10 pipe bombs before attacking students with the chain saw and the sword as they fled.

No one was hurt in the attack, which began just as Santana arrived at school and was heading to the office.

"It just happened so fast. He didn't even think about it," said his wife, Angelique Vega-Santana, 35.

continues:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/25/BASE19DFN6.DTL
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 25, 2009, 06:02:47 PM
And again a teen who hid his world from his family:

'Techno-wizard' teen suspect fooled family
Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The 17-year-old held in the pipe bomb attack on a San Mateo high school was a "techno-wizard" who told his family he was building model rockets as he assembled his explosive devices from material he bought over the Internet, authorities said today.

Angry with teachers who had given him bad grades at Hillsdale High School where he had dropped out more than a year ago and smarting over how other students there had treated him, the youth began planning the attack months ago, said law enforcement sources briefed on the interrogation of the boy.

On Monday, he walked onto the campus with 10 pipe bombs strapped to his vest and toting a chainsaw in a violin case and a "martial arts-style" sword with a 2-foot blade, authorities said. He set off two bombs before faculty members wrestled him to the ground. No one was injured.

"This was cold-blooded," said one law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. "He planned this for a very long time."

The chainsaw, said the source, was intended to "differentiate his attack" from other acts of campus violence over the years. Sources have said they believe the youth planned to kill many students and teachers with the chainsaw and sword if they were not killed by the bombs.

continues:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/25/BAL719DH0L.DTL
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 26, 2009, 12:16:01 AM
And now they are comparing it to the attack in Colorado (well...Fox is....):

Columbine-Style Attack by Armed California Teen Thwarted by 'Heroic' Teachers
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Fox News

A teen armed with a sword and chainsaw who had several pipe bombs strapped to his body was arrested Monday after two explosions rocked Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif., KTVU reported.

Police called the foiled attack that forced the evacuation of more than 1,200 students and teachers a Columbine-style plot, according to the station.

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer told KTVU that the 17-year-old boy came onto campus with the chainsaw, a 2-foot-long sword and 10 homemade pipe bombs attached to a tactical vest he was wearing.

continues:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,542481,00.html
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on August 26, 2009, 03:51:52 PM

Interesting links, Michael.  I wonder if the boy can be analyzed to see if it's another case of psychopathy.  If not, then I'm sick of people and kids who bear grudges against teachers, officials, cops, government, etc..  If everyone who bore a grudge against someone resorted to violence, what then? 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on August 26, 2009, 06:27:26 PM
Interesting links, Michael.  I wonder if the boy can be analyzed to see if it's another case of psychopathy.  If not, then I'm sick of people and kids who bear grudges against teachers, officials, cops, government, etc..  If everyone who bore a grudge against someone resorted to violence, what then? 

I thought about this, Nikki.  He actually does seem like a psychopath.  He was lying to his parents - saying he was working on science projects - when he was putting together his bombs.  He apparently had been planning this for some time - it was not spur of the moment.

The only thing that makes him seem a bit more psychotic and a bit less psychopathic is the choice of weapons.  He couldn't do nearly as much damage with a chain saw and a sword as he could with a gun - perhaps it was a question of access, though.

I wonder what Dave thinks about this.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on August 27, 2009, 07:32:30 AM
I thought about this, Nikki.  He actually does seem like a psychopath.  He was lying to his parents - saying he was working on science projects - when he was putting together his bombs.  He apparently had been planning this for some time - it was not spur of the moment.

The only thing that makes him seem a bit more psychotic and a bit less psychopathic is the choice of weapons.  He couldn't do nearly as much damage with a chain saw and a sword as he could with a gun - perhaps it was a question of access, though.

I wonder what Dave thinks about this.

True, Michael, a gun could take out multiple people, but a chain saw could do horrific damage to a body.  The chain saw makes me agree that he probably was more psychotic.  Again, one has to wonder how he was able to hide his bomb-making gear, or possibly describing it as 'science projects.'
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on August 27, 2009, 07:41:55 AM
I know this is a terrible thought, but I keep thinking of Homer Hickam, (for all you people who have seen our beloved Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky), who really was making space rockets in his basement as a boy.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on August 27, 2009, 07:59:45 AM
I know this is a terrible thought, but I keep thinking of Homer Hickam, (for all you people who have seen our beloved Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky), who really was making space rockets in his basement as a boy.

Janjo,I remember the film.  Of course, Hickam lived in a small town, and it seems in those days one didn't hear of such horrific things as we hear of now.  Also, Hickam and his friends went to the outskirts to try out their experiments.  BTW 'October Sky' was a very good, heartwarming film -- it was shown in the middle schools, and my granddaughters loved it when they were in middle school.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on August 27, 2009, 04:52:54 PM
I know this is a terrible thought, but I keep thinking of Homer Hickam, (for all you people who have seen our beloved Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky), who really was making space rockets in his basement as a boy.

That thought did cross my mind, too, Jess.  Of course, those really were rockets without any intent to harm anyone (although they certainly could have) but "kid making rockets" brought Homer to mind.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on August 28, 2009, 05:06:21 AM
A lovely film, a great book, and seemingly a very nice man.
It is rather reassuring to know that not all students who are constructing things in the basement, or here where on the whole we don't have basements, in the shed, are up to no good.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on September 03, 2009, 12:39:25 AM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/02/manchester-teenagers-columbine-style-attack

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on September 03, 2009, 02:59:50 AM
Des, you posted that before I did!

It is very chilling, and the descriptions that were given of the mental state of the two boys concerned sounded so similar to Harris and Kleibold that it was extraordinary. One a depressive and the other with a vengeful fascination with violence.
We must be so grateful to the friend that telephoned the police, and that they were picked up before they could act.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on September 16, 2009, 01:09:57 PM
They were cleared today.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/16/columbine-manchester-swift-mcknight

Maybe this sort of thing (teenagers fantasising about and plotting violence) is more common than we think, and it really is extremely difficult to spot the real danger.   (Maybe it's also difficult to prosecute early in the proceedings even when there is a risk.   Or maybe prosecution is the wrong route at that stage).  
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Monica LoveEmBoys on September 16, 2009, 03:16:30 PM
Wow, Des --  What a surprising turn of events.

This really brings to my mind the discussions of what could have happened to intervene in Columbine.  What if the parents HAD searched their rooms and found the journals, the plans, the bomb making materials...  Obviously there still is a considerable leap from a moody teenager engaging in violent fantasies to one actually planning to take action.     How discouraging.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on September 17, 2009, 06:24:24 AM
They were cleared today.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/16/columbine-manchester-swift-mcknight

Maybe this sort of thing (teenagers fantasising about and plotting violence) is more common than we think, and it really is extremely difficult to spot the real danger.   (Maybe it's also difficult to prosecute early in the proceedings even when there is a risk.   Or maybe prosecution is the wrong route at that stage).  

I was pretty gobsmacked by this, Des. Of course we weren't in court to hear the evidence. Teenage boys are obsessed with blowing things up, and from what I have seen at work, nuclear explosions,................ but even so.
Presumably because they were acquitted no further action can be taken. I would like to think that someone, somewhere, in social services is at least keeping an eye on them. 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on September 18, 2009, 10:45:08 AM
I don't know if I'd have been any clearer even if I'd been in court.   Dave's book was very enlightening, but I still don't feel I understand enough.    And it got me thinking - supppose one of them had been found to be a psychopath, would that make any difference?   Would he be more "guilty" or more of a risk? 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on October 10, 2009, 08:13:58 PM
Dylan Klebold's mom speaks in "O" magazine
"No inkling" of plans for Columbine massacre
By The Denver Post
Posted: 10/10/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

An essay by the mother of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold says she had "no inkling" of her son's inner turmoil, and her examination of his journals has prompted her to learn about suicide in an effort to understand the school shooting.

The essay by Susan Klebold, which appears in the November issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, explores her son's role in the 1999 massacre where he and co-conspirator Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher and left two dozen wounded before killing themselves.

Neither family has spoken at length in the aftermath of what at the time marked the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. Pending litigation contributed to the silence for several years, but even with the lawsuits resolved, repeated requests for interviews have been turned down.

In a news release, Oprah Winfrey also noted that Susan Klebold had declined interview requests but then, several months ago, agreed to write about her personal experience. The magazine released a few advance excerpts.

"From the writings Dylan left behind, criminal psychologists have concluded that he was depressed and suicidal," Susan Klebold wrote in one passage. "When I first saw copied pages of these writings, they broke my heart. I'd had no inkling of the battle Dylan was waging in his mind."

continues:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_13530104?source=rss
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on October 10, 2009, 11:16:57 PM
Thanks for posting this Michael. It is interesting in her own words.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on October 11, 2009, 08:07:30 AM
Hopefully this will do some good. Far too little attention is paid to childhood and adolescent depression, yet ignoring it can lead to such terrible consequences.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on October 15, 2009, 03:34:24 PM
Columbine parents react to essay by shooter's mom

Tue Oct 13, 8:55 pm ET

DENVER – Parents and survivors of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School are saying good things about an essay released by the mother of shooter Dylan Klebold.

Susan Klebold made the most detailed public remarks since the attack by any parent of the two Columbine killers in an essay released Tuesday and published in O, The Oprah Magazine.

In the essay, Klebold says she had "no inkling" her son was suicidal or depressed.

The essay sparked strong emotions for Connie Michalik. Her son, Richard Castaldo, was shot and partially paralyzed in the rampage.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091014/ap_on_re_us/us_columbine_mother_s_essay_1
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on November 16, 2009, 02:32:16 PM
Couldn't help but think about Columbine when I read this - hopefully this sort of thing will help parents and communities get a heads up in advance:

Potential for criminal behavior evident at age 3
Rachael Myers Lowe
Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Children who don't show normal fear responses to loud, unpleasant sounds at the age of 3 may be more likely to commit crimes as adults, according to a new study.

Yu Gao and colleagues in the United States and the United Kingdom compared results from a study of almost 1,800 children born in 1969 and 1970 on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to criminal records of group members 20 years later.

At age 3, the children were tested to gauge their level of "fear conditioning," or fear of consequences. The idea is that children who associate unpleasant sounds or other unpleasant experiences with fear will be less likely to commit antisocial acts because they will link such experiences with punishments for those acts.

Researchers tested the 3-year-olds' responses to unpleasant noises using a lie detector. When they looked at any criminal records among the participants 20 years later, 137 of them (131 male, 6 female) had at least one criminal conviction.

Compared to almost 300 participants with no criminal records, those 137 participants had a much lower response to the noises at the age of 3.

The findings could link previous studies suggesting that psychopaths and children with behavioral problems at the age of 11 have similar abnormalities in a part of the brain called the amygdala. That structure is largely responsible for directing fear of consequences.

continues:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091116/hl_nm/us_criminal_behavior
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on November 16, 2009, 06:09:31 PM


Michael, very interesting article and also very chilling.  Who would think of looking for anything offbeat in a 3 year old? Usually, if a child doesn't react to loud noises, the first thought is deafness.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on November 16, 2009, 08:21:03 PM
Really cool. On Jeopardy tonight (11/16/09)  in the category "In the Bookstore"  Dave Cullen and the description of the Book was the question and Columbine was the Answer!!!

Way Way cool!!!!

YAY Dave!!!

(http://i998.photobucket.com/albums/af110/tootsiemom/Cullen.jpg)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: BayCityJohn on November 16, 2009, 09:55:16 PM
How much was the question worth?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on November 16, 2009, 09:57:05 PM
It was in the second round, so I think it was either the $1600 or $2000 clue.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on November 17, 2009, 12:21:28 AM
Michael, very interesting article and also very chilling.  Who would think of looking for anything offbeat in a 3 year old? Usually, if a child doesn't react to loud noises, the first thought is deafness.

I thought it was pretty chilling too Nikki.  Certainly at age 3 psychopathy is probably the last thing parents are thinking about.

And, btw, it was great to finally get to meet you back in Philly!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Desecra on November 17, 2009, 02:23:49 AM
The findings could link previous studies suggesting that psychopaths and children with behavioral problems at the age of 11 have similar abnormalities in a part of the brain called the amygdala. That structure is largely responsible for directing fear of consequences.

continues:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091116/hl_nm/us_criminal_behavior

My first thought was that it would be great if being able to pinpoint differences like this eventually led to early treatment (I was thinking of something a bit futuristic, that could alter the brain early on).   My second thought was about how ethical it would be to "treat" babies or children before they show any signs of difficulties.   Would adult psychopaths wish they had been treated as children?   Do they even want to be treated now?   What if being afraid of consequences could actually be a bit of a burden?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on November 17, 2009, 05:58:43 AM
I thought it was pretty chilling too Nikki.  Certainly at age 3 psychopathy is probably the last thing parents are thinking about.

And, btw, it was great to finally get to meet you back in Philly!

 :-* :-*
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: janjo on November 17, 2009, 05:59:21 AM
I believe the amygdala is the part of the brain that is implicated in the biological causes of depression. There seems scope for much research to be done here.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on November 17, 2009, 10:03:21 AM
My first thought was that it would be great if being able to pinpoint differences like this eventually led to early treatment (I was thinking of something a bit futuristic, that could alter the brain early on).   My second thought was about how ethical it would be to "treat" babies or children before they show any signs of difficulties.   Would adult psychopaths wish they had been treated as children?   Do they even want to be treated now?   What if being afraid of consequences could actually be a bit of a burden?

I would imagine that if I were in this situation (as a parent) I would probably want to engage in 'watchful waiting' before doing any sort of treatment.  Certainly even that could have psychological implications.  It would be a terrible burden - similar to the sort of burden that a positive test for a genetic illness would be, I would guess.

The big concern would be whether or not waiting would make any sort of treatment more difficult or impossible, I would imagine.

I'm not sure adult psychopaths would want to be treated - but you would certainly have to take their victims and their wishes into account too.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Rosewood on December 04, 2009, 12:47:33 PM
Along the lines of better late than never, I've just realized that Dave's book has been chosen
as one of the NY Time's 100 Best of 2009.
Super congratulations to you, Dave.
This must be so gratifiying for you after all your hard work.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on December 04, 2009, 01:13:15 PM
Thanks for letting everyone know about this, Rosewood.  I hadn't heard.

Congratulations, Dave!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on March 02, 2010, 12:08:48 AM
So this is launch week on the paperback, the second most important week of my life, so far.

I posted a big blog post about it, with scans from the new edition.

I'd appreciate any of you all reposting some or all to your facebook, twitter, emailing friends, etc.

Thanks.

http://open.salon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2010/03/01/how_to_launch_a_paperback_my_expanded_edition_of_columbine

Here are the major additions (scans of each at the blog post).

1. New 12-page afterword: "Forgiveness."

 I spent another year examining three disparate victims' struggles with grief and recovery nearly 11 years later. I hope you find it as rewarding as I did. It also includes startling new revelations of four secret meetings with the killers' parents. (Link is to an excerpt we just ran in The Daily Beast.)

2. Actual journal pages from Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold. (There are several pages in the book).

3. Book Club Discussion Questions (19 questions in the book).

4.Diagram of Columbine High School and environs.

5. Large-print edition (newly available, also paperback. )

Other formats include Kindle, Nook, and unabridged audibook on CD, cassette, MP3 on CD, or audible.com. Autographed copies available.

The official release date is Wednesday, but it's available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in most indie stores and physical B&N stores.  (Use the BN link to order online or check availability at a store nearby.) Amazon has it for $9.35.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on March 02, 2010, 12:30:06 AM
VERY cool and exciting, Dave.  I'll check in tomorrow at Kepler's, the independent around the corner from the library.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on March 02, 2010, 05:28:52 PM
VERY cool and exciting, Dave.  I'll check in tomorrow at Kepler's, the independent around the corner from the library.

Pity they spell it wrong.  ;)

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on March 02, 2010, 06:37:24 PM
They didn't have it, Dave.  They are now aware of its coming out in PB, however.  Oh well, on to Browser Books on Filmore tomorrow (and maybe Books, Inc. too....)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on March 02, 2010, 07:22:54 PM


Congratulations, Dave.  Just heard.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on March 03, 2010, 02:51:23 PM
They didn't have it, Dave.  They are now aware of its coming out in PB, however.  Oh well, on to Browser Books on Filmore tomorrow (and maybe Books, Inc. too....)

Okay Dave - spread the religion to Browser Books (who didn't know it had been released and got pretty excited when I told them about it).  Haven't checked Books, Inc. yet - it's raining and I'm San Franciscan.  But I'll call....
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: michaelflanagansf on March 03, 2010, 08:09:06 PM
Okay Dave - spread the religion to Browser Books (who didn't know it had been released and got pretty excited when I told them about it).  Haven't checked Books, Inc. yet - it's raining and I'm San Franciscan.  But I'll call....

I went down to Books Inc and they have it!  It looks great.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on March 04, 2010, 08:35:41 PM
Just wanted to let everyone know that Dave won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award for nonfiction.

The Discover Great New Writers Award looks for exceptional up-and-coming authors. Nominees are hand-picked by Barnes & Noble, so you can be assured that every Discover winner is a book of exceptional quality and worth reading.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/email/hosted.asp?r=1&PID=33170&cm_mmc=Non-Member-_-This_Week-_-100303_NH01_ThisWeek-_-non-personalized_links

Congrats Dave!!!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on March 05, 2010, 01:59:30 PM
Yay Dave! And congrats!!!!

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on March 05, 2010, 04:42:55 PM


Congrats, Dave. Well done !
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on March 05, 2010, 05:43:16 PM
Thanks. I am glowing.

I put all the details here--plus a photo of the Tiffany crystal they gave me:

http://open.salon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2010/03/05/at_the_barnes_noble_discover_awards
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on March 05, 2010, 05:54:38 PM
Reading the great details now Dave!!! How exciting!!!

Just WOW!!!!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on March 05, 2010, 05:55:22 PM
Isn't there another award coming up that you are nominated for?
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on March 05, 2010, 11:30:32 PM
thanks, linda.

two more coming up:

The LA Book Awards April 23, and the Edgars April 29. Those will be tougher to win, especially the LA one. It will be a fun week.

And I can breathe easier now, because I won't end empty-handed.

(There is also the Audie awards, but I don't think anyone is flying me out for that. I don't even know when it is, or where.)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: retropian on March 07, 2010, 06:33:55 AM
Congratulations Dave! I hope this award is to the Pulitzer what a Golden Globe is to the Oscar. That it bodes well.

Cheers. Ian
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on March 07, 2010, 07:43:57 AM
Big congratulations, Dave!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on March 08, 2010, 05:27:07 PM
thanks, deja and retro and linda.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on March 08, 2010, 05:27:20 PM
I'll be on an upstate NY NPR show this week. Info:

The “Out of Bounds” Radio Show, hosted by Tish

 Pearlman will feature DAVE CULLEN.

 

Dave Cullen is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Columbine, an indelible portrait of the killers, the victims, and the community caught up in that tragedy.  It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction of 2009, and was declared Best Education Book of 2009 by the American School Board Journal. Columbine was named to two dozen Best of 2009 lists, including the New York Times, LA Times, and the American Library Association.

Cullen has contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, Times of London, Slate, Salon, Daily Beast and the Guardian. He was recently featured on NBC's Today Show and ABC's evening World News.

 
                                  AIR DATES:

 

 

 Thurs March 11 at 7pm:WEOS-FM (88.1 Ithaca, 90.3 &  89.7 Geneva)

 Live Stream: Weos.org

 

Sunday March 14 at 11:30am: WSKG-FM (89.3 Binghamton, 90.9 Ithaca 91.7 Cooperstown/Oneonta, 91.1 Corning/Elmira, 88.7 Hornell/Alfred)

Live Stream: Wskg.org 
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on April 29, 2010, 07:46:11 PM
Dave has won the Edgar Award for Columbine in the Best Fact Crime category.

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 201st anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2009. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 64th Gala Banquet, April 29, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


BEST FACT CRIME
Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette Book Group - Twelve)WINNER
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde
by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide
by Dick Lehr (HarperCollins)
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (The Penguin Press)

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti
(Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)

Edgar Award

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards (popularly called the Edgars), named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America.[1] They honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theatre published or produced in the previous year.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Nikki on April 29, 2010, 07:48:32 PM


Thanks Linda.  Kudos to Dave - - well deserved.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: CellarDweller115 on April 29, 2010, 07:59:11 PM
Congrats Dave!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on April 29, 2010, 08:05:33 PM
Yes, Nikki! I am so excited for him.

He was really wanting to win this one!!

And he HAS!!!!!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: fritzkep on April 29, 2010, 08:07:23 PM
Geaux Dave!

Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on April 29, 2010, 08:07:36 PM
Huge Congrats Dave!!!!

All your hard work really paid off!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Melisande on April 29, 2010, 08:09:16 PM
Woot! Congratulations, Dave!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: dejavu on April 29, 2010, 08:10:02 PM
Good job, Dave!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: gwyllion on April 29, 2010, 08:25:04 PM
Woohoo!  To think we knew him when...
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Dave Cullen on April 29, 2010, 09:56:45 PM
Thanks. It was very cool to hear my name announced. I had just about convinced myself I wouldn't hear it--back and forth, second by second. I didn't know what to think.

A few minutes before my category came up, my agent asked how I was doing, and I said fine, because I was. Not even a twinge of butterflies. That didn't start until the acceptance speech before my category ended, and I knew I was up. My pulse shot up. I panicked that I'd forget my speech, or go off script and blab way too long.

I pulled it out of my pocket, and ran through the bullet points. And again. And again. And then I wondered whether anyone at the table was noticing, and thinking, "He's practicing his speech! Look at that little fucker, expects to win!"

Haha. Seriously, that's what I started worrying about. So I kind of hid it with my other hand, which only made me look more conspiratorial. I was also afraid they would think it looked way too long--because I wrote down the page, so it could have been a ten-minute speech. Actually, I wrote more points than I do for my one-hour bookstore presentation.

I handed my agent my iPhone, all set up to take my picture. Then I started accusing myself of acting like I was going to win.

Then I worried that I'd be disappointed. I was, briefly, six days ago at the LA Times Book Awards. (Especially when I heard "Dave . . ." and thought "Oh I DID win!" forgetting, believe it or not, that the person I expected to win, Dave Eggers, also went by that name.

So as he opened the envelope tonight, I braced myself for another name. And then he said mine.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: killersmom on April 29, 2010, 10:28:36 PM
Fantastic, Dave.

Thanks for letting us know what goes through your mind during these things!!

I know you are proud and we are proud for you!!!

What a wonderful accomplishment to add to your others!!
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: andy/Claude on April 30, 2010, 03:56:50 AM
Congratulations Dave.

Cheers,

Andy. :)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: ingmarnicebbmt on April 30, 2010, 11:55:18 AM

Congratulations, Dave!

 ;) ;) ;)
Title: Re: Columbine
Post by: Sandy on April 30, 2010, 12:11:03 PM
Congrats, Dave. Well deserved.
Title: Re: Columbine