THE COLUMBINE STORY: WHO WAS TELLING WHOM?

Thirteen lives lost, many injured.  Countless affected.  Columbine is known as a mass murder and a school shooting.  But it was never supposed to be exclusively a shooting.  It was a planned bombing that had failed.  Had the bombs detonated, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would have killed five hundred people in the first few seconds (Cullen, 2009).

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This occurrence became iconic.  Every school shooting since has been compared to Columbine.  At first, Columbine “ignited a national debate on bullying” but was then proven to be unrelated (Toppo, 2009).  Rumors from the media claimed that that the shooters had been bullied and had planned to retaliate on the school jocks, blacks, and Christians (Toppo, 2009).  These rumors were later proven false.  Their only target was mass killing.

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Another myth presented by the media was that these murderers were members of the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM) (BBC, 1999).  According to Cullen’s Columbine, “The writers assumed kids were informing the media.  It was the other way around.”  Kids heard TCM mentioned on the news, and assumed the information to be accurate.  The full story of the occurrence wouldn’t be fully revealed and set straight until 10 years after the fact.

 

George Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory reflects the Columbine effect very well.  His theory suggests that television is the main source of storytelling in today’s society (“Mass communication context,” 2001).  “Heavy television viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are effected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse than it actually is.”  Anyone watching television on April 20, 1999 was made aware of the Columbine shooting – Columbine was being covered more than the war of the time was.  This coverage heightened the fears of parents and children alike.  I, myself, was never aware of the Columbine shootings until high school.  But I have many friends that found out about the shootings when they occurred and have been haunted by it ever since.

 

References

BBC. (1999, April 21). Who are the trenchcoat mafia?. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/325054.stm

Cullen, D. (2009). Columbine. New York: Twelve.

Mass communication context. (2001, February 14). Retrieved from http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/mass/cultivation.htm

Toppo, G. (2009, April 14). Usa today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-04-13-columbine-myths_N.htm

 

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