Littleton, not Avon

Home (Main Menu)

From "The Scoop", 4-26-99

"The most popular movie in America this week is The Matrix.

Act One: Keanu Reeves portrays a friendless young man trapped in a world populated mostly by mindless peers who cannot share his angst and inhuman authorities deserving only contempt. He spends most of his time surfing the Internet and cultivating a feeling of detachment from reality.

Act Two: Larry Fishburne, who is even more detached and therefore cooler, informs Keanu that his perceptions are fully justified: in fact, he is the One who will eventually destroy the existing order. Keanu, gradually gaining power as he becomes ever more alienated, joins Larry in leading a gang of black-clad rebels in confrontations with and escapes from the bad guys. Betrayals and chases and plot twists ensue.

Act Three: Fulfilling his destiny, Keanu and an accomplice enter the bad guys' building strapped to the nads with automatic weapons hidden under long black trench coats. Showing little emotion and no mercy, they blithely kill everyone in their path. Lots of people get shot in innovative ways, much of it in slow motion. Keanu, utterly empowered, eventually literally flies to the heavens. Roll credits.

Audiences across the country think this is all really, really cool. The film has been #1 in gross receipts for three of the four weeks since its release.

Americans have spent almost $120 million to see this movie in a single month. Experts estimate we'll spend at least $40 million more. Sequels are already planned.

... intelligent dialogue ...

Here's Barbara Wheeler, former president of the National School Boards Association:

"That's one of the great mysteries -- how do you identify a student who is going to act out?"

Other than dressing in black, forming a gang, pre-arranging fights with other students, speaking in German, giving Nazi salutes, and filming a fantasy video in which they kill their fellow students, she means.

Here's Chicago Sun-Times editor Nigel Wade, on why the Columbine story appeared on page 2 instead of the front page:

"We're putting the story where adults will find it... giving parents a chance to decide whether their children will see it... [the story] could harm or frighten vulnerable children."

As opposed to a page one story they did run, in which Serbian troops machine-gunned a column of Albanian refugees. Much healthier for the kids.

Here's Colorado governor Bill Owens, blaming the parents merely because some weaponry flotsam was found in plain view in a gunman's bedroom in the aftermath of the attack:

"I think that perhaps charges will be filed and certainly should be filed... [police] found in one of the gunman's homes clear evidence out, sitting in the room, of what was about to happen."

Let's get this straight: one of the gunmen fails to clean his bedroom before leaving for school on the day he's planning to die, so therefore the parents must have had advance knowledge.

And finally, here's Bill Clinton on the Columbine school shootings:

"We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to resolve conflicts with words, not weapons... violence is wrong."

"And now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to bombing Yugoslavia."..."

Bob Harris is a radio commentator, political writer, and humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide.

To receive a free email subscription, just send a blank email to, or sign up from the front page at

The Scoop

Mother Jones online now carries The Scoop.

"Littleton feeds the creeps' frenzy, 4/21/99

While the massacre in Littleton, Colorado was still underway, various creepy-crawly enemies of liberty were e-mailing Russ George, the Speaker of Colorado's House, and leaving messages on the answering machines of legislators, gloating over the incident. As the Denver Post wrote,

"I'm getting e-mails right now that say, 'See what happens?'" George, R-Rifle, said in an interview, as students still were fleeing the gruesome scene.

These creatures saw the incident as a great time to lobby against gun rights bills that are pending in the state legislature.

This should come as no surprise. Those among us who don't like freedom, who don't trust their neighbors to make their own decisions, and who quake at the horrifying need to dress themselves and choose a breakfast cereal in the morning fairly thrive on every incident like the Littleton massacre. They see it as further proof that people need to be further curbed, muzzled, and leashed.

Thrive on such incidents? Isn't that a bit unfair?

No. The people who e-mailed Speaker George would deny it to the end, of course, protesting that they really, truly, care about their fellow man, and they really just want to see people, who they love so much, protected from the ills of society. But they crawl out from under the rocks each and every time some horrible incident occurs, thrilling to tragedy, drawing strength from blood and grief, wielding a laundry list of things that just must be done so that this never happens again.

And the laundry list is a long one this time. Guns of course, are the obvious punching bag. The suspects also used home-made hand grenades and planted bombs and booby traps, which will certainly revive a long moribund proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ban explosive information from the Internet.

But what could warp the murderers' young minds to do such a thing? Take your pick from the usual villains. The suspects have already been tagged as members of the Trench Coat Mafia, a sort of geek gang that sported neo-Nazi imagery (the massacre occurred on Hitler's birthday), played war games, dolled up as counter-culture " goths," and listened to Marilyn Manson. That's certain to excite mindless calls for controls on "hate speech," Dungeons and Dragons, and rock and roll. Sounds like a good time to dump your media stock and unload those London Fog trench coats lest you be tagged as the next berserker.

None of this detracts from the horror of what actually occurred. The body count boggles the mind, and we don't know the full toll yet since, as I write, police are searching for more booby traps before removing the dead from the school. A representative of the sheriff's department was quoted as saying, "[I]t's like walking through a mine field."

But why did this happen? And why have the nineties seen a string of such incidents, leading up to this, the bloodiest of them all?

Shortly after the Littleton incident occurred, a friend e-mailed me, pondering the same question.

In the fifties we made black people ride in the backs of buses, turned them away from the voting booth, made them enter stores though the back door, and anybody with a dollar could buy a pistol though the mail. Nothing like this ever happened.

That struck me as important. Identifiable groups in this country's history have had much greater cause for grievance against the state, the majority, the powers-that-be than some punk kids in a high school pissed off by their turn as the target of age-old teenage stupidity. Yet, during periods when you could mail-order firearms, buy dynamite over the counter, and disappear into anonymity in a country as yet untagged and untracked by databases and IDs, Littleton-style incidents by the truly aggrieved were virtually unknown.

So in the security state of the 1990s, why are we less secure than ever?

Perhaps there's a strong kernel of truth to the conservative position that personal responsibility has been eroded, that people have lost the talent for self-restraint and self-control. Laws and restrictions can't stand in for a loss of private restraint, no matter how draconian the rules become. That's cold comfort, though, because it means that there's really nothing to be done politically or legally. Lost values have to be reacquired slowly and painfully, and that rules out quick fixes and new world-saving rules.

But more rules is what we're likely to get, as the creepy-crawlies push to head-off just the kinds of incidents that are least-susceptible to control unpredictable berserker suicide attacks with a new round of gun control laws, censorship, school searches, and God only knows what other kind of intrusions in an attempt to prevent the unpreventable. Students who, despite Littleton-style incidents, are safer than they have been in years, will be victimized by the latest victory of the control freaks. ..."

For further information;



Best Times -- Top -- Home -- What's New