Don't blame music for school tragedy

April 23, 1999|By Richard Roeper

MEMBERS of the so-called Trench Coat Mafia -- who reportedly had a thing for Swastikas, spoke German phrases to one another and executed their horrific mission on Adolf Hitler's birthday -- were said to be devoted fans of the veteran German techno band KMFDM.

That's an acronym for Kein Mehrheit Fur Die Mitleid; rough translation: "No Pity for the Majority."

With the help of an operator of an unofficial KMFDM website, I was able to tap into a copy of what has been reported to be the Internet home page of one of the gunmen. (It's no longer accessible on America Online.) The page features KMFDM lyrics such as:

I have come to rock your world

I have come to shake your faith

Anathematic Anti-Christ

I have come to take my place

As I type these words, I am listening to other efforts from KMFDM, e.g., "A Drug Against War."

Kill everything, kill everything

Bomb the living bejeepers out of those forces

Kill everything, kill everything

Bomb the living bejeepers out of those forces

Great. It's not that hard to picture Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, and maybe a couple of their outcast buddies from Columbine High School hanging out in a basement or a garage, wearing their black dusters and applying their dark makeup and their black fingernail polish as they nod their heads in time with KMFDM.

If KMFDM truly was the favored band of the Trench Coat Mafia, how much responsibility should be placed on the violence-caressing, blood-lusting, fist-pumping music?

Well, none, of course.

Within hours of the shootings, the blame game was in full effect, on TV and on the Internet, where literally thousands of comments were posted well before the true death tally was known or the gunmen had been identified.

Just some of the people and things cited as negative influences, or at least enabling factors:

The parents of the gunmen. Marilyn Manson. "The Matrix." MTV. President Clinton. "City of Angels." (Sure, it was a love story, but death was the dominant theme and the angels all wore black trench coats.) Charlton Heston and the NRA. Race relations in America. The world wide web. "The Crow." The media. School officials. The music of KMFDM. "Natural Born Killers."

It's impossible -- and unfair -- to point to a band or a movie or a TV show and say, "That was the cause," and then turn to a slaughter and say, "This is the effect." If that's the way it worked, how can it be that hundreds of thousands of fans the world over have been exposed to the heart-thumping music of KMFDM without turning violent?

"The Catcher in the Rye" didn't shoot John Lennon, and Ice-T didn't kill any cops, and the members of KMFDM didn't storm a school in Colorado and start shooting.

Granted, there's much of pop culture that, like cigarettes and alcohol, should not be targeted toward young people, but human beings with good hearts and rational minds can absorb pop culture -- even if it's subversive, pornographic or hate-filled garbage -- without allowing it to corrupt their value systems.

We should investigate why these strange kids were not considered dangerous by their community. We should find how and where they got the guns. We should continue to study ways to make schools safer.

And we should accept two realities: There is no answer to the question of "Why?", and the blame for the shooting rests squarely within the rotting souls of the killers.

Richard Roeper is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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