Bottom feeders put Columbine to music

May 01, 2000|By Rob Morse

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is America, and you need a drilling rig to plumb the depths of our culture's bad taste.

When the head of the National Rifle Association said President Clinton tolerated a certain level of murder in this country for his political gain, I thought that was the bottom.

But no, there were depths of bad taste below that.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, who excuses shootings of unarmed citizens by his cops, called the federal agents who rescued Elian Gonzalez from his loony relatives "stormtroopers."

I thought that was the pits, but no, it turns out there are pits beneath that.

This has to be the very bottom. A firefighter in Littleton, Colo., has made a music video from the tapes of the bloody murder scenes in the cafeteria and library at Columbine High School. The Littleton Fire Department goes around showing the tape as a "training video."

Public safety officers set the carnage at Columbine to pop music? Is Littleton a sick cartoon town somewhere near South Park?

It's enough to make a patriotic American want to flee to Canada or France, where they already think our culture is beneath contempt.

No, wait. There's more contempt beneath that contempt. Last week, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department in Colorado began selling copies of the music video of the Columbine murder scenes for about $25 apiece.

One of the songs on the music video was written and performed by students at Columbine. Another, "I Will Remember You," is by Sarah McLachlan.

If I were Ms. McLachlan, I'd remember them in court.

Yet another song on the murder music video is called "If It Were Up to Me," a protest against guns by someone named Cheryl Wheeler.

The song has deep, meaningful lines like, "Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books, maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents ..."

No maybes about it, this song stinks.

It concludes, "Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing. If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns."

There's no rhyme and no reason, and the hell with that. The song I have in mind is "I Shot the Sheriff."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has been in constant trouble with the local citizenry since the smoke cleared from the assault by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Nine lawsuits have been filed against the department claiming deputies could have prevented the attack and failed to react quickly enough after the shooting started.

Bad enough that deputies stood around outside the school in their SWAT armor long after Harris and Klebold were dead. The sheriff's office also angered families of dead students by circulating surveillance tapes of the murder scene in the cafeteria, and letting

cf03 Time

cf01 magazine get some of the gory pictures into its pages.

Now the sheriff's and fire departments have gotten into the music video racket. They're VJs for MTV, and the M stands for "murder."

It's all right to jump all over Littleton and Jefferson County authorities for producing and selling a music video about murder. They deserve every bit of abuse they get.

But keep in mind they're just small-time idiots who were well-positioned to plumb the depths of bad taste about Columbine.

They weren't the first to set mass murder to music, either.

TV networks compose mini-theme music and design logos to introduce their segments on school shootings, terrorist bombings and celebrity murder trials. They're just not as long and corny as that song about "Maybe it's the movies."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department decided to price its murder music video at $25. That's pretty crass, but you have to ask yourself how much CNN and MSNBC made from showing the footage of a bloody kid falling out of a school window over and over.

Millions, that's how much. And two weeks ago, on the first anniversary of the murders, they made millions more with reruns.

The difference between the major networks and the podunk Littleton fire and sheriff's departments is that the networks exploit the murder scenes with a little more class.

Grave newspeople try to discern moral and public-policy lessons (usually wrong) in the carnage. So-called experts on media violence are summoned to accompany videos of violence with their droning opinions.

The city slickers take home big salaries pretending to make sense of senselessness. The hick sheriffs and firefighters set senselessness to bad music and sell it at $25 a pop.

One of them is the nadir, so far, of bad taste. You know which.

Rob Morse is a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

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