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Lost in Cyberspace
Columbine Online
© 1999 by H.B. Koplowitz

The carnage that began at Columbine High School continues, as society seeks a scapegoat for the murderous rampage of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Who will be their next victim? Certainly their parents, who “should have known.” Same for their Trenchcoat Mafia cohorts; if they felt alienated before, wait till next semester. The National Rifle Association, video games, Marilyn Manson and Oliver Stone all have taken hits, as have those who believe in the separation of church and state. So has Goth culture, oxymoron intended. And then there’s free expression on the Internet, that purveyor of pipe bomb recipes and teenage angst.

Within hours of the massacre in Littleton, Colo., America Online had deleted Eric Harris’ AOL account, but not before some had downloaded his files and profiles, which can now be viewed at such Web sites as “Soupfreak’s Page of Madness” <pages.prodigy.net/soupfreak>. Along with daily updates on the tragedy, “Soupfreak” reproduces Harris’ AOL profiles and Web page. Titled “REB’s words of wisdom, if you don’t like it, ill kill you,” the page consists of apocalyptic lyrics from a song by KMFDM called “Son of a Gun.”

Other files found in Harris’ AOL account have to do with Doom, a video game with violent content that he was reportedly enamored with. There is also a text file in which he describes his experiences making pipe bombs, and a macabre drawing of commandos, one with a rifle and knife standing over a pile of burning skulls, a super hero with devilish horns and talons, and diagrams of pipe bombs, grenades and other explosives. In retrospect, it’s all pretty disturbing. Yet conspicuous by its absence is any mention of high school cliques, blacks, jocks or Adolf Hitler.

The media has tried to associate Harris and Klebold with the black clothes, tattoos, piercings and ghoulish images of the Goth subculture, which is kind of like calling Charlie Manson a hippie. A quick tour of Goth Webrings turned up bad poetry, but poetry, not pipe bombs, along with gloomy graphics, creepy stories and paeans to head-banging bands and such authors as Anne Rice and Edgar Allan Poe.

Web sites in the Gothic Usenet Webring tend to have names like “Love Suicide” <www.devlbunny.com/discordkitty>; “Black Daisies” <webhome.idirect.com/~daisies>; or “Spirits of the Dead” <www.eriu.com>. But not all is gloom and doom, as there’s also “Gothic Jokes List” <laugh.at/gothjokes>, with such quips as, “Old Goths don’t die, they just need less makeup,” and “Why is it so hard for Goths to get work? Because all they can do is mope the floors are depress the buttons.”

Angela’s Crimson Castle” <members.tripod.com/~Ladyflower_1>, written by “Angela,” a 20-year-old Detroit college student, asserts that Goth is not a cult, gang or devil worship, but “a way of looking at life.” The Goth lifestyle, she says, is “not as depressing and cynical as it seems, but we do like to pretend it is for a laugh … The main characterization of Goth is a strong tendency toward creativity and self-expression that uses everyone’s secret but deeply rooted fascination with all things dark and frightening.”

Because they killed themselves in their madness, we’ll never really know what caused two suburban teenagers in Colorado to go postal. Still, a community must heal. To assist Littleton residents and attempt to manage the media crush, the Jefferson County School District, of which CHS is a part, has set up a special Web site, “Jeffco Schools: Columbine High School Information Center” <>.

The site has discussion groups, crisis assistance phone numbers, images from memorial services and mundane community news that takes on a new poignancy, such as a notice that high school practices and games would resume “as usual tonight,” but that “security will be on site for all practices and contests, and there will be security at all varsity athletics events for the remainder of the school year.”

The “Unofficial Columbine Memorial Web Site” <www.chsmemory.org> is compiling songs, poems and other expressions of sympathy, and “Columbine High School - Song - Friend of Mine” <columbine.net/friend.html> has the lyrics to a song written by Columbine High School brothers Jonathan and Stephen Cohen and performed at a memorial service. You can buy CDs of the song, “Friend of Mine,” with proceeds going to the victims’ families.

From the senseless deaths of 15 people, perhaps some good will come. Stricter gun control laws here, more school counselors there, maybe even more civility between high school cliques. But as the lawsuits and legislative bills are filed, it needs to be remembered that in the final analysis, the people most responsible for the massacre at Columbine High were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

© 1999 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.