The tragedies keep coming As we reel from the latest horror So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of spectacle murders It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows urgent every yearWhat really happened April ,The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we know is wrong It wasn t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book widely recognized as the definitive account With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers own words and drawings several reproduced in a new appendix Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors After reading this book, pen in hand, my copy was so marked up with scrawls and underlining that there might have been a second book written in the margins I wish I could say it was praise for the author s insight into the Columbine tragedy, but instead it was sheer incredulity at the number of mistakes, lies, and misperceptions Cullen is trying to pass off as truth If your only exposure to Columbine was watching it unfold live on tv, and then maybe reading a few magazine articles, you will pr After reading this book, pen in hand, my copy was so marked up with scrawls and underlining that there might have been a second book written in the margins I wish I could say it was praise for the author s insight into the Columbine tragedy, but instead it was sheer incredulity at the number of mistakes, lies, and misperceptions Cullen is trying to pass off as truth If your only exposure to Columbine was watching it unfold live on tv, and then maybe reading a few magazine articles, you will probably rate this book five stars.But if you ve spent years studying Columbine and other school shootings, if you ve read the 12,000 documents available online including the witness interviews and the the shooters journals you be able to understand how Cullen seems to be deliberately twisting the truth in order to present a neat little explanation that lets nearly everyone off the hook and lets us all feel good about our schools and our society This entire book is filled with little but speculation, stated as fact, often with nothing whatever to back it up, or to explain why he comes to those conclusions Some of the mistakes are minor, such as the tidbit that all the school shooters during the years 1997 1998 were white boys Most mistakes were a great deal less minor, such as Cullen s repeated assertion that Eric Harris Got chicks Lots and lots of chicks , he had scored with a 23 year old when he was only seventeen and he outscored much of the football team Yet, according to Cullen and Eric s own journal Eric died a virgin Cullen goes on and on about those chicks , stamping in his own idea that Eric was hugely popular at Columbine, yet he never manages to explain why, if that was the case, Eric was completely unable to get any A better explanation, and one that fits the interviews with those who actually attended Columbine, was that Eric was not ranked just under the football team in popularity, but was actually near the bottom as far as the pecking order of High School Another example is where Cullen claims that Eric didn t know that he had been rejected by the Marine recruiter for being on the drug Luvox Not only was Eric in the room, when the recruiter said that Luvox would be a problem and that Eric would have to have been off the drug a year before he would join , but Eric also told several of his friends that he had been rejected Cullen says Eric had no interest in the Marines , but Eric s journal tells another story I would have been a great Marine, it would have given me a chance to be good.Cullen says there s no evidence that bullying led to murder He says that Neither Eric or Dylan complained about bullies picking on them This is a completely false assertion There are many, many eyewitness accounts of them being bullied, there is a video of Dylan being slammed into a locker, and there is this statement, straight from Eric s journal Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how ing weak I am and , well I will get you all back ultimate %ing revenge here During the shooting, they tell everyone wearing white hats to stand up Cullen gives this quote, but never bothers to explain that it was the jocks who wore white hats at Columbine He also leaves out the fact that both boys told victims during the shooting that this was for all the you put us through.Cullen wants us to believe that Eric was simply a psychopath, and that Dylan was his unwilling dupe, despite the fact that IF Eric was and that s a huge if, since there is too many arguments for him not being a psychopath to list here , it doesn t explain WHY he was a psychopath He certainly didn t show signs of Juvenile Conduct Disorder growing up, as psychopaths nearly invariably do By all accounts, Eric was a normal kid, in the beginning He didn t torture animals or show any other warning signs of a sadistic temperament, according to his friends, teachers, and neighbors And contrary to the movies, psychopaths are nearly always non violent and not suicidal Something happened to Eric and Dylan to make them the way they died To act out in violent revenge, a person doesn t have to be psyopathic , he only has to be made to feel as if he is completely worthless, and to have all hope taken away from him Bullying does this And at this point, a child will either turn the anger and despair in on himself and commit suicide as the 11 year old boy did recently or else, like Eric Harris, he will turn it outward To say, as Cullen does, that Eric s behavior was a mere accident of birth is to deny everything that we could learn from Columbine It makes us close our eyes to how we can help other children trapped in this downward spiral of bullying and preventviolence.If Cullen intended to bust the myths of Columbine by ignoring everything that didn t fit his theory, he did an excellent job, and this book deserves a full five stars I just feel sorry that for many people, this will be the truth they come away believing in The thirteen who died in Littleton deserve a better memorial than this book I wrote the book, so I ll forego rating it, just thought it should show up my list so you would find me But I m new to goodreads, so tell me if I m going about it all wrong Thanks. I used to think that the Columbine massacre would be the defining event of my generation, the one friends and I would discuss years later, trading where you when stories like I d heard my parents do when remembering John F Kennedy It seemed so monumental at the time I was a senior in high school, the same age as the killers The media attention was omnipresent and relentless and soon even at my small town school and when I say small town, I mean it, not the way the news will describe I used to think that the Columbine massacre would be the defining event of my generation, the one friends and I would discuss years later, trading where you when stories like I d heard my parents do when remembering John F Kennedy It seemed so monumental at the time I was a senior in high school, the same age as the killers The media attention was omnipresent and relentless and soon even at my small town school and when I say small town, I mean it, not the way the news will describe a sleepy hamlet of 30,000 , everyone began looking askance at the outsiders, the loners, the kids who came to school dressed in black and roamed the halls with a look on their faces like they hated the world, and it deserved it.How surreal was it to turn on the television about a year later, after class in my freshman dorm room, to see the students from my high school running from the building, fleeing danger while news copters circled overheard Turned out the bombing incident was the result of an idiot with a cherry bomb and access to a toilet, but Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had already shown us that there is no such thing as a harmless threat when it comes to violence in high school Columbine or rather, the media circus it became had changed everything.Then one day, it was September 11, and I had a new definition for generation defining tragedy, and Columbine stopped being something I thought about much.Dave Cullen never stopped thinking about it He was a reporter on the scene that very first day, April 20, 1999, when bodies began dropping from library windows and no one knew what the hell was happening For ten years, he followed the case, the accusations of a police coverup, the lives of those who survived, the sorrows of the families of those who did not.Columbine, the book, is an exhausting, heartbreaking, minute by minute, year by year analysis snaking into the past and future from the pivot point of April 20 Meticulously, he explains how everything we thought we knew about the violence that day you probably remember outcasts targeting jocks, the Trench Coat Mafia, Marilyn Manson is totally wrong, the truth a victim of a media whirlwind that descended upon the tragedy, picked up garbled rumors and incorrect assumptions and flung them onto TVs and broadsheets across the country No, Eric and Dylan were not outsiders they were popular with a certain crowd and Eric even dated No, they were not part of a cabal that hated jocks the killings were random and the only real target was humanity The killers didn t even like Marilyn Manson, preferring KMFDM If you have read anything about the case in the last decade, you probably know this already, but for many, the initial reporting of rumors and suppositions fueling a 24 hour cable news cycle that was just gearing up in 1999 is what they remember, and has become the truth of the whole bloody affair.People read, and probably write, books like this because they want to know why After a decade of analyzing police records, psychological profiles, and the killers own writings, Cullen presents an answer, but you aren t going to like it Eric Harris was a psychopath, and Dylan Klebold was a manic depressive hanger on That doesn t make me feel any better Wouldn t it be easier to think, those kids were picked on, it was wrong, but you can see it, they just snapped, it could happen to any of us But no Eric Harris didn t snap He was a bright kid, a smooth talker, and he fooled the world while he spent a full year planning his masterpiece Did you know that Columbine wasn t even a school shooting, not really The actual plan was to blow up the building, killing hundreds indiscriminately The guns were just an afterthought, to pick off the survivors You know, for fun Like Doom there s another rumor for you.This book is heartbreaking the stories of the survivors and the grief stricken nearly brought me to tearsthan once, and not because Cullen is slick with his prose This book is infuriating details of a police coverup providethan enough evidence that this tragedy probably could have been prevented This book is strangely cathartic I hate using sports as shorthand for healing, but I choked up when Columbine won the state football championships the year after the murders, and the crowd of students chanted togetherWe are COLUMBINEReclaiming the word, making it theirs again I also wonder, and I am adding this a few days after the rest of the review, how necessary it really is Why is Columbine such a big deal As a day, it was certainly a pretty crappy day But there have been a lot of other crappy days before and since, days that killed a lotthan 13 people, that we don t know about or can t remember It was a seismic event because we let it be one I don t think it taught anyone anything, not really Except maybe how useless constant as it happens reporting was going to turn out to be I don t like that the book, in essence, continues to give Eric Harris exactly what he wanted, which was recognition that he had done something important As an analysis of the fallout on a formerly unknown town, it s less troubling As a warning against future violence, it s useless, since it s pretty clear there wasn t much that could be done to change the way it all turned out.Whenever I see footage from 9 11 something I try to avoid, but hey, it happens , my breath catches and my heart stops Every time I see those burning towers, part of me thinks, hopes, that maybe this time, they won t fall But no They always fall What does it matter that two crazy teenagers shot 12 other teenagers and one teacher to death at a school somewhere in the American Midwest over ten years ago It was just another school shooting and since then we have had Virginia Tech which accounted for nearly three times as many victims, didn t it, not to mention any amount of death and catastrophe in places other than schools Why should anyone want to write a book about this particular school shooting a decade down the line Why should we What does it matter that two crazy teenagers shot 12 other teenagers and one teacher to death at a school somewhere in the American Midwest over ten years ago It was just another school shooting and since then we have had Virginia Tech which accounted for nearly three times as many victims, didn t it, not to mention any amount of death and catastrophe in places other than schools Why should anyone want to write a book about this particular school shooting a decade down the line Why should we waste onethought on this loathsome pair Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold It s a reasonable question and this book has a 400 page answer Eric was the driving force and Dylan named after Thomas not Bob was the depressive suicidal kid who was sucked into Eric s mania They planned the whole thing for a year They called it NBK after the movie Natural Born Killers Eric chose the date.David Koresh s Waco siege ended 19 April 1993 Timothy McVeigh s Oklahoma City bombing which was his revenge for Waco 19 April 1995 Columbine 20 April 1999 Ah yes, it was going to be on the 19th, but Eric screwed up getting the right quantities of ammo, so it had to be put back by a day.In the 12 months before Judgement Day they wrote reams of journals, Eric had a website, they bragged about their plans to various pals who of course didn t take it seriously, and starting on March 15th 1999 they made many videos of themselves acting out mass murder or explaining why they were going to do it, or apologising in advance to their parents Eric described his parents as the best and saidIt fucking sucks to do this to them They re going to be put through hell and he quoted Shakespeare on that point Good wombs have borne bad sons He also saidI ve narrowed it down It s humans that I hate and regarding the 1993 Brady Bill which had restricted the law on the sale of semiautomaticsFuck you Brady It s not like I m some psycho who would go on a shooting spree andIt s kinda hard on me, these last few days This is my last week on earth and they don t know But the overriding impression from these Basement Tapes as they have been amusingly named is one of glee Eric and Dylan are so excited, they re gagging for this huge one performance only production They relish the greatness and horror they are about to unleash and express mild regret they won t be around to enjoy everyone s reactions or see the movie which will be made about it that would be Gus Van Sant s Elephant sorry, Eric, not Spielberg after all What did they actually want to do Dave Cullen sorts through all the mountains of evidence and discovers that Columbine wasn t actually a school shooting, it was a bombing which went wrong Eric and Dylan had been making bombs using internet information The two big ones were made out of propane gas canisters, and others were in Eric s car to divert the police On 20th April they sauntered into the school cafeteria and dumped down the big backpacks containing the bombs with timers ticking Then sauntered out No one batted an eye The bombs were supposed to blow up the whole school, then ED would be outside picking off any fleeing students Death toll over 500 When Eric s timing and detonation devices all failed big disappointment of course they stalked into the school and started shooting But within 15 minutes they were bored with that After the bloodbath in the library, they could have gone round and shot dozenskids but they didn t They sauntered past rooms packed with terrified kids and didn t glance inside After half an hour of aimlessness, some potshots at the police outside, perhaps the real point of the whole thing was reached, and both of them blew their brains out.And in their minds, that was Cool.When the shooting began the police made a number of assumptions and a lot of mistakes, some of which they can t be blamed for the mayhem and the students accounts as they fled made it seem like there was a whole team of gunmen inside the school This crippled the police response When the press got hold of the story a whole new series of assumptions erupted for instance, that Eric and Dylan were loners That they were unpopular That they were waging a private war against a target maybe jocks, maybe Christians, maybe the whole school That they had horrendous family backgrounds That they were Goths, or on drugs, or that there was some significant incident which had triggered the rampage All wrong Then there was an assumption that there was a conspiracy the Trench Coat Mafia It surely couldn t have just been two kids did all this, there wereinvolved The police spent months trying to solve this notional conspiracy There wasn t one The media was flailing 20 20 on ABC reported an unnamed police source saying the boys may have been part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement and that some of these Goths may have killed before A few days later USA Today began their piece Whatever these two young men in Colorado imagined themselves to be, they weren t Goths No one knew anything.Cullen s simple solution to the why of it all is bathetic He says Eric Harris was a psychopath, pure and simple, and this, dear friends, is the kind of thing some psychopaths do Well If there is evil, psychopaths are its living breathing rock and rolling embodiment Motiveless malignity, Coleridge s phrase describing Iago, catches the horror but we, the unpsychopathic, really struggle hard with it everything has a motive, surely, we are motive seeking missiles of brain and spirit, we need reasons like we need food, a reason to learn the violin and a reason to shoot 13 other human beings Motivelessness offends us Is there motiveless benevolence Yes, this is known as altruism But doing good to others is seen as its own motive to do good IS the motive, doesn t need an ulterior So is doing evil also its own motive and its own reward for some Do they bask in the pain and misery they cause in just the same way that others might shout with joy and hug each other as another Haitian is pulled from another collapsed house Then the pain and misery IS the motive The existence of psychopaths in our midst has already been addressed in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Children of the Damned, and all those other alien invasion movies in which the aliens look exactly like humans we thought it was because the movie s budget was so low they couldn t afford impressive costumes, but in fact it was because aliens perfectly disguised as humans is the perfect metaphor for psycopathy you can t tell em from normal people We can t fill in the blanks Why would the fascinated, excited contemplation of suicide and mass murder, eventually fused together into one super cool entity called NBK, so delight the minds of Dylan and Eric that it crowded out all the usual teenage boy obsessions such as having sex with teenage girls or being in a rock band and then having sex with teenage girls It drives us crazy so we lunge around where did this evil come from Why didn t anyone notice it Why didn t anyone prevent it Who can we blame not Eric and Dylan, they were just kids You can hear this argument again and again, every time a kid gets caught for something the parent says he s not to blame, it was his bad friends that led him astray Let s blame video games, violent movies, porn, drugs, the devil, goth culture, gun laws, school bullies uh oh, Eric WAS the school bully so that doesn t work , the parents Ah yes, of course, the parents It also appears that even the best parenting may be no match for a child born to be bad p241 Cullen paraphrases Eric s Shakespeare quote This is so un PC it explodes the whole thrust of child centered theory and whatnot which has been trying to get away from the Victorian view that in a class of thirty children there will be one limb of Satan hence the old insult you young limb Psychopaths know just as well as we do that certain things are considered to be bad, so they try their best not to get caught But they just don t agree that these things actually are bad They think they should be allowed to do whatever takes their fancy They must be in a permanent state of irritation with the world and its puerile petty rules A couple of psychopaths once lived in a world where there were absolutely no restraints because they themselves made up the rules Bliss These were the Roman Emperors Caligula and Heliogabalus, and we may read about their idea of fun in Gibbon s dolorous history There are so many breathtaking side stories in Cullen s compelling, brilliantly organised book Like Cassie Bernall, the Christian martyr who wasn t, like the guy who made crosses for all the Columbine dead 15 of them, one for D E too guess how long they stayed upright 3 days Like the lawsuits naturellement turns out that Dylan s parents had a home insurance policy which covered them for murder committed by their children Like the discovery by a detective of Eric s rampage fantasies in 1997 which Eric, as we know, published on his own website leading to the detective getting an affadavit for a search warrant for Eric s house and how no one did anything about it, it was just kind of forgotten about, oops and how that major cock up was covered up by county officials on and on it goes In his last year, Eric was constantly badgered by his parents about getting his life on track, having a goal and sticking to it He couldn t tell them that he did indeed have a goal, and he was sticking to it, through thick and thin And it was going to be so cool NOTEI hope this isn t too creepy, but readers of this review may be interested in my review of Going Postal which continues the discussion of this subject The author of that book explicitly criticises Dave Cullen, and in many ways Mark Ames book is a necessary corrective to this one.http www.goodreads.com review show