There, that should get the web counter spinning like a fruit-machine reel. No points on offer for guessing the subject of this week’s editorial: the events in Colorado where two disaffected teenagers gunned down twelve of their schoolmates and a teacher before turning their weapons on themselves, in a terminal act of rebellion. As soon as details started to come out, you knew what was going to happen: on April 21st, in an email to Chris, I wrote “I wonder how long it’ll be before they start blaming a) Marilyn Manson, b) the Internet and c) Hollywood.” And the very first newspaper headline I saw on the 22nd was the Telegraph’s “BLOODY REVENGE OF INTERNET NERDS OBSESSED WITH SATAN AND NAZIS”. Well, two out of three ain’t bad — and the Sun closes the innings off by blaming ‘The Basketball Diaries’ and ‘The Matrix’ because…get this…characters in them wear trench-coats. Yet the killers didn’t learn to worship Hitler from any Hollywood film, they did it because it shocked people. And ditto the massacre itself, the ultimate “fuck you all”. They weren’t disturbed *because* they listened to disturbing music; they listened to it because they *were* disturbed. This is so patently bleedin’ obvious, that the whole debate should merely be laughable — except that, of such things are witch-hunts made…
The reporting beggars belief: a totally innocuous webpage “The Written Work of the Trenchcoat” was reported by the Washington Post as being linked to the killers. It wasn’t, but it’s had to close down anyway. There has been so much utter rubbish written — here are a few of my favourites: “The trenchcoats…are a recurring theme in the Gothic subculture which has attracted so many American high school children. They symbolise everything from suicidal fantasies to mass murder to Hitler.” “Both were also obsessed with the Internet – widely used by neo-Nazi groups”. “Schools are responsible not to let kids like these wear black trenchcoats and funny hats, as children do all over the country. These boys could not have walked into school with guns if they hadn’t worn long coats”.
The last, perhaps the cream of fatuous statements (albeit reported in The Sun, so thus possibly entirely fabricated) came from Charlton Heston, NRA president. Yeah, Chuck, that’s right — guns don’t kill people, black trenchcoats do. And schools across America have indeed now banned them, though one imagines that the jock uniform will remain inviolate. Who cares, as the Financial Times pointed out, that they “freely admit to harassing and bullying anyone they find inferior”?
Though the funniest thing in the press coverage has been reading the Daily Telegraph’s explaining to their readers who Marilyn Manson is, and their tenuous attempts to drag poor old KMFDM in as well. The name of this (actually avowedly *anti*-racist and *anti*-Nazi) German band supposedly stands for “Kein Mitleid fur die Mehrheit”, or “No pity for the majority” — then again, it has also been said to stand for “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode”, and no-one has gone and done that yet. But if you want lyrical relevance, they’ve got it: “More and faster, here we come, white and trashy and incredibly dumb…”
However, one interesting thing about the affair is how many people – and I’m talking about sane, rational, non-psychotic people – have expressed views bordering on the sympathetic to the Trenchcoat Mafia. My school-days certainly had their moments where easy access to automatic weaponry would perhaps not have been a good thing, and I was by no means the worst off, even in my class. For, let’s face it, anyone who had problems at school probably dreamt, if not of actually killing your oppressors, of them suffering a convenient accident. “THEN they’d be sorry,” you muttered in idle moments of day-dreaming during double Geography. The TCM guys didn’t pussy foot around in “what if…”, they took decisive action, and for this, I will admit to feeling a warped respect. It’ll certainly be a while before the jocks take the piss out of anyone in a long trenchcoat.
The surprise to me is less that Colorado happened, and more that it doesn’t happen with greater frequency. And if you really want to look for “influences” on their behaviour…look no further than CNN, where they could see their government describing the killing of a far greater number of entirely innocent civilians as mere “collateral damage”. When real life nods its head at such horrors, who needs Hollywood or Marilyn Manson?